Lobizona | Review

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Title: Lobizona

Author: Romina Garber

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Where can I find this? Goodreads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Google Play | Apple

“You’re saying if no one’s told my story before… I get to tell it the way I want?” ~ Romina Garber, Lobizona

Behold! Marvel at this cover art! Read the synopsis! Isn’t this promising? Doesn’t this make you wish you had a copy? Because, yes—after seeing the cover art and the synopsis, I desperately wanted to read this book. I needed this book. And the bookish gods of Netgalley smiled graciously on me and granted my earnest wish.

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my face @ netgalley. yes, I’m aware I’m probably annoying lol

In Lobizona, we follow Manuela (Manu) as she navigates life without detection. Hiding from both the US government and from the people of her father’s past, Manu is undocumented and unprotected. Isolated due to hiding, secrecy is Manu’s constant companion besides Perla and Ma. But hiding Manu isn’t the only secret that gets discovered. When Manu’s mother is taken by ICE, Manu discovers a magical world that is eerily familiar… Now in a magical world, Manu wages forward to uncover the secrets that gnawed on her since childhood. And just like the secrets that fought so hard to remain hidden, Manu must fight harder to uncover the truth.

Plot
The book weaves Argentinean folklore surrounding lobizon and bruja into Manu’s world which presents an interesting aspect into the novel. I liked how Argentinean culture was incorporated into the storytelling. Garber naturally incorporates Spanish into the dialogue. I appreciate how flawless and natural it was. However, the Spanish can make the reading experience disjointed if you’re not familiar with the language. There were times where the narrator (Manu) will translate, and other times where one can gauge the meaning from context and times where you won’t get it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never formally learnt Spanish nor learnt how to read it but can only understand and pick it up from sound (because 1. I’m uneducated hahah and 2. that’s how I learnt—when a family member spoke). Often, I’d have to pause and read passages aloud for my two brain cells to figure out the translation. Yes, I’m a child of immigrant parents and as a result, lost my mother’s tongue to assimilating to the culture I lived in… I’m like the meme:

‘Me? Bilingual? More like, bye-lingual’

Therefore, pausing and rereading some phrases often impacted my reading experience. I’m already a slow reader haha… ANYWAY! I like how Garber unapologetically and fluidly weaves Spanish into her novel.

Lobizona is broken down into four phases. I won’t say much to spoil the story; however, the story really picks up in phase two for me. In phase two, we discover more about this magical world. The world-building felt a little thin and due to that, the story felt more of magical realism rather than fantasy.

This book takes a while to get into the promised action. After the 40%, that’s where all the action began and it was great. Although, the pacing felt disjointed at times. For example, the first 40-50% of the book we are dragging our feet to this magical world. And then, at the last 15-20% action happens! All! At! Once! I’d appreciate if there were moments for the audience to process all that is going on.

Despite the pacing, I did appreciate Garber’s writing style. Garber weaves emotions well into her characters without weighing down the narrative with too many descriptions. The read was compelling and I read this novel in one sitting.

Characters
I love an underdog character. With everything going on, you can’t help but root for Manu! I was invested in her and her dreams. Yeah, she has her insecurities and doubts, but Manu is determined despite all odds. She dreams and yearns for more and when an opportunity shows itself, she’ll take it. I liked that about her. However, the chosen one trope is strong in this one. If you’re not a fan, you may not enjoy the incessant specialness of Manu. I’m a fan of the chosen trope so I’m never really bothered by such things—in fact, I relish in it.

Other than Manu, there is a large cast in this book (I can’t remember all their names but I remember Cata and Sasya—the two other girls). I enjoyed Manu’s and Sasya’s interactions. Sasya is a kind and gentle soul, the welcoming friend to Manu. Whereas, Cata is perceived to be the ‘mean girl’ who is ruthless to Manu. I wasn’t a fan of how that part was portrayed like the typical ‘popular girl mean to the new girl’ trope.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy was the romance. long sigh yes, the romance. I didn’t like how the romance gave a forbidden vibe to it (spoiler-y: more like almost cheating vibes). And when the truth came out it felt convenient and cheap. Also, I couldn’t understand why the love interest and Manu had feelings for each other? It felt superficial. I would rather focus on other pressing matters, such as Manu’s mother and Manu’s discoveries.

Enjoyment
Aside from the romance, there were many aspects I liked. I liked how alienation and challenging the norm was a major factor in this book. I liked how the themes of alienation and immigration were woven in the story. Manu’s fear of discovery rings true to too many people. Garber writes well, enveloping the reader into Manu’s world that you feel the constant fear and even the threat in living. But despite the fear, there’s the unyielding hope. It was hope in the characters that I loved in this book. Lobizon grapples with and comments on various themes such as misogyny, privilege, undocumented immigrants, amongst many more and I deeply appreciated it did so.

I, myself am a child of immigrants and I have experienced cultural assimilation so on one side, parts of this book resonated with me. I liked how powerful Garber wrote various aspects (especially the first phase). Again, I liked how she wove another language into her book so naturally and how this book was an easy and compelling read. I just wished there were more. In actuality, I think I had higher expectations due to wanting to really love this book. (Why do I do this to myself?) Despite that, I’m very curious to see where this tale (or… tail) will go.

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Recommended for: fans of fantasy schools with magical creatures, fans of YA fantasy, latinx readers looking for latinx authors, people looking for diverse books

Content warning: xenophobia, sexism, bullying, trauma, misogyny, homophobia

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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This Book Is Anti-Racist | Review

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Title: This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

Author: Tiffany Jewell

Illustrator: Aurelia Durand

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Genre: Children’s non-fiction

Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

This book serves as a great source for information for recognising racism and intentionally taking action to address and help dismantle it. This book presents information that is both applicable at an individual and a group level. Furthermore, not only does this book armour the reader with information, but it also provides practical activities such as reflection and journaling throughout the read. The reflective and journaling activities are extremely beneficial, enabling readers to effectively dismantle concepts and therefore grapple better in reacting to various situations.

The book is divided into four sections and comprises of concepts that are broken down into concise chapters within the sections. The four sections of this book consist of:

1. Waking up: understanding and growing into my identities
The first phase introduces concepts such as identity, social constructions, and defines racism whilst providing examples and activities to deconstruct and help identify.

2. Opening the window: making sense of the world
The second phase builds upon the first, presenting a little bit of world history (mainly in the West) as well as introducing more deeper concepts such as micro-aggressions, colonisation, assimilation, amongst many other concepts. I appreciate how this book mentions colonisation and the effects of it.

3. Choosing my path: taking action and responding to racism
Following that, the third section concentrates reacting to racism and ways to do so.

4. Holding the door open: working in solidarity against racism
Finally, the final phase focuses on the portrayal of privilege and allyship.

I liked how the book introduced topics like intersectionality, concepts such as gender, neurodiversity, class, religion, amongst many other factors are considered and discussed.

Also, I loved the illustrations—they’re bright and vivid, complementing the book well. The art style keeps the reader engaged without detracting too much attention away from the narrative.

As a PoC (person of colour) myself, this book truly resonated with me and I deeply appreciate this book. Despite being a PoC, I, too have much to learn. And quite frankly, there is always more to learn in this field and I definitely learnt something new upon reading this book. Moreover, despite being marketed for a younger audience, I feel that this book is suitable for all ages. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Overall, this is a highly beneficial book, presenting important information regarding racism whilst also emphasising application in real-world scenarios.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Of The Blood | Review

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𝐓𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞: Of The Blood

𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Cameo Renea

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: ★★☆☆☆

I’ll be honest, the cover sucked me right in. The characters look intriguing and deadly. And the premise is promising! However, upon reading this, I discovered this was going to be difficult to rate because whilst I can appreciate this book for what it is, it wasn’t for me.

 

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The Raven and The Dove| Review

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Title: The Raven and The Dove

Author: Kaitlyn Davis

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Retelling

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 

 

 

 

 

Told in a multiple third-person point-of-view, The Raven and The Dove is an intriguing tale of love, betrayal, and destiny. Following four characters, we witness this spectacular avian-inspired world unfurl through the eyes of a privileged yet caged Princess, an ambitious Prince, a scorned bastard, and the mysterious best friend.

The Raven and The Dove takes place in a floating kingdom far up in the open sky. The Royal Houses rule the isles with each house representing a different bird with different gods and culture. The story begins with the introduction of the courtship trials. The courtship trials is a significant event where the princess and princes of each House must win a partner.

At the dawn of the courtship trials, where the princess or prince must secure a… mate, we follow Lyana, the dove princess from the House of Peace. Upon discovering a shared secret, she then chooses the most unexpected person as her partner—the raven prince of House of Whispers. However, as secrets begin to unfurl, forbidden magic starts to manifest, and prophecies take place, there is so much more to come.

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It Sounded Better In My Head | Review

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Title: It Sounded Better In My Head

Author: Nina Kenwood

Publisher: Text Publishing

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★★★✬☆

 

 

Whenever I see an Australian author I just have to read their book (need to support a fellow Aussie). I love Aussie books and I admit I never read enough of them. And I’m glad I picked up this book.

In ‘It’s Sounded Better In My Head’, we follow the protagonist, Natalie, as she navigates through her life upon discovering that life isn’t going the way she imagined it to be. Her parents? Divorcing. Her two best friends? Dating. Herself? Awkward and sometimes the borderline third-wheeler.

 Things aren’t going quite as planned for Natalie.

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Children’s Fiction | Review

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Title: Why Do We Cry?

Author: Fran Pintadera

Illustrator: Ana Sender

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

Why do I love children fiction books? Well, there are many reasons. Usually, it comes down to a few points—the illustration is almost always beautiful and the I love how Why do I love children fiction books? Well, there are many reasons. Usually, it comes down to a few points—the illustration is almost always beautiful and I love how simple yet nuanced the words can be. (Also, I do read books to my nephew and am always on a lookout to read books to my niece).

In this book, Why Do We Cry? A mother and son explore various reasons why people cry. The accompanying art with each reason complements the emotion and explanation in a gorgeous manner. I also love how this book normalises crying and validates feelings—“it’s okay to cry if you feel like crying. It’s okay to cry if you’re happy/sad/etc.”

The illustrations are gorgeous and I just can’t get over how it. The only concern I have is that the font can be a little small in some scenes, thereby be a little difficult to differentiate between the background (perhaps have more contrast or maybe I just need glasses haha). Otherwise, this is definitely a book I’d recommend to families, teachers, and anyone, really.

I also liked how there was information on tears and crying at the end. Always love a good fun fact of the day.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Doctor Mouse

Author: Christa Kempter

Illustrator: Amelie Jackowski

Publisher: NorthSouth Books

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

 

 

Doctor Mouse is a cute and simple story about friendship and helping others.
This is such an interesting take and I liked the sense of community and friendship and how the animals helped each other. Also, I find it humorous how Dr Mouse waits for every seat to be filled before starting.

The only concern I have is that some scenes may be a little wordy for the young ones but at least the artwork is captivating and beautiful each page. I loved the art—the illustrations are gorgeous.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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I Dream of a Journey

Author: Akiko Miyakoshi

Illustrator: Akiko Miyakoshi

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

 

 

Wow. Even as an adult I can empathise with the hotel keeper and his quiet wonder and yearning to explore the world. This is a simple story, yet it holds such a dreamy atmosphere.

I loved how the strong contrast of colours in the illustration—where at home, in his hotel, the colours are in greyscale yet closed-off and full of routine but out in the world, it’s full of colour and the scenes are open and free. Although this book has a bit of a melancholic feel to it, it’s also full of wonder and hope. I’d recommend having an adult read this book to a child.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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What Grew in Larry’s Garden

Author: Laura Alary

Illustrator: Kass Reich

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

A light-hearted read with stunning art. ‘What Grew in Larry’s Garden’ is inspired by the true story of a teacher and his tomato plant project. This is a heart-warming story focusing on patience, kindness, understanding, and staying positive. Furthermore, I just love how this book is not only about cultivating plants but relationships as well. One of my favourite aspect of this book was how Larry’s positive attitude of ‘We can figure this out’ influenced Grace in the end.

This was an adorable read and I’d highly recommend this.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Fiction | Review

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Title: The Not BAD Animals

Author: Sophie Corrigan

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

 

A fun book that is both educational and great for reducing certain animal stigma. There is a large variety of animals known to have a bad rep (such as spiders, black cats, wolves, etc.) and on the first two-page spread the pages comprise of the myth and misconception with darker, heavier tones. The following spread uncovers the truth and the whole atmosphere changes dramatically with light and friendlier tones. I found the illustration effective, cute and engaging.

However, I feel like this is best for bite-sized moments as it can be a little overwhelming with many little facts regarding numerous animals. Despite that, I really enjoyed the book. The illustration and execution were exceptional. A great read. I’d recommend this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


 

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Author: Mack van Gageldonk

Publisher: Clavis Publishing

Genre: Children’s fiction

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my version but the illustration was jarring and felt incomplete. Unfortunately, the art was a huge aspect and thus affected the read. I would have read this to my niece or nephew, but given the art style, I don’t feel like it would capture and hold their attention for the whole book.

Other than that, this is an easy book with simple art.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a preview of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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Title: The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo

Author: Elaine Bickell

Illustrator: Raymond McGrath

Publisher: Philomel Books

Genre: Children’s fiction

Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

The illustration is bright and vivid, complimenting the story well. The rhyming texts are fun and engaging and the book invites reader participation at the end.

I’d definitely recommend this book and I can’t wait to read this with my nephew and niece.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Children’s Fiction Books | Review

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Title: Play Like an Animal

Author: Maria Gianferrari,

Illustrator: Mia Powell

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

 

‘Play Like an Animal’ is a fun read. The story-telling is engaging and the illustration is gorgeous and vivid. I like how the art captures each of the animal’s actions and how each page is appealing. The little fun facts were a great bonus (especially for the curious).

I’d definitely recommend this read and can’t wait to read this to my niece.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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Title: If…

Author: Sarah Perry

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Getty Publications

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

 

 

This is a simple yet complex book. Filled with beautiful and intricate illustration and imaginative scenarios, ‘If…’ is a fun read with a great concept. I loved the art, it was vivid and unique.

‘If…’ would be a fun read for children (and adults), encouraging creativity and for minds to roam free. I’d recommend this book to both children and adults.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Getty Publications for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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Title: A Surprising Friendship

Author: Andrew Wald

Illustrator: Tara J. Hannon

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

 

‘A Surprising Friendship’ is an endearing story filled with beautiful illustration (the art complimented the story well) and a sweet message. This book focuses on an unexpected friendship formed between a goose and bear and how differences matter little. I liked how this book shows that a good friendship surpasses seasons. This is a book I’ll definitely read to my niece.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Wicked Deep | Review

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twd-coverTitle: The Wicked Deep

Author: Shea Ernshaw

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Rating: ★✬☆☆☆

“We wait for death. We hold our breath. We know it’s coming, and still we flinch when it claws at our throats and pulls us under.” ― Shea Ernshaw, The Wicked Deep

Despite having water as a motif, I found “The Wicked Deep” to be incredibly dry. Like, on a scale of dryness there is Sahara, middle-Australia, then The Wicked Deep.

I picked up this book because a.) I’ve heard great things about it—a dark tale, focusing on three sisters as they extract their revenge on a town wrongfully murdering them 200 years ago, and b.) because the cover is pretty. (I’m a simple person, I know).

Writing: 

The writing is rich with beautiful imagery and descriptions. However, I found the writing a little too exposition heavy for me at times. Although I can see how the writing can come across as lyrical and beautiful—however for me, I felt like I was an unlucky nail getting constantly hammered about the townspeople and the lore of the Swan sisters. The first few swings were great and powerful but after a while… Like the unlucky nail being used by a novice carpenter, I was getting bent in all the wrong places. Towards the end of the book I was tired and happy it was over (in a way).

Don’t get me wrong, there were aspects of the book where the atmosphere was so rich and chilling. At times, the atmosphere was so dark, I felt suffocated in that small town. That was great. I liked how the author wove details about the townspeople, the town history, and the morbid tale of the Swan sisters. As a result, I can see why people would enjoy this book.

Although, I did find the town odd for the way it conducted itself regarding the Swan sister tragedy—but then again, that’s how morbid tourism works.

Characters:

The one thing that ultimately affected my reading experience was the characters.

Whilst there are multiple drownings and death, I felt the biggest victim of this tale was Penny Talbot.

Bo—the mysterious guy™, here for the SPOILER vengeance. Upon discovering that he’s in Sparrow searching for answers regarding his brother’s death is understandable. I get why he was closed off at first. However! SPOILER: When he discovers that perhaps killing the host (PERSON!) may destroy the Swan sisters, he doesn’t blink. He’s up to killing the girls. Upon reading his nonchalance of killing an innocent host (PERSON)… I just. At least, if he had some sort of questioning or hesitation… I just… Wow.

Swan sisters: I didn’t mind them too much. It was interesting reading about them. However, I found Hazel to be incredibly insufferable. Hazel was the most detestable sister of the three. SPOILER: There’s the whole ‘change of heart’—but like Hazel’s sister said, “You are what you are” and it’s true. After two centuries, Hazel is still self-centred and intolerable. The fact that Hazel chose Penny’s body for three years and did what she did with Penny’s body says a lot about Hazel’s character. No regards to the real Penny—just ‘oh, but I like Penny (as MY vessel) and her life’.

Let me elaborate as to why the real Penny is the victim here. SPOILER: Hazel chose Penny as a host for three years. Penny has no idea. Things we know (or more accurately, things I remember) Hazel used Penny’s body for:

  • Hazel used Penny’s body to kill Penny’s father. Wait. Let that sink in.
  • Penny has no idea what happened to her father and continuously wonders about him and his whereabouts
  • Penny’s mother knows what happened and the truth gnaws at her. OBVIOUSLY, her mother can’t inform Penny without Penny realising something was up. (I’d be pissed, confused, distraught, guilty, etc. if I found out I was possessed and killed my own father!) Therefore, Penny’s mother never informs Penny (I’m assuming), and consequently, Penny gets no closure!!
  • Hazel uses Penny’s body to have sex with Bo. And Bo doesn’t know Penny is possessed. Penny doesn’t really know (?). That irked me.
  • Hazel uses Penny’s body to lure Bo’s brother and kill him.

For me, consent is a major thing (especially with today’s culture, the #metoo movement, and the fact this book is marketed as ‘YA’). I felt like this book glossed over the technicalities of consent. Hazel, the youngest Swan sister, SPOILER: possessed Penny’s body and I felt there were no adequate discussion nor consequence! (That could’ve been an interesting and opportune moment!)

The whole aspect of Hazel’s actions and the weight of it all was glossed over. SPOILER: Oh, but Penny was starting to like Bo. Fair enough, but that doesn’t excuse Hazel’s actions. Oh, but Penny and Bo are falling in love at the end. Wait, but they’re not. Bo realises he is in love with Hazel (DESPITE HER CONFESSING SHE MURDERED HIS BROTHER). Oh, but Hazel is (finally) realising that killing innocent people is bad! AFTER 200 YEARS?!

gargles a groan

If that wasn’t insufferable enough, Hazel has the audacity to try and pull an “Oh, but it’s so hard being me! I can’t help murdering innocent boys!”

-____-

Like, I’m not saying this book needs to have a life lesson and whatnot, I just feel like it could at least note the repercussions or the implications of one’s action. I understand people read for fun and escape reality (I certainly do), but… yeah, I’m really seeing this book wasn’t for me.

Execution:

I found this book dry due to the characters. I can’t fault the writing, nor the concept—the writing is beautiful. The concept is full of promise and intrigue. I just didn’t feel attached to any of the characters. With Bo, the love interest, it was difficult to connect at first due to his secrecy. However, as the book progressed, I started to warm up to him. With Penny, the protagonist and narrator, I just have a weird thing were I always like the narrator. And then the twist was revealed and I felt cheated and immediately disconnected with all the characters. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to empathise with Hazel, because I certainly don’t. SPOILER: And with Hazel being the narrator for 80% the book, that affected my reading experience.

Enjoyment:

I wouldn’t say there’s everything wrong with this book per se, rather, it wasn’t a book for me. If you’re a person who is interested in small-town lore of witches and whatnot with dark chilling undertones in the writing, this book may interest you. For me, it wasn’t the writing nor the concept of the book that irked me, it was the execution and a certain character. And whilst that aspect may not bother some people, it certainly bothered me.

In the end, a certain character did try to make things right and that is something I can’t ignore… but yeah. By the time I reached that point, I was tired—the dryness got to me. I’m dehydrated. I need water and an Advil after this.

“This town was built on revenge,” I say. “And it’s never made anything better or right.” ― Shea Ernshaw, The Wicked Deep

Rubric: How I rate:

Writing: (1 to 10) x 2             6×2 = 12
Plot: (1 to 10) x 2                    4×2=8
Characters: (1 to 10) x 2        2×2=4
Execution: (1 to 10) x 2         4×2=8
Enjoyment: (1 to 10) x 2        1×2=2
Total / 20 = number of stars  = 74/20 = 1.7 ≈1.5 stars

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Something Wicked | Review

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Title: Something Wicked

Author: Nicole M. Rubino

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publisher: Magnolia Press

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

 

 

 

 

The premise is full of intrigue and promise—witches and witch hunters situated in Salem. In ‘Something Wicked’ we follow Theo, a girl who seemingly received bad luck for her seventeenth birthday (bad break-up? Check. Car crash? Check.). After a series of unfortunate events and tragedy, Theo moves to Salem with her aunt.

I was immediately hooked on the premise. I liked the setting of modern-day Salem and the opening scene. I also love stories where someone discovers their powers and true origins. However, despite the that, I found the plot a bit mediocre and predictable at some points with an amalgamation of YA tropes. Furthermore, I felt the foreshadowing to be a little heavy-handed. Whilst there is plenty of drama and action, it was a quick and easy read.

Unfortunately, this book is riddled with common tropes I’m not so fond of (such as girl on girl hate, not like other girls™, etc.) and therefore affected my reading experience. This book wasn’t for me. I feel like this book would be suitable for younger teens, pre-teens, or people who don’t mind such tropes or are new to fantasy/paranormal romance. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read and into witches and forbidden romance, this may be for you.

I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and the author.

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