A Romance Blooms Where the Land Meets the Sea | “The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea” by Axie Oh [Book Review]

According to myth, the Red String of Fate ties a person to her destiny. Some believe that it ties you to the one person your heart desires most.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Axie Oh’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is an enthralling feminist retelling of the classic Korean folktale “The Tale of Shim Cheong,” perfect for fans of Wintersong, Uprooted, and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

Sooo, I really enjoyed this book. Out of all the fantasy books I tend to read, most of them just end up being western fantasy. That doesn’t mean I don’t like eastern fantasy as much – I absolutely love eastern fantasy! It just doesn’t come up on my radar as much for whatever reason.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh is a standalone YA fantasy novel published by Feiwel & Friends on February 22, 2023. It’s also a retelling of a Korean folktale.

Unlike the books that I’ve read and reviewed lately, I didn’t really have a ton of stuff that I liked vs. a bunch of stuff that I didn’t like. It was more that I liked a lot of stuff about the book a lot, but not as much as I could have. Hence why I only gave it 4 stars.

Anyway, let’s get into my review proper.

The Stuff I Liked and Why I didn’t Like It as Much as I Could’ve

Every year the storms begin, and every year a girl is brought to the sea.

First off, I liked the story a great deal. It was fast-paced and it flowed very nicely. I really liked the way that Oh wrote as well.

Sometimes, I did wish the plot had slowed down a couple of times though. I know, I know – I’m usually a lover of completely fast-paced books. But sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I like it when the plot slows down so that I can see and understand how the characters interact with each other and therefore see and understand why they care about one another. And this book didn’t really have those moments.

Continuing with this line of thought, I quite enjoyed the characters. Song Mina was a great lead, as well as a breath of fresh air after Miss Delilah Bard. She was stubborn and brave, but she was also fiercely protective of her loved ones, and I loved reading about how much she loved her family.

I’ve followed so many protagonists just forget about their family and friends – aka: what their initial motivation is – upon meeting the love interest. That is not so here, and I greatly appreciate this novel for not doing that. Mina misses and thinks about her family many times throughout, and it made me tear up a couple of times.

My eldest brother, Sung, says trust is earned, that to give someone your trust is to give them the knife to wound you. But Joon would counter that trust is faith, that to trust someone is to believe in the goodness of people and in the world that shapes them.

Shin was an acceptable love interest and dueteragonist. It was harder for me to get a grasp on his personality though, and I wish that there’d been more pages devoted to building his relationship with Mina. Their romance just felt a bit underdeveloped to me, though I certainly didn’t not like it. I just didn’t really get why they were so ride-or-die for each other as quickly as they ended up being.

Honestly, I felt that Mina had more chemistry with Namgi, an imugi and one of Shin’s – and later Mina’s – loyal friends. Even so, I also would’ve liked to see more pages devoted to their character interactions, as even their (platonic) relationship seemed kinda underdeveloped to me until closer to the end of the novel.

As for the other characters: I didn’t really care for Kirin (because he didn’t get enough page time for me to care about him), I really liked Shim Cheong and Mina’s brother Joon (both as a couple as well as their own characters), the ghost trio was great (of you know, you know), and I really liked Mina’s grandma (the flashbacks with her were very sweet).

My absolute favorite thing about the book, however, is how it handles fate and destiny. The narrative treats it as something that you choose. A sort of No Fate But What We Make type of thing, if you will. I am tired of prophesies and people and things that are destined to be just because it’s been ordained by the universe or whatever. So yeah, I really liked what Oh did here.

Other than all of that, I quite liked the climax and ending. Also, I didn’t notice any loose ends in the plot threads, which is always nice.

Final Thoughts

I found The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea to be an engaging, fairytale-like fantasy that never overstays its welcome or gets too wordy. Oh has a wonderful way with words, and writing style in general.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy-romance as well as those that like retellings. This one is new and wonderful in the sea of Cinderella retellings.

Thank you for reading and have an amazing day/night!

See ya ~Mar

LINKS: Goodreads | Instagram

Book Review: “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik

The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.

Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Length: 466 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

Release Date: July 10, 2018


With the Nebula Award-winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. She will face an impossible challenge and, along with two unlikely allies, uncover a secret that threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike.

My Review

Star Rating: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

And at the end of the day she would pour a lake of pennies onto the floor and roll them into paper to turn them into silver.

I really enjoyed this book. I had hoped that it would be so, but I’m usually not into slower paced novels. But I did like it. A lot.

The Characters

The characters were the real stars of this book. Yes, there’s a plot too, and a very compelling one; and the setting is very interesting. But the characters were what carried Spinning Silver.

There are several character POVs here, all of which are in first person, but there are three that stick out to the most. Miryem, the main protagonist, as well as Wanda, and Irina. They all have their own crucial part to play in the narrative, and I loved seeing their individual B Plots intersect and build on one another, weaving together the much bigger A Plot.

I realize that I just made it seem like this is a pretty complicated story, but trust me, it actually isn’t really. It’s actually a relatively simple main plot. The characters and setting are just so well-realized that it seems a bit more complex than it actually is.

“There are men who are wolves inside, and want to eat up other people to fill their bellies. That was what was in your house with you, all your life. But here you are with your brothers, and you are not eaten up, and there is not a wolf inside you. You have fed each other, and you have kept the wolf away. That is all we can do for each other in the world, to keep the wolf away.”

Getting back to before my little tangent: the characters. As I said, out of the three girls’ POVs, Miryem is definitely what I’d consider to be the main character. She seems cold-hearted without context, and she definitely has hardened her heart some. But that’s a result of years of frustration, mistreatment and prejudice by her village, and near-starvation. In reality, she’s one of the kinder characters in the novel.

Wanda was also a very interesting point of view, because of all the ways her family-life (and just life in general) differs from Miryem’s. The same can absolutely be said for Irina. All three young women lived very different lifestyles growing up, due to their differing statuses, and it molded them into the characters that we read about.

I also liked seeing how all three of their lives and stories ended up colliding. Novik carefully wove an incredible story wherein the threads of the plot are cleverly woven into each of the characters in the book. Even the ones that don’t have many point-of-view sections, or any whatsoever. (I especially 100% stan Stepon. And anybody who doesn’t stan that adorable child is wrong.) Novik made sure that none of the characters were unnecessary or extraneous. Everyone felt like they had their own roles to play.

The Romance

He let go both my hands and stepped back and in a deep graceful courtesy went down on one knee before me and bowed his head, and said, “Lady, though you choose a home in the sunlit world, you are a Staryk queen indeed.”

And I absolutely have to talk about the romance. Or lack thereof. It’s complicated, okay? It’s not really apparent at first – okay, for anyone who’s familiar with romance tropes, it totally is. What I actually mean is, it didn’t feel like a slow-burn, or really romantic at all, until rather close to the end. But the love interests were very interesting and complex, and it’s very obvious from the get-go that there’s sot more going on under the surface for the boys than it seems. I’m not going to spoil anything though.

I also appreciated how unnatural the Staryk (the ice fairies) appeared to behave compared to the humans. Their dialogue seemed so archaic compared that between the humans, and the way they were described to move, and carry the cold with them. Not to mention the magical environmental changes that would happen every time the Staryk king would show up. But yeah, after ACOTAR, this was refreshing to read.

Stuff I Didn’t Like As Much

But yeah, before I wrap up this review, I guess I should mention any criticisms I had with Spinning Silver. Hmm… Well, I guess the writing style slowed down the read for me. And it made the book difficult to come back to, every time I went back to read a chunk of it.

But that’s kind of a me thing, only. Those who enjoy slower paced books with wordier prose will probably love this. But that’s kind of my only gripe with the novel.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, I really liked Spinning Silver and I definitely recommend it to fantasy lovers, and those who enjoy fairytale retellings. (Cuz this is also a Rumplestilskin retelling. Forgot to mention that. Whoops.) (I also adore how unique it and Gilded are from one another, despite how both are retellings of Rumplestilskin.)

I also didn’t really have a chance to mention it above, but the ending was my favorite thing about this novel. It was just so good. I can’t say anything about it, because that would spoil absolutely everything, but I will say that the character development really shines through, and all of the little plot threads appear to be neatly tied up. But yeah, this is an absolutely fantastic book, with great prose, and a really wonderful wintery read.

Thanks for reading, and gave an awesome day/night! Tune in next time for more bookish things!

~ Mar ~

Reading Retrospective: Red Winter

Let’s see… It’s been, I don’t know, about exactly a month right down to the day since I last did one of these. So I’d say that it’s been more than overdue for me to post another one.

Since it’s been such a looonng time since the last one – or if you’re new – Reading Retrospectives are posts where I go over a book I read in the past, of which there are many (ei: before I started posting stuff on this blog), and determine whether it still deserves the star rating that I originally gave it. So I basically just give it a proper review.

This time, I’m reinspecting a book I read around three years ago. It’s Red Winter by Annette Marie.

Red Winter by Annette Marie

Series: Red Winter Trilogy (Book #1)

Length: 348 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA, Fiction

Release Date: October 21, 2016

Book Description

Emi has spent her entire life hiding from the creatures that hunt her. The savage earth spirits are determined to kill her before she can become the living host of a goddess, so she stays hidden–until the day she saves the life of one of her hunters.

Shiro isn’t the harmless fox spirit she thought he was. He’s mysterious, cunning, unpredictable … and now hers to command. He’s sworn to pay his debt to her, but he doesn’t know who she is. If he finds out, he’ll kill her.

But she can’t send him away–not yet. Her future isn’t what she thought. The lies surrounding her fate have begun to unravel, and she needs answers before time runs out–answers that lie in the spirit realm. Shiro can take her there… if she dares to trust him.

And only then will she find out how deep the gods’ treachery runs.

My Review

Then: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.

So, like… This book still holds up for me. I still really like it. I’ve seen it compared to shoujo manga and anime, and, speaking as someone who has watched some of the latter, I absolutely agree. So I’m just gonna say straight up, that if you enjoy shoujo, you’ll like this book.

My favorite part about the book is how much the author cared about her book. It’s very clear just by reading this, that Marie put in a considerable amount of research and effort into making this as authentic, and true to the cultural source, as possible. And it really shows. It really does feel like I’m watching a shoujo anime (anime geared towards teenage girls), only no I’m not, I’m just reading a really well written novel. With a few really pretty illustrations.

But yeah, the setting is solid. It really feels like I’m reading a book set in Japan. I also adore the Japanese folklore here. I feel like I really don’t see enough books about it, outside of anime and such.

Not that that was the only thing that I really liked about Red Winter. The characters were pretty alright too.

“Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.”

I really liked Emi. She’s “not like other girls” in the best way – by which I mean she doesn’t have the stereotypical, overly sassy, good at most everything characterization problem that most YA female protagonists do. And I loved that about her. Emi has a traumatic backstory, like many leading characters, and most of her development over this novel is her learning to deal with, and begin to move past, said trauma. And she doesn’t put up a badass, sassy front to hide this part of herself from the world. She’s timid and vulnerable, and because of this, you can really start to see her evolve and shine that much more brightly. She’s definitely one of my more liked female protagonists in recent years.

Shiro was also decently interesting, despite being the more stereotypical of the two. Marie might have given Emi a variation on the “chosen one” cliche, but Shiro was the one to really inherit a lot of the more common tropes. Not that that’s a bad thing – I really like Shiro! I just wanted to acknowledge that he’s tied to a few literary (and anime) stereotypes. But yeah, Shiro is a kitsune (a Japanese fox spirit), so it’s really no surprise how likeable he is. Most people just love foxes.

She stopped, a half-dozen paces still separating them. The frantic thudding of her heart filled her ears as she met his vacant crimson stare. “Don’t forget me, Shiro,” she said hoarsely. “You’re not allowed to forget me.”

He blinked slowly and something shifted in his gaze. His lips curved in his familiar crooked smile. “You’ll forget me someday, little miko.” His voice was even hoarser than hers, rough and coated in a hint of an animal growl.

“I’ll never forget you,” she told him. “I’ll remember you to my last day.”

“Do you promise?”

Her heart gave an odd little flutter. “Yes, I promise.

The romance is also done just right between the two of them. It’s slow-burn, the (for the most part) best way to write a romance, which is your biggest giveaway that it’s well-written. (Hey, when the other option is insta-love, I will always choose a slow-burn any day!)

And, to top it off, Red Winter isn’t just a standalone novel. It’s the first part of a trilogy! So there’s even more to enjoy if you just couldn’t get enough of this one. (And yeah, haven’t read the rest of it yet, on account of life happening. In a good way, but it still happened.)

So yes, in short, I really like this book. The only downside is that, due to some pretty extensive world building at the start, it takes a bit for the plot to get going. Despite that, I still highly recommend it. If you like any of the novel’s genres, or folklore, or Japanese shoujo media, definitely give this book a shot!

Proof That I Still Read and Adore Books | “Unraveller” by Frances Hardinge [Book Review]

There are reasons for caution where the land meets the sea.

About This Book

Title & Author: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Length: 432 pages

Genres: Dark Fantasy, YA, Fiction

Release Date: January 10, 2023

Book Description

In a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them.

Kellen does not fully understand his talent, but helps those transformed maliciously – including Nettle. Recovered from entrapment in bird form, she is now his constant companion, and closest ally.

But Kellen has also been cursed, and unless he and Nettle can remove his curse, Kellen is in danger of unravelling everything – and everyone – around him…

My Review

Star Rating: 🦢🦢🦢🦢🦢 • 5 / 5 swans!

The Unraveller, the buzz meant. Spider-gifted, spider-cursed. Destroyer of curses, dismantler of mysteries, unpicker of souls.

This book. This. Book.

I adore it. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read recently.

The characters. The interesting, yet gruesome world. Everything was just so compelling for me in Unraveller. Frances Hardinge really knows how to write. I gotta check out more of her books.

The Characters

I loved the characters here. They were fun and complex. Kellen and Nettle had an absolutely perfect dynamic – him the hotheaded magical sort, and her being the quiet sort that listens to the world and tries to keep the former out of the trouble his temper often lands him in. And the different anxieties and personal problems each of them dealt with… so much hurt, so much angst.

Nettle’s excruciatingly tragic backstory was utterly heartbreaking. She did absolutely nothing wrong, and yet… well, you’ll have to read it to find out. (It hurts far more that way.) And Kellen’s background, though not nearly as terrible, is still incredibly heart wrenching. Being essentially abandoned by his loved ones for suddenly not quite meshing with their livelihoods. Horrible.

I really liked the other characters too. Gall was interesting, and I loved how strong the grayness was in his character. You didn’t really know what he would do next. Also, loved how feral his connection with his murder horse (sorry, “marsh horse”) sometimes made him, especially near the Wilds. I really liked his horse too, despite her murderousness. It was also nice to have an actual adult in a YA group for once (Gall is implied to be about thirty, while both Kellen and Nettle are both stated to be fifteen.)

Gall’s dialogue with our main duo was also gold.

“Did you see that!” Kellen was ecstatic. “That was another place! Those arches – they’re in two places at once! Just then, we were in two places at once!”

“If you ever do that again,” growled the marsh horseman, “little pieces of you will be in a lot of different places.”

I also really liked the part where Gall said that if he died, his murder horse would mourn him for decades. But she would still eat him.

(Yes, I do like my gruesome humor with my horror fantasy, thank you.)

The Setting (and Writing)

The setting was also amazing. Not just the Wilds – the overgrown, untamable forest-marsh where all the weird, magical stuff originates from – but the country of Raddith that borders it, too. I always find it more interesting when books explore how the surrounding settlements deal with the nearby weirdness than the weirdness itself. It’s fascinating to me. Definitely one of the highlights of the book for me!

I also adored Hardinge’s prose. It was wonderful. I absolutely loved the way that she described things from the Wilds, as well as the Wilds themselves. Here’s a few quotes to give you a taste:

It is much more likely that you will lose interest in visiting the Wilds, now that you have seen them. (You only think that you have seen them.) You will believe the evidence of your eyes and mind, which tell you there is nothing worth seeing there. (They are lying.)


The animal was a little too large, a little too beautiful, and glossy as polished leather. It didn’t fidget the way other horses did, and its ears didn’t flick nervously as Nettle and Kellen approached. The huffs of its breath stirred little clouds of steam before its muzzle, despite the warmth of the day.

It didn’t smell like a horse either. It smelled of rain.

The Plot

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll keep this section brief. I really, really loved the plot. I loved where the characters went on their journey, and reading about the surreal places that Hardinge created.

The only “con” I can really think of for the book, for me, was that the climax and denouement moved too fast. It kinda seemed like the author was just trying to wrap things up as quick as possible. I really think there could have been a decent sized sequel instead of a very rushed last few chapters and epilogue. I would have liked to see more of the antagonist (who isn’t revealed until a good way through the story, and even then doesn’t make an appearance until maybe in the last quarter of the novel).

But none of that took away any of my enjoyment out of the book as a whole, and I loved everything else about it so much, that I’m still keeping my rating at 5 stars. (Sorry, swans.)

Final Thoughts

I really and truly adored this novel, and I highly recommend to anyone who likes dark fantasy and/or horror (because horror is definitely an honorable mention for the genres).

There is something that I should definitely mention about the TWs. I know I don’t usually bring up anything about TWs, but I really do feel like it is imperative that I say this. Because of the nature of some of the curses, there is definitely some level of body horror in here, as well as some mention of death. None of it is ever overly described or talked about too gruesomely, but I felt the need to mention it nonetheless.

Anyway, if none of that stuff bothers you, definitely check Unraveller by Frances Hardinge out. You (probably) won’t regret it.

The Chaos Walking Book Review

The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

This series. This. Series. Chaos Walking was such a defining trilogy of books for me in my high school years. It’s made up of three books: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men, as well as a short prequel story called The New World.

It’s one of those series that I read again. And again. It’s one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and one I feel is still underrated. Also, there’s a shitty Lionsgate film adaptation that came out last year, based on the first book. We don’t talk about that film adaptation. Anyway, before I get into the actual review, here’s the synopsis for book one of the series.

Title & Author: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Series: Chaos Walking

Length: 497 pages

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Mystery

Release Date: May 5, 2008

Book Description

A dystopian thriller follows a boy and girl on the run from a town where all thoughts can be heard – and the passage to manhood embodies a horrible secret.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World?

Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? It does, doesn’t it? That’s precisely what I thought when I picked it up in the midst of a reading slump, way back in high school. And it was amazing.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.About anything.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Todd’s narration was unique and hilarious. I mean, just look at that quote – that’s the opening line! His narrative voice was very strong, which is something that I really love in books that do that kind of thing properly. He’s one of my favorite protagonists, and is just as compelling to read about a second, or even third, time around. And I can’t forget about Manchee the doggo. He’s the absolute best boy (that can also talk!). His and Todd’s relationship is so sweet, and it makes my heart warm just writing about it right here.

Viola is the dueteragonist of the series (and the mysterious girl mentioned in the synopsis), and I liked her just as much. She and Todd are a perfect team – hers strengths cover his weaknesses, and his strengths cover her weaknesses. In several ways, the two seemed like equals. And their relationship was the central pillar that this trilogy stands on, and I absolutely loved it – it was written so perfectly.

“Here’s what I think,” I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth. “I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.”

I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening.”I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The plot also moves at a breakneck pace in all three books, but somehow there’s still time for character moments and development. I really don’t know how Ness does it. The secret that Todd’s town is hiding is also bone-chilling, and the plot twists for all three books had me at the edge of my seat.

“War is like a monster,” he says, almost to himself. “War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows.” He’s looking at me now. “And otherwise normal men become monsters, too.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The first book probably did everything the best out of the three, but all of the books in the trilogy were honestly all five star reads for me. It’s an absolute understatement to say that I recommend this series.

And by this I mean, don’t just read the first book to give Chaos Walking a shot. Read the whole thing. Not the you’ll need any encouragement from me, though, once you read the ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go. You’ll want to keep going immediately – it’s just that strong of a novel. I’m not gonna spoil it, or any of the second or third books, because this series works best if you go into it blind on a first read through. (Second or third it works even though you know the plot. It’s just that good.) But yeah, I definitely recommend it, so you should definitely read it.

And if you’ve already read it, then you should read it again. And you should absolutely ignore the movie completely and pretend that it doesn’t exist, at all costs. (Someday soon, I’ll probably do a post about how much the movie sucks and why, and how it did everything wrong – down to the freaking casting even – but alas, that day is not today.)

My Star Ratings

The Knife of Never Letting Go: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
The Ask and the Answer: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
Monsters of Men: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
The New World – A Chaos Walking Short Story: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars

My Favorite Quotes

And because there’s just so many darn good and quotable lines in this trilogy that I like – and because I have absolutely no restraint – here’s all of my favorites from the series to end off this review. Here I go!

But a knife ain’t just a thing, is it? It’s a choice, it’s something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don’t. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Men lie, and they lie to theirselves worst of all.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Life equals running and when we stop running maybe that’s how we’ll know life is finally finished.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

It’s not that you should never love something so much that it can control you.

It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled.

It’s not a weakness.

It’s your best strength.

The Ask and the Answer

Faith with proof is no faith at all.

The Ask and the Answer

You’ve never stood on a beach as the waves came crashing in, the water stretching out from you until it’s beyond sight, moving and blue and alive and so much bigger than even the black beyond seems because the ocean hides what it contains.

The Ask and the Answer

To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility.

Monsters of Men

A monster, I think, remembering what Ben told me once. War makes monsters of men.

Monsters of Men

“Usually when a man calls a woman a bitch,” a voice calls over from a cart pulling up near us at the edge of camp,”its because she’s doing something right.”

Monsters of Men

“It’s always darkest before the dawn, Todd.”

I look at him, baffled. “No, it ain’t! What kinda stupid saying is that? It’s always lightest before the dawn!”

Monsters of Men

“And you,” he says, “you need to talk to your boy.” He lifts my chin. “And if he needs saving, then you save him. Isn’t that what you told me you did for each other?”

I let go a few more tears but then I nod. “Over and over again.”

Monsters of Men

I’ll find you–

You bet yer life on it–

I’ll find you–

Keep calling for me, Viola–

Cuz here I come.

Monsters of Men

Retrospective Review: Among the Beasts and Briars

Briars, brambles, bones, and blossom, I smell a girl who can’t be forgotten.

It’s been weeks since I last ruminated on a book from my past. So, I thought that it was beyond high time for me to another reading retrospective. This time, I’m retroactively reviewing Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

Length: 352 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale, Romance

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Book Description

Cerys is safe in the Kingdom of Aloriya. Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden.

Cerys knows this all too well: When she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions a small and irritating fox from the royal garden and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home.

But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

My Review

Then: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

I always thought that gardeners’ daughters couldn’t thrive where our roots didn’t grow. But maybe we were like dandelion tuffs.

I love, love, loved this book when I first read it twice years ago, and I still love, love, love it now. It was a wonderful fall fairytale, and I regret completely that I never made a fall vibes book recommendation list like I did for Halloween and winter, so that I could recommend it. (Maybe something for next year? Hmm…)

The vibes and prose in this book are – as I said before – absolutely perfect for autumn. Personally, I recommend the days leading up to Thanksgiving, if you have the time. It just feels the most like fall during that time to me, and since this book embodies the season so well… you get it.

Anyway, like I said, the prose and writing in this book was fantastic. I love the way that Poston describes things. It presents such a wonderful visual.

The leaves on the trees we approached were a molten gold, like an artist had taken a sunset and poured it over the forest, and the crisp smell of the coming winter floated on the autumn breeze. It was early afternoon, and the birds sang bright and loud in the treetops.

See? An absolutely beautiful description. And just one of many, I might add.

The story and characters were also great. I loved Cerys. I loved how she wasn’t a so-called “strong female protagonist” and that, even though she had a strange power via a curse, she never felt “special.” She just felt like a nice girl trying her best to fulfill her mission. Fox was a fantastic personality for Cerys to interact with, and I loved his POV sections just as much as Cerys’, if not more. He just had the right amount of sass to be both hilarious and compelling.

The plot was also fantastic. It wasn’t super complex, but I loved the fairytale inspired aspect of it, as well as how it never slowed down or dragged at any point. I also loved how the forest was essentially a character in its own right – the lush descriptions really made it feel like one too.

She said that the people who die never really leave. That we carry them with every breath we take, until the wind itself is gone.

Anyway, yeah, this book was still just as good as the first time, and I completely recommend it. Definitely check it out if you haven’t read it – it’s a wonderful fairytale-like story. Pair it with some fall scents, a warm blanket, and some hot chocolate, and everything will be more than perfect when you read it. Thanks, as always, for reading, and join me next time for more bookish things.

Weekly Wrap-Up: 12/5 – 12/11

It’s the end of the week again, so it’s time for a reading wrap-up. I didn’t blog as much as I had wanted to, but sometimes that’s (unfortunately) just how life goes.

Fortunately, I did have the opportunity to post a few times this week, so let’s look back on the good times like those.

Tuesday 12/6: Majestic Monday

This Tuesday, I posted the thing where I talk about pretty book covers. This week I highlighted City of Lost Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ash & Embers by Jenna Wolfhart, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. You can check out the full post here if you missed it.

Thursday 12/8: Winter Book Recommendations

This Thursday, I thought that it was time I give out a few of my (only) winter-themed book recommendations. I’m not gonna spoil it here – cuz I don’t want to ruin the point of the post itself – so you can read the whole thing here, if you’re curious.

Friday 12/9: The Will and the Wilds Review

On Friday, I finally posted another book review. This one was Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Will and the Wilds, a somewhat surreal, high fantasy, romance novel. It was a quick and interesting read, I totally recommend it for that reason alone, even if it wasn’t one of my favorites. (I’m also planning on reading more of this author’s books.) If you missed it, you can read my review here.

Sunday 12/11: Weekly Wrap-Up and General Goals for Next Week

Annnd, that’s it for this week. Like I said at the top, I didn’t post as much as I wanted to, but stuff happens. I also didn’t really meet any of my blogging goals the way that I wanted to, which is also unfortunate.

So, I’m not going to overtly state any goals like I have been, because life happens, and it also prevents me from being spontaneous if I get an idea to blog about something bookish in the middle of the week, or something.

So for this week, I’m not committing to anything, but I’d like to do a Shelf Control, post a couple book reviews, maaayybe a reading retrospective, and probably at least something else. So join me next time for more bookish things!

Some Wintery Reads for the Snowy Season | December Book Recommendations

It’s that time of the year again! Time for some seasonal book recommendations, that is. But, unlike the fall, here I’ll be highlighting some cozy reads with winter vibes.

I don’t have as many as in October, unfortunately, but I haven’t really read as many books with a frosty atmosphere. But I’ve still got a few that I can talk about, so let’s get started!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Series: The Winternight Trilogy [Book #1]

Length: 336 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Book Description

Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.

Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village.

But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Brief Review

Ah yes, the winter-themed book on everyone’s winter-themed lists. It’s been a bit since I’ve read this, but I still remember quite vividly how I felt about it. It had such an eye-catching premise, and I started reading this immediately after I obtained a copy. But… I dunno, something about the writing style just didn’t gel with my tastes.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a pretty well-written novel! I just think it was too slow for my tastes. I also didn’t like following the MC’s entire life. It felt too expository, and like an almost book long prologue to the real story.

I do, however, admire that it’s inspired by the tale of Vasilisa: the famous heroine who defeated the witch Baba Yaga in Russian folklore. It just wasn’t for me, unfortunately. But it might be for you, so definitely check it out!

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Length: 464 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Release Date: September 30, 2014

Book Description

After her mother is brutally murdered, seventeen-year-old Clara Stole is determined to find out what happened to her. Her father, a powerful man with little integrity, is a notorious New York City gang lord in the syndicate-turned-empire called Concordia. And he isn’t much help.

But there is something even darker than Concordia’s corruption brewing under the surface of the city, something full of vengeance and magic, like the stories Clara’s godfather used to tell her when she was a little girl. Then her father is abducted and her little sister’s life is threatened, and Clara accidentally frees Nicholas from a statue that has been his prison for years. Nicholas is the rightful prince of Cane, a wintry kingdom that exists beyond the city Clara has known her whole life.

When Nicholas and Clara journey together to Cane to retrieve her father, Clara encounters Anise, the queen of the faeries, who has ousted the royal family in favor of her own totalitarian, anti-human regime. Clara finds that this new world is not as foreign as she feared, but time is running out for her family, and there is only so much magic can do…

Brief Review

I know that nowadays Claire Legrand’s most known for Sawkill Girls and the like, but this book came looonng before that. It’s also, incidentally, the only book of hers I’ve read, and it was years ago at that. This book got me out of a big reading slump way back in November 2015. A Nutcracker retelling? Yes, please!

And it actually lived up to the hype that the premise generated inside of me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’ve even gone back to it a couple of times since. So yeah, I definitely recommend it.

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart [Book #1]

Length: 408 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: September 28, 2021

Book Description

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.

Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game — and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

Brief Review

Look, I was struggling to figure out at least one more book to put on here with winter vibes (that I’ve read), okay? Believe, I know that there’s been too many posts on this blog involving this book in the time frame it’s been active.

But yeah, this book’s setting is basically a winter wonderland for a huge portion of the novel. And winter wonderland = very wintery vibes. The winteriest. So if you want that, then definitely give this a whirl.

And that is, very unfortunately, all I have for you today. Have you read any of these books? Do you think they have the vibes for snowy season?

Thanks, as always, and join me next time for more bookish things!

Book Review: “The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding” by Alexandra Bracken

Some towns get caramel apples. Others get a special chocolate treat as their claim to fame. We get fried pumpkin leaves.

About This Book

Series: Prosper Redding [Book #1]

Length: 367 pages

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Supernatural

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Book Description

Prosper Redding is the only unexceptional member of his very successful family, that is, until he discovers a demon living inside him. Turns out, Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made, and then broke – a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. Now Alastor, the malefactor, has reawakened and is intent on destroying the Redding fortune, unless they can kill him in the body he inhabits, which, oh, wait, that’s Prosper, and why is his grandmother coming at him with a silver blade.

In danger from both the demon trying to take over his soul and the family that would rather protect their fortune than their own kin, Prosper narrowly escapes with the help of his long lost Uncle Barnabas and Barnabas’s daughter, Nell, a witch in training. According to Barnabas and Nell, they have only days to break the family curse and find a way to banish Alastor back to the demon realm. Until then, Prosper has to deal with Alastor’s vengeful mutterings inside his head (not to mention his nasty habit of snacking on spiders). And, every night, Alastor’s control over his body grows stronger...

As the deadline to the curse draws nearer, Prosper and Nell realize there’s more at stake than just the Redding family fortune… that there might be something else out there, something worse than Alastor, that could destroy the balance between the human and demon realms and change the world as they know it forever.

My Review

Star Rating: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

Uncle Barnabas glanced up at the ceiling, scratching his head. “We are, uh, entertaining a few options for solving your predicament at the moment.”

“You don’t have a clue, do you?” I asked flatly.

This book was a ton of fun. I really enjoyed it. Which is why I gave it the semi-rare, five star rating.

I honestly liked just about everything about it. The characters were great, the setting was somewhat richly described, the plot was awesome, and the protagonist’s narrative voice was the bomb. It would be most appropriate as a pre-Halloween, October read, but it honestly kinda works anytime. Though, I did still read it during the fall, so that may be part of the reason I was still in the mood.

I had no idea who Louis XIV was, but someone seriously needed to have a talk with him about his sick obsession with gold naked-baby-angel statues.

To start off this review proper, let’s talk about the characters first. I loved Prosper Redding, and just how much sarcasm he had inside of him. Because it’s not just a demon in the trying to get out (more on that in a bit), oh no. Prosper is one of those characters that is unable to keep the sass on the down-low, and he speaks his mind, regardless of the consequences. Kind of like a diet-Harry Dresden, or Percy Jackson (though he’s actually a little more sassy than the latter, in my opinion). And don’t worry, Prosper has character growth as well.

Alastor, Fiend Prince With a Really Long Title, was a lot of fun too. I thoroughly enjoyed his arrogance and unbearable-ness, and I loved his interactions with Prosper. These two have the best dialogue together in the entire book. I also liked how active both Al and Prosper were with their differing agendas, and how neither one was just a static, reactive character. Because Alastor also has some character development going on.

“Chill,” she said. “Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed.”

I rolled my eyes. “Sorry I don’t speak Fortune Cookie.”

I also really enjoyed Nell Bishop, and her dynamic with Prosper. The two played off one another really well, with Nell being a somewhat more serious “straight-man” type of character, but she always brought her own sass to the table when she needed to.

Uncle Barnabas was… interesting. I can’t really say too much without giving away a little of the plot, but he played his role well. And, last but not least, I also liked Prosper’s twin sister Prue, though she didn’t appear in the novel as many times as I would have liked. I also would have liked her and Prosper to have had more interactions as well, to show more of their bond, but it wasn’t too much of a gripe for me or anything.

And yeah, this is kind of slightly mean, but I loved how much Prosper dunked on his grandmother. Nevermind, she was a total a-hole, so she completely deserved it, actually. Just… the descriptions and general stuff he said about her was hilarious.

It wasn’t that Prue and I hated our grandmother. It was just that we thought she might be the Devil in a dress suit.


That was it. I whirled around with only one goal: to run back up that hill, through the creepy forest, and straight out of Redhood. If she was giving us sweets and talking in that strange, drippy voice, it could only be for one reason. She was going to poison me.

Prosper’s thoughts on the rest of his horrible family are also very amusing.

Charlotte, the oldest of us, the one responsible for throwing me off a second-floor balcony to see if I could fly, only smiled and wrapped an arm around my shoulder.

as well as

Oh crap, I thought, trying to take a step back. My family really is a cult. That guy with the website had been right.

The pacing in the story was perfect too. For me at least. Fast-paced is the best! I like it when the plot and stuff don’t really slow down. And it wasn’t too fast; the characters still had time to “breathe” and react properly to stuff, so that was also great.

I also really liked the atmosphere of the novel. The vivid, beautiful descriptions of October environments was perfect. I almost wanted to try some Silence Cakes (the fried leaves, covered in syrup and sugar) myself. Almost.

Loved the villains of the book, as well. The climax in particular was very exciting, and it made me want to start the sequel immediately. And I did. So, expect a review for The Last Life of Prince Alastor, in the next week.

Have you read The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding? What did you think of it? Thanks for reading, and return next time for more bookish things!

Books I’m Thankful For: Magic Treehouse

It’s a day late, technically, (unless you’re one of those individuals that does Thanksgiving on Black Friday) but I wanted to start a series where, every year on, or very close to, Thanksgiving, I do a post thanking a book from my past.

So today, I’m gonna talk about the one that started it all: the book that got me into reading. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, it’s actually a series. Anyway, I’m gonna sing the praises of the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne.

The first four books in the Magic Treehouse series, in chronological order from left to right.

About the Magic Treehouse

First Book’s Title: Dinosaurs Before Dark

First Book’s Publication Date: July 28, 1992

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Myth, Children’s Fiction

Length of First Book: 80 pages

Book Description for Dinosaurs Before Dark

Read the #1 bestselling chapter book that started it all! Magic. Mystery. Time-travel. Get whisked back in time in the magic tree house with Jack and Annie!

Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark…or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

The Magic Tree House series has been a beloved favorite for over 25 years and is sure to inspire a love of reading—and adventure—in every child who joins Jack and Annie!

Why I’m So Thankful for This Book (Series)

These books are very, very special to me. I hold them extremely close to my heart, despite the fact that I haven’t even spared any of them a passing glance in years. But I’ve never forgotten what this series has done for me as a writer, and most especially, as a reader.

The Magic Treehouse series not only ignited my passion for reading at a young age, but it also defined my favorite genre to read. Fantasy. I’m pretty sure these novels are considered “gateway” novels, as in, they are stories that get people into reading, and I completely agree.

I’m gonna tell you a little secret. Before I read Magic Treehouse, I actually hated reading. In like first grade, when my teacher made us do those reading exercises during free time after a test or something, or if we just had time allotted to it during that particular day, I would cheat. I would pretend to read the little booklets and then pretend to answer the questions that came with it (they were never collected or graded by the teacher). I would also frequently avoid reading most books if I could help it. They just weren’t engaging to me for some reason.

But then, everything changed when one day, on a whim, I picked up the first installment of the Magic Treehouse books, Dinosaurs Before Dark. And I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this book, and beyond it, this entire series, changed my life entirely. Mary Pope Osborne’s (very child friendly) prose enraptured my mind completely.

I was stunned. Before this, I had thought reading to be a chore; I didn’t find it fun in any sense of the word. But Magic Treehouse taught me that reading could be fun. It gave me hope that perhaps other books could invoke the same excitement and interest as this one. Books were no longer boring to me. Now, they were my favorite activity. I was soon reading every chance I had. And eventually, inspired by my newfound, lifelong love for books, I acquired the strong desire to craft things with my own words. And I owe all of this to this series.

So thank you, Mary Pope Osborne, for creating such fantastic stories. For encouraging me, and thousands of other young readers, to give reading a shot. For showing us how absolutely wonderful reading could be. Thank you, so very much. I would not be the person that I am today without your stories. And I hope they remain as accessible as they were for me, for a very long time. So that new generations of young children, who are uninterested in reading, to pick up a book and dive into an adventure.