Review: Changeling by William Ritter

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changelingChangeling by William Ritter

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Oddmire #1

Date Published: July 16th, 2019

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I absolutely loved this novel. It is such a fun and magical read with just the right amount of suspense and creepiness to it. At its’ core, it is a beautiful story of love, belonging, and the true meaning of family. It shows the bravery and strength one can find in themselves when protecting the ones they love. On top of being an action-packed adventure, this story is also full of heart and positive messages. Changeling is a fast-paced and fantastical journey. I was hooked from page one and I never wanted it to end.

In this novel, we follow two young brothers, Tinn and Cole. By looking at them, they appear to be human twins—however, one of them is actually a changeling. When a goblin named Kull’s plan to switch the human baby for the goblin one goes wrong, they are both left behind. For years, their mother Annie raises the boys as brothers despite the unusual circumstances. They live as a normal family, though the boys have always wondered what they are deep down. When, at twelve years old, Tinn and Cole receive a mysterious message telling the changeling they must return to the Wild Wood and save the dying magic, they set off on a dangerous adventure to cross the Oddmire swamp and find the goblin horde.

The unique and colorful cast of characters is the driving force of this narrative. Each one has a distinct and memorable personality that adds depth and dimension to the world as a whole. Tinn and Cole are such loveable characters with a beautiful relationship—they are truly the definition of brothers. They both have very individual personalities that mesh together really well. Annie is a remarkable mother who loves the two boys equally and thinks of them as her own no matter what. She is such a strong and brave character, risking everything to find and protect them once they have run off on their journey. Ritter also packs this novel with imaginative magical beings. It is clear that he has put much time and effort into forming every aspect of the setting and the creatures and weaving those two elements tightly together.

It is incredibly interesting to hear the internal conflicts the boys have about discovering who the changeling is. They both have reasons to believe that they are the changeling due to a part of themselves and their personalities that they are unable to understand or explain. For instance, Cole wonders why he is always so compelled to cause trouble and do things he knows he shouldn’t. On the other hand, they both believe the other deserves to be the human because of what a good person they are. They both want the absolute best for the other, despite their own fears of being the changeling. It shows just how much they love and care about each other.

William Ritter does a wonderful job crafting this novel. His writing flows seamlessly and is incredibly easy to get sucked into and follow. His descriptions are vivid as he builds the unique world and palpable atmosphere of the narrative. The mysterious and treacherous nature of the Wild Wood is shown so well in the way he constructs the environment. From the encroaching trees with their gnarled roots to the mist that permeates the air, the suspense of Tinn and Cole’s journey is drastically enhanced. Ritter consistently blends reality with magic that will spark readers’ imaginations. This is true for every part of the world, making it incredibly multi-dimensional and highly immersive.

This novel fits the middle-grade genre perfectly. It is one of those universally enjoyable novels, offering something that both children and adults alike will love. The messages packed into the story are inspiring and heartwarming—they are great things for a young audience to learn about. The ideas that family can truly be found in others whether they are related to you or not and the importance of taking care of those you love are beautiful and meaningful messages to understand. The darkness in the story never becomes overwhelming and is very suitable for younger readers. Overall, this was a charming read. I cannot wait to see more from this series.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Ritter,_Will_HR (c) Katrina SantoroWilliam Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark. The Oddmire is Ritter’s first series for middle-grade readers. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Jackaby series for young adult readers. Visit him online at rwillritter.wordpress.com and find him on Twitter: @Willothewords. 

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The Animal Crossing Book Tag

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I was not tagged to do this, but as soon as I saw this on Anna from My Bookish Dream’s blog, I knew I absolutely had to do it! I have been a massive Animal Crossing fan since I was a little kid, so there is no way I could pass this one up. Anna is one of my blogger besties and she runs an absolutely wonderful blog so please go check out her responses to this tag as well as her blog in general! 😀

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THE RULES:

  • Please link back to the original creator of the tag, Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Answer the following Animal Crossing themed book questions.
  • Feel free to use graphics, but be sure to credit Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Tag some friends to spread the love!
The graphics that I’m using are from the creator of this tag so all the credit for them goes to her!

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – Not that this is going to be a surprise to anyone at this point in my blogging life, but I’ve decided to choose two books instead of one for this question! Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite movies, however, I’ve never actually read the novel. It is definitely at the top of my classics TBR. Flowers for Algernon is one that I’ve heard tons about over the years, but my dad is the one who really sold me on it. He loves this book and really wants me to read it and I definitely plan on doing that soon!

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – In terms of people’s favorite Harry Potter novels, I always feel like I’m in the minority with this one because I have not come across many people who liked the second one the best. There’s something about this plot that really clicks with me and I like how surprisingly dark and serious many parts of it are for a middle grade novel. So, Chamber of Secrets is my absolute favorite book of my absolute favorite series and it also happens to be a second book—voila!

(Honorable Mention: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – While doing this tag, I realized that I don’t have a lot of favorite books that are actually set in large cities, even fictional ones. This, though, is one of my all-time favorite classics and London is most definitely a large city!

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The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren – This is a very recent read I just got to do last month for a blog tour with Penguin Teen and I absolutely loved it. Honestly, it’s one of those novels that gets even better the more I think about it. The Virtue of Sin is an extremely interesting story that details the dangers of cults as well as the strength women have while fighting for the rights and treatment they deserve. This appealed to both the book nerd and the psychology nerd in me. I would very highly recommend giving this a try!

(Honorable Mention: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras)

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – Yes, I picked two again…but I have an excuse! I cannot think back on my childhood—on my favorite novels that pushed me to become the reader that I am today—and not think of both of these as one. The way they helped to create my passion for literature, turned me into a writer, fueled the fantasy worlds I would escape to in my mind when life became a bit too noisy. What these books have done to my life is more incredible than words can describe.

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Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – There was no doubt in my mind that I would have to use this for my answer here. This novel is not only just rich with characters; it is rich with everything. This is such a beautifully told fantasy with a highly detailed and well-constructed world. Filled with a massive variety of colorful characters who leap off the page and intriguing storylines of politics, conspiracy, companionship, and a touch of romance, this is by far one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – I apologize in advance to anyone who likes this novel…but I absolutely cannot stand it. The story is not for me and the writing…um, yeah…that’s a rant I will save you from today! This is genuinely the only book that I have ever read in my entire life where I’ve come away without a single positive thing to say about it. And, lucky me, I have had to study it multiple times in school! 😛

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Circe by Madeline Miller – I read this novel last year when it came out and absolutely fell in love with it. It very quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time. My experience with it was even more special because I got to meet Madeline Miller and hear her speak about Circe very shortly after I finished it. This is a beautiful and captivating tale following the witch-goddess Circe. It is an enchanting retelling of Greek mythology and I cannot recommend it highly enough (which is why I keep psyching myself out of reviewing it!).

I tag:

YOU! 😀

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Review: The Hidden Dagger Trilogy by J.L. Mbewe

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Full Trilogy Review:

I really enjoyed reading this trilogy. There are so many secrets and twists and turns in the plot it is easy to become engrossed and it is hard to put down. The story moves at a solidly fast pace and is packed with many moments of gripping action which pulled me in from the start. There is a good deal of thought and time put into every element of these novels, creating a unique and fascinating narrative. With their rich world and characters, these books make for a fun and immersive fantasy read.

This series begins following a young girl named Ayianna who has just found out she is betrothed to one of the most eligible bachelors in the land. Ayianna and her father set out to meet him and begin this new chapter of her life. However, very soon after arriving, they are attacked by a mysterious group of men, leaving her father dead and Ayianna running for her life. Quickly, it becomes clear that this is not just an isolated event—that her father was keeping some important secrets and that their world is facing a great danger. Reluctantly teaming up with an elf named Kael, Desmond her betrothed, and Prince Vian, Ayianna sets off to find her mother and unravel the mystery her father left behind.

Much more happens during the course of this trilogy, but since this is a spoiler-free review, I’ll keep from going into any more detail about the plot. However, I will say it remains consistently fresh and intriguing throughout the entire narrative. There is plenty of gripping action and adventure, surprising revelations, and mysteries that keep you wanting more. I particularly loved the fight scenes, especially when the characters were up against frightening creatures like the imps. This made for many exciting and heart-pounding moments.

Occasionally, I found that the plot sometimes became a bit slow and repetitive, primarily in the first novel. For instance, when Ayianna and her companions begin their journey through the forest, it progresses a bit slowly with the characters arguing about the same things—Vian and Desmond wanting to lead them in another direction and Kael insisting he knows where to go. While there are some moments of action and adventure, it felt as though a lot of this portion of their journey consisted of this with not quite enough variety in their interactions. However, this was not a frequent issue.

The best part of these novels is the incredibly beautiful and detailed writing. Mbewe has a great talent with words, taking the magic and fantasy to a new level. The worldbuilding is absolutely fantastic the whole way through and makes you feel like you are really in the world. Mbewe constructs it in a way that is original but has that classic fantasy novel style and feel. Every setting enhances the tone of the scene that takes place in it and adds tons of dimension to the plot.

On top of the vivid descriptions of the world, Mbewe fills it with its’ own very interesting history. This element adds so much more depth to the story. It is clear that she put a huge amount of time and effort into imagining every bit of it. There are also plenty of different creatures that add to the fantastical nature of the narrative. This also adds variety to the characters as they are not all humans. And each type of creature has a part in the history of the world with fully developed backgrounds.

Mbewe completes the building of the plot with some very well-created and multi-dimensional characters. Even some of the more minor characters are developed fully. Kael was definitely my favorite out of everyone. His personality and dialogue are some of the best aspects of the story. He is sarcastic and funny with a true heart of gold and is just plain loveable

It took me a little while to decide how I felt about Ayianna as I did not entirely connect with her at first. However, she proved to be quite a strong heroine in the long-run. There were times where I felt she was not quite reaching her full potential when it came to being the tough, independent character she is through the majority of the book. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a pretty accurate reaction to the situation she has been thrown into. Her life goes through so much upheaval and she is dealing with a massive amount of grief. Yet she pushes through it and bravely carries on through this journey.

One other issue I had with the characters at times was that their emotions were not always addressed in a consistent or realistic way. There were many instances where I did not think Ayianna’s feelings and thoughts matched up with the gravity of the situation. After everything she had gone through, her reaction lacked some intense emotion it could have had, allowing the reader to connect and sympathize with her even more. The early tension between Kael and Ayianna seemed a bit confusing. It quickly felt a bit forced and like there was not really a need or reason for it. That being said, I absolutely loved their dialogue with each other and ended up really liking their relationship.

I do consider the issues I did have with the narrative rather minor in the grand scheme of things. The characters developed well throughout the course of these books and they grew into their newfound roles. None of the main characters are ever one-dimensional and they became more complex as the narrative progressed. Constantly growing as people and in their relationships with each other, they are always interesting to follow and learn more about. The worldbuilding remains detailed and vibrant, expanding more and more, and is always fully and uniquely constructed. The writing is consistently rich and beautiful. Overall, this is a really solid trilogy.

Book Details:

secretskeptSecrets Kept by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #1

Date Published: May 14th, 2015

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: With a curse, she will build an army. With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice. But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper. 

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

3.0 TARDISes

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darkenedhopeDarkened Hope by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #2

Date Published: May 7th, 2016

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 392 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself.

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

3.5 TARDISes

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curseboundCurse Bound by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #3

Date Published: June 27th, 2019

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 326 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Kael’s worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking up.

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor. 

4.0 TARDISes

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Author Bio:

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

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Blog Tour Schedule:

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Tuesday, July 9th 

Wednesday, July 10th 

Thursday, July 11th 

Friday, July 12th 

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Review: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

allrightsreservedAll Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Word$ #1

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks, for every nod, for every scream and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Rather than read her speech—rather than say anything at all—she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again, sparking a movement that threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I had been so eager to read this book ever since I first heard about it, so I am really sad to say that I did not enjoy it. The concept for the plot is very interesting and there were many aspects of this novel that were quite creative. However, the negatives severely outweighed the positives in this case. There was so much potential here for a riveting and powerful story about freedom of speech, and the subject itself is very topical in our world today. But what could have been both exciting and enlightening was ruined by too many tropes and an extremely unlikeable main character.

This novel takes place in a dystopian future, reminiscent of settings like Orwell’s 1984 and The Hunger Games trilogy. This society brings new meaning to the term free speech. Every single word and gesture is copyrighted or trademarked and there are few things a person can do that do not cost them money. In this story, we follow a young girl named Speth who is about to reach the age at which this system of payment for communication applies to her. When she witnesses the tragic death of her friend right before her “Last Day” speech, she is overcome with sadness at the unfair and restrictive situation they have all been forced into. So instead of reading her speech, she vows to never speak again, inadvertently starting a dangerous but crucial revolution.

I really did not like this book. Though there were some unique parts, much of it felt like a copy of other dystopian young adult novels, relying on far too many overused tropes. My number one problem was the main character, Speth. She is by far one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across and as this is written in first person, there is no escaping her. Her actions throughout the story are consistently enraging, causing tons of unnecessary pain to everyone around her. She could have been a strong heroine, standing up for what she believes in and fighting for free speech. However, almost everything she does is highly irresponsible, not well thought-out, and is more damaging to society rather than helpful.

Though she does end up inspiring people within her society to fight for their rights, Speth herself does not even seem to actually know what she is fighting for exactly. As the plot intends, her initial refusal to speak inadvertently starts a bit of a revolution. This choice comes from the deep grief she feels in the moment, and that is completely understandable. But as the story progresses, she comes across as increasingly immature and she does not grow at all.

Standing up for what you believe in can be an extremely daunting task and requires a huge amount of courage and strength. But Speth is stubborn in the wrong way and she constantly fails to see how much she is hurting innocent people who are close to her. This calls into question the plausibility of so many people following and looking up to her.

Most of the other characters in the novel are far more likable than Speth and I thought Katsoulis did a very good job creating them. They are definitely multi-dimensional and it is interesting to learn their backstories and get a picture of how they live in this bleak societal state. Since Speth does not speak to anyone during the narrative, it is hard to get a handle on her relationships with the other characters, but for the most part, the characterization of the side characters is a decently strong aspect of the book.

Another aspect of the novel that I quite liked was the creativity of the different corporations that run every part of society. Katsoulis comes up with some very clever and sometimes hilarious ideas for these companies and the advertisements they put forth. There is this sort of dark comedy feel here due to the mixture of humor with a frighteningly realistic dystopian world. I particularly liked the concept of the placers, and I actually wish there had been even more of a focus on them.

I think the main problem here does not stem only from Speth’s recklessness and lack of consideration for other people and their wishes but also from the way the story is approached. It is clear that Katsoulis wanted this to be an action-filled narrative that shocks the reader with its many twists and turns. However, he just goes way too far. Rather than add to the strength of the underlying message of the story, these twists only become a massive detriment to Speth’s character. These events also serve to make the story less and less believable as they transpire. There was one situation in about the final quarter of the narrative that was the final straw for me and there was no redeeming itself after that.

I think the basic concept here is pretty solid and I definitely do see what Katsoulis is going for. Unfortunately, the execution was rough and, in my opinion, did not produce the desired effect. The positive message of championing freedom of speech is mostly lost due to the lack of a strong main character. Katsoulis also throws in too many events that take place purely for shock value and feel somewhat pointless within the actual narrative as a whole. I do intend to read the next book in the series to see if any of the issues I found in this one are fixed.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

thevirtueofsinThe Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: June 25th, 2019

Publisher: Philomel Books

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

There are so many aspects of this story that appealed to both the book nerd and psychology nerd in me and I was completely absorbed from the start. This is the story of two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as they are thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are.

I absolutely love anything to do with psychology—I am actually currently a forensic psychology major—and the psychology of cults is particularly interesting to study. Seeing the mindsets of both the members and the leaders is both fascinating and chilling. This novel primarily demonstrates how the beliefs and laws a leader comes up with are drilled into members. We see how this warps a person’s thoughts and view of the world and how incredibly challenging it is to break free of these beliefs. Schuren’s depictions of these elements of a cult are very accurate, enraging, and heartbreaking.

The primary subject dealt with in this novel is the unequal and extremely poor treatment of women within the cult. We see how the men silence them and do not allow them to make their own decisions. There are also other elements of the unfair treatment of minorities in the plot. The importance of standing up for these types of injustices, whether you are part of that minority or not, and of treating others with respect are shown through this story.

I was surprised at how many twists there were in this novel that I did not see coming. And I liked every single one. Schuren takes the narrative in a number of unexpected directions. There are so many secrets spilled and revelations that propelled me through every chapter. This is a true page-turner.

One of the only issues I feel the story has is that it does become a bit repetitive. I somewhat conflicted about this because it does make sense in context to some extent. The process of changing ones’ mindset and beliefs about something or someone—particularly in such a severe situation—takes a lot of time. Miriam actually does come around and see the lies of the cult’s leader fairly quickly in terms of the number of days over which the story takes place. However, I did feel that facts potentially did not need to be repeated to the reader after the first few times hearing them. Overall, this is just a very minor problem I came across.

Miriam is an incredibly strong female lead right from the very beginning of the novel. She does not want to put up with the suppression and ill-treatment of women that the men of the cult have turned into an accepted way of life. She gradually finds her voice and stands up for not just herself and the other women, but for everyone who is under the control of the Prophet. Headstrong and intelligent, Miriam makes a wonderful protagonist.

This story is not just told from Miriam’s perspective but also from Caleb’s, the boy she’s sure she is meant to marry. Alternating between these characters and seeing every situation through two different sets of eyes made this an even more intriguing plot. Schuren writes these narrators well, making their voices distinct from the other, which can be a challenge when working with more than one point of view.

Both main characters and side characters alike are multi-dimensional in this story. They are clearly carefully crafted and they evolve and respond realistically to their environment and the events of the novel. They don’t feel flat—they are the driving force of the plot. I felt that I got to know many of the characters well, no matter what size part they play in the grand scheme of things. Just like the worldbuilding, the characters are equally as vivid, detailed, and fully fleshed out. Aaron’s storyline is probably my favorite out of all of them.

My only issue with the characters is that a couple characters are rather unclear or inconsistent, mainly early on. I felt they became clearer pretty quickly, but I had a little trouble connecting with them at first. For instance, in Aaron’s case, I would think I was getting a handle on his personality and then he would do something that seemed out of character, causing me to become confused. There were times when I did not quite understand the motives for a character’s actions and those events were not always cleared up. Again, this is just a very minor issue I had.

Tying in with what I said about the characters being multi-dimensional, Schuren does a good job of clearly indicating how they develop over the course of the story. They learn and grow and evolve. The events that take place and the upheaval they experience consistently affect each character, their actions, and their views of life and the world around them.

Schuren’s writing style is definitely one of the strongest aspects of this novel. I found it very easy to get into and it had a very captivating quality to it. It was not just the story but the way she told it and worded it that held me in the narrative. The writing and the message it sends are both beautiful.

I found Schuren’s worldbuilding to be absolutely fantastic. She creates this extremely detailed and frighteningly realistic picture of what living in a cult is like. She forms both the physical world and the psychological world of these characters through her words. It feels like you are there in the desert—in the supposed safety of the community. You experience the raw emotions and the sinister atmosphere. She really brings this story to life.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. It was so easy to become engrossed in this novel and I found it extremely hard to put down. I read through it so fast, just intending to read a couple chapters and realizing a while later I read over one-hundred or more pages. Schuren brings so many interesting elements together to create a story that will quickly draw in readers and open their eyes to topics that are very important and timely. I highly recommend picking this up and giving it a read.

4.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Tuesday – July 2nd, 2019

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish, and it is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is your top ten childhood favorites. I absolutely love this topic! I’ll never get enough of going back and reminiscing about the books that turned me into the book nerd I am today. I’ve read so many incredible things over the years, particularly during my childhood. It is definitely quite a challenge to try to narrow my list down to just ten (I may have put on some series…), but here we go!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

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The Junie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park

The Amelia Bedelia Series by Peggy Parish

Sorry this is a bit of a short post today. I would absolutely love to know what your childhood favorites are, so please let me know in the comments!

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Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

scarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2

Date Published: February 5th, 2013

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 454 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

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This is a spoiler-free review, but does contain some spoilers for the previous novel, Cinder.

It has taken me an absurdly long time but I have finally continued on with this series. And I am glad I did because it was so wonderful to be back in this world with these characters. I enjoyed Scarlet just as much, if not more than Cinder. This was another incredibly fun and exciting ride with an eclectic and loveable cast of characters. Even though these novels are starting to feel a bit young for me, I still absolutely adore this world and these tales. A fast-paced, heart-pounding ride from beginning to end, Scarlet is a wonderful installment in an already fantastic series.

Scarlet is the second novel in The Lunar Chronicles, a series of four novels, each loosely based on a classic fairytale. In this novel, we pick up exactly where the previous one left off. Cinder is making her escape from prison with a rather unexpected companion, Carswell Thorne. Meanwhile, Scarlet Benoit’s story begins. Her grandmother has suddenly gone missing and she is desperate to find her. However, no one in law enforcement seems to want to help her, so she decides to take matters into her own hands.

When Scarlet meets a street fighter named Wolf, she finds out that he might be the key to finding her grandmother. So, reluctantly—at least at first—she teams up with him to solve the mystery. Along the way, their path crosses with that of Cinder and Thorne—fugitives on the run—which leads to even more mysteries and surprising revelations. This ragtag group of heroes must stay one step ahead of the evil Queen Levana, figure out how to save Prince Kai, and not get caught in the meantime.

I have always been a massive fan of reading all sorts of retellings, particularly fairytale retellings; I have found myself tending to gravitate toward them a lot, especially in recent years. A reimagining of a classic tale is tricky to perfect, and while you do not want an exact copy of the original, you also do not want a retelling straying too far or going wild with strange twists and concepts that detract from the main message. But Marissa Meyer is a genius at this.

This fairy tale retelling is a lot more loosely based on the Little Red Riding Hood tale as opposed to Cinder, which I felt followed the tale of Cinderella a little more closely. While I absolutely adored Cinder and love retellings that stick pretty close to the original, Scarlet ends up being even more exciting and unpredictable. Just like with Cinder, however, I definitely feel that this novel lands perfectly in that area of unique yet still faithful to the original fairytale.

I’ve said before, I do find that it can be difficult to reinterpret a story in a unique yet solid way, and it definitely tends to be either a major hit or a huge miss. The plot that Meyer created for this novel, however, was spot on once again. She skillfully weaves sci-fi elements into this already established and well-known narrative. She builds characters that remind us of those in the old tales but who are distinctive and fit perfectly into her world and the reimagining. Meyer creates a novel that not only pays homage to a timeless tale but also ends up being a very singular story in itself, and it is distinctively her own.

We have some excellent additions to the cast of characters in this series on top of the amazing ones already involved. I really love Scarlet. She is another strong female lead who can hold her own. And her personality is so dynamic. She can be sassy and sarcastic but also tender and caring. She comes across as being a truly beautiful person. I am looking forward to seeing more of her, in particular, her relationships with Cinder and Wolf.

I also understand now why everyone always raves about Thorne—he is the greatest. I am so excited to see more of him in the next few novels, but he is already one of my new favorite characters of all time. And then there’s Wolf. My Wolf (…wait, did I say that out loud?). I am not someone who finds book boyfriends too often, but I think we’ll have to make an exception for Wolf. And I do really love seeing him and Scarlet together. They have a lot of chemistry from the very start—the way they play off each other is done so well. And I’ll admit it, I’m definitely shipping them.

Cinder is still as incredible as ever. She is such a strong heroine—intelligent, brave, unwilling to give up even after all the upheaval she is experiencing. She is facing seemingly impossible odds, but she pushes forward. And at the same time, she is not perfect. We get to see her flaws, her insecurities and anxieties. This adds a great amount of depth to both her story and the entire plot as a whole. She is a beautifully well-rounded character and it is interesting to see how she evolves over the course of these novels.

Once again, I really enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s writing. She has a talent for transforming these tales into something so unique, enchanting, and full of intriguing technology and magic. Her words flow beautifully and make her stories so easy to get sucked into. She has again created some great visuals with her incredibly vivid descriptions and well-developed settings. She further brings the world to life around the reader by making almost palpable emotions and an atmosphere to match. This draws the reader in and allows them to put themselves in every situation the characters are dealing with.

I think I’ve probably made this abundantly clear after all this gushing but I seriously loved this book and this series remains one of my all-time favorites. I loved immersing myself in this world again and getting to explore it even further. I particularly enjoy learning about all the fascinating and unique technology that it is filled with, and we get plenty of that in this novel. The plot is very fast-paced and exciting and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I never wanted to put it down. I cannot wait to move on to the next book, which I have a feeling I will be doing very soon.

5.0 TARDISes

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