Review: Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2)

Title: Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent.

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters.

Review:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern will do anything to bring her mentor Darlington back. Though Lethe, the secret organization, has forbidden Alex and her friend Dawes from embarking on a rescue mission, she won’t let that deter her. Meanwhile, Yale staff members are dying in unusual ways that point to Lethe. Alex has to venture into places no one has gone before to save Darlington, her friends, and everything she calls home. 

I can’t say much about this book without spoilers, but it was worth the 3 year wait. The story was unpredictable and so twisty, I never knew what was going to happen next. There was a little bit of flipping between the past and present in chapters which could be confusing at times, but this happened less than in Ninth House. There were some intense surprises throughout the story that will keep readers entertained!

Hell Bent is a fabulous new Leigh Bardugo book! I can’t wait to read the next one!

What to read next:

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Other books in the series:

Have you read Ninth House? What did you think of it?

Review: Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code

Title: Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code
Author: Corinne Purtill, Marina Muun (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Nonfiction
Publisher: Rebel Girls
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the exciting adventures of Ada Lovelace: one of the world’s first computer programmers.

Growing up in nineteenth century London, England, Ada is curious about absolutely everything. She is obsessed with machines and with creatures that fly. She even designs her own flying laboratory!

According to her mother, Ada is a bit too wild, so she encourages Ada to study math. At first Ada thinks: Bleh! Who can get excited about a subject without pictures? But she soon falls in love with it. One day she encounters a mysterious machine, and from that moment forward Ada imagines a future full of possibility—one that will eventually inspire the digital age nearly two hundred years later.

Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code is the story of a pioneer in the computer sciences, and a testament to women’s invaluable contributions to STEM throughout history.

Includes additional text on Ada Lovelace’s lasting legacy, as well as educational activities designed to teach simple coding and mathematical concepts.

Review:

What to read next:

Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest by Rebel Girls

Other books in the series:

Have you read Doctor Who: Origins? What did you think of it?

Review: Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)

Title: Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Novella
Publisher: Margaret K.McElderry Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this sequel novella to Sorcery of Thorns, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas must unravel the magical trap keeping them inside Thorn Manor in time for their Midwinter Ball!

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.

Review:

In this sequel to Sorcery of Thorns, Nathaniel and Elisabeth are living together at Thorn Manor. They wake up one morning to find the house covered in vines that can’t be removed. As Nathaniel and Elisabeth get closer, the house’s wards misbehave and trap them inside along with Mercy, the new maid, and Silas, their demon companion. They have to figure out how to fix the house before the Midwinter Ball, which they’re supposed to host in 10 days. 

It’s been 3 years since I read Sorcery of Thorns, and I was excited to return to this world in this novella. I really liked that this was a complete short story that gave a glimpse into the lives of these characters after their main story. I’ve read other novellas that follow a series or complete story that don’t have a real or interesting plot. The plot in this story was fun and mysterious, which made me excited to read it. 

Mysteries of Thorn Manor is a great novella!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Other books in the series:

Have you read Mysteries of Thorn Manor? What did you think of it?

Review: Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business

Title: Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business
Author: Denene Millner, Salini Perera (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Nonfiction
Publisher: Rebel Girls
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker: America’s first female self-made millionaire.

Sarah is the first person in her family who wasn’t born into slavery in Delta, Louisiana. But being free doesn’t mean that Sarah doesn’t have to work. She cooks, she cleans, she picks cotton, she does laundry, and she babysits. And when she works, she wraps up her hair.

One day, Sarah’s hair starts to fall out! It’s itchy, crunchy, patchy, and won’t grow. Instead of giving up, Sarah searches for the right products. And then she invents something better than any shampoo or hair oil she’s used before. Her hair grows and grows! That’s when she decides to rebrand herself as “Madam C.J. Walker,” and begins her business empire.

Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business is the story of a leader in the hair care industry, but it’s also an inspiring tale about the importance of empowering women to become economically independent.

Includes additional text on Madam C.J. Walker’s lasting legacy, as well as educational activities designed to teach entrepreneurship.

Review:

Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was an entrepreneur in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who created hair care products for Black women. She is considered the first female self-made millionaire. After dealing with hair loss and dandruff, she was introduced to products that could grow her hair. When those products made her hair grow, she developed her own formula to help women across America. Madam C.J. Walker was an inspiring woman. 

I love the Rebel Girls books about women who have accomplished incredible achievements, so I was excited to try their new chapter books about specific inspiring women. Madam C.J. Walker is a huge inspiration considering she created products for Black women during a time when Black people were fighting for civil rights in America. She was turned away from the powerful Black and white men who she approached for help, so she had to achieve it all on her own. 

I can remember learning about Madam C.J. Walker in school, but I didn’t know the extent of all that she achieved throughout her lifetime. It’s quite inspiring so see someone who overcame every obstacle and became a success. I highly recommend this beautifully illustrated book!

Thank you Rebel Girls for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code by Corinne Purtill, Marina Muun (illustrator)

Other books in the series:

  • Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest
  • Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code
  • Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains
  • Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage

Have you read Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business? What did you think of it?

Review: Lunar Love

Title: Lunar Love
Author: Lauren Kung Jessen
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Forever
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This sweet, enemies-to-lovers debut rom-com filled with Chinese astrology will undoubtedly prove to be a perfect match with readers of Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, and Helena Hunting.

Always a matchmaker, never a match…

Olivia Huang Christenson is excited-slash-terrified to be taking over her grandmother’s matchmaking business. But when she learns that a new dating app has made her Pó Po’s traditional Chinese zodiac approach all about “animal attraction,” her emotions skew more toward furious-slash-outraged. Especially when L.A.’s most-eligible bachelor Bennett O’Brien is behind the app that could destroy her family’s legacy . . .

Liv knows better than to fall for any guy, let alone an infuriatingly handsome one who believes that traditions are meant to be broken. As the two businesses go head to head, Bennett and Liv make a deal: they’ll find a match for each other—and whoever falls in love loses. But Liv is dealing with someone who’s already adept at stealing business ideas . . . so what’s stopping him from stealing her heart too?

Review:

Olivia Huang Christenson is excited to take over her grandmother’s matchmaking business, Lunar Love. They match people with their ideal partner based on their Chinese zodiac sign compatibility. Just as Olivia is taking over the business, she discovers a new matchmaking app that uses a Chinese zodiac algorithm to make matches but without the human connection that Lunar Love provides. Bennett O’Brien is the creator of ZodiaCupid, the matchmaking app. When Bennett and Olivia meet, she instantly doesn’t like him. She sees him as competition and a threat to her business. They keep getting thrown together so they make a bet to match each other using their own methods and whoever wins will get media exposure and more clients. However, Bennett and Olivia often end up spending time together on the dates that they set each other up on. Though their zodiac signs aren’t compatible, Olivia may need to accept that compatibility isn’t always necessary for love. 

This is such a cute rom com! Both Bennett and Olivia were mixed-race, and they were influenced by the relationships in the past generations of their families. Olivia wanted to make her grandmother proud by continuing to make compatible matches. Since Olivia had had a bad experience with a boyfriend who’s zodiac was incompatible with hers, she thought that compatibility was the most important thing with matchmaking. Bennett forced her to see if differently, using an algorithm with his app. Though this was an enemies to lovers story, Olivia and Bennett did have a lot in common, with similar backgrounds and similar professional goals as matchmakers. 

Lunar Love is a great new rom com!

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Have you read Lunar Love? What did you think of it?

Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: August 15, 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

“A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Review:

Assassin Celaena Sardothien is now the King’s Champion, which means she must murder anyone who the King orders her to kill. However, she hasn’t been keeping her promises. She’s sending the men into hiding while she pretends to have murdered them. While on these missions, Celaena discovers an underground group who is trying to take the King down. Meanwhile, her friend Nehemia, a foreign princess, has a target on her back that Celaena isn’t told about. All of these issues lead to a tragic night, where Celaena’s life turns in a new direction. 

I’m so glad that I’m finally reading the Throne of Glass series! It’s fast paced and exciting. There was more magic in this story, which made it unpredictable. I had suspected the final twist based on things I’d heard about the series over the years, but I still enjoyed the ending. 

Crown of Midnight is a great sequel to Throne of Glass!

What to read next:

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Other books in the series:

  • Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)
  • Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)
  • Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
  • Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)
  • Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7)

Have you read Crown of Midnight? What did you think of it?

Review: Doctor Who: Origins

Title: Doctor Who: Origins
Author: Jody Houser, Roberta Ingranata
Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This latest Doctor Who graphic novel brings a fresh new take on the beloved time-traveler, with a brand-new never-before-seen adventure!

An epic adventure with the traveling Time Lord, this graphic novel is the explosive new story that reveals the very early years of the Doctor. Past, present and future all collide in a Doctor Who tale that’s out of this world!

Bursting straight out of the long-running hit television series, this Doctor Who collection continues the time-traveling tales of the Doctor and friends.

Buy it, read it, then travel back in time to read it for the first time all over again…!

Review:

The Fugitive Doctor makes her debut in this graphic novel about the Doctor’s early years. She has to explore different worlds where Time Lords are living. However, this mission takes a dark turn that the Doctor isn’t expecting. She must find a way to solve the problems while saving the Time Lords at the same time. 

The Fugitive Doctor comes before the First Doctor from the TV series. There was a small cameo from the First Doctor that gave the timeline for when this story takes place. This Doctor had a distinctive personality, who did things her own way, while also holding onto the integrity of the character. It was a good story, but I would have liked to see more about the origins of this version of the Doctor and where she came from. 

This was a great Doctor Who graphic novel! 

Thank you Titan Comics for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

Doctor Who: Alternating Current by Jody Houser

Other books in the series:

  • Doctor Who: Alternating Current
  • Doctor Who: Missy
  • Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf

Have you read Doctor Who: Origins? What did you think of it?

Review: VAMPS: Fresh Blood

Title: VAMPS: Fresh Blood
Author: Nicole Arend
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sink your teeth into this exciting new paranormal series that transports you to an elite vampire academy where a half vampire, half human must hone his bloodthirsty side in order to survive in a cutthroat world. Perfect for fans of The Atlas Sixand True Blood. 

Nestled in the Swiss Alps, VAMPS is the ultimate academy for the children of the most wealthy and powerful vampire families. Unfortunately for Dillon, he’s an outsider—to be more specific, he’s a dhampir: a vampire that is half human.

If he wants to survive more than a single term, he’s going to need to embrace his fangs. But blood never lies and soon, it becomes clear there is something special and deadly in Dillon’s veins. But as his power grows, so does the target on his back…

Review:

VAMPS is an elite boarding school for the children of the wealthiest and most powerful vampires. Dillon is sent there, with no knowledge of vampires because he was recently told that he’s a dhampir, half human and half vampire. He lived with his human father but he never knew his vampire mother. He is the first dhampir to be admitted to the academy. Though he feels left out at the beginning, it soon becomes clear that there is something special about Dillon’s dhampir blood. The power that Dillon has puts a target on his back, so he has to do whatever it takes to survive. 

If you like vampire boarding school stories, you’ll love this one! There were a lot of students in Dillon’s year, so it took a while to figure out how to distinguish between them. They all had distinct personalities and goals though, so by the end, they were easy to tell apart. 

I was really surprised at the twists at the end. There was quite a cliffhanger so I can’t wait to read the next book!

VAMPS: Fresh Blood is a great vampire story!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of this book!

What to read next:

Crave by Tracy Wolff

Have you read VAMPS: Fresh Blood? What did you think of it?

Review: The Devil’s Music (The Montague Twins #2)

Title: The Devil’s Music (The Montague Twins #2)
Author: Nathan Page and Drew Shannon
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 25, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Hardy Boys meets Paper Girls in the second volume of this mystery series featuring teen detectives, witches, and now a mystery rock ‘n’ roll song capable of a sinister, Pied Piper-like hypnosis.

Alastair, Pete, Charlie, and Rachel aren’t just magical teen detectives in their coastal town of Port Howl–they are also members of a local teen rock band. Before a show one night, Charlie and Rachel meet a famous rockstar, Gideon, and invite him to their show. He’ll never come, but why not try, right?

Little do they know, Gideon does show up, and he brings the threads of his dark past with him. In fact, he might even be the source of the rumored Devil’s Music, a limited-release song that entrances all of its listeners in a deadly hypnosis.

When Pete quickly gets drawn into Gideon’s web, it’s up to his brother and friends to save him. But Pete might not be the only Montague Twin at risk for Gideon’s spell…

Review:

Pete, Al, Charlie, and Rachel are magic teenage detectives in Port Howl. They also have a band. On the night of their first performance, Charlie and Rachel meet the rockstar Gideon. They invite him to hang out with them, but he brings secrets from his dark past with him. There’s a dark power in his music, and they have to figure out how to stop it before it’s too late. 

This graphic novel was even better than the first one. The first book did a lot of world building and setting the scene, so this one could jump right into the mystery. It was creepy and suspenseful, and it kept me guessing until the end.

The Devil’s Music is a great graphic novel! I hope there will be more books in this series!

Thank you Penguin Teen Canada for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Devil’s Music? What did you think of it?