Review: The Darkening (The Darkening #1)

Title: The Darkening (The Darkening #1)
Author: Sunya Mara
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Gold Leaf Book Box
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: July 5, 2022
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.


Vesper Vale lives in a city that is trapped by a dangerous storm. Everyone who touches the Storm is cursed, and anyone who enters the Storm doesn’t return. Vesper’s mother went into the storm after killing the king, and Vesper now lives in hiding with her father. When Vesper accidentally exposes her father’s skill with the magic of ikonomancy, the Queen’s soldiers find them and capture her father. Vesper sneaks into the palace, and she must get close to the prince in order to find her father and save everyone from the approaching Storm. 

I was hooked right away in this story. There was lots of tension and danger when Vesper’s dad was discovered. The stakes were high since everyone in Vesper’s life was gone. She also didn’t have anything left to lose, so she took a lot of risks. This made for an exciting story. 

This story is set in a creepy fantasy world. There is a storm surrounding the city, which is divided into rings. The royals and the most elite residents live in the center, with poorer people in each ring further out towards the Storm. The storm has actually absorbed some rings completely so there are less than there once were. This reminded me of the extreme weather we have all over the world. Between wildfires and flooding storms, there is so much unpredictable weather, just like this dangerous Storm that curses anyone who touches it. 

The Darkening is a thrilling start to a fantasy series!

What to read next:

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Have you read The Darkening? What did you think of it?


Happy Pub Day – August 30

Happy Pub Day to these authors!

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How to Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon

Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas

The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus

Wildbound by Elayne Audrey Becker

That’s Debatable by Jen Doll

Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo

Lord of the Fly Fest by Goldy Moldavsky

Neverlanders by Tom Taylor and Jon Sommariva

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

Moon Dark Smile by Tessa Gratton

Number One fan by Meg Elison

The Lost Ticket by Freya Sampson

A Taste of Magic by J. Elle

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Bad at Love by Gabriela Martins

Kalyna the Soothsayer by Elijah Kinch Spector

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor

Title: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author: Bianca Marais
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: MIRA
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc, Ebook
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.


Queenie, who is in charge of the witches who live at Moonshyne Manor, hasn’t told the other witches that they are behind on their mortgage payments. She made a deal with Charon, the ferryman of Hades, and if she can’t produce what he wants on time, they will lose their home. Meanwhile, all of the witches are awaiting the return of Ruby, who has been in prison for the past thirty-three years. They think that Ruby’s return will solve all of their problems, but she’s not the same person that went into prison. Teenage Persephone arrives on their doorstep one day, ready to learn from them and help them fight the patriarchy. These witches have to use their special sisterhood to save Moonshyne Manor. 

The witches who live at Moonshyne Manor are all in their eighties. I loved this, because there aren’t many novels that have elderly characters. The story has been described as the Golden Girls meets Practical Magic, and that’s the perfect description. Though these women were older, they acted youthful and took charge of the problems in their lives to proactively solve them. 

The witches were also modern and open minded. One of the witches had a fluid gender identity as part of their magic. None of them married or had children, defying society’s expectations for them. They also acknowledged when they needed help from a younger mind. Persephone was able to find solutions that they didn’t think of. I loved how unique the characters were in this story. 

The Witches of Moonshyne Manor is a fabulous witchy novel!

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

What to read next:

Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Have you read The Witches of Moonshyne Manor? What did you think of it?

Review: The Unique Lou Fox

Title: The Unique Lou Fox
Author: Jodi Carmichael
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Award-winning author Jodi Carmichael, who has ADHD herself, affirms and celebrates those who struggle with their uniqueness and triumphantly discover its gifts

It isn’t easy being Louisa Elizabeth Fitzhenry-O’Shaughnessy—especially with dyslexia. She prefers Lou Fox, the dream name she’ll use one day as a famous Broadway playwright. In the meantime, Lou is stuck in fifth grade with Mrs. Snyder, a total Shadow Phantom of a teacher who can spot a daydream from across the room but doesn’t know anything about ADHD. Mrs. Snyder’s constant attention is ex-cru-ci-a-ting. If only she would disappear.

Fortunately, life isn’t all a-tro-cious. There’s The Haunting at Lakeside School, the play Lou is writing and directing for her two best friends. And soon she’ll be a big sister at last. Nothing could ruin the joy of those things…right?


Fifth grader Louisa Elizabeth Fitzhenry-O’Shaughnessy dreams of being a playwright and changing her name to Lou Fox. She has dyslexia and ADHD, and she thinks that her teacher, Mrs. Snyder, doesn’t understand her at all. After getting in trouble one day, Lou wishes Mrs. Snyder would disappear. Then, Mrs. Snyder gets very sick and can’t come to school. Lou worries that her wish came true, especially when her pregnant mother falls ill, after she wishes she wasn’t going to have a younger sibling. Meanwhile, Lou is struggling to keep up in class and starts bossing her friends around as they plan to perform the play they wrote together. Lou must figure out how to use her strengths and embrace the ways that she’s unique. 

This is a fabulous children’s novel! Not only is it written about a main character with dyslexia, but it was printed with consideration for readers with dyslexia. The text was set in Helvetica and the headers are in OpenDyslexic, so they are easier to read for children with dyslexia. I didn’t know that these fonts make it easier to read, so I appreciated this detail in the story. 

There were also parts of this story that are universal. Lou had a lot of misunderstandings because she didn’t communicate her feelings. She thought her wish made her teacher ill, even though that’s not possible. Lou was understandably jealous when she found out that her mother was pregnant. Once she talked to her parents about it, she felt much better. Lou also had some conflicts with her friends which were cleared up after talking about her feelings. These are universal lessons that everyone can relate to. 

The Unique Lou Fox is a great middle grade story!

Thank you Pajama Press for sending me a copy!

What to read next:

Family of Spies by Jodi Carmichael

Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson

Have you read The Unique Lou Fox? What did you think of it?

Happy Pub Day – August 23

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin

The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

The Hellion and the Hero by Emily Sullivan

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

This is Why They Hate Us by Aaron H. Aceves

On the Subject of Unmentionable Things by Julia Walton

Beguiled by Cyla Panin

Azar on Fire by Olivia Abtahi

Clown in a Cornfield: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare

Four for the Road by K.J. Reilly

Babel by R.F. Kuang

Careering by Daisy Buchanan

Acts of Love and War by Maggie Brookes

The French House by Helen Fripp

Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck

Those Summer Nights by Laura Silverman

Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs

Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry

Haven by Emma Donoghue

Making Love with the Land by Joshua Whitehead

Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie

You and I, Rewritten by Chip Pons

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: Berani

Title: Berani
Author: Michelle Kadarusman
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 16, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

An honest and stirring novel about the choices made by young environmental activists, and the balancing act between consequence and triumph 

Malia has had a privileged upbringing in Indonesia, but since her Indonesian father died, her Canadian mother wants to return to her own family on the other side of the world. Malia is determined to stay. Indonesia is her home, and she loves it. Besides, if she leaves, how can she continue to fight for her country’s precious rainforests?

Ari knows he is lucky to be going to school and competing on the chess team, even if it means an endless round of chores at his uncle’s restaurant. Back in his home village, he and his cousin Suni dreamed about getting a chance like this. But now he is here without her, and the guilt is crushing him. As if that weren’t enough, he’s horribly worried about Ginger Juice, his uncle’s orangutan. The too-small cage where she lives is clearly hurting her body and her mind, but where else can she go? The rainforest where she was born is a palm oil plantation now.

In Berani, Governor General’s Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman spins together three perspectives: Malia, who is prepared to risk anything for her activism, Ari, who knows the right path but fears what it will cost, and Ginger Juice, the caged orangutan who still remembers the forest and her mother. The choices the young people make will have consequences for themselves, for Ginger Juice, and for others, if they are brave enough—or reckless enough—to choose.


Malia has lived a privileged life in Indonesia, but after the death of her father, her mother wants to return to her home of Canada. If Malia leaves Indonesia, she can’t continue her activism to stop deforestation. However, when a school project backfires and puts her future in jeopardy, Malia wonders if moving to Canada is a good idea after all. Meanwhile, Ari moved in with his uncle to have the opportunity to go to school and compete in chess tournaments. At his uncle’s restaurant, an orangutan named Ginger Juice has been kept in a cage since she was a baby. After finding out that it’s illegal to keep an orangutan as a pet, Ari wants to get some help for Ginger Juice, but that means going against his uncle and maybe getting him in trouble. 

Malia and Ari had to face moral dilemmas in this story. Malia gave a presentation and passed out a petition without her teacher’s permission which put her teacher’s job in jeopardy. Her teacher could get her job back, if Malia admitted she was wrong, but she was conflicted about going against what she believes in. Ari wanted to get help for Ginger Juice, but he didn’t want his uncle to get in trouble for holding her in captivity for so long. Luckily their stories had positive outcomes, but these are moral dilemmas that kids can face once they learn about issues in the world. 

This was a touching and emotional story. Ginger Juice’s had a narrative which told her perspective from in the cage and from the rainforest before she went to live with Ari’s uncle. It was quite disturbing to hear her talk about how her home was destroyed and she was taken away from her mother to live in captivity. Though it was hard to read, it’s important to read these types of stories because they reflect real world problems. 

Berani is a beautiful middle grade story. 

Thank you Pajama Press for sending me a copy of this book!

What to read next:

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

Have you read Berani? What did you think of it?

Review: Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2)

Title: Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2)
Author: Liselle Sambury
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.

Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.

What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation.


Voya Thomas passed her Calling and now is not only a witch but the Matriarch of the family. Though she has replaced her grandmother as the leader of the family, they don’t listen to her. Her ancestors who she calls upon for advice have been ignoring her, so she doesn’t know what to do next. Then, Voya has a vision of her home burning and her entire family dying. She needs to figure out how to stop it from happening, which means returning to the boy she loves, who may be behind it all. 

Blood Like Magic was one of my favourite reads last year, and this sequel lived up to my expectations. It was easy to jump back into the story because the characters were so vivid and distinct. I particularly love the setting of Toronto, my hometown. This story doesn’t feature typical Toronto settings, like the CN Tower, but instead they visit locally known locations like Dixie Outlet Mall and Trinity Bellwoods Park. I love how this feels authentically like Toronto. 

I appreciated the blended family in this story. There extended witch families were in this story a lot more because they had to work together to protect the broader witch community. Voya’s family lives in a huge house that includes her aunts and uncles, as well as her mom, dad, and her dad’s second wife and daughter. I liked seeing this positive perspective of a healthy blended family. 

I was getting worried close to the end of the story because I didn’t think there was enough space left for the story to be complete. However, it all came together at the end. I really hope that we will revisit Voya and her family in the future because I love these characters!

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

What to read next:

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

Other books in the series:

Have you read Blood Like Fate? What did you think of it?

Happy Pub Day – August 16

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

Berani by Michelle Kadarusman

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Ashfall Prophecy by Pittacus Lore

The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding

With Love From Wish and Co. by Minnie Darke

A Table for Two by Sheryl Lister

Estates Large and Small by Ray Robertson

The Arc by Ben Oliver

Echoes of Grace by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Becoming Family by Elysia Whisler

Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim

Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

The Feeling of Falling in Love by Mason Deaver

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: The Rebel and the Rake (League of Scoundrels #2)

Title: The Rebel and the Rake (League of Scoundrels #2)
Author: Emily Sullivan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Forever
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 28, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

He holds her fate in his hands—she holds his heart in hers.

Rafe Davies might seem like just another charismatic rake, but in reality, he is one of the crown’s most valuable agents. As relentless as he is reckless, Rafe has never come upon a mission he couldn’t complete. But when he encounters the intriguing-yet-prickly lady’s companion Miss Sylvia Sparrow while on assignment at a Scottish house party, he finds himself thoroughly distracted by the secretive beauty.

Though most women would be thrilled to catch the eye of a tall, dark, and dangerously handsome man, Sylvia is through with that sort of adventure. She trusted the wrong man once and paid for it dearly. The fiery bluestocking is resolved to avoid Rafe, until a chance encounter between them reveals the normally irreverent man’s unexpected depths—and an attraction that’s impossible to ignore. But when Sylvia begins to suspect she isn’t the only one harboring a few secrets, she realizes that Rafe may pose a risk to far more than her heart . . .


1897: Rafe Davies is a secret agent for the crown. When he’s invited to a Scottish house party, he is asked by the host to find out who is stealing his secrets. Sylvia Sparrow is working as a lady’s companion at the same party. As soon as she arrived at the house, she received a letter blackmailing her to steal an envelope from the host, or her dark past would be revealed. Rafe and Sylvia are drawn to each other, despite working against one another in their secret tasks. 

This historical romance had a suspenseful subplot in the spy work that Rafe and Sylvia had to do. Sylvia had to steal an important document from their host in order to hide her past. Rafe was snooping through everyone’s belongings to find out who had stolen the envelope. Though Sylvia was the one who he was looking for, he never suspected her because she was a woman. Their investigations came to a dramatic end. I enjoyed this suspenseful subplot that isn’t in many historical romances. 

I correctly guessed what characters will be featured in the next novel, The Hellion and the Hero, which will be published on August 23! I’m so excited to read it!

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

What to read next:

The Hellion and the Hero by Emily Sullivan

Other books in the series:

  • A Rogue to Remember (League of Scoundrels #1)
  • The Hellion and the Hero (League of Scoundrels #3)

Have you read The Rebel and the Rake? What did you think of it?

Sponsored Review: Vanishing Girls (Detective Josie Quinn #1)

Title: Vanishing Girls (Detective Josie Quinn #1)
Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Author,
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 17, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

She was close enough to see that the girl had written a word on the wall in bright, warm red blood. Not a word, actually. A name…

Everyone in the small American town of Denton is searching for Isabelle Coleman, a missing seventeen-year-old girl. All they’ve found so far is her phone and another girl they didn’t even know was missing.

Mute and completely unresponsive to the world around her, it’s clear this mysterious girl has been damaged beyond repair. All Detective Josie Quinn can get from her is a name: Ramona.

Currently suspended from the force for misconduct, Josie takes matters into her own hands as the name leads her to evidence linking the two girls. She knows the race is on to find Isabelle alive, and she fears there may be others… 

The trail leads Josie to another victim, a girl who escaped but whose case was labelled a hoax by authorities. To catch this monster, Josie must confront her own nightmares and follow her instinct to the darkest of places. But can she make it out alive?

Fans of Angela Marsons, Helen Fields and Robert Dugoni will be utterly gripped and sleeping with the lights on once they discover the first in this unputdownable new crime thriller series.


The small town of Denton gathers together to search for missing Isabelle Coleman. While they’re searching for her, Detective Josie Quinn finds another girl who she didn’t realize was missing. However, that girl is wearing a tongue piercing that matches the one Isabelle wore. She then discovers another missing person’s case which was later determined to be a hoax, but that determination doesn’t sit right with Josie. She has to investigate a string of missing girls and women, which is a lot more extensive that anyone could have imagined. 

This was a very fast paced and thrilling story! It was so well plotted. I couldn’t piece together what was happening, but it made sense by the end of the story. It was quite clever, the way everyone was connected to the plot and the mystery. Based on the many twists at the end, I’m curious to see where this story goes in the rest of the series. 

There were many scenes in this story that dealt with difficult issues. There was human trafficking, rape, sexual assault, child abuse, suicide, murder, and abduction. It was honestly difficult to read at times because the scenes were emotional and graphic. Unfortunately, there are things like this happening in the world every day. Though this book had some disturbing scenes, I am giving it five stars because it was a cleverly crafted plot. 

Vanishing Girls is a heart-pounding thriller!

Thank you Lisa Regan and for sending me a copy of this book!

What to read next:

The Girl With No Name by Lisa Regan

Have you read Vanishing Girls? What did you think of it?