Review: A Universe of Wishes

Title: A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology
Author: Dhonielle Clayton (editor)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT, Short Stories
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased from Owlcrate
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: December 8, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), Victoria Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).

In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, Victoria Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone, and a to-be-announced debut author/short-story contest winner

Review:

This is a collection of fantasy and science fiction stories written by diverse authors. These stories had characters of a variety of races, religions, and gender identities.

I used to think that I didn’t like short stories because the ones I read in school were literary and complicated to understand. If I had been introduced to collections like this book when I was younger, I would have read many more short stories before now!

Two of the stories are from the worlds of fantasy book series. The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libby Bray is from the Gemma Doyle series. A Royal Affair by V.E. Schwab is from the Shades of Magic series. I’ve only read the Shades of Magic series, so it was fun to see this story from before the events of the series. I really want to read the Gemma Doyle series after reading that story.

I enjoyed all of these stories. I would read any of them if they were expanded into a full length novel. I had only read a handful of these authors before. I will definitely be reading more of the authors that were new to me.

I highly recommend this collection to YA fantasy and science fiction readers!

What to read next:

Vampires Never Get Old; Tales With Fresh Bite by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (editors)

Fresh Ink: An Anthology by Lamar Giles (editor)

Have you read A Universe of Wishes? What did you think of it?

Review: Hazel and Gray (Faraway #2)

Title: Hazel and Gray (Faraway #2)
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Story
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: December 15, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Two anxious young lovers lost in the woods. A beckoning mansion in a dark clearing. A short modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin.

It’s bad enough that Hazel and Gray have defied the demands of Hazel’s foul stepfather. The Monster has forbidden their romance. Now they’ve awakened in the forest, phones dead, hours past curfew. But not far away is a grand estate in the middle of nowhere. The door is open. In this short story about choosing your own path, the fury of the Monster that awaits them back home may be nothing compared to what lies ahead.

Review:

Hazel and Gray are teenage lovers who have been forbidden to be together. They sneak away to a forest to be together, but they end up getting lost. They find a house that’s all lit up, with a stream of people heading inside. Hazel convinces Gray to go inside to find help, but they weren’t expecting the monster within.

This is a dark retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Instead of being brother and sister, they are lovers. This story had dark and mature themes, including drugs and sex trafficking. It’s a young adult short story, but for a more mature young adult audience.

Though this was a short story, it felt complete. It was fast paced, and quite chilling at times. Sometimes, I have questions after reading a short story, but this one answered all of the questions I had. I would love to see a full length novel about these characters or more dark fairytales from Nic Stone!

This is a great short story in the Faraway series!

What to read next:

The Princess Game by Soman Chainani

The Prince and the Troll by Rainbow Rowell

Other books in the series:

  • The Prince and the Troll
  • The Princess Game
  • The Cleaners
  • The Wickeds

Have you read Hazel and Gray? What did you think of it?

Review: The Lives of Saints [audiobook]

Title: The Lives of Saints
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Stories, Audiobook
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Audiobook
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Enter the world of the Grishaverse and Shadow and Bone, soon to be a Netflix original series!

Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.

These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.

This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story.

Review:

The Lives of Saints is a collection of short stories from the Grishaverse. Each story tells the origin story of a saint in that series. This book was actually mentioned in the Grishaverse books, so it was like reading a book that the characters have read too.

This audiobook was short at just over two hours long. The narrators were great. There were two narrators that alternated between chapters. The male narrator was Ben Barnes, who is one of the stars of the upcoming Shadow and Bone show. This is a great way to connect this new book to the upcoming show.

I’d love to see a physical copy of this book one day because it is supposed to have beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend this audiobook!

Thank you Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Lives of Saints? What did you think of it?

Review: Booked for Christmas: A Short Story

Title: Booked for Christmas: A Short Story
Author: Lily Menon
Genre: Romance, Short Story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This new novella from Lily Menon, author of Make Up Break Up, is sure to get readers in the holiday spirit.

Novelist Sophia Hart (real name: Sophie Bartholomew-Kaur-Hughes, but try fitting that on a book cover) absolutely hates her loudest critic—Evan Wolfe, evil mastermind behind the Lone Wolfe book review column. They’ve never met, but Wolfe’s favorite pastime seems to be dumping on Sophie’s unapologetically happy, magical romances. Sophie, not one to be left behind, gets her revenge in her own ways (never annoy a writer in search of a villain). 

When Sophie decides to throw a holiday party at her cabin, Wolfe is the last person on her mind. But the universe has a twisted sense of humor. Not only does Wolfe show up as someone’s plus one, but a massive snowstorm blows in, stranding them both alone together in Sophie’s cabin.

Over the next few days, Sophie begins to realize that Wolfe isn’t as odiously cynical a man as she’d originally thought. In fact, he’s kind of…sweet. And impossibly hot. But still, Sophie’s been hurt before and she has so much to lose. What she needs is one sure sign that she and Wolfe are meant to be together. Will Sophie and Wolfe get their Christmas miracle?

Review:

Sophie Hart is a romance novelist. Her archenemy is Evan Wolfe, a book critic who always tears her books apart in his reviews. They’ve never met, but Sophie has saved every one of his reviews of her books. Sophie throws a holiday party for her friends. She’s surprised to open the door and see Evan standing there. His friend invited him to the party, and he didn’t know she would be there. When a huge snowstorm is announced, her other guests leave just in time, but Evan gets stuck there. Sophie reluctantly invites Evan to stay, and she realizes he isn’t as bad as she thought. She may get the happily ever after this Christmas that she’s given to all her characters.

This is a fun “hate to love” story. Enemies to lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes. I could relate to both Evan and Sophie, because I’m a writer and a reviewer. I know how heartbreaking it can be to have my writing criticized, but I also know it’s important to give honest reviews. They had a lot of strong emotions, that were easily flipped from hate to love.

The only thing I would change in this story is I would love to see it as a longer novel. I felt like the romance was rushed to fit into the short story format. I loved seeing Sophie and Evan together, so I wish I could have spent more time with the characters. Sophie’s friends were also interesting characters that I would have liked to see more of. I hope these characters will appear in future romance novels.

This is a cute, short holiday romance!

What to read next:

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert

Have you read Booked for Christmas? What did you think of it?

Review: Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite

Title: Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite
Author: Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (editors)
Genre: Young Adult, Short Stories, Fantasy
Publisher: Imprint
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices!

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. 

Review:

This is an amazing collection of modern vampire stories. Vampire stories have gone out of style in recent years, after the popularity of Twilight. People had said they had been overdone, but there are so many more vampire stories to tell. The white, heterosexual, privileged vampire story has been told many times, but this collection has a diverse range of characters, with queer and disabled characters from a variety of nationalities.

These stories were so original. I would have loved to see any of them turned into a full novel. They had rich settings and diverse characters. There was a Desi story and a Latinx story, and even a story about a vampire in a wheelchair. I’ve never read anything like these stories before, and I loved them! After each story, the editors wrote a paragraph about the vampire trope that was being flipped in the story. These sections showed how much thought went into each story and their placement in the collection.

Each story had a different origin story for vampires and different rules that vampires had to follow. In some, they couldn’t see their reflection in mirrors, while they couldn’t in others. Some vampires turned their victims into vampires against their will, and in others the victim had the choice to be turned into a vampire or not. There were also a couple of stories about vampire slayers, including First Kill by Victoria Schwab, which is being turned into a TV show.

This is one of my favourite books of 2020! I’ll definitely be recommending it for a long time.

What to read next:

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tuchloke (editor)

His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler (editor)

Have you read Vampires Never Get Old? What did you think of it?

Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales of Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo, Sara Kipin (illustrator)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Stories
Publisher: Imprint
Source: Purchased at BookCon 2018
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

Review:

This short story collection has six tales from the world of the Grishaverse. These tales are based on real folk tales and fairy tales, set in the Grisha world. These tales are:

  • Ayama and the Thorn Wood: A tale about a creature like the Minotaur from Greek mythology
  • The Too-Clever Fox: A tale about a clever fox who outsmarts other animals
  • The Witch of Duva: A retelling of Hansel and Gretel
  • Little Knife: A tale where men had to compete for the chance to marry a duke’s daughter
  • The Soldier Prince: A retelling of The Nutcracker
  • When Water Sang Fire: A retelling of The Little Mermaid

My favourite story was The Witch of Duva. The main character, Nadya, escapes from her father and stepmother and enters the forest where she meets Magda, a witch. It had a surprising twist ending that was very clever and unlike any version of Hansel and Gretel that I’ve read before.

I loved the illustrations with these stories. Each story had its own set of illustrations that bordered the pages. The story started out with one small picture. As the story progressed, the illustrations would grow around the border. These illustrations reflected parts of the story. These were very creative and beautiful pictures that matched the stories perfectly.

This is an amazing book that accompanies the Grishaverse novels!

What to read next:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Other books in the series:

Have you read Language of Thorns? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Out Now: Queer We Go Again!

Title: Out Now: Queer We Go Again!
Author: Saundra Mitchell (editor)
Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ, Short Stories
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

QUEER WE GO AGAIN! A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!

Review:

This is a collection of queer short stories. They were funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. There were a variety of genres, including contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction.

These stories all have the same themes of being queer and coming out, yet they were all so different. Some of the characters knew exactly who they were, while others had to discover it in the stories. They were all different but most of them had a positive outlook.

One of my favourite stories was called What Happens in the Closet, which was a story about Vampires invading a party. Another favourite of mine was Victory Lap, where a boy tries to find the best way to tell his dad that he’s gay, but his dad already knows. One Spell Too Many tells the story of a girl who mixes up two magical pastries, giving a love spell to the wrong person. These stories were so different in genre and plot, yet they all had the same themes, so they fit into the collection.

I loved this collection of queer stories.

Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell (editor)

Have you read Out Now: Queer We Go Again!? What did you think of it?

Review: Once Upon an Eid

Title: Once Upon an Eid
Author: S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed (editors)
Genre: Middle Grade, Short Stories
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! 

Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

The full list of Once Upon an Eid contributors include: G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen, Ms. Marvel), Hena Khan (Amina’s Voice, Under My Hijab), N. H. Senzai (Shooting Kabul, Escape from Aleppo), Hanna Alkaf (The Weight of Our Sky), Rukhsana Khan (Big Red Lollipop), Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?), Ashley Franklin (Not Quite Snow White), Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Mommy’s Khimar), Candice Montgomery (Home and Away, By Any Means Necessary), Huda Al-Marashi (First Comes Marriage), Ayesha Mattu, Asmaa Hussein, and Sara Alfageeh. 

Review:

This is a collection of middle grade stories about Eid and Muslim celebrations. Each story is written by Muslim authors from around the world, who talk about different ways to celebrate.

Each of the characters had different traditions and different family structures or situations, which reflects the diversity of the world. Though all the characters share the same religion, they have different ways of celebrating Eid. Their traditions were different depending on where they lived, because some places have a bigger Muslim population for them to celebrate together as a community, whereas others celebrated quietly at home. Some characters had different celebrations because of a sick family member, which changed the way they could celebrate with family and friends. These different styles of celebrating reflected the way people celebrate holidays in different ways around the world.

I had many Muslim friends while I was growing up, but I didn’t know much about Eid. I knew they fasted in the days leading up to the holiday and that the date of the holiday changed depending on the moon, but I didn’t know much about the actual celebrations. This was probably also because people celebrated differently depending on what country they were from and their family circumstances. I feel like I understand the holiday much better after reading this book.

I loved this short story collection! I hope there will be more diverse short story collections for young readers to give readers of all backgrounds something to relate to, and to teach other readers about different traditions.

Thank you Abrams Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Have you read Once Upon an Eid? What did you think of it?

Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

Title: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories 
Author: P.D. James
Genre: Mystery, Short Stories
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

As the acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’ P.D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the very best of these have been rescued from the archives and are published together for the first time. P.D. James’s sparkling prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at enforced family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide enjoyable puzzles to keep the reader guessing. 

From the title story about a strained country house gathering on Christmas Eve, another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, and two cases for James’s poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh — each treats the reader to James’s masterfully atmospheric story-telling, always with the lure of a mystery to be solved.

Review:

This is a festive collection of murder mysteries. This is the second collection of P.D. James stories that I’ve read, and I find her stories a little disappointing. I find that many of her stories don’t end in justice being served. That was the case in some of these stories.

I didn’t like the ending of The Mistletoe Murder, because I thought it was too obvious. The Boxdale Inheritance was very complicated, and I think it would have been better as a full novel because there were so many characters. The Twelve Clues of Christmas was anticlimactic, even though it was about an unusually, staged suicide on Christmas. I liked A Very Commonplace Murder the best because it was unpredictable, and I couldn’t guess the ending.

If you like P.D. James, I’m sure you will love this collection. However, it didn’t work for me.

What to read next:

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh #1) by P.D. James

Have you read The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories? What did you think of it?

Review: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1)

Title: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Pottermore Limited
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.’ – J.K. Rowling

Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing from the Pottermore archives: short reads originally featured on pottermore.com with some exclusive new additions. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K. Rowling also gives us a peek behind the closed curtains of Sybill Trelawney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.

Review:

This is a great collection of stories from Hogwarts. It is part of an ebook series created by Pottermore. This book gives some details of characters, which do not appear in the Harry Potter series.

The book begins with Minerva McGonagall’s life story. It wasn’t until I started reading it, that I realized we don’t know much about her past from the series. She faced many hardships in her early adult life, but they shaped her into the strong woman she was as professor and headmistress of Hogwarts.

The second part was about Remus Lupin, so it was definitely a tear jerker. J.K. Rowling even said it was an emotional story to write. He is one of my favourite characters in the series, and he had a tragic life.

The book ends on a lighter note with stories about Sybill Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn. They were minor characters, and Kettleburn doesn’t even appear in the original series, but their stories were entertaining.

This is a great start to the Pottermore series, which is a must read for Harry Potter fans!

What to read next:

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists by J.K. Rowling

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling

Have you read Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies? What did you think of it?