Review: The Last Wish (The Witcher #0.5)

Title: The Last Wish (The Witcher #0.5)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 14, 2008 (originally January 31, 1993)
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Geralt the Witcher—revered and hated—is a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. 

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

Review:

Geralt is a Witcher, an assassin who targets monsters. Each story in this collection tells a tale of one monster he has tracked and defeated.

I haven’t read or watched anything in the Witcher series, so this story was completely new to me. I enjoyed the stories, but it was a little hard to get into them at first. I was completely new to the characters and the world, so it took a while to figure everything out. Once I figured out the way the stories were being told, I really enjoyed the stories.

I was surprised at the fairy tale aspects of the stories. There were references to Cinderella, Snow White, and Rumpelstiltskin, among others. I loved the references to these classic tales. Even the moral of the stories, that not everything that looks like a monster is evil and everything that looks good isn’t necessarily good, was reminiscent of fairy tale lessons.

I can’t wait to read more of the books in The Witcher series.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Other books in the series:

  • Blood of Elves
  • The Time of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of the Swallow

Have you read The Last Wish? What did you think of it?

Review: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

Title: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Short Stories
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

You think you know these stories, don’t you? 

You are wrong. 

You don’t know them at all. 

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that capture hearts long kept tame and set them free, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

Review:

These twelve tales are twisted to give a new perspective on the story. Some of the heroes become the villains, and the villains save the day. Men become witches and girls become beasts. These reimaginings of fairytales show a different side of the stories.

I loved these stories. By changing one character’s role, the entire meaning of the story changed. These were also diverse tales. The characters were from different countries around the world, such as Cinderella in Spain. Some of the stories had gender swapped characters, such as Rapunzel’s father who kept her locked in a tower rather than her mother. These twists to the stories made them unpredictable and exciting.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is a beautiful, modern collection of fairytales.

What to read next:

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Have you read Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales? What did you think of it?

Review: The Prince and the Troll (Faraway Collection)

Title: The Prince and the Troll (Faraway Collection)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Short Story, Fantasy
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: December 15, 2020
Rating: ★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A charming everyman and a mysterious something-under-the-bridge cross paths in a short fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and the Simon Snow series.

It’s fate when a man accidentally drops his phone off the bridge. It’s fortune when it’s retrieved by a friendly shape sloshing in the muck underneath. From that day forward, as they share a coffee every morning, an unlikely friendship blooms. Considering the reality for the man above, where life seems perfect, and that of the sharp-witted creature below, how forever after can a happy ending be?

Review:

A man dropped his phone off a bridge one day, and it was caught by a troll. The troll tosses it back to the man, and he decides to bring her coffee everyday to repay her for helping him. They bond over their shared Starbucks drinks while comparing notes on their separate lives spent above and beneath the bridge.

I read another book in the Faraway Collection and I loved it. Unfortunately I just didn’t understand this one. The writing was simple and not very descriptive. The things that were described in the most details were the Starbucks drinks, which I’m familiar with. When I think of fairytales, I think of the lush, magical worlds they’re set in, which this story was lacking.

I’m not sure what fairytale inspired this story. I had to do some research on what this story was actually about after reading it, because I just didn’t understand. Some theories say it’s about climate change, which I agree with because the prince and the troll talk about how the weather has affected their ways of life. I wish this message came across clearer in the story so that I wasn’t left wondering what happened.

Unfortunately, this short story wasn’t for me.

What to read next:

Hazel and Gray by Nic Stone

The Princess Game by Soman Chainani

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Prince and the Troll? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset and Sunrise

Title: Up All Night: 13 between Sunset and Sunrise
Author: Laura Silverman (editor)
Genre: Young Adult, Short Stories
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.

It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.

Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours.

Full contributor list: Brandy Colbert, Kathleen Glasgow, Maurene Goo, Tiffany D. Jackson, Amanda Joy, Nina LaCour, Karen M. McManus, Anna Meriano, Marieke Nijkamp, Laura Silverman, Kayla Whaley, Julian Winters, Francesca Zappia.

Review:

Up All Night is a collection of young adult short stories set from sunset to sunrise. The teens in these stories have a variety of experiences, including late night parties, prom night, and ghost hunting. The stories were a bunch of different genres, including romance, thriller, and horror.

All of these stories had diverse representation. Many of the main characters were people of colour. There were many stories about queer and non-binary characters. There was also a story with a main character in a wheelchair, so there was a perspective of a character with a disability.

A couple of my favourite ones were Never Have I Ever by Karen M. McManus and Shark Bait by Tiffany D Jackson. In Never Have I Ever, a group of kids play the drinking game and end up snooping at a haunted house in the neighbourhood. They discover something life changing in the house. In Shark Bait, a couple spend the night together on a beach in Martha’s Vineyard. They have to come to figure out what their futures will be after the summer ends. Both of these stories had shocking endings that gave me chills!

Up All Night is a great collection of short stories for young adult readers!

Thank you Algonquin Young Readers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

A Universe of Wishes by Dhonielle Clayton (editor)

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Have you read Up All Night? What did you think of it?

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?