Being A Witch And Other Things I Didn’t Ask For

Rachel, AKA Raya, is a teenage girl in foster care in London. She lives with Angie and Jake, another child in foster care. She’s almost 17. She wants to run away and live on her own. She goes to a hostel that someone recommended but it isn’t what she expected. She meets Pavel, who brings her to his friends, Ian and Emma, who own a cafe and have a spare room for her to stay in. She works for them for about a week but eventually her social worker finds her. Her foster brother has also run away, and he took Oscar, their social worker’s magical, talking cat, with him. Raya feels terribly guilty for influencing Jake to run away. They find him in a coma in the hospital. He ran in front of a truck to save the cat. Oscar was still in the hospital, so Raya and the social worker, Bryony, go to get him back. But when they reunite with Oscar the cat, Raya suddenly transports them back in time. Raya and Oscar arrive in England in 1645, just in time for the Essex Witch Trials. This isn’t the best time to be a teenage witch who travelled from the future, with a talking cat. Raya has just discovered she has powers, so she isn’t strong enough to bring them back to the future. Bryony comes back and finds them, but that isn’t the end of their adventure. When Raya attempts to send them back to the future, they only travel to Turkey, during the same period. Now Raya is faced with the challenge of learning how to use her powers to return them to modern England and how to survive in 17th century Turkey.

I enjoyed this book. At the beginning I was a little confused about how witches are perceived in the London of the book. Of course, since it’s called Being a Witch, I knew that the main character was going to be a witch. But she called her social worker a witch like it was an ordinary thing to say to someone. And her social worker agreed with her. Plus, she could hear a cat speak. No one addressed if this was a normal part of their life. There was also a part of the police department dedicated to “integrators,” which is the term used by Pavel for people with magic powers.

I enjoyed the story once she got to Turkey. The last half of the story was quite exciting, with her travelling around Istanbul, Turkey and learning how to use her new powers. I liked the historical aspects of the novel too. They were accurate depictions and added some truth to this fictional story.

YOLO Juliet

YOLO Juliet is one of the books in a series from Brett Wright. These books retell classic stories, told in text messages. This one is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s classic play. They come from feuding families, but fall in love. They are forbidden to see each other, since their families hate each other. They secretly get married. Romeo gets into a fight with Juliet’s cousin and kills him, which leads to Romeo being banished from the town. Juliet fakes her death with a special potion. The plan is that after she is buried in her family’s tomb, she will wake up and run away to be with Romeo. Friar Lawrence, who gave Juliet the potion that will make her appear dead, sends a letter to Romeo telling him of the plan to reunite him with Juliet. However, the letter doesn’t reach Romeo in time. Romeo hears about Juliet’s death, and rushes back to see her in her tomb. He drinks poison and dies, just as she wakes up. When she wakes up and sees her love has poisoned himself, she takes her dagger and stabs herself. After the deaths of these two young people, the Capulets and Montagues end their feud, though it is too late to help Romeo and Juliet.

This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was very funny. At times, it was absurd to think about a story like this happening today through text messages. But it was funny to imagine how Romeo and Juliet would text each other. I especially liked that Lady Capulet would sign her name at the end of every text messages, because I have seen people who are not used to texting sign their texts with their names.

Many texting abbreviations were used in the story, but there is a glossary at the back that explains what they mean. I like how “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) is in the title. Juliet literally learns that in the story, since she and Romeo end their lives over their love.

This book was really good, so I’m going to watch for the other adaptations in the series.

Pride and Prejudice (Manga Classics)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. I love the adaptations of her classic story, especially ones in different formats.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it follows Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters on their way to finding love. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet, believes if her daughters have a fortune, they will be happy. Unfortunately, their father’s estate is entailed so it will be inherited by a distant cousin instead of the Bennet sisters. When Mr. Bingley moves into the large estate down the road, Mrs. Bennet is certain that one of her daughters will marry him, since he is wealthy. They meet Bingley and his friend Darcy at a ball they host at Bingley’s estate, Netherfield. Immediately, Elizabeth decides that Darcy is too proud to have anything to do with her or her family. Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, falls in love with Bingley, and their mother begins to plan the wedding, though they aren’t engaged.  Soon after that, Bingley, Darcy, and Bingley’s sisters move back to London. Jane is crushed when she realizes her relationship with Bingley is now over. Elizabeth and Jane then go on alternating holidays with their aunt and uncle, eventually leading them both back to Darcy and Bingley. Elizabeth will have to learn not to be so quick to judge people, and Darcy must put his pride aside to find love.

This manga version from UDON Entertainment follows the plot, but it fills in some gaps that were in the narrative too. For example, we get to see Darcy’s reaction to Elizabeth at the Lucas’s ball, when he first falls in love with her. This graphic novel gives an objective perspective, by showing Darcy’s reaction, whereas Austen’s novel follows Elizabeth’s perspective. 

The language was more straightforward and simple in this graphic novel. It lost some of Jane Austen’s beautiful prose.  However, this would make the book more accessible to readers of all levels. 

There were two different manga art styles in this book. Most of the time, the pictures were realistic, a more traditional manga style. But sometimes the smaller frames had small cartoon drawings, that were less detailed. This change in style happened when Lydia, Kitty, or Mrs. Bennet we’re excited, talking about boys and/or money. The less detailed drawings demonstrate how childish and superficial those women were acting.  

I’m excited to read more manga classics in the coming weeks. Look for more reviews coming soon!

New Release: Fireworks

Dana and Olivia are best friends who live in the town of Jessell, Georgia. They have just graduated high school in 1997. Dana stays with Olivia’s family most of the time to avoid her alcoholic mother. One day, Olivia asks Dana to go with her to Orlando for an audition. The manager of the hottest pop star, Tulsa MacCreadie, is holding auditions for the next pop girl group. Though Olivia was the one auditioning, the manager asks Dana to audition too. After they return home, both Dana and Olivia are called back to be part of the girl group, Daisy Chain. Soon after they start training to be pop stars, a boy threatens to come between them. It becomes apparent that Dana is much less musically trained than the other girls. Dana has to work much harder than the other girls to keep up. But will it be enough for her to stay in the group?

This story is set in the 90s but the relationships between the characters have a timeless quality to them, so it could be happening today. If it wasn’t for the references to the Spice Girls and the lack of cell phones, the story could take place in 2017. 

The story was quite good. I kept anticipating something serious to happen but it wasn’t too dramatic. Overall, I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to my friends. 

Book Haul

I’m so excited about these books this week! Fireworks is a YA novel that comes out on Tuesday. It’s about two best friends, who end up on a journey to become pop stars. 

Gone Without a Trace is also coming out on Tuesday. It is an adult thriller. 

Pride and Prejudice is a Manga Classic galley that I received this week. Though it isn’t a new release, I’ve been looking at this book for a while so I’m so excited to be able to review it. I love collecting different adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. 

Look for these reviews and more coming this week!

A Study in Charlotte

Charlotte Holmes is the great-great-great granddaughter of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Jamie Watson is the great-great-great grandson of Sherlock’s partner, John Watson. Jamie moves to the U.S. to go to a boarding school, the same boarding school that Charlotte attends. Jamie is fascinated by Charlotte, who seems as brilliant and mysterious as her ancestor. Soon, the death of a student, who harassed Charlotte and fought with Jamie, throws the new generation of Holmes and Watson into a mystery. They revisit some of Sherlock’s and John’s famous cases, when the murderer sets up crime scenes that resemble those cases. They also have to face the descendant of Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty. 

As soon as I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it. It pays homage to the first Sherlock Holmes stories, “A Study in Scarlet.” I’m a huge fan of Sherlock! I’ve even been to his home of 221B Baker St. 


I really enjoyed how this book revisits the classic stories but brings them into the modern world. It’s similar to how the BBC TV series has updated the series, but this is in a young adult format. It’s more accessible to young people today than the original book series since it has a contemporary setting, but it stays true to the original stories. The characters are great representations of their famous ancestors. And the good news is, the sequel is out now!

How To Be a Bawse

The introduction says you are reading this book for one of three reasons:

  1. You already watch Lilly on YouTube.
  2. You’re a parent who found this book in your child’s room.
  3. You have no idea who Lilly is.

I fall somewhere between the first and third reasons: I know who Lilly Singh is, but I haven’t watched her on YouTube. I picked up this book because she is a very successful, young, Canadian woman. But after reading it I am also a huge Lilly Singh fan.

Though I didn’t know much about Lilly before I started reading, this book has made me feel like I know the rising star. This book isn’t a memoir, though she does refer to events in her life throughout it. This book is a guide to being confident, reaching your goals, and hustling: AKA being a “Bawse.”

The book is divided into four sections, each filled with chapters that hold Lilly’s lessons on life. Some of the titles include, “Play Nintendo,” “The Alphabet is a Lie,” “You Are Not a Parking Ticket,” and “You Are a Chameleon.” Though the titles sound funny, they each represent an important lesson that she has learned on her way to success.

My favourite metaphor that she uses throughout the book is comparing life to playing Mario Kart. This includes skidding on a banana and ending up in last place. The point of the metaphor is that life is like a game because you can only control your player, or yourself. It’s a waste of time worrying about what everyone else is doing. You are in control of your own success.

I found this book very inspiring, especially at this time in my life when I am embarking on many new projects, such as writing my first novel and starting my book blog. Now I am going to go take Lilly’s advice and play some Nintendo!