Posted in Book Review

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Read Dates: August 20, 2019 – August 26, 2019
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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5 cats

Leigh Bardugo has bamboozled me again!
This time it’s with a collection of short stories passed down through generations in different villages spread across the lands of the Grishaverse. Novya Zem, Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerdan stories that absolutely set my soul alight. They were clever and they were beautiful and they were shocking and I LOVED THEM.

Let’s get into it.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood
A queen gives birth to a terrible wolf child and the king banishes it to a maze. However, one day the wolf escapes and chaos ensues over the Zemeni lands. Herds of cattle are attacked and human bones are piled up for the townspeople to see… So the king calls for someone to bargain with the beast in exchange for riches. Ayama, urged by her grandmother, volunteers and sets out to find the beast in the thorn wood. The beast requires a story. One that will not bore him and should Ayama succeed in holding his attention, he will agree to leave the village be.

This story was so magical and enchanting. I loved Ayama from the beginning and I loved where the story took her character. There’s a lesson to be learned from this story and also just the pure beauty of the ending this story gives us.

The Too-Clever Fox
A story of a fox born as the runt of his litter who is able to outwit any other creature, freeing himself from life threatening situations. Until one day the fox befriends a famous hunter’s sister in order to find out how the hunter is able to hunt so quietly and fiercely.

I saw the ending coming but it didn’t take away from the story at all. I still felt the shock that the author intended and was on the edge of my seat as the fox had to, once again, wiggle his way from a dire situation. Another lesson, and another entrancing story.

The Witch of Duva
Girls are going missing in the village.
Nadya and Havel live with their grieving father who has just lost his wife, their mother. When a woman named Karina comes into their lives and seems to only want the children to leave she and their father be. Havel goes off the the war but Nadya remains and wanders off one day into the woods to escape her overbearing and hateful stepmother. She becomes lost and finds the shack of a witch who she stays with for a time learning to make potions and meals. But Nadya could’ve never prepared herself for the truths the witch comes to reveal to her.

At the end of this story, in my notes, I wrote the word “WOW”. And that’s honestly the best explanation I can give you for how I felt about this story. This one actually DID have me fooled and then when all was revealed, I was in SHOCK. This story was so wonderful, and yet so chilling… Two of my favorite things.

Little Knife
This is the story of Yeva, a duke’s daughter who is so beautiful that no one can look upon her without going mad. Every man wishes to win her favor and wed her. But the greedy duke sets a task for all the men who wish to have her hand in marriage. The duke creates challenges that he believes only the prince has the resources to win, as the duke wishes his daughter to be married to the prince so that they can be rich and live a wealthy life. Semyon is a poor, penniless man who wishes to marry the beautiful Yeva and, as luck would have it, has the favor of the river who he named “Little Knife”. The river helps him win every challenge to win the beautiful Yeva, but at what price?

This story was my least favorite of all the stories in this book but I still liked it! It seemed, thus far, that all of these stories were here to teach you a moral. Stories grandmothers and mothers told their children before bed at night to keep them honest and well-behaved. This story was fun and I loved the ending but it just wasn’t my favorite… (We’ll get to that one.)

The Soldier Prince
The Clocksmith is a creepy, isolated man who decides it would be in his best interest to marry into money so he can live a comfortable life. So the Clocksmith sets his sights on Clara, the daughter of a wealthy couple whom he befriends. He attends parties at their home, bringing his magical trinkets to woo the other party goers. To win the favor of Clara, he crafts her a nutcracker doll. He enchants the doll so that he can learn all of Clara’s secrets, wishes and dreams. Clara becomes so attached to the nutcracker that her family worries for her and wishes for her to become more social with real people. Only Clara, the nutcracker, and the Clocksmith know the true nature of the doll and just what Clara can have the doll become with just a few simple words spoken to it.

This one was FASCINATING. The spin the author put on this story was amazing! Toy Story meets Peter Pan? Something like that. Anyway, it was wonderful. But… still not my favorite.

When Water Sang Fire
Ulla and Signy are mermaids who, when their voices combine, can create magic unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The two are invited to accompany the princes to the surface where they will use magic to grow legs and live among the King and Queen for three months until they can find a suitable gift to bring their King. Each prince must present their King with a gift from the mortal world. The King will decide which price will become King based on the gifts he receives. Ulla and Signy are swept into court life by the youngest price, Roffe, who takes an interest in the two and their magic. But Roffe is willing to go to great lengths to present his father with the best gift and become King… and he may end up pulling Ulla and Signy into something sinister that they could never hope to recover from.

Welcome to my favorite story in the book!! THIS STORY WAS EVERYTHING. I admit, I do have a soft spot for the mermaid stories. Once I read the REAL “Little Mermaid” story, I was obsessed. I loved the dark side of it and this story gave me just that. BUT BETTER. That ending! I was breathless. Speechless. I wanted MORE. Dear lord, Leigh, please give me a book about Ulla? Please?

Honestly, guys, Leigh Bardugo is holding my heart in her hands. I’ve been making my way through the Grishaverse one book at a time and all I have left now is King of Scars. (And then the one that comes after that which I would LOVE to have a release date for…) I don’t ever want her books to end. I absolutely adore Bardugo and everything she’s done up to this point. If you aren’t interested in reading any of the Grishaverse books, at least pick up The Language of Thorns. It has nothing to do with any of the characters or stories from the Grishaverse but the stories within it are so beautifully constructed and I HIGHLY recommend them to ANYONE who just enjoys a good fairy tale. I LOVED this book and I’m quite sure I’ll be reading it again and again.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: July 12, 2019 – July 20, 2019
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Source: Owned paperback

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3 cats

Why can a Grisha possess but one amplifier? I will answer this question instead: What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.

Alina, Mal, and the Darkling are back in the second installment of the Grishaverse. And if you thought there was a lot of traveling in the first book, you’re not ready for book two.
Mal and Alina have escaped the clutches of the Darkling and are living quiet lives in Cofton where they both have jobs and are saving up so they can make their way to somewhere where they feel they may be permanently safe. But they are soon found out and are sent spiraling into a new adventure with new creatures, new obstacles, new allies, and a lot of new information that will change the course of their lives forever.
Will Mal and Alina ever be free to live their lives quietly together without the Darkling’s interference? Will Alina choose duty over her best friend and the only person she’s ever loved? Will she find a way to balance the two? Or will Alina succumb to the temptation of this new found power she wields and lose herself completely?

Look, I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way Alina and Mal AREN’T going to end up together and there’s no way the good guys AREN’T going to win in the end.” Well, my little pirozhki, buckle up because you just may be all kinds of wrong. (Spoiler free review ahead.)

Bardguo definitely makes for good reading. You think you know where things are going to go or what’s going to happen and you would be wrong. The author is relentless. She understands that in this world, not everyone can survive and some people will have to sacrifice much for the greater good of the rest. This is no fairy tale, ladies and gentlemen. This is a book full of magic, sacrifice, hardships, and pure evil. There’s no way to tell who you can trust and there are a lot of characters to question in this book.

The beginning started off with a bang. It was exciting. I wasn’t bored because I didn’t have time to be. There was so much going on. Ambushes, betrayals, allegiances were severed, daring rescues were made, the impossible (or improbable according to Sturmhond’s character) was achieved… THEY FLEW ON A BOAT LIKE FRIGGIN PETER PAN. IN THE FRIGGIN SKY.

I found the middle and meat of this book to be absolutely exhausting. There were SO MANY characters and it was hard to keep track of who was who and who had what kind of powers or if they were even Grisha at all. I grew a bit bored with the middle of this book as it was mostly Mal and Alina’s weird love story and a bunch of war planning. And also a lot of Alina being a total idiot. But I get that this is what the second book in most series contain. The first book sets up, the second book crashes down, and the third book resolves. (Hopefully.)

The ox feels the yoke, but does the bird feel the weight of its wings?”

Look, it took me a LONG TIME to begin to like the Darkling and that’s SUPER WEIRD and out of character for me. I always LOVE the villain. They are always my favorite character. He was all over the place at first. He wasn’t a straight up villain, he was teetering back and forth.

I like my villains tall, dark, and evil with no redeeming qualities and for a while he was giving himself all these redeeming qualities that I found myself rolling my eyes over. I’m just supposed to believe that he’s outright evil but I want to SEE IT. Let me FEEL the evil. Don’t tell me, “Oh, hey, this guy right here is baaaaad news. He’s evil. Trust me.” I don’t want to trust you. I want to see it and feel it for myself. I haven’t really had that yet.

I will say though, a lot of people had only one complaint about this book: it needed more Darkling. At first I was thinking “ughh, whatever”, now I’m on that same boat. Let me hop on that bandwagon. Because I’m telling you, if there had been more Darkling in this book, it may have gotten 4 stars instead of 3.

When I came to the end of the book I did have a few gasp and aha moments and it was full of action so I definitely wasn’t bored from like chapter 22 to the end. Of course, we were left with a cliffhanger. And of course, like any good second book, NOTHING has been resolved and everything is left to question. I’ll be curious to see where the author takes the story from here. I’m not going to even try and guess anymore at this point. Bardugo keeps throwing surprises my way and I love them.

You know the problem with heroes and saints, Nikolai?… They always end up dead.”

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: July 2, 2019 – July 10, 2019
Publication date: June 5, 2012
Source: Owned paperback

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3.5 cats

Alina and Mal are best friends and orphans. They’ve grown up together and are inseparable. They seclude themselves from the other kids and get into trouble together but that’s the way they like it. It’s just the two of them against the world. But they weren’t aware of just how vast and unpredictable that world could be. One day, their lives are thrown into chaos as they are chosen to travel across The Fold, a stretch of land blanketed by absolute darkness. When Mal sustains serious injuries, a power Alina never knew she had arises and she is ripped from her best friend by the Darkling, a dark and mysterious Grisha with great powers. The life she knew comes to an end as she is forced to travel to the Little Palace where she is labeled a Grisha and must study and practice to use her new abilities. Alina enjoys palace life but she also misses her best friend with every fiber of her being. Will she ever see him again? Could life with the Darkling be as sweet as it used to be with Mal? Can she harness her powers and live up to the Grisha title?

One thing did stand out to me: the word the philosophers used to describe people born without Grisha gifts, otkazat’sya, “the abandoned”. It was another word for orphan.

First of all, can we acknowledge how BEAUTIFUL this cover is? Ughh. And the following books are no exception. In fact, I haven’t seen a Bardugo cover that didn’t immediately draw me to it.

So I read a lot of reviews on this series before I decided I was going to try it out and a lot of people complained about being bored. My question to those people is: HOW? I admit I can think back to a few places in the book where people might have felt that the story had become a bit sluggish… but it was never sluggish for me. I felt like the story moved at a great pace and I never lost interest. I was always anxious to get back to the book and continue Alina’s journey.

I definitely enjoyed the characters but this is actually where the book fell short for me. The setting was incredible, the story line was engaging and unique, the creatures in the book were intriguing… but the characters didn’t make me feel a whole lot. If you read my blog you know that I rather enjoy the evil, bad boy characters but the Darkling, for me, was just eh…
I didn’t really get to know Mal until the end which I guess makes sense since the story followed Alina and they were torn apart. But I got ALL of Mal at one time and it was overwhelming.

“Thanks for finding me.”
I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming , but somewhere in the dark, I heard him whisper, “Always.”

I enjoyed Alina’s attitude and how she was more than happy to become someone who was self sufficient and didn’t need anyone to feel her own worth.

I enjoyed the friendship between Alina and Genya. I got to read a realistic girl pal relationship and that was nice. I WANT MORE GENYA.

One of my biggest issues was certain characters being introduced BUT THEN NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED WITH THEM. Why were they even there to begin with? They didn’t contribute to the story! Maybe they’ll have a role in the second or third book? Maybe we’ll meet them later into the Grishaverse timeline? I don’t even know. But I was disappointed with one character in particular. I kept saying “annnnnd cue character to swoop in and be the last person they expected…”. NOPE. Didn’t happen.

All that aside, I am absolutely in love with the Grisha. I love reading about the different kinds of Grisha and the abilities they wield and all the different ways they use those abilities. Bardugo was so incredibly creative when writing these magical beings and I love it.

My adventure continues! I really want to try and get through the Grishaverse books by the end of July. There’s a series coming to Netflix and I want to be ready and armed to the teeth for what it brings. Away to Siege and Storm I go! I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book and a wonderful song by a wonderful band. ♥

“Do you blame me for every mistake I made? For every girl I tumbled? For every dumb thing I’ve said? Because if we start running tallies on stupid, you know who’s going to come out ahead.”

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Wicked Saints by Emily A Duncan

Read Dates: June 11, 2019 – June 18, 2019
Publication date: April 2, 2019
Source: Owned hardback

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4.5 cats

Nadya is a cleric, the only one known to be left in the world. All she’s ever known is her home in a Kalyazin monastery where she learns and lives every day. With the gods on her side, she is able to utilize their magic, she need only ask.
Nadya’s world is turned upside down when soldiers and the High Price of Tranavia leave her home in ruins, taking her friends and mentors with it. The Tranavians and the Kalyazins have been at war for centuries, ever since the Tanavians cast out the gods from their land and relied solely on blood magic and the ruthless band of Vultures (blood mages turned monster), who follow their own code and their own king.
Nadya is on the run so as to not fall into the hands of the High Prince who wishes to use and abuse her divine magic for his own gain.
Nadya gains some unlikely allies and sets out on an adventure that could change her values and beliefs forever. There’s a lot Nadya doesn’t know and those truths will change the course of her life completely.

Before I even start to tell you how I feel about this book, let me tell you… I’m a huge D&D fan. This book is basically a D&D campaign written as a novel for people to read and enjoy and I LOVE IT. The minute I read the word “cleric” in this book, I was up and at attention waiting to see what this cleric could do.

I loved the idea of her having the favor of these gods that would grant her certain powers she was in need of at the moment… things as simple as light in dark places or the ability to know if someone is being truthful with her.

There are 20 known gods… as I read, I kept track of the ones that were mentioned. 13 total were mentioned. Nadya didn’t make use of all of them but I thought I’d make a cute little list of the ones we were met with.

Veceslav – god of war and protection
Marzenya – goddess of magic and sacrifice, goddess of winter and death (the goddess who claimed Nadya from infancy)
Zvonimira – goddess of light
Bozidarka – goddess of vision, goddess of prophecy
Horz – god of the heavens and stars
Devonya – goddess of the hunt
Myesta – goddess of the moons
Bozetjeh – god of wind, essence of speed and time
Alena – goddess of the sun
Krsnik – god of fire
Vaclav – god of truth
Zlatek – god of silence
Zbyhneuska – goddess of healing and health

I loved the little excerpts we get at the beginning of each chapter from the “Codex of the Divine”. Those were fun. They gave us little stories about past clerics, martyrs, saints, and past and present gods. There were a lot of really good ones and even ones that made me gasp out loud! But my favorite was this one:

Horz stole the stars and the heavens out from underneath Myesta’s control, and for that she has never forgiven him. For where can the moons rest if not in the heavens?
-Codex of the Divine, 5:26

That brings me to my biggest issue with the book. (Which isn’t SUCH a big issue…) It seemed like the gods didn’t really matter and there are some unanswered questions I had with them and with Nadya and her gifts. But this is a trilogy so I’m sure I’ll get some answers WHEN THE NEXT TWO BOOKS FINALLY COME OUT. Can’t believe I have to wait until next year for the second chapter in Nadya’s story.

Nadya. There’s something to talk about. She was fantastic. From the beginning she has this amazing independence and such a fierce protective nature when it comes to those she cares about. When she realizes the monastery is under attack, she grabs some voryens (daggers) and rushes headlong towards the fight. She just has her head on straight and she keeps an open mind. I love that. When she finds new information, she questions herself and adjusts her actions from what she was raised to do to what she needs to do. She doesn’t let anyone walk all over her. She tells multiple characters about themselves without thinking twice. She was such a joy to read.

Look, when you read the synopsis on Goodreads, you’re going to be like, “Uhh, is this a love triangle?” I’ll be honest, I was halfway through the book and I literally stopped mid-paragraph and wrote in my notes, “Is this going to be a love triangle?”
I’ll admit, love triangles are one of my guilty pleasures when they’re done right BUT this book was not a love triangle. In fact, it was better.
Yes. There is a bit of romance in this book but it comes with a price and a purpose and I think what the author did with this romance was fantastic. Did I see this duo coming from the beginning? Yes. But did I think that’s where they would end up as we reached the last page of the book? NOPE.

You guys know I like the bad guys in books and this book is no exception. Although, I’m not adding anyone from this book to my fictional boyfriend list this time.

Look guys, if you enjoy archetypal hero stories, then DIVE IN. This is definitely one of those and it was definitely worth the wait. The author had a plan, she knew our hero’s story and she filled in the rest with some beautiful, poetic, dark, and haunting elements. I’ll be anxiously awaiting Something Dark and Holy #2!

*Let me hit you with this throwback that played right as I was at the end of this book:


Go read this book and then listen to that song when you’re done and TELL ME it isn’t perfect. You won’t. Because it’s perfect.

+You may have noticed, my cats have changed! I was trying to create one that looked like one of my kitties and I finally found the time to work with it. I feel like my blog is a little more complete now. 🖤

Keri

Posted in Book Review

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Read Dates: May 20, 2019 – May 22, 2019
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Source: Owned copy

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely

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Harper is a senior in high school who lives with her older brother Jake and her mother who is bed ridden and battling cancer. Her father is gone and has left the family with a large debt. Her brother, Jake, has to do unspeakable things to repay his father’s debt and keep his mother and sister safe. He views Harper as someone who needs protection based on her size and the fact that she has cerebral palsy but they will both come to realize that she is stronger than either of them could have ever imagined.
Harper is acting as a look-out for one of her brother’s jobs when she witnesses a man carrying away a drunk, unconscious woman. Harper, who can’t just stand by and let the woman be kidnapped, leaps into action. The man she assaults is Grey, the guard commander for the crowned Prince of Emberfall. The Emberfall castle is under a curse that was bestowed by the only known enchantress left in the world, Lilith. She has cursed Prince Rhen to relive the autumn of his 18th year over and over again until he finds a girl to truly love him and break the spell. For over 300 seasons, Grey has brought a new girl to Rhen and for over 300 seasons, the prince has been unable to successfully have a girl fall in love with him. At the end of each season when the girl fails to fall in love with the prince, he turns into a ravenous beast who destroys everything in his path. Then the season resets and the curse starts over. Now, it is the Prince’s last chance as this is the final season Lilith is allotting him. When Harper arrives he knows she is unlike any other girl he has ever tried to woo. She’s stubborn, brave, and quick witted. Just as Prince Rhen is about to give up hope, he realizes he could really fall for this girl. But can she love him in return once she finds out what he has done and what he is to become?

When I see a retelling, I run headlong at it. Especially a Beauty and the Beast retelling.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. Though, I will say, I loved reading it. I never had problems picking this book up to read it and once I began reading, it was really hard for me to put down. This is going to be hard to explain I think… Let me try…

From the beginning I really liked Harper. I love that the author added the cerebral palsy to a character who is stronger than many of the other characters in this book. She IS one of the cases with more functionality but you still get a sense of her struggle with that left leg and you FEEL that struggle in the book. If you know me, you know I like a good, strong, hard-hearted female character who knows what she wants and doesn’t let just any good looking man send her into a swoon stupor. She was a bit rash at times but she was logical. She saw her faults and she owned up to them. She didn’t let anyone believe her leg was some sort of injury, she instead told everyone, “NO. I was BORN THIS WAY.” And she owned it. That in itself was beautiful.

Rhen and Grey both took a bit to grow on me. Grey grew on me long before Rhen did but Rhen was a bit more of a mysterious character. Grey was fairly straightforward.
The problem was just the fact that it took me until the end of the book to connect to Rhen and it took more than half of the book for me to connect to Grey. Rhen, of course, is the one who you’re supposed to root for since he’s the one who is cursed, and while I did root for him, I also had moments where I wanted Harper to go for Grey instead. I’m honestly still undecided.

Do not misunderstand. For, this is no love triangle. In fact, there’s very little kissing/romance type stuff at all in this book.

The beginning was pretty much just setting up the curse and how Harper ends up in Emberfall so it was a little slow to start but I enjoyed Harper’s spirit and the world building enough that I didn’t lose interest.

The middle of the book was a journey. There’s a good little bit of traveling in this book so if you enjoy a good travel story, you’ll most likely enjoy this one. I fell in love with some of the secondary characters along the way as well. One was a woman who is being threatened by a group of soldiers who Harper rushes to fight for and the other was a small girl who wanted to join the royal guard regardless of the fact that she was an artist/musician. This book had some wonderful characters.

The end of the book was an absolute roller coaster. I’m pretty sure I went through all the emotions. There’s a moment in the book where Harper goes straight up Khaleesi on your ass and you’re like, “Yes, girl! Go, girl!”
This book did not end how I expected it would and that epilogue has me reeling. There’s going to be a book two, and I am ALL FOR IT. Bring it on.

I do highly recommend this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

**During my reading of this book, a song came on my playlist and it fit SO WELL with the scenes I was reading… so I have to post it here. Guys, there’s a good bit of bloodshed in this book, so… yea. You’ve been warned. Enjoy!

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Read Dates: May 13, 2019 – May 17, 2019
Publication date: January 15, 2019
Source: Owned copy

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Dragon Pearl edited

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Min is a thirteen year old girl who has missed her brother fiercely since he left to join The Thousand Worlds Space Forces. She can’t wait until she’s old enough to join the forces herself and serve alongside her brother. They’ve always talked of exploring all the worlds together.
When an officer comes to her home asking questions about her brother’s disappearance and accuses him of deserting, Min uses her fox magic shape shifting abilities to disguise herself as her cousin and runs off to find a way to bring back her brother and prove his innocence.
Min faces many challenges along the way and endures many set backs but she is determined. With the help of some unlikely friends and her fox magic charm, Min will go to great lengths to find her brother and find the legendary Dragon Pearl which can bring peace and prosperity to her home world of Jinju.

Buddy read with the Dragons & Tea Book Club!

If nothing else, this book was absolutely magical.

It took me a bit to get into it but I soon learned that the journey I was taken on was necessary to set up a story and build a few key characters.

Min is thirteen and at times it’s a little hard to accept the things she’s doing and getting away with as a thirteen-year-old. Mind you, I don’t typically read middle grade books so I had to keep reminding myself where I was. Once I was able to accept and keep in mind that this was a middle grade book, THIS BOOK WAS EVERYTHING.

Family is a huge part of this story. From the beginning, I enjoyed reading about Min, her strict mother, her pesky cousins, and her crazy aunties. I loved how they were all piled into a house together and loved the banter that went back and forth between them. I LOVE when a book can deliver a good family feel.

Once Min decides she’s running off to find her brother, the adventure begins. Min does some crazy things for a thirteen-year-old. She meets some interesting characters along the way and you’re never quite sure who you can trust.

Once she infiltrates the Space Forces, she meets some super fun characters. We’re introduced to other supernaturals like her. Although she is posing as someone who has no supernatural powers, the friends she makes do not hold back their own. She befriends a dragon who has control over weather patterns and the elements and a goblin who wields strength and the ability to be invisible. The magic parts of this book were SO MUCH fun. Hell, all the characters we met in this book were cool. A pilot, some mercenaries, an estranged aunt… and ghosts… oOOOooOOOooOO.

I was always wondering what Min was going to do next or how she was going to get herself out of certain situations. More than once, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for her to be discovered.This book had me on edge quite a few times! This book got me pretty emotional a couple of times too. I did not see that end coming but I am so happy with where it left me.

This was just such a fun adventure and I highly recommend it to everyone! Even if you’re not a middle grade reader. I’m not a middle grade reader and I LOVED this story.

**This was my first ever buddy read and I am so happy to be a part of the Dragons & Tea book club. The community has been absolutely amazing and I have so enjoyed sharing the reading experience with this wonderful group of people. I’ll definitely be doing more buddy reads in the future. :)**

Keri