Tag Archives: dragon

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Heartstrikers #3) by Rachel Aaron
Published on August 5, 2016 by Aaron/Bach LLC (self published).

Links: Goodreads.

Source: ARC via author. Thank you Aaron/Bach LLC (self published) for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place.

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.

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Again, my dragon page dividers are just the most appropriate ever. I love dragons. *happy sigh*

This is the review for the third part of the series, so there are surely some serious spoilers for the first two books. You can read my reviews of those here: Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another. And you should really just give in, listen to my advice, and give this series a try.

I was lucky enough to be contacted about this advance copy by the author (or rather her husband), and you can bet it made my day! This was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2016 – mostly because Julius is one of the best characters I’ve ever read (he is such a good guy. I recently read The Goblin Emperor, which has a similarly kind-hearted protagonist and I can tell you again I am firmly in the good guy camp – as opposed to the bad boy camp).

Anyway, the review!

This was a really good sequel to what Marci and Julius’s story has been so far. As usual, I want to deal with the “bad” stuff first, so here’s a list for you:

  • I wished the book was shorter. Sometimes, a long book can seem short but here, some scenes just seemed dragged out. And I found some details to be unnecessary, especially with the world-building, which is as impressive as always (this was my complaint with the first two books as well).
  • There are so many subplots! I’m not sure how many parts this series is supposed to have but it’s difficult to see how everything will tie together in the end.
  • Marci and Julius spent most of the book apart. Okay, this is only a problem because I love these two together and wanted more of the romance (you know I love romance). Theirs is as slow-burn as they come and it’s getting to a point where I’m shuffling in my seat, thinking: “Just get ON with it!”
  • So many magical things! Yeah. We have the Mortal Spirits, the spirits of the land, and then there are things like the Leviathan that I just can’t wrap my head around – and I know we’ll be hearing more about them in the future and I’m wondering if they’re absolutely necessary. But hey, the magical-flying-monster-squid-thingy is pretty impressive, so yeah.

And I think that’s it. As I said, the book was really good and I enjoyed the hell out of it for the most part.

I have to say that I adore Aaron’s characters. Julius is absolutely the best, he’s a bit naïve at times but also smart and determined to make the world better for all Heartstrikers. Marci is the best mage out there but still has flaws and makes serious mistakes that cost her dearly. What I love most about them is the fact that they’re just so consistent, they do nothing out of character and yet they manage to surprise me – they are complex and layered but very, very “tight” characters (am I making sense here?).

And don’t even get me started on the other dragons. Aaron just writes the best dragons I’ve ever read (and considering my blog’s name, you can bet I’ve read a lot of dragon books). She’s also one of the rare authors who writes male and female characters equally well – I found Bob, Ian, and Justin just as compelling as Bethesda, Amelia, and Svena, for example (There’s this one scene where Svena and Amelia are discussing Svena’s future babies and I laughed out loud because they were just so draconic). But Chelsie, oh, Chelsie. She’s the best. Such a fierce warrior with a slightly charred marshmallow core.

As for the plot, well, apart from the fact that I thought it meandered a bit, I really like where things are going so far. I figured most of the stuff out before we got to the big reveals, but I think we were meant to – I won’t go into details because of my obvious hate of spoilers. Let’s just say that this part is just as action-packed as the first two. There’s a bit of a lull where we get to see the politics of the largest dragon clan on Earth, but even that’s interesting, especially if you’re into political intrigue. The book goes out with a bang, which is Aaron’s style, I think (based on these three books I’ve read), and I can’t wait to read what comes next.

All in all, this book was a joy to read and I’ll definitely be following Julius and his crew when the next book comes out (Goodreads currently has it listed as “untitled” with the expected publication date in 2017. I’m hoping more details will follow soon). If you like dragons at all and if urban fantasy is your cup of tea, do yourself a favor and read this series.

Also, make sure to follow Aaron on Twitter because she writes good writing advice posts + has a great online presence! (You know I usually don’t point out author Twitter accounts…)

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Have you read any of the Heartstrikers books? What did you think? How about Aaron’s other books?

Do you have any recs for books with such loveable protagonists? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Heartstrikers #2) by Rachel Aaron
Published in 2015 by Aaron/Bach, LLC.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows, and with Estella back in the game with a vengeance, Heartstriker futures disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter closing in, the stakes are higher than even a seer can calculate. But when his most powerful family members start dropping like flies, it falls to Julius to defend the clan that never respected him and prove that, sometimes, the world’s worst dragon is the best one to have on your side.

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This is the review for the second part of the series which inevitably means that there will be spoilers for book one. You can read my review of Nice Dragons Finish Last here.

I enjoyed the first book of the series very much and I’m glad to say that the second one did not disappoint. I wanted to see more character development, more Julius and Marci, more dragon politics – and I got it all. One of the only complaints about book one was that I didn’t get to see enough dragons (as in, dragons in their dragon form, not in their human bodies) and this part definitely takes care of that.

Julius and Marci are working as a removal team for curses and unwanted magical creatures in post-apocalyptic Detroit where Algonquin, the lake spirit who flooded the entire area after the wave of magic hit some sixty years previously, rules with an iron fist. Julius isn’t even supposed to be in Detroit because dragons are hated and hunted there but he’s still sealed in his human form (courtesy of his “loving” mama). 

And then he’s plucked from Detroit by said mama because he’s to attend a party with a number of his older (more ambitious, more dangerous) siblings – and several immensely old dragons from a rival clan. What could possibly go wrong?

Without going into too much detail, let me say that the plot really thickens in this sequel, the hints that we got in the previous book come to bloom, and we see the dragons as they truly are: a highly intelligent, manipulative, invasive species. I liked the fact that while Julius is said to be different from the rest of his family, he’s also a cunning individual in his own right. And Marci, always impressed by dragons, makes it hard to root for dragons only – humans can be seriously badass, too. Oh, and while I’m always happy to see my favourite characters fall in love and pair up, I was glad that the romance between these two is still pretty slow! (I never thought I’d say this…)

I really liked the fact that we got to see more of Julius’s favourite siblings. Justin is as hot-headed as always, but his heart is in the right place. Chelsie is bound by duty but surprised me at every turn. And Bob, the all-knowing seer, found himself stumped (or did he?). They were great. And we got to meet Amelia, the eldest daughter of Bethesda, the heir to the Heartstriker clan. Woot! She’s great.

There was more worldbuilding here, too: I complained in my first review that the novel is quite description-heavy sometimes and this didn’t change here (this is mostly the reason for my 4-heart rating). There was a lot of explanation of the magical system that left me feeling confused sometimes but I can’t say that it really lessened my enjoyment by much. I’m just saying this because if you really hate this sort of thing, consider yourself warned.

All in all, this was a great read. I was afraid of it falling prey to the second book syndrome, but I’m impatient to read the final instalment of the trilogy (at least I think it’s supposed to be a trilogy?). I’m curious about how the story will continue – there were hints at the end, of course, but this second book also had a very final tone to it, a lot of troubles were solved, etc – but this is good, too, because a lot of middle books in trilogies open up too many questions and then the author has to bring everything to a close in the last book and it ends up being a mess. I don’t think this will happen to Rachel Aaron, she seems to have her story well in hand and I can’t wait to see what Julius and Marci will do next.

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Did you read Nice Dragons Finish Last or One Good Dragon Deserves Another? What did you think?

Do you like your magic systems and world-building complex and detailed or do you prefer the story to focus on the plot and characters?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published 2015 by Harper Collins.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy/sci-fi graphic novel.

My rating:

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

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Gah, I’ve had this post saved as a draft for months. I read this book… ages ago, it seems, but it’s stuck with me and I even included it in my “best of 2015” post because it’s great. And I’ve successfully made my husband read it (he loved it, too) and now my copy is with my brother who loves comics and graphic novels and I’m waiting for his thanks, to be honest. :)

Nimona is the first graphic novel I’ve read in a long, long while. I used to read some comics when I was in high school (mostly the stuff my brother bought, so PeanutsCalvin and Hobbes and Dilbert were featured strongly) and I read Blankets, which was really nice (I have to re-read it sometime soon) and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was cool but not amazing. And then I just… stopped. I don’t even know why. But then I saw Nimona popping up all over the book blogs that I like and everyone loved it and the artwork looked cute but special so I gave in and ordered it. Best. Decision. Ever. (Okay, maybe not ever but it was really great.)

nimona7Nimona (the character) is a shape shifter with a tendency of turning into sharks at unexpected moments. Her origin and the exact extent of capabilities are a mystery and she pops up in Lord Ballister Blackheart’s secret lair and joins forces with him to destroy the Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics, which isn’t as heroic as they would like everyone to believe. Their foremost champion is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, Ballister’s old buddy-turned-nemesis.

I really liked both the plot and the characters of this graphic novel. I was afraid of the characters falling flat because there can be no descriptions or whatever in this type of story, you only get their actions and dialogue. But Stevenson did a great job giving these three main characters some serious layers (and complicated relationships <3) – and even the villains are cool.

nimona6I also loved the mashup of sci-fi and fantasy: dragons combined with laser guns and mad scientists may sound like an overkill but Stevenson somehow makes it work without the illustrations being over-the-top crazy. Her artwork is clean and cute but never doubt it: there are some serious issues tackled in this novel, so it’s not just fluff and explosions.

Nimona is a standalone graphic novel – and while this is great because the story is concise and the pacing amazing, I kind of wish to read more about these guys. I’ll most definitely be reading whatever Stevenson does next (I know she’s the artist for Lumberjanes but I’m waiting for a collected edition of some kind…). Oh and if you like reading about Star Wars, feminism and geekery in general, I highly suggest following her on Twitter.

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Have you read Nimona? What did you think?

Do you have any similar graphic novel recs for me? (I’m reading Saga, too.)

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1) by Rachel Aaron
Published 2014 by self?.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

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Have my dragon page-dividers ever been more appropriate?

Nice Dragons Finish Last is one of those books that came highly recommended by fellow bloggers whose taste I respect a lot. They weren’t wrong. This is a great urban fantasy and though I don’t read that many books from this genre, I thought it was an excellent example of what it should entail.

Julius is a bad dragon. He’s something like the runt of the litter, the tenth litter that his mother, the terrifying Bethesda the Heartstriker has lain in the last millennium. She is the matriarch of an enormous clan of cunning, calculating, cold dragons and feels like her youngest son isn’t good enough. So she seals him into his human form (preventing him from turning into a dragon) and sends him to Detroit Free Zone (DFZ) to prove himself or she’ll eat him. There’s motherly affection for you.

Julius has been trying to lay low and avoid his more fearsome siblings for his entire life (which, at 24, isn’t that long for a dragon), which he mostly did by playing online video games with humans. This gave him a contact with the human world that other dragons lack and also some wicked survival skills (you have to be fast to escape dragons, I can tell you that). So when he lands in DFZ, where dragons are illegal, he befriends an unlikely sidekick – Marci the mage, a young woman on the run from her father’s murderers.

I really liked their adventures and the combined pressure that the gang of Las Vegas mobsters and some really ancient, half-crazy dragons put on this young couple. They are both fighting for survival, fighting odds that are decidedly not in their favor, and they still keep their heads up and struggle on. Julius has this surprisingly accurate moral compass and even though Marci is set on the path of vengeance, her wit is brilliant and very useful indeed.

I have two negative points to make as well, one of which is a complete spoiler, so please don’t read it if you’re even considering reading this book. I’m putting it in white, as usual, but still:

  • Detroit Free Zone – I thought the world building was perhaps too well done. The descriptions of this post-magic-wave city (which has been leveled by a tidal wave and is now completely different from its present-day self) are numerous and detailed and I thought they slowed down the narrative needlessly. I appreciate a well-thought-out world as much as anyone but I feel like it shouldn’t be the focus of the story.
  • *spoiler in white* I WANTED MOAR DRAGONS!! For 99.5% of the story, all the dragons are in their human forms! Okay, so we’re in a city where dragons are illegal and hunted and Julius is even sealed in his human form but I wanted to look at pretty dragons! Only Julius’s brother Justin shows his true form – which is magnificent – but only for a short time. And by the end of the book, Julius is still sealed so we never get to see him fly! I want more dragons. :( *end spoiler*

And that’s everything – I have nothing seriously bad to say about this book.

Oh, another point in its favor – it’s really funny. I don’t often go for books that say they’re funny – those that proclaim this loudly most often aren’t – but this one made me laugh, which I appreciate immensely.

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Do you like your UF funny or dark?

What’s your favourite book featuring dragons? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) by J. K. Rowling
Published 2000 by Bloomsbury.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable.

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This is the review of the fourth part of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I also reviewed The Philosopher’s StoneThe Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban. As with previous parts, I’m assuming most of you have read the series so there will be spoilers for the plot!

I think I said in every review I’ve written about the Harry Potter books so far that THAT book might be my favourite, but I really, really like The Goblet of Fire. It takes on a more sinister twist and what with Voldemort coming back “from the dead”, it sets the tone for the rest of the series (hint: it’s dark).

I like the friendship dynamic of Harry, Ron and Hermione in The Goblet of Fire. There’s Ron’s jealousy, Hermione’s devotion, the first romantic interests (though surprisingly no unpure thoughts). It’s nice to see how they’re evolving, moving from children to teenagers. I think series like Harry Potter are wonderful for when you’re growing up and going through the same changes.

The Triwizard Tournament and the Quidditch World Cup were very nice ways to introduce the wizarding world. The scope broadens and I just wish Rowling had hinted at it in previous books, because I just can’t believe Harry never thought about wizards from other countries (as he claims here). I’d probably enter the Triwizard Tournament but let me tell you: if I was picked, I’d probably quit the second task before swallowing down gillyweed, because that was disgusting.

I’m also glad that Rowling touched on social issues – with the house elves and Hermione’s S.P.E.W., of course, but I do wish it were treated less like a joke and more like a serious problem. And they left it out of the movie completely. I understand why they’d do that but still, it’s a topic that would benefit from a bit more attention.

I’ve re-read this book at least 7 times (I stopped counting but I’m fairly sure it’s more than that) but this was the first time that I nearly cried at the end. Not when Cedric died, though that was horrible (and very… clean, don’t you think?), but when Mr. and Mrs. Diggory come to visit Harry when he’s still in the hospital wing. That scene just wrecked me. That’s why I love re-reading, there’s something new each time I read the book (not just Harry, any book I like) and I guess this time the scene with the parents touched me more because it was the first time I read this book post-Kiddo.

I’m currently working my way through The Order of the Phoenix, which I normally skip in my re-reading, but I wanted to have the full set of reviews for the blog, so I’m giving it another try. I’m already hating Dumbledore and his mysterious shit and we haven’t even arrived at Hogwarts yet…

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Would you enter the Triwizard Tournament? Would you win?

 What would witches and wizards from your country be like?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published May 21, 2015 by Macmillan.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher. Thank you Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

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Ahhh this was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I actually won a copy from Mel in a great giveaway, but it hasn’t arrived yet, but I also got an e-arc from the publisher.

I’ve been thinking about Uprooted a lot since I finished it last week and I have to say it’s probably the best fairytale retelling I’ve ever read. This is why I’ve been putting off writing this review until the very last moment. What can I say that will make you read this book? It’s unique, innovative and surprising, which are all qualities I’ve been missing from my reads lately, and it’s left me with this massive book hungover I’m only beginning to get past. Also: the UK cover is gorgeous, is it not?

Uprooted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling only in the most basic sense: the Dragon (a wizard that goes by this name, not an actual dragon) takes a girl from his valley every ten years and though everyone thought he would pick Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend, he grumpily decides on Agnieszka herself.

This is where the fun starts. Agnieszka’s time at the Dragon’s tower is exhausting at first because she can’t figure out why he keeps making her do weird things like magically changing her clothes (she’s the most untidy person ever and while lots of YA heroines claim to be “ordinary” or “not pretty in the conventional sense”, Agnieszka usually looks like she was dragged through the bushes and then rolled around on the kitchen floor for a while. This irritates the Dragon to no end, which was really interesting.). I can’t go into details of the story because of spoilers but let’s just say that it seems like Novik took the B&B story and said: “Well, my heroine isn’t just going to wait around to be rescued, she’s going to DO things, even if she can’t escape. She also won’t moon over this wizard guy, she’s got other stuff to worry about.”

Agnieszka is one great heroine. But while she’s perfectly fine on her own, it’s her relationships with others that make her so special. She’s mortally afraid of the Dragon at first but does she wilt like a flower and stop trying to figure him out? Nope. Her relationship with her parents is cool and she’s not above weeping herself to sleep while her mom strokes her hair. Everyone does that sometimes. But I loved her friendship with Kasia the most. For years, they lived with the knowledge (even though it was false) that Kasia would be taken by the Dragon, which created this wonderful dynamic between them. I actually asked myself whether they were more than friends, perhaps, but their love – unconditional and yet so very real – was perfect in any case.

Then there’s the Wood. It’s funny how much of a chicken I am (not really funny for me but I guess people would laugh at me if they ever knew): I was walking in the forest with the kiddo the other day (after reading Uprooted) and I kept squinting into the forest, checking that it wasn’t out to get me. Seriously. I dislike going deep into the woods on my own (hello, have you read ALL THE FAIRYTALES?), especially at night, which made camping with the scouts a special kind of adventure for me! So you’ll understand my horror at reading about a Wood that’s sentient and very, very malicious. Novik created a place of nightmares – and made it worse because it’s spreading. So creepy! And yet beautiful, somehow.

Ok this review is getting out of hand…

My only, teeny-tiny negative comment would be on the length of the novel: towards the end, I felt like it could have been a tad shorter. I read it on my Kindle but Goodreads says it has 450 pages, which isn’t that much for a fantasy novel.

I love that Uprooted is a standalone. I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in the same world (a quick note on that: the names all sounded vaguely Polish to me and I liked it!) but standalone YA fantasies are so rare nowadays that I cherish this one even more.

The ending was absolutely wonderful and I can’t tell you how happy I am that Novik decided to conclude her book in this manner. I know, this is terribly vague, but I REALLY don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of reading this story. Which you will, right? You will read it? :)

In case you want to read more, here are some other reviews by: Becky. Mogsy. Anya.

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Have you read Uprooted? Are you planning to?

What YA standalone would you recommend?

I’d love to hear from you! :)