Mini Reviews: Every Heart a Doorway, Take Me Home Tonight

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m going to do mini reviews more often this year. Sometimes there’s just not enough to be said for a whole post, but some thoughts still want to be shared. Both books for today are in the YA age range, but the content couldn’t be more different!

*links to Goodreads and Storygraph will be provided after the ratings!*

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #1)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuirePublisher desrciption:
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

Even before I read a single word, I just had a feeling that I would like this series and – to no one’s surprise – I was right.

For some reason, I thought that these books would be much more childlike, but Every Heart a Doorway is actually quite dark, weird and gritty. All of that’s fantastic, at least for me! With each book being around 200 pages, the whole series honestly seems like such a great palette cleanser between heavier books, if only they weren’t so expensive. I looked into it and I don’t think I can afford them at the moment, even though I definitely want to continue with the Wayward Children books.

“For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”

I was especially surprised by the fact that I was really emotionally touched in the end. Considering how short and not entirely in depth the world-building was, I was rooting for those kids to get their doors back, to escape to those strange and at time gruesome worlds they were missing so much. It also got me started on wondering where my door would have led to, which world would have seen something special in me.

“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

I’m so very glad I finally picked this up!

CW: death, gore, transphobia (not condoned), body horror

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I wish I could dive into the rest of the series immediately!

Goodreads | Storygraph

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan MatsonPublisher desrciption:
Two girls. One night. Zero phones.
Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?
Well. Kind of a lot?
They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.
Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.
That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

My Thoughts:

This book was a gift from my lovely friend, Marie! I cannot thank her enough for her generosity. Check out her review of the book here.

I have come to the very sad realization that I’m growing out of contemporary YA and that likely also means Morgan Matson. I’ve read every single one of her books (there’s a ranking for those coming soon!), but I had a really hard time staying engaged with this one.

The story is told from the POV of Kat, Stevie and Teri, but I quickly realized that I was most invested in Stevie’s life. When I was a 15-year-old teen, I was certainly a mix of all those girls and even if they seems super dramatic at times, I can attest to that being the authentic teen experience.

“Why do people see a benefit in disowning the things we loved when we were little? Why are we always casting everything aside?”

What I appreciate about Morgan Matson’s books is that they often focus on family and friendship and put the romance a bit on the back burner. It’s still there, but not always in the forefront. Take Me Home Tonight is no exception and even features a new dog to fawn over (another typical Matson feature). However, the events take such a ridiculous and convenient turn at times, that I couldn’t help but role my eyes. With Teri especially, I just couldn’t deal anymore, because it was neither necessary for the story nor believable. All of that ended in me clinging to Stevie’s more grounded parts and that not being entirely enough.

This was fun, but a bit too over the top.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Unfortunately, not a new Matson favorite.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you read either of those books? Do you want to? Let’s talk!

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (ARC Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 496
Release Date: September 28, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, verbal/physical abuse, indentured servitude/slavery, kidnapping, drug use, sexism, spiders, snakes

Beasts of Prey is the debut novel and first installment in a magical Pan-African-inspired series by Ayana Gray. From the get go, it is clear that there was a lot of thought put into the magic system and I loved uncovering the different layers to it, despite being quite confused in the beginning. Told from multiple POVs, namely those of Ekon, a boy who wants nothing more than to follow into his father’s and brother’s footsteps as a warrior, Koffi, an indentured beastkeeper at the Night Zoo, who wants to see her family free, and a third person, who I’d like to keep nameless in this review, it was interesting to see these different characters introduced and oppose each other.

It was easy to take a liking to sweet Ekon, who is better with books and has a compulsion for counting in order to quell his anxiety, as well as Koffi, who is bold, impulsive and very caring. However, the third POV was the one that felt out of place to me for the most part. It often seemed contradictory to what we learned from the others, but at the same time, I have to admit that it made sense in the end. Still, I wasn’t entirely sure it was necessary to include and more than once felt taken out of the story because of it.

The set up takes a while, but is entirely necessary to really make the characters come to life and give us the full spectrum of their motivations, however, it makes for a slow start. I much preferred reaching the halfway point and the faster pacing that came with it. Once I, the reader, entered the jungle with the characters, it was just so thrilling. There was danger around every corner, gruesome creatures to haunt your dreams and I really rooted for everyone to make it out alive at the various crossroads they faced.

jungle danger snake

The setting is absolutely fantastic, offering almost a mix of spirituality and magic. The story keeps you on your toes, especially once you think you know where it is going, and even leaves you on a cliffhanger that will have you waiting for the sequel for sure. Maybe, because I liked the characters and their dynamic so much, I would have preferred a singular focus on Ekon and Koffi, but I would completely understand why that won’t necessarily change in a sequel. I’m intrigued either way!

Finally, I’d like to point out that I found the author’s note at the end of the novel very enlightening. She explained some of her choices and I really appreciated getting that insight from her, which truly isn’t always a given and neither should it be, but I always enjoy it a lot.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I would definitely pick up a sequel, although I’d hope for a more consistent pacing.


Do you intend to pick up Beasts of Prey once it is released? Do you enjoy magical jungle settings? Let’s talk!

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Page Count
: 480

Honest question: Why has no one told me about this book before!?!?

I’m definitely not the most up to date person when it comes to book releases, but after reading the marvel that is Soulswift, I can whole-heartedly say that this book deserves more attention. I’m going to do my very best to not spoil anything for you, while still trying to convince you to pick up this book in the near future!

First off, I want to point out that Soulswift is a standalone fantasy, which is a rare bird to come across anyway (pun fully intended). So very often, you have to brace yourself for multiple volumes to release over an extended period of time to get to your conclusion, but somehow Bannen managed to pack a fully formed story, neither rushed nor dragging, into this one single book. I am in awe of that woman’s writing!

Stories about faith, even made up ones, are never easy in my opinion. There is such a fine line between religious fanaticism that feels harmful and a naivete towards the world and other beliefs that might be frustrating and annoying at times (although it didn’t feel annoying to me here), but offers great potential for growth. Bannen allowed us to draw our own conclusions, hearing different aspects and exploring the various angles. It felt very natural for the world she created and I loved that I knew that there were always going to be three sides to the belief system: Gelya’s version, Tavik’s story and the truth.

Why should I worship something that cares so little for me, or for you?

As I moved through Soulswift, I found myself attached to Gelya and Tavik more and more. Their enemies to friends to lovers dynamic and banter was endearing like nothing else, but they were also great characters on their own accords. They both have to overcome a vast amount of prejudice and yet their bond is so strong and frankly beautiful. You will weep for these characters, without a shadow of a doubt, because they are so strong and dedicated and devoted. By the end, it’s just a question of who to.

Aside from really enjoying the religious aspect, the created world and the characters, it was the small things that made this novel stand out for me. It challenged gender norms and stereotypes without throwing it in your face, but rather letting the characters question their world view through dialogue and realistic situations. For example, I cannot recall another Fantasy novel where a character got her period while on the road, which wasn’t dismissed here, but also not made into this awkward big deal. I really appreciated that!

Life and Death
All things in balance.

Why wouldn’t this book be for you?

Aside from the topic of faith, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, be it fictional or not, the ending isn’t something every reader will love either. I’m fully in the camp “a good ending doesn’t mean a happy ending”, but if you seek a story that will leave you warm and joyful, this is not it. I’m not saying it ends it utter devastation, because everything makes sense and is very beautiful in its own way, but also tragic. So very tragic and sad. I cried.

fly, little soulswift, fly

Fazit: 5/5 stars! 100% one of my new all-time favourites!!!


Could I convince you to take a look at Soulswift? Was it on your radar before? Let’s talk!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count
: 458

**CW: rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-harm, murder, violence, vomiting, gore**

I like Leigh Bardugo as an author. I have not, in fact, read everything she has written, but just like about every human on earth, I have really enjoyed the Six of Crows duology and could easily have seen her become one of my household favourite authors. When it was announced that she had written her first adult book in a sort of dark academia setting, I was fully on board. And it’s not that this book didn’t deliver on what it advertised, it just turned out that I wasn’t really the right reader for it.

First of all, you get thrown into a world you understand very little of. Bardugo is great at creating a whole universe with magic, and rules that apply to it, that feels real and accessible, but I was just lost. I’ve never been to the Yale campus and even with a map, there were so many details I had a hard time connecting with. Aside from Gilmore Girl’s Rory, I really have no connection to it if I think about it some more. But then there are also the actual magical societies. I thought we would gradually get eased into the matter, but instead you start into the midst of it all, and believe me when I say it is a mess.

Aside from the confusing societies, it takes a while to get to know the characters and therefore really get into the story. To me, connecting with the people on the page and their journey is so important, but there were so many blanks that eventually got filled in, but it took me a good 100 pages to really get into it.
Alex Stern, the main character of the series and who’s real name is actually Galaxy, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Her past is hard to swallow and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I understand her anger and her way of keeping people at bay, but at the same time, I felt like I was kept at bay sometimes. That’s maybe why I found golden boy Darlington (who I need back desperately and who will be the main reason I will pick up the sequel) and quiet but caring Dawes more accessible. Also, Turner was a big upside of the book for me, because he felt like the lawful good person the story needed. But I enjoyed the dynamic among all characters and the way we still got to explore how some of these relationships were formed. Where a lot of things felt like pre-established fixtures, at least this was something that felt like it was still in the making.

“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die. That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”

So, there were some aspects I really enjoyed (especially the emancipation and handling of different female characters) and others I did not understand or connect to as much as I had hoped. The fact that a lot of it was presented in the shape of a paranormal crime story maybe didn’t help me personally. I understood that murder and mayhem would be involved in Ninth House, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so much like a detective story. Those of you who know me, know that I get a little bored with the investigation-type plots. However, I can see how a lot of readers would be the opposite of me and enjoy those the most!

In conclusion, I would say that this book is A LOT. There is blood and gore and death around every corner. I understand if it is too much to stomach for some people, especially those who are more used to YA content. If you aren’t sure, I would just take a look at what different people who’s opinion you trust are saying about it and then make up your own mind. Or go in completely blind!

“Take courage; no one is immortal”

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Maybe this just wasn’t for me as much as other readers, but I would still continue with the series!

Have you read Ninth House? Have you read other books by Leigh Bardugo? What do you think about her first take on adult fiction?

Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke (Book Review)

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count
: 320

It seems that I am making a habit of not reading book-to-movie adaptations, but rather the other way round, where books were specifically written AFTER their other-media-format successor became popular. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I watched the Pan’s Labyrinth movie, but to me, it makes sense to want to expand on the story a little bit.

To start with, let’s show you the trailer and then I will also talk about the plot a little bit. Usually, I don’t add my own summary in my review, because mostly Goodreads takes care of that and then I just use it in my graphic, but this time I found it too ambiguous. So, here is the trailer for the movie for starters (from a time when trailers still had overly dramatic voice-overs):

As stated in the brief summary above, the book follows the tale of the film, which is about a young girl by the name of Ofelia, whose mother remarried a cruel officer after the father died during the war. They move to a cold and cursed abandoned mill in the Spanish mountains, where rebels are trying to fight for their cause. Things get truly interesting when Ofelia, a girl who is mainly interested in books and still grieving her father, finds a fairy that leads her on dangerous adventures with the promise of becoming the Princess of the Underground world. This truly follows the film quite faithfully, sometimes word for word in terms of dialogue, but it also adds immensely to the world building by including short stories about objects and past events that happened at the very place the people are now.

Ofelia didn’t remind her mother that for her, there was nothing better than a book. Her mother wouldn’t understand. She didn’t make books her shelter or allow them to take her to another world. She could only see this world, and then, Ofelia thought, only sometimes. It was part of her mother’s sadness to be earthbound. Books could have told her so much about this world and about places far away, about animals and plants, about the stars! They could be the windows and doors, paper wings to help her fly away. Maybe her mother had just forgotten how to fly. Ir maybe she’d never learned.

Ofelia’s mother didn’t know it, but she also believed in a fairy tale. Carmen Cardoso believed the most dangerous tale of all: the one of the prince who would save her.

When I was younger, I gobbled up Cornelia Funke’s books like they were magic itself and could take me to foreign places. The Inkworld trilogy and the Thief Lord are still among my all time favourite books, however, I had never read her stories in English before. So, I don’t know how much of it all was Guillermo del Toro and how much of it was her. Either way, they managed to recreate the darkness and fantastic visuals from the movie with simple language and added background story and thoughts.

He abruptly dropped his hand, summoning the mask of confidence that had become his second face, merciless, determined. Death is a lover to be feared and there was only one way to overcome that fear – by being her executioner.

Death sighed. She was used to men begging for another few years or months, sometimes even hours. There was always something unfinished, something undone, unlived. Mortals don’t understand life is not a book you close only after you read the last page. There is no last page in the Book of Life, for thelast one is always the first page of another story.

One thing I am not sure about is the claim that this book is made for readers of all ages. The first chapter/the prologue is literally about a young girl dying by stepping into the world and forgetting who she was before. As I’ve also mentioned a couple times now, it’s quite a dark story and the happy end is debatable (as is tradition with old folklore, if you ask me). So, I could see a child who is dealing with matters such as death and grief themselves to maybe find solace in this book, but I wouldn’t give it to someone who was never exposed to it or gets easily frightened. Just like I definitely wouldn’t show the movie to a kid.

A groan echoed through the floor, the moaning of a hungry bloodstained mouth, and when she stepped back, she felt the Pale Man pushing against the floorboards. The worst fears are always underneath us, hidden, shaking the ground we wish to be firm and safe.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I really enjoyed this, although I am not sure if it will stay with me forever.

Have you read Pan’s Labyrinth? Have you watched the movie? Let’s chat!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Book Review + The Legend of the Golden Raven Novella)

Publisher: Imprint
Page Count
: 305

CW: hallucinations, unhealthy co-dependency, negligent treatment of children, harmful behaviour and self-endangerment 

I’ve wanted to pick up The Wicker King ever since I saw a finished hardcover copy of it in a store in Canada almost 1.5 years ago. If you are a sucker for beautiful covers and extravagant design inside and outside of books, you will have a hard time resisting this one. Although I try to get better at not just buying books because of their beauty, the Wicker King definitely paid off.

All the superficial details aside, I honestly am glad I finally read the book. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it has lovely characters and such an important story to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t necessarily wonder as much about what is fantasy and what is reality as it might seem at first glance. I’ve had my fair share of books that mastered the art of completely bending your mind with the possibility of what might be happening, but there were very few doubts about the going ons in the Wicker King for me, which is probably why it was almost scary to read sometimes.

August and Jack are wonderful characters and I often just wanted to jump into the story and mother them, hug them and protect them. I did not agree with all the choices they made nor the behaviour they sometimes showed, but those boys did the best they could and deserved so much better. It’s not that I believe their parents didn’t love them, but they did a terrible job at it. Circumstances can make life hard and people crumble and break at times, but if you have kids, you really have to power through regardless. I know it’s easier said than done from where I am comfortably sitting childless behind a computer screen, but wow, did I wish that I could somehow help them and care for them, because their parents sure didn’t. In the end, it was good that they took care of each other, even if they could have done with a guardian in their lives.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t fully adore this book though and I think those are just very me reasons. While I love myself some short chapters, I was confused about the POV in the beginning (which is August’s by the way) and then felt like they hindered me from really connecting in some moments. I also didn’t love the continued hook ups, but my main sore point of the book was the relationship between August and Jack somehow. I liked that it was ambiguous in the beginning, because I am not the kind of person who just puts a romantic label on things just because I can. However, the longer I read on, the more I got afraid for them. They were so important for one another, so entangled in each other’s lives. The presence of August was like a necessity to Jack and vice versa. I understand that it’s one of the main points of the book, but it almost seemed unhealthy to me and therefore I couldn’t 100% root for them to be together. As I said though, this is a very me thing and maybe that worked perfectly fine for other people.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Definitely worth a read even if I didn’t click with every part of it.

If you know me, you also know that I am not much of a novella person, but The Legend of the Golden Raven was free for Kindle, I got it and really enjoyed it.

In only 40 pages, The Legend of the Golden Raven shows Jack’s condensed view of the events of The Wicker King. I thought that was a really neat addition to the main book and was happy to see a whole lot more magical/fantastical elements included. Obviously, the author couldn’t go into detail with it, but it still fills some gaps and rounds up the tale nicely.

It’s most likely not a must-read, but if you enjoyed the Wicker King, then I would recommend this as well.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! 

 

Have you read The Wicker King and it’s companion novella? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Book Review)

RB

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Page Count
: 408

I’ve wanted to pick up this series in what feels like forever, so when I FINALLY got all the books at once, I suddenly became scared. I have never read anything by Maggie Stiefvater before, but you know how you sometimes hype something so much for yourself that there is absolutely no way it can possibly hold up? Well, I hyped this book A LOT! But as soon as I actually started reading, I realised that I had no clue what the book was really about. Heck, I even thought Blue was a boy (which she’s not. She’s a cool and eccentric girl). It’s pretty difficult to be disappointed about something when you didn’t even have a picture in your mind as to what exactly to expect. So, long story short, I loved it and am SO happy about that!

When we jump into the story it actually starts off kind of sinister but even though there are a ton of creepy vibes, I never felt scared. Which is a good thing, because I don’t like to be scared and also don’t think that the story is supposed to do that. In fact, I laughed a lot, while also being completely pulled into this world. It was way more magical than I expected, while at the same time I thought “yes, that is totally how I would have loved to spend my time during High School”.

Which brings me to my favourite part of the book – the characters. They are always such an essential part of any book really and this one is no exception. Blue and the boys don’t meet on the best of turns and it’s simply hilarious to read, because you know their fates are intertwined. There is bantering and friendship and love (platonical, familiar and a tinsy bit the romantic kind). They are immediately the kind of people you’d identify as squad goals! However, I didn’t love everyone from the beginning. In fact, I thought some of them were just plain weird or mean, but in the end they definitely grow on you. They aren’t just one-dimensional, they do have problems, and not just the magical kind, but real-life-relatable-problems.

There really isn’t much more I can say without spoiling people who haven’t read it (*keeping my fingers crossed I am not the last person in the universe who hasn’t*), but there were some great twists. You knew that something was up, but I honestly doubt that I would ever have made the connection myself. Twists are great, I really love them, but I would have freaked out if I had read the book without a possibility to continue with the series. It’s such a small statement, yet it changes everything. I am so looking forward to binge-read the rest!

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! I want more, more, more! (Good thing I have all the books right here on my shelf!)

5stars

Have you read the Raven Cycle? Which book was your favourite (without spoiling me please)? Is it only going to get better?