Backlist Bookshelf: A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

Today’s post is a little bit different! So, I’m sure we all have a TBR of some kind (whether digital or physical) that’s overflowing with books we’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t yet!Backlist Bookshelf 24hr.YABookBlog

To share a glimpse into that TBR I’ve created Backlist Bookshelf which’ll be an occasional feature here on 24hr.YABookBlog to chat a bit more about a book that’s been on my physical bookshelf that I finally decide to pick up & read! I’ll discuss my early opinions on it so far, favorite moments, or any other book-related thoughts!

Today’s feature book is titled:

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder by Holly JacksonA Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide #1)

Publisher: Electric Monkey (Egmont UK)
Release Date: May 2, 2019

Summary: The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

I’ve been interested in discovering more UKYA books this past year and this was a book I was immediately drawn to because of the cover, doesn’t it just scream murder mystery?

Then, once I read the summary my Journalism brain was immediately fascinated and also because it definitely gave off Serial podcast vibes, I knew I had to get a copy ASAP!

Earlier this month, I’d actually gotten a physical copy from my local library and since my UK copy was hidden away somewhere in my bookish stacks, I just decided to pick up the US edition!

But, once I finally found my UK edition and decided to start reading that one instead, I realized how different both editions actually are! This is something I’ll hopefully get into in my review (possibly?)…But, I find it super fascinating to see how the original version was translated for a US audience (from the setting to specific school details that changed completely) that was something I wasn’t expecting but its definitely something I’ll pay more attention to when reading UK YA Contemporary books!

I’l admit, just based on my first impressions reading them both back-to-back, it feels like I’m getting a bit more detail from the UK edition (however I also feel its probably a matter of how the prose is edited more tightly for the US audience?). Either way, I’m glad I’m sticking with my UK copy, it feels like there’s a bit more background to the case & Pip as a character that I’m getting in far greater length.

However, what I personally love about the US edition is how its using more graphics for the mixed media!

So for a school assignment, Pippa is investigating a 5-year-old case that happened in her town and from page 1, you get right into all those details which is great! I love that Jackson has made the book more focused on the plot itself (the case, Pippa’s evidence, etc.) and slowly revealing more to the characters and the mystery as she types up her reports.

The case really gives off Serial S1 podcast vibes, which makes so much sense considering I read up that the author actually loves those kinds of podcasts! According to Jackson’s list from Egmont, Serial was the start of her “true-crime obsession” and one of the biggest influences for Good Girl’s Guide!

Also as someone studying Journalism, I’m having so much fun examining the journalistic reporting, seeing how Pippa is seeking out other journalists and sources who were familiar with the case? Its all super fascinating! Excited to keep on reading!

Thanks for joining me on my first post for Backlist Bookshelf, let me know of any books on your TBR! & Thoughts on this new feature? 😁📚🎉

Have you read A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder? What are your thoughts on this book? 🔎📚📍

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome ShirahamaWitch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #4)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4

Summary: The ruin of an ancient nation’s pride is stage for three apprentices to prove how deftly their concealment abides, for stealth and honor both a witch behoove. But Richeh bridles  at the test’s constraint, preferring magic of her own design, and Euini finds expectations faint, a student by his master oft maligned. In prying from despair a shadowed grace, now Euini has seized a slender hope, but triumph with creeping dread replaced as from the dark a fearsome evil gropes. Forbidden magic’s nightmares come afresh in shadow-shrouded horror freed from flesh.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 4 delves a little more into the world of the series! Agott, Richeh, and newcomer Euini attempt to complete their next trial, while Qifrey delves into a history lesson for Coco and Tetia. However, a mysterious force may be lingering to cause chaos on Cape Romonon! This fourth volume delves more into the mysterious Brimmed Caps, while also exploring prominent themes and messages!

Before getting into my review, I’d been thinking not too long ago how it’d been a while since I’d read this series and how much I’ve really missed it. No matter what I can always count on Shirahama’s whimsical, magical series to immerse me in a fun, witchy adventure that’s also filled with hope & wonder! Its comforting and feels like home! If you’ve read any of the other Witch Hat manga, has it felt that way for you? Definitely let me know in the comments! I think its just how the author is so brilliant at storytelling that even if it takes a darker turn, I’m always excited to be back with Coco, Qifrey, the other witches, and their latest adventure! ♥♥

As soon as this volume opened up with Agott talking about the Scalewolves (in a rather figurative way), I knew Vol. 4 would be one of the more symbolic and metaphorical books of the series!

As Agott examines one of the wolves scales, she says: “If they didn’t feel the need to form pairs, they could keep their armor on all the time.” That quote told me exactly what I needed to know about Agott. Though its pretty obvious each of the girls longs for deeper connections with their fellow atelier witches, this volume took the chance to delve more into the psyche of 2 witches in particular! Not only Agott, who comes from a prominent house but also Richeh, who has secrets of her own that we learn a bit more about in this volume!

As shown with the previous books, each one takes time to delve into a specific character’s journey and this time its Richeh. She’s a serious girl who can conjure crystal ribbons and longs to show she doesn’t need to copy/paste spells to prove her worth. She wants something she can call her own.

However, in order to show her the skills she’s potentially missing out on, Qifrey signs her up alongside Agott in the “Sincerity of the Shield” test, which takes place on the ocean side valleys of Cape Romonon, more specifically in the Serpentback Cave.

Led by senior witch and friend of Qifrey’s Alaria, she proctors Agott, Richeh and Euini’s test to safely lead myrphons through the serpent-shaped road towards the cliffs on the opposite side of the cape. However, the catch is they have to use special cloaks to disguise themselves as a myrphon to lead them to breeding grounds.

The world-building as with all previous volumes has been fantastic! With this one though, its definitely more specified to the location of the story which made it feel much more contained, but I enjoyed that! We learn about the history tied to the Serpentback cave, Myrphons which are penguin-like birds, and early in the volume I loved learning about the Scalewolves too!

Its very much a test of knowledge, skill and applying all of those things well under pressure.

That theme is very much explored through Euini! I’ll be honest, based on his design I thought he was going to be a more serious, no-nonsense kind of kid, I’m glad my theory was wrong! In reality he suffers from anxiety and struggles to find the confidence within himself, thus leading him to over plan and later collapse under pressure (this plot thread broke my heart, there were moments I related to his inner thoughts and felt for him).

His master, Kukrow, is very much an absentee type of mentor and never really supports Euini in the way that he should, even as he’s prepping to take his test for the third time. Their dynamic was surprising, but definitely added a different layer as it contrasted the more comforting witch & apprentice dynamic with Qifrey and the girls!

Back with Qifrey, he delves into the history of the Cavern Nation Of Romonon which soon fell under the weight of its ignorance. But the only thing that remained, was the serpent road. This was one of my favorite sections because although they mostly stay in 1 location for most of the volume, there’s so much detail and importance to the setting. You can sense the wind blowing through the cliffs, the expansiveness of the cave, and the emptiness of what’s been left behind.

With this volume in particular, I also loved how it highlighted the difference between Coco’s enthusiasm vs. Richeh, even Agott and their struggles to hold onto that child-like wonder again, its a nice juxtaposition that was more obvious in this book, but it was a nice plot thread!

Also, let me just say that you can really see their friendship starting to grow with Coco, especially Agott, she was phenomenal in this volume! When confronted with the Brimmed Cap, she doesn’t waste a second to defend Coco and back outside, Qifrey tells Coco that Agott’s held onto her spelled shoes that she made during one the earlier volumes! ❤

There were also such prominent themes to this volume such as learning from the past, but more especially from failure, even the struggles that come with doing that! That’s a message that I feel isn’t often explored much in fiction, but  Euini’s arc explored it in such an inspiring way!

Euini was so wonderful and I just want him to be a happy, anxiety-free apprentice after what he went through in this volume!

Shirahama explores anxiety and confidence subtly through this journey in the cave with the girls and I loved how Euini really grew throughout the exam (learning there’s more than 1 way to do things, never giving up, finding the confidence within yourself and avoiding that negative voice in your head). Also, his friendship/foil to Richeh was so wonderful and I can’t wait to see where its headed in future volumes!

The writing in volume 4 was easily one of the more symbolic and allegorical of the series so far, in my opinion! From Euini’s fate at the end, the history of the cave, even delving into Richeh & Agott’s inner thoughts. There were so many inspiring quotes I wrote down while reading this volume, it kind of brought me back to how I did the same thing during Volume 1. I also felt storytelling wise, it came full circle from beginning to end, making this a really self-contained volume like Vol. 3 and it was beautifully done!

The Brimmed Cap makes more of an appearance and there’s definitely more secrecy around who they actually are, but their desire to unleash more forbidden magic is getting very interesting! I need to know more!

Witch Hat Atelier has some phenomenal artwork and the paneling is presented in an even more dynamic way with this volume that showcases Shirahama’s brilliance with storytelling (especially through action scenes), there’s more horizontal panels that really show the scope and depth of the cave/cliff setting. There’s one particular full-page spread of the serpent cave (56-57) which really immerses you into the location. There’s detailed lines during the action scenes, so they really bring to life and capture the moments within the actions themselves. Also, its tough to explain but the way the paneling was presented in this volume really did the story justice–not one panel felt underused or out of place, Shirahama is brilliant when it comes to artwork.

Though I’ve rated all the past volumes 5 stars, I think Volume 4 for me personally felt a little slower than previous ones! However, I will say that this is such a plot/character-driven volume that never has a single dull moment! I think it just boils down to how I felt the story progressed for me personally…but I still loved it!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 is just as captivating as previous volumes and the ending will leave you wondering what’s next for our group of apprentices and Qifrey! Filled with action, beautiful character arcs, and important underlying themes, this volume does take on a slower pace, but its worth it as the phenomenal story continues to develop! Shirahama once again, will leave readers needing the next volume right away!

Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O! by Carly Usdin ARC Review

Heavy Vinyl Y2Ko by Carly Usdin and Nina VakuevaHeavy Vinyl: Y2K-O! by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva (Pencil), Irene Flores (Ink), Natalia Nesterenko (Colorer), & Jim Campbell (Letterer)

Publisher: BOOM! Box (Boom Studios)

Release Date: March 25, 2020

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: Heavy Vinyl Y2KO!

Cover Design: Nina Vakueva

Summary: SAVE THE INTERNET, SAVE THE WORLD (OF MUSIC)!

It’s 1999 and Chris is living her dream: working at Vinyl Destination by day and fighting for (musical) justice by night (okay, maybe during the day too) in the world’s coolest teen girl vigilante fight club. But when the girls of Vinyl Destination enter a Battle of The Bands – to investigate and, of course, win – they learn that the shadowy corporate masters of the music industry plan to destroy the fledgling world of digital music and blame it on Y2K. Now it’s time for Chris and the gang to dial up 56k (or more, pretty please) of justice so they can save the day once again!

*Received a digital galley for review from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Heavy Vinyl Y2K-O! is is a stellar continuation to the Heavy Vinyl series centering around a group of girls in the 90’s who not only work in a record store, but also are part of an undercover vigilante fight club! The fast-paced plot is immersive, while also focusing on friendships, relationships, and a digital music mystery! You don’t want to miss this sequel!

Back in 2018 I read this fun graphic novel called Heavy Vinyl, for years I’d always hoped there would be more adventures from the Vinyl Destination crew. Luckily, there was a surprise announcement last summer that there would be more to this spectacular world that was introduced to us with the first volume & now, its finally here!

As with Vol.1, you can expect another musical mystery, this time focused on the rise in a digital music website, female friendships, Queer rep. & of course 90’s references!

From the very beginning, you could sense the growth in the bonds & dynamic of friendship between Chris, Dolores, Kennedy & Maggie! There’s a much more laid back vibe to their friendship as they’ve really gotten to know each other, alongside the love & support they have for each other that’s grown even stronger!

This time their latest mystery reunites them with Rosie (of Stegosour) as they attempt to go undercover in a Battle Of The Bands to investigate mega-producer Rick Blaze, whose plan was foiled in the previous volume. They aren’t exactly sure what he’s up to, but they have to be prepared!

Where this issue really shines is in its fantastic characters and their separate arcs! Chris is navigating her wonderful relationship with Maggie. D. becomes friends with Carmen, a local radio host who visits the shop to deliver a concert prize pack to her in-person and the two bond over studios, zines, and music! Then there’s Kennedy who’s feeling down when her boyfriend Logan has to leave early for university!

There’s lots of funny and more relatable moments as each of the girls navigates relationships in such a personal, introspective way. Chris is trying to feel more comfortable with romance as she’s never been with another girl before, even trying to feel more comfortable around quiet nights with Maggie at her house. Reading Chris’s arc delivered a lot of internal conflict, emotion, and was one of the stronger romantic arcs of this volume, alongside Dolores & Carmen’s which I’ll get to in a bit.

Also a super random point, but there’s a scene where Dolores goes to see Carmen at the Transister Radio studio, which is actually set up in a local bookstore. From there as they continue to grow closer, Carmen introduces her to zines that she’s been working on alongside the radio show. From there, I kind of went into researching more about zines because I’ve always been fascinated with them, but mainly because of the way Carmen described them: “Kel was really the one who encouraged me to make my own stuff. ‘Self-publishing is the tool of the oppressed’…”

Considering this series takes place in the 90’s I found this fascinating article from Mental Floss titled ‘A Brief History Of Zines’ which was a super fun read and delved into quite a bit of background of how influential they were/are. This particular quote stood out to me, especially as it connects to Heavy Vinyl and I recommend checking it out if it interests you:

“In the 1990s, zines flourished again thanks to the riot grrrl scene. As an alternative to the male-driven punk world of the past, riot grrrl encouraged young girls and women to start their own band, make their own zine, and get their voices heard….”

One of my new favorite characters was definitely Carmen! Her dynamic with D was super fun and hopefully if  volume 3 is in the works, Carmen makes a return! As for returning characters, it was wonderful because it just felt like there was a lot more page time left for our main cast to undergo their own personal stories. It was nice getting to delve into each of their arcs!

The navigation of relationships was a surprising, yet phenomenal plot thread of this volume. As with the first, its also present in this one of the diverse & Queer relationships: featuring f/f couples (Chris & Maggie / Irene & Simone), interracial couples (Kennedy & Logan / Irene & Simon).

Next I wanted to talk about the phenomenal art style, which I loved! The art looks to be a more softer style compared to Volume 1, which definitely had a more realistic look to it (if that’s how it can be described?). There’s clean, minimal backgrounds but, it definitely spotlights the important details. As for characters, there’s such a great attention to detail and the rainbow of colors used delivers a mix of a cool and warm palette. The action scenes definitely take up space on the page when necessary and overall the art is detailed, while taking on a certain “vintage style” to it!

As I mentioned already, Y2K-O also features such an inclusive & diverse cast! Featuring a mostly female cast there’s also a main character who identifies as trans (Carmen) & f/f relationships!

My only gripe is that the mystery had a lot of build-up and you’ll definitely be satisfied with how the team solves it, but for me personally I was just expecting a bit more. Its interesting to see how Snapster weaves its way into the story and its nice that the overarching conflict doesn’t interfere with the wonderful character arcs/development for sure. However, the end does feel a little bit rushed, but I will say it REALLY leaves you wanting more to the Heavy Vinyl series and concludes nicely! (*I hope there’ll be more volumes <3)

Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O is a much needed continuation to a series set in the 90’s following a group of friends working in a record store, who also happen to be part of a secret vigilante group as they solve a mystery on the brink of Y2k! The plot is immersive, fast-paced, and features great character arcs, and the art is wonderfully detailed! This volume will leave readers wanting more from the Heavy Vinyl world!

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller Review

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia LevensellerWarrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: February 26, 2019

Pages: 329

Available Through The Book Depository: Warrior Of The Wild 

Cover Design: Nekro & Liz Dresner (Jacket Design)

Summary: How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Warrior And The Wild is viking-inspired YA Fantasy filled with adventure, fun and witty banter, romance, and delivers a fast-paced story perfect if your looking for a standalone tale! Rasmira is sent to the Wild where she encounters monsters, meets new friends, and can only be redeemed by killing a god that causes mayhem across the villages!

Ever since I read Tricia’s debut Daughter of The Pirate King, she became a new favorite author! Her books are always such fun, unique, and immersive fantasy tales. They’re also so readable that you can get through them in just a couple sittings (like I did). I loved that because its been a while since I read a book within the span of a couple days and this is exactly the kind of read I needed!

I’m also looking forward to reading the recently released YA The Shadows Between Us because not only is it a Tricia Levenseller book, but there’s a mysterious Shadow King, royalty, and the main character Alessandra wants to take the kingdom for herself?! How epic does that sound?

So back to Warrior, you see a complete transformation from Rasmira as she goes on her  quest where it becomes a tale of survival, trust, friendship, and discovery in this viking-inspired world!

Rasmira Bendrauggo is next in line as leader of her village, Seravin! With her father being the master of the village, she’s trained most of her life to be one of the toughest axe-wielding warriors (being the youngest of 5 older sisters) and although the other guys in her training group are always quick to tease her, she’s grateful to have her friend Torrin.

However, when she’s set up and banished to the Wild during her ceremony, her only way to get back into her village and father’s good graces is to complete an impossible quest (Mattugr) by killing a god. More specifically, Peruxolo, a god filled with magic that demands goods/payment from villages each year.

She feels alone during her banishment, but is mostly filled with anger at being betrayed by those she thought cared about her (Torrin & her mother). She soon meets other banished warriors, Sorren & Iric, and the closer they become she realizes the only way for them all to get back home, is to work together. Though she’s eager to work things out herself, she learns how important it is to stick together through the dangerous Wild.

Sorren is honor-bound to stay with Iric which is why he’s put a hold on completing his own quest. Both boys have a deeper sense of loyalty and kindness that Rasmira isn’t used to, but she soon realizes that she can depend on them.

While Raz’s emotional/character arc is something we have seen before, its in the surrounding mysteries and unique world of the Wild that keeps things interesting!

As the story progresses, there’s lots of questioning as to what Mattugrs really do, whether they really can change a fallen warrior. Yet, the guys realize that along their own journeys they don’t feel all too different. So Raz takes that realization to heart and on her quest to return promises to change her village’s rules, even with the hopes of inspiring others to do the same. That left a lot of wondering as to where the villages are headed once the reader finally reaches the end!

The themes present in this book also wove in inspiring messages that added even more depth to Rasmira’s character, which were fun to explore! Her conflict of being both a good warrior and not disappointing her father, while also learning to respect her feminine side was a great message that was present throughout the entirety of the book (especially showcased through the romance and friendships she creates). She learns its okay to be emotional and although she was never given the chance to show it, she learns a newfound respect for it. Trust is also a big theme explored throughout Warrior as she learns to overcome her past hurt with Torrin as she becomes even closer with Soren!

Friendship was an even bigger theme present and in true Levenseller style, its filled with a lot of banter and humor (I know this book is meant to be serious at times, but I couldn’t help but read this book as a comedy because even Raz has a snarky internal voice you can’t ignore). The same goes for the romance! Tricia always builds a lot of layers and development to the romantic relationships and this one was so well done! I never felt that any of the relationships were rushed.

Learning more about Sorren and Iric’s pasts, how loyal and honor-bound they are to each other and it was a nice alternative to Raz’s hometown where she really didn’t have any friends to rely on anymore. Getting a glimpse into their village of Restin added more history/depth to the world too!

Iric is a skilled smith, while we also learn Sorren had changed for the better, when being banished to the Wild too. From goddesses, to all the different monsters like Ziken, hyggja, and other interesting details, it made the setting really come to life.

The world itself feels confined but it really allows for the unique atmosphere and tension to build. According to an interview from Curiositales Magazine April 2019 issue, here’s what Levenseller said about how she crafted the “hardened world” of the Wild and its surrounding villages:

“… the “animals they hunt […] have tough exoskeletons; even their fruit has these tough husks. The monsters that hunt them can only be killed with the heavy swing of an axe…”

The descriptions of the world delivery a dense forest setting, alongside the culture (from what I’m guessing) is inspired by Norse myth and language!

Its through the 1st person POV that allows for not only the atmosphere to shine through, but also the various emotional layers to the story as well! Rasmira tries to recover what she’s lost, but also learns there is so much more to be gained! It was a small detail, but I loved how Tricia added that because Raz begins questioning her world more and the rules its established. I admired her resiliency, even if she faced quite a bit of hurt. She not only learns what it takes to be a leader, but also the importance of friendship and trust.

Through her perspective you also feel a connection to the characters and that’s because of how emotionally-driven her character is! You really get to know her healer sister Irrenia, the main guys, even more about Peruxolo.

There’s lots of mystery that keeps you guessing, from coming up with plans to complete the quests, to learning more about Peruxolo and how he can be defeated! One of the most interesting mysteries was Peruxolo’s past, I had many theories and there was a lot of unique little pieces thrown at the reader as to how he got his powers to keep you guessing! I also liked how like elements of minerals and bit of geology was used in very interesting ways!

It feels like your just thrown into this world without much background, but the more you delve into Warrior, it develops as it goes along. The only issues that dropped my rating stem from the world building and how the plot/writing develop at points.

In the beginning, I was struggling to really grasp this world, but that’s also because viking-inspired stories aren’t really my thing. I felt we knew only the basics of the villages the more the story progressed, but the development of the Wild was really well done. There were moments in Rasmira’s POV (mainly in the beginning) that I felt could have been more descriptive and less direct to make certain layers of her journey detailed and immersive (maybe less obvious too b/c it was easy for me to pick up on certain story beats), but again the further I read it was just lot of fun. As for certain characters, I just wanted a bit more depth to them, like Raz’s other sisters. Her mother’s journey was an interesting one too, but again there were just characters introduced who I felt we only got to know through the surface level.

As for diversity, Iric is gay and its mentioned there was a m/m relationship between Iric and his boyfriend Aros from back home. Its reflected on and develops throughout the book.

Overall if your looking to enjoy a quickly-paced, fantasy story with a unique setting, engaging plot and witty banter to keep things interesting, I recommend this standalone!

Warrior Of The Wild is viking-inspired quest fantasy that follows warrior Rasmira and the journey she undergoes in becoming a more skilled leader for her people when she’s banished to the Wild! Filled with banter, unique viking-inspired setting, mystery, romance + banter, and a fast-paced story, Levenseller’s YA Fantasy wraps up very nicely!

Its been a while since I’ve done this, so for today’s post I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review 😍📚✨:

Review: Warrior And The Wild from Ellie at PrincessOfInk

We had a lot of similar thoughts on this book and you can sense her enthusiasm all throughout her 5-star review! I also love the nice list she added at the end to sum up what you can expect from Tricia’s book!

Storm From The East by Joanna Hathaway Review

Storm From The East by Joanna HathawayStorm From The East by Joanna Hathaway (Glass Alliance #2)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 496

Available Through The Book Depository: Storm From The East

Cover Design: Marisa Aragón Ware

Summary: War has begun, and the days of Athan’s and Aurelia’s secret, summer romance feel a world away. Led by Athan’s father, the revolutionary Safire have launched a secret assault upon the last royal kingdom in the South, hoping to depose the king and seize a powerful foothold on the continent. Athan proves a star pilot among their ranks, struggling to justify the violence his family has unleashed as he fights his way to the capital—where, unbeknownst to him, Aurelia has lived since the war’s onset. Determined to save the kingdom Athan has been ordered to destroy, she partners with a local journalist to inflame anti-Safire sentiment, all while learning this conflict might be far darker and more complex than she ever imagined.

When the two reunite at last, Athan longing to shake the nightmare of combat and Aurelia reeling from the discovery of a long-buried family truth come to light, they’ll find the shadow of war stretches well beyond the battlefield. Each of them longs to rekindle the love they once shared . . . but each has a secret they’re desperate to hide.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Storm From The East is a phenomenal sequel that expands on the layered politics and deeply complex cast of characters, as Athan and Aurelia attempt to establish their identities while facing the realities of war! Exquisitely written, this historical fantasy, WW-infused tale continues to be as thought-provoking as it is enthralling! Storm From The East is haunting, beautiful and Hathaway establishes herself as a master in geopolitical storytelling!

Storm From The East is many things: it’s character-driven, a deep dive into the impacts of war, legacy and pride, it’s dark and hopeful, rooted in multi-layered politics, a tale of star-crossed love, but above all…it’s a book that’s daring!

Set about 3 months after Dark Of The West, Athan and Aurelia’s families are recuperating from the attempted coup of the Etanian throne. There’s a war headed to the South (Resya) and both of them are tangled up in it, with little means of escape. Athan becomes promoted to a squadron leader, while Aurelia attempts to follow her cousin Lark’s advice to get more evidence about the photographs from Beraya and learn more about whatever secrets her family tree is hiding.

It’s been so long since a sequel captivated me in such a way as this one did and I loved every moment. Hathway’s writing continues to be poetic, necessary even as we get a deeper look into how Aurelia and Athan’s perspectives create such distinct views of the world.

If you love plot-heavy/driven books, this sequel will leave you pleasantly surprised. From Aurelia leaving with Havis to uncover more secrets in Resya, taking up the role of a journalist. Then there’s Athan who is stuck fighting yet can’t seem to escape, he’s slowly realizing that he can’t seem to make his own choices anymore–even to the point where he’s unintentionally standing in his father and older brother’s shadows. All the while, Athan and Ali are still linked to each other, unsent letters and longing for reunion keep them grounded.

As Hathaway cemented even more of the evolving politics and devastation of Resya, it painted a distinct picture of both the consequences and realities of war.

Athan and Aurelia are faced with this stark truth, they have important choices to make if they’re to see each other again once this war is over. However, they also face the political shroud built by decades of history that obscures their chances at seeing the truth― the world around them can change for the better, but they must work together.

As established in book 1, Hathaway clearly draws inspiration from her love of history and through the increasing power of Savient, we see influences from early 20th Century political, militaristic, and geopolitical ties of Europe. In this book especially there’s a heavy influence through the planes and strides of journalistic reporting of that era!

Dark Of The West won me over for many reasons, one of those being these characters! One of my favorite dynamics in the sequel involved the increased layers to the Dakar family. There’s the General, cunning, manipulative, and Athan’s older brother Arrin, an equal yet unpredictable mirror. What surprised me too, was seeing Kalt who is unlike them and the more down-to-earth of them all, even more so than their sister Leannya.

One of the dynamics I find the most fascinating is Athan and Arrin, there’s an unsaid rivalry between them! I’m interested in seeing where Arrin’s journey is headed (will he pay for his crimes?) , if this book was any indication, I think Hathaway will leave readers surprised!

As Athan finds himself bound to the Resya conflict, we see how Hathaway digs deep to present our deeply flawed characters, while showing the cracks in their armor. As Athan attempts to undo his mistake and get in his family’s good graces again, he surprisingly begins to take up the roles he desperately wanted to avoid. Arrin gets him to attack innocents and his father, the ruthless General, begins incorporating him to more vital positions of war. General Dakar clearly knows more than is revealed and it’s surprising to see him brew this competition between his sons. In doing so, Athan’s forced to assume an identity that’s causing him internal dilemmas, pain, and possibly even early signs of PTSD. The truths as to who his family really is (especially in times of war) painted a clear picture not only in Athan, but Ali’s POV of the false perfection that certain sides are upholding. Because of that, their compassion and humanity is explored in such a thought-provoking way.

As Aurelia teams up with journalist Triza, we see her shed her role as princess to seek out the truth and publish propaganda that goes against the Dakar/Safire mission. As she goes undercover it’s all with the hope to inspire people to realize that Resyans shouldn’t be forced to suffer because of a vain plot for conquest.

What Hathaway brilliantly does in this book is continue to portray this idea of opposing mirrors. Athan and Aurelia are essentially the mirrors of those around them, yet it’s through Hathaway’s complex politics and intriguing storytelling that they learn whether they are ready to face or shatter that mirror.

There were many different layers to these characters (some that surprised me like Havis & Kalt)– I found myself seeing how well-developed and deeply flawed they were. But again, that just shows how strong Hathaway’s characterization and writing is. No matter what I already know about these characters, seeing them change through Ali & Athan’s perspective showed how much they themselves grew too!

We get underlying family history uncovered about Sinora and how Aurelia’s ties to the south are much bigger than she first realized. I also loved exploring the possibility that these characters have much more to gain than we first realize such as Havis, General Dakar, Arrin, Trigg and many more.

Athan and Aurelia also carry with them, a quiet strength that I relate to so much.

Along the way we get introduced to a couple new characters who I’m positive we’ll see again in book 3! Triza & Trigg are new friends that allow Athan & Aurelia to think more about their allegiances and their own roles in the world! They are so much fun to follow and although Athan does find himself at odds with Cyar at some points, I loved the trio dynamics between them so much and I can’t wait to see where their friendship is headed!

The romance was even more beautiful! Subtle and yet it envelops such critical emotional parts of Athan and Aurelia’s perspectives. Though they’re separated for much of the book, it’s in the letters, memories, and hopes for the future that we see how their innocent love is also an escape from the cruelties of their world! They grew so much during their journey and when they were together, their scenes were my absolute favorite! & YES there were moments I cried! ♥♥

I just want to give Ali, Athan, Cyar, Trigg, and Triza a hug, they’ve been through so much and I’m nervous for what’ll happen to them next ♥♥ I also hope to see more Violet & Reni too~

The ties between politics, world building, and how family legacy bridges these POV’s together were essential to this story, explored through stark truths and obscure motives. The first-person perspective allows us to see unique angles to these characters that they themselves never really see and I loved how that’s used so brilliantly in Storm From The East!

Some of my favorite themes included identity, legacy, sacrifice, and the flawed, conflicted loyalties of humanity!

Family itself continues to drive much of the internal conflict and the way Hathaway cleverly ties political divisions, underlying intrigue, history even, showed why it’s such an important layer woven throughout the characters past, presents, and possibly even futures for the Dakars & Isendares!

My only minor critiques, which didn’t take away from my absolute enjoyment of this book was wanting a little more intrigue between the Dakar family and a bit more clarity to the ties that Ali has in the South (mainly towards the end), because the development of that did feel a bit rushed at points.

I’ll be honest I was scared because of that haunting prologue from Dark Of The West, but if anything I was left feeling both hopeful and intrigued as to how the South and North will hopefully find peace in Book 3!

Storm From The East is a sequel that delves deep into its characters, politics, and realities of war established in Dark Of The West! From its riveting storytelling, immersive world, layered politics, and complex development of Athan and Ali, makes this a stellar sequel! This is a truly underrated YA Historical-inspired fantasy series that explores legacy, geopolitical conflict, and at its heart follows characters longing for a place to call home! You’ll want the 3rd Glass Alliance book right away when you turn that last page!

Victoriocity Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Victoriocity PodcastVictoriocity created by Chris Jugden and Jen Sugden

Release Date: October 6, 2017

Episodes: 17 (2 Seasons)

Summary: A detective comedy drama || Even Greater London, 1887. In this vast metropolis, Inspector Archibald Fleet and journalist Clara Entwhistle investigate a murder, only to find themselves at the centre of a conspiracy of impossible proportions.

My Thoughts: Victoriocity is a triumph in audio drama fiction! Set in 1887, Even Greater London, crime journalist Clara Entwhistle and inspector Archibald Fleet find themselves teaming up to solve a murder and along the way, become tangled in a conspiracy! Those who enjoy ensemble casts, and clever humor, interwoven with murder mystery should NOT miss out on this spectacular podcast, now in its 2nd Season!

Today I’m bringing a podcast review that was (*let me check my calendar) about 3 months in the making! Its only because I feel like audio drama reviews require a different muscle than writing book reviews for me personally. But, I also wanted to make sure this review makes it clear that I adore this podcast with all my heart and more people need to listen to it! Do you  LOVE dynamic characters, characters solving murders, conspiracy, a brilliant and comedic duo? How about witty humor and even more quirky characters all spotlighted through fantastic storytelling? Then let me introduce you to: VICTORIOCITY 🎙💖✨

Victoriocity delivers the kind of charming and clever storytelling that just cannot be recreated! The fusion of steampunk, murder-mystery, and comedy wrapped up into the setting of an alternate-Victorian London, doesn’t cement Victoriocity into one specific genre and that’s its beauty.

Set in 1887 Even Greater London, right away we’re introduced to inspector Archibald Fleet who’s tasked with meeting up with prominent scientist, Dr. Salik on his return to London. But, right away we can tell Salik is a prime target, perhaps its for his groundbreaking work on the Tower, which powers much of London?

Next were introduced to Clara Entwhistle who is a spunky kind of character, she’s unconventional and eager to break away from societal expectations thrust upon her by her mother. She finds herself taking up the position of a crime reporter upon her first visit to London, arriving from the countryside and ready to get started.

Early on in Season 1 you can sense their equally dynamic personalities when they’re doing their own thing, but it’s when they come together you see how brilliantly Clara and Fleet’s partnership takes the story in the best of directions!

Throughout the first season, they team up to gather clues and find potential suspects in order to figure out who killed the scientist, and why.

“Describing the richness and scale of Even Greater London, is a task that has sent many people quite mad…”

The writing is descriptive and the comedy that’s present not only in the dialogue, but interwoven throughout the 3rd person narration, is absolute genius! The quirks and details of this sprawling metropolis you’re introduced to as the series goes on, build pockets of the world in unique ways that set each place apart as you follow Clara and Fleet on their journey.

Moments of silence, repetition, or in-the-moment detail craft a distinct comedic undertone that’s present throughout the entirety of the show, even in the most dire situations.

A podcast like Victoriocity, knows the amount of care required to delve deep into its characters, world, complex mystery and that’s highlighted with each episode. It’s brilliantly ambitious in its storytelling and is unlike any other fiction podcast out there! With each quirky new character that Fleet and Clara meet on their trail to solve this mystery, the more we as listeners get immersed into the unique setting and atmosphere that’s crafted.

I also appreciate that because this series is very story-driven, it’s the kind of podcast where you really need to listen to each and every line. Without that, you may miss on key details that help you to figure out more to Even Greater London, Clara, Fleet, or the underlying conspiracy.

The jokes and humor are structured in a way where they always deliver and that’s because of how cleverly the plot/dialogue work together to make each episode unforgettable.

Let me tell you, if you adore ensemble casts, quirky characters, and detailed, expansive settings, you’ll want to listen to Victoriocity and get introduced to what Even Greater London has to offer.

The voice acting is phenomenal! Each voice actor brings a distinct energy to each and every character present in the show and really brings them to life! Clara and Fleet are 2 of my favorite characters in this series and seeing them grow along the journey of Season 1 and cementing their partnership just left me in tears by the last episode!

As someone studying journalism myself, Clara is easily the character I identified the most with! She’s like me and so unlike me in many ways its hard to describe. But, I will say its her confidence, enthusiasm, and inspirational / positive attitude that resonated deeply with me throughout this first season. I can’t wait to see what adventures her & Fleet get into next.

Victoriocity is a brilliant audio drama that introduces you to the sprawling and expansive world of Even Greater London! You’ll get immersed in the conspiracy that the inspector and journalist duo are eager to solve, all the while getting captivated by the magnificent storytelling, humor, world-building, and genius cast of characters! Start listening to this podcast right now, you will not be disappointed!

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo Review

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze ChooThe Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo 

Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Pages: 362

Available Through The Book Depository: The Ghost Bride

Cover Design: Mumtaz Mustafa

Summary: Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Ghost Bride is a rich and immersive historical fantasy, set in 1890’s Malaya! Weaving together the paranormal, romance, alongside Chinese and Malaysian culture, customs, and mythology! Choo’s story is a captivating tale filled with adventure when Li Lan is told to she’ll be arranged in a ghost marriage!

I’d already been looking forward to reading Choo’s novel for a while, because I mean from that summary, doesn’t it sound fascinating? Well I knew the Netflix series had already released earlier this year and decided to finally give it a read!

*Quick side-note: In this review I’ll also talk a bit about The Ghost Bride adaptation and why you should watch it! (Seriously, it seems like not enough people have watched this show and its FANTASTIC + only 6 episodes)

17-year-old Li Lan’s family is struggling financially and so when the story starts, her father informs her that the wealthy Lim, has offered a her marriage proposal to become a Ghost Bride!

Even after getting to visit the Lim mansion she feels like she isn’t suited for this proposal and isn’t sure what to do. But, when Lim Tian Ching (the dead son) soon starts haunting her, she learns that his death may not have been an accident.

As she tries to escape Lim Tian’s hauntings night after night, she’s also drawn to another member of the family, his cousin Tian Bai! Though in trying to escape Lim Tian, she accidentally takes too much of a potion and finds herself trapped in the in-between of her world and the afterlife.

She journeys to the Plains Of The Dead in order to solve the mystery of Lim Tian Ching’s death, uncover secrets about her family and find her way home before its too late!

What The Ghost Bride does so beautifully is create a vivid and immersive setting that instantly transports you! From the port town of Malacca to the Plains Of The Dead, Lim Mansion, etc. they all come to life through an elegant 1st person POV.

Choo’s prose is poetic and descriptive, illustrating a vast and lush setting. You get a sense of not only time, but also weather, food, customs, interwoven with layers of politics and social class. The storytelling itself is also so unique and goes in directions I was not expecting! Alongside that, the atmosphere is there from the very beginning making it incredibly easy to picture yourself there!

Following Li Lan’s perspective rooted me even more in the setting, its characters, including the world of the living and dead that Choo crafted! Telling this story from Li Lan’s perspective brings such an emotional and descriptive depth to the world as a whole. Its so easy to be immersed into all these different layers of the story!

The 1st person POV also brings a deep sense of melancholy, knowing Li Lan’s family situation and this feeling of loneliness after losing her mother and feeling like her father has drifted away. However, Li Lan is an incredibly sarcastic, intuitive, and overall just engaging character that it only made sense to have us follow her journey through this perspective!

There’s also many lighthearted moments, weaved with humor & sarcasm that really bring a lot of funny moments throughout the story!

The cast of characters are also fantastic, I loved them! Aside from our main character Li Lan, Amah (whose like a mother to her) and Old Wong, the family chef, are both there for her and are these glimmering lights for her during this rough time.

Aside from Tian Bai and Lim Tian Ching, there’s also Er Lang (a powerful guide of sorts) and Fan, a ghost who sees Li Lan when she takes on a ghostly form.

Both Er Lang and Fan act almost as paranormal guides who help her during her journey in the Plains and the

There’s also Tian Bai, who Li Lan is instantly drawn too, then there’s Er Lang and Fan, paranormal guides who help Li Lan during her journey to the Plains, which is a ghostly mirror to her port town home of Malacca!

Speaking of The Plains, there’s this underlying politics and intrigue woven into this part of Li Lan’s journey that beautifully captures such a deep well of emotion that she herself has built throughout her life, which she now faces, in a way! From Li Lan better understanding her own romantic feelings, facing her past, and learning more about the paranormal ties that others have to her family.

There’s also a lot of mystery surrounding Lim Tian Ching’s death and his character as a whole, so though his scenes are minimal, he really brought a lot of impact to the story.  I wish there were maybe a couple more scenes with him, including Er Lang!

Speaking of Er Lang, his character surprised me the most! He’s one of Li Lan’s closest companions during her journey and I loved how he got a lot of development closer to the end. During her time in the Plains being surrounded by wandering spirits, she realizes she can trust him to help her get out of some tough situations! However, when she does finally get back home, there’s this lingering connection between them that I was not expecting, but it was interesting how it developed throughout the last third of the book.

The story itself beautifully explores family and legacy as Li Lan finds herself on a race to get back to her body in the real world. I find that was because of Choo’s descriptive and dazzling writing! The way that scenes, dialogue, setting descriptions are so beautifully crafted is what brings the mystery and layers to the story in such a perfect way!

Though I absolutely adored this book, I did want to get into a couple specifics that lowered my rating! It would have been great to get even more background description to build more of the setting of Malaya/Malacca and The Plains Of The Dead. Choo beautifully captured the folklore and setting that I could really picture myself there, I just wish there was more! There’s also a lot of conflict brought towards the end of the book that did make the way plot threads wrapped up, feel a bit rushed (in my opinion).

Also, this is just a personal gripe because I really loved this cast of characters, I wish there was just more interactions between all of them with Li Lan! She’s such a dynamic heroine and it would have been great to have more of that connection with the rest of the cast (like Fan, Er Lang, even getting more development with Tian Bai and resolution with her father).

Now onto the Netflix adaptation & the book: Honestly, I LOVE both of them equally, there are differences that set them apart, but they both have that special thing that makes both such captivating / unique stories!

I’m thinking of maybe doing a mini review of the show (possibly?), but to break it down: Just seeing Li Lan’s dynamic personality brought to life by such an amazing actress (Peijia Huang) alongside the rest of the cast too, made this one of my favorite mini-series! (Its that good that I will gladly watch it all over again multiple times ❤)

The costumes, story and how it ties together, cinematography, dialogue, character chemistry, unraveling mystery–its all done spectacularly!

Also what makes The Ghost Bride Netflix adaptation super interesting is that it blends more of the humor which is more present among the darker/paranormal elements, that even with the story changes it really comes together as a FANTASTIC show! (Seriously this show puts focus on the humor and does a stellar job at it! The comedic timing & humor is perfect 😂💖)

The Ghost Bride is a captivating story that blends romance, the paranormal that’s rooted in Chinese Folklore and Malaysian culture! This is a story about independence and discovery as Li Lan finds herself caught in the ghostly afterlife! Choo’s historical fantasy is woven with lush writing, deeply explored themes, introspective storytelling, and above all an immersive tale about love and sacrifice!