Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire ARC Review

Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuireBeneath The Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3)

Publisher: Tor Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Pages: 160

Summary: Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

*Received an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Beneath The Sugar Sky is a colorful and charming continuation to the Wayward Children Series! Rini finds herself at Eleanor Wests home for Wayward Children looking for Sumi. Following some previous characters from Every Heart A Doorway, Beneath The Sugar takes you on a journey to the sweet and sugary world of Confection!

Though I don’t mention it much, ever since I read Every Heart A Doorway last year, its one of those books I always find myself thinking about & know it will forever hold a special place in my heart. However, there was just something about Beneath The Sugar Sky that just captivated me!

The story starts with Cora, a recent student who’s still fitting into Eleanor Wests Home For Wayward Children. She’s hanging out with her friend Nadya out by a small turtle pond near the home, when suddenly a girl named Rini falls from the sky, stating she came from the land of Confection and needs to find her mother, Sumi! If she doesn’t, Rini Onishi may cease to exist!

Now Cora & Nadya are leading Rini to talk to Kade (currently training to one day run his aunt Eleanor’s home) and Christopher, the boy with the bone flute who may hold the key to getting this journey into motion.

According to Rini they need to find Sumi’s body, essentially rebuild her and bring her back to life, to prevent Rini from disappearing and from travesty to conspire among Confection and hopefully allow Sumi (to live again) and Rini to reunite with her when the timeline is fixed.

I feel what truly made me love this book far more than the previous 2, was Kade & Chris! They are honestly my favorite characters of the entire series. They finally had more page time and I loved their banter + friendship so much! I kept thinking to myself as I was reading that I would honestly love an entire Wayward Children series just revolving around Kade & Chris! We learn much more about them as characters, got more depth to them, and their worlds than we did in Every Heart A Doorway and they just made this book so much fun to read!

Additionally as for diversity, from what I remember in Every Heart A Doorway not only do we have Kade who is trans, but it was mentioned Chris was Latinx, however what made this book so great was that McGuire specifically mentioned his ethnicity (Mexican). Overall I felt the representation for the characters of color Chris, Sumi & Rini (Japanese), were just better represented than in book 1 and I loved that!

It was also great to get even more expansion on the doors that kids go through, especially Kade & Christophers, and I felt the 3rd person narrative really brought further depth to Nonsense and Logic (as they became much more central in this novella, compared to Wickedness & Virtue). Above all, I felt because there was much more detail and depth brought to Nonsense + Logic, it further brought up many fascinating questions and new ideas surrounding all 4 types of worlds!

From candy corn fields to soda seas, and candy corn-colored eyes, the world of Confection was utterly marvelous and magical! The descriptions, characters, setting, all come to life as the mysteries of this peculiar world unravel. 

Beneath The Sugar Sky was just filled with adventure, descriptive writing that shows McGuire’s growth as a writer with this series. The writing also just brought me back to the magic I felt with Every Heart A Doorway, reintroduced and mentioned favorite characters from the previous books and overall was a great addition to the series!

I suppose my only issues with this novel in particular was the bit of adult humor. It just felt odd with the overall tone and carry-on of the series so far. To me, it just personally felt out of place. Additionally, I felt Cora’s character didn’t really click with the rest of the story. I felt she was pretty underdeveloped compared to the other characters, especially one’s introduced for a much shorter amount of time.

+ From what I read on twitter when I posted a pic. of my ARC, is that Seanan McGuire said that this isn’t the end (though I assumed it was 😂😭) of the Wayward Children Series! 💕🎉🚪✨

Colorful, whimsical, character-driven, and filled to the brim with adventure, Beneath The Sugar Sky follows a dynamic cast of characters  you will fall in love with as they go a on a journey through a sweet, dark, magical, and wondrous world to save an old friend!

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M.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder Review

M.F.K. by Nilah MagruderM.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder

Publisher: Insight Comics

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Pages: 129

Summary:A fantastic adventure following the story of Abbie, a deaf girl with a mysterious power, who is traveling across a vast desert to scatter her mother’s ashes.

In a world of sleeping gods, a broken government, and a fragile peace held in the hands of the corrupt, one youth must find the strength to stand up against evil and save humanity.

This story is not about that youth.

It’s about Abbie, who just wants to get to the mountain range called the Potter’s Spine and scatter her mother’s ashes. But the way is filled with sandstorms, wild beasts, and rogues that wield inhuman powers and prey on poor desert dwellers. When one of these rogues threatens the town where Abbie takes refuge, she must choose between running, or unleashing her own hidden power to meet danger head-on.

Journeys are hard on the social recluses of the world. 

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: M.F.K.: Book One is an intriguing graphic novel with a delightful cast of characters, colorful + wonderfully illustrated artwork, and sets up for an epic-fantasy adventure in future volumes!

Magruder’s M.F.K. immediately pulled me in with the vibrant and rich colors and the unique desert setting!

The story starts with Jamie and his grandfather gathering sand during a sandstorm on the outskirts of their desert town of Little Marigold.

Jamie soon spots Abbie, a young girl who’s carrying an urn of her mother’s ashes & is making a journey across the desert to scatter them. While joined by her Moa (giant bird), Abbie has been gravely injured and is in need of medical attention.

Abbie wakes to find herself being cared for by Jamie’s aunt, Nifrain. While spending her time recovering, she learns about the town + Jamie & his family.

It turns out the residents of Little Marigold have been constantly bullied by Parasai (or those with supernatural abilities) and are forced to give goods to them or risk their anger.

She quickly sees just how rudely they treat the residents and we soon learn that she herself is a Parasai that’s gone rogue!

M.F.K. is such a diverse graphic novel, from the cast being characters of color to our main character Abbie who uses a hearing aid! I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with a deaf main character before & it was just so great to see that representation! 

The plot itself is slow but in a way that really works with the story. Based on the summary it very much gives a broad scope of the overall story, and having finished M.F.K., its obvious there’s a larger story in the works.

I absolutely loved all the main characters introduced! They are really given such depth and you feel you know them just from this 1st volume! From Jamie with his optimistic and upbeat personality, to the differing sides of aunt Nifrain. I also really loved Jamie & Nifrain’s comedic sides & the banter/friendship that develops between Abbie & Jamie! ❤

We learn much more about Jamie and his past (where his parents are & how he hopes to one day go on adventures) as he and Abbie get to know each other better while she recovers to continue on her journey!

 The main fantasy elements are expanded on nearing the end of the story and while its very much an introduction, I did want a little bit more background to how they came about. 

This is really wonderfully developed and immersive graphic novel that had me eager for the next one as soon as I reached the end! It does have its emotional and somewhat dark moments, but definitely has an upbeat adventure feel throughout & its comedic moments! Overall it just left me captivated and intrigued in this fantasy world!

M.F.K.: Book One is a vibrantly colored and illustrated story, with an intriguing  plot+ fantastic cast of characters that immerse you from the very beginning! If your looking for a diverse, comedic, magical, and mysterious graphic novel, M.F.K. is one to definitely check out!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum Review

The Wicker King by K. AncrumThe Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Publisher: Imprint (FierceReads)

Release Date: October 31, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Wicker King is a dark and thrilling mystery that will keep you immersed and on the edge of your seat! The lyrical and raw writing delivers such emotion and conveys a dark and gritty atmosphere of mystery and suspense!

From the summary, I knew The Wicker King would be an intriguing mystery, but there were so many elements that surprised me and I became so invested into the world, plot, and characters!

Set in 2003, we follow August and Jack have been long time friends, since they were kids. Now as the years passed, they have their own friend circles, but outside of school still manage to maintain their deep and complex friendship.

There are also side characters, such as Rina + twins Roger and Peter, play a much more central role in Jack and August’s story as it progresses. Though for me personally a lot of the other minor side characters weren’t as developed as I would have hoped.

Then Roger suspects that Jack may be losing sight of reality and implores August to help his friend. As August begins to find out for himself, he soon learns more about Jack’s alternate fantasy with magic, monsters, and a quest, which tells of a prophecy only they can fulfill!

There’s discussion of co-dependency between Jack and August as its clear that Jack is very much in control of the dynamics of their friendship. While August wants to ensure Jack’s well-being, he can’t help but continue to feel obligated towards him and keep their relationship from fracturing.

Ancrum explores the dark and complicated elements of their codependent relationship and how it above all, impacts August the most.

The lyrical and vivid 3rd person POV flows perfectly with the overall dark and mysterious tone of the story, while really allowing you to see the characters (especially Jack and August)  in such a unique way, focusing more on their inner psyche and unique sides to their character.

What also brings so much more to the novel is the format of the novel! With pages going from light to dark as the story progresses, which was brilliant and further conveyed how the story grows into a much more complex, darker, and mysterious tale! There’s also additional illustrations, newspaper clippings, photographs, etc. all which really add more depth & an intriguing element of mystery!

Both August and Jack are developed so well that you really understand whats going on their heads through the short, but impactful sentences and chapters.

While this is a pretty quick moving mystery-thriller, its done in such a way where it slowly descends and unravels into a darker tale as the story progresses.

Arcum delivers dark mystery and suspense so perfectly! Alongside the quick, emotional and raw writing-style, it just brings together the plot and intricacies of August & Jack so perfectly!

From just such few sentences, we know about Jack & Augusts parents and how their neglect for their kids really impacted them and caused them to rely heavily on each other. (With Jack’s parent’s absence & August’s mother’s depression).

Mental Illness and health slowly gets weaved into the story and really cements itself into the story as it progresses.

As for diversity, we have one of our main characters August Bateman who is biracial and bisexual (as is Jack) and a GLBT+ relationship that clearly develops among Jack and August.

The story is brilliantly plotted and honestly had me up late reading just to unravel the mysteries of this book and the fascinating characters, August and Jack.

With twists, dark and atmospheric writing, discussion on mental health,  brilliantly crafted main characters, among other fantastic elements, The Wicker King is a perfect mystery read!

November 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh1. Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul Full Review

Publisher: Tu Books ( Imprint of Lee & Low Books)

Release Date: September 14, 2017

Pages: 389

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: This brilliantly plotted YA Sci-Fi/ Dystopia is set in a futuristic Korea and follows Lee Jaewon who is an ex-gang member, who now attends a prestigious military academy. He learns more about his government after an exam gets him assigned to looking after Tera (a super soldier). The writing and plot are so detailed and complex that you get such an immersive view into this sci-fi/dystopian future that Oh delivers with so much heart. This is very much a character and plot-driven story that just builds and builds to the very end! There’s action, politics, intrigue, and robots! 

Gray Wolf Island Tracy Neithercott2. Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Gray Wolf Island Full Review

Publisher: Knopf BYR

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 336

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: When Ruby’s twin passes away, she sets out to fulfill her last wish to find the rumored treasure of Gray Wolf Island. There’s mystery, great character dynamics, and atmospheric writing that really brings the story to life. If your looking for an adventure tale with vivid setting, characters, and a hint of magic, this is definitely the book for you!

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes3. The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

The Little Queen Full Review

Publisher: Poetose Press

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Pages: 110

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: This is an enchanting story that reads very much like a timeless fairy tale as we follow The Little Queen as she sets out a journey across her kingdom, figures out what it means to be a ruler, and makes new friends along the way. For such a short book, I really resonated with the inspiring messages about life, overcoming fears and change! I easily became connected to the characters and the magical world of The Little Queen.

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman4. Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman (Vengeance Road #2)

Retribution Rails Full Review

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 374

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Retribution Rails was wonderful conclusion to Vengeance Road! With a new set of characters set 10 years after and told through dual POV, we follow Rose Riders gang member Reece Murphy and aspiring journalist Charlotte Vaugn as the search for the owner of a mysterious gold coin brings them together! I loved the characters so much and this was such a plot-driven story that you really get a full scope of 1880’s Arizona. While there were so many things I loved about this book, the pacing did get pretty slow throughout the middle, felt some characters could have been expanded on a little more and wanted even more development with Reece & Charlotte! But overall this was such a character-driven and action packed addition to Vengeance Road that really stands great on its own!

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O' Neill5.The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’ Neill

The Tea Dragon Society Full Review

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: October 18, 2017

Pages: 72

My Rating:★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: This beautifully illustrated graphic novel follows Greta when she saves an injured tea dragon and is given the opportunity to learn more about them. This story is just so heart-warming and adorable! With friendship and the beauty of art and craft such prevalent themes of this story, you really become enchanted by the world of the tea dragons! Its also very diverse with characters of color, glbt relationships hinted at throughout, characters with disabilities and differing body-types! The Tea Dragon Society is whimsical, magical, and enchanting! Such a wonderful read!

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga6. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Here We Are Now Full Review

Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 304

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Another deep and character-driven YA Contemporary from Jasmine Warga! This novel is about family and you really sense that throughout the story. Following Tal, she reconnects with her rock-star father when he shows up at her door to explain that his father is passing away and would like her to see him. From there she learns more about what caused her parents to split and the importance of family, music, and new beginnings! You know when you read a book at just the right time? That’s what reading Here We Are Now was like! I loved the writing, characters, and the important themes weaved throughout. If your looking for a moving and intricately woven YA Contemporary, this is definitely one to check out!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Literary Listens: Podcast Recs. Based On YA Books {Sci-Fi}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga Review

Here We Are Now by Jasmine WargaHere We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 304

Summary:Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Here We Are Now is a moving YA Contemporary that follows Taliah when she meets her rock-star father for the first time, connects with him and his family, and learns more about her parents past! Plot, writing, characters, and themes all come together to deliver an unforgettable tale of family, love, and new beginnings!

I read Warga’s debut novel My Heart And Other Black Holes & just loved everything about it, from the characters to the writing and was definitely excited to pick up her next book the moment I heard it was announced!

With each page, I just continued to fall in love with this book! From the wonderfully written characters to the mystery that unfolds surrounding the past of Tal’s parents to the importance and power of music that weaves its way into the characters and strong theme of family that is such an important part of this story.

Tal has always had her suspicions growing up that her father may be rock-star Julian Oliver, though her mother usually avoided the topic. When he shows up on her doorstep one day to explain to her that his father is gravely sick. and may be passing away soon, she knows its a lot to take in.

But she knows its her only chance, so she takes the opportunity with her mother out of town on business in Paris, to reconnect with her father and figure out how Julian and her mother Lena met and exactly what happened between them that caused them to split up.

Though her friend Harlow is hesitant at first, she’s convinced to tag along and join Tal on her adventure.

Now she’s in Oak Falls, Indiana meeting Julian’s family, from his mother to the cousins, aunts, and boy next door Toby.

I loved how character-driven this book was! It was beautiful reading how Tal grew close to the father that she had always thought of meeting one day, how music shaped her father’s life and how it inspires her too (with her dream to become a song-writer too).

This novel is also driven by the important theme of family. Not only through learning more about her parents past and getting to know her father better, but through Tal connecting with her father’s family and just reading how happy they are to get to finally meet her. Family is such a huge part of this story that you sense it with each page.

Also told through Lena’s past, we better understand by Tal’s mother grew to avoid talking about Julian and how their relationship shaped her and how it really connects with Tal as she learns more about her family.

The intricacy of the plot and storytelling was done so perfectly and really allows you to solve the mystery of Tal’s parents past as it unfolds for her with each and every chapter!

While the pacing was slow at some points, I felt it really allowed me to immerse myself into the story and really understand the amazing characters.

This is also an OwnVoices story as Tal’s mother is Arab-American! It was also great to read such diversity in this novel with Harlow’s f/f relationship with Quinn that’s mentioned, and Tal who is biracial (1/2 white and 1/2 Jordanian).

The theme of friendship is also makes its way into this story as we learn that Tal feels her friendship with Harlow is slowly fading as she spends more time with her girlfriend Quinn & her band. Tal and Harlow used to be so close, writing and preforming songs with each other or just hanging out. She feels their friendship is slowly fading and you really understand how Tal feels when Harlow later decides to leave join Quinn back home and tell Tal that she shouldn’t only rely on her. I felt bad for Tal, but she takes charge and decides to let Harlow’s tough words inspire her to connect with her family.

Similar to My Heart And Other Black Holes, Warga also explores mental health as Tal overcomes her anxieties and opens herself up to better knowing her father, his family, and having more confidence in herself (and her music).

I loved the writing so much, following Tal’s POV! Not only with the themes of family, music, and love that weave their way into the depths of this story, but also through Warga’s beautiful and subtle writing that brings so many aspects from themes to the characters of Here We Are Now, to life.

While I just adored this book with each and every page, I can’t really explain why but Tal’s friend Harlow was just not really my favorite character 😂 She was pretty pushy at times with getting Julian to open up more and just wasn’t a supportive friend when she decided to leave Tal. I just felt the overall story felt odd with her there, if that makes sense? 😂😂

Here We Are Now beautifully explores the strength and fragility of family, love and how it changes over time. With themes of family, music, love, character-driven storytelling, and an intricate but moving plot, Warga’s latest YA Contemporary is not one to miss!

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes Review

The Little Queen by Meia GeddesThe Little Queen by Meia Geddes

Publisher: Poetose Press

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Pages: 110

Summary:When her mother and father pass away, the little queen must figure out how to be a little queen. And so she begins her adventures, journeying away from her palace and into the world to determine how she should go about going on. The little queen soon encounters numerous folks who teach her a thing or two: the book sniffer, the dream writer, and the architect of silence are just a few. Along the way, the little queen finds friendship, love, and meaning in being a leader in her world. The Little Queen is a magical exploration of self-discovery, vocation, community, and home.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Little Queen is a beautifully written tale follow a girl who is unsure whether she can be queen. Told through an enchanting writing-style, the Little Queen goes on a journey across her kingdom and learns more about herself, life, and her kingdom!

First off I just want to say thanks so very much to Sil from TheBookVoyagers for introducing this book to me (follow her if you haven’t, she’s amazing; always supporting/championing diverse books! She’s such an inspiring book blogger & is just lovely <3)

I read her review of this novella and it sounded like such a delightful and magical read, I put it on my tbr right away!

From the very first line, I fell in love with The Little Queen! It reads very much like a timeless fairy tale. The writing is simple, but delivers magic & wonder with each page! It such a memorable tale that was just inspiring and magical!

We follow the Little Queen as she travels across her kingdom when she finds herself unsure of whether she can even be a queen! Along the way she meets new friends & learns more about life, her world, and where she is meant to be!

With the passing of her parents, she still feels both sorrow and loneliness. She knows she doesn’t have what it takes to be queen, so she sets out on a quest to find a worthy replacement and better figure out what she wants out of life.

Along the way she meets a unique cast of characters from a Book Sniffer, Wall Sawyer, Sleep Soother, Seasons Collector, and so many more! As she learns more about each of these women, she finds she learns more about who she is, the little wonders in life, and the strength within herself to grow and learn more about her world.

What I also loved about each character the Little Queen meets, is the hidden messages each revealed about life, from the magic in the littlest of things, to the inspiring messages of growth, change, exploration and overcoming your fears to see the world from a different angle every now & again!

This is practically an all-female cast! Which was fantastic, though it is such a short story you feel so connected to the magical world and its characters. Each of the people the Little Queen encounters, has some sort of magical ability or talent that contributes to some aspect of the kingdom + world the Little Queen is a part of. Additionally, there is a sweet f/f romance that develops as the Little Queen goes on her journey~

As mentioned above, the magical and fantasy elements, while present, are delivered in a way where its read in a very subtle/quiet, but enchanting way! Where you could practically sense the magic through the page! I loved that about this novella so much!

Additionally, the writing itself is simple, but so descriptive which not only transports you, but really gives this novella the feel of a classic and timeless fairy tale. I honestly would love more books from the The Little Queen’s world, there were many moments reading this novella where I could just picture the vastness of the world.

My only minor issue was that the ending did feel a bit rushed.

Female-driven, lush writing, immersive storytelling, we follow a young queen’s journey as she finds out more about herself and what it means to be queen. The Little Queen is a delightful novella which reads very much like a timeless fairy-tale!

Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott Review

Gray Wolf Island Tracy NeithercottGray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Publisher: Knopf BYR

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 336

Summary:Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Character-driven, chilling, and atmospheric, we follow Ruby as she sets out with a task to find the fabled treasure on Gray Wolf Island! With a beautiful writing-style, fantastic cast of characters, and both mystery + adventure with every page, you’ll be immersed as you uncover the secrets woven throughout the story!

What I loved about Gray Wolf Island so much, was how the descriptive and atmospheric writing-style really brought setting and characters to life! It really builds the setting, emotions, and depth to the story!

Ruby Caine lives in the sleepy town of Wildewell, where rumors and theories about the treasure on Gray Wolf Island are always churning. Her twin sister Sadie has been passionate about finding the treasure and Ruby knows it. So, sadly when Sadie passes away she leaves Ruby with a task, to discover the treasure she could never find.

So one year later, with the present grief of losing her twin, she still keeps the promise in the back of her mind. When by a chance of fate, browsing the public library with Doris, the elderly woman she’s in charge of looking after at the town’s nursing home, she finds a copy of Treasure Island with a poem which reads much like a riddle, that she believes will help her find the treasure and honor her twin sister.

From there she enlists the help of Elliot Thorne, a wannabe bad boy who comes from a long-line of treasure hunters and the knowledge that could help Ruby on her adventure. He then gets his friends, Gabe Nash and Charlie Kim to tag along on the adventure. When Doris finds out about the treasure hunt and that they need a boat, she tells the group that her granddaughter Anne Lansing would be a great addition to the team.

Then the 5 set out to uncover the mysteries woven throughout the poem and find the treasure!

The characters we’re all written so well! Through the descriptive and beautiful writing, they really come to life through Ruby’s POV. Another great addition to the mystery and depth of the story, was the 2nd POV introduced early on, which follows a boy who wakes up on Gray Wolf Island with no memory of how he got there or who he is, and how his journey ties to the overall story of Gray Wolf Island.

The plot itself carries a lot of mystery as we find out more about the history of the town of Wildwell, Gray Wolf Island itself, Ruby, her team, and the secrets some carry with them.

With such a unique plot, I kept making connections and figuring out just where this mystery was headed with each turn of the page! I fell in love with each of the main characters: Ruby, Sadie, Elliot, Anne, Charlie, & Gabe!

The connections these characters have with each other was so well written and you really become connected with them through the unique and atmospheric writing. You feel like you know so much about them with such few lines.

Gray Wolf Island also really develops on important themes such as family, friendship, grief, and acceptance. While also having humor and balancing dark and lighthearted moments so well!

I loved the banter between Ruby and Elliot & the beautiful friendship between Anna & Ruby! Also having a twin myself, it was so easy to connect with Ruby and understand the grief + loss that she felt so deeply and the duty she held to honor her sister’s wishes.

It was also great to see diversity within this novel. There’s Charles Kim, who is Korean, Anne Lansing & Doris, who are Native American. The town itself is also discussed throughout with some Native history. This novel also heavily incorporated elements of magical realism (If you’ve read this novel or are planning to, I would also recommend checking out Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty).

As the novel progresses, the team gets into the web of mystery as they attempt to find the treasure and encounter some trouble along the way, when its revealed they must reveal secrets as the journey continues.

My only issue was that while the story flowed so well, nearing the end, it felt much slower for me personally and the end felt rather rushed. 

The mystery really comes together as you discover more about these characters and the island! The plot really goes in directions you don’t expect and has such great twists when you learn more about the island and its treasure!

Gray Wolf Island is a unique, atmospheric, and magical tale with twists, turns, and really focuses on the friendship and adventure that Ruby has as she attempts to find a mysterious treasure to honor her twin sister! The plot, vivid setting + writing, and characters will stay with you long after the final page!