Bonus: October 2023 Reading Wrap-Up – Graphic Novels & NetGalley ARCs

Welcome, my book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.

October was another big, heavy reading month. If you listened to my main wrap-up episode, I said that I read 34 books that month. Well, I miscalculated, and it was actually 35 books, still my second-largest reading month of the year so far. I had a lot of fun reading spooky books to celebrate the fall season and Halloween.

So while I was in the spirit, I chose a lot of graphic novels. Originally, I was just going to read three or four, but then more and more kept popping up from recommendation BookTube videos that I was watching, and since they fit my reading theme for the month and were perfect seasonally, I added them to my list. Many of these were available from my library app, Libby, too, so I was able to grab them and read them quickly. It takes me only a short time to read a graphic novel. So that’s how I got to so many. I was also mood reading, and most of these were middle grade graphic novels, which was where my taste was for the month. 

Then for the NetGalley books, I only had two standard novels, and then three graphic novels, one short story/picture book, and six children’s picture books. I like to add a few picture books because they are quick to read and write reviews for, which helps bump up my feedback ratio, which I always try to hover around 80%, which is the optimal percentage so publishers will approve me for ARCs to read.

If you want to read my reviews for all the picture books that I read in October, you can get more information here.

Graphic Novels

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: YA Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3 (2.5)
GR Nominee for Best Graphic Novels & Comics (2011)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

My Review: I really don’t understand all the hype for this graphic novel. This book really turned me off from the first few pages, but I thought I would give it a chance to get better… it didn’t. I really didn’t care for the way the characters spoke. I’m not sure if that’s truly how teenagers talk, but it felt really forced, stereotypical, and annoying. Very cringey. Also, the behavior of the kids is not something that should be highlighted in a kids’ book, like cheating, both in the relationship sense and cheating on school work. There was a lot of mature content that I did not find appropriate for kids. 

I also didn’t like the main character, Anya. I understand she’s supposed to be this rebellious, angsty teenager, but she’s not likable at all. She’s quite obnoxious and not a good role for kids. She smokes throughout the story, and I don’t find that appropriate to include in a kids or YA graphic novel. There is also quite a bit of crude language and cursing. I can see how Anya could be relatable as a teenager, especially since she has body image issues, but I was hoping for some kind of redemption arc, which there is a bit, but it didn’t save her for me. I felt like Anya didn’t have many redeeming qualities at all. Plus, her best friend is very toxic, rude, and judgemental. She was not a good influence for Anya to be around. 

The story with the ghost girl was interesting at first, until it turned kinda sinister and dark, which I didn’t care for. I liked when Anya tried to figure out the mystery behind the ghost’s death, but it was still kinda of boring and not very creative, in my opinion. Then, the ghost became a terrible influence on Anya. I didn’t like her at all. 

Overall, I think the author tried to tackle some compelling messages, but the execution was just terrible. 

The artwork was nice, but there’s no color, and like the story, it was just bland and boring. Honestly, I’ve forgotten most of this story. It’s not memorable at all. I do not recommend this book.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: YA Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3 (2.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out of control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress.

My Review: This was the graphic novel that would NEVER end! It was SO long for this type of book. And, there were SO many word bubbles (the most I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel) and just a lot going on in this story. I really felt like the author should’ve just written a book for this story since she had so much to say. I don’t think the graphic novel format was a good fit. 

Visually, I loved the artwork, but unfortunately, it was overshadowed and overpowered by ALL the word bubbles, which is a shame because they are beautiful illustrations. I wish we could’ve seen more of the images. I wanted more of the graphics highlighted and to stand out. 

As for the story, it was interesting, but a bit convoluted and chaotic at times and it was nothing original. I’ve read stories like this before. I did like learning about the town’s history and going back and forth from the past to the present; however, the witchy myth and folklore were muddled for me. Because a lot was going on and not too many characters were standing out for me, I started to lose interest about halfway through the story. I finished reading it because I wanted to see how it ended, and I had already invested so much time into the book, but it wasn’t a memorable story for me.

I enjoyed Moth as our main character. She was a sweet, quirky, likable character that was very relatable. I liked how she was curious and open to exploring the witchy side of herself and her family. I also enjoyed her mom and their dynamic since they are a single-parent and child household. There is also a talking cat who added quite a bit of humor to the story, which I appreciated.

However, this is another case where a publishing company is using kids’ books to push certain political agendas, which I can’t stand. There are queer side characters with talk of a homosexual relationship; there is an obvious large diverse cast; there are racial undertones and messages, making white people look like the bad guys and people of color always being mistreated. It definitely has some woke messages disguised in the plot and character development. If this was an adult graphic novel, I wouldn’t care as much, but this is targeted toward children and I found it all inappropriate. So parents beware if you care what your children are reading. 

I know there is a sequel, but I probably won’t pick it up. I didn’t care enough about the characters to care what would happen next to them.

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Paranormal
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Lora wants to stay a kid forever, and she’ll do anything to make that happen… including befriending Alexa, the ghost who haunts her house. A middle-grade graphic novel about growing up that’s perfect for fans of Ghosts and Making Friends.

Growing up sounds terrible.

No one has time to do anything fun, or play outside, or use their imagination. Everything is suddenly so serious. People are more interested in their looks and what others think about them than having fun adventures. Who wants that?

Not Lora.

After watching her circle of friends seemingly fade away, Lora is determined to still have fun on her own. A tea party with a twist leaves Lora to re-discovering Alexa, the ghost that haunts her house — and Lora’s old imaginary friend! Lora and Alexa are thrilled to meet kindred spirits and they become best friends . . . but unfortunately, not everything can last forever.

My Review: This graphic novel was mediocre for me. 

I loved the illustrations. They were beautiful and fun to look at throughout the story. The colors were bright and vibrant. I liked the art style, and the ratio of artwork to word bubbles was perfect. 

But, I just wasn’t blown away by this story. I’ve seen so many rave reviews for this graphic novel, but I don’t quite understand it. It was cute and charming, but not a big standout for me. It wasn’t too memorable and it was very predictable. 

The main character, Lora, was a sweet, charming, and relatable character, but just seemed really immature for her age. That was the point of the story, she didn’t want to grow up when her friends were, but she came across as very juvenile to me. I couldn’t relate to her and started to get annoyed with her instead of feeling empathy or compassion for where she was in her stage of development. I wasn’t feeling patient enough to read about her journey, so I started feeling annoyed and frustrated. 

I did enjoy the ghost, Alexa, in this story. She was very sweet, and I liked learning about her past and her death. I actually preferred this character over the main character. I felt more empathy and compassion for her. 

Again, I found parts of this book inappropriate because there are queer side characters, and I don’t believe that mature content belongs in children’s books. So that was a turnoff for me. Once again, publishers with their checklist of forced diversity, which is getting very boring and tedious and extremely cringy.  

Overall, it’s a sweet, whimsical, and mildly entertaining coming-of-age story. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t personally recommend it, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone interested in picking it up. It was middle of the road for me.

Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

Format: Paperback
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.

But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes.

After all, garlic drives away vampires…right?

My Review: This was a fun, magical, and creative story about a sweet character, Garlic. I thought the concept of enchanted vegetables coming to life and living like humans was very imaginative and whimsical. We learn that a witch named Agnes brought them to life and cares for them. They are kind of like her children, and they help her tend to her garden and sell her vegetables at the local farmer’s market. I enjoyed the found family element and close-knit community vibes. 

When Garlic is chosen to drive away their new vampire neighbor, we see how brave she is in spite of her anxiety and nervousness. It had some great messages about mental health and overcoming your fears. It’s also about communication and forcing yourself to talk to someone to understand them better. 

I enjoyed the illustrations and style of the artwork. There were a lot of panels with just the graphics, which were nice to admire. The ratio of word bubbles to the art was perfect. The artwork really was shown through in this novel, which I appreciated. 

It felt very wholesome until I noticed some reviewers praising it for queer representation. I didn’t remember reading that content, so I had to go back and comb through it, and sure enough, there is ONE very subtle word bubble, where Garlic calls her friend Carrot, they. So it used they/them pronouns. Which I was confused by because one, they are all vegetables, they don’t really have genders, but two, in this case where they are humanized, Carrot clearly was portrayed as a boy. Once again, certain agendas are being pushed onto little kids and unsuspecting parents. Notice this publishing trend with graphic novels yet? 

Overall, it was a very cozy, quick read as well. It was perfect for the fall season and Spooky Season/Halloween.

Garlic and the Witch by Bree Paulsen

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Garlic loves spending time with Witch Agnes, Carrot, and her new friend, the Count, who has proven to be a delightful neighbor to the village of vegetable people rather than a scary vampire. But despite Agnes’s best attempts to home-brew a vegetarian blood substitute for Count, the ingredient she needs most can only be found at the Magic Market, far from the valley.

Before she knows it, with a broomstick in hand, Garlic is nervously preparing for a journey.

But Garlic is experiencing another change too–finger by finger, she appears to be turning human. Witch Agnes assures her that this is normal for her garden magic, but Garlic isn’t so sure that she’s ready for such a big change. After all, changes are scary…and what if she doesn’t want to be human after all?

My Review: This sequel was a huge letdown for me. I really enjoyed the first book, but this second one did not have the same charm as the first and the story was not nearly as interesting. Garlic goes on another adventure, but it is really lackluster and felt weak. There wasn’t any “danger” or risk in this story and it was sort of boring. It wasn’t nearly as creative as the first book. It also didn’t feel as warm and cozy. I found myself not caring as much about this story.

I also hated how it ended. I feel like the author did herself a disservice with the ending because this could’ve been a long series of graphic novels. But not now with that ending. Very disappointed with the direction this sequel took. 

But what really appalled me was the forced woke checklist that is highly inappropriate for young children, which this book is targeted for. The vampire turns out to be gay, and one of the vegetable characters is non-binary, using they/them pronouns. It all felt very contrived. 

I will not be reading any more of this series if it continues. I do not recommend this one, but absolutely read the first graphic novel.

Unfamiliar – Book One by Haley Newsome

Format: Paperback
Genre: YA Fantasy
My GR Rating: 4 (4.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Young kitchen witch Planchette gets an incredible deal on a new house in a magical town. Turns out, there’s a reason: it’s haunted! After unsuccessfully attempting to get these unwanted ghosts to leave, she realizes the only thing to do is to help them with their problems. Along the way, she befriends a shy siren who hates being popular, a girl battling a curse, and a magically-challenged witch from a powerful coven.

My Brief Review: I really, really enjoyed this graphic novel. It wasn’t quite a five-star for me, but it was very, very close. First off, I adore the illustrations. It may be a turnoff for some people, but I love this art style. It’s so cute and adorable but also mixed with a bit of spooky, so perfect for this time of year. I couldn’t get enough of this world and its characters. The illustrations felt original and unique. It has a soft, subtle pastel color palette to it, which is cute and visually appealing. 

I enjoyed meeting all the witchy, supernatural characters and their pets or familiars. However, there was a lot going on once we met them all and learned about each girl’s problem or issue going on with them. It crams a lot into this short book, and I would’ve loved to just follow one or two characters at a time instead of four, so we could connect with them even more. But the story is fun and whimsical with some great messages. The characters are likable and relatable. I also loved the friendship dynamics and kind of a found family element to it. It felt very warm and cozy while reading it. 

It does end on a somewhat cliffhanger, so there is no resolution, and comes abruptly to a stop. I didn’t care for that. So if you want to find out what happens, then you have to pick up book two. 

It felt like some queer pining between a possible gay couple and possibly some queer coding between some of the main characters, but it’s not spelled out if they are truly gay or not. In some scenes, it feels like it alludes to it, but it could also just be how the characters are in their friendships. It definitely feels like there are some feminist and queer undertones to the story, which I personally don’t care for, and it made me take my rating down a bit. 

But overall, I highly recommend it because it’s very imaginative and entertaining. The artwork is stunning. And the characters are just adorable. It’s a quick, easy read when you want to snuggle under your cozy blanket and read something light and funny. The humor had me laughing out loud throughout the whole story.

Unfamiliar – Book Two by Haley Newsome

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: YA Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: More magical mayhem ensues as Planchette and her new witch friends try to help a ghost bride rest in peace. Join them as they work together to handle a blackmailing Faerie King, a possible new romance, and an overnight camping trip in a profoundly evil forest.

My Review: I absolutely adored the first book, but unfortunately, I didn’t like this second volume as much. The illustrations are still beautiful and gorgeous. I still loved the art style and color palette used. It definitely gave me spooky, ghostly, witchy vibes, which I loved. I really enjoyed the friendships between all the witches. 

However, I felt like the pacing was off for this novel. It felt rushed, and it hopped around a bit much too quickly. It was hard to keep track of all the plotlines. The transitions between the plots barely existed, so it felt disjointed and confusing. It felt like too much was crammed into a short novel so that this duology could feel complete. I did appreciate how everything came together for a satisfying conclusion, but the execution needed a bit more work. It felt a bit chaotic at times, and there was a lot going on. There is also a budding queer romance that I wish stayed on the friendship path and didn’t veer off in that direction, but it is what it is.

After reading the first book, which set the foundation for the four main characters, I feel like a better approach to this series would’ve been for each character to have gotten her own novel. That way we would’ve gotten a chance to go more in-depth with each girl, gotten more backstory, and seen more character development. Then a final installment could’ve brought everyone back together and tied up any loose ends. But it’s still a cute, sweet graphic novel with some good life lessons.

Alcatoe and the Turnip Child by Isaac Lenkiewicz

Format: Paperback
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Welcome to Plum Woods, where spells come alive and witches gather for the Annual Harvest Festival to celebrate the season! Perfect for fans of Aster and the Accidental Magic and Hilda.

Alcatoe the town witch and the local children of Plum Woods are up to some witchy business…like casting spells and growing a prize-winning turnip. But after their grouchy neighbor Mr. Pokeweed chases them out of his garden, the kids decide to take action and ask Alacatoe for help to win the Annual Harvest Festival Vegetable Pageant. From cursed fruit salad to potions filled with the sneeze of a donkey and the tail hair of a copy cat, Alcatoe knows all the right ingredients to make the magic happen.

But when their prize-winning vegetable comes alive, their home-grown food soon becomes a friend, in danger of being prepared for the feast. Will they save Turnip Child in time?

My Review: This is what I wanted Garlic and the Vampire/Witch to be, but it wasn’t. This short book was so much fun, full of mischief and shenanigans in the best ways possible. It was very whimsical, magical, and really cute. It made me laugh out loud, and I just loved how snarky Alcatoe, the witch, is. There is quite a bit of humor in this story that had me grinning the whole time. 

This is labeled as a graphic novel but it reads like a children’s picture book. But I adored the illustrations. They are so much fun, and there are lots of little gems hidden throughout the pages. I think kids would love this book. There are lots of tiny creatures and characters to find and so many details to enjoy. At times, the double pages look like a board game, which was entertaining to look at. I loved the art style and dark, fall colors. The vibes in this book scream fall and Halloween. So it’s a wonderful book to read during this time of year. 

The story had a great flow and was very magical. The kids go on an amusing adventure without any woke messages or too complex of a story, which is a breath of fresh air. It’s a very silly, quirky book, and I enjoyed themes of friendship, chasing your dreams no matter how old you are, standing up for yourself, and not caring what others think. 

It’s a super short, easy read, so perfect for beginner readers. I would definitely read more of this world. I had a really good time with it. Highly recommend!!

Fangs by Sarah Andersen

Format: Hardcover
Genre: Romance Fantasy (Adult)
GR Nominee for Best Graphic Novels & Comics (2020)
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Elsie the vampire is three hundred years old, but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets Jimmy, a charming werewolf with a wry sense of humor and a fondness for running wild during the full moon. Together they enjoy horror films and scary novels, shady strolls, fine dining (though never with garlic), and a genuine fondness for each other’s unusual habits, macabre lifestyles, and monstrous appetites.

My Brief Review: This was a super quick read. I read it in literally 10 minutes while I was waiting for some food to heat up. I loved the soft, velvet-felt-like cover of the hardback and the black sprayed edges of the pages. The gothic art style is not my favorite, but it was still enjoyable to look at. 

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this graphic novel, but what I got was a pleasant surprise. We witness the romance journey of two supernatural creatures that each have their own quirks that the other has to learn about and figure out how to be with the other. It could’ve gone down a cliche route of vampires being superior to werewolves, but it didn’t in this story. We actually get a very relatable relationship. Even though they are monsters, they still have ups and downs in their relationship like normal humans. They are trying to figure out how to make their relationship work even with their supernatural quirks. But they are an adorable couple. 

As someone who has never heard of this author nor her webcomics, it felt disjointed at times and didn’t flow as nicely as I would like a story to flow. After learning that this was a comic strip, it definitely felt like one. It gave me the sense that random comic scenes were thrown together to make a complete book. I think this is why it was sometimes confusing and hard to follow. 

But overall, I really enjoyed it. There are so many funny puns and jokes. It did make me laugh out loud. It’s perfect for a fun, lighthearted, funny read during Halloween/Spooky Season. Definitely recommend!

Misfit Mansion by Kay Davault

Format: Paperback
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Despite her monstrous appearance, Iris has never felt like she belongs in a mansion filled with kelpies and gorgons and unicorns. She longs to find a family. Unfortunately, she and her housemates are trapped in a “foster home for horrors” run by former paranormal investigator Mr. Halloway. So, when a human boy named Mathias breaks the house’s sealing spell, Iris and her companions are set free upon the town of Dead End Springs.

What Iris doesn’t know is that Mathias is also a paranormal hunter (the kind who seeks to capture and destroy the horrors), or that there are other dangers ahead. As Iris searches for a home, she makes human friends, explores a brand-new world…and stumbles upon a dark secret that Halloway has kept locked in the basement of the house. Will this long-slumbering mystery destroy the family Iris so desperately seeks?

My Review: I loved this graphic novel. It was absolutely perfect for the fall season and Halloween. It was extremely seasonal because there was a harvest festival going on and people were dressing up in costumes. It was so much fun, and it also had a lot of heart and good lessons for kids. 

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful! There was a good ratio of images to word bubbles. The colors are bright and vibrant. I loved looking at all the different monsters. It’s very creative and whimsical. 

There is quite a bit of depth to this story. I liked the messages about accepting and belonging, and not judging someone by their outer appearance. It’s also a story about forgiveness and second chances, as well as showing bravery and courage. I also loved the found family element with all of the horrors. There are some really good messages about friendships and loving yourself for who you are. 

I also appreciated how the ending was pretty epic, and it didn’t shy away from danger and risk. So many graphic novel endings are anti-climatic, and this one is not. There is a build-up, then an intense sequence, and then the resolution. It was very satisfying.

I really enjoyed all of the characters and would love to see another graphic novel in this world. This is one of the best graphic novels that I’ve ever read. Highly recommend!!

NetGalley Graphic Novels

Birtle and the Purple Turtles by Tara J. Hannon

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 4
Publication Date: January 9, 2024
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: Everyone is a turtle in Turtletown. So Teeny thinks she must be a turtle, too. But when Teeny sprouts feathers, she begins to wonder… is there a teeny possibility she’s a… BIRTLE? 

Tootie loves tag, but the other turtles in Turtletown don’t like to play. That is, until Tootie meets Teeny. Teeny LOVES tag. They have tons in common! Except one BIG thing . . . Teeny may not be a turtle at all.

My Review: This is a very sweet, charming, and wholesome graphic novel about friendship, acceptance, and belonging. A turtle and a bird become fast friends but begin to see differences between each other. They are both very accepting of each other, which creates a stronger bond between the two of them. It has great messaging without being preachy. It shows how to accept differences in a kind, compassionate way. There is also quite a bit of humor throughout the story. I found myself laughing out loud a few times because of their silly thoughts and conclusions about things. 

The illustrations are beautiful and adorable. If you like the color purple, which I do (it’s my favorite color), then you’ll love this art style. It’s also a very easy, quick read. I read it in about 10 minutes, so if you need a palette cleanser that won’t take too much time, this is a great one to pick up. 

I also think kids would really enjoy this graphic novel. It would be perfect for classrooms or libraries, or for parents to read at bedtime. Definitely recommend!

The Mist-Walker – Volume 1 – The Breath of Things by Stéphane Fert

Genre: Adult Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: One day, everything was lost in the mist. No, not those little morning wisps or the thin type that follows rain. The really dense stuff. A pea-souper, a dark fog, thick and black like atomized ink. A mist that engulfs everything. But the mist also left something a mutant, an ogress—or perhaps just a little girl that a grouchy old witch would decide to call Temperance and who would be brought up in a quiet village by a group of contented old women. Then one day, the mist returns. It wants her back. Now it’s time for the witches to dust off their charms and try to remember their old incantations and kung fu techniques as they set out on a great adventure that will determine young Temperance’s destiny.

My Review: First off, this is NOT a kids’ book, which I thought it was, so I was surprised to see such a mature subject matter. It includes foul language, nudity, and adult content. After getting over my initial shock, it was an interesting story but not my favorite graphic novel that I’ve ever read. 

The illustrations are beautiful. I really enjoyed this art style and color palette. It helped to tell the story in a fun, unique way. The scenes in the forest were gorgeous! 

Overall, it’s an interesting post-apocalyptic story about witches, a half-ogre, and creatures of the dark, or in this case, in the mist. But I felt like there was a lot going on, and at times, it felt a bit muddled and confusing. There wasn’t much cohesiveness throughout the whole novel. There were a lot of characters in this story, and unfortunately, we didn’t get too in-depth with character development or backstories, so it was hard for me to connect with any of them. I didn’t feel like I was fully invested in any character, so I did start to lose interest in the story. 

Also, why do men who write about female ogres usually make them lesbians? (Legends & Lattes also did this.) I feel like making female ogres (and in this case, also witches) gay is cliche and stereotypical, which is just plain boring and tiresome. It feels like lazy writing to me. 

While I enjoyed the camaraderie and found family element of the witch coven (and there was quite a bit of humor), they bickered A LOT. It felt like they were arguing more often than not, which I didn’t care for, and it started to annoy me. However, when it mattered, they were there for each other and helped one another. I also enjoyed watching Temperance, the half-ogre, come into her power and realize her strengths. We see the most character development with her, but I wanted a lot more so that I could care more. But this is very witchy and perfect for Halloween/Spooky Season. 

The story felt a bit rushed, especially toward the end. There is a cliffhanger ending and many open questions, which I don’t like because now I feel obligated to pick up the next volume to see what happens. I’m not sure if I care enough to move on to book two at this moment. Maybe… but it was all just okay for me. The artwork was the best part of this novel.

NetGalley Novels

A Mermaid Tale of the Lost Empire by Lily D.

Genre: YA Christian Romance Fantasy
My GR Rating: 4 (3.5)

GR Description: An enemies-to-lovers romance amid impending doom intertwines the destinies of a mermaid princess and a brooding warrior, unraveling a legendary empire and igniting heart-rending consequences.

The cold underwater palace has never truly felt like home for Aria, the crown princess of the merfolk. Craving freedom from her golden cage, she defies her father’s rules and embarks on a perilous journey beyond the forbidden city limits.

There, she discovers a long-forgotten map leading to the place of her dreams: the ancient human empire brimming with unthinkable power and forged by a fearless warrior society. Atlantea. But her plans to explore Atlantea are met with fierce resistance when her father assigns a mysterious and brooding warrior as her protector.

As unforeseen challenges arise, Aria’s determination intensifies, driving her toward a series of choices that will prove to be both transformative and costly. Against all odds, Aria manages to find the idyllic island of Atlantea, where she crosses paths with a roguishly alluring human prince and saves him from a sure death.

As Aria embarks on an extraordinary journey of love and self-discovery and gets swept away, she’ll soon realize that not everything is as it seems in this captivating paradise.

Some choices come at a dear cost that she may not be prepared to pay. “A Mermaid Tale of the Lost Empire” is a fascinating YA Christian fantasy series that will transport readers into a world where love triumphs against all odds.

My Brief Review: I chose to read this ARC because I had read some wonderful Christian historical romance books and really enjoyed them. So I wanted to check out a Christian romance fantasy book. I also really enjoy fairytale retellings, and this is a Little Mermaid retelling that also incorporates Atlantis. 

I really had mixed emotions with this novel. On the one hand, I really liked the story, characters, and romance, but on the other, it had a lot of technical writing problems. 

Overall, the story concept was rather intriguing. I loved the twists of The Little Mermaid in this retelling. I also loved the general messages in this book. It’s pretty based, so if you don’t lean conservative in some of your viewpoints, then you probably won’t like it. But I really appreciated it since it aligns with my personal view on things.

It also is pretty strong on the faith element, which I enjoyed. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but I am spiritual and enjoy the faith undertones here and there because I agree with the messages portrayed. If you don’t align with many Christian viewpoints, you may find this book a bit preachy, but since I do, I liked it and didn’t find it preachy at all. But I could see how others would. I’m not familiar with the bible, but I feel like there were references to it, but it was lost on me.  

The romance is pure and sweet. It is a clean romance – no spice and just a couple of kissing scenes. I prefer clean romance, so I was happy with the love story aspects of it. I really enjoyed the banter and chemistry between Aria and Bastian. There is also very mild language, which I appreciated. If you enjoy these romance tropes, then you’ll like this one: enemies to lovers, grumpy/sunshine, bodyguard romance, slow burn romance, and a love triangle.

The world-building was done pretty well with rich descriptions, but I would’ve liked to have gone deeper. I wanted a lot more details and really wanted to be immersed in this world. I wanted to know more about the Merworld as well as Atlantea. I felt like we just skimmed the surface of both, and I wanted more information. We also didn’t get much backstory about the prophesies they spoke about, or the history of Aria’s mother, her father, and just how her parents came together. I would’ve loved more of their backstory. 

For the most part, I liked Aria as our main protagonist. She really reminded me of Ariel. She is young, naive, and adventurous. But of course, she’s also strong-willed, stubborn, reckless, and selfish. She is only concerned for her own well-being at the start, and she just wants her freedom. She feels trapped in the underwater palace and in her role as a princess, heir to the throne. She also feels like a prisoner by her father, and she just wants to live her life on her own terms. She wants to make choices for herself and make her own way in life. So she becomes extremely rebellious, sneaking out of the palace all the time, lying, and making poor choices. In the beginning, she doesn’t think about her actions and how they affect others. But we do see a nice redemption arc and character development as we move through the story. By the end, she has seen “the error of her ways.” We see her grow and mature more and think about her choices and how they affect others, especially her loved ones.

I really liked Bastian, one of Aria’s love interests, and her personal bodyguard. He seemed like the ideal man and always gave her a lot of wisdom. He was honorable, intelligent, clever, and kind. He was always there for her and kept forgiving Aria when she would lie and betray him. He reminded me of Michael in Francine River’s Redeeming Love. Bastian was extremely loyal to Aria and her father. We see how he is always there for Aria, even when she’s being a brat and constantly making poor decisions. He’s very patient with her and does everything he can to protect her.

However, there were a lot of plot holes, some scenes didn’t make sense, some time jumps were confusing, some transitions between scenes were poorly written, some dialogue was poorly written, and some reactions to things that were happening didn’t make sense to me. Again, I loved the concept of this story, but it was underdeveloped and needed more polishing and refinement. The beginning was intriguing, but then it really slowed down in the middle, and then in the last quarter of the story, it picked up again. I wish it was more consistent in the storytelling throughout the entire novel. 

I also wished there was more action. There were many scenes where not much was happening. I also wanted to see more of the Merworld and Atlantis. I wish more action scenes happened in the cities. I also wanted to see more magic and creatures or monsters. It did feel like a fantasy novel, but it really lacked some typical fantasy elements that I like to see in these types of stories. Also, the ending was decent, but it was still a bit lackluster and anticlimactic for me. I wish it was bigger, more suspenseful, and had more action. But it was a satisfying ending. 

With all the faults it had though, I really enjoyed the story, the characters, and the romance and chemistry between the two main protagonists. If this is the start of a series, I would absolutely continue and pick up book two. I’d love to see where the story goes next, and hopefully, with more time and experience, the technical writing problems will improve and become more polished. If you enjoy Christian romance fantasy stories and fairytale retellings, I would recommend this book.

The Night House by Jo Nesbo

Genre: Horror | Mystery & Thriller
My GR Rating: 3 (3.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: In the wake of his parents’ tragic deaths in a house fire, fourteen-year-old Richard Elauved has been sent to live with his aunt and uncle in the remote, insular town of Ballantyne. Richard quickly earns a reputation as an outcast, and when a classmate named Tom goes missing, everyone suspects the new, angry boy is responsible for his disappearance. No one believes him when he says the telephone booth out by the edge of the woods sucked Tom into the receiver like something out of a horror movie. No one, that is, except Karen, a beguiling fellow outsider who encourages Richard to pursue clues the police refuse to investigate. He traces the number that Tom prank called from the phone booth to an abandoned house in the Black Mirror Wood. There he catches a glimpse of a terrifying face in the window. And then the voices begin to whisper in his ear . . .

You know who I am. She’s going to burn. The one you love is going to burn. There’s not a thing you can do about it.

When another classmate disappears, Richard must find a way to prove his innocence–and preserve his sanity–as he grapples with the dark magic that is possessing Ballantyne and pursuing his destruction.

Then again, Richard may not be the most reliable narrator of his own story . . .

My Brief Review: This was the first book I’ve read by this author. I absolutely loved the cover art; it’s really what sold me on reading this story. The writing is top-notch, immersive, and descriptive. He did a great job of bringing me into this world and meeting the characters. 

There are three parts to this story, and each part feels like its own short story. They all do weave together, and things make sense by the time we get to the end, but while reading each part, it did feel a bit disjointed and clunky. They didn’t seamlessly flow together, which took me out of the story as I had to acclimate to each section because they were jarringly different. 

With the first part, it felt like a middle grade R.L. Stine horror story, which I enjoyed. I grew up reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike back in the late 80s and early 90s, and the first part of the story felt really nostalgic. However, I thought the horror scenes would keep building on top of each other and continuously get more gruesome or scarier, but unfortunately, they didn’t, which was disappointing. I wanted a lot more horror than what we got. But, it did keep my interest because I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next and get explanations of all the strange things going on. 

But then, once I got to the second part of the book, it really started to go downhill for me. It felt flat and began to lose my interest. There are scenes toward the end of part two that felt like a fever dream where I was just confused and ready for the book to be over. But I still wanted to know what was truly going on and get the explanations that I had been wanting since the beginning. 

Then I got to the final part of the story where everything was brought together and explained. It wasn’t what I was expecting and was a bit of a letdown. It reminded me of a few movies I’ve seen with similar plots, but I can’t give titles or it would ruin this book. It did have an uplifting, satisfying ending, but I wish the road to get there was a bit bumpier, scarier, and more thrilling. I wish we got more horror than mystery.

Overall, it was a decent story. It turned out to be more psychological than horror. I am interested in reading more from this author, but I don’t know if I would recommend this book to everyone, maybe to some people.


Well, there you have it, the rest of the books and graphic novels that I read in October. Again, it was a jammed-packed month with 35 books read. 

I’m way, way over my GoodReads Reading Challenge goal at this point. When I first joined the online book community and learned about the reading challenge, I had no clue how many books I could read this year. I randomly guessed 50. Well, I met that goal in August. So now, I’m around 130 books read… and the year’s not over yet! So I’ll see where I land at the end of December.

Until next time, my story lovers, happy reading!

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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