The Cousins by Karen M. McManus – A Review #TheWriteReads #UltimateBlogTour

Hi! It’s my stop on TheWriteReads tour for The Cousins by Karen M. McManus (as you can tell by the title)! This one releases in December, so keep an eye out for it – it’s a fun one!

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
  • Publication date: December 1st 2020
  • Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
  • Genre: Mystery

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Thank you to the publisher and Dave at TheWriteReads for a free e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Karen M. McManus book surprises me, and I think by now I should know and expect to enjoy them. I liked and flew through her other books, and The Cousins was no different.

The story follows 3 estranged cousins: Milly, Aubrey and Jonah, who are invited to spend a summer at their grandmother’s resort. The catch is, she disowned her own children 24 years ago and has not kept in contact with either of them since. So, why is she reaching out now?

I was pretty hooked on the premise from the get go. I really enjoy family mysteries, the more twisted ones, the better, so I was looking forward to reading it – although I kept my expectations low, because YA mysteries tend to be too predictable for me. The story really took off from the first few chapters (as it’s told from alternating POVs of the 3 cousins), though it didn’t capture me fully until the halfway point.
I enjoyed all three of the cousins’ perspectives and how different they and their circumstances were. Once the flashbacks were introduced, I started caring a lot more about the past events, though, and I wish the story focused more on the Story children, and not the grandkids. Truth be told, the mystery worked either way.

I think Karen M. McManus is really good at pacing her stories and giving the readers just enough info to keep them interested and engaged. Like with her other books, I didn’t once get bored and want to put the book down to take a break. I had fun reading it start to finish, although it wasn’t perfect by any means.

I could’ve done without the romance, but I say it every time. I know parts of it put things in motion when it comes to plot, but I think I’d enjoy it more if literally anything else happened.
Although I didn’t fully figure out where the story was going, I had a pretty good inkling how it’ll end, and the finale didn’t surprise me. It’s not always detrimental for me to be shocked by the reveal to enjoy a story, as long as the rest of the book makes up for it, and I’ll happily admit it did. I think as far as YA mysteries go, this one turned out pretty impressive.

Next time Karen M. McManus comes out with another book, I’ll try not to doubt her. She’s proven to write continuously fun and engaging stories.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

Make sure to follow TheWriteReads on Twitter and check out all the fantastic reviews from other bloggers, as this tour is a huge one.

Thank you for reading!

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall – A Review

Hi! It’s time for another The Write Reads tour review. Dave has been spoiling us with great books lately and this one was no different. Let’s just get into it.

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall
  • Publication date: June 18th 2019
  • Publisher: Capital Station Books
  • Genre: Fantasy

Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

I think the whole gang reached a consensus with this book – we all seemed to really enjoy it and it’s a rare sight. I haven’t heard of this series until Dave announced the tour and as a fantasy reader, I’m surprised why more people don’t talk about it, because it ticks all the boxes.

It took me no time to get into the story. Knightmare Arcanist doesn’t waste any time to introduce you to the world and plot – it throws you right in. Volke is hell bent on becoming an arcanist and making a name for himself. It’s not easy growing up on an island where your heritage is everything, and coming from a family of thieves and murderers. Being apprenticed by the gravedigger he’s not allowed to compete in order to bond with a phoenix, but he finds a way to bond with a mythical creature and becoming an arcanist anyway.

I really liked Volke as a main character. He was an interesting protagonist and narrator, and I really liked his determination. Actually, thinking about it, I didn’t hate any of the characters. Granted, I didn’t think all of them were fleshed out to the point I’d like them to be, but they were fun to follow, especially for the purpose of seeing different mythical creatures and the magic they could perform with them.

I think Knightmare Arcanist fits the younger end of YA and in many of those cases the author struggles to find the tone for the story, or takes heavy inspiration from other books. Stovall managed to make this one stand out in a line up. I found the story to be fast paced and engaging and the world rich and developed, without info dumpy paragraphs. It was a fresh story and it’s what made it so enjoyable for me. It’s not the shortest, yet if not this dreadful reading slump, I’d see myself reading it all in one sitting and that says something.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed thoroughly was Stovall’s writing. She managed to paint the world clearly with her words without using language that’s too flowery – seeing as the story is told from Volke’s point of view. I love a healthy balance between descriptive writing full of imagery and Tolkien’s 3 page long descriptions of grass, and I think Stovall managed it very well.

I am looking forward to continuing with the series as it pleasantly surprised me. If you like magical fantasies and mythical creatures, you should definitely give it a go.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you all for reading. Make sure to check out the hashtags and follow @ TheWriteReads on Twitter to find all the other fantastic reviewers taking part in this tour. I’ll talk to you all soon!

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – A Review #UltimateBlogTour

Hi! It’s my stop today, on the #UltimateBlogTour for The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen. I’m very excited to post, as it’s my first tour ever! So, let’s go!

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen
  • Publication date: 2005
  • Publisher: Host og Son
  • Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fantasy

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

I have received an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Devil’s Apprentice was such a fun and fast paced book. I didn’t know what to expect, going into it. It sounded interesting, but also not entirely in my comfort zone. I was wrong – it’s exactly the book I would read!
I’m going to start with saying that, while marketed as a YA fantasy, I would definitely categorise it as a Middle Grade novel. The narration style, as well as a lot of themes in this book fit a MG much more than a YA book.

One of the strongest points of this novel was the world building. As you can guess from the title, most of the book takes place in Hell. The setting of Hell was vivid and very well developed. I am not a religious person myself, but I’m familiar with the bible and biblical stories, and I think weaving those through the story and adding a different spin or dimension to things and people so widely known was a great idea. It added a lot of depth to the story.

I really liked the main character, Philip. As MG protagonists go, he wasn’t the most fleshed out character out there, but he was likeable and believable. Sure, he made stupid decisions, but they were necessary to the plot and also… he’s 13 years old. I’m twice his age and let’s not get into my decision making abilities… The whole cast of characters was “good” (or as good as devils and other Hell creatures can be) – I didn’t dislike any of them, which really made for an enjoyable read. My favourite was definitely Lucifer.

The plot of the book was quite predictable, though by no means boring. I enjoyed myself from the beginning till the end. I really liked the take on this story – though morality is explored a lot in various books, I haven’t read anything with a similar setting and plot. Philip’s adventure was engaging and fun. There wasn’t anything profound about it, but it did it’s job – to entertain.

All in all, I’m happy I got a chance to read this book as it’s not something I would’ve picked up on my own. It’s a solid adventure story, which is a bit darker than most MG/young YA, and which explores interesting topics of morality and what it means to be good or bad. I would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you might be interested in yourself.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Follow the #UltimateBlogTour #DevilsApprentice and #TheWriteReads hashtags to find more reviews for the book (we’re all very active on Twitter).

I’ll talk to you soon!