Review: Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

Alexis' arm, in a corduroy jacket, holds a copy of Forestborn on top of a fence, with a view of woods behind it.


5-star review!

Forestborn follows Rora, a shifter. Though feared by humans, she and her younger brother, Helos, live under the protection of King Gerar, as Rora spies for him. But when Prince Finley, Rora’s best friend, falls ill with a spreading magical illness, she’s tasked by the king to find the cure. Together with Prince Weslyn, Finley’s older brother, and Helos, Rora treks through dangerous woods in search of stardust. 

I loved this book! Rora is an amazing main character; sometimes protagonists can feel a little one-dimensional, but Rora is anything but. I loved her backstory, motivations, and character arc. Helon and Weslyn are also great, well-rounded characters, and I loved the dynamic between the three of them.

Becker’s writing is lovely, and I loved how the setting, despite being magical, feels grounded. I loved the quest plotline, the subplots, and the magic system. Not only was the pacing great throughout the entire story, but the ending set up a lot for the sequel, which I can’t wait to read!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis


I absolutely loved parts of this book, but other parts bored me.

The first fifty pages didn’t rope me in, but once Essie leaves the cold planet of Thanda, the story becomes much more interesting.

Essie’s character is by far the most interesting part of the story. She’s a strong but well-rounded character, and it’s rare to find a heroine who loves math, coding, puzzles, and mechanical engineering, not to mention cage fighting, in a book. Once we begin to know her character better, her motivations are clear, and her past is interesting. And I absolutely loved her misfit drones, especially Dimwit, a shining character on the page (despite being a drone!). 

I enjoyed how this was a retelling of Snow White. It was fun piecing together all of the sci-fi versions of the fairytale, but the fairytale pieces didn’t distract from the story, only added interesting twists. 

However, I wish the worldbuilding and imagery were more drawn-out. I initially liked Dane’s character, but it was like I could only glimpse him on the page. Even though he was basically in every scene, he started to feel like a background character.  Lewis did a great job describing Essie’s “stitching,” or coding, but when it came to images of the characters or the world, sometimes it fell flat.

That being said, I still enjoyed it overall! 

VERDICT: 🍎🍎🍎.5/5

TW: Kidnapping, child abuse, rape, murder/death, war

Review: Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

Cookbook surrounded by cooking materials

VERDICT: 4 stars

Anna: This book will truly change how you cook! 

Salt Fat Acid Heat is a cookbook that is meant to be read. It first teaches you the science behind the four basic elements of cooking- salt, fast, acid, heat. There are then recipes in the back to put your skills to practice.

This book teaches you how to season from within with salt, how to properly use fat as a cooking medium or as a seasoning, how to balance meals with acid, and, finally, how to transform food with heat. 

My husband and I both love to cook, and we read this back to back, cover to cover. Samin inspired us to make immediate changes to our kitchen by investing in some new staples, reorganizing, and immediately putting her recipes and tips to the test.

Some tips of hers that I’ve been putting into practice are: to salt ahead of time and for as long as possible, to let meat come to room temperature before cooking, and to always heat my pan before adding anything. I’ve always been a fan of roasting veggies, but her simple tip of briefly boiling vegetables instead has been revolutionary!

My only complaint with this cookbook is that it is very meat-heavy. There are dozens of chicken recipes, specifically, which seems to be a favorite of Samin’s. To each his or her own, but as someone who favors vegetarianism, I’m a little disappointed with the overwhelming emphasis on meat.

Even so, I highly recommend you pick this up if you want to spice up your cooking!

Review: The Overstory by Richard Powers

book: the overstory

Anna: Verdict: 3.5/5 books

The Overstory follows the lives of several characters who eventually come together. I found myself wondering how in the world these characters and their stories would connect, which is what motivated me to keep reading. There’s one thing all the characters have in common: their love of trees. 

Perhaps like the growth of trees, this is a dense, slow book that’s overwritten at points. It could have been cut by a good 200 pages or so. There’s a lot going on in a forest, and Powers attempts to comment on all of it. 

The beginning- which reads like short stories- is a study and introduction of each character. I like this part of the book best, because I generally enjoy character studies and not a lot of plot. One of the most impressive parts of this book is that all the characters and their stories do become. 

The way that Powers writes about trees is beautiful. I try not to read a lot of reviews before writing my own, but I did peek at some for The Overstory. One Goodreads reviewer called this “tree porn.” Tree porn this certainly is, and I’m blown away by the understanding and research Powers displays on biology and earth science, tree species, and the complexities of environmental activism. I’ve never thought much about terrorism as activism, which is one of the environmental avenues explored in this book. The question of why plant lives are less important than human lives is one of the most interesting themes here, but there’s so much else going on that I think it gets a little lost.

I also didn’t love the ending. I think Powers killed off characters for the sake of not knowing what else to do. Much like the long stories in the beginning, a drawn out ending followed the interlocking narratives in the middle.

Overall, The Overstory, is a massive, detailed, and flashy experiment on trees. I wanted to spend more time in the activism part of the story, which instead fell short (literally) in comparison to the rest. I’m happy I read this, but truthfully I probably won’t read any Richard Powers again.

Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko


Raybearer is an impressive novel. The worldbuilding, based off of West African folklore, is intricate, and I often had to re-read sections about the world’s history because it was so detailed. But Ifueko went above and beyond when it came to shaping her world, and even if I couldn’t always keep up, it made the world very real.

There’s political intrigue, romance, magical creatures (including fairies), a found-family, and family drama. 

The writing was great, I loved the main characters (and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in the sequel, since this first book was a little more plot/world-driven than character-driven) and I enjoyed being swept into this magical world. 

I only have two small critiques, one being that I didn’t get to know some of the characters well enough, and the pacing was a little slow in the beginning. However, this book reads like an epic, and the beginning starts out when Tarisai is a child, so I guess that is to be expected, and once it picked up its pace, I didn’t care!

Even though I’m not usually as much of a fan of high fantasy as compared to contemporary fantasy, I was pleasantly surprised with the dense, intricate world Ifueko crafted, and the plot unfolded in ways I never would have predicted. I love books that surprise me, and this book surprised me in all the right ways.

I found this to be a unique and engaging read, and if you’re looking for your next well-drawn, diverse YA fantasy, then I recommend it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones


The Bone Houses is a historical fantasy novel, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite subgenres. It’s set in medieval Wales, and follows two main characters: Ryn, a gravedigger, and Ellis, a mapmaker.

Due to remnants of lost magic, the dead are rising in the forest neighboring Ryn’s small village of Colbren. She and Ellis, each for their own reasons, team together on a journey to eradicate the undead, known as bone houses.

I loved every page of this book. It was dark and gritty and full of death, but the characters were a joy to read, and the dialogue was great. I love dark books that take small scenes, small moments, to let the characters relax, enjoy themselves, and crack jokes.

This story is about home, family, and loss. I loved learning the stories and Welsh-inspired folklore of the world. I loved that Ryn’s sister’s pet goat became a main character; I’m a sucker for an animal sidekick!

Lately, it’s been a little rare for me to find two characters that I’ve enjoyed reading about and rooting for, but this book was it. And I haven’t read a lot of books lately with a cringeless romance, either. I appreciated the slow-burn romance in this book, and the fact that the characters actually took the time to become close friends first. It was a subplot, and it didn’t get in the way of the main story. It didn’t feel forced in the least!

And, finally, I loved that this story was well-written. Lloyd-Jones’ prose feels almost effortless to read, while also being lush and evocative.

“She was half a wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel. She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.”

VERDICT: ☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️/5

My Re-Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


I’m loving my re-read of the Harry Potter series! I’d forgotten just how intricate the world is, and it’s been a welcome break from the current 94 degree weather outside. Whew!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains one of my favorite in the series. (I may also be a little biased because it’s my absolute favorite movie adaptation in the series. I still swear that if Alfonso Cuarón had directed all of the movies with John William’s scores, they would’ve all been *chef’s kiss*).

The Golden Trio’s characterization continues to deepen, and we learn more information about Harry’s parents.

Lupin is one of my favorite characters, and I loved being introduced to him. We also get introduced to Sirius and his relationship with Lupin, Wormtail, and Harry. And the way the plot unfurls throughout the book is just perfect.

Harry Potter gif


Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Anna: If you’re looking for a spooky middle-grade read this fall, City of Ghosts is the book for you! Cassidy Blake isn’t a normal girl: after a near-death experience, she can see ghosts and move between the ghost and human world.

I really liked Cassidy as a protagonist, though I did think her relationship with her parents was a little lacking and hope it is developed more in the sequel. Edinburgh is also the perfect ghostly backdrop to this story. Honestly, this would have terrified me as a kid. 

VERDICT: 4 stars 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Harry Potter re-read: The Sorcerer’s Stone!

Anna: I finished my re-read of The Sorcerer’s Stone, rather The Philosopher’s Stone, and it felt so good! I got the 20th anniversary Hufflepuff edition at Blackstone’s when I studied in Oxford. 

This was such a nostalgic read. I’d forgotten the little differences between the book and the movie. There’s something equally heartwarming and heartbreaking about innocent little Harry who is just learning about the Wizarding World, and I loved re-living the beginning of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s friendship. I’m also amazed by the foundation JK builds in this book,  as there is so much foreshadowing to events and characters in the later books. 

On to book two!

click here for more Harry Potter

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Anna: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is the best memoir I’ve read since Educated. If you haven’t read it yet, you should stop everything you’re doing and read it right now.

Jeanette grows up in extreme poverty in Appalachia with an alcoholic father and neglectful mother. Jeanette and her siblings were horribly abused, but the book also details glimpses of beauty and love throughout her life. The book shows how her past and her family continually follow her even when she leaves West Virginia for New York. Most astonishing is Walls’s power of forgiveness. 

I also watched the movie, which I’m happy to report is just as good as the book!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit