Review: Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Alexis:

Welcome to my last review of the year! As awful as this year has been, I managed to have a great reading year, and read a total of 51 books.

Nina Lacour’s writing is lovely. It flows well and holds so much emotion.

Watch Over Me follows Mila, a young woman who aged out of the foster care system and finds herself taking a teaching job on a remote farm.

Lacour handles the themes of this book—loneliness, past trauma, wanting to belong—with care. The flashback scenes were well done, and I enjoyed the gothic-like setting and the blurring of genres/reality with the inclusion of ghosts.

However, I never found myself fully invested in the characters. I felt bad for them, and all the trauma they’ve been through, but I felt like the secondary characters weren’t fully fleshed out, and despite knowing about Mila’s past, I never fully understood her character, either.

That being said, if you’re looking for a slow-burn, lyrical, and atmospheric book that focuses on grief, trauma, and loneliness (with a dash of magical realism) then give this a shot!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5/5

Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Alexis:

Cemetery Boys follows Yadriel, a trans teenager trying to gain acceptance from his family. His family are brujos, a group of magical Latinos who can summon ghosts and help them pass on to the afterlife. When Yadriel’s cousin, Miguel, dies, Yadriel tries to prove he’s a real brujo by summoning his ghost, but he accidentally summons Julian, a fellow schoolmate, instead.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters and dialogue are Thomas’ greatest writing strength. I loved getting to know Yadriel and his family, and the energetic characters of Maritza (Yadriel’s cousin) and Julian were so much fun to read. It’s hard to find stories with fully fleshed out characters, but I loved Cemetery Boys’ main characters.

The overall story gives me Coco and Gods of Jade and Shadow vibes. I enjoyed reading about the history, magic, and culture of the brujos, as well as the Día de Muertos. The themes of family, acceptance, and love shine on the page.

That being said, the pacing was a little slow, and the climax felt rushed in comparison; most of the plot was thrown into the last couple of chapters, and the action scenes aren’t quite punchy enough. Since I prefer character-driven stories, this didn’t affect my overall rating. However, it’s something to keep in mind if you prefer plot-driven stories over slow-burn and character-driven stories.

It’s also worth noting that while Maritza plays an important role in the book, the women are literally told in the beginning to stay home and cook. Yadriel makes it clear that he does not approve of this; however, the healing and cooking role of the women characters does not change throughout the book. So while the story focuses on breaking gender roles/stereotypes, I found it a little odd that Yadriel breaks stereotypes, but Maritza and the other women are still forced to be stuck in their traditional roles.

But bottom line, this was a fun, lively, and heartwarming read. If you’re looking for snarky characters, trans and LGBTQ representation, with a heavy dash of magic and ghosts, then I recommend picking this up!

VERDICT: 👻👻👻👻.5

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Alexis:

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. I’m currently on an extended Spring Break, and my classes have all been moved online for the rest of the semester. While I’m bummed about that, it means I have more time to read and post on here. Without further ado, let’s start the review!

A dark, gothic fairytale retelling? Very up my alley!

Annaleigh lives in Highmoor, a manor on an island by the sea where the people worship a sea god. She used to be one of twelve sisters, but four of her sisters have died tragic deaths. When Annaleigh’s younger sister begins seeing ghosts, she believes that her last sister to die was actually murdered. In between dancing in myserious balls with her sisters, Annaleigh works to uncover the dark truth.

I really enjoyed this book! I it had a lot of twists and turns, and while I guessed two of the major plot points, the rest, particularly at the end, were great and surprising.

I loved the cast of sisters. They felt very Jane Austen to me, especially when they prepared to go to the balls. Craig’s descriptions of Highmoor and the world around them brought this fantasy world to life. I loved the octopus imagery and the descriptions of the sea. While most of this book was dark and gothic, there were fun ball and festival scenes in between. I also enjoyed learning about the gods and mythology of this world.

I should’ve known from the book’s description, but this book is full of (in-depth) murder and death. So if you’re not into any type of horror, then this isn’t for you.

My only critiques are that the romance was a little too underdeveloped and cheesy for my taste, and the dialogue in certain scenes felt a little flat. But if you’re looking for a fun fairytale read that doubles as a horror/murder mystery book, then pick this up! Its beautiful cover is never leaving my bookshelf.

VERDICT: 📚 📚 📚 📚 /5

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 

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