So I’ve been seeing lately that some bloggers have been giving some great advice in “how to blog” and “Growing Your Blog” type things. It was very inspiring to help me do a few changes to my blog. I’m proud of what changes I’ve made so far and want to thank everyone for answering questions, advice and all overall  awesomeness. I’ve loved this community so much and I’m sure not going anywhere. There will also be a new graphic for my star rating and every review has been updated to accommodate that graphic. I will also have a content section of the review. To be honest, I don’t like reading/watching certain things. I want to add a small content section for those who are looking for something for their sibling, friend, kid, grand kid, etc. that’s age appropriate for them. Hopefully it will help others. If you’re not worried about content in books, you can skip reading that section if you want.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Picture pulled from Goodreads

Genre: YA Magical Realism

Release Date: April 12, 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers

Format: Library Kindle Book








Goodreads Synopsis: Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

This is a partial synopsis, since I think that it’s better going into this novel more blind. I had heard about this on Super Space Chick’s channel last year when it came out. The premise intrigued me, and while on a random look on my library Over Drive, I picked it up and had to finish it before it expired. But what shocks me is that this book only has a 3.2 rating on Goodreads! I don’t understand the negative reviews on this book. Needless to say, this was so enchanting, mysterious and such a refreshing read.

Five Reasons to Read

  1. Rich Setting: This book is set in Puerto Rico, where Lucas’s father builds his hotels on the island. I thought that the culture, folklore and overall atmosphere of Puerto Rico is enchanting, magical and rich. While I’ve never been to the island, I loved hearing about the produce stands in the markets, hurricane weather, beaches, narrow roads and the tightly knit community of the people. Here’s an example of Mabry describing aspects of Puerto Rico:

“Puerto Rico is shaped like a finger on a left hand, held to the side, and cut off at the knuckle joint. San Juan is on the northern edge, near what would be the nail bed. Rincón is on the shorter western edge, where the digit would’ve been severed.” (211)

“Despite its lurking mystery, the countryside was stunning. Outside the city, Puerto Rico was practically prehistoric. Everything was green and wide and very tall. On the side of the road, multicolored birds perched on fallen trees, and if I listened hard enough I could hear the tiny tree frogs croaking out a sound that was impossibly loud for creatures their size. Aside from the paved road and the occasional food stand or road sign, everything appeared untouched by human hands.” (pg. 211-212)

 2. Great Character Arc: Lucas is a Caucasian boy who visits Puerto Rico every summer. People look down on him and are suspicious of him; they don’t like that he’s rich and that his dad is just a money hungry businessman. He knows that people don’t like him and that he doesn’t like being the “rich white kid.” He’s human with making mistakes, not making the right decisions and no relationship with his dad. But he was a fantastic character. It’s very hard for a person of one gender to give an authentic character of the other gender. Mabry hits her debut out of the park! As the story moves forward, you learn a bit about Lucas as he gets involved a mystery happening on the island. He starts to become brave, loyal and determined to see his goals till the end. It’s also rare these days to see a YA novel having a male perspective and it was so refreshing.

3. Plot: Like I mentioned, it’s best going into this book pretty blind. Go with the partial synopsis I gave and you’ll have a few surprises along the way. But I will say that this book was inspired  by Hawthorne’s 1844 story “Rappaccinni’s Daugther.” The plot of that short story is the magical realism element in this book and it’s so cool! The pacing is slow for most people that have read this and I can agree on a small part. Sure, there’s a few scenes were not a lot happens. But the pacing was also realistic as well; you’re going along with Lucas as he tries to figure out if the rumors are true about a girl on the island and the other plot point that takes place. It does also have a slightly open ending, but this wasn’t predictable for me! The ending was, for once in a YA novel, realistic. Everyone is affected by what happens and it shows. Mabry gave us a story that’s not happy and has feelings of dread, sadness, shock and uncertainty.

4. Beautiful Writing: For me as an English major, I’m always looking for a writing style that’s immersive, atmospheric and an original voice of that author.  Samantha Mabry’s writing is simply masterful for a debut novel. She captures the fever dream sequences with precision and the nature of Puerto Rico like a painter does a portrait. Here’s a few examples of her writing style:

“How strong was the fabric of a story? If it was well made, it was stronger than a human body. It could hold up for years and years, never fraying, never growing stiff. To me, stories were stronger than the truth. Maybe this is what had led to my belief in heroes-that I could be this hero-and in worthy, but imperfect villains.” (pg. 233-234)

“Isabel was scowling, her bony shoulders hitched up by her ears. Her rickety frame looked like it held a world of damage and pain, like it had been patched up and reglued countless times.” (pg. 191)

“Despite its lurking mystery, the countryside was stunning. Outside the city, Puerto Rico was practically prehistoric. Everything was green and wide and very tall. On the side of the road, multicolored birds perched on fallen trees, and if I listened hard enough I could hear the tiny tree frogs croaking out a sound that was impossibly loud for creatures their size. Aside from the paved road and the occasional food stand or road sign, everything appeared untouched by human hands.” (pg. 211-212)

5. Emotions: This gave me a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. A skillfully crafted story needs to give you a few things in order to be successful: complete plot, atmosphere, character growth and feeling the emotions come off the page. The biggest emotions I felt were: isolation, uncertainty, dread and hope. Isabel dreads the isolation and what’s been done to her, but she will sacrifice what she needs to for others. Lucas wants to stay on the island, away from the world. But he feels guilty for his dad’s behavior, the sense of failing with the major plot point and struggling to find answers overall. The characters to me all felt like real people, which a novel should give you. People are suspicious of others, scared when something terrible happens, dread a big decision their lives, etc. If you want a book that will help you feel exactly what the character does, this is a great character driven novel.

Content: I would recommend this book for older teens, due to situations of underage drinking, groping and being hammered. There’s some profanity, but it does reflect the culture of the community. There’s a couple very brief images of violence, but nothing explicit or disturbing. Age: 15 and up.

Overall: I loved this book. I did take quarter a star off because I did want more about poisonous plants; there were only a two major plants mentioned in the book and I wanted a couple more. I took another quarter star off because I didn’t have a complete connection to this book like I did for books like An Ember in the Ashes or Hunted. But you’ll love if this book if you’re looking for:

  • Book with minimal romance
  • Set in another country
  • Male perspective
  • Another debut novel to read
  • Quick read
  • More magical realism
  • A book with a bit of weirdness attached to it, like Neil Gaiman’s work

 1/2 stars


Mini Review: Strange Alchemy by Gwenda Bond

Picture pulled from Goodreads

Genre: YA Mystery

Release Date: August 1, 2017 by Switch Press

Format: ARC PDF






*I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No quotes will be used due to the request of the publisher. All thoughts are my own.*

Goodreads Synopsis: Gwenda Bond’s first book Blackwood has been reimagined and brought back to life with new vision. On Roanoke Island, the legend of the Lost Colony—and the 114 colonists who vanished without a trace more than four hundred years ago—still haunts the town. But that’s just a story told for the tourists.

When 114 people suddenly disappear from the island in present day, it seems history is repeating itself—and an unlikely pair of seventeen-year-olds might be the only hope of bringing the missing back. Miranda Blackwood, a member of one of island’s most infamous families, and Grant Rawling, the sheriff’s son, who has demons and secrets of his own, find themselves at the center of the mystery. As the unlikely pair works to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony, they must dodge everyone from the authorities to long-dead alchemists as they race against time to save their family and friends before they too are gone for good.


  • Writing Style: This book is actually the author’s debut novel, but has been revisited and edited. But I don’t believe it. The language is unpolished and sounds very immature, even for a YA novel. The terms that author uses shocked me. One common term that the female character used is a poor excuse for a swear word (“frak”, “frakking”) isn’t in the dictionary. The other word I found earlier in the novel may be in the dictionary, (“galumph”) but it was invented by Lewis Carroll so I don’t think it counts. These teenagers don’t sound like current teens right now; the writing feels very outdated. Teens aren’t talking about social media and trending topics.
  • Inconsistencies: There’s been a few times where I re-read a passage for a whole page and just scratch my head. The inconsistencies I’ve seen in this book are ones that should be approached and revised. For example, a character’s name is Dr. Whitson. The main characters go to his house to talk to him and the whole time they’re having the conversation, the author is labeling him as “Roswell” or “Dr. Roswell”….which isn’t his name. Another example is that the male character Grant can hear the spirits of the island. But we never get any experience of him hearing anything in his POV chapters. No whispers, warnings or him actually seeing a spirit. His ability is mentioned quite a few times, but we are never shown that.