Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross

Title: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls25321022
Author: Katie Cross
Pages: 316
Year: 2015
Publisher: Antebellum Publishing
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: Never underestimate the power of a determined witch.

Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.

Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful?

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave. 

I think I would have really liked this book, had I been 10 years younger and had never read or even heard of Harry Potter. It has all the elements of an intriguing fantasy book: witches, magical boarding school, a confident and determined protagonist, a purely evil villain, strong female characters, and an exciting plot. The best part? No love interest! How could I be disappointed? Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gents. We just boarded the critical train.

Bianca Monroe is a fifteen-year-old witch who has just recently enrolled into Miss Mabel’s School for Girls in order to win the competition and become the Assistant to Miss Mabel, so that she can reverse the curse put upon her family and save her own life. Sound vaguely familiar? Bianca has been trained since birth in her magical abilities in order to defeat Miss Mabel, casting spells and hexes beyond the reach of her age. Yet, she’s still completely likable and human. While it was refreshing to have a protagonist that knew what she was doing, it felt too convenient. She already knew everything she needed to know to accomplish her end goal, but simply refused to do it.

The Competition reminded me heavily of the Triwizard Tournament. However, the challenges lacked tension and seemed too easy. There isn’t any suspense because we already know who is going to win. I think the story would have been better if Bianca had lost, and had to try to figure out another way to reach her end goal.

The word progression and overall story line is very well done, and I loved that there weren’t any information dumps. Not everything about Bianca’s motivations, character, or even the witchy world in which our characters reside are given away all at once. Everything is unraveled naturally as the dialogue and action progresses, rather than giving it away in the first few chapters.

This book has the ability to transcend the masses, being clean enough for middle grade readers, but dark and angsty enough for tweens and teens. Being 24, I felt it was a bit too young for me, but I still enjoyed reading it. If I had read this when I was 14, I would have given it at least 4 stars.

P.S. This book was free on Amazon Kindle!

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Title: From Sand and Ash27343696
Author: Amy Harmon
Pages: 386
Year: 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: 5

Goodreads Synopsis: Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

It’s taken me a while to review this book, simply because I am at a loss for words as to how to translate my feelings for this book into a review. Amy Harmon has proved, first in The Bird and the Sword and now in From Sand and Ash, her ability to create a work of art using words alone. I want to read everything this author has ever written, even her shopping lists.

From Sand and Ash is a story of contradictions, contrasting violence with love, fear with bravery, good with evil, and death with life. Amy brings together the best and worst of humanity on these pages, evoking a relentless emotional response that will have you laughing one minute and sobbing the next. The story of Eva Roselli and Angelo Bianco is as enchanting as it is brutal. The love they share, forbidden both by duty and by law, is all consuming despite the horrific circumstances in which this love inhabits. Amy doesn’t disguise the pain and atrocities her characters face, but immerses her readers in a frightening and turbulent time in history. This book serves, not only as a story of survival and love, but as a reminder that we are all the same. No matter where we come from, where we live, who we pray to, or what we believe in, we all seek joy and purpose. This book is a harrowing demonstration of what happens when we stop trying to understand each other, when we take what makes us different and use it as a means to divide, hurt, and demean. This message is hammered in on every page, in every sentence, in every word. When we refuse to learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

As someone who was raised in a Catholic family, I understood Angelo’s devotion to God. However, his self-righteousness and desire for martyrdom were very frustrating. The relationship and tension between Angelo and Eva was all consuming, and it tugged on my heartstrings to see just how much he loved her. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see just how much Angelo worshiped Eva’s mind, body, and soul. Even though he is a priest, you can’t help but root for them no matter how wrong and blasphemous it is in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

In the author’s note, Amy mentions that she researched Judaism and Catholicism, but wasn’t sure if she brought them justice. I can’t speak for Judaism, but I can say that she captured the Catholic religion beautifully.  I think both of these religions have a negative stigma to them, brought about throughout history due to a lack of understanding. Amy Harmon not only understands these religions, but she makes them beautiful. Even if you aren’t religious by any means, I think you can still appreciate the role each religion plays in this book.

My biggest, and only, complaint I had while reading this book was how lucky these characters were, to the point where it was almost unbelievable. There were times when Eva and Angelo should have gotten caught, but didn’t. There were characters that had happy endings that seemed too good to be true, endings that fell too easily into place, or were resolved too quickly. However, none of these things took away from the bigger picture. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and its message is still relevant for us today. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Invasive and in yo’ face

*Disclaimer* This is not a book related post. I know this is a book blog and I need to stay true to my brand but shhh this ain’t yo blog, don’t worry about me. Actually no, please worry about me. Pray for me. #losingit #Aintnothingwrongwithmejustmoderatelyinconveniencedbywildlife

I’m sure everyone has heard about how Pythons run rampant in the Florida Everglades. If not, let me be the first to inform you.

Why… HOW, you ask? Do you really need to ask when there’s probably an entire news sector dedicated to articles titled: “Florida man/woman…” etc? It’s in our nature, a prerequisite for moving here. “Please list all the poorly advised decisions you’ve made in your lifetime…” And then they’ll get back to you in 5-7 business days as to whether or not you’re allowed to join the face-eating cult of Floridians.

Let’s be real though, it’s probably the tourists and non-natives that give us a bad name. Someone buys an exotic pet, it’s cute at first, then it eats the family dog, (or your grandma.) A quick decision is made, target practice or humane release back into the wilderness from whence it came. Well, this wilderness is not the wilderness from whence it came. In the python’s case, this is a great thing because there are so many other reptiles, mammals, and small children to eat with little threat from natural predators. A paradise!

Friends, countrymen, please. If you are going to irresponsibly purchase an exotic pet and then release it – release it to a zoo. At the very least, take it back to its home country so it can be with its people.

In other cases, these animals escape. Which, back in 2016, was the case of the Orlando King Cobra, who escaped from its owner and then wasn’t found for almost a month. Picture this, you’re living in the quiet suburbs of Orlando, FL. You take your perfect, all-american family to Disney every weekend. You own a golden retriever. Life emulates the cover of Good Housekeeping. One day, you’re doing laundry and you hear a hissing noise. A leak? No, a snake. And not just any kind of snake, a King Cobra.

To quote the distinguised and highly-regarded juvenile television program, Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others.”

Yes, you heard that right, children. The owner’s neighbor found a Cobra underneath her washing machine, hissing angrily at her to please, for the love of God, separate the lights from the darks. The Wildlife FBI was contacted, as well as a therapist, who decided that the best course of action was to arrest the snake and release it to the custody of its former owner. Yes, the owner that couldn’t keep it contained to begin with.

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up, which brings me to my next point. There was another invasive species that I have seen with my own eyes in my own backyard, and it was frightening.

What in the damn hell is this?

bw_tegu7.JPG

Someone please collect this strange dog from my neighborhood.

Extensive research, accompanied by occasional shrieking and mild cursing, has told me that this creature is an Argentinian Black and White Tegu. A Tegu, a reptile that is not native to Florida, is a type of monitor lizard. They seek out human affection like dogs and cats, meaning that they are not afraid of humans, but can become aggressive when they do not have human contact for a period of time. They grow up to 4 feet in length, and may kill small cats and dogs.

Clearly, Florida does not have enough overgrown lizards hanging around. Please, come on in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea? Some pythons? A condom?

According to the Florida Department of Wildlife, the Black and White Tegu is not an “established” species as of yet, so they can still be stopped. Wildlife vigilantes, start your engines. (To be clear, I am not calling for the murder of these lovable cold-blooded reptiles, I just want them deported.) I do possess the mental capacity nor the willingness to become Steve Irwin every time I leave my house.

I do hope this has created some awareness. And to those who have released their pets into the wild, please know that I blame you personally for this disruption in my daily routine.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Predictions

Obviously, this post will contain spoilers. So if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones and you plan on watching Game of Thrones, stop reading and start watching.

Game of Thrones Season 7 is premiering this Sunday, and the hype is so real. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, please. Indulge yourself below.

I’m. SO. PUMPED.

Season 6 left our characters in various states of disarray, heck yes, and holy enchilada, Batman. Based on that, and this trailer, here are my season 7 predictions:

  1. Arya takes on the “Lady Stoneheart” role (without being undead, of course.) and takes to murdering Frey’s across the countryside before making her way north. I’m pretty sure she will make it to Winterfell this season, and I’m not sure what that means for the remaining Starks. Generally, when POV characters get together in GOT, at least one of them dies. Also, there will definitely be a reunion between her and Nymeria. (PUMPED.)
  2. Bran continues to have flashbacks and learns more about the events of Robert’s Rebellion, and the White Walkers. I think either Bran or Sam will figure out how to defeat the White Walkers in the end, hopefully there is some big reveal with Jon about his parentage. Bran also seems to be heading back to Winterfell, and it’s about damn time.
  3. Sansa is finally playing the game, becoming the politician to Jon’s hulk smash. I can see her character going two ways. One: I think the years of abuse will have gotten to her, and she may crack under her desire to get revenge. She might make a mistake and end up falling into a trap. Two: I think Littlefinger will try his hardest to make her his puppet and she will end up being the one using him the entire time. 

     

     

  4. Littlefinger continues to be the creepiest person alive. Depending on where Sansa’s character goes, I think he will finally meet his end this season. Don’t quote me on that, but I hope it’s to the tune of the Starks finally figuring out that he is the one behind literally everything bad that has ever happened to their family. KB3yHWE
  5. Jon Snow will continue to be moody and generally emo. I’m hoping that they finally reveal his parentage to him and the fact that he isn’t a Snow after all, but I’m not sure how they will do that or if they will do it at all. Him and Sansa clearly have different priorities, so it will be interesting to see what happens between them in the coming season. tumblr_nxz6qnrr0b1r18z8zo4_r1_540
  6. Cersei is a kamikaze character. She’s smart, but she’s filled with anger. Now that she’s buried all three of her children, all that’s left of Maggie the Frog’s prophecy is the Valonqar. I think she’s going to focus on ruling the Seven Kingdoms rather than the war against the White Walkers, and I think it will be her ultimate undoing.
  7. Jaime will end up killing Cersei. GOT has a tendency to go full circle with it’s story lines so I think it will be a “Mad Queen” type situation.
  8. Tyrion is now Hand of the queen, so he will spend his time marveling at dragons, bartering deals, and making jokes no one else on the show seems to get. And yes, I’ve heard about the “Tyrion is a Targaryen theory.” I’m not convinced, but anything is possible. I’m just not sure they will stuff that into the show or not.
  9. Daenerys lands in Dragonstone, FINALLY. She will set up a base camp there while she waits to make her next move. She will send Yara to Dorne to gain an alliance with the Martells, who already support her rule because of Elia Martell. (Who, if you remember, was murdered by the Mountain. RIP Oberyn.) Dany + Sand Snakes = very exciting. I think John and Sansa will also end up in Dragonstone to form an alliance with Dany at some point. Or maybe they’ll just send Davos. Dany’s army will go to battle with the Lannisters in what looks like either King’s Landing or Casterly Rock, and I think she may end up fighting a two front war.
  10. Grey Worm and Missandei finally get together. And it’s about damn time. I’m very curious to see how this pans out, all things considering. Stay tuned.
  11. Melisandre is waiting for Dany at Dragonstone. She’s kind of a wildcard, but I think she will try to convince Dany to turn her sights north rather than south. She seems to be attaching herself to whoever seems to fit her Azor Ahai bill, and Dany is the next best candidate. Based on other trailers, it seems like that one dude who died at least 7 times is going to do the Azor Ahai flaming sword bit, which would make sense but also be pretty random since we haven’t seen him since season 2 at least.
  12. Theon will continue to be the bane of my existence.
  13. Varys will be revealed as Gossip Girl, Westeros edition. NupmxHj
  14. Sam and Gilly learn all the things.
  15. Olenna Tyrell partners with the Martells to seek revenge on the Lannisters for the deaths of Loras and Margaery. More witty remarks, sass, and general distaste with everyone around her. I can see her and the Sand Snakes getting on well.
  16. The Wall comes down and the White Walkers start marching south. At this point, most of Westeros seems very unconcerned about this, so it will probably be the Night’s King on the Iron Throne at the end tbh.
  17. Everyone goes to war. Again.
  18. Cleganebowl. I can only hope.

Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Let’s discuss!