Tag Archives: monsters

Review: Darkness and Demon Song by M. R. Fournet

Darkness and Demon Song by M.R. Fournet

Darkness and Demon Song (Marius Grey #2)
M. R. Fournet
Feiwel & Friends
Published June 18, 2024

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About Darkness and Demon Song

A cemetery-boy-turned-monster-hunter must race against time to save his recently-resurrected mother in Darkness and Demon Song, M.R. Fournet’s eerie middle grade follow up to Brick Dust and Bones.

Marius Grey’s mom is back from the dead. After hunting monsters and performing forbidden spells, Marius is just happy she’s there, helping him to take care of their Louisiana cemetery again.

But it soon becomes clear that something has gone wrong. Marius’s mother is growing more distant and strange things start happening around her. Worse yet, sometimes it feels like she’s a completely different person–one who definitely isn’t his mom.

If Marius wants to save her, he’s going to need help. Serious help. Good thing he has a flesh-eating mermaid for a best friend and a classmate with extra strong magic. Add in mysterious clues for new hunts, graveyard hopping from Louisiana to Texas, and a tough ex-hunter he doesn’t know if he can trust, and it’s clear that Marius has his work cut out for him.

My Review

The first book in this series took me completely by surprise last year. I received a copy from the publisher and really didn’t know anything about the book itself before opening it up. I’m not a big horror reader, so that also gave me pause. I couldn’t figure out how horror would work in middle grade.

Once I started reading the book, though, I totally got how it could work. It’s definitely not something I would have been able to read in elementary school myself. I have always been something of a sensitive reader. But now, reading the book, I felt like I couldn’t put it down.

Marius is such a compelling character. He’s doing everything he can do to make the world a safer place and take care of the people counting on him, from his mom to the ghosts in the cemetery in their care.

In the first book, Marius does a lot on his own or with only the help of his best friend, Rhiannon, the flesh-eating mermaid. In this second installment in the series, a community develops around Marius. Partly, this happens because his mom is back, and people try to reconnect with her as well. Partly, it happens because things go sideways, and Marius needs help.

The book focuses on some really cool relationships. Of course, we learn more about the friendship between Marius and Rhiannon. But Marius also makes a new friend his age who harbors her own secrets. He also learns to take risks by trusting a few adults in his life who have helped him in the past.

All in all, I enjoyed this second adventure into the dark, scary world of New Orleans, complete with fishing in the swamp, a Texas entrance to Hell, and an exploration of what truly makes someone a monster. I’ll be eager to see what M.R. Fournet writes next.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Representation
Marius is described as being basically shades of gray rather than a member of a specific race. Minor characters are POC.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
A magic book captures monsters through a recited spell. Marius visits various magical shops and encounters other magical creatures and people who possess magic, like witches. His family is responsible for the care of the ghosts in the graveyard where he lives. Some humans open themselves up to possession by a demon through bargains gone wrong or other circumstances.

Violent Content
Situations of peril and scary imagery, such as monsters trying to attack a child. One character relives another’s memories in Hell. Characters fight demons and other monsters.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: The Hunting Moon by Susan Dennard

The Hunting Moon (The Luminaries #2)
Susan Dennard
Tor Teen
Published November 7, 2023

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About The Hunting Moon

The highly anticipated sequel to THE LUMINARIES by New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard.

Winnie Wednesday has gotten everything she thought she wanted. She passed the deadly hunter trials, her family has been welcomed back into the Luminaries, and overnight, she has become a local celebrity.

The Girl Who Jumped. The Girl Who Got Bitten.

Unfortunately, it all feels wrong. For one, nobody will believe her about the new nightmare called the Whisperer that’s killing hunters each night. Everyone blames the werewolf, even though Winnie is certain the wolf is innocent.

On top of that, following her dad’s convoluted clues about the Dianas, their magic, and what happened in Hemlock Falls four years ago is leaving her with more questions than answers.

Then to complicate it all, there is still only one person who can help her: Jay Friday, the boy with plenty of problems all his own.

As bodies and secrets pile up around town, Winnie finds herself questioning what it means to be a true Wednesday and a true Luminary—and also where her fierce-hearted loyalties might ultimately have to lie.

My Review

I loved the first book in this series, so I’ve had this sequel on my reading list since I finished THE LUMINARIES. Susan Dennard has a choose-your-own adventure-type story about these characters on her social media (maybe it’s on her Substack now?), which I followed for a while, but I’ve lost track of it lately. It was a lot of fun, though.

All that to say, the Luminary world stayed fresh in my mind, and I was excited to start reading book two in the series. It was easy to dive right back in. THE HUNTING MOON begins pretty much exactly where THE LUMINARIES ends, as Winnie deals with the aftermath of her trial.

One thing that stood out to me was how the supernatural creatures’ existences are integrated into the story. Like, Winnie often makes comparisons to things based on monsters’ attributes in the story. I liked that and felt like it kept the story anchored in the alternate world in which Winnie lives.

Also– Winnie and Jay. Omg. The tension. And the way they’re both like, “You don’t like me, so whatever.” I couldn’t read fast enough. They’re so sweet and so innocent. I love it so much!

The only thing I felt disappointed about is that I felt like Winnie didn’t make as much progress toward clearing her dad’s name as I expected. From how the first book ended, I thought the second book would be the quest to clear his name and that she would at least make contact with him. That’s not the direction the story goes, though much of what happens is in service of ultimately clearing his name.

Conclusion

I liked the story in this book– it just wasn’t the one I expected to find. The mystery of the werewolf takes center stage, which is another thing that I wanted to know more about, so that easily held my attention.

All in all, I am still a hardcore Luminaries fan. I’m excited to see where the series goes from here, and I will probably try to reconnect with the live and unfolding adventure on the author’s social media again.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Representation
Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Some discussion of kissing.

Spiritual Content
Some characters have the ability to shapeshift or perform magic. Winnie lives in a world where supernatural creatures exist and some attack humans.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Some battle scenes between monsters and humans. Winnie is part of a clean-up crew that helps collect the remains of dead monsters or people who’ve been killed by them.

Drug Content
Teens drink beer at a party. Winnie drinks a compound that helps her heal but also makes her seem high.

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Review: The Otherwoods by Justine Pucella Winans

The Otherwoods
Justine Pucella Winans
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published September 12, 2023

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About The Otherwoods

The Otherwoods is calling. And it won’t be ignored.

Some would call River Rydell a ‘chosen one’: born with the ability to see monsters and travel to a terrifying spirit world called The Otherwoods, they have all the makings of a hero. But River just calls themself unlucky. After all, it’s not like anyone actually believes River can see these things–or that anyone even believes monsters exist in the first place. So the way River sees it, it’s better to keep their head down and ignore anything Otherwoods related.

But The Otherwoods won’t be ignored any longer.

When River’s only friend (and crush) Avery is kidnapped and dragged into The Otherwoods by monsters, River has no choice but to confront the world they’ve seen only in their nightmares–but reality turns out to be more horrifying than they could have ever imagined. With only their cat for protection and a wayward teen spirit as their guide, River must face the monsters of The Otherwoods and their own fears to save Avery and become the hero they were (unfortunately) destined to be.

Justine Pucella Winans will have you cowering and cackling as you follow River’s reluctant hero’s journey, perfect for fans of Doll Bones, Ghost Squad, and Too Bright to See.

My Review

Without a doubt, the most charming part of this book is River’s aversion to danger and the evolution of their beliefs about themself. At first, River believes they aren’t brave because they ignore monsters instead of confronting them and won’t enter the Otherwoods. Right away, I doubted their assessment– it would take an enormous amount of bravery for me to keep sleeping in a room where a monster lived under my bed. River instead names the monster and tries their best to ignore it. It makes sense, though, why River sees themself as not brave since they find themself constantly afraid. I love River’s inner monologue. They piece together the things happening around them in what is often a very kid-like, funny way.

I also like the way that River’s journey into the Otherwoods makes them realize there’s more to being brave than feeling brave. I like the way the story turns our perceptions of things on its head with unexpected moments and humor.

Also: the cat. If you know me, you know this was coming. But seriously. Mr. Fluffy Pancakes is fantastic. Not just for his name, which cracked me up. That cat has a huge personality. He never does anything without some cattitude. His love for River is also very clear and endearing. I adore him. Yay for books with cats!

On the whole, this one has some scary, intense moments, but it also shows a character who feels deeply afraid find ways to deal with those fears and learn to speak up about them. I love the way the story invites readers into River’s fears and shows us what it means to be brave in the face of them. While it’s not for every reader, I think THE OTHERWOODS has a lot to offer. I’d recommend it for readers who like portal stories or anyone looking for books about kids in tough circumstances who must learn to speak up for themselves.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Representation
Main character is nonbinary. A couple of minor characters are also queer. One girl identifies as pansexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
River has a crush on their friend, Avery.

Spiritual Content
River sees monsters and spirits of the dead. They learn this is because they possess some magic.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Monsters come very close to River. A few scenes show confrontations between characters and monsters. In a couple, monsters are killed.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE OTHERWOODS in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad

Between Monsters and Marvels
Alysa Wishingrad
HarperCollins
Published September 12, 2023

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About Monsters and Marvels

In the next standalone high-stakes middle-grade fantasy by Alysa Wishingrad, the author of the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection The Verdigris Pawn, a misunderstood young girl named Dare is shipped to the mainland from her tiny island and uncovers startling secrets behind her father’s death, the island itself, and the monsters that lend its lore.

Monsters are still lurking on Barrow’s Bay.

Dare Coates is sure of it. No drifter or ruffian could have killed her father, the Captain of the Guard, while he was on patrol. But everyone insists that monsters have been gone for years now. Dare’s mother. Her classmates. Even the governor, who swiftly marries her mother just months after her father’s death.
Dare’s suspicions grow even stronger when the governor suddenly ships her off to the mainland, away from any hope of uncovering the truth about her father’s death.

Or so she thinks. But when Dare finds solid proof that monsters still exist she starts to question everything she’s always known. Was her father who she thought he was? Who can she trust? Where is the line between good and evil?

The truth hides behind danger and deception.

But with the help of an unlikely crew of cohorts and a stray beastie, nothing can stop Dare from finding out what happened to her father and exposing who the real monsters are.

My Review

This is the first book by Alysa Wishingrad that I’ve read. I’d heard of THE VERDIGRIS PAWN, and I think it was one of those books that I kept seeing other reviewers talking about, but I haven’t read it yet. The themes in this story about truth and deception and puzzling out who to trust in an unpredictable world drew me straight into this book.

I loved the way Dare wrestles with distrust and loneliness. Sometimes her loneliness pushes her to be open with someone, even if it’s simply to keep the conversation going and keep her loneliness at bay a little longer. She quickly learns that not everyone who appears friendly actually is, and some have dark motives hidden under layers of lies.

I liked the way the fantasy world of Barrows Bay and City-on-the-Pike came together. It’s a world of monsters, secrets, and illusions. Every time Dare thinks she has things figured out, she peels back a new layer and has to reevaluate based on what’s underneath.

I found her loneliness to be really easy to connect with. She is odd and something of an outcast, and that’s captured so well in the story. Anyone who has ever felt excluded by peers or as though they’re out of place in their own family will be able to connect with Dare. That loneliness also makes it a real celebration when Dare forges true friendships and sees the fruit of those connections in the story.

All in all, this is one I want for my family library. It’s whimsical and fun but also packed with a lot of heart. It’s an authentic story of friendship.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Major characters are white or white-passing.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Dare believes monsters with strange abilities still exist.

Violent Content
Reference to animal abuse (not shown on scene). Situations of peril. Some brief battle scenes. A brief description of Dare’s father’s death. She learns he was beheaded.

Drug Content
List.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BETWEEN MONSTERS AND MARVELS in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Brick Dust and Bones by M. R. Fournet

Brick Dust and Bones
M. R. Fournet
Feiwel & Friends
Published July 18, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Brick Dust and Bones

A twelve-year-old cemetery boy and monster hunter–along with his flesh-eating mermaid friend–has to race against the clock to save the ghost of his dead mother in Brick Dust and Bones, M.R. Fournet’s magical middle grade debut.

Marius Grey hunts Monsters. He’s not supposed to. He’s only twelve and his job as a Cemetery Boy is to look after the ghosts in his family’s graveyard. He should be tending these ghosts and–of course–going to school to learn how to live between worlds without getting into trouble.

But, Marius has an expensive goal. He wants to bring his mother back from the dead, and that takes a LOT of mystic coins, which means a LOT of Monster Hunting, and his mother’s window to return is closing.

If he wants her back, Marius is going to have to go after bigger and meaner monsters, decide if a certain flesh-eating mermaid is a friend or foe, and avoid meddling Demons and teachers along the way. Can Marius navigate New Orleans’s gritty monster bounty-hunting market, or will he have to say goodbye to his mother forever?

My Review

Darker middle grade (or YA) isn’t something I have a lot of experience reading, so I was a little nervous picking up this book. I’d never heard of it until a copy from the publisher arrived in the mail, but I wanted to check it out. Darker books have surprised me before, after all. (See THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS by Heather Krassner or THE DARKDEEP by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs.)

Some of the imagery is very creepy. Monsters stand over sleeping children. What appears to be a woman unzips her skin and a green, sinewy monster steps out. Things like that.

What I truly loved about this story is Marius. He’s alone and lonely, desperate to save his mother and protect his best friend, a monster mermaid who has sworn off eating humans. Marius bravely faces monsters, stopping them from hurting children. At one point, he encounters a boy who indicates he’s being abused. Marius gifts the boy a magical necklace to protect him.

While this isn’t a book that readers in my house (who all seem to have vivid nightmares easily inspired by books or movies), I could see readers who love scary stories eating this one up. It has great characters and a very immersive story world.

A second book in the series is currently scheduled for release next summer.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Representation
Marius is described as being basically shades of gray rather than a member of a specific race. Minor characters are POC.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kiss between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Marius encounters a boogeyman who feeds on the souls of children. A magic book captures monsters through a recited spell. Marius visits various magical shops and encounters other magical creatures and people who possess magic, like witches. His family is responsible for the care of the ghosts in the graveyard where he lives. Some humans enter a pact with a demon in which they temporarily receive power but owe their soul to the demon.

Violent Content
Situations of peril and scary imagery, such as monsters trying to attack a child.

Drug Content
References to adult characters telling stories while they’re drunk.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BRICK DUST AND BONES in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1)
Kazu Kibuishi
Graphix
Published September 29, 2015

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Stonekeeper

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a giant robot—and two ordinary children on a life-or-death mission.

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

My Review

I’ve been trying to find graphic novels for my nephews, and I spotted this series at the library. They didn’t have THE STONEKEEPER, so I purchased a copy.

There are a lot of action sequences and intense scenes– which means I read this one very quickly! I really wanted to know how it all turned out. I loved the characters– both Emily and Navin, but also the three mechanical allies they meet along the way. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters more. Though we don’t get to go very deeply into their relationships here, there are already some interesting dynamics at play between them. I think it’ll be really cool to see those develop more.

I also really enjoyed the art style of this graphic novel. At first, I wasn’t sure I would, since the cover art is different than some of the other graphic novels I’ve read. But as I read the story, I really appreciated the way the author presents each scene. The panels were also really easy to read, which I liked.

All in all, I think this one might be a little too scary for the reader I hoped to give it to, but I might talk to him about it anyway and see what he thinks about it. For myself, I like the series and will probably try to read more from the library. I think fans of ESTRANGED by Ethan Aldridge should check this one out.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 12.

Representation
Emily and Navin’s dad dies in the opening scene.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Em finds an amulet with magic power. It speaks to her and advises her on what to do.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Monsters with tentacles and sharp teeth attack Emily and Navin. Death of a parent.

In the prologue, Emily and her parents are in a car accident. Her dad is killed when the car slides off a cliff before he can get out.

A tentacled monster consumes Emily’s mom– she’s still alive, just trapped inside it.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.