Recent Reads Reviews

Try saying that three times fast. Winking smile

It’s time for me to get back into posting book reviews on my blog. I’ve decided to change up the format from my old Novel Novel Review days and try something new. Everyone uses stars or asterisks so I’m going to use emoticons instead.

Open-mouthed smile–WOW—I loved this book and have talked about/shared it with others.

Smile–Not totally in love, but this was a great book and I may talk about/share it with others.

Thinking smile–This was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favorite.

Sad smile–This wasn’t for me. I stopped reading and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Steaming mad–How did this get published?

If you happen to be the author of one of the books I review, please remember this is my honest opinion. Don’t hate me if I don’t give your book a great big happy grin. I am only one reader in the whole wide readership and I’m sure there are those who’ll love your work—it just wasn’t me.

And so, for my first Recent Reads Review:

The Skeleton’s Knife by Joni Sensel—Open-mouthed smile—I’ve loved the Farwalker books from the moment I read The Farwalker’s Quest. Reading The Skeleton’s Knife was bittersweet for me; it’s the last book in the trilogy, and I’m sorry to see Ariel’s adventures end. But if beloved characters and world have to end, this is a great way to do it. I loved this book so much more than the second book (though not as much as the first). Sensel has a way of building a world and characters that grab on and don’t let go. The Skeleton’s Knife is the perfect blend of character and action that kept me reading through to the last page. Though the ending was quite satisfying, I admit, I still want more. But, as the song says, “you can’t always get what you want.”

The story—Ariel Farwalker is torn between the two young men she loves and struggles to discover which love to choose. Complicated as love is, the haunting past is even more so. In order to look to her future, Ariel must set out on an adventure to put the past and its memories to rest. After retrieving the Skeleton’s Knife, she must take it where it belongs. Though dead, the knife’s owner is bent on revenge. In order to save a life and have any hope for the future, Ariel must journey into a forbidding land where she will discover the truth about love and the power of forgiveness.


Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull—Open-mouthed smile—I thought Mull was a genius fantasy writer when I read the Fablehaven series, and my opinion hasn’t changed with this new series. Though a bit slower moving than Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, I enjoyed the continued adventures of Jason and Rachel. And what adventures! Who wouldn’t want to be swallowed by a hippo or walk through an arch and end up in a new world? Okay, I’d choose the walking through the arch over the hippo method, but still—awesome! There was a nice balance between the two main characters, but I identified with and enjoyed Rachel’s story more in this book (the first book concentrated more on Jason IMO—which isn’t a problem). After the way this book ended, I can’t wait for the next Beyonders novel!

The story—After returning to his world, Jason finds himself longing for Lyrian and the friends he left behind there. Knowing he has valuable information that could change the course of the quest only makes him more desperate to get back. But going back will mean putting himself in danger since he’s at the top of Maldor’s most wanted list. In Jason’s absence, Rachel and the rest of their friends in Lyrian have continued their struggles against Maldor. Their most promising asset is Rachel and her newly discovered abilities—if she can learn to use them. In spite of the dangers, Jason finds his way back to Lyrian in time to warn his friends, but the information he shares sets the friends on a new and dangerous path to get the rebellion formed before Maldor can crush it and all of them.


Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin—Smile—I won an ARC of this novel and was kind of unsure about reading it. Not that the story didn’t sound awesome (cause it does), but because I’ve always loved Poe and don’t think anyone can do his work proud. I’m kind of wrong. Griffin interprets Poe’s tale into a vivid and imaginative dark novel. The only reason it doesn’t get a big huge smiley face from me is because I don’t care for the drug/alcohol abuse instances in the book. I know I’m a prude when it comes to this, and I’ve overlooked it before, but there was quite a bit of it in this one which made it difficult to get away from. True, the drug/alcohol abuse added to the darkness of the novel and character, but I think it would have worked just as well with less. In spite of the drug use, it gets a happy face because I enjoyed the dark, diseased world Griffin created—and I do want to read the next book.

The story—Araby hasn’t known a world without the plague and Prince Prospero’s rule, but she longs for one. The rich wear masks to protect them from the plague, and the poor die by the thousands. Corpse collectors and wagons piled high with the dead aren’t an uncommon sight. The dark atmosphere of her world makes it near impossible for Araby to deal with the death of her twin brother. Instead of facing it, she loses herself to the Debauchery Club, and the escape of drugs and alcohol it offers. At least until Araby finds a new escape in two young men and the different worlds each has to offer.


And that will do it for the Recent Reads Reviews for now. I have some other reads and hope to get reviews of them up soon.


Read on.

About Joan Stradling, Author

Joan Stradling is a middle grade and YA author of stories with magical elements. She loves painting, baking, crafting, pet wrangling, and anything else she can fit into her schedule. A passionate believer in the power of books, she still hopes to one day ride a dragon, meet a Hobbit, or discover new worlds by walking through a wardrobe. In the meantime, she imagines and writes about her own incredible worlds and characters–and continues to live vicariously through the adventures in other’s books. You can find her on Instagram (@JoanStradlingAuthor) or Twitter (@justJoanS) or FB (Joan Stradling aka Joan Stewart) Join me on Patreon:
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