5 star, YA

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

shadow of the fox -julie kagawaOnce Every Thousand Years…

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has…and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.


5 Drink Me Potions


**Shadow of the Fox comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you to Indigo Books & Music and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Finally, another masterpiece by Julie Kagawa. I haven’t felt such admiration for her work since the first book of The Iron Fey series came out a decade ago.

A piece of art steeped in Japanese folklore and legends, Shadow of the Fox was a delicious, sometimes even creepy, romp into a Japanese-centric world of samurai, honour, and a refreshing heroine who doesn’t have the answers to everything right off the bat.

Initially, I will admit, the Japanese words and terms can get a little bit confusing, but eventually they become a part of your vocab like you naturally use them. Fans of Japanese animes and mangas may be a little more accustomed to how individuals refer to each other, or the words for demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings that are a part of Japanese legends. Our protagonist, Yumeko, is a kitsune. A type of fox demon. Regardless of the negative connotation that the word demon normally brings out, this girl was raised in a temple by monks. Yes. Monks. You would think that those wouldn’t go together, right?

If you thought she made for an unlikely heroine, meet our other protagonist. Kage Tatsumi, an infamous member of the Shadow Clan with a dark burden he carries in the form of a sword, is otherwise known as the demonslayer.

Half fox demon and a demonslayer. Unlikely allies. My book senses are already tingling.

But wait! That’s not it at all.

These individuals meet due to strange circumstances. A time is drawing near where the possibility of great evil may emerge. And the only one to stop it from destroying everything they know of this world? A half-kitsune fulfilling a vow she made. Yumeko embarks on an adventure she never asked for, bringing along Tatsumi as they search for a piece of a scroll that could NOT fall into the hands of evil.

For a book this length, there were surprisingly few names that we meet. Yet it works well for this kind of story. A good portion of the book was just the alternating POVs of Yumeko and Tatsumi as they venture towards their next destination in their quest. Other individuals come along, both good and bad, and their company may even grow as they continue. But at the heart of it, this novel really spends a good amount of time developing our 2 protagonists and the main supporting characters. At the end of the day, I felt like I knew this company of unlikely allies and friends. They may each come from different backgrounds, and different secrets or motives may abound between them, yet there is loyalty and might I say, even friendship, that ties them so strongly together.

Romance wasn’t an important part of the book, although those of you who enjoy some elements of it should still be pleased with the little moments between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I personally enjoyed the individual growth each displayed. Yumeko was a naive girl who never knew what the world outside the temple was like. From fighting demons (oni) and ghosts (yurei) and other awful evils intent on preventing them from fulfilling their mission, she learned more of what she could do as part kitsune but never let any of this evil change the caring and trusting heart that she had. Tatsumi is your mysterious, emotionless guy that is quite typical in YA writings. But he’s not as simple as that statement sounds. Throughout the events that unfold, there’s this anticipation building as we watch him balance this fine line of controlling the inner demon inside of him (quite literally).

The depth of world building was by far my favourite. Japanese folklore brought to life, Kagawa really described this land and the magical, mystical creatures that are just a part of Japanese culture. It’s not just your simple samurai (whoop-dee-doo) either. One may be tempted to make comparisons with Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series, but I personally think this book goes into it a lot more. The protagonists aren’t your honourable samurai warriors, but rather a ragtag group of people who are normally on the outskirts of this kind of Japanese society. Kitsune, shinobi, ronin.

While the plot was a mere adventure towards the first stop in fulfilling the mission and completing the Dragon scroll everyone is searching for, it sets the foundation for a lot more excitement. The climax of the story answered a few things, although many more questions were opened up. I wouldn’t say it was a cliffhanger but there are definitely teasers hooking me in for more of what’s to come in book 2.

Shadow of the Fox is the book I’ve been waiting for from Julie Kagawa since I read her debut novel. This is the piece of work that I feel describes Julie maybe even more than The Iron Fey books did. And I cannot wait for whatever is to come from what was set in motion here.

Overall Recommendation:
Shadow of the Fox is a remarkable adventure through Japanese legends of spirits, gods, demons and other supernatural entities. Julie Kagawa has drawn us into this Japanese-centric world with unique characters on a mission for pieces of a scroll that hold the key to great wonders or evil. Following unlikely allies Yumeko and Tatsumi on their quest, secrets abound, dangers unfold and more questions open up about who to trust in this world of samurai and oni. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a book that piques a sense of adventure and amazing world building.

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5 star, musings, YA

Bending the Universe by Justin Wetch

While this is based on the book, Bending the Universe, by Justin Wetch, I find myself not wanting to write a traditional review on this. Is it because this is the first poetry book to be featured on my site? Maybe. Yet, there’s just something about this piece of work that seems to understand parts of me that I can’t eloquently describe as well as Justin did here.

Split into 5 sections (Society, Love, Life, Personal, Nature), Justin pours his heart and honesty from his own life into 100 poems. I can always admire people who pour out their soul into their work – I mean, I also write out my feelings especially when they’re overwhelming me as it has been more lately – but what makes this extra special is just how much they resonate with me.

Each section has something special that just makes me go, oh wow, I completely get that. That is ME too. The below will hold snippets of his poems and why they resonate with me so much.


I pour out myself to others, and it’s been a taxing toll sometimes. I call it like leaving a piece of myself with them as once I do so, I won’t take it back. It’s theirs to keep. It’s been important to me to love others, to share life and all that is good with them.

Like a candle giving its flame to another

Selflessly, spreading light and colour

It takes nothing of ourselves to inspire

goodness in others, to speak life and new fire

into existence. (Candles – SOCIETY)

Heartbreak. Ah, to feel the burning passion that seems to consume us. We know it’ll hurt to get so close to the flame, yet there’s something poignant and real to be so close to something we deem worth the pain. Ah, it goes back to the old saying. To have loved and lost or to have never loved at all? Which is better?

What is this sickness within me

That longs to be burned to ashes by a fierce passion

And hates this peace?

This dreadful, meaningless, horrible, good calmness.

So in the middle of the night

I awaken in a cold sweat

And without a plan, leaving everything behind

I flee to a foreign city

Where I don’t even speak the language

Where the doctors don’t know my name

Where the Lithium will soon wear off

And I will soon be free again.

I don’t want safety or guarantees –

I want a life worth living.

I want to jump off a skyscraper

And fashion a parachute on the way down

Out of my fears and trepidations

Because sometimes survival

Isn’t the most important thing

And surviving

Isn’t the same as living. (Lithium – LOVE)

In those darkest nights when I lie in my bed and wonder or despair – sometimes consecutively and around we go – and sleep abandons me to my endless train of thoughts and anxieties.

Hope is a foolish disaster, ending

All realism and rationality, lying

Always promising too much, trying

To blunt the painfulness of life, muting

Dark thoughts and catalysts for weeping.

Sadness is the cruelest of emotions, crying

Deep sobs into the canyons of the mind, sinding

Broken songs of torment and death, sending

Echoes at random into the future, requiring

All happiness to be punctuated with mourning. (Midnight – LIFE)

Yet from all these above poems, nothing resonated as much as the poems in the Personal section. It’s like Justin gets me – or vice versa. To understand someone I love, to live a life that’s meaningful with no regrets at the end of the day, and to love someone wholly with all that I truly am.

I wanted to ask you

What thoughts plague your mind

When you stay up past midnight

And allow your brain to think freely;

I wanted to know, truly I did so,

But I merely wanted, and did not do.

I wanted to ask you

Many a thing, telling it true

I wanted to delve into your soul

And find out what makes you, you;

I wanted to, but I guess I’ll just settle

For a “I’m good, how about you?” (I wanted to ask you – PERSONAL)

What does it take to please me?

How will I learn to be happy?

I could be the greatest things

And still yearn to be better

Because, in truth

My greatest fear on this earth

Is to be on my death bed

– Hopefully at an old age –

And to look back upon a life

That I didn’t live to the fullest. (Eternity – PERSONAL)

I cry out and scream

Demanding answers, any at all

What does any of it mean

When will clarity call?

Will I ever give my heart

To love without reservation?

Will I ever learn the art

Of waiting with true patience? (The weight of the future – PERSONAL)

And last but not least, I too feel the same weight of nature on my heart. I could be outdoors all the time, really. But most of all, I can spend eternity staring up at the night sky with all those stars staring back at me.

When the brightness of one star

Is lost in the multitude of its brethren

It makes one feel so insignificant

But simultaneously irreplaceable.

Thoughts of chance and destiny

Burn into my retinas

So when I close my eyes

I see only profound thoughts.

Under a night’s sky

Filled with a hundred billion stars

Is it so crazy to believe

Our paths were destined to cross? (A hundred billion stars – NATURE)

I probably shouldn’t go on much longer but this book is filled with poems such as these. Honest, real and heartfelt, there was so much connection found in these pages. No matter the heartache, sleepless nights or other experiences that come our way, we are connected to one another through it all. This book proves it. Now go and see how much of these words resonate with you too.

5 star, YA

Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

letters to the lost -brigid kemmererJuliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate.

But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


5 Drink Me Potions


Where do I even BEGIN with this book?

Letters to the Lost is everything that I could EVER hope for in a YA contemporary. Brigid Kemmerer is an absolute genius. It’s like she gets the heart of not only teenagers – and how they react when cornered – but the general human heart. When have we not suffered from isolation, feeling like we didn’t belong; grief from the loss of a loved one; the need to talk our feelings out with someone – ANYONE – before we feel like we’d explode from keeping it all within?

This book has ALL OF THAT.

Juliet and Declan have both been dealt a crazy hand in life. With the loss of her photojournalist mother, Juliet found it was hard to let go of her so she wrote letters and placed them on her mother’s grave. Where surprise, surprise, a guy with a recent criminal record for crashing into an empty building while driving drunk picks it up while mowing the grass in the cemetery.

The beauty of this story lies in how our paths connect. That was how Juliet and Declan intersected with each other. Yet the story asks big questions! Do we have the power to make our own paths or are we destined to stay stuck in the awful hand that was thrown our way?

It never felt too dark. It was more realistic than anything. You can’t expect a light, fluffy little piece when the topics it covers are literally life and death. But alongside the heavier topics, friendship and family were very much highlighted. Juliet had a hard time dealing with her comparably more boring father who looked like he barely acknowledged her presence even after all these months since her mother died. Declan felt like he couldn’t fit in with his mother and stepfather as they seem to think he’ll never amount to much more than this hardheaded criminal who may repeat his crime. If it wasn’t for the fact that they anonymously found each other, and through letters and emails, were able to talk about the deepest stains on their soul.

It was just beautiful. And heartwrenching. And the exact right thing for both of them.

Aside from family, Declan’s friendship with Rev was a delightful thing. Rev too had his own demons and his own story (stay tuned for More Than We Can Tell to learn even MORE) was hinted at throughout Letters to the Lost. For a secondary character, he was very well-developed and definitely not your regular plain besties that are just featured but never really stand out. No matter his past, he was there for Declan and stood by him even when the world felt like it was crushing him on the shoulders. I loved that about him, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll fare as a protagonist.

Anyway, coming into this book, I thought the romance would be the highlight of it all for me. Oh boy was I wrong. I normally LOVE romance, but I’m so glad that this took a bit of a backseat here. Yes, they exchange messages all the time, and attraction of some sort grows. Here’s the thing. They don’t know who the other is and so the attraction isn’t physical per se. It’s the connection they have with each other. Later, even when they don’t know who the other is, their crossed paths show that there’s underlying chemistry there. A sense of pain that only the other fully understands. So who needs the physical stuff (kissing, etc.) when this relationship is built on just KNOWING the other? If only ALL of our relationships were more like Declan and Juliet’s.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. My heart is still somewhere in between those pages and those messages. And to top it all off, Brigid ends the story with a great message for us all. Yes, we can make our own path and change it if we’re just brave enough to do so with our unconquerable souls.

P.S. there are so many beautiful quotes in this book that I just can’t figure out where to start and how to group them all in this one review. So I’m not gonna post any and just tell you to READ this thing NOW.

Overall Recommendation:
Letters to the Lost is a gorgeously written story that evokes true emotion in its readers as we follow the tragic situations placed in Juliet and Declan’s lives. This is a novel that really punches you in the gut and heart as it depicts topics such as true friendship, grief, family, strength from our experiences and future growth. The romance was realistic and just PERFECT as their relationship was equal parts friendship, trust, and attraction. I don’t think anyone else can write this story any better. If you love anonymous letter/email messages between protagonists such as Tell Me Three Things, then this book is for you. If you have a HUMAN HEART, then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. I honestly don’t know how to be any more clear about this.


So, something different with this review happens to be that this book was provided to me directly from Brigid Kemmerer. Granted, I won the auction late last year for donations to Puerto Rico, but I am still so lucky that this is a signed and personalized version of the book in my hands. Honestly am so delighted that this book was physically in Brigid’s hands as well. This story just blew my mind and I am ecstatically the proud owner of such a beauty! Look below 🙂 Oh, and look out for a review of her next novel, MORE THAN WE CAN TELL, soon as it comes out in March!!

letters to the lost book