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Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon ARC {4 Stars}

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon is a delightful middle grade full of really cute illustrations with Vernon’s unique style that turns the creepy cute and shows that true friends come in all shapes and sizes! Castle Hangnail really has all the elements that I need in a middle grade including great tongue-in-cheek humor for parents reading with their kids or big kids who just still like whimsy ;-). Even better, the main character is portrayed as being a bit pudgy with illustrations that match that description, so we can empower our girls to know they can be witches no matter what they look like!

Note: I borrowed an advanced copy of Castle Hangnail. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon ARC {4 Stars}

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
Published by Dial on April 21st, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 384 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

4 Stars

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Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore Audiobook {4 Stars}

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is the conclusion to the Graceling trilogy and I’m definitely late to the game on this one ;-). I listened to the entire trilogy on audiobook though and do recommend them if you’re like me and still catching up on this awesome fantasy series! One of the big things to know about Bitterblue and the previous books, however, is that they are much more like companion novels than a continuous trilogy. Each book is about a different character and while Bitterblue relies on events that occurred previously, it’s set years in the future and so you probably could easily read it without having read the previous books. I listened to the previous two books over a year ago and only kind of remember them, so it worked out for me in any case ;-).

Note: I listened to Bitterblue on audio and that definitely influences my opinion on the book.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore Audiobook {4 Stars}

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Narrated by Xanthe Elbrick
(Graceling Realm #3)
Published by Dial on May 1st, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 563 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea, still under the influence of her father Leck, a violent psychopath who altered minds. Her advisers want to pardon evildoers and forget everything, but she sees the past holds fast. Two thieves, who only steal what has been stolen, hold the truth and change her life. One, his Grace skill unidentified, has a key to her heart.

4 Stars


  • Bitterblue is a much different book than Fire and Graceling, which made me happy. I was impressed that Cashore was able to write such a character-driven book without her typical kick-butt heroine from the previous books.
  • I loved that Bitterblue brought the whole trilogy together even though it is set so apart from the other books. Katsa and Fire both play big roles and a lot of the questions we were left with about a certain evil mind-reader are pursued in Bitterblue.
  • I loooooved the mysteries of Bitterblue City and all of the strange things that Bitterblue keeps encountering and needs to figure out. Bitterblue the girl is also so like me in her need to make lists to figure out how everything fits together ;-). Lists are the best!
  • Bitterblue is pretty low on the romance but it was just the right amount for me. I enjoyed that Bitterblue had priorities other than a pretty boy given that she is a queen and all! That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have feelings that she has to deal with on her down time though ;-).
  • Bitterblue has a great narrator who fit Bitterblue’s character quite well. While Graceling is full-cast audio, Bitterblue has just one narrator, which seems to be a bit more common.
  • Since the book is so character driven, it was pretty important for Bitterblue to be a strong character and I enjoyed her a lot! She is smart and strong, but very realistic in her difficulties of ruling a country that has been torn apart by the previous king, not to mention the horrors that she and her mother endured when her father was still ruling.


  •  The plot is kind of all over the place given the character-driven nature of Bitterblue. I didn’t really know what the actual plot was going to end up being until half-way through I’d say. Things just kind of happen for a while.
  • After 2/3 of the book, Bitterblue gets SUPER TRIGGERY. Horrible things happened during Leck’s rule, including physical and sexual abuse to an absolutely terrifying degree. It was difficult to listen to sections where these things were revealed so be sure you are prepared.
  • The narrator’s voices for different characters were inconsistent, which disappointed me. I like it when I can realize which character is talking just by the voice, but that wasn’t the case with Bitterblue.
  • Despite my general approval of Bitterblue’s character, she can get a bit whiny at times. I just wanted her to toughen up a bit here and there, but I guess I wouldn’t have been much better given the situation >.>.


Bitterblue is a very interesting conclusion to the Graceling trilogy. It’s quite different than the previous books, focusing on a character-driven plot with a very different heroine than Katsa and Fire. However, I still enjoyed Bitterblue for being different and for pulling the three books together in a rather fresh way. With the huge number of connected trilogies out there, it was fun to listen to three books that each stood on their own and were simply based in the same world. I wouldn’t say Bitterblue was my favorite of the three (Fire is for the record), but I’m very glad that I’ve finally finished these books!

Have you read Bitterblue yet? Which is your favorite of the three?

4 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya


 Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Five Stars: Fire by Kristin Cashore Audiobook

“It is not a peaceful time in the Dells.” –Goodreads summary of Fire by Kristin Cashore. Indeed, between strange boys with two different colored eyes and the power to influence minds invading and the rebel lords just waiting for a time to strike, the King has his hands full. Unfortunately for Fire, he also therefore, has need of her supernatural abilities, though her supernatural beauty is also the last thing some people seem to want around the king….

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Graceling, and so when I saw the companion (but not sequel), Fire by Kristin Cashore on audiobook at the library, it seemed a logical choice! I haven’t read Graceling, so there won’t be any spoilers :D. This is also proof that you don’t need to have read Graceling to enjoy Fire.

Fire by Kristin Cashore Goodreads Amazon
Author: Kristin Cashore
Discs: 10 (audiobook)
Genre-ish: Epic fantasy (YA?)
Rating★★★★ – Imaginative world, strong plot
Setting: Fire by Kristin Cashore is set in the same fantasy world as Graceling, but a different part of the world. In the Dells, there are not people with two different colored eyes (for the most part), but instead there are individuals of all species born with coloring of bright and unusual color and extreme beauty. These individuals also have the ability to control unprotected minds and read thoughts. While “monster” insects and other small things are uncommon, but seen fairly frequently, monster humans are so rare, only one is currently known to be alive.
Premise: The Dells were under the rule of a mad king and his cruel monster adviser previously, until that king and adviser both died horrible deaths. Now, the mad king’s children are trying to put the kingdom back together, but two rebel lords are not making that an easy task. What would make it easier, however, is if the monster adviser’s daughter, Fire, who is the last known monster human, would use her mind control power on these strange empty-headed spies that have started cropping up in odd places…. Unfortunately, Fire is nothing like her father, and is determined not to use her powers for evil, though these empty-headed spies are starting to worry and intrigue her as well. The very precocious boy with two differently colored eyes that showed up at the palace and started torturing monster animals is starting to worry and intrigue her as well….


  • The narrator! I looooooved Xanthe Elbrick‘s narration. The voices that she used for the different characters were marvelous and unique, and really added another dimension to an already wonderful story.
  • Fire! While Fire had moments where she didn’t make the best decisions, she had strong morals and a dedication to friends and strangers that was just so moving. She’s a character that I’d really like to meet in real life, since I really ended up wanting to be friends with her.
  • I loved the feel of the world and the powers that monsters had. This came from a combination of the fantasy writing style and the idea of all animals being able to be born multi-colored and with mind-control powers! It was really fun to see how Cashore worked this into the society with the poor using monster rat pelts as decorations and the rich having monster cats which used mind-control to catch rats. Cashore was very creative in her use of such a cool idea :D.


  • Why is there so much need to talk about periods all the time?? I swear, we heard about every single time that Fire had her period, and it just wasn’t necessary!
  • There were some strange inconsistencies and random things that didn’t end up actually mattering, which annoyed me. The rest of this line could be seen as a minor spoiler, though again, didn’t actually matter for the plot, but just to warn you. At one point, Fire makes herself infertile for a while, which generally (at least with our modern science) means that she shouldn’t get her period anymore, but she still does (which we know, because we hear about every time!). This didn’t work for me. It also didn’t end up mattering at all, so I didn’t see the point in Cashore writing about it to begin with….
  • Archer and Fire’s relationship is a bit “loose” at times? And apparently this bothers people, not me in particular, but other people, and maybe you. But it also doesn’t end up mattering in the end.


I really enjoyed listening to Fire by Kristin Cashore on audio, and definitely recommend you grab the audiobook version if you are in the need of an audiobook! I found the world and characters to be fun and compelling, and am really looking forward to reading Graceling and Bitterblue! While there were a couple things that through me off about the book, for the most part I found myself super looking forward to driving just so that I could go back to the Dells and hang out with Fire some more. Cashore did a wonderful job portraying a vibrant character and story, since the way I keep wanting to describe this book is with color, and my memories of the scenes are all with bright colors!

Have you been reading the Graceling books? What order are you reading them in? What did you think?

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A


 Fire by Kristin Cashore

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