Book Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance  

Publishing Info: January 2017 by Simon and Schuster Children’s UK (first published 2016)

Pages: 669

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

I have loved Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series for what feels like a very long time. City of Bones was my introduction to her world many, many years ago. She releases books so quickly, I’m trying to catch up! I thought I might get bored of them, but I haven’t so far. I love returning to the world of the Shadowhunters every time I pick up one of her books.

Lady Midnight is the first in the Dark Artifices series and is set a few years after The Mortal Instruments. When I finished reading it, I just sort of sat at stared at my bedroom wall for a minute because I had so many feelings about this book. The characters and their relationships are what makes this book so good. I just became so invested in the Blackthorn family. And Cassandra Clare is really good at giving you hope for characters and then tearing your heart to shreds (in the way a good book does).

Emma and Julian are the two main characters, but all of the others stole my heart too. From Cristina, to Mark, Livvy, Ty, Dru and little Tavvy. I loved seeing the family interact and how Julian has had to bring them up, they’re like his own children despite him being their older brother. It was also great seeing how Mark changed over the course of the book and I’m interested to see where his character goes in the next book.  

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Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: January 2019 by Bloomsbury  

Pages: 496

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

I have to admit, this is one of those books I picked up because of the hype. I passed it time and time again in the bookshop and considered buying it, but changed my mind (that shiny spine on the paperback edition catches the eye!). I’m not a big Beauty and the Beast fan, so that wasn’t a particular selling point to me, although I do love retellings. Eventually, I bought it, and I’m glad I did.

Although it’s a romance, it also explores the people of Emberfall and the conflict with a neighbouring kingdom, so there was a good blend of romance and fantasy. The writing style is easy to read but also vivid and at the end of each chapter I was eager to turn the page and continue reading. It’s told in the alternating first person perspectives of Harper and Rhen. It often takes me a while to settle into this kind of style, but I didn’t have that problem with this book. The story gets going right from the start, with Harper being transported to Emberfall, so I was hooked from the off.

I immediately took to Harper, Rhen and Grey. I’m so glad that Brigid Kemmerer decided to include a main character with cerebral palsy. There needs to be more characters with disabilities and chronic health conditions in YA books. I loved that Harper’s cerebral palsy doesn’t hold her back. She’s thrown into this fantasy world from DC and quickly adapts, using her fearlessness to fight bad guys and stand up for others. Harper has to be one of my favourite YA heroines.

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Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: February 2020 by Feiwel and Friends, Fairyloot Edition

Pages: 326

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

The Shadows Between Us is a standalone fantasy novel and my first introduction to Tricia Levenseller’s writing. I wasn’t sure this book would be for me, but it came in February’s Fairyloot box in the most gorgeous edition, so of course I had to give it a go. It’s described as a Slytherin romance, and I’m very much a Hufflepuff, so that selling point didn’t speak to me personally. But I ended up loving it! It also makes a nice change to read a standalone fantasy, as this genre is so often long series.

Alessandra is such a determined character. Right from the start, we get a sense of her personality. She’s not afraid to be herself and she fights for what she wants. Her eyes are set on the throne, and she’s willing to kill the king to get it. Alessandra also designs and makes her own dresses and the descriptions are divine. She bends the rules of what women can do in this world, and uses her power to change things for the other women of the court too. She’s ambitious and scheming and she stands out from other young adult protagonists for that reason. From that perspective she’s quite an unusual protagonist really. This sort of character is often the antagonist, so I loved seeing a story told through the eyes of a different kind of character.

Kallius is an equally interesting character. He’s not a noble hero. We see him kill a guard for failing to keep watch. He wants to conquer more of the surrounding kingdoms. But since Alessandra isn’t your typical protagonist either, they are very well suited. They’re both ambitious and driven.   

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Film Review: Emma

Film Review: Emma

Release date: 14 February 2020

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Jonny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner

Runtime:  125 minutes

Genre: Period drama, romance, comedy

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

This most recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma is my first experience of her well-known novel. I’ve read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, but not yet read Emma (though I’m sure I will having thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation). I’ve also not seen any other film or TV versions before, so wasn’t familiar with the plot before seeing the film. Emma is handsome, clever, rich and admired by those in her town. She’s an ambitious matchmaker but on her mission to make matches for others, discovers love herself.   

This adaptation is brilliantly filmed and acted. I was captivated and enthralled from start to finish. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Emma brilliantly, with her facial expressions and delicate touches of body language bringing the character to life. I love how Emma isn’t a typical heroine, and how she grows over the course of the plot. The chemistry between Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn is evident from the start and I revelled in their exchanges throughout. The casting overall was superb. Bill Nighy is excellent as Emma’s father and provided a lot of the comedy moments. As a big fan of Miranda, it’s always a joy to see Miranda Hart and she was very well cast for her role.

The set design, costume design and cinematography is sumptuous and vivid. There are no drab period rooms here, but a bright, pastel palette that’s a wonder for the senses. Every scene pops off the screen. I am no historian, and have absolutely no idea whether the sets and costumes are historically accurate or not, but from a viewer perspective they were sublime.

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Book Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction           

Publishing Info: March 2018 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 394

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider – ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn’t flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he’d see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi’s entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth… or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider what drives us, and where we truly belong.

The first book in this trilogy, Defy the Stars, was absolutely gripping and thrilling to read. I liked that it also explored complex issues and topics such as what it means to be human. Defy the Worlds continues to do that. While it was a little slow at the start, the stakes are quickly ramped up. Claudia Gray is great at getting her characters in difficult situations and forcing them to think of ways to get out of them.

I love Noemi and Abel as characters, and their relationship with each other. Noemi is so headstrong and determined to defend her planet. Meanwhile Abel, as a mech, is still trying to work out his human side in many ways. They have a few differences in opinion, but there actually isn’t much character development for either of them in this book. In Defy the Stars, Noemi has to overcome her preconceived notions of mechs, and Abel has to fight an internal battle against Directive One (his programming). There seemed to be a lot more character development in the first book. However, saying that, the events of this book seem to lend themselves to greater character development in the final installment.

I like how this series questions what it means to be human. Despite how Noemi has come to see Abel as having a ‘soul’ despite being a mech, some other humans still treat him differently and as lesser. This is a really interesting concept to see played out. Even as the books progress, Abel’s own understanding of what and who he is changes as he learns more about his unique life state through his experiences. The book also explores elitism, poverty and biological warfare, so there is some pretty deep subject matter amongst the action.

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Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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