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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March 2020 Wrap Up

This has been a weird month hasn’t it? I’m now working from home. I’m lucky that I have that option and still have an income. A lot of people and businesses are struggling right now. I’m still kind of in this state of shock almost. It just doesn’t seem real. Things seemed to get bad really quickly. And it almost hasn’t sunk in that this is actually happening.

But on to more positive subject matter – reading!  

Reading

I finished reading The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas at the beginning of March. It’s a collection of prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it, because it did fill in what happened before Throne of Glass. But I am looking forward to getting back to the main plot, the next book in that series for me to read will be the third book, Heir of Fire.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller was Fairyloot’s pick for their February box. As I was on holiday during the readalong, I actually had time to stick to the reading schedule and read the chapters on the scheduled days which was quite fun! Next I read A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer which I loved more than I was expecting to!

I decided I wanted a little break from reading YA, so I read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. This is the third Agatha Christie novel I’ve read and I liked it, but didn’t love it. I do want to read more of his books though, as I liked the other two books I’ve read better. Her books are quite short, easy reads, and I do love a good mystery!

Book Haul

So, yeah, I bought a few books this month… I ordered some online from Waterstones as I had filled up my stamp card and wanted to spend it while I still could…

King of Scars finally came out in paperback (the hardback was massive and heavy so I decided to wait for the paperback) and I managed to get a copy signed by Leigh Bardugo! Having only just finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I ordered A Heart So Fierce and Broken because I just knew I wanted to continue reading this series.

Since I didn’t have any more Agatha Christie on my shelf, I decided to order And Then There Were None so I have one lined up for the next time I fancy a mystery. I remember watching the adaptation BBC did a few years ago and thinking it was very good.

I also bought a book on Arthurian literature and legend as part of research for a new series I’m planning at the moment. It will be a retelling of the legends, so I also bought The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I want to read a few retellings as part of that research (plus, you know, I’ve had my eye on this book since it came out…)

Writing

I finished the second draft of the YA fantasy book I finished writing last year. I’ve sent it to a couple of writer friends to read to get some feedback before I do another draft. I’ve also started planning the aforementioned Arthurian legend retelling which I’m really excited for! All the ideas have just grown in my mind over the last few weeks. I’ve got a rough idea for a trilogy in mind, but want to do some more research around the legends themselves before I start making more detailed plans.  

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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Fairyloot February 2020 Unboxing

This is my second Fairyloot box and I was super excited to receive it!

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme. You can subscribe monthly, or there are 3 month and 6 month pre-paid options. The monthly cost is £26. Or you can get a single purchase and just buy a one-off box.

There will be spoilers for the February box ahead!

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books With Single-Word Titles

There seem to be quite a lot of books with long, elaborate titles (e.g. A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Wrath and the Dawn) rather than short or one-word titles. I’ve decided to pick 10 books where the titles either drew me in and are part of what made me read them, or that I feel work really well with the content of the book.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova – I read this book recently, and although it wasn’t one of my favourites, the title is part of what drew me to it. The word ‘incendiary’ relates to fire and conflict which makes for an exciting-sounding title.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – This word really rolls off the tongue and sounds mysterious and captivating.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – This book is one of the best I’ve ever read. The protagonist struggles with finding her voice and speaking aloud the truth of what happened to her, so ‘speak’ is a very well-chosen title for this book.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – This is quite a metaphorical title, but is also a word used in the book. I can’t remember more, it’s been ages since I read it. But I remember thinking it was very effective.

Gone by Michael Grant – This is an incredibly simple word, but the one-syllable ‘gone’ sounds as harsh and final as what the word means. It’s a very short word but definitely one which caught my attention.

Replica by Lauren Oliver – This is a title that caught my attention, and which was very relevant to the book. Plus I did like the book too.

You by Caroline Kepnes – I read this book a few years ago now, but I remember thinking how appropriate the title is. The book is told in second person, which is really unusual.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – Although I felt the series went downhill, I did love the first book when I read it. Uglies is a very apt name for the book as it encapsulates the concepts explored in the series.

Divergent by Veronica Roth – The idea of being different is one that’s I think quite appealing for a teenage audience of people who are trying to work out who they are.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – The mockingjay is a significant symbol in the Hunger Games trilogy. In order to defeat the Capitol, Katniss has to become the mockingjay, a symbol of the rebellion.

Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (eARC)

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

An epic tale of revenge and redemption in a world where a memory thief must fight against terrifying monarchs bent on the destruction of her people.

When the royal family of Puerto Leones sets out to destroy magic through a grand and terrible inquisition, spy and memory-thief Renata seeks to kill the prince, leader of the King’s Justice, who plans to use a terrible new weapon to wipe out the magic of the Moria…

For fans who enjoyed the ferocity of Ember in the Ashes, INCENDIARY explores the double-edged sword of memory and the triumph of hope and love in the midst of fear and oppression.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGallery for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Incendiary is set in a fantasy world inspired by Inquisition-era Spain. The concept of having a character who can steal memories intrigued me. But while the world and concept were interesting, this book was in some ways disappointing.

The opening few chapters grabbed my attention, but there was a lot of new information for the reader, some of which could have been explained better. I did feel a bit lost at times with all the new words and concepts. It was never really explained why Ren is occasionally referred to as an Incendiary, and since that’s the title of the book, it’s a shame that doesn’t come across. I like that we were thrown right into the story, but that did mean I found it a bit difficult to get my head around the magic system. There is a lot of exposition which makes the pacing drag. The first section of the book is very exciting and the last section is also very gripping, but the middle was quite slow and didn’t keep me hooked.  

Ren is a good protagonist. While she’s shunned by society because of her magic, she’s also looked upon with mistrust by the Moria because her magic is rare and seen as dangerous. She has the ability to steal people’s memories, and if she steals too many she can leave a person as a Hollow. This creates some great conflict, as Ren doesn’t really fit in anywhere, and it also means she has a lot of internal conflict which is what drives a lot of the story. However, many of the reveals come from memories Ren has stolen. While she is an active rather than passive character, she doesn’t do much to work things out for herself at times, the reveals for the reader are kind of handed to her.

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