Book Review – Lady Midnight

“These pictures are my heart. And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

Title: Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margarat K. McElderry Books

Publication date: March 8th, 2016

698 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

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.

Review

Being told that love is forbidden does not kill love. It strengthens it.

CASSANDRA CLARE, LADY MIDNIGHT

Here I am, over halfway done my Cassandra Clare binge and almost being done all her main works! I will eventually read her short story collections, but probably not for a little while. I already have my books for February planned so maybe after that, or whenever I can get them from the library!

The Dark Artifices starts with Lady Midnight and it picks up about 5 years after City of Heavenly Fire ended. It follows Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs, 2 young heroes during the Dark War. They are now parabatai, bonded by lifelong runes to fight along side and protect each other no matter what. They live at the Los Angeles Institute and everything has been quiet… until now. A string of murders are plaguing the city, humans and Downworlders alike. Emma believes it is connected to her parent’s murders 5 years ago, and she won’t stop until she finds out who killed them. The answer comes with unexpected consequences…

Okay, so Julian and Emma are adorable. So far, I have to rank them 4th in my Shadowhunter relationship guide (out of 4) but there’s still 2 books left to change that! (For those wondering, my top 4 are: Tessa and Will, Tessa and Jem, Jace and Clary, Julian and Emma) Their big problem is that they are in love with each other, which is forbidden for parabatais for a reason no one seems to know. I had a hard time with this, because I kept being weirded out by their love, confusing ‘parabatai’ with ‘sibling’. I had to keep reminding myself that there isn’t anything morally wrong with them being in love, it’s just against the law. That took their relationship down in my mind.

I do love that Cassie switched up the ‘model’ of her relationships. Whereas Tessa and Clary are strong, it’s in a soft-girlish way that allowed the big, masculine love interests shine. The roles are flipped with Julian and Emma. One critique I’ve had of her books is that TMI and TID are basically the same plot… just with different characters 200 years apart. This gives some “different” vibes to it. AND Cassie added a Shadowhunter character with autism which is nice, as well as one with mental illness. The representation is… okay… as in it is looked down upon in Shadowhunter society because they don’t fit the mold. I sincerely hope the rep evolves over this trilogy and ends well for those characters.

Our villian is super unexpected, and that’s all I will say about it. I loved the Poe references (all the chapter titles are taken from the Annabel Lee poem, which factors into the story). AND THAT EPILOGUE. Ugh omg I could die. I am really excited to jump into Lord of Shadows to see where this story goes, because without the epilogue the book is fairly wrapped up. Then WHAM plot twist. I’m here for it.

Unexpected side character love: Mark and Christina. Mark and Christina forever, deuces Perfect Diego. Mark Blackthorn comes back from The Wild Hunt and is so endearingly different, it’s amazing to watch his transformation. Christina is a great character, and again different than the female side characters from TMI and TID (ahem, Isabelle and Jessamine). I want more of her, and less of Perfect Diego (can you say uppity? gross). Love when side characters hold their own.

Okay, I’m going to go read Lord of Shadows now that I got all those feelings out!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – City of Heavenly Fire

“Temper us in fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.”

Title: City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: May 27th, 2014

726 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!

Review

We are all the pieces of what we remember. We hold in ourselves the hopes and fears of those who love us. As long as there is love and memory, there is no true loss.

CASSANDRA CLARE, CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE

It has finally come to and end! The Mortal Instruments was certainly a ride for me as a reader, and I’ve spent a year finishing the series (I read the first three in early 2019 but didn’t get the last three until Christmas). There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a long series, especially one that it seems everyone else has read!

No spoilers, so this will probably be a very short review. City of Heavenly Fire was a LONG-ASS book, Jiminy Crickets. I like thicc books don’t get me wrong, but this was an investment. I actually put it off a few days because it was so intimidating, and I am not dauntless (I would probably be Erudite TBH for those who get that reference). I’m truly not sure what I will do when I am faced with Queen of Air and Darkness.

The conclusion to this series needed to be epic to make it worth six books. And it came SO CLOSE to being epic. My one major problem? There’s no way the ending is physically possible. Like seriously, my girl Cassie seriously created a whole rulebook for this alt universe and then threw it out the damn window. Of course, a level of suspension of belief is necessary for fantasy books but COME ON.

Also, Shadowhunters kind of suck. Like unpopular opinion, but a lot of them in the Clave are terrible people. I get the racism towards the end was needed to set up The Dark Artifices but holy freaking cow jump off your high horses and realize that just because your part angel doesn’t make you GOD and better than errybody else. Also, this ridiculous “we only care about your thoughts/feelings/opinions if you’re 18+ is bullshirt and needs to be trashed. Rant over.

So. What did I like you ask? I love Clary and Jace. I will ship them forever. I uber love Simon and Isabelle. Magnus and Alec will have my heart for the rest of time. What I loved about the whole series was the relationships that built and strengthened. I was a Jace and Clary book for the rest of their lives – when they get married, have babies, and inevitably die. I want it ALL. I’m invested in these characters, and that is a mark of a great series.

I do wish I had read the first trilogy before these because I feel like I forgot some details that would have been lovely to know during these three books. Also, this turned into a long-winded review, which is the opposite of what I promised in the beginning. My bad! Sorry friends!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – City of Lost Souls

Missing, one stunningly attractive teenage boy. Answers to ‘Jace’ or ‘Hot Stuff’

Title: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: May 8th, 2012

536 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What price is too high to pay, even for love? Plunge into fifth installment in the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series and “prepare to be hooked” (Entertainment Weekly)—now with a gorgeous new cover, a map, a new foreword, and exclusive bonus content! City of Lost Souls is a Shadowhunters novel.

When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Review

I hope you told him you were bitten by a gay spider.

Cassandra clare, city of lost souls

I’m back, and moving through my Cassandra Clare binge! Next up was City of Lost Souls, which continues to follow Jace and Clary while they try and save everyone from Sebastian. Unfortunately, I felt this book had classic middle book syndrome so I had to rate it a littler lower than City of Fallen Angels.

I feel like this book had a lot more potential. Jace’s plot in this had the possibility of being really interesting and deep – but it fell flat as he spent most of it just trying to get into Clary’s sensible pants (I mean, I know he’s a teenage boy but you spent 4 books giving him dimension, keep it going). Clary also fell deeper into the crazy girlfriend trope, and at one point makes a gigantic decision for Jace that she had no right making. This part was VERY annoying, because of how intensely wrong it was. But I digress.

This book was obviously just setting up the plot of the 6th book, City of Heavenly Fire. A big war is coming between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian and everyone will be affected. My fave characters in this book were Isabelle and Simon. I feel like Izzy’s character arc is really rounding out as we learn more of her background and what makes her who she is. Simon is going through a huge transition time and he still manages to keep up his dry humor, which is lovely and heartening. They took the award of primary ship from Jace and Clary in this book.

THAT ENDING THO. Okay, so I need to know what happens with the vampires. That ending was the only truly shocking plot point in the book, along with the break up from one couple. The ending redeemed the book a bit for me.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Entwined Paths

Title: Entwined Paths (Swift Shadows #2)

Author: M.L. Greye

Publisher: Self-published

Publication date: January 3rd, 2020

664 pages

4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Royals support the crown.
Rioters wish to tear it down.

Five years ago, Emry was mourning the loss of her only brother and feeling utterly helpless. When the opportunity arose to travel to the exotic nation of Heerth, Emry jumped on it. Through the help of her friend, Trezim, she learned the skills needed to protect herself and possibly save her country.

The past five years have gone a little differently for Declan. He has been kidnapped, beaten, stolen, robbed of all that he had … and trained to become the fastest man in history. But was it all worth it in the end?

Set in a world where eye color determines one’s abilities, Emry and Declan must discover the hard way that not all eyes are created equally. Yet, when they do find their perfect match, everything seems to pair up nicely.

Review

**Thank you to the author, M.L. Greye, for providing an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

When Greye emailed me asking if I wanted the opportunity to review the second installment of the Swift Shadows series, I jumped at the chance. I loved Of Rioters and Royals and was stoked to get a sequel so quickly. One thing I should mention before I dive in, is that this is a prequel. This was a brief disappointment to me, I wanted to know what was happened next! However, it was very brief because then I saw I got to learn how Emry and Declan came to be, and wowza it was something I didn’t know I wanted but definitely needed.

Entwined Paths takes place 5 years prior to the events in Of Rioters and Royals. You get to see how Emry became The Mistress and what led her to that decision. You see her background with her father, Cit, and Trezim – and how she learned to wield her powers with the strength she does in ORAR. Simultaneously, we get to see what Declan went through as one of the Stolen – and how his powers strengthen with hers. It was lovely to have this level of description to their past selves and experience their trials and tribulations. I especially loved when Emry was competing in the staff competition as she was becoming The Mistress – she’s a powerful lady who really cares about her country and more power to her.

The dream sequences where Emry and Declan met to get through their mutual situations were just so heartwarming. I love their relationship so much and it helped their character arc to see what contact they had before that fateful day where she dropped down from the tree in front of him. I will read anything Greye writes in this world because it is just so fascinating to me. The magic system is completely inspired (your powers are based on eye color) and makes me wish I lived in this world so I could run really past or control fire.

One thing – this book is LONG. It is 664 pages of beauty, yes, but it will take some time to get through. And when I said I was briefly disappointed by the prequel status, I meant it, but THAT ENDING was a brief hint to the current world and I NEED THE NEXT ONE STAT!

These books are available on Kindle Unlimited, so please go pick them up!!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Everafter Song

Title: Everafter Song (The Evermore Chronicles #3)

Author: Emily R. King

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication date: December 10th, 2019

282 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

There’s a price on Everley Donovan’s head. Fleeing from the queen’s false accusation of murder and sorcery, the girl with the clock heart knows there’s only one way to prove her innocence. Everley must catch Killian Markham, the fugitive prince guilty of the crimes for which she’s been condemned. To do that, Everley must follow him into the towering realm of the Silver-Clouded Plain. It’s where flesh-eating Behemoths thrive, long-lost gods hide, and an artifact of destructive force awaits the death grip of the immortal prince.

Haunted by visions of burning Everwoods and bloody battlefields, Everley’s fears are rising. Because the elusive relic threatens more than the very power that drives her clock heart. In Killian’s hands, it can lead to the dismantling of the seven worlds. With everything—and everyone—Everley loves at stake, she must depend on Killian’s one weakness to outwit him: in his mad ambitions, Killian has underestimated her once again. For Everley is the Time Bearer. This is her destiny. The time of reckoning is at hand.

Review

**Thank you to Skyscape, Netgalley, and Emily R. King for this ebook copy in exchange for an honest review**

In the last book in The Evermore Chronicles, Everley is so close to stopping Killian Markham, but he keeps slipping through her fingers. Time and time again she walks right into his traps, and he walks away with the lead. Everley must travel more than ever and get used to powers she didn’t realize she had, and quickly so she can use them to gain advantage on Markham. Several endings have been foretold, and Everafter Song brings even new magical creatures – elves, giants, trolls, sea hags, etc into the fold. Everley is doing all she can to maintain the structure of the worlds and not allow Markham to rip them all apart. But will she have the strength to make the hard decision when it comes?

Alas, this trilogy is over. I am 100% DEAD over the ending. NO spoilers here, but man am I sad about it. Everafter Song is the end book you want to bring a magical and wild adventure to an end. And, my most hated characters got what was coming to them in the end – which is great. I flowed through this book all in one day because I just needed to know how the story ended and whether Everley was able to prevail and save the worlds.

The world-building in this series is insane. So insane, it was almost hard to keep straight at times. I did read these on my iPad, so assuming there is a map in the print books that would help keep track of the worlds. The concept of Father Time has been interesting throughout this story, even if I didn’t always agree with their actions.

OH and we have a few quietly LGBTQIA characters. Multiple lesbian/gay/bisexual (not entirely clear but there were same sex relationships/interests) along with a transgender elf. I AM HERE FOR IT. Osric must be protected at all costs.

I just have to go back to the ending though. The end is really the kicker for me that pulled the rating down. I wish there had been a way to have a Happily Ever After ending, but I totally get why there wasn’t. I just feel like King built such a bad-a character in Everley and the ending took all of that away from her.

Overall, I think if you like epic world-building, YA Fantasy, and some irredeemable characters please go check out The Evermore Chronicles!

eARC Review – The Wickerlight

Title: The Wickerlight (The Wren Hunt #2)

Author: Mary Watson

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: November 26th, 2019

416 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this lush, magical thriller for fans of the Raven Cycle and The Hazel Wood, one girl’s murder investigation leads her into an ancient magical war.

It’s been two months since Zara’s sister Laila was found lifeless on the village green of the small Irish town Kilshamble, not a mark on her. Vicious rumors circle that she died of an overdose or committed suicide–but an autopsy finds no evidence.

Zara believes somebody must know what happened, and she throws herself headfirst into an investigation. But retracing her sister’s footsteps takes her to David, a member of an ancient magical faction called the judges. The judges are in the midst of an ancient feud with another faction called the augurs, and Zara quickly finds herself embroiled in a dangerous, twisted game. And if she isn’t careful on the path she’s treading, she could end up with the same fate as Laila.

Riveting, atmospheric, and full of dangerous magic, this lyrical novel set in the world of The Wren Hunt is perfect for readers of Maggie Stiefvater and Melissa Albert.

Review

**Thank you to Bloomsbury YA, Netgalley, and Mary Watson for providing me this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Wickerlight picks up where The Wren Hunt picks up, just not focused on Wren and Tarc. This book focuses on Zara, who’s sister was found dead during Wren’s ritual to turn into the flower woman in the first book, and David, Wren’s tormentor. You get a peek behind the curtains into David’s motivations and desires, and it helps turn him a bit into a redeemable character (but only barely). The Wickerlight continues the theme of being confusing and having a host of irredeemable characters. Zara works to learn more about her sister’s death, while dealing with her family life crumbling around her. David is trying to become the most respected warrior judge, and get away from his Dad’s influence.

I was surprised to see that this was not a continuation of Wren’s story, because I really did not feel like the first book wrapped everything up in Wren’s story. It was disorienting and took me some time to catch up to Zara’s story. Zara and David are still both irredeemable characters, if you thought that theme would change with book two, you were mistaken. The judges and augurs all make terrible decisions and hate each other for a reason that is fairly superfluous. They also have no regard for non-gifted people, as Zara’s life and state of mind is constantly tampered with and threatened during this book.

This duology was not for me. Mary Watson’s writing is gorgeous and flowing, but I could not get past the character’s flaws. It’s hard for me to connect with a book if I can’t find common ground with at least one character. I don’t expect every character to be a saint, but I need one who is redeemable. If you love books that are beautifully written with a bunch of irredeemable characters running around rural Ireland, check out this duology!

Keep in mind, this review and release is for the US edition. The UK edition has already been released.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Coral

Title: Coral

Author: Sara Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing

Publication date: November 12th, 2019

384 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.

Review

**Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing, Sara Ella, and Netgalley for providing me this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

First off, I want to give a GIANT trigger warning for this book. Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and suicidality are all major themes in this book and can be hard for some to read. Please be mindful of your mental health while reading this book, and please seek help if you are in need. A great part of this book is that Sara Ella begins the book with a long trigger warning, which is so helpful.

Coral loosely follows the original The Little Mermaid fairy tale. There are three points of view in this book: Coral, a mermaid princess who feels out of place within her family. Human emotion is considered a “Disease” in the mer-world and her eldest sister falls to the Disease after falling in love with a human prince. Merrick is a troubled young man who’s world falls to pieces when his 10 year old sister attempts suicide. He sets of on a journey to help her in the only way he can think of. Lastly, we have Brooke, a young woman who has entered treatment for depression and suicidal ideation. Her story is that of redemption and regaining mental health stability in a world she doesn’t feel she belongs. All three separate stories become forever entwined after mutual loss and love.

There is a lot to unpack in this novel. As someone who’s professional background (outside of reviewing books!) is in Clinical Psychology, I feel qualified to say that Sara Ella provided a realistic and haunting explanation of the affect of depression and suicidal ideation on the self and the family unit. There are a lot of bad examples of mental health and those who suffer from the disease in the media in society, but I see Sara Ella working to dispel the presumptions and biases and applaud her.

One thing I will say is that the timing and pacing of this book seem off. There was a point where I was very confused about the timeline, and I recognize this is due to trying to keep the big reveal from being realized too soon, but this makes the book more confusing than necessary. It’s a good twist, but not worth the initial confusion. Also, the ending didn’t seem to wrap up the story as much as I wanted. I felt disappointed in the lack of clear ending and I feel some ends are still loose.

Overall, Sara Ella has woven a story of life, love, and struggling with internal demons – something we can all relate to whether we want to admit it or not. It starts a conversation about healing and recovery from illness, but also continues the conversation about those who succumb to the disease and move on from this life. Again, please be aware of your own mental health when reading this book.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂