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 – The Map From Here to There

Title: The Map From Here to There (The Start of Me and You #2)

Author: Emery Lord

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: January 7th, 2020

368 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions. 

Review

**Thank you to Bloomsbury YA, Netgalley, and Emery Lord for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

In the second installment of Paige’s story, you get to see how her senior year of high school goes after everything that happened with Max. Paige is going through the age old struggle of trying to balance school, her future career, and a boyfriend. No matter what she does, one starts to fall and she can’t bear to see it be her boyfriend. Mix in mental health issues causing severe anxiety to flare up – it’s a roller coaster ride of a year. Of course, she’s got her friends, but for how long? Who knows where everyone will end up at the end of the year and she is terrified of making the wrong choice.

I was super into the first book, The Start of Me and You. Watching Max and Paige’s friendship and relationship blossom was beautiful, and so reminiscent of high school. I was less invested in the second book, because I don’t feel like it really WENT anywhere. Things happened for sure – ups and downs, twists and turns. Paige puts herself out there in ways she didn’t in the first book and grew up a ton. But it also came with some sacrifice and sadness as well.

I was not a fan of the ending. I almost felt like I read that whole book for… nothing? The ending doesn’t really explain what happens or what Paige chooses – which is a pet peeve of mine for books. If you love a cliffhanger ending that leaves it up to you to decide what happens – I highly recommend. That just isn’t my favorite writing style and I wanted oh so much more from my fave guy and and gal.

This duo is so beautifully written though. I love how LGBTQIA and mental health themes were added into the second book, because it’s important to remember that these issues will affect teenagers. It also provided some good character definition for the characters who were affected.

Overall, a good ending to Paige’s story, but I wish it didn’t have to end. I’d read a play by play of Paige and Max’s relationship for the next ten years if I could.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – A Love Hate Thing

Title: A Love Hate Thing

Author: Whitney D. Grandison

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: January 7th, 2020

448 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.

When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the wealthy coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the rough streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, much less how the rest of his life will play out.

Golden girl Nandy Smith has spent most of her life building the pristine image that it takes to fit in when it comes to her hometown Pacific Hills where image is everything. After learning that her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames.

Now with Trice living under the same roof, the wall between their bedrooms feels as thin as the line between love and hate. Beneath the angst, their growing attraction won’t be denied. Through time, Trice brings Nandy out of her shell, and Nandy attempts to melt the ice that’s taken Trice’s heart and being. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.

Review

**Thank you to Inkyard Press, Netgalley, and Whitney D. Grandison for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Tyson Trice recently underwent a terrible family tragedy, which has left him broken and confused living with the family of a childhood friend he hasn’t seen in 10 years. He is from Lindenwood, a notoriously dangerous area of town, and is now living in Pacific Hills – the rich area. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and he knows it. Nandy is not happy her parents decided to take Tyson in after 10 years, she has perfected her Pacific Hills Queen image and wants nothing that will tarnish that. Also, Tyson is not the 7 year old boy she remembers, this Tyson is hard and scary – and she wants none of that in her life.

Tyson and Nandy go through a whole lot in this novel, and it really is a tale of learning to look past prejudice and bias while recovering from personal loss. This story is not simple or easy, but it’s theirs. It is important to see how far Tyson is able to come back from the brink, and what Nandy can do to grow past her misconceptions. Both learn from each other throughout the novel, even if they aren’t on good terms.

A Love Hate Thing reminded me of the movie The Blind Side. Rich family takes in an underprivileged boy from a rough background. It’s not exactly a 1:1 comparison because there’s no sports involved and the family knew Tyson before he was taken in – but the gist of it was similar. Similar acceptance themes in the affluent community is seen, and I almost think the side character’s interactions with Tyson were more important that Nandy’s. It’s easy to assume Nandy will come around and break barriers (because she’s a MC) but to have the side character’s also noticeably learn from the experience was fun.

This book is LONG. Almost 500 pages focused on Tyson and Nandy’s summer before senior year of high school. There were times that I felt the book continued on past what it needed to, or parts of it could be cut out. It just felt like too much. The story is told in alternating chapters between Tyson and Nandy’s POV – so you get different side characters depending on who’s POV you’re reading at the time – but they do all overlap. I love contemporaries that have a romance component, and especially love when part of it is told from the male (or alternate) partner’s perspective. I feel like it rounds out the book to get both sides.

Go check out A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison, her debut novel!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – We Used To Be Friends

Title: We Used To Be Friends

Author: Amy Spalding

Publisher: ABRAMS Kids (Amulet Books)

Publication date: January 7th, 2020

384 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two best friends grow up—and grow apart—in this innovative contemporary YA novel

Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.

Review

**Thank you to ABRAMS Kids (Amulet Books), Netgalley, and Amy Spalding for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

We Used To Be Friends follows BFF’s Kat and James through their senior year of high school, right up to when they leave for college. The twist is that Kat’s version is told from beginning to end, and James’ version is from end to beginning – and it’s the story of a best friend break-up. Kat and James slowly grew apart over time during their senior year as they got ready to embark on new adventures. Both had a lot of big, personal events happen this year and it was just too hard to stay close.

Honestly, this book hit me in my feelings. I needed to take a day to gather my thoughts before writing this review. It was really good, don’t get me wrong, but brought up some past issues within my own life that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. But, I actually love when books seem real enough to affect you – whether positive or negative – which I think is a huge pro to WUTBF. While there was boy/girlfriend drama within the book, it was really focused on the friend relationship between Kat and James, which is rarely the main focus of a YA book, no matter the genre. I appreciated the author’s ability to keep romantic relationships out of the forefront.

The reverse timelines was confusing as times. I started off strong with being able to keep it straight, but then got confused in the middle. By the end I was back on track, but I felt like I needed to write stuff down to keep dates in order. This may be due to reading it ebook style, I’m not sure how the print book will look. I do think the reverse timelines helped tell the story because you could see how events overlapped and were perceived differently between two drastically different viewpoints.

There was no happy ending. I think this was what killed me the most. I wanted a happy ending, some epilogue to remind me that these breakups can be a happy ending. I didn’t get that, but it almost made the read more poignant because it’s REAL. Not everything has a happy ending and that is okay. Sometimes relationships just fail over time and are replaced by others. It doesn’t take away from the importance of the relationship.

Well done, Amy Spalding. Thank you for telling a story that will evoke powerful emotions in anyone who grew apart from a close friend during this time of life – when people grow up, change, and move away.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

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!