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Londons, Magic, and Coats | The Shades of Magic Series

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Not too long ago, I gave into my long time desire to read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Schwab writes both adult and YA (under the name Victoria Schwab for YA), and I’d heard nothing but incredible things about her work. I was in the mood for a fantasy, and while I was at BookPeople browsing I stumbled across ADSOM on the shelves…and totally caved. A few weeks later, I dove into the book and barely came up for air. I was immediately pulled into the story and fell head over heels in love.

Novel: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab | Goodreads
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

Things I loved about ADSOM in a bullet-pointed list, because otherwise I’ll get too rambly:

  • The world building. Like holy WOW
  • Kell, aka smug and hilarious and caring and loyal
  • Lila, aka my dream BFF because she’s so kick-butt she gives Feyre (A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas) a run for her money
  • Sassy Rhy who I would like to meet Rhys of A Court of Thorns and Roses please
  • Evil Holland + the twins
  • Kell fancy-schmancy coat that I would like to borrow please and thank you
  • The magic that Schwab wrote about with incredible finesse. I was continually in shocked by how detailed the magic was, since commonly in fantasy the magic is discussed in this very conceptual way. Schwab, though, describes her magic like it’s tangible and real – making the world building even better.
  • All those Londons that are creepy but cool
  • The plot constantly kept me on my toes!
  • Started slow but got so fast-paced mid-way through (aka my favorite pacing)
  • that slow-burn romance though

Things I wish were different:

  • nothing
  • (possibly longer because I didn’t want it to end)

Conclusions:

  • GIMME GIMME GIMME MORE

So I naturally went out and bought A Gathering of Shadows about two weeks later, because my soul had to recover before I could put it through book two. And oh my word it somehow got better ???

Novel: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | Goodreads
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 23rd, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Things I loved about AGOS:

  • it was set almost entirely in Red London! (I love me some Red London)
  • Lila got her boat! Lila was a pirate! Lila got even more kick-butt! Lila also made many questionable choices! Lila made me very anxious but I survived!
  • Kell got a little bit angsty and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, coat got more intense and I cried a little bit.
  • Rhy got more time and omg I love him
  • Alucard!!!!!!!!!!! aka a pirate turned totally amazing magician who I’m in love with as well
  • (basically I love everyone????)
  • THERE ARE MAGICAL GAMES
  • lots of fun new magic is discussed and it somehow got more vivid and beautiful?
  • my ship sailed and I died a bit inside
  • Victoria Schwab joined my top 10 authors list after two books which is a feat in of itself
  • that cliffhanger split my soul into seven pieces and the Horcruxes are on different pages of the book

Things I wish were different:

  • I missed all of my Londons 🙁

In conclusion, I’m in love with this series and my heart will not be whole again until A Conjuring of Light comes out nExT yEaR and between now and then I will be eating my feels and crying in bed.

V.E. Schwab, I blame you.

((Also who else wants a book with Rhys + Feyre + Lila + Kell because I’m so up for this.))

Mini-Reviews | May/June

mini-reviews

Hello, all! I’ve been a bit out of the mood of blogging, and have also been really busy, and so I’ve decided to catch up on my reads with some mini-reviews. This may become a new thing for me, especially as I’m considering branching out into different things on the blog!

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Novel: The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn, #2) by Renee Ahdieh | Goodreads
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

This is the sequel to my beloved The Wrath and the Dawn, which I adored. The sequel is just as addicting and beautiful, detailing the lands outside of the city where TWaTD is set, and with a set of characters that weren’t as present in TWaTD. You see Shahrzad growing into her own person with her new power as Calipha, and struggling with her past. Khalid, the Caliph and her love, is in danger – Shahrzad’s childhood love is trying to kill him – and Shahrzad is caught in the middle. She struggles throughout the book with what the should do, how she can make things right, and how she can save her father, who has turned to the dark side.

The Rose and the Dagger was stunning. Incredibly well written (Ahdieh creates picturesque worlds that she describes wonderfully) and full of character development, two things I look for. And, it was a fantastic sequel! If you read TWaTD and haven’t gotten around to reading The Rose and the Dagger, you are severely missing out, because this one will break your heart and put it back together again. (Also: THERE’S AN EPILOGUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i love a good epilogue.)

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Novel: The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse | Goodreads
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

Everyone knows I’m a killer for a historical fiction novel, and I have a particular hankering for those set during/after World War II. This one is set in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation and is a heart-breaking yet beautiful picture of life under Nazi rule. Hanneke is a teenage girl mourning the loss of her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines, and works delivering black market goods to people in the city. When she’s asked to look for a Jewish girl who has escaped her safe place, Hanneke is thrust into a new world – one of rebellion and sacrifice. Hanneke for the first time learns of the horrible things being done to the Dutch Jews, and is in a race against deportation to find the girl who has gone missing.

I adored this book. I loved the way Hesse painted a picture of Amsterdam in 1943 – the food, the sounds, the smells of the streets. The heartbreak and pride and devastation. The betrayal of those who side with the Nazis. The fear. Hanneke also grows so much over the course of the book, and I loved seeing the woman she becomes by the end. (Also, this book isn’t heavy on romance!) If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this is one you have to read – I can’t recommend it enough!

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Novel: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma | Goodreads
Release Date: March 24th, 2015
Publisher: Algoquin Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

 

I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, and it took me an A Novel Chat episode to finally do it! It’s our book for June, so if you’ve read the book, or are interested, I highly recommend checking the podcast out.

One thing cannot be argued with: Suma is one heck of a writer. She has this lyrical, mesmerizing style that I fell in love with. As far as the book goes, I liked it okay. I had some issues with the narration of the story, mainly. The book is told from two points of view: Amber, a girl at a juvenile detention center, and Violet, a girl with hopes of being a prima ballerina. Violet has lost her best friend, Orianna, who has been arrested and sent to the juvenile detention center Amber is at. Personally, I didn’t like the choice of narrators. I felt like Orianna should’ve had a point of view, and either Amber or Violet needed to go.

This book not only messes with your mind but also was hard to follow for me. The beginning never seemed to really make sense with the rest of the story, and this was a theme throughout the book for me – I never quite understood how everything pieced together. Which is key, I think, when you’re writing a book where the two narrators have difference timelines. (Violet after Orianna is sent away, Amber before/during.)

However, the writing and the desire to know what happened in the end kept me going. I don’t know if I’d recommend this one highly or not, but I know this was not the book for me.

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Novel: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

I’m a huge fan of Morgan Matson. I love her as a person, as a writer, and I love her books just as much. The Unexpected Everything was just what the title says – unexpectedly everything I could’ve wanted. It’s a perfect book for the summer, all about friendship, growing up, falling in love, and taking risks.

Andie, the main character, is thrown for a loop when her summer plans of a prestigious internship are trashed by a scandal involving her politician father. And then, Andie ends up walking dogs for her summer job. And (maybe) dating a cute boy name Clark?

Andie struggles throughout the book with her future, something I relate so much. But I think this book has a really important message – that although working hard is incredibly important, so is having fun and enjoying yourself. As teenagers, we can get caught up in what we “have” to do to have a “good” future and forget to enjoy the now. I loved seeing Andie spend time her friends (who I ADORED) and find someone who gets her in the way she needed. She grows so much over the course of a summer, and by the end of the book (which I binge read on my couch), I was in love with Andie, her friends, Clark (HEART EYES), her dad, and all of the dogs and wanted another book. If you’re a fan of contemporary summer reads, this one is a definite must-read for you!

 

Book Review: Defending Taylor

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Novel: Defending Taylor (Hundred Oaks Series) by Miranda Kenneally | Goodreads
Release Date: July 1st, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: E-ARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

I love Miranda Kenneally.

A lot.

Her books are touching, romantic, and beautifully written. Defending Taylor made me love her even more though.

Kenneally took the stereotype rich-Senator’s-kid and turned it on a head. She showed a family who loved one another (even though they forgot what that meant sometimes) and believed in each other.

When Taylor is expelled from St. Andrews, her prestigous boarding school, she’s distraught, especially since the drugs weren’t hers. She’s sent home, where she has to go to Hundred Oaks High, a school with a not-so-good soccer team and academics below what Taylor’s used to. She struggles to find a place, especially when her dad keeps pushing her away in order to keep her out of the spotlight, and she can’t seem to make any friends. The only person who talks to her – and who cares – is Ezra, the boy she had a crush on as a kid.

Except times are a changin’.

And Ezra is sure interested in Taylor.

All of Kenneally’s couples make me giddy (it’s like Katie McGarry level love for her couples) but Taylor and Ezra are just incredible. They’re fiery, sweet, and honest. (In almost all respects.) Taylor wants nothing but the best for Ezra, and pushes him to go back to school despite the problems his dyslexia was causing him. Ezra encourages Taylor to open up to the people around her and be her own person, even if that means not doing what her family expects of her. Their sweet love made me fall head over heels for them!

(Also: get ready for cameos! Savannah, Jack, Jeremiah, and Annie are back on the scene!)

One of the other things I adored about this book was the way Kenneally addresses real topics: drugs, sex, college, and growing up. She doesn’t shy away from the facts of all four. Instead, her character explore them all with open minds and make plenty of mistakes along the way. (The only thing that bothered me was that Taylor was supposed to be incredible smart, but her SAT score was in the 1500s – if she’s Yale material, she would’ve had at least a 2000!)

I love Miranda Kenneally, and if you haven’t checked out her books yet, you’re severely missing out. Get excited for some headstrong young women and swoonworthy young men!

Book Review: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

20522640Novel: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash | Goodreads
Release Date: June 14th, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: E-ARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy…

Archie and Veronica…

Althena and Noth…

…Graham and Roxy?

Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

I’m a self-professed nerd.

This meant that this book = one of the best things ever.

I’m not a comic book nerd, but I still highly appreciate the community, so I was still able to enjoy reading about Graham and Roxy and friends’s experiences at Comic Con. So, if you don’t read comics, never fear! You’ll still be engrossed in the story.

I immediately related to Graham. His lack of experience in the dating department, the pining for a girl he’s loved for forever, and his desire to make the moment he tells her his feelings absolutely perfect. I got his desire for it to be comic book (or in my case, book) perfect. What Graham quickly realizes is that in real life, things don’t always happen like you want. People get in the way (cough cough British Devin cough cough), things don’t go according to plan (not getting the tickets to the event he was planning to impress Roxy with), and people don’t respond the way you hope.

A lot of the book is about Graham coping with things not going according to plan, and also coming to terms with the possibility that Roxy may not feel the same way. His growth as a character made me love him even more – he evolved from this boy who was pining after his best friend to someone who has experience and has learned how to deal with rejection. With the backdrop of Comic Con, the story line was even better! It heightened the geek love and was such a unique setting for a book.

Basically, I loved this book. A lot. 

I loved Graham’s geeky weirdness. I loved Roxy’s outfits and her art skills. I loved Casey and his obsession with his grades. I loved Amelia and how she helps Graham grow throughout the story. I loved Devin and his British accent.

I LOVED EVERYTHING.

Definitely give this book a read if you’re a geek, a nerd, or anything in between. It reads like a John Hughes movie, is filled with humor, and leaves you in love with the entire cast of characters.

 

A Love Letter to A COURT OF MIST AND FURY

20522640Novel: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) by Sarah J. Maas | Goodreads
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.


Bit of a new style today, but this was what I needed after reading this book. Bear with me.

Dear A Court of Mist and Fury,

You are the book I want to write.

I’ve dreamed for a long time about writing the perfect book that evokes all of the right emotions in the right way with the right characters and the right plot and the right writing, and then you came along. And you showed me that my idea of a perfect book…it doesn’t exist. Instead, there are the right books. The right kind of books for the right kind of people. The book that someone will read and it will take over their life.

The one thing that I know, though, is I want to write a book that makes someone feel like the way you made me feel. As if my world have been cut in two: life and reading A Court of Mist and Fury. When I was doing my regular life things (studying for AP Statistics) all I wanted to be doing was reading you. I had to go to the gym, so I read you while I was working out. And then I almost started sobbing on the elliptical at six in the morning and drew some stares, but it was worth it.

I spent about six hours reading you. All 640 pages of you. I stormed through you, drinking up the words, begging for it to never end and to find some type of resolution in the ending that I knew would come.

And you gave me resolution, but you also tore my heart in two at the end. You tore my heart in half and stomped on it and set it on fire with Feyre’s powers, letting the smoke curl up into the night sky of the Night Court. You let Cassian kill it with his blades and Mor give it one of her smiles and Amren spit blood on it and Azriel give it a good long stare and Rhys mutilate it into a million tiny pieces.

And I loved every second of it.

Enough to put myself through it all again (because I’m rereading it. Now.)

I could go on and on about you. I could talk about you until there were no more hours left and my throat was raw. But let me start by saying this: thank you. Thank you for being a story I could lose every part of my life in, for consuming me. Thank you for your characters who became a part of my life, who I saw when I looked up every once and a while to see if it was time for me to eat something. Thank you for taking everything I love about reading and turning it into a book. You made me remember why I read, why I write, and why I want to do this with my life.

Feyre, your power and your will to live and live beautifully and powerfully made my open my eyes to the reality of life. That you don’t have to have some illustrious career or change the world, you just have to be happy. To always strive to be happy, to always look for a way to be happy. And get away from the people who are going to suck the life out of you.

Rhys, you showed me love. You showed me what love and loyalty and never-ending strength means. You showed me in the way you looked at your lands, in the way you gazed at Feyre, in the way you loved your friends fiercely and without question. Your trust in the people you cared for is something I will always hold dear.

Amren, Mor, Azriel, and Cassian. You made this book so much more. You showed what a family is. A family of happiness. Of trust. Of loyalty. Of fierce love that never ends. You made me laugh, cry, and want to write your words all over my body.

And now, obviously, to Sarah J. Maas: you are a wonder. This book is a wonder. It’s utterly beautiful and made me feel every emotion I’ve ever known and I don’t know what to do with myself now. So I’m just rereading it because I don’t know how I will ever get over it. Thank you for writing this book and for writing these characters and for continuing this series…because if you left me with that ending I would smash YOUR arm into pieces just like Rhys.

A Court of Mist and Fury, you will be joining Jellicoe Road in my suitcase to college in the fall. You are that treasured.

All my love,

Willa.