Review: Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

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Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: May 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 336
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For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I am so in love with Jessica Shirvington right now! I read her Disruption duology back in July and absolutely fell in love with it and I’m happy to say that Between the Lives was just as good.

This is a contemporary novel with a paranormal twist. Sabine has lived two separate lives for as long as she can remember. Every night at midnight, she Shifts into her other body and lives that same day again, except as her other self. And her two lives and selves could not be any more different. In one, she’s the slightly rebellious girl from a poor family who runs a small pharmacy. She has a younger sister who she adores but not much else going for her. However, in her other life, she leads a privileged life and has the perfect relationship with the perfect boy. During her entire existence, her Shifts have been governed by the same rule, that anything external or not part of her body cannot be transported from one life to another, but anything internal such as illnesses will appear in both lives. Until one day when her broken arm in her delinquent life doesn’t transfer to her other life. Sick and tired of living two lives as two separate people, and going through the panic that comes with Shifting each night, Sabine runs a series of tests on herself in an attempt to extinguish her delinquent life in order to live only her more privileged life to the fullest. However, things don’t always go to plan and Sabine definitely didn’t plan on meeting Ethan.

The story and plot of this book was just so captivating! I was drawn in from the very first page and I just constantly wanted to know what would happen next. I thought the concept of the book was brilliant and that it was executed extremely well. While Sabine’s two lives were slightly cliched (perfect rich girl vs poor delinquent), the plot of the book drew my attention away from that because I was just so focused on how the story would end. Because the novel constantly alternated between Sabine’s two lives, I found the book to be quite thrilling and exciting because we (and Sabine) were constantly left in suspense until she Shifted back 24 hours later. It was this constant uncertainty and mystery that drove the book and made me so interesting to read. My only small criticism with the book was that there were a few things that I thought could have been resolved a little bit more, but I really loved the last few chapters of the book and thought it was a fantastic ending.

Sabine’s character really made me love the book as well. While she has two different lives that forces her to behave in two different ways, I never felt that she was two entirely different people. Her personality really came across to me, even though who she portrayed herself as was different depending on where she was supposed to be. I really loved the internal struggle that Sabine had. On one hand, she doesn’t want to let go of either of her lives because of the people around her but at the same time, she’s exhausted from having to live each day twice and having to transform into two different people and constantly reminding herself of who she needs to be. I loved this internal conflict that she had and it was so strangely relatable (no, I do not have two lives) that I couldn’t help but just sit in my little corner cheering Sabine on.

And of course there’s Ethan. I can’t say that Sabine and Ethan’s romance is OTP status for me like Maggie and Quentin from Jessica Shirvington’s other work, but I loved them together anyway. I didn’t feel this all-consuming passion but I thought they were wonderful for each other. They each brought something to the other’s life (or lives) and that really hit me hard and made me tear up.

There wasn’t very much that I didn’t like about Between the Lives. It was a quick read, filled with lots of brilliantly executed elements. Highly recommend!

Review: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

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Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: March, 2015 (Originally August 27, 2013)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 272
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When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Where do I even begin with these 270 pages of goodness? It was a harrowing look into OCD and the effect it has on not only those suffering from the disorder but those around them too. But even though it was an emotional book about serious issues, there’s an abundance of humour and wit that made it an absolute delight to read. This is my favourite book about OCD that I’ve read so far and I cannot recommend it more highly.

While the book ostensibly is about the romance, there was so much more to it. In fact, I think the romance was the least important aspect of the book. It’s really a book about OCD and the struggles that our main character, Adam, has to go through and the impact OCD has on his daily life. It’s about the friendships that he forges and the relationship he has with his family members. It was a truly beautiful book and a very honest and accurate depiction of OCD and the extent to which it can significantly affect a person’s daily life. I really loved that the novel really focused on this debilitating effect that compulsions can have on a person and their ability to go about their day to day activities. I feel as though most OCD books that I’ve read have focused on obsessions with cleanliness or perfection and haven’t really addressed how people suffering from OCD aren’t able to do a lot of things that others would consider normal because they spend so much time performing rituals to make themselves feel better. I thought The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B dealt with this exceptionally well, along with other ways OCD can manifest. If you want something that’s very impactful, while remaining genuine and realistic, you can’t go wrong this book’s depiction of OCD.

“I sweat terror, Robyn! I’m scared every single second about every singled goddamned thing. I worry obsessively about being buried under an avalanche of fear. Jesus, Robyn, I’m scared like only the truly crazy can be.”

“But that, you dope, is the definition of courage: you go on, despite the fear.”

But even more than the accurate portrayal of OCD, I loved the characters in this book. If you love a character-driven story, you will really enjoy this book. Adam is now one of my favourite protagonists of all time. He was so endearing and sweet and I loved him to bits. It’s just almost impossible not to love him and be swept into his life from the very first page. He was so relatable and, despite him having to deal with his crippling anxiety, he was supportive of others around him and took care of those who needed help. His voice was unique and wonderful to read from. I felt like I completely understood him and was with him every step of the way. I also absolutely loved the side characters. There was such an eclectic set of characters all with their own little quirks. Adam attends a weekly support group with other teenagers and young adults who suffer from OCD. Together, they take on superhero alter egos and it’s just so crazy adorable and funny. They take their alter egos so seriously as well, purchasing merchandise to wear and styling their hair to match. I just really enjoyed the group dynamic and how they really supported each other inside and outside of their support group. It was just so wonderful to see them develop friendships and look out for each other (I love Thor so much!). There was no judgment and only understanding between them and I really appreciated that they gave each other space to deal with their own issues. My heart was just swelling with love for those characters. If you’ve read this book, I think you’ll understand.

I also really loved seeing Adam’s family and the role they played in this book. They all have their own problems too and it’s not always the case that they’re supporting and caring for Adam; he does the same for them too. When his 5-year-old half-brother struggles with his own anxiety problems, Adam is always there to soothe him, take care of him and be his superhero. When his mother receives some terrifying and threatening letters from an unknown source, Adam is there to give her reassurance and act as a semblance of normality in their household. He’s there to help her with her own hoarding issues. I really loved all of the relationships in this book but it was the way that Adam and his family interacted that really had me emotional.

And of course, there was the romance between Adam and Robyn, which was simultaneously a massive part and a tiny part of what the book was about. From the very first page of the book, Adam is in love with Robyn. He thinks she’s perfection in every single way and wants nothing more than to marry her and be with her forever. He’d do anything for Robyn, including saving her from her OCD and fixing himself so that he can be the best person he can be for her. There were times when Robyn came across as a little bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but I never ended up minding that she was portrayed that way. Sure, she was put on a bit of a pedestal but she had her own flaws and the way that her and Adam’s relationship unfolded was so realistic and genuine. Their relationship progressed at the perfect pace and it was just so, so adorable and sweet. I loved that they were really there for each other and that they were able to be honest with each other and push each other to be better.

I have so much more that I want to say about this book but this review is getting out of hand. Just know that I absolutely loved this book and will now recommend it to everyone for the rest of my life as one of my favourite books of all time. The plot was great. The characters were great. And the feels were so, so real.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release date: September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 433
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CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

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

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

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

This review is based on a reread of the book.

Fangirl is a book that I’ve wanted to reread for a very long time, because I enjoyed it so much the first time I read it. And it was just as good the second time around. This book is so relatable and I think all readers will be able to find something to connect with, whether it’s being part of a fandom, starting college for the first time or having a slightly dysfunctional family.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and thought it had a really good balance of romance, family and fandom goodness. Both times I’ve read this book, I was completely immersed in Cath’s story and everything that was happening. There’s something that’s just really addictive about this book. Because I saw so many similarities between Cath and myself, I was really rooting for her and wanted to see what was going to happen next. It was definitely a hard book to put down. I read Fangirl in one sitting the first time, and two sittings the second time. I also really liked the pacing of the book. It progressed at the perfect speed for me – nothing felt rushed but the story didn’t drag either.

The book also included extracts of Simon Snow, as well as Cath’s Simon Snow fanfic, Carry On. The first time I read this book, I skimmed over and pretty much skipped all of the Simon Snow extracts because I was just so keen to see what would happen to Cath next. But having now read  and loved Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, I read through all of the extracts and little snippets more carefully this time and really enjoyed them. I still would have preferred if there were fewer of these extracts because they sometimes broke up the main storyline, but I liked that they were included and I liked the role that they played in the book (and Cath and Levi’s relationship).

I enjoyed Cath’s character so, so much in this novel. I saw so much of myself in Cath and it was just impossible not to love and care for her. Her worries and insecurities were so relatable and I definitely felt like I was on her journey of self-discovery with her. I also loved Levi in this book. He’s not really my usual type of book boyfriend but he was so caring and adorable and just all the good things. He complemented Cath really well and I loved him to bits. I also enjoyed Reagan a lot and thought she was the perfect friend for Cath. She was tough but also kind at the same time, which was exactly what Cath needed to come out of her shell. And finally there’s Wren, Cath’s twin sister. I hated her the first time I read this book, and nothing has changed since then. I wrote in my notes “Wren is still a cow”. She came across as very self-centred and annoying, and I hated how she treated Cath for most of the book. She did redeem herself at the end by being the sister she should’ve been but I’m pretty sure that I’ll still hate her the next time I reread this novel.

If you’re looking for a book with characters you can really relate to, I highly recommend Fangirl. It was sweet but serious, and explored so many themes that I love to read about in YA.

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 439
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The Dream Thieves is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s, The Raven Cycle. This review doesn’t contain any spoilers for the first book, The Raven Boys, so feel free to stay if you want to know if the series is worth pursuing.

THE DREAM THIEVES SYNOPSIS

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

The Dream Thieves picks up a few weeks after the events in The Raven Boys but it doesn’t exactly pick up where the first book left off. After finishing The Raven Boys, I was a little bit confused about some of the things that had happened and the consequences of those things happening. I was hoping that The Dream Thieves would give me some clarification or explain what had gone down in The Raven Boys. However, this book went into a completely different direction and the questions I had at the end of the first book were left unanswered. Which is completely fine… but I just felt like there were more and more unanswered questions and puzzles to solve and very few answers being given.

To me, the plot of The Dream Thieves felt largely unrelated to what happened in the previous book. At times, it almost felt like a filler book before we moved on to bigger things in the next two books. In this novel, we follow Ronan, the impulsive brawler of the group. We find out at the very end of The Raven Boys that Ronan is able to take things out of his dreams (this is not a spoiler since this is never explored in the first book) and in this book, we explore his story and the whole process of the dreaming further. Of course, Ronan’s dream thievery is linked to the greater story of the ley lines and the search for the lost Welsh king, Glendower, but for a huge section of the book, it felt almost like a separate and unrelated story. Having said that, I really enjoyed getting to know Ronan a little bit more because we didn’t get much of his back story in Book 1 and he was the enigmatic and closed off one of the group. I found his background and his family’s story to be really unexpected and interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything we learnt about him.

I enjoyed the plot of this second book a little bit more than the first one. It was magical, fascinating and very strange at times and I couldn’t help but be drawn into Ronan’s story and want to read more. There were some plot points that genuinely surprised me. I did, however, find the climax of the book to be slightly lacking. It wasn’t as exciting and intense as I had hoped it would be but I still really liked it and can’t complain about it too much.

The pace of this book is very slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys. It took a very long time for the book to get started and I wasn’t really engaged until after the 150 page mark. The story and the characters were still intriguing enough that I finished the novel in two sittings and I never felt bored even though there wasn’t very much happening. Obviously, I wish that the book could have been a little bit more fast-paced but the writing and the pace really enhanced the atmosphere of the book and I didn’t mind it too much after I got past the slow patch at the beginning.

The characters were still the stand out aspect of this series so far. They really filled in the large gaps in the book where there wasn’t much going on. My favourite characters are still Blue and Gansey. Their characters were the easiest for me to relate to and they felt the most normal to me. They’re so full of love for their family and friends and I just want to hug them. I also enjoyed Ronan’s character a lot more in this book. He’s still a little bit difficult to connect with since he’s such a closed off and distant person but getting to know his background and his cool dream thieving abilities really helped me relate to him a little bit more. The character that took a nose dive in terms of likability was Adam. I liked him quite a bit for most of The Raven Boys, but he became very annoying in this one. He acted like he was entitled to things just because he’s had a tough time and he wasn’t able to see things from the others’ perspectives. His need to be better than other people was infuriating and I just wanted him to work with the team!

“Being the Magician isn’t about being powerful when you have things and useless when you don’t,” Persephone said. “The Magician sees what is out there and find connections. The Magician can make anything magical.”

Yes, Adam. Take note. We are also introduced to a few new characters in this sequel. We have Mr Gray, a hit man who’s searching for something called the Graywaren. He does some atrocious things but his character was so complex, layered and unexpected that I really ended up loving his addition to the book. I think what Maggie Stiefvater does so well is really spending the time to develop her characters and make them multi-faceted. She plays around with stereotypes and tropes and I really love her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and Maggie Stiefvater’s writing and characters. I didn’t think the plot of this novel made any developments to the series and it almost felt like a side story with some links to the overall story arc of The Raven Cycle. However, I still really liked the book and I’m predicting that the events that take place in all these books will probably have some impact on what happens in the finale.

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: June 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0805094601
Pages: 435
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Siege and Storm is the second book in the Grisha trilogy, so this review contains some spoilers for Shadow and Bone. You have been warned.

SIEGE AND STORM SYNOPSIS

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I enjoyed Siege and Storm quite a bit more than Shadow and Bone but I thought that it was a little bit of an unnecessary book. As with Shadow and Bone, my main issue with this second instalment is the lack of plot. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel and the amount of action that was in it. Almost straight away, we are thrown into conflict between Alina and the Darkling and I thought this section was thrilling and exciting. However, this is then followed by a long period of inaction and the plot doesn’t move forward at all. There is an epic encounter at the end of the book but these 30-50 pages don’t make up for the long stretch of nothingness that was Siege and Storm.

Nothing new is really learnt in this book. We make one or two important discoveries at the beginning and end of the book, but the rest of the book added nothing new to the world or the overall story arc of the trilogy. There is some mention of magic vs the ‘small sciences’ that the Grisha are known for practicing, but there wasn’t enough of it for me to latch on to and be excited about. Hopefully this will be explored further in Ruin and Rising. Most of Siege and Storm is spent exploring the tensions between Alina and Mal, and while I like the two together, I wanted less romance and more Grisha action.

Alina still remains weak as a character but I enjoyed her a lot more in this second book. There’s not very much development in her in this book, but I found her to be slightly more likeable. There were still times when I thought she was boring and frustrating, but there’s a lot more focus in this book on the characters and Alina’s internal struggles, which made it easier for me to relate to her. I appreciated being able to learn more about Alina and I liked her moments of assertiveness (though sometimes it felt a little bit out-of-character).

The character that declined a little for me was Mal. He became really whiny and needy and he was a bit of a jerk at times. But I ended up still liking him because I can see where it’s all coming from. The Darkling only made very small appearances in Siege and Storm and I wished we could have seen a little bit more of him. He’s one of the most interesting and dynamic characters in the trilogy and I wanted to know more about him. His character in this novel became a little bit flat and I felt like there was nothing more to him than just your everyday evil, power-hungry villain.

Siege and Storm saw the addition of some really great new characters and I liked these characters the most in the book. We have Sturmhond who is amazing. He reminded me a lot of Will Herondale in his attitude and behaviour and I loved him! I did guess his identity quite early on though. I also loved the twins, Tolya and Tamar. They were fantastic additions to the book and provided many great moments. I also liked being able to see more of David in this book – he was one of my favourite side characters in Shadow and Bone. David and Genya is probably the only ship that I fully support in this trilogy, at this point.

Siege and Storm is definitely a step up from Shadow and Bone. I enjoyed and was much more interested in the characters in this instalment and I liked the changes to the Grishaverse. What I’m still missing in this book is action and plot. Like Shadow and Bone, this book suffers from lack of development in the overall story arc. The book was great but it hasn’t really taken us anywhere…

Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

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Publisher: Text Publishing
Release date: August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1922147486
Pages: 196
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The two boys kissing are Craig and Harry. They’re hoping to set the world’s record for longest kiss. They’re not a couple, but they used to be.

Peter and Neil are a couple. Their kisses are different.

Avery and Ryan have only just met and are trying to figure out what happens next. Both of them worry that something will go wrong.

Cooper is alone. It’s getting to the point where he doesn’t really feel things anymore.

These boys, along with their friends and families, form a tapestry that will reveal love of all kids: open and eager, tentative and cautious, pained and scared. New York Times bestselling author David Levithan has sewn together their lives into a redemptive whole that will captivate, illuminate, and move readers.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

David Levithan hasn’t disappointed me yet. I’ve also read Every Day, and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (co-authored by Rachel Cohn) and they’ve all been enjoyable reads. Out of the three, Two Boys Kissing was probably the one that affected me the most. It is important, poignant and touching. I heard, after finishing the book, that Two Boys Kissing is a thematic companion to David Levithan’s debut novel, Boy Meets Boy, so I’ll have to check that out soon.

Two Boys Kissing is an interesting book that is narrated by a generation of gay men who have lost their lives to AIDS. In this book, this group of men are watching some gay boys as they go through their ordinary lives, doing mundane things and spectacular, inspirational things. In his author’s note at the end of the book, David Levithan has mentioned that the book is about the generation of gay men that came before him looking at the generation of gay men that came after him.

I loved how this book was narrated. We get to see into the lives of all of these boys from the perspective of the ghosts (I guess), but we also get to see their thoughts on the differences between being gay then and being gay now. I thought this type of narration was very effective and the book definitely wouldn’t have been as good if it hadn’t been narrated this way. It kind of reminded me of After Dark by Haruki Murakami, which I read recently. These are both books written from the perspectives of some all-seeing and all-knowing beings, watching over ordinary individuals doing ordinary things. I have to admit though, that going into the book, I wasn’t aware of how this book was narrated. So I had a very hard time getting through the first couple of pages because I was just so confused. Once I got past that, I was in love.

The pace of the book is definitely very slow and the whole book covers about 2 days in the lives of these boys. There are also no chapters in this book – it is written all in one long chapter, with section breaks marking a change in scene. While there is a main plot that runs throughout the story, it was almost like 4 different stories coming together into one. In some ways, I feel like the plot wasn’t an important aspect of the book. The novel places more emphasis on the comparing and contrasting of these boys – what it means to them to be gay and what it means to them to have friends and family who support them. David Levithan covers a lot of different aspects of homosexuality, from learning to accept who you are to coming out to others, meeting new guys, maintaining relationships, and having others accept you and acknowledge you. I don’t think I can express all my thoughts on this book. It was just incredibly insightful and meaningful.

This book deals with deeper and heavier issues such as homophobia, shame and suicide. It is definitely a more mature book, so I wouldn’t recommend this to a younger audience. I do think it’s important for teenagers to read it though, because this is a groundbreaking book. And it could definitely help everyone understand homosexuality a bit better, regardless of whether you’re gay or straight.

I know this review was a little bit vague, but I think it’s definitely one that you need to read and discover its meaning for yourself. But if I haven’t convinced you to pick it up yet, I’d like to end with a quick excerpt of one of my favourite scenes in the book:

“No.” Neil tries to keep control of his voice. “I don’t need you to say you’re sorry. I need you to say that I’m gay.”

Neil’s mother grunts and looks at his father. You deal with this.

“Neil,” he says, “is everything okay? Why are you acting this way?”

“Just say it. Please. Just say it.”

It’s Miranda who speaks up. “You’re gay,” she says, with complete seriousness. “And I love you.”

Tears spring to Neil’s eyes. “Thank you, Miranda,” he says. Then he looks to his parents.

Review: The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare & Joshua Lewis

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Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release date: October 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1442416920
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Book Depository

Congratulations. You have opened this book, and you are ready to embark upon the righteous and rewarding life of a Shadowhunter. We have been chosen by the Angel to keep our world safe from the evil creatures we call “demons.” And now you are one of us, and with this book, you will learn our lore and our ways.

Angels, demons, faeries, vampires, werewolves, warlocks: they all exist, and they all must be managed and kept at peace. The Shadowhunter’s Codex will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to join our noble work.

Now in its twenty-seventh edition, the Codex covers it all: the history and laws of our world; how to identify, interact with, and, if necessary, kill that world’s many colorful denizens; which end of the stele is the end you write with. Geography, history, magic, and zoology textbooks all rolled into one, the Codex is here to help new Shadowhunters navigate the beautiful, often brutal world that we inhabit.

Finally available in a smart, modern edition using all of today’s most exciting printing techniques, and suitable for carrying unglamoured through the mundane world, the Codex has been the young Shadowhunter’s best friend since the thirteenth century. Welcome to our ranks, and study hard. This book could be the difference between life and death.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

I’m a big fan of Cassandra Clare’s books and the Shadow world, so I thought I would pick up The Shadowhunter’s Codex to learn more about the world. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience that much.

But let’s discuss the positives about this book first. This book would look great on your shelf, along with your other Shadowhunter books. It has beautiful illustrations (and beautiful endpapers) throughout the book. There is also ‘handwritten’ commentary from Clary, Simon and Jace throughout the book too that I really enjoyed reading. I loved being able to read Clary and Jace’s interactions through their notes and commentary, and it was really nice to be able to see more of their personalities.

However, there are spoilers for The Mortal Instruments in their notes (at least up to City of Fallen Angels), so I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a guide prior to starting the series. Which is unfortunate, because I kind of see this as a guide book that you should read along with the series, to supplement your knowledge about the world. But if you do that, you’ll either be spoiled or you won’t really understand some of the references.

There were some really interesting facts that were presented in the Codex, but at other times it felt like information overload. There were bits that were kind of boring and dry. I think that the parts that interested me the most were things that I had already encountered in The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices books. Plus, the majority of the facts that were presented in the Codex, you can get just by reading the series. The additional facts that you get in the Codex aren’t important to the story in TMI or TID at all. Having said that, it was nice to be able to read more about the kinds of demons that appear in the book, to see what the runes look like, and to learn about the different types of Fey that exist in the world (there are illustrations too!).

The best thing about this book is that you can definitely read it out of order, because it’s kind of like an encyclopedia of the Shadowhunter world. I read it in order from start to finish so that I wouldn’t miss any of the information but I found some parts to be very boring, especially the history lessons. The sarcastic commentary from Clary made it more bearable but it still wasn’t the most enjoyable reading experience.

This book is definitely not a must-have. I think it would be nice to have it in your collection if you’re a hardcore fan of the series. There are some great Clary, Jace and Simon interactions in the margins that fans would really enjoy. It would also be helpful to have this on hand to supplement your knowledge as you read the series, but only after you’ve gotten past City of Glass because you do not want to be spoiled.

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0316213101
Pages: 419
Goodreads || Book Depository

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

This standalone paranormal fantasy novel was a really enjoyable read. It’s set in our modern world but in an alternate setting where there was an outbreak of vampirism a decade ago. In this world, vampires are feared but also romanticised at the same time, which created a very interesting world and setting. This book was atmospheric from the very first chapter. It was dark and a little bit creepy but very entertaining. It wasn’t a very fast-paced book or a page-turner for me, so it did take me a couple of sittings to finish it. It also explored some deeper questions about humanity, which I really liked.

This book was so well-developed for a standalone. It’s written with alternating chapters of present and past. In the present chapters, we follow Tana from the aftermath of the massacre all the way into the Coldtown. The past chapters were really interesting. Because the book is written from third person perspective, there were snippets of not only Tana’s past but also the past of some of the other key characters. These chapters did a really great job of building the world, as well as setting up the plot of the story.

I thought the plot was really great. It was kind of what I wanted from the book after reading the description. There wasn’t a lot of romance in the book but I was very satisfied with what we did get and the amount of romance there was. If it was any heavier on the romance, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. The resolution to the plot was perhaps a little bit anticlimactic but I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I really liked how everything unfolded because I don’t think I could have taken anything more intense. For me, the ending to the book was perfect and I wouldn’t change anything because I was thoroughly satisfied.

The aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy very much were the characters. For the first half of the book, I didn’t like any of the characters that were introduced, except Tana and Gavriel, the main characters. I thought all of the characters were really manipulative and selfish, and I just did not like them at all. However, my dislike of the characters didn’t change my opinion of the plot or the story, because Holly Black kind of intended for them to be that way. Plus there are definitely more likeable characters that are introduced in the second half of the book, and you grow to like them as you progress through the book. What I really appreciated was the inclusion of diverse characters. We have a bisexual character and a transgender character, which I thought was really nice to read about.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is probably one of the best vampire books I’ve read. There were some cliched aspects but a lot of it was very unique, and I liked that it was a standalone novel. Also, the cover (art and texture) is perfect. I’m definitely going to get this copy signed at the Holly Black & Cassandra Clare event in mid-August!

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

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Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Release date: August 15
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1408834944
Pages: 418
Goodreads || Book Depository

Crown of Midnight is the sequel to Throne of Glass, so if you haven’t read Throne of Glass, you should leave now and check out my review of Throne of Glass. Also, if you haven’t yet read the prequel novellas, The Assassin’s Blade, I would recommend you read those first before proceeding because the events in those novellas are alluded to very often in Crown of Midnight. You definitely don’t have to read those first and you can definitely understand what happens in the series without reading the prequel novellas… but knowing about Celaena’s past definitely added to my reading experience and I was better able to understand her actions and her thought processes.

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Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: May 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 000749145X
Pages: 314
Goodreads || Book Depository

“I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Shock of the Fall is one of those books that you need to read and experience for yourself.

Written from the perspective of Matthew, a young man struggling with schizophrenia, this book left me speechless. His voice was so strong, and I could feel the conflict and the battle in the writing. I really appreciate what Nathan Filer was able to do in this book. At times, the story was confusing because it jumps around a little bit, but I slowly grew to appreciate it and see it as part of the novel’s charm and how confusing and unsettling schizophrenia is. This book definitely affected me and probably would have affected me more if I wasn’t a psychology major.

I loved the format and the typography in the book. It really added to the story and made it even more realistic. It made me feel like I was there and part of the story.

But most of all, I just loved Simon, just like Matthew said I would.