Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

I decided to pick this book up from the library because it’s the biggest series in terms of vampire romance. And let’s be honest, this is the trashiest of trash but when I read it I was just in the mood for it.

Wreath leads the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the oldest clan of vampires in New York, his second in command has just died after telling Wrath that he has a daughter. Now Wrath must look after this half-breed daughter as she is about to change into a vampire, but of course he bonds with her.

First of all there is violent scenes against both humans and animals so if that could trigger you be wary.

The biggest thing that jumped out to me with this book was how weird it was in terms of feminism. The writer clearly wanted to write something more forward thinking on the heterosexual relationship and gender roles front but this was written 12 years ago and you can clearly see when reading it that modern feminism has come leaps and bounds in just those 12 years. There were times I was reading this thinking “yes, right on” then a couple of sentences later there would be a thought from the MC that was degrading to other women. There was also a lot of male chauvanist scenes, which the writer would sometimes show in a bad light but then sometimes show in a good light and I found it a bit confusing. But that’s possibly just because I’ve grown so used to the way things are now and it’s weird to read something written not so long ago that is pretty different from the way things are now.

Ward has created her own niche language with this book which is fine but I did occasionally feel a bit odd about it. It’s clearly derived from some sort of Russian based language but it definitely felt off.

The most different thing for me when reading this book is that Wrath is a blind vampire. You don’t read about that often as vampires in most books are “perfect” and as soon as they are changed all disabilities become nulled. I’m not blind and J.R. Ward isn’t blind so I can’t speak for the representation of the lack of sight but it was interesting to read that’s for sure.

To be honest, with this book it was not the best writing, not the most original, the world building was just not great, and there was a lot of weird insta-love. The sex scenes felt cringey and I honestly was not attracted to Wrath at all, the way he was described had me conjuring an image of this huge mountain of flesh which some people might find attractive but I don’t. I think had my expectations been higher for this book I would’ve been thoroughly disappointed but because I knew what I was getting going into it I didn’t find it to be too terrible. I’m not interested in reading the rest of the series though as none of the side characters jumped out at me.

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The Queen of Dauphine Street by Thea De Salle

So this book follows side characters from The King of Bourbon Street, like most romance series seem to do. Maddy is crazy rich, richer than you could imagine but she has a messy past. Darren is a typical Texas boy and is best friends with Maddy’s exes brother but an ex makes an attempt on his life and Maddy is there to save the day and take him away to New Orleans on her boat to protect him.

Whilst I loved Maddy this book did feel like a bit of a downgrade from the first book. But maybe I just loved Sol and Rain so much that anything would feel like that.

It did kind of feel a bit off the wall at times for honest. It was fun but because it’s based around Maddy who leads a ridiculous life things would happen that just don’t actually happen so though this is a contemporary you have to suspend your belief at times.

A lot of this book takes place in New Orleans, of course, so it made me really happy to read about Sol and Rain as their relationship was a little bit further on in time.

The most important thing for me in this book was Maddy. Though she was a bit wacky she was so unapologetic in her sexuality. She was bi, and she never hid it. Whenever speaking about past experiences she never glossed over her sleeping with men and women and she didn’t downplay it. And though I am not bi, pan and bi kind of go along in the same boat in terms of representation in media or lack thereof. So Maddy was a really important character for me.

There are possible triggers in this book for stalking and guns so if that’s something that could set you off be careful with this book.

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The Book of Luce by L. R. Fredericks | Blog Tour | Chapter 1 Extract

Synopsis

My obsession begins in the magical year 1967, at Luce and the Photons’ legendary last secret gig.
That night changes my life: I must know who Luce is. But the deeper I dig, the more questions I turn up. Is Luce a rock star or a pretender? An artist or an acid trip?
My redemption . . . or my delusion?
Drawn into the machinations of mysterious powers, I become the dark shadow who follows the light of Luce. But who follows me? Are they agents of evil or figments of my imagination? And do they follow me still?
The quest for Luce will lead me to the farthest corners of the earth and into the deadliest danger. I will lose everything and everyone I love . . . except for Luce.
Who is pawn and who is player? Murderer or victim? Betrayer or saviour?
I am the only one who knows the truth.
This is the truth.
This is The Book of Luce.

Extract

Some might find it offensive that I, of all people, should write the story of Luce. Others may find it ironic. It may well be both, but it is also the completion of the task I began fifty years ago. It has always been my life’s true purpose, though they did their damnedest to convince me that Luce was just a figment of my deranged imagination. And, to survive, I did my damnedest to persuade them that I believed them. I did this so well that I almost forgot. But now I have been called again; I have received Signs.

I won’t pretend to be an ordinary biographer. I’m not sure I can be any more objective about my subject – or should that be object? – than about myself. But if Luce’s story is tangled with mine it can only be because Luce wanted it that way.

I’ll never know why they finally decided to deport me. What I took for yet another chapter in the long-running saga of my persecution by the obtuse officials of the Nevada State Council for Adult Offender Supervision seems to have spirited me back to my old life, my Real life, my life with Luce. The door that I’ve spent more than half of my life pretending toignore has opened and, like a rogue joker sneaking out of the pack during the course of a fumbling card trick, I’ve returned to myself at last.

Maintaining an attitude of utter compliance and mild, baffled disinterest in my circumstances has been an essential part of my strategy for so long that if anyone bothered to tell me exactly where I was to go, I paid no heed. Back to England, back to England, that was all I knew. I didn’t let myself think about it. Never betray interest. Play dead. My brother had made arrangements, they said; it was meant to be reassuring.

What with jet lag and shock at so much change in such a short time, not to mention the temazepam I took to get through the flight, I was a bit out of it when I arrived last night. It had all been a blur: car, airport, aeroplane, airport, come with us please, car, roads, a building, sign in please, stairs, this way please. A door, a flat: my flat. Good night.

The first thing I did was open a window. It was raining hard – good, serious English rain. The rain of home. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it, trapped for all these years in dry and dusty Nevada. I let the dark drops wash my face.

The building looked out over what I, in my muddled state, took for a lake; across the expanse of black water was a house with many windows glowing. I blinked and squinted through the rain. Could it be? My God, of all the places to have ended up. The poignancy of it nearly killed me. It was Farundell, where Luce first initiated me into his mysteries, long before I knew who she was. Over the decades it had apparently been swallowed up in some kind of ghastly suburban sprawl.

Of course I was wrong; it wasn’t Farundell. (I’m in Enfield, as it turns out. Enfield! And not just Enfield, but an obscure district on its western edge called, with stupendous aptness, World’s End.) The lake, the house – it was a brief trick of the light, or maybe a trick of Luce. Before long the rain slackened, the air cleared, delusion receded. I beheld a wide black slick of tarmac, not a lake. A car park, deserted, and beyond it a smattering of streetlights, not a house. But in that sudden recognition, mistaken though it was, something jolted in me, shook itself, unfurled creaky, neglected wings, rose and lifted itself out into the night to soar and dance among the softly raining stars above Farundell, above a dark island and a chamber darker still. And last night I dreamed the Dream again, the one I’d almost forgotten. The Dream of the Cavern. I woke with the feeling of the thread in my hand. That thread, so long lain lax, is tightening. I know it’s a Sign.

The second Sign arrives with my brother. It isn’t Neil himself, of course, but what he brings, unasked-for, un-heralded. He’s a bit early; I’m not quite prepared and the knock on my door sends a jolt of anxiety through my nerves. I straighten my clothes, smooth my hair and open the door.

‘Hey Weirdo,’ he says.

‘Hey Arsehole.’

He’s changed remarkably little: fatter, balder, an extra chin or two. It is the immense blandness of his face (a feature, or should I say a lack of feature, apparent from infancy) that has always bothered me the most, and it’s hard to forget that for many years I believed he was a demon-simulacrum, not a real human being at all.

‘Good to see you,’ he says. ‘Glad you’re back. Yes. Glad you’re back. So . . .’ His eyes slide this way and that; he doesn’t know where to look.

‘It’s this one.’ I point to my right eye. ‘This is the glass one.’

‘Oh, right. Sorry.’ He makes that shrug, that little wince of repugnance I remember so well. It always had the capacity to enrage me with its implication of distaste and disdain that he was too polite (or cowardly) to express openly. Now his attitude has a sound basis in history; when we were children, it was pure instinct. Dear old Arsehole. We just don’t get along.

‘Thanks for arranging all this.’ My gesture endeavours to convey my gratitude for the grandeur of these lino-floored, woodchip-wallpapered three hundred and sixty-six square feet. (I paced it out last night.)

‘No problem. Glad I could help. Yes. Glad to be of use. So . . . you all right, then? Good journey? How was the flight? Get a decent meal? How do you like this place? Pretty nice, huh? Everything you need. You always were for the simple life.’

Is this a snide reference to the massive complication I made of my life? Just because I’m criminally insane, I want to say, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. But it does, it does. I play stupid as if my life depends upon it. I make my face smile.

He looks around, rubs his hands. ‘It’s not bad, is it? Not bad at all. Gets the morning sun. Little kitchen, nice. Cosy bedroom, en-suite. Comfy bed? Good. Nice people, too, don’t you think? Oh, by the way, thought you’d like . . . we brought that stuff you left in the attic. Some boxes, remember? Years, long time ago. From before . . . well, you know. We thought it might help you feel at home, to have your old things.’

My teeth have been grinding of their own accord. I have always found Neil’s chummy, pseudo-familial familiarity grating in the extreme. I say pseudo because he is not, Deo gratias, my real brother. I was adopted shortly before he was conceived; my presence in the ‘family’ as a second-best and not-really-needed-after-all appendage has always been awkward for him and for the parents. This awkwardness was only exacerbated by the fact that he, the younger, was very soon much the bigger – physically if not morally. While maintaining a fond and patronising demeanour in public, in private he used the crude advantage of size to subject me to innumerable indignities. My superiority in the intellectual sphere, which I could never fully conceal, did not mitigate his hostility. Quite the reverse.

We go downstairs. Something begins to tickle at my mind through the sticky, gritty cloud of my irritation with Neil. I’m getting the first inkling that an event of possible significance may be waiting, concealed in this mild April morning. Stepping outside, bright sunshine stings my eyes. Luce, I think, and hear a sort of hum in reply. My heart starts to pound.

Neil’s parked in front. He has one of those vast, shiny contraptions that look like they could scale the Himalayas before breakfast, except they’d rather not get their skirts dirty. That must be his wife in the driver’s seat, talking on the phone. Rather a lot of make-up for a woman of her age who’s not – as far as I know – a professional whore. And she’s obviously on the Botox. It’s like she’s wearing a hypothetical face. No wonder I thought she was a simulacrum, too. Still talking, she waves cheerily to me like we last saw each other day-before-yesterday. What’s her name? I never remember her name. Oh yeah, Dot. Ridiculous name for a woman.

‘Hi Dot,’ I say.

‘Jesus, Weirdo. This is Cindy. My. Wife. Cindy.’ Neil gives me a look that says he knows – and wants me to know he knows – that I do this sort of thing deliberately. I don’t.

‘Sorry.’

Neil thinks I’m being sarcastic. ‘Back a day and already impossible.’

‘I’m glad not to be changed beyond recognition, then,’ I say, immediately chastising myself for the slip into acerbity.

He opens the back of the car. His attempt to make a tetchy gesture of it is foiled by the hydraulics, which lift the door ever so gently, emitting a sedate hiss. Boxes, five or six boxes. But could it be? Oh my God. I recognise it. I think I do. That small one at the back. Yes! Would he have brought it if he’d known what it was? Certainly not. Would I have dared ask for it? I assumed he’d destroyed everything long ago. It’s what demons do.

Treasure, long-hidden treasure. Going incognito, pretending to be an ordinary box, one of several, nothing special. Scuffed, corners squashed, bound with packing tape, now brittle and peeling, and green sisal twine. The address label has fallen off but I remember that twine, how it left green streaks on my scared, sweaty hands as I tied it up. The box seems to glow from within – I sincerely hope no one else can see that. It’s Luce’s box. This is the second Sign.

My face never gives anything away. ‘Oh, thanks,’ I say. ‘Wonder what’s here. I forgot all about this stuff.’

We carry the boxes to my flat, where they take up most of the space in the sitting room. Neil leaves, what a relief, mercifully declining my offer of a cup of tea. It’s just me and the boxes now: me and my past. Dear God, let me not become one of those pathetic, repulsive old people who shuffle about in a narrow space crowded to death by stacks of newspapers and the mouse-infested relics of their long-dead lives.

Two boxes contain miscellaneous stuff, including some wonderful old clothes: my floppy fedora with the peacock feather, a silk scarf with an Aubrey Beardsley print that Charlie gave me, a green velvet jacket from the King’s Road, an Indian-print shirt from Haight-Ashbury. Others contain books – I’ll deal with them later. They served their purpose: the flock of sheep that smuggled in the goat.

I turn at last to Luce’s box. I had never dared to hope it would come back to me; I’d grown accustomed to the idea that my past was non-existent, in any reliable way. And now I have a flash of doubt. Might this be the work of a demon of False Hope? Cunning little buggers, but I thought I’d extinguished them years ago. All I have is my memory of the green twine and the stains it left on my hands. I look at them; obviously they’re not green any more. And the glow I saw in the back of Neil’s car? I might have imagined that. If I see it now, it’s only wishful thinking.

I get impatient with myself. This box either is or isn’t what I think it is. My past is either dead or alive; like Schrödinger’s cat, it is both and neither until the box is opened. Do I truly want to know? Oh for fuck’s sake. Open the damn thing. Cut the twine, peel away the packing tape. Open the box.

I have to sit back and take a deep breath. This is it, this is it, this is it! Tears come to my eyes. I feel like a resurrected corpse. With trembling hands I unpack the treasures, untouched for all these years: my draft manuscript of The Book of Luce, plus notebooks and files, interview tapes and transcripts, articles, diaries and journals, newspaper clippings, letters. The records of my search for Luce, the testimonies of the witnesses. Here is René, here is Karen, and here, oh here, is Rachel. I’m half afraid all this will disintegrate like ancient bones in a too-suddenly unsealed tomb. Here’s my original Human album; here is L’Age Atomique, a priceless rarity, perhaps the only one in the world.

Thank you, I say. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

At the bottom, an old box of Gitanes, Luce’s brand and therefore my own, when I can get them. It must have fallen out of my pocket as I packed. All unsuspecting, I open it.

It’s full of rose petals, but they’re not dry or faded. They spill onto the table, soft and fresh and sublimely fragrant. They cannot possibly have fallen from the flower more than an hour ago. I put the box down and back away. Owing to the modest dimensions of the room, I cannot back very far. I close my eyes, count to a hundred. I open my eyes. The rose petals are still there, blithely emitting their rapturous impossibility. It’s the third Sign. I make myself a strong cup of tea.

These three Signs have convinced me that the time has come to write The Book of Luce. Contrary to popular opinion, including my own, it would appear that I am not ashes on the dust-heap of history. My life in the Real world, so long an underground river running deep beneath the polluted realm of mundane Earth and the semi-conscious parasites who inhabit its surface, has emerged.

My mission is now clear: to fulfil my task, to tell the story of Luce. And his mission? Will I ever know? Was she Messiah, Avatar, Bodhisattva? A Superhuman, the long-awaited Nietzschean Übermensch? Was he the first of a new type of human, and will we all be like her one day? Or was he a fluke, an accident, a random confluence of powers and perceptions, a freak, a genetic quirk, merely the greatest artist of all time? As I assemble these fragments of her life and work, as I line them up, put them in order, draw arcs of influence and association, cause and effect, as I try to make the dull-minded world understand . . . surely I will find the real Luce at last.

So wake up, Chimera Obscura! I summon you to remember. Here you come, stepping out of the shadows: a ghost in green velvet, a peacock feather in your hat. Go forth, beautiful one! Go forth and remember.

The Book Of Luce Cover.jpg

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Thanks to Jenni Leech for arranging this blog tour!

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Asia Travel Blog #3 – China

And I’m back with the travel blogs. If you missed them I had posts about Japan and Korea.

To go to China for a period of time you have to pay a large amount for a Visa so we decided to get a transit visa which is a free 144 hour pass into China. There was 2 or 3 forms to fill out so it’s a bit complicated and obviously as you haven’t had the background checks of a standard visa they judge you pretty harshly at immigration. So we spent a good hour at least waiting to get through passport control in Shanghai. There was only like 10 people in front of us in the queue but they kept doing things wrong and god it was such a huge faff I’m just glad we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be.

We took the maglev to the city centre of Shanghai which was incredible because you don’t feel like you’re moving that fast but you’re going like 400 km/h and you can see things zooming past you out the window. Chinese people themselves will literally travel the maglev for no other reason that to experience the fastest train in the world.

We stayed in an actual Youth Hostel so it was a really nice quality hostel but my god it was so hard to find. If you’re going to have a youth hostel surely it shouldn’t be super out the way, but what do I know?

After our experience at the airport we just kind of stayed in the hostel for the night, it was also raining so we just chilled out.

The next day it was still raining, which sounds like a bad thing but honestly when you’re in a place like Shanghai you want it to rain because it clears the air. We literally didn’t have to wear any breathing masks when we were there. Because it was raining though we needed somewhere that wasn’t outside to visit so off to the Shanghai museum it was. If you ever want to go to the Shanghai museum make sure you go in the morning because they only allow so many visitors a day. I learned some things there I didn’t know but there is a lot of the same thing there on display, they don’t have just one of each thing. I was kind of amazed though at how much they had that was still in such good condition.

Then once it had stopped raining we headed to The Bund which is a nice view but is literally just a view of some buildings and I have no idea why it’s so famous. Then we grabbed lunch in a shopping centre, which is probably the best option if you don’t speak Mandarin and aren’t interested in mystery meals.

We then headed to the YuYuan market which is outside of the Yuyuan Gardens and was just a really weird place. It’s full of shops and random people trying to sell you stuff which I find so sad because the buildings themselves are so pretty but they aren’t allowed to be the original buildings because the Chinese government is so tight fisted in its laws on there being no religion in China. We didn’t go into the Yuyuan Gardens because they were fairly expensive and I’m not paying that much just for some gardens no matter how pretty they are. Holy shit the amount of people in the Market was just ridiculous. We crossed the bridge which is like the most pictured bridge in China and it was a trial in itself just to get photos.

That night we went to a bar called Perry’s. What an experience that was. If you ever go to China go to a bar where the students frequent because you will see some things you would not believe. I come from Scotland I’ve seen people in some states due to alcohol but my God what a night.

The next day we headed to Nanjing and just wandered around the city. Joanne spent a month in Nanjing last year studying so it was cool for me to see a place that she called home for 3 weeks. After having a wander around the university campus we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, got off at the wrong metro station, walked to the Hall and found it was closed.

We went in some duck boats and got stuck in the middle of a lake for a few minutes because the engine needed a little rest. Then we went to the Nanjing Fuzimiao where there is a Confucius Temple which again costs a lot of money. China has to be one of the most Capitalist Communist states to ever exist.

Our final day in Shanghai was in Disney which was probably my worst experience at a Disney. Not through any fault of the park but just the people at the park were just the worst. They were so rude all the time and even the staff didn’t seem that happy. What I found wild was that there was like no queues for character meetings, but the queues for rides were all really long. We kind of just wandered around a lot of the time because the rides we were interested in all had long wait times and we just couldn’t be bothered with it. But it was still nice just being in Disney itself.

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The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. TW in this book for mentions of abuse, transphobia, homophobia, death and suicide.

I wasn’t sure about this book after reading the blurb as it centres around a girl from a very typical white church background, but I thought hey it’s Emery Lord it can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t the description is so deceptive. This book is about a kid meeting new people and cultures which she has never really been exposed to before which isn’t exactly a novel idea but I feel like Lord’s take on it was a good read.

Lucy’s mum has been in remission but her cancer has reappeared and her wish is for Lucy to go to the camp across the lake from the camp she normally goes to. Lucy isn’t exactly keen on the idea but wants to do it for the sake of her mum. She starts off with some prejudicial thoughts but gradually begins to get to know her fellow counsellors and makes friends with them all and learns that just because they’re different to her doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her.

If there is one thing to say about this book it’s CHARACTER PROGRESSION ON POINT. Like I didn’t like Lucy to begin with and I felt uncomfortable with her character, I was expecting her to be a typical white, but she learned so quickly and adapted so quickly. If you want to do a book about something growing up in a privileged background and learning to see the world different this is how you do it not like how The Black Witch did it. Which I’m not going to go into but if you haven’t seen the deal with that book where have you been?

This book really struck a chord with me because I grew up in a very white place, obviously I knew people with different skin colours existed because of TV but in my school there was 2 kids of colour and they were from the same family so when I moved to Glasgow for uni it was a huge change not just because I was moving out from home on my own but because there was so many cultures living around me that I’d not really experienced before. I am completely aware of my privilege now but when I was 17 I had a lot of learning to do and it was interesting to read that in this book.

The side characters are what made this book, they were all so wonderful and diverse and I fell in love with each of them. And honestly even if this is a daunting book for you because you’re worried it’s either going to annoy you or upset you it’s worth it for the side characters.

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Frostbite by Richelle Mead

I’ll be honest: in writing this post I can’t really remember what I thought of this book so I’ve had to look up other reviews to remind myself as I didn’t even take any notes.

So after what happened in the previous books all the Moroi are on edge as the Strigoi seem to ramping up their efforts to kill them. What else should they do but send all their heirs to a ski trip together, because that makes sense?

Rose and Dmitri’s tension only furthers in this novel as Rose tries to put her attention into another boy and Dmitri, of course, is conflicted about the whole situation. What I have to say is I’m just glad Dmitri was still trying to keep his distance, it shows that he’s aware that he has power over her due to their age gap. Rose generally annoyed me in this context as she really couldn’t wrap her head around Dmitri telling her he’s not comfortable with the age gap.

The ending was super rushed, there was so much waffle of them in the ski resort and then the ending was so sudden and it very much felt like “wait, what? Is that it?”

Lissa was also just super annoying in this book, but when is she not? She seems to only ever have eyes for her boyfriend and fails to notice that some really bad things are happening to Rose. And all the rest of the characters were quite irritating, but not inhuman. They definitely read like the teenagers they were.

All in all I’d say the character development was pretty good in this, and it felt nice to read something from this series that was new to me as the film whilst bad followed the plot pretty well of the first book so it did feel like I’d already read it. I’m actually quite intrigued to see what happens now as I feel like things are going to actually get interesting.

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The High School Book Tag

Thank you to Lindsey for the tag! Bit too busy at the moment for tagging people but this is easier than my whole posts about my Asia travels haha.

THE RULES:

  1. Thank the creators – Namitha @ TeenMemoir and Jasmine @ HowUsefulItIs
  2. Answer the questions!
  3. Add pictures (if you want to).
  4. Tag five people.

THE QUESTIONS:

A+ on the test: A book or character that makes you smile?

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli of course. Would you expect anything else from me.

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Sports team: A fictional family that you want to be a part of?

The Weasleys!

Class President: A book that tries to make a difference?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Is there another answer for this question?

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High School Sweetheart: A book character you have a crush on?

Reid from The Upside of Unrequited!

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Prom Night: A book with a beautiful cover?

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde is so striking to me that even though it's just pink hair I find it so pretty.

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Spring Break: A book you can always turn to when you need an escape?

Harry Potter duh

School Lunch: A book character(s) you want to have lunch with?

Simon from The Shadowhunters books. I feel like he would be such a good person to eat lunch with because you would just have such a good laugh with him.

Halloween Party: A book character you would like to be for one day?

At the moment any character who doesn't have a job because I'm exhausted!

School Bully: A villain you don’t want to go to school with?

I mean Umbridge? Maybe Sebastian from TMI as he's at least closer to high school age.

Graduation: A book with a bittersweet conclusion?

History is All you Left Me by Adam Silvera. Not going to spoil it but if you've read it YOU KNOW

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