Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman

On the whole I really liked this anthology of Simon at Shadowhunter Academy stories, spoilers if you didn’t know Simon is a shadowhunter. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about other people writing CC’s characters along with her but I think in this context it really works because it’s a different point of view to her other books and often there were little historical stories within each story that explained some lore.

The two stand outs were The Whitechapel Fiend and Born to Endless Night. I think because it mixed the stories of other characters that I knew in with Simon’s experiences. The Whitechapel Fiend really got me going because it was a little snippet into Will, Jem and Tessa’s lives after the events of Clockwork Princess and I’m always wanting more about those characters because I really fell in love with them. And Born to Endless Night is all about Magnus and Alec and it was so darn sweet that I just couldn’t deal with it.

Some of the stories were a little on the weirder side, like The Evil We Love which was about Robert Lightwood and reading the parts about him I felt very meh but it was intermingled with stuff that was going on with Simon and Izzy.

There were some pretty sad stories but it helped me understand a lot more of the politics in the world. And though I haven’t read it I’m aware that Lady Midnight deals with a lot of the political stuff so I feel like I’ve made the right decision by reading this first to prepare me.

This book also introduced a few new characters, one of the most memorable with George Lovelace. He was so loveable. He’s Scottish and I enjoyed reading him, which I don’t say often as a lot of authors really screw up Scottish characters, but he worked. He made me laugh a lot and he did actually feel Scottish. I commonly find reading characters who are supposedly Scottish just feel like the author has just thrown that in as a quirk and they don’t have traits that as a nation of people we have.

Though this is an anthology the main story of it is linear and so I’m just going to say that the end had me so upset I could see it coming but I was in denial and I don’t think I’ll forgive CC for it.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Thank you to netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was also the fairyloot book for May so I was inundated with copies, but I’m not complaining. The cover for the UK paperback has just been revealed as well and I kind of need it to be honest.

After Mariko is attacked in the forest on her way to meet her future husband she assumes a disguise of a male to find out who wants her dead and why and takes up living in the forest with a band of thieves.

This was probably one of my most anticipated books of the year and whilst it wasn’t a favourite it was really good. I really liked the main characters and the world building. It felt really cohesive and Ahdieh had put a lot of thought into the world. I find this applaudable in authors when they write very different fantasy world’s but have such good world building, as I’m aware Ahdieh’s other series is more Middle Eastern in inspiration and this is East Asian/mainly Japanese inspired. The magical parts really intrigued me as we don’t get to see much of it in this novel but there is definite murmurs of it and a bit of build up.

There was some mix up with the PR with this book where some people thought it was a Mulan retelling, which it isn’t, it has some inspiration taken from Mulan and there were definitely a couple parts that I picked up on this and really enjoyed when I realised. Like the scene in Mulan where she’s bathing and the guys all come along, that makes somewhat of an appearance.

There was a lot of Japanese terms in this book but Ahdieh presented then well enough that I rarely found myself going to the glossary because her writing gave enough context for the reader to understand exactly what she meant.

At times the book did feel a little bit slow, but it wasn’t hard to read. The pacing varied a bit so some parts I flew through and some parts were a bit heavier. Now I don’t have a problem with this but I just wanted to note it.

I cannot wait for the next book because I have no idea what’s going to happen but I know there’s gonna be some wild magic stuff in it.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

This is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Genie is focussing on getting into college until the new kid in school, Quentin, starts telling her all these wild tales about how she’s actually a powerful mythological entity. Of course Genie is very hesitant to believe him, but soon demons start popping up and she’s pretty much forced to realise Quentin isn’t lying.

The thing that really stood out about this book was how unapologetic it was about its Chinese influence. It’s entirely based on Chinese mythology so I think it’s the kind of book Chinese readers have been waiting for for a long time. But it never feels inaccessible, not that there’s anything wrong with books that are because some books are written specifically for people of a certain grouping to read and not for everyone and that’s ok, as a white reader who doesn’t really know much about Chinese mythology this was so easy to read. It was understandable and funny and explained background really well without feeling like as a reader I was being taught.

Genie is such a bomb character. She kicks butts of these hugely powerful demons between going to class and preparing for college.

Yes this book is a bit sill but that’s the whole point. It never takes itself too seriously, I mean how serious can you get with kids fighting demons in their school uniforms. In that respect it reminded me a whole lot of Sailor Moon.

I loved that this was set in the Bay Area because it made some of the more ridiculous moments of the novel even funnier. You have the image of these school kids beating up huge demons all with this metropolitan American city by the sea as the backdrop.

If you haven’t added this book to your TBR please do so because it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I took a break from this book halfway through as it was a library book and I wasn’t going to take it to Asia with me.

Hanna is the spoilt daughter of a ship’s captain and Nik is her drug dealer but when the ship gets attacked by an elite strike team Hanna and Nik are some of the only passengers left on the ship. Somehow they will need to use their teenage strength and resources to take the ship back before a wormhole opens in the middle.

I didn’t like this as much as Illuminae, partially because I found the main characters unlikeable. Not like in an unlikeable character way in that you like them even though they’re unlikeable, these two just annoyed me. I did like the space mob aspect and the kidnapped ship idea. And as the bad guys were dying we get a crossed off data file with their faces each time which was actually really good and helped build anticipation as they were gradually picked off.

What I thought was really good was that throughout my read of this this felt like more of a thriller than Illuminae. Due to certain aspects of the plot there was this constant feeling of doom because you knew there was something still lurking that could completely throw everything up in the air. However there were some twists that weren’t really twists as they felt like rip offs from Illuminae.

I absolutely adored when the cast of Illuminae were brought in especially Kady and AIDAN but man alive when they were brought in the book got so damn confusing.

Whilst the story was fairly easy to read because the format was so snapshot-y, told in all data files again so it was good to pick up and put down, it did get confusing sometimes and I felt like some of the action scenes could’ve used a little more work.

The one note I made to myself when reading was “laughing hysterically”, so at some point I found something in this absolutely hilarious but I have no recollection what, so there you go.

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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I saw a lot of hype on this book and my friend Den recommended it to me so I decided to pick it up. And I have seen a lot of discussion on the possibility of there being a slave/master relationship and it’s a very difficult concept in this book as there’s so much more to it than that, however if you are not a fan of a slave/master relationship be careful with this book, it isn’t exactly that type of thing but certain parts could trigger you.

Paige is a clairvoyant in London, 2059 where it is illegal to be a clairvoyant. She works for the criminal underworld as that’s all she can really do without risk of being caught, though it comes with it’s risks regardless. One day she’s unlucky enough to be on a train with a raid and gets caught. But instead of dying she is taken to Oxford, which has been the home of aliens called Rephaites for 200 years as they’ve been gradually taking more clairvoyants.

This book was super complicated, it felt like I was reading a high fantasy even though it was more sci-fi/dystopian/paranormal, but for all the different jargon and terms I had a hard time remembering what everything was. The world building is incredible an there’s so much in it that it really does feel like it’s own world and not a variance of our own world but it is a bit hard to wrap your head around at times. It did take me about half the book to figure out what the deal was, though I don’t know if that was because I was reading it in Asia or not.

Whilst I remembered the main characters easily enough there were a lot of side characters and I found it really hard to remember who each of them were. Especially once Paige had moved to Oxford.

Whilst there was no romantic relationship between Paige and her owner, Warden, in this novel I could see it being built up which kind of annoyed me because it’s not necessary to always have a relationship just because they’re the main 2 characters. Never mind the fact that their relationship is so complicated, him being her owner after all. But as you go through the novel you find out that things are even more complicated and Warden isn’t exactly like the rest of his kind. This obviously doesn’t nullify the problematicness (is that even a word?) of the relationship being in fiction with the past the world has had with slave and owner relationships. I think it’s up to you where you stand on the issue, I’ve had POC friends find it really offensive and some who have adored it.

I’m scared to jump into the next book because I’m currently not really in the mood to read it but I worry if I leave it too long I’ll forget everything that happened in this book.

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

I got this book from the library as it was so hyped up last year but I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much as I hoped but man I did not expect this to be as good as it was. I don't read a lot of sci fi so hey maybe it's not the most original thing ever but it read as pretty original to me.

In The Diabolic the world allows for humans to be grown in labs to become killers, that's what Nemesis is. However these humans are made illegal and Nem's owner is supposed to kill her, but instead they send her to the capital pretending she is Sidonia, her owner and best friend in an effort to hide her in plain site and also to protect Sidonia.

For such a short book in terms of it's genre this book is so full of twists and turns you'll be gasping incessantly. You won't know who to trust, you think you know a character but you don't. And I would say this had some really good writing because I could not see some of the twists coming, and I watch a lot of drama and crime shows on tv because of my parents so I'm normally pretty good at guessing twists.

I think what I really enjoyed about this book was the subtle little hints about a romantic subplot that if you weren't paying attention you would miss them until it began to build up. I could see it happening and it was so good to read it becoming part of the plot more and more and I think that's just really great writing.

On top of this, I know this isn't something that should be celebrated and should just be human decency but we all know not all humans are decent, there was language that was just generally trans inclusive. Instead of asking someone what gender they were someone asked someone what gender they identified with. And I just found it really good to see language like that being used in fantasy when so many people make fantasy worlds that basically just ignore trans people (cough SJM cough).

The world building was fantastic. It didn't focus much on location and scenery but focused on building the political landscape. I really felt like a got a good grip of what kind of a world this is set in. Even though I don't know what it looks like, but often I find it hard to imagine anyway and I find the political climate or having a well established power authority or religion helps me understand the world much better.

I'm actually desperate to find it what happens in the rest of the series. I was kind of sad to find that the book was a series and not a standalone though because the ending would've been a really solid ending for a standalone but hey ho. If this is how the author wants to tell her story I'm still interested.

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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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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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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Honestly if you loved ACOMAF don't even bother reading this because it's about 500 pages of waffle and not much else. I was so hyped up for this book when I finished ACOMAF because I had no idea what was going to happen, but then there was a lot of discussion in the community about SJM and her lack of diversity and I gradually felt less and less excited. But when the book came out and arrived at my door I was still anticipating what would happen and how it would end.

And the end was good. The last 150 pages or so were really enjoyable. It's just a shame that the majority of the book prior to that was just a lot of nothing. I love Feyre and Rhysand but there was just so much couple stuff from them that did not need to be there. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. I feel like Maas has the kind of style that after a while begins to feel pretty repetitive. You seem to notice the same phrases used a lot and whilst it's good to have a grasp on your own style you need to find a balance.

Maas began to pair up everyone as it was coming to a close and for some reason a lot of mainstream fantasy writers do this. They can't bear to have single characters left. What I did find interesting though was that there was unrequited love from one of the guys as Mor comes out as being a lesbian at the end of the novel, or it read like that but I was a bit confused as to what she considered herself. If you consider this a spoiler fight me, people's sexualities are not spoilers. And whilst I was glad that she wasn't straight it kind of felt like Maas was doing it just for the sake of it.

There is a character in the book who is bi though he is not one of the main 6 it's still good to have representation. But I saw a lot of comments on how he as a character was too stereotypical of bi people as he slept around a lot and had threesomes and I completely understand the criticism but that doesn't mean it's not ok to be bi and sleep around. The problem is that Sarah is not bi herself or at least hasn't came out as bi so for her to have a character with that stereotype as opposite to an own voices author writing from experience is harmful.

Something I was quite glad of in this book was that Maas had clearly listened to criticism a little bit and had clarified that the Illyrians were not white and had darker skin. Obviously it's a bit too late on that front but at least it was mentioned at some point. Just a shame it was in the final book and people might have given up on the series before this point.

I still loved the characters they still felt true to themselves and I loved seeing Feyre grow into her powers more and feel better about herself and her place in the Night Court. I also enjoyed getting to see characters from different Courts are the previous 2 books had mainly focussed on Spring and Night. I liked getting to see the different personalities and attitudes cultivated by living in different places.

Honestly I don't think I'm going to buy the next 3 books in this series as I just don't have an interest anymore. Which makes me sad because ACOMAF was so good but oh well.

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The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

This is a retelling of Snow White where the huntsman is a dragon and Snow White is an enchantress. 

There was so much potential with this book but I just spent the majority of it bored. I normally write my reviews like a month or 2 after I finish reading because I have such a build up but also it’s good because it lets me stew things over but I genuinely can’t remember some of what happened in this book. I just feel like I was on autopilot reading it. 

The MC was just so up herself, like think Celaena Sardothien except can’t actually do any fighting but acts like she’s the best ever. 

I felt like the main villain wasn’t scary in terms of she didn’t truly feel like it she fought the MC she wouldn’t really be hard to beat. Her actual villain qualities were how evil she was and manipulative she was. 
One thing that I just felt really agitated about was that all the names for magic and places were just unnecessarily confusing and long. When you have a super long glossary you know you need to chill out with it. It’s one thing to have some weird names but ones that are literally unpronounceable is just trying too hard. 

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