Monday, 29 February 2016

Why You Should Read Shadowhunter Academy

If you've been following me around the twitter sphere recently, you may have noticed that I've sort of developed an obsession with the Shadowhunter Academy novellas, which should come as no surprise since I am obsessed with anything shadowhunter related. I'd advise you not to read this if you have not yet read The Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, because the synopsis may spoil events and such.

So if you have read both The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices, but haven't heard of Shadowhunter Academy then let me enlighten you. Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy is a 10 novella collection written mainly by Cassandra Clare of course, but also Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. It contains various stories that center around Simon Lewis, who is currently attending Shadowhunter Academy to no doubt train and ascend into a shadowhunter. The novellas are told in succession, unlike the Bane Chronicles, so I strongly advise you to read them in order of each other. I think it's about time to get on my soapbox and give you an itemized list of why you should really get around to reading these novellas, especially before Lady Midnight.

1. Because They Are Fantastic

This is a given. I cannot tell you how surprised I was reading them. I previously read The Bane Chronicles before City of Heavenly Fire released and I enjoyed it for the most part, but let me tell you that Shadowhunter Academy is leagues ahead of Bane Chronicles, (sorry Magnus) I will admit the first novella was just okay and I understand why that deters some people very quickly, but if you continue on to the next two, they immediately get better.

2. It's Not All About Simon

I think the general misconception with these novellas is that people assume they are all about Simon, but they're not. Seriously, a majority of these novellas are told partly as memories and flashbacks and Simon is receiving these stories and getting insight on these characters lives. So many characters make an appearance throughout these novellas. You get to see characters such as Tessa, Jem, Clary, and of course Isabelle, but also plenty more. You get to see some of the characters of The Dark Artifices and events that prelude to the conflict in that story. There's so much rich story and livelihood infuse in these novellas I honestly cannot tell you enough you need to read them for yourself and see.

3. TID Characters Make An Appearance

If you needed more convincing then let it be known that Infernal Devices characters make an appearance at some point during these novellas. And no I don't only mean seeing modern day Tessa and Jem, but the third novella, The Whitechapel Fiend, is told as a flashback to London during the time of Jack the Ripper, and you get to see Will, Tessa, and Jem again, and their children and honestly I cried a lot during this novella due to the fact that it was making me nostalgic towards Clockwork Angel and seeing my favorite characters again, I couldn't help but shed tears whenever they just started talking. *crawls in hole and hides*

But the fourth novella Nothing But Shadows, is also told as a flashback and tells the time that James Herondale (Will and Tessa's son) attended Shadowhunter Academy and in the beginning and end you get to see brief interaction between him and his father, you can rest assured that lead to more tears flowing. This was my favorite novella out of all them.

4. Underlying Message and Character Growth

Okay, I can go on about how much I adore this novella collection, and enjoy the humor and the adventures that ensue inside the academy, but there's so much more than that. You get to see Simon go through significant character growth. There is a vast difference between the Simon Lewis you see at the beginning of City of Bones and the end of the novella Angels Twice Descending. Yes, you still have that snarky sarcastic Simon, but you also see him struggle at coming to terms with being human. A part of him that can't forget he was once a Downworler and a mundane, and won't stand for the snide comments that the Shadowhunter Academy students make about either. As he is being told these stories, these memories, fragments of the past, he really begins to open his eyes and sees the world around him for what it truly is.

How he doesn't want him and his classmates to be like their parents, how he wants them to be a new generation of shadowhunters, with compassion and understanding, not full of god-complexes and superiority. You see him struggle with his memory loss, and how he doesn't want to be known and held as some hero because of things he's done in the past. You get to see Simon truly reconcile his relationships with not only Isabelle, but also Clary, Jace, even Alec. You see him form new friendships, encouraging his friends to be more open minded than the generation before them. If I loved Simon Lewis before reading this, I definitely am even more in love with him after reading these. Cannot stress enough how fantastic Cassandra Clare is at writing a character arc and balancing a character throughout all the uncertain variables going on throughout his life.

5. Because You Just Should

Here I am again on my soapbox. I get asked do you absolutely need to read these novellas, and the answer is no. But I made this post to tell you should. There's so much that goes throughout these stories. It feels like an extension to City of Heavenly Fire, honestly this should just be named Cohf epilogue part II. Definitely do not, I repeat do not read this before completing The Mortal Instruments, but most likely if you're reading this it's because you have already, but since Lady Midnight is about to release soon I do advise you read it before then. You get so much more insight on characters from that book, I just feel that you will appreciate it more if you read these novellas prior to Lady Midnight, but once again it's all up to you, but I do hope you take into consideration to give these novellas a try.

Note that Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy will be out in print form, just like the Bane Chronicles was, but I believe that is somewhere around fall time if I'm not mistaken.


Below I wanted to give brief mini review of what I thought of each individual novella. There's no real spoilers, only general plot thoughts.

1. Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy

Rating: ★★★★☆ 3½ stars

Synopsis: After living as a Mundane and a Vampire, Simon never thought he would become a Shadowhunter, but today he begins his training at Shadowhunter Academy.
❝ There is a saying: It takes a Downworlder to clear up a Shadowhunter mess,❞ Catarina observed.
I love the quote above so much because it's something that I can picture originating from Magnus.

As much as I loved this novella collection, the first one was my least favorite. Though I understand that it was the first and had to set up our atmosphere that would surround us throughout the course of these novellas. You are introduced to new characters, (I really love George Lovelace) you immediately see Simon's sarcastic humor, which I missed dearly. The Academy is seen as an old decrepit building, which was not at all I was expecting, but understandable because they haven't used it in years and just reopened it because the Clave is in need of new Shadowhunters due to the so many lost during the wars. This novella did not prepare me for the beauty that was in-store for me.

2. The Lost Herondale

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

Synopsis: Simon learns the worst crime a Shadowhunter can commit: desertion of their comrades. In the early nineteenth century, Tobias Herondale abandoned his fellow Shadowhunters in the heat of battle and left them to die. His life was forfeit, but Tobias never returned, and the Clave claimed his wife’s life in exchange for Tobias’s. Simon and his fellow students are shocked to learn of this brutality, especially when it is revealed the woman was pregnant. But what if the child survived... could there be a lost Herondale line out in the world today?
❝ Like all Herondales, his ability to love without measure, without end, was both his great gift and his great curse.❞
This quote. This quote. This quote.

Definitely the beginning of the turn around for these novellas. Not much happens during this novella, but you do get to hear about the story of Tobias Herondale. Oh how this story tortures me so. There's so much lesson to be learnt by this story, you also see the extent of the Clave's cruelty, and deeper character development of Catarina Loss. The fact that there could be a lost Herondale out there, unaware, there' so many thoughts going through my head, so many things left unsaid. But then again all real stories are incomplete.

3. The Whitechapel Fiend

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars

Synopsis: Simon learns the truth behind the Jack the Ripper murders—“Jack” was stopped by Will Herondale, his former parabatai, and his institute of Victorian Shadowhunters.
❝ There were few people in the world who understood how much Will and Jem had loved each other, did love each other, and how much Will missed him. But Tessa did.❞ 
❝ Dear heart,” he said. He took her hand and kissed it. “Who knows your courage better than I?❞
This novella was the bane of my existence. Honestly, you probably know that I am complete Infernal Devices trash so of course I was beyond excited to read this. Originally with these novellas I thought they would only be in present day, but lo and behold Tessa Gray comes to the Academy and tells the class a story set during the time of Jack the Ripper and we are transported back in flashback to London. Seeing Tessa, Will, and Jem together again was a lot on my soul, so you bet there was a lot of tear shedding at just seeing my favorite characters interact again. This story was just perfect, it is my second favorite.

4. Nothing But Shadows

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 (million) stars

Synopsis: Simon challenges the setup of the Shadowhunter Academy and in doing so learns the story of James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild and the unusual way that they became friends and parabatai.
❝ James Herondale was the son of angels and demons,” she said softly. “He was always fated to walk a difficult and painful path, to drink bitter water with sweet, to tread where there were thorns as well as flowers. Nobody could save him from that. People did try.❞

❝ You love, and tremble, and burn. Do not let any of them tell you who you are. You are the flame that cannot be put out. You are the star that cannot be lost. You are who you have always been, and that is enough and more than enough. Anyone who looks at you and sees darkness is blind.❞

❝ Pulvis et umbra sumus,” said James once, out loud in class, after hearing too many whispers. “My father says that sometimes. We are but dust and shadows.❞
I will admit that these reviews are becoming a masterpost of my favorite quotes from these novellas, but I can't help these beautiful words that Cassie spills onto these pages.

This is absolutely without a doubt, no questions asked, no competition, my favorite novella in this collection, and of course my favorite novella of all time. You are transported back into Victorian London as Simon is told the story of James Herondale's time at the academy. Cannot express enough how beautiful this novella is. I just really love James Herondale a lot now okay, I cannot wait for The Last Hours to release. In Nothing But Shadows you get to see James Herondale's first experience with the academy. A shy, awkward, young boy who is so use to the comfort books that he doesn't really know how make friends. Being all the more challenging due to him, not being the easy conversive and charming persona as his father, *ahem*, Will Herondale. I don't want to say too much about this story because it is absolute perfection and you should just dive right in it. When reading this I was so completely immersed and invested in the story I couldn't believe when it was over. I definitely long for more, but I shall lie in wait for The Last Hours, so I can see James again. Not to mention father and son banter that we got a glimmer of in this novella, but hopefully extends in TLH.

5. The Evil We Love

Rating: ★★★★★ 4½ stars

SynopsisAll evil starts somewhere, and Simon Lewis learns how The Circle—led by Valentine Morgenstern—began. One of ten adventures in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.
The Shadowhunter Academy has only just reopened following the disastrous rise of the Circle. Now the faculty can finally admit to what happened when Valentine was a student.
❝ Love?” Michael smiled down at his hands. “Love, real love, is being seen. Being known. Knowing the ugliest part of someone, and loving them anyway. And . . . I guess I think two people in love become something else, something more than the sum of their parts, you know? That it must be like you’re creating a new world that exists just for the two of you. You’re gods of your own pocket universe.❞
This novella is such an important read. Now that I'm reflecting back on it there is so much pact into a a short amount of pages, I'm in awe. Robert Lightwood comes to the Academy to talk to the students about the Circle. But there is so much more to that. You get to see the Circle, through Robert's eyes, how he saw Valentine. It was so fascinating to see these adults you're so use to in the Mortal Instruments books, as teens back when they attended the Academy. You learn more about Robert in The Evil We Love and though I will admit he was a pretty terrible person for what he said to Michael Wayland, but this novella did help me understand him better. I really loved the moment where we go back to present day and he is actually talking to Isabelle, trying to understand her and how he wants to do better by his kids, to reconcile and amend what he did to his parabatai, Michael Wayland. This novella was definitely something I was longing for in City of Heavenly Fire and didn't get, but so happy to have that moment now.

6. Pale Kings and Princes

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

Synopsis: Simon has an encounter with Downworlders and is reprimanded for not following the rules for Academy students interacting with Downworlders. A story within a story: Andrew Blackthorn, while a student at the Academy, becomes enthralled by a faerie and has two children with her: Mark and Helen.
❝ I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall! ❞
❝ But I know your blood doesn’t define you. What defines you is the choices you make.❞ 
❝ He took her in his arms and kissed her—kissed her the way he’d been longing to kiss her since he first laid eyes on her, kissed her not like a romance novel hero or a Shadowhunter warrior or some imaginary character from the past, but like Simon Lewis kissing the girl he loved more than anything in the world. It was like falling into the sun, falling together, hearts blazing with pale fire, and Simon knew he would never stop falling, knew that now that he’d grabbed hold of her again, he would never let go.❞
This novella was quite interesting to read. We see Helen Blackthorn arrive at the school to speak to class about faeries. We already know Helen is going to be a significant character in The Dark Artifices, and Clare brings back up what is going to be the major conflict in TDA which are the faeries and fey and the consequences that came with siding with Sebastian during the war against the Endarkened. My heart hurts for Helen and the punishment she is given because she is half-fey. This novella also focused a lot on Sizzy which I can never get tired of.

7. Bitter of Tongue

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (LOVED)

Synopsis: After Simon is kidnapped by faeries (why is he always kidnapped?), he uncovers rumors of a secret weapon Sebastian left behind for the faerie queen. He must escape the Fey, relying on his only ally, former Shadowhunter and Dark Artifices character Mark Blackthorn.

*queue quote spam*
❝ I am no faerie,” said the boy with eerie eyes, pointed ears, and leaves in his wild hair. “I am Mark Blackthorn of the Los Angeles Institute. It doesn’t matter what they say or what they do to me. I still remember who I am. I am Mark Blackthorn.❞ 
❝ You see? I have not forgotten. Every night, no matter what has happened during the day, no matter if I am torn and bloodied or so bone-tired I wish I were dead, I look up at the stars and I give each star a brother’s name or a sister’s face. I will not sleep until I remember every one. The stars will burn out before I forget. ❞
❝ Fortunate is the one who knows the name of their heart. They are the ones whose hearts are never truly lost. They can always call their heart back home,” Mark said, his voice almost a chant. “Do you remember the name of your heart, Simon Lewis? ❞
❝ Songs are not blood. Blood is all that matters to Shadowhunters and faeries alike. The songs matter only to me. ❞
❝ Show them what a Shadowhunter is made of!’ What is a Shadowhunter made of, if they desert their own, if they throw away a child’s heart like rubbish left on the side of the road? Tell me, Simon Lewis, if that is what Shadowhunters are, why would I wish to be one? ❞
❝ Mark grinned, something wild and fey in the grin, like sunlight glittering through a spiderweb. “And we do love mischief, Simon Lewis, and sometimes wickedness. But it is not all bad, to ride the winds, run upon the waves, and dance upon the mountains, and it is all I have left.❞ 
❝ Tell the Clave that I have saved more Shadowhunter lives, that I will be a Shadowhunter and be damned to them, that I will be a faerie and curse them! And tell my family that I love them, I love them, and I will never forget. One day I will go home.❞
I can't help myself and these Mark Blackthorn quotes. Bitter of Tongue came as a surprise favorite to me. Simon has somehow landed himself in Faerieland, and get's kidnapped (again). That part where Simon even makes a thought about all the times he's been kidnap had me dying. But anyways, we meet another TDA character Mark Blackthorn, whom we previously see in Cohf. This novella made my heart ache for Mark Blackthorn, who just like his sister Helen, is half-fey so the Clave doesn't pay no mind when the Wild Hunt come to take him away. This story is mainly set in the forest and I just found myself really loving the conversation happening Simon and Mark. How hard Mark is trying not forget those of his family. I just really want the best for him and for everything to work out in Lady Midnight.

8. The Fiery Trial

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

Synopsis: Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn become parabatai. Simon and Clary both act as their witnesses, so they can see what a parabatai bond forming looks like as they want to become parabatai as soon as Simon graduates — and because Emma asked Clary. The ritual goes unexpectedly.
❝ I saw the two of you having entire conversations without saying a word. It was like that with my parabatai, Will. I never had to ask Will what he was thinking. In fact, it was usually better not to ask Will what he was thinking. ❞
Honestly, the first half of this novella was quite weird, but what really made me love it because I was so excited to see Emma and Jules parabatai ceremony, but it felt like the most awkwardest event ever. Why did it feel like everyone was so uncomfortable? I could sense that Jules didn't really want to go through with it, in my head I'm screaming "YOU LOVE HER. JUST ADMIT IT." But of course I never get my way and the ceremony continues. I honestly don't know why Simon didn't say anything because he could obviously tell there was something amiss between the two of them. Highly interested to see more of Emma and Jules relationship in Lady Midnight.

9. Born To Endless Night

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

SynopsisSimon, like the rest of the Academy, is stunned when a navy-skinned warlock baby is found on the Academy steps. They hand the child over to guest lecturer Magnus Bane, who has to bring a child home… temporarily, of course… to his man!
❝ It was a lesson, Magnus thought, to love while you could, love what was fragile and beautiful and imperiled. Nobody was guaranteed forever. ❞
This story was so cute. Of course with all the weird happenings that goes on at Shadowhunter Academy, there had to be someone who randomly leaves a warlock baby on the steps. And none other than Magnus Bane comes to visit. Thinking back now, there is a lot that happens. You get the the TMI gang all back together in one room, honestly it was giving me so much nostalgia. I also, found a better appreciation for Alec, whom I wasn't too keen on in the beginning of TMI, but you see him really come into himself and be sure of who is, it was quite astonishing to read about. I wonder if we'll ever hear about the origins of this mysterious baby.

10. Angels Twice Descending

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (MY SOUL)
❝ His family was here, holding him up.
They would not let him fall.❞
❝ The point wasn’t that you tried to live forever; the point was that you lived, and did everything you could to live well. The point was the choices you made and the people you loved. ❞
I didn't put the synopsis because I felt like it spoiled this novella almost, but of course this was perfection. Cassie is the queen of concluding series and this was no doubt not a let down in the slightest. I feel like I have seen these characters come a long way, even those we just met in this novella. Simon has grown, his views have changed, his relationship has changed, and all for the better. I haven't cried so hard during these novella since Nothing But Shadows. I don't feel like the door is closing on this series, but opening to let in all those whose stories who've been throughout these novellas. I cannot contain myself with excitement for the humor, joy, laughter and tears that will come with her future books.

Overall Rating of Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy: 4.75 stars

I strongly urge you. I beg you. I implore you to read these novellas, you won't regret it. I promise.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

January Book Haul

New books!! I thought my book accumulation would have calm down at the start of 2016, but it seems to only have gotten worse. I accumulated 18 books in the month of January, 2 which are not pictured because I am forgetful. I'm going to be splitting them up in two parts the first being books I bought and the second half being review books/books sent by publshers:

Part One: Books I Bought

1. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

I actually bought this on New Year's Day because I have no chill when it comes to book buying. I was perusing through various thriftstores when I happened upon a perfect copy of Poison Study for only 50 cents, so of course I had to snatch it up, this has been a book on my tbr for so long and heard really good things about this trilogy and its prequel.

2. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I am so in love with these Barnes and Nobles paperback classics, not only are they pretty and inexpensive I can find them every at thriftstore and used bookstore which equates to even more savings. I picked up Treasure Island and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for only $1 each and it was certainly the highlight of my day. This year I definitely want to delve into more classics. I already own an illustrated edition of Treasure Island and am so glad to add this beautiful copy to my collection.

4. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

If you didn't know already you might soon realize that I love venturing to thriftstores to find some really great deals on books and this was no exception. After City of Heavenly Fire released and I concluded with the Mortal Instruments series, I wanted to collected the entire series as a whole so I can one day reread. I knew I had no desire to reread it anytime soon so I decided to just buy them secondhand whenever I see a good price for them whether instore or online. I was very excited to buy this for only 50 cents, It's in such good condition and I knew I had to buy it because I rarely see the third book in secondhand shops anywhere. I now have all the books in this series besides City of Ashes, which I'm eagerly awaiting to get my hands on.

5 & 6. Theft of Swords and Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan

Looking around on my shelves I've come to realize that as a fantasy lover I am really lacking in adult high fantasy. I recently created a fantasy tbr jar to help me pick and vary the fantasy books I read. This is definitely one on the near top of my list. All I know is that it follows two thieves, who are on the run after they are framed for the murder of the king. That's all I need to know to get me interested before buy these on Amazon. I've heard really fantastic things about the writing and atmosphere that Michael J, Sullivan creates, so I'm prepared to sit down and indulge in these lengthy books.

Part Two: Review Books

7. Fantastic Cities by Steve McDonald

I've been meaning to find out about all this adult coloring book craze, but have to admit I wasn't really interested in coloring botanical images. Fantastic Cities is a gorgeous adult coloring book filled with numerous illustrated images of cities real and imagined. I have already started coloring in this and I'm in love with these illustrations. It's so convenient when you want to listen to an audiobook/podcast and can color at the same time.

Publisher: Chronicle Books

8. Silver In the Blood by Jessica Day George

Forever in love with this stunning cover. Silver in the Blood is the story about two cousins who are sent to Romania to learn a terrifying family secret. The synopsis is pretty vague, but I think it's best to go into this book that way. I have recently read it and enjoyed for the most part with it's intrigue, mystery, and romance blended all into one. Review will be up soon.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

9-11. Alfred Kropp trilogy by Rick Yancey.

This trilogy consist of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, The Seal of Solomon, The Thirteenth Skull. I will admit that I wanted to read this because it reminded me of Percy Jackson.  Alfred Kropp trying to survive high school somehow ends up with the legendary King Arthur sword and delivers it to the wrong hands. Also this is by Rick Yancey aka author of the 5th Wave trilogy, one of my favorite books. I really hope to experience the same lyrical writing that Rick has, but with a bit more humor.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

12. The History of the Rain by Niall Williams

As much as I love this cover, I'll will admit that I really love the hardcover version more:

Can't go wrong with books on a book cover!

Over time I've heard mixed things about this book. Some people absolutely love it and some people not at all. I also remember this being longlisted for the Man Book Prize. Synopsis:
Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil - via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories -- of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains' Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland -- pour forth in Ruthie's still, small, strong, hopeful voice.
This synopsis alone has me looking forward to this. There's nothing I love more than books that really theme on literature and the importance of stories.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

13-17. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

The lovely team at Fierce Reads were kind enough to send me the Lunar Chronicles series as part of their series campaign. The Lunar Chronicles is definitely one of my top favorite series, full of action, adventure, stellar characters, and fairytale twists. I've already read all of these besides Winter which I'm beyond excited to get to in the near future.

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

18. Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark

Manhattan Mayhem is an mystery anthology by a plethora of talented writers who each tell a short story in various locations around Manhattan. I've already read and reviewed this book here.

Publisher: Quirk Books

January Wrap-Up

Since I'm perpetually late at posting things, how about an extremely late January wrap-up in the middle of February?

The month of January was a pretty average month of reading for me. I read a total of 5 books, two of them being for school. Here's what I read:

1. Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rating★★★☆☆ 3 stars
“Words are finite organs of the infinite mind.”
Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a short essay, which I had to read for English class during our focus on transcendentalism. Emerson talks about our society's connection to nature and further discusses how nature can mimic human emotion. All in all I thought this essay was beneficial to those who truly admire nature and all of it's uncertainties.

2. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3 stars
“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
Another essay I read from Emerson was Self-Reliance. In this Emerson divulges into a key transcendentalist property which is non-conformity. He urges each man to break from the bonds of society and choose their own path before them.. I fairly enjoyed this essay, though maybe a little less than I did for Nature.

3. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Rating: ★★☆☆ 2 stars
“If there's a single lesson that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so.”
This is probably the most disappointing book I'll read all year, which is saying a lot since the year just started. I went into The Magicians quite excited, for I had my eye on this book for quite some time now and with the TV showing coming out made me all the more to pick it up. It tells the story of Quentin who soon finds himself attending a magical college in upstate New York. I know many people dubbed this as the 'adult' Harry Potter, but since I haven't read that I can't make a comparison. I did like this book in the beginning, but as you read on it just gets even more weird and outlandish up to the point where I just decided to skim the last 90 pages or so because I was so done with this book. If you want to know more of why I really didn't like this book I have a mini review on my Instagram here.

The only redeeming thing is this gorgeous cover.

4. Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ 4.5 stars
"He watched her, listened to her, and knew she was truly asleep. He kissed her forehead and found the act pleasing for its own sake."

“Whether it was true or not, it eased his heart to think there was something beyond the physical plane, something that felt benevolent toward humans, because the gods knew there wasn’t much on the physical plane that felt benevolent toward them.”
The only book I read this month that I absolutely loved!! Written in Red is about Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet, meaning that when she cuts her skin she can see prophecies, is on the run from her compound and ends up living among the terre indigene, an otherworldly species, Others, which consists of shapeshifters, vampires, elemental deities and plenty more. There's always been animosity between the Others and humans, but overtime you begin to them take a liking to Meg and maybe even change their stereotype on all humans. This my first dive into adult urban fantasy, and I am so glad to have finally picked up this book. There isn't much, or any romance at all in this first novel and the plot is pretty slow building, but what makes this book one of my favorites are the well developed characters. I have a full review here for more of my thoughts.

I read this in e-book form!! :)

5. Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark

Rating: ★★★☆ ½ 3.5 stars
"Well, Detective, have you ever heard of money? It's thin and green and you need it to pay for things." 
Manhattan Mayhem is anthology of various crime/mystery stories that center around various locations in Manhattan, over different time periods and characters. Could you imagine my elation when I heard about this book? For I love books that take place in Manhattan and I always love a good mystery story. This book is filled throughout with beautiful NYC black and white photography which gives it even more of an allure. But whenever I read an anthology there's always stories that I love and some I just find to be alright. Since there is so many authors in this anthology, many of the stories are short and at times it felt like they just cut off, but there are also some that really hook you in a matter of pages and neatly resolves itself by the end. Full review here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Review: Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: Manhattan Mayhem
Authors: Mary Higgins Clark, Julie Hyzy, Lee Child, Nancy Pickard, Thomas H. Cook, Brendan DuBois, Jon L. Breen, Ben H. Winters, Angela Zeman, N.J. Ayres, Margaret Maron, Judith Kelman, Persia Walker, T. Jefferson Parker, Justin Scott, S.J. Rozan and Jeffery Deaver.
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Quirk Books

Rating 3.5 stars

Book was provided by publisher for an honest review.

Synopsis: Best-selling suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark invites you on a tour of Manhattan’s most iconic neighborhoods in this anthology of all-new stories from the Mystery Writers of America. From the Flatiron District (Lee Child) and Greenwich Village (Jeffery Deaver) to Little Italy (T. Jefferson Parker) and Chinatown (S.J. Rozan), you’ll encounter crimes, mysteries, and riddles large and small. Illustrated with iconic photography of New York City and packaged in a handsome hardcover, Manhattan Mayhem is a delightful read for armchair detectives and armchair travelers alike!

Before reading this book I had already fallen in love with this external design. With a gorgeous map of the island of Manhattan on the hardcover.

And pages full of beautiful black and white New York photography.
An anthology that centers around different Manhattan locations, full of mystery and crime stories, and gorgeous photography this book sounded exactly like all the things I love. But why did I give this book 3.5 stars?

Manhattan Mayhem is essentially a love letter to New York City. Each story is set in a different Manhattan neighborhood, varying time periods, and people of different ages. Of course with any anthology there are going to be stories that you prefer over others, and some that you didn't like at all. I went into this book quite excited due to the fact that I was happy to finally be getting back into mystery/crime fiction. I've realized that over the years that this a genre that I don't really reach for often so it was great to be exposed to a variety of different authors, but after completing all of these stories I left feeling only mildly satisfied.

Personally, I feel that this book is best to be read at small intervals, rather than just reading all the stories at once. Had I done so maybe I would have enjoyed this anthology much more. Some of these mystery stories vary in length, and are pretty short, one being even seven pages long that it is hard to connect and really get into the story because it is so short, and at times I felt like it sort of cut off at the end. I do commend these authors for being able to tell a mystery story and being able to resolve it, in a matter of a few pages.

My favorite story would have to be Three Little Words by Nancy Pickard that takes place in the Upper East Side and follows a young woman named Priscilla who has only a few weeks to live, but is soon found stabbed to death while going for a walk. The doctor who had given her the news of her terminal cancer, goes to her funeral and soon unravels secrets about her estranged family.

Though that story was short, Nancy Pickard does a fantastic job of really grabbing you in and moving the scenes along so you're constantly on edge, until you reach the end and is aching for more.

I definitely recommend if you are interested in reading Manhattan Mayhem to read it at small intervals and savor each story, and admire and become quickly creeped out by all the wonders and terrors that these authors have to offer.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

2016 Anticipated Reads

New Year...equates to anxiously waiting on new book releases. I know this is coming extremely late in, we're literally in February now, but I didn't have any anticipated reads in the month of January so I thought it'd be fine to just post this this month instead.

Please note that all these dates are only accurate for now, because we all know how things sometimes get pushed back and some might not even be released this year, so please be aware of that.

1. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Release Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Can we just take a moment to admire this cover? I have never been so excited to physically own a book than I am for the hardcover of Lady Midnight. And yes, I already planned where I am placing it on my shelf. Does anyone remember that this was suppose to release in fall 2015, but it then got pushed back? Anyways this release date is pretty much set for March 8th. Lady Midnight is at the top of my anticipated reads of this year. This is the first book in Cassandra Clare's new Shadowhunter series The Dark Artifices. Set five years after City of Heavenly Fire, Lady Midnight focuses on parabatai, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, characters we were previously introduced in City of Heavenly Fire. I'm excited to see how Clare sets the Los Angeles institute and these new characters. It's just so exciting to finally be getting back into the Shadow World and I hope for the same humor that were in her previous books.

2. The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

Release Date: November 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury

This is just a placeholder for the real cover, but I'm already getting the feeling that the actual cover will be a similar color to this one. This is another read I'm dying to get my hands on. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that The Bone Season is one of my favorite books. The Song Rising is book #3 of the Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon, in which she plans to be a seven book series. If you haven't read it yet then I definitely recommend you read The Bone Season, set in a futuristic London in which our clairvoyant protagonist Paige Mahoney is a dreamwalker. In a society were clairvoyancy is illegal Paige works in the Underworld of London until one night she gets kidnap. I don't want to say too much about it because I think you should go and read it without knowing much prior. Still slightly sad that The Song Rising doesn't release until fall of this year so the wait will be long and tortuous, but well worth it in the end.

3. Diviners book #3  by Libba Bray

Release Date: Hopefully sometime in 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Okay this is a book I'm being incredibly optimistic about. There's no title, no release date, no cover, not even a cover placement holder (which is why I've graced you with my own photos of the first two books) If you follow my Instagram you know that The Diviners is pretty much my favorite book ever. Set in the 1920s it follows our protagonist Evie O'Neill who has the abilities to read objects, meaning that whenever she holds and object of someones and concentrates on it, she can see past memories of where that object has been and also that person's life. This essentially lands her in trouble and her parents send her to live with her uncle in New York City, just around the time a string of occult murders begin happening, and Evie believes that her power can help catch the killer. This story is both equal parts creepy and humorous at times. 

There's so much diverse characters in this story and you get to meet more diviners along the way and Libba Bray has a great way of balancing the eeriness of the murders with humor that can be found throughout the book. Book #2, Lair of Dreams, finally released in August 2015 after constantly being pushed back relentlessly. But it was all worth the wait. I honestly don't know any information on the release date of this third book, literally all I know comes from stalking Libba's twitter and from what I can gather is that she is currently in the middle of writing it, so I'll keep my fingers cross.

4. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Release Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Sighhh, I can't believe this series is almost over, but all good things must come to an end. The Raven King is the fourth book in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I finally got around to reading the first book, The Raven Boys in 2015, and then The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue consecutively. I immediately fell in love with all these characters. I put this series off for so long because back in 2011 I read the entire Shiver trilogy by her and I honestly didn't like it at all. There was something lackluster and bland about the characters in that trilogy, so much so that I DNF'd the last book halfway through. This was the complete opposite with The Raven Boys. The driving force behind these books are it's characters, you can't help but fall for them and their quest. I'm equal parts anxious and terrified to see how it all ends, and hopefully it doesn't break my heart.

5. Throne of Glass book #5 by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: September 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

No title, no cover, no set release date, but at least we have a cover placeholder! Throne of Glass series needs no introduction as I'm sure many are aware/in love with this series. I finally bought this series back in March 2015 and binge read the first three books and the novella bind up that month. The fourth book Queen of Shadows released in September and by then I was anxiously awaiting the events after Heir of Fire. Though I did have a few problems with Queen of Shadows, it still ended up on my Top 5 Favorite Books of 2015. I'm pretty sure this cover is going to be a grayish tone like this placeholder because I remember last year's placeholder for Queen of Shadows was pink and then the cover ended up being so. Probably the cover release I'm most excited for this year, and hopefully amazes me. Also who else is excited to finally see Aelin ascend her throne and see her people again?

6. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 29th, 2016
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux

For some reason I did not expect this book to be on this list, but after reading The Winner's Crime, I knew I needed this book in my life badly. I read The Winner's Curse around the week it release, a time in which there was so much hype going around it. I didn't pay much mind to it and ended up loving it, but after a couple of months it fell out of my mind. It wasn't until I reread it and finally started The Winner's Curse over a year later that I realized that I was so in love with these characters. There's something about Arin and Kestrel's relationship that feels so real...I cannot even talk about it without the strong urge to reread this over again. Marie Rutkoski's writing is incredibly beautiful without being over flowery, and I promise you that these books will consume you and ruin your life (for the better). Incredibly sad that The Winner's Kiss is the last book in this trilogy, I'm wishing that this story wraps efficiently and do these characters justice.

7. Hamilton: A Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller

Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

This comes as no surprise to anyone who follows me on twitter. You already know that I am a bit Hamilton obsessed. Okay a lot. Okay irrevocably die-hard stalkerish Hamilton obsessed. If you don't know what Hamilton is let me drop some knowledge (ha). Anyways, Hamilton is an American musical currently on Broadway about founding father Alexander Hamilton, written/created by the extremely talented Lin-Manuel Miranda, who not only wrote all 46 songs to the soundtrack, but also stars as Hamilton himself. Which he first got inspiration from reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The soundtrack is a blend of hip-hop and rap, which sounds absolutely stellar in this revolutionary setting. The cast is incredibly diverse and filled with amazing vocals. I have always enjoyed learning about American history, but Hamilton really solidified my love, and now I keep spouting random facts about the American Revolution and annoying those around me. ☺ I'll most likely never get to see it in person since tickets are so hard to get and not to mention expensive, but for now I'll just keep playing the soundtrack religiously everyday.

Okay, but back to the book. I honestly don't know much about this book only that Lin does go more in depth on getting Hamilton from just an idea then to the Public theatre all the way to Broadway. I believe it not only talks about the American Revolution, but the diverse revolution we have today. Plus, I heard that there will be many footnotes by Lin in it, which I'm really looking forward to. Have you seen his twitter? He's hilarious! I will never be satisfied until April.☺

8. The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

I believe this is the first time I've had a debut author on my most anticipated reads list, but I had my eyes on this book for awhile. I can go on about how much I am looking forward to reading this, but I'm just going to leave you with a snippet from the goodreads synopsis:
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Honestly once I read the synopsis I immediately marked it to read. I really don't read enough debut fantasy books and that's something I'm trying to improve upon this and year and so excited to have this in my hands soon. I've also heard really stellar buzz around this book.

9. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Release Date: August 9th, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

I will admit that the trend in this list seems to be fantasy, so why not another? I acutally happened upon this book randomly when I was browsing through Macmillians upcoming releases. This was when there wasn't even a cover. From what I gather, Mia Covere is a daughter of an accused traitor, who has a gift of speaking with the shadows which leads her to the hearth of a retired killer. She ends up joining a school of assassins and apprentices to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. Seeking to soon get revenge on the people who destroyed her family. With that synopsis and badass cover has me anxiously awaiting summer so I can have this in my possession. I know Jay Kristoff is the co-author of Illuminae, which I haven't read, but heard pretty substantial reviews of the writing, so I'm hoping his newest solo novel does not disappoint.

10. The Last Star by Rick Yancey

Release Date: May 24th, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

The wait is finally almost over. In the whole truth this trilogy is one that hasn't been consistently in my mind recently. The 5th Wave was one of my favorite books I read back in 2013, so much so that I had to reread it before I finally got around the second book, The Infinite Sea. Though I did not enjoy it as much as the first one, it was quite substantial in its own right. I'm not really that in love with this cover, but that is what I said with the previous book, only to physically hold it and marvel at in the middle of Barnes and Noble.There's always a wave of anxiety every reader gets when faced with a concluding novel of a series, and that is definitely apparent through me right now. The writing in the previous books are so elegant and well drawn out I'm confident that it will make itself evident through this book.

11. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion

An anticipated reads list is not complete without a Rick Riordan book. No one knows how beyond ecstatic I was when news came out that Rick Riordan was going to write more Greek mythology. After angering Zeus, the god Apollo is struck down and turned into a mortal until he can get back into Zeus' good graces. And now mortal, he is a much easier target for his enemies. Where else to turn but Camp Half-Blood? I know I am excited for all of these books, but I am so enthusiastic for this book to release. Rick confirmed that will be seeing the past demigods from the Heroes of Olympus (the main thing going on in my head was the fact that I would be getting more Percy) he also stated that stories of those characters will be wrapped up in this series, as it were not the case with Blood of Olympus, which was such a disappointing read for me. It was the first Rick Riordan book I gave 3 stars and was really not a good note to have fresh in my mind of my favorite characters. This was the redemption I was seeking for and the fact that we're going back to Camp Half-Blood is all the more to look forward to.

12. Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Release Date: September 27th, 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Laini Taylor. New book.

That's all that needs to be said. I remember seeing this on goodreads one day and immediately added it to my tbr without having read the synopsis. If you haven't read Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, then I strongly suggest you read it now. It is without hesitation that I can say its one of the best young adult fantasy books out there. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is lyrical, mysterious, full of revolution and passion. There is so much weirdness and love, reading it becomes almost a safe haven for me. This cover placeholder for Strange the Dreamer is ominous and dream like, which is something I always associate with Laini's books. This is the current synopsis for goodreads for this book, though it might change:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men

a mysterious city stripped of its name

a mythic hero with blood on his hands

a young librarian with a singular dream

a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled

alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

13. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

And my last anticipated read is Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I was going to put Stars Above in this spot instead, but since it literally released today I decided to just put Heartless instead. Marissa Meyer is continuing with her retelling trend, but this time it is no longer set in the Lunar Chronicles world. Heartless is a retelling of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, an unmarried Catherine is desired by many in Wonderland, even the King of Hearts, but during the ball where she is expected to accept the king's proposal, she then meets the mysterious court jester, Jest, and the two soon fall into a secret courtship. The more I read the synopsis, the more excited I am to read this. Why must November be so far away? Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series is one of my all time favorites, the third book Cress even making it onto my top 10 reads of 2015. Full of well-developed characters, thrilling plots, hilarious dialogue, and sprinkles of retellings it's definitely a perfect series to marathon while you wait out for Heartless.

There's an endless list of books that I'm excited for this year, but these 13 take the cake. I just hope none of the release dates get push back. What are some your anticipated reads of 2016?