The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)

the invisible libraryBook: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)

Author: Genevieve Cogman

I came across this series actually via the third book in the series, which I thought sounded really interesting. It took me the longest time to find the first book, but naturally when I did, I was really excited because it sounded so good. I mean libraries, different realities, spies, I mean what about that does not sound awesome? Sadly the execution did not live up to the concept, I found myself bored, confused and wishing I hadn’t spent my money on it. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Sounds super cool right? Wrong. First of all, there are just way too many supernatural elements. I mean you had Fae, you had vampires, you had werewolves,  you had weird robotic creatures, you had dragons, it’s like the author took every supernatural element you could possibly have in a book and threw them all into this one. It would have been a lot simpler to follow if she had just stuck to one!

I loved the idea of the alternates, and the idea of the Library and that there were all these cool rare edition books out there that the Librarians needed to go and get, that was really cool. But the world building was all so complicated and confusing, that I just didn’t understand it at all. I still have no idea what Chaos is for example. I felt like Cogman was just introducing us to all these different things without ever actually explaining what any of them meant.

The characters are another area where this book fell flat. Irene was just completely bland, she seemed to have little to no personality, there was nothing about her that made me root for her, that made me interested in her. We have no indication of how old she’s supposed to be, so the little flirting that she does with her definitely teenage apprentice just seems weird. Speaking of said teenage apprentice, Kai had the potential to be an interesting character, he was cheeky and kind of mysterious and had an interesting backstory, I wished he had been allowed to shine more because he seemed like he would have been a much more interesting MC than the tepid Irene. All of the secondary characters fell kind of flat as well, there was little to no character development for any of them, they all just felt like bland stereotypes rather than real people, Bradamant was the classic mean girl, Vale was the detective & Kai was the usual brooding cute guy. If more time had been spent developing the characters and world then everything would have been so much better!

The Language (special language that only Librarians could use) sounded very cool, but again, it wasn’t explained very well.

There seemed to be indications of romance between Kai and Irene which is weird enough cause I’m pretty sure she was like hundreds of years old and he was a teenager, but these were dropped pretty fast in favour of a potential romance between Irene and Vale which is not developed well at all.

The chapters were way too long, and difficult to read as well because of the very stilted, confusingly phrased writing and so the story just felt like it was lagging to me, even when supposedly exciting things were happening in the story.

There were also way too many different enemies introduced, you have the Fae, the Iron Brotherhood, Wyndham, I didn’t even know who they were fighting against most of the time. And when Alberich, the main villain, was introduced, he fell kind of flat to me, he didn’t really seem like a terrifying villain at all.

I guess the book got kind of interesting at the end with the introduction of the story that was about Alberich and his possible sister and child but by that point it was too late, I was just relieved that the book was over (seriously, I’ve been reading this book off and on for three months. It took that long. It was only a 300+ page book).

Overall, this book had a good concept but it was poorly executed, lacking in basically everything, confusing plot, confusing world building and flat characters. I will definitely not be reading book two.

My Rating: 2/5

My next review will be of Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) Review

Book: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)

Author: VE Schwab

This was my #RockMyTBR read for March, and my first Victoria Schwab read outside of her Shades of Magic books. Naturally, coming off of my Conjuring of Light high, this book didn’t quite measure up to the epicness of that one but I wasn’t expecting it to. Still, given the high praise that this book has received, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that it took me well over half the book to actually get into the story. I shouldn’t compare it to Shades of Magic because obviously they are completely different worlds and stories, but it felt like that spark, in both the characters and the world was kind of missing, the plot was slower, I just didn’t feel like the stakes were high enough for most of the book, the first two parts of the book were basically just build up until we got to the good stuff at the end. The last two parts of the book did redeem the first two slower parts for me though and did get me interested enough that I will read the next book, despite having lukewarm feelings about this one. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

So I’m going to start off with my biggest bug bear with this story, which really surprised me actually because it’s one of the things that Schwab is best at in Shades of Magic, which was that I found the world building really lacking. The premise of the world in itself is really cool, dystopian type world with different kinds of monsters, yes sign me up, but we weren’t really given much explanation as to how Verity came to be, the monsters aren’t really developed all that much beyond their basic traits, we don’t really get too much of the background of the grudge between the Harkers and the Flynns, it just felt like we were dumped in the middle of this world with not much of an explanation for anything really and that disappointed me so much because I’ve seen how good Schwab can be at world building.

The characters were fine, though they definitely lacked the spark of the Shades of Magic gang. Kate is cruel, cold, calculating, just wants to impress her father and acts out in order to hide her vulnerabilities. I usually like female characters like this and at first I did, I was like ooh cool, here’s this fierce, confident, kind of awful but owns it girl, but I never really connected to her. Aside from wanting to rebel against her father, she didn’t really seem to have any reason to act as cruelly as she did. August was cute, but kind of bland (though he did have the occasional great sassy moment) and I don’t know, I was just hoping for the monster to be a tad more monstrous? I mean I get that he wants to be human, but I would have preferred him to be more morally grey that totally vanilla. Both of them could have done with a tad more development, we got somewhat of a glimpse into Kate’s background, which was good but none at all into August’s. I did like their friendship though, I felt like that was well done, despite not really feeling much for either character individually! I actually felt like some of the side characters, Ilsa, Leo, Kate’s father were more interesting than the MCs, particularly Ilsa, I actually would have preferred if she was the monster MC as opposed to August because she seems like a much more interesting character!

I liked the music theme running through the book, listening to music is one of my favourite hobbies aside from reading, so I liked that it played such a big part of this book, it was really cool that each part was “a verse” and that the book had a “prelude” and an “elegy”, I thought that was really cool.

It made me very happy that this book had no romance! Kate and August are literally just friends, see it can be done people! Not even a whiff of a romantic interaction is in this book and I loved that. Male/female platonic friendships for the win people!

There were a few occasional typos in this book (not a big deal but I do find it a little jarring). I also felt that the writing wasn’t quite up to Schwab’s usual standards, there were some very pretty descriptions here and there but it did feel kind of simplistic as compared to her prose in the Shades of Magic books. That could be down to the fact that this is YA rather than adult, I don’t know as I haven’t read any of her other YA books, but I doubt it.

There was an awesome bit where Kate was in self defence class and their teacher is teaching them SING (Solarplexis, Instep, Nose, Groin), a self defence technique and all I could think about was the bit in Miss Congeniality, where Sandra Bullock’s character does this for her talent portion in the Miss United States Pageant. I may have got a tad annoyed that Schwab referred to the S as Stomach rather than Solarplexis, but I think that just shows how many times I’ve seen Miss Congeniality!

The action scenes were great when they finally appeared, it just took so long to get any and by that point, the pacing was all screwed up, because the first half was so slow and then the second half was all action, so it felt kind of rushed, even though the scenes themselves were well written.

I also found the twists kind of predictable, I worked them out ages before they were actually revealed, the only things that surprised me in the entire book was what happened with Ilsa, the thing with Kate’s medallion and the ending, for the most part I worked out what was happening before the characters did.

Essentially, it was a good concept but not executed as well as I know Victoria Schwab is capable of, though I will admit, I might have been more impressed with it if I hadn’t just read the perfection that was ACOL right before it! I did think the ending redeemed the slow start and I am looking forward to the next book, and hoping that the world development and character development that were desperately lacking from this book are more present in that one!

My Rating: 3.5/5 (It would have been 3 but I added an extra half for the last two parts)

My next review will be of The Invisible Library and you guys will actually get it very soon as I just finished reading it!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #100

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Hey everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had my mum up to stay this weekend, which was lovely as it’s been a while since I’ve seen her and since it was Mother’s Day here in the UK on Sunday, it was great to actually be able to spend the day with her as last year I couldn’t. Anyway, I’m back, and courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish, doing another Top Ten Tuesday for you all. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a rather special one for me, as you can see by the number at the top, as it’s my 100th one! I can’t believe I’m into triple digits already, it feels like I only just did the first one of these yesterday. I’m so glad I started doing this, I’ve met so many wonderful bloggers through doing this meme alone and I’m so grateful for all your positive comments on these posts. Basically thanks guys, you’re awesome, here’s to the next 100 of these! This week’s topic is supposed to be a meeting authors freebie, but quite honestly, my author wishlist really has changed much since the first time I did an author post all the way back when I started doing these, and whilst I have met some great authors, I’m not sure if I could compile a list of ten, I literally only started going to author events and stuff in the last couple of years. So instead, I’m going to just be a complete rebel this week, and do a post about my Top Ten Fictional Mothers, in celebration of last Sunday’s Mother’s Day.

  1. Molly Weasley-Harry Potter-JK Rowling

Well you all knew this one was coming. Mrs Weasley is probably the one fictional mother that we all come up with when we think of great fictional mothers. Not only is she an incredible mother to her own children, she takes Harry under her wing as well and becomes a kind of surrogate mother to him. I love that she’s such a sweet woman and yet so fierce as well (we all remember her fight with Bellatrix) and just loves her family so much. Basically all the YA mother points go to Molly Weasley.

2. Sally Jackson-Percy Jackson-Rick Riordan

I love Percy’s mum! For one thing, she’s actually present in her son’s life, no mean feat in a YA book. She married a total jerk just to keep her son safe, she and Percy have the best in jokes with their blue food obsession, she’s willing to step up and help her son when he needs her but also to step back and allow him to do what he needs to to save the world. Basically Sally Jackson is one awesome lady.

3. Meggie McGregor-Noughts and Crosses-Malorie Blackman

Meggie may not be the perfect mother, she is flawed, but that’s one of the things I love about her. She loves her family so much and is willing to do anything to protect them and it’s so heartbreaking when she can’t. She also cares for Sephy like she’s her own daughter and looks after her when her own family doesn’t. She is selfish sometimes and makes stupid decisions but they are always out of love for her family and no one can deny her devotion to her children.

4. Maura Sargent-The Raven Cycle-Maggie Stiefvater

Blue’s mum is so weird and wonderful! She’s always there for her daughter to offer advice, and she and Blue have a great relationship. It’s nice to see a YA mother playing an active role in their child’s life, she even helps the Gangsey a little on their quest to find Glendower.

5. Rosa Hubermann-The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

Rosa may be strict and come off kind of cold, but you can tell that she really, really loves Liesel, that she has a huge heart underneath it all and that she would do anything to protect her foster daughter.

6. Natalie Prior-Divergent-Veronica Roth

Okay, so you don’t get to see all that much of Mrs Prior, but she literally sacrifices herself to save her daughter? I mean that’s a pretty great mum!

7. Elena Vilkas-Between Shades of Grey-Ruta Sepetys

Mrs Vilkas is unfailingly kind, generous, even to those who don’t deserve it, she never gives up hope and she protects her children fiercely, even giving up her own food in order to make sure that her children get fed. It’s amazing that she can be so kind and sacrifice so much after everything she goes through.

8. Helen Thermopolis-The Princess Diaries-Meg Cabot

Okay, so I’ll admit, I am probably basing this slightly on the movies, since it’s been a while since I read the books, but from what I can remember of the books, Mia’s mum is pretty awesome, she has such a close relationship with her daughter and is always there to offer advice when Mia needs it.

9. Miss Honey-Matilda-Roald Dahl

Miss Honey is far more of a parent to Matilda than Mrs Wormwood ever was, taking her under her wing and encouraging her love of books and learning & it’s so sweet to see the two of them find what they need in each other.

10. Melissa Edgley-Skulduggery Pleasant-Derek Landy

Melissa doesn’t have a huge role in the series, but she clearly cares a lot about her daughter, is interested and engaged with her life (granted it’s Valkyrie’s reflection she spends the most time with, not her daughter herself but she doesn’t know this) and they have some sweet moments together throughout the books.

That’s all I have for this week! Who are your favourite fictional mothers? Do we share any? Who do you think are the worst mothers in fiction? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back with a new Top Ten Tuesday next week, it’s a fandom freebie, so you’ll have to wait and see exactly what spin I decide to go with for that one, but I’m really excited about it. I have lots of stuff planned for this week, I just finished This Savage Song, I want to do a Thursday Quotables post this week (I know right wonders never cease), I’ve almost finished another book, this week will be a busy one, so stay tuned!

Jo Talks Books: On Parents In YA Fiction

Hi everyone! Happy Mother’s Day to all my UK followers, I hope you have had a great day with your mothers/children & for those who do not have mothers/children to celebrate with, I hope your day has not been too difficult. Anyway, I figured since it was Mother’s Day today, it was the perfect time to talk about a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while: Parents, or rather, the lack of parents in YA fiction.

We all know the drill, in a lot of YA fiction, though I’ll admit, I probably have a skewed sample because I read mostly YA fantasy and parents tend to take more of a backseat in that than in contemporary YA, but still, in a lot of YA fiction, parents play little to no active role in their children’s lives, and are generally only very minor characters, if they are even mentioned at all.

Now on a practical level, I can see the appeal of this, especially in Fantasy. Heck in my own WIP, my heroine’s mother is dead and her father is a complete bastard whom she runs away from. It’s much easier for your teenage character to have adventures when their parents are not around, hovering over them to tell them to do their homework! I suppose it’s also a good way out of having to develop the parents of your MC too much if they’re rarely around/dead, although it doesn’t have to mean this, I mean think how much we know about James and Lily Potter from the HP books without them ever making a physical appearance. But still, it’s a lot more believable to have your teen characters running around having adventures if they don’t have parents than if they do (I mean can you really see any present parent wanting their kid to possibly get killed taking out bad guys?). I’d say this is probably also why you’re more likely to find present parents in Contemporary YA, you don’t have the same danger factor as you do in fantasies, so it’s much easier to include parents.

However, by not including parents in YA fiction, a huge part of teens lives are being excluded. Sure, there are teens with dead parents or with neglectful/absentee parents and this should absolutely be recognised, but for most teens, parents are a huge part of their lives, so it stands to reason that they would be a part of their stories. Yes it does make it easier if the parents are out of the way for the hero to have adventures, but at the same time, your dynamics with your parents when you are a teenager are probably the most interesting of your entire life. On the one hand, you love your parents but on the other hand, you’re dying for more independence. The dynamic is constantly changing and shifting and I think that far from pushing parents into the background, it’s a very interesting dynamic to explore in YA novels, the balance between wanting your parent’s advice/involvement in your life and wanting to find out who you are as a person and it would be nice to see that more (obviously if it’s right for the book).

And even if on a practical level, excluding parents seems appealing, because it makes it easier for kids to have adventures, having parents there gives the kid another obstacle because they have to save the world and get home in time to do their homework. This was one of the things I enjoyed most about the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Valkyrie’s parents are around, they would inevitably notice that she was gone, so she has to come up with a way of them not noticing that she’s not there when she’s off to save the world, this adds another layer of conflict within the story. So far from just being an annoyance that it is easier to get rid of, having the MC have present parents adds conflict to the MC’s life and a conflict that more teens can relate to than having to save the world!

You could also argue that parents are not relevant to the plot in a YA book, because it’s about the kids and not the parents but I would argue that parents are always relevant. They are an integral part of shaping who we are as people, who you become as a teenager is in no small part due to your parents and your upbringing. Seeing where our MC came from is yet another window into understanding who they are, by seeing how they interact with their parents you can tell a lot about what matters to them, where certain personality traits came from etc, far from being irrelevant, it could add another layer to an MC, understanding who their parents are. Whether they are absent, helicopter, dead, supportive etc, an MC’s parents will always be relevant to their character development because who their parents are will have helped shaped their character. In my WIP, my MC’s mother is dead and her father is very cold & distant, this has very much shaped who she is as a person, as her father’s distance has shaped her frosty and distrustful personality and her anger and fiery nature very much resembles her mother. Even if the parents aren’t physically present in a YA book, I think we should still be able to feel their presence through the character’s actions and personality, like in the Throne of Glass books, Celaena’s parents are dead, but we get shown, both through flashbacks and Celaena’s actions how they have shaped her. There needs to be a reason for missing parents. It can’t just be that you want your character to have adventures and so we’ll kill the parents because it’s easier that way. It needs to have shaped your character, changed them in some way, to help push the plot forward, otherwise what’s the point? Like oh, they’re dead or neglectful because I need them out the way. NO. Using this as a force for character growth? Yes, I am all here for that.

We can also understand a lot about character’s motivations by seeing who their parents are and this could help shape your character’s arc, for instance, if your character is very rebellious, it could be due to their overprotective parents. Sure, a dead or neglectful parent could also go a long way to explaining character motivations, but it has also been very overused, by having parents with an active involvement in their child’s life, it could be an interesting, different, angle on exploring character motivation.

It would be great if instead of seeing parents as an obstacle in YA fiction, they could be seen as an opportunity for deeper growth, deeper delving into character motivation, exploring different dynamics. Parents don’t need to be a noose around an MC’s neck, they  can bring a different dynamic, different ideas and different perspectives and that’s not a bad thing, in fact it can be a very good thing.

I am not saying that all parents must be perfect, supportive, loving parents. Far from it. I want to read about supportive parents yes, that’s been my experience growing up, I love my parents, they have always been there for me and I’m very close to them, so naturally I like seeing that reflected in books, but that’s not everyone’s experiences. Equally, it’s not everyone’s experience that they have neglectful parents or dead parents. There are a myriad of different types of parents out there and I just think that we should be able to see this in YA books, parents should be allowed to be realistic characters as much as the teenagers are, and just like teenagers, there are a lot of different types of parents out there and it would be great to see that reflected in YA.

Basically, I just don’t want to see the archetypal dead or missing parent anymore. Parents aren’t archetypes anymore than teenagers are and just because they aren’t the main focus of YA books, doesn’t mean that they should be pushed aside. Parents have an important role in teens lives and I would just love to see that acknowledged more. I want to see parents who are as varied and interesting as their children, the MCs of the stories that I love so much. When parents are dead or absentee or neglectful, I want to see the impact that this has had on the teen and even when they’re not, I want to see how MCs have been shaped by their parents. Whoever our parents are, whatever they’re like, they will have an impact on us and I want to see this. I don’t want to see parents being written out of the narrative because they’re inconvenient to have around. If it’s inconvenient for your MC have their parents around, then explore this. Explore the conflict. It could make your story even more interesting, add a different dynamic. Just as we should explore the myriad of diverse, interesting, flawed, relatable teens, we should do the same with their parents. Because whether they’re around or not, parents are an important part of everyone’s narrative, and YA books should reflect this.

What do you think? Do you like present parents or absent ones? What should a parent’s role be in YA fiction? Who are your favourite fictional parents? Have you read any books where parents have an interesting role? Let me know in the comments!

I will have a new Jo Talks post up at some point in April, but I can’t say what I’ll be writing about as I haven’t worked it out! As always, if there’s anything you’d like to hear about from me, please let me know! In the meantime, the next time you’ll probably hear from me will be on Tuesday for my regularly scheduled TTT post, so stay tuned for that!

Once again, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in the UK!

Top Ten Tuesday #99

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had good week since I last did one of these, I had a pretty fun bookish Saturday exploring the literary sights of Edinburgh for an article I had to write for my Journalism module, it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever got to do in the name of work! Anyway, I’m back and courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish, I have a new Top Ten Tuesday for you. This week’s topic is a Read In One Sitting Theme. Now I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book wholly in one sitting, I’m just not that fast of a reader! So I’m going to twist the topic into Top Ten Shortest Books I’ve Enjoyed (and those of you who are faster readers than me could probably read these in a day). For short, I’ll define it as anything from 100-400 pages. Also this is not in order of preference, simply in order of length.

  1. Black Beauty-183 pages-Anna Sewell

Goodreads lists this as having 245 pages but the copy I have at home is 183 pages. This is my favourite classic (actually one of the few that I like!) and is one of the most beautiful and heartrending horse tales I have ever read.

2. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone-223 pages-JK Rowling

I mean I highly doubt that there are many people left out there who haven’t read Harry Potter, but if you haven’t then you will regret it if you don’t dive right into this first instalment of the series and join the famous boy wizard in his adventures at Hogwarts.

3.  Matilda-232 pages-Roald Dahl

One of my favourite books from childhood, and would probably make my all time list too. I mean Matilda is basically a love letter to all bookworms out there, so I’m sure I’m not the only bookworm who would list it among my favourite books. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for?

4. Ballet Shoes-240 pages-Noel Streatfeild

Another one of my favourite books from my youth, this heartwarming story about three adopted sisters and their adventures at stage school is one that will stay with you for years after you read it. I loved the bond between the three Fossil sisters and Ballet Shoes is so much more than a story about learning to dance, it’s a story about growing up and finding who your family is.

5. Thirteen Reasons Why-288 pages-Jay Asher

It’s the perfect time to read this book about Hannah Baker, who leaves tapes after committing suicide for the people who contributed to her decision to tell them why she did what she did and how they played a part in it, as it’s going to be a Netflix series released at the end of the month. The use of the tapes makes for a very interesting format and I loved how Asher showed how the little things that people do can all add up, that bullying doesn’t always have to be big acts. It’s such a thought provoking little book and well worth the read.

6. Heist Society-291 pages-Ally Carter

This fun book about teenage thieves is engaging, high spirited and tons of fun up until the very last page. It will be very easy to get carried away in the adventures of Kat and her crew and fly through this in one afternoon.

7. Percy Jackson Series-265-400 pages-Rick Riordan

This five book series about the son of Poseidon will fly by easily, the longest book being only 400 pages. I dare you not to get sucked into the adventures of Percy and his friends. With a modern twist on Greek mythology, tons of sass, great friendships and thrilling adventures, this is definitely one of my favourite series.

8. Unwind-335 pages-Neal Shusterman

This is one of my absolute favourite books. Eerily creepy, it’s set in a world where abortion was outlawed after a messy war between pro-lifers and pro-choicers, but a new solution, Unwinding where parents can retroactively have their children taken apart and their organs harvested for donation…..whilst still alive. It’s such a unique dystopian world, I’ve never read anything like it and it was so riveting, I read much of it in the one afternoon.

9. The Truth About Celia Frost-335 pages-Paula Rawsthorne

This is a riveting mystery about a girl who could supposedly bleed out from a single cut….until she gets hurt and finds out that her mother has been lying to her about her illness the entire time. The rest of the story is a twisty, turny mystery as we, along with Celia discover the truth.

10. Between Shades of Grey-344 pages-Ruta Sepetys

This WWII novel about Lithuanian deportees, is beautiful and heartbreaking, but most of all hopeful. The main protagonist, Lina Vilkas is probably one of the strongest characters I’ve ever read about, she goes through some terrible, terrible things and through it all she never gives up hope. Have some tissues handy, because this book will make you cry.

11. Rebel of The Sands-358 pages-Alwyn Hamilton

This fantastic desert romp about female sharpshooter Amani Al’Hiza, has a wonderful setting, amazing characters, and a heart pounding plot, it would definitely be very easy to fly through this one in a day.

12. Split Second-368 pages-Sophie McKenzie

I was literally on the edge of my seat reading this book, I never wanted to put it down, it’s a gripping, engaging thriller that barely lets you pause for breath as you worry about what is going to happen to the main characters Charlie and Nat.

13. Blind Beauty-368 pages-KM Peyton

One of my absolute favourite books, this is a heartwarming story about a reckless girl and an ugly racehorse, both outcasts who find solace in each other and together fight against all the odds stacked against them. KM Peyton is honestly one of the best horse authors out there and this is my favourite book of hers. I read this one over the space of one coach trip (albeit quite a long one!).

14. Skulduggery Pleasant-371 pages-Derek Landy

Magical skeleton detective. Who talks. And solves crimes. And it’s set in Ireland. Plus there’s lots of sass. I mean sass, skeletons, magic, crimes and Ireland? What more could you want?

15. A Darker Shade of Magic-384 pages-VE Schwab

OMG! THIS BOOK! Victoria Schwab is an actual genius I swear. You have multiple parallel Londons, magicians, a sassy thief and a wonderful adventure. Please, please read this book, you will become addicted and you won’t regret it. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read.

16. Cross My Heart-388 pages-Carmen Reid

An incredible tale about a young girl’s bravery during WWII, we follow Nicole as she acts as a spy for the Belgian Resistance. It has a fast paced plot, awesome characters and allows you to learn about a lesser known part of WWII history.

17. Dangerous Girls-388 pages-Abigail Haas

This is one of the most twisted mind fucks of YA thriller I have ever read and if you like YA thrillers then I urge you all to read it, because honestly after reading this no other YA thriller has ever stacked up. I read it three years ago and I’m still thinking about THAT ending.

Okay I’m going to stop there before I go completely overboard but we were talking about short books this week so it makes sense I would offer you almost twice as many! I will be back with a new Top Ten Tuesday next week, it’s a meeting authors based freebie, so it should be pretty fun. I’m not sure what I’m going to have for you guys next, but I will probably have my second discussion post for March up pretty soon. In the meantime, I just did my latest Quarterly Rewind post, so you guys should check that out!

 

Quarterly Rewind (December-March 16/17 edition)

Hey everyone! I can’t believe it’s time for my first Quarterly Rewind of 2017 already, the first few months of this year have just flown by! I am so ready for Spring to finally spring and hopefully get a little warm weather? I don’t think a little is too much to ask, even if I do live in Scotland! This post will cover from 22nd December-19th March:

Image from this Spring:

me and katy 3Surprisingly, I really did not have many photos to choose from, I guess I haven’t been taking many pictures in the past three months! Still I love this one of my sister and I from when we went to Edinburgh back at the end of December. The castle in the background is just perfect no?

Favourite quote from a book you read this Spring:

“Delilah Bard had never read many books. The few she did had pirates and thieves and always ended with the promise of more stories. Characters sailed away. They lived on. Lila always imagined people that way, a series of intersections and adventures. It was easy when you moved through life-through worlds-the way she did. Easy when you didn’t care, when people came onto the page and walked away again, back to their own stories, and you could imagine whatever you wanted for them, if you cared enough to write it in your head.” -A Conjuring of Light, VE Schwab

A Conjuring of Light is my favourite book I’ve read this Spring, heck so far this year, and I loved this quote. It just felt very meta and as a reader, it’s easy to relate to!

This Spring In One Word:

Exhausting!

Most Popular Review This Spring:

I’ve read six books this Spring, not counting the couple of books I was finishing at the end of December as I read most of those in the period of my last rewind, the most popular of which was The Crown’s Game:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/the-crowns-game-the-crowns-game-1/

Top Two Books This Spring:

I’ve had a very mixed bag of books this Spring, most ranging around the 3-4 star range and only one getting a 5 star. These are the two books I read that I think stand out above the rest:

  1. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab-This has to be my top book of the Spring, this series conclusion was everything that I wanted it to be and more. Victoria Schwab is such a skilled fantasy writer, this world and characters that she created are honestly among my favourite fantasy world and characters and I can’t wait to read her backlog of books because if they’re anywhere near as good as the Shades of Magic books, I’m in for a treat!
  2. Caraval-Stephanie Garber-One of the most hyped books of 2017 so far and for good reason, the world is lush, the writing is magical, the characters were enjoyable and I’m so excited to see where this story goes in the second book of the duology.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Spring:

  1. Greece-I’m planning a trip to Greece with my friends for my 21st birthday, in June (my birthday’s not actually till September, but it clashes with Uni start dates so I couldn’t go then) and I’m so excited because I’ve always wanted to go!
  2. Sports Ball-I’m going to my University’s Sports Ball again this year, it’s a few weeks from now, and I’m really excited, it was so much fun last year!

Three New Obsessions This Winter:

  1. Reign-I started watching this show about the young Mary Queen of Scots at the end of February and flew through it in a matter of weeks. A lot of liberties are taken with the history, but I don’t care, it’s just so damn addictive.
  2. Hamilton-Yup, I’m late to the party! My friend got me listening to the soundtrack and now I’m utterly obsessed. This is my go to soundtrack when doing my University work now. I have You’ll Be Back stuck on a constant loop in my head.
  3. Salted caramel Galaxy-Yes a weird obsession, but I got some salted Caramel Galaxy a couple of weeks ago, and it’s honestly one of the best things to have ever happened to chocolate!

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Winter:

Once again most of my most popular blog posts this Winter were Top Ten Tuesdays, but in a first for this feature, my post popular post was actually a discussion post!:

  1. Jo Talks Books: Where All The Single Characters In YA-My post popular post in recent months was this one, where I lamented the lack of single characters in YA. I was amazed by the response to this post, so many people sharing their stories and issues with the lack of single characters in young adult books and I’m so happy with how popular and how much love this post has got!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/jo-talks-books-where-are-all-the-single-characters-in-ya/

2. Top Ten Tuesday #91-This was one of my first TTT’s of the year, where I talked about the 2016 releases I missed out on in 2016 and plan to read this year. I’ve only actually read one so far, but I’m working through a second and hopefully will have read all of them by the end of the year!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/top-ten-tuesday-91/

3. Top Ten Tuesday #98-This was my TTT post from last week, where I talked about all the books I plan to read this Spring. I’m not sure I’ll get through all of them, but I’m pretty excited for the reading I have ahead of me!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/top-ten-tuesday-98/

4. Top Ten Tuesday #93-This is another one from back in January, which was a freebie and I talked about Girl Power Books, inspired by the Women’s March movement. I’m so happy that this one is on here and I get to share it again, because in times like these, I think sharing books to empower girls is really important.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/top-ten-tuesday-93/

5. Top Ten Tuesday #97-This is from the end of Februrary, right before TTT went on hiatus for a few weeks. It was all about the books that I loved less than I expected and I rather enjoyed doing it as it’s not often that I do a negative ranty post (at least not for TTT, I’ve done a few ranty discussion posts!).

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/top-ten-tuesday-97/

Five Posts I Enjoyed On Other Blogs This Winter:

I once again kind of lapsed on my bookmarking this Winter, but I’ll see what I can find:

  1. Aimee Davis did this incredible, heartbreaking post on Consent in YA Fiction and I honestly think it is one that everyone should read. It’s such an important topic and Aimee speaks so honestly and openly.

Consent in Young Adult Fiction

2. Lucy Powrie @ Queen of Contemporary did this great post responding to an ignorant tweet by producer Judd Apatow and the general ignorance of the media about the worth of teenage girls.

http://queenofcontemporary.com/2017/02/call-teenager-response-judd-apatow.html

3. Sarah K @ The Book Traveller did this amazing post about Angie Thomas’ new book, The Hate U Give and why she has been scared to read it. It’s such an open, honest, raw post about her family and it’s definitely worth a read.

http://theyabooktraveler.com/index.php/2017/02/28/discussionthug/

4. Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books wrote a great post on the recent controversies about diversity on Twitter and it was really eye opening to see how many teenagers are scared of sharing their opinions on Twitter because they’re terrified of being torn to pieces by some members of the community. We need to make sure that teenagers feel safe in this community, that they feel they are able to speak out on issues that affect them. Yes we need to have discussions about important issues but we should do it in a way that is respectful and inclusive, not divisive and destructive. This post also inspired me to do my own post about teen bloggers in the YA online community.

http://aperfectioncalledbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-post-i-was-scared-to-write.html#comment-form

5. Anushka @ Pushing Through Books did this great post on enjoying problematic books which I really enjoyed as it’s something I’ve struggled with, some of my favourite books are considered problematic. Does this mean I enjoy them less? No. I think as long as we are aware of the problems and make other people aware of the problems in books we love then there is no problem enjoying them. She mentions people reading books solely to pick out the problems and that completely shocked me. Like why would you do that? Surely that takes all the fun out of reading. Anyway it was a really insightful post that I enjoyed and I hope you guys do too!

https://goingthroughbooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/are-you-allowed-to-enjoy-problematic-books-are-we-making-a-big-deal-out-of-this/

Five Things That Happened This Winter:

  1. I went to see Jack Whitehall on tour in Glasgow with my friends. It was completely hilarious and such a fun day/night out for all of us.
  2. I competed in my first competition with my Trampolining club at Uni. I didn’t win or anything but I was just so happy to complete both my routines successfully. Plus we won the league, so that was pretty awesome.
  3. On Saturday, my friends and I went to Edinburgh to explore some of the literary sights for an article I had to write for my Journalism class, have to say, even though I was exhausted afterwards, it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever got to do for an assignment.
  4. Went to Maison De Moggy, Scotland’s first cat cafe with my friends, it was so much fun & the cats were so adorable!
  5. I finally finished my NaNoWriMo novel, This Is Not A Love Story, and it’s now in the editing stage. Not that much editing has actually happened yet, but I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April, so you never know!

Six Songs I Listened To Way Too Often This Winter:

  1. You’ll Be Back-Hamilton-Okay I could really put the entire soundtrack on here, but this is the song that has basically been on constant repeat in our flat for the last month or so!
  2. Galway Girl-Ed Sheeran-One of my favourites off his new album, this song is just too damn catchy!
  3. Sanctuary-Nashville-I’ve had this song on repeat ever since I watched the episode with it in. It’s so damn sad, but also beautiful.
  4. Dancing Through Life-Wicked-This is one of my favourite songs from the soundtrack so naturally I’ve been listening to it a lot.
  5. Come So Far (Got So Far To Go)-Hairspray-This one comes up on my IPod a lot and it’s just so catchy, I love it!
  6. What’d I Miss?-Hamilton-Another Hamilton song that has got stuck in my head.

So that’s my Quarterly Rewind for Winter, what do you guys think? What have you enjoyed most on my blog this Winter? What have you guys been up to this Winter? Any exciting plans for Spring? Let me know in the comments!

 

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) Review

ACOLBook: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

Author: VE Schwab

This was my most anticipated read of 2017, aside from the last Throne of Glass book, although that book’s release date has now been pushed back (don’t even get me started on that!), so naturally I was equal parts nervous and excited to read this. Excited because I couldn’t wait to see where these characters that I loved so much ended up and nervous because I knew this book was going to break my heart, I didn’t want this series to be over and I was worried it might not be as good as I was expecting it to be. Fortunately, this book was everything that I wanted it to be and more. The characters were as sassy and wonderful as ever, the fight scenes were on point, the intensity was sky high, the villain was suitably creepy and the heartbreak was definitely there. It was, all in all, the perfect conclusion to this series. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

(Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the first two books, so if you haven’t read those, turn away now).

You are thrown straight back into the action, the book picks up exactly where A Gathering of Shadows left off, so I would recommend perhaps rereading at least the end of the second book before picking up this one, even I had to flick to the back of the book just to remind myself what had happened.

I was glad that the cliffhanger involving Lila at the end of the last book was relatively quickly resolved, I was worried that Schwab was going to torture us with that reveal through the whole book so I’m glad it’s resolved within the first few pages.

The intensity throughout the first part of the book was incredible, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it. In general, I was really impressed by the pacing of this book, it’s hard in a book over 600 pages to keep a reader’s attention for the entire time, but I felt the pacing in this book was perfect, fast paced in all the right places, slow when it needed to be. I never felt bored, I was always so excited to pick the book up and see what happened next, so hats off to Schwab for that, because keeping me engaged throughout an entire 600+ page book is no easy feat! So much happens in such a short space of time and it really feels like it when you’re reading, the pages just fly past!

I loved the flashbacks in this book, we get to see little Kell and little Rhy which was awesome in itself, but also Holland’s backstory was completely fleshed out, which I absolutely loved because I wasn’t expecting that in this book. I especially liked getting to see Kell and Holland meet, that was probably my favourite of the Holland flashbacks.

I loved all the sass in this book, the characters are also so snarky and Schwab has created such brilliant dynamics between them all, there’s not a character relationship that I don’t love, there’s the obvious ones like Kell/Rhy, Rhy/Lila and Rhy/Alcuard, but also the dynamics between Holland/Kell, Holland/Lila, Alucard/Kell, Alucard/Lila, they’re all so fantastic, they feel like real people interacting and not just characters on a page.

I loved all the Alucard/Rhy scenes, they are definitely my OTP for this series (much as I also enjoy Lila/Kell), their scenes were just all so adorable, and I loved getting to see more of them together in this book. I also loved that we got a little Lila/Kell as well, subtly so it didn’t overpower the rest of the book (this is one of my favourite things about Schwab’s writing, the romance is always the background), but just enough to know that they’re both interested. There’s also a very steamy scene that I’m sure other Lila/Kell shippers will get very excited about (it’s a really good scene guys!).

I’m not going to lie, the body count in this is HIGH! A lot of people die, and yet Schwab manages to make each death as hard hitting as the last. I’m glad she didn’t shy away from that in this book, it’s a battle, people are going to die.

The villain of this book Osaron was brilliant! He was so creepy, his presence so pervasive throughout the book that you couldn’t help but be scared of him. I can’t quite decide if he or The Dane Twins were the better villain, but suffice to say, Victoria Schwab writes excellent villains.

I liked that we got to see Emira and Maxim’s backgrounds a bit more in this book, it was nice to see them fleshed out as more than just the King and Queen of Arnes. It was nice that they both had more of a role in this book as well.

Rhy really came into his own this book, I’m amazed at how strong he’s become over the past three books, and it really shows here. He’s not relying on Kell to save him, he wants to do things himself and really get in on the action. He’s grown so much feistier, he knows what he wants and he gets it and I just loved every scene with him in it in this book. All of the characters are amazing, my favourite is still Lila, but Kell, Alucard, Holland and Rhy are awesome as well and like I said earlier, the dynamics between the group are just perfect.

I wish that the immunity deal with the silvers had been explained, I get that they were immune to Osaron but I would have liked to have known exactly why.

All of the action scenes throughout the book were amazing, Victoria Schwab definitely has a knack for writing action, the pace is always perfect, they are always riveting and vivid, it’s like watching a movie, the scenes just leap off the page. The final battle in particular was probably one of the best action scenes I’ve ever read.

I love Schwab’s writing, she doesn’t overdo it on the description, it’s not flowery prose, it’s simple but also really beautiful at times. I like that her focus is more on the character interactions than flowery descriptions as that’s exactly what I love. There were a few typos though, which I found a little jarring, although I guess that’s more of an editing problem than a writing problem. There was a particular quote that felt very meta, that I just loved.

There was one thing that nagged at me slightly, it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but it just confused me a little, I thought Lila had already met the King and Queen at the end of ADSOM? But there’s a scene in ACOL where she’s with them and they act like they don’t know who she is? I get that a lot of time has passed, but Lila is pretty memorable? Like I said, it didn’t bug me, it just confused me.

I liked that things from the first book, like Lila’s empty map came back and had importance in this book, I love it when authors add in tiny details like that and they come back in later books.

All of the Kell/Rhy scenes made me so happy, their brotherly relationship just warms my heart so much. I love seeing strong sibling relationships in books and Schwab does this very well.

I liked how everything came together, there were a lot of seemingly random things introduced into the plot through the book and I kept wondering how all these things were going to tie together, but they all came together seamlessly. That’s one of the things I love about Schwab’s writing, everything has a purpose, nothing is random and all the plot threads even the seemingly unrelated ones come together in the end.

I loved that we got to see more of Alucard’s past and family in this book, especially as it led to one of my favourite parts of the book, when they were all on the black market pirate ship. Maris was pretty awesome, if a little creepy, and her interaction with Lila was just the best. Also I really want to go to the Ferase Stras because all the stuff Maris has seems pretty awesome.

The binding rings were amazing, it was so cool to read about them and just added another layer of awesomeness to the already amazing magic system in this book.

There were quite a few twists through the book that I wasn’t expecting and nothing about it ever seemed predictable, I liked that I was kept guessing what would happen right up until the end of the book.

The ending, oh the ending. Physical tears people. I am the girl that never cries at books and there were physical tears this time. The entire last part was just so bittersweet, there was cute stuff to be sure, but there was also heartbreaking stuff and just having to say goodbye to these characters and watching them say goodbye to each other was hard okay? I loved that things came full circle, with lines from the first book being repeated and overall it felt like everyone ended where they needed to be, which was great.

I really only have one thing left to say to end this review in the perfect way:

Anoshe guys. It’s been one hell of a ride. For all of us.

My rating: 5/5 for a stunning series conclusion.

My next review will be another VE Schwab book, as I’m reading This Savage Song for my March #RockMyTBR read.