In a kingdom by the sea…
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?
The darkly magical world of Shadowhunters has captured the imaginations of millions of readers across the globe. Join the adventure in Lady Midnight, the long-awaited first volume of a new trilogy from Cassandra Clare. (Goodreads Synopsis)
In anticipation of the release of the final instalment in The Dark Artifices trilogy on the 4th December I felt it was fitting to have a review of Lady Midnight – the first Cassandra Clare book I’ve read – before the The Queen of Air and Darkness comes and shatters us all next month.
Having only started reading Cassandra Clare’s works this year I decided to start with the Shadowhunter series after it was raved about on both Instagram and Goodreads – it being described as one of the best opening novels of her various series of books. Being new to her writing/fantasy world I’m aware I may be missing out on some of the nuances included in the book that harks back to previous novels in the same fantastical universe, though I managed to still really enjoy it despite this. – The series being new to me I did struggle with the jargon a little (Seraph blades, runes downworlders etc) but managed to pick up most of the concepts within the first hundred pages or so.
One thing I’ve noticed that is mentioned a lot in reviews of Lady Midnight/Lord of Shadows is the endearing characterisation of Emma and the rest of the Blackthorn family which is definitely something I agree with. I’m not used to reading a lot of fiction where the main characters have an extensive and close family unit and I really enjoyed that dynamic being brought to the novel – especially because what stemmed from this was the allowance for multiple perspectives in the narrative structure which I LOVE in novels.
I won’t lie, one of the main reasons I was intrigued by The Dark Artifices trilogy was the forbidden love trope and the concept of Parabatai – I had to keep reading until I found out what the reason was behind why Julian and Emma could never be together in a romantic sense (and without saying too much the ending definitely broke my heart).
The actual investigative part of the plot didn’t really capture me as much as the romantic investment I had in Julian/Emma and Mark/Cristina/Julian love triangle. I found the fight scenes were a little anti-climactic though I did like the discussions of politics with Faeries and the Cold Peace which I thought was more compelling.
As an English Student I also really appreciated Clare’s use of intertextuality, including Edgar Allen Poe and his poem Annabel Lee – the discovery of the poem by Ty and Livvy and its inclusion in the plot made me more invested in the overarching storyline.
The book also holds a good reputation for representing sexuality and diversity well, namely in the way Marks bisexuality is presented as being so organic and natural, as well as Julian’s accepting and compassionate response to Ty’s alluded autism (that is discussed a little more in Lord of Shadows).
Overall I really enjoyed this introduction to Cassandra Clare as well as more fantasy orientated fiction. I think I will definitely have to backtrack and read The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices as well!
What do you think to Cassandra Clare’s works? Do you like fantasy as a genre?
Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.
Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets. (Goodreads Synopsis)
Anyone who knows me and my reading habits knows that I am a huge fan of Stephanie Perkins YA books (especially Anna and the French Kiss). Similarly, anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a massive scaredy cat when it comes to horror/thriller. Despite this, my love for Stephanie Perkins lured me into reading this book and I won’t lie, it did sit on my bookshelf for the best part of a year before I decided to brave it (in an attempt at reducing my tbr pile this last summer).
As briefly mentioned the story focusses on Makani – a Hawaiian teenager who moves to Nebraska after an unknown scandal at her previous High School. Despite being there a year living with her Grandmother, she is still considered the new girl. It’s made apparent early on that Makani has a crush on the controversial Ollie – who’s past is similarly shrouded in mystery. Osborn High begins to experience a series of gruesome and personal murders, with little clue to who the murderer is and what motives are behind the killings.
As a complete change from her previous work I surprisingly enjoyed this direction in Stephanie Perkins writing. I’ve seen that a lot of comments/reviews for this book have been negative purely because they wanted a horror story rather than the teen slasher/thriller that the book is more akin to. Similarly, a lot of reviews have said Perkins creates little tension within the book which I again disagree with – this may potentially stem from me being a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary stories, but I was gripped by the plotline. I managed to finish this book in less than 24 hours because I simply had to find out what happened to Makani and the killer at the end!
One aspect of Perkins novels that I and a lot of her readers share is her emphasis on individual characterisation of the protagonists in her novels – and Makani and Ollie were no exception. In comparison to her Romance “Trilogy” Ollie and Makanai are more “unconventional”. We’re introduced to Ollie as the boy with bright pink hair, who has a troubled past and a lip ring to complete the ‘bad boy’ persona. Makani on the other hand is in my opinion one of Perkins most forward and diverse characters being of mixed ethnicity rather than American like her other protagonists, as well as her more self assured nature as a female charcter when it comes to her relationship with Ollie.
As a stand alone, one time read, I really did enjoy this novel. I probably won’t read it again (at least not right away) due to the lost appeal of its tension when I now know who the killer is! But I recommend it as a good read now the days are getting darker and Halloween is looming!
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time. (Goodreads Synopsis)
During my work experience at Penguin back in January I was lucky enough to attend a reading/Q&A with Moshin Hamid about his latest novel Exit West. After being instantly captured during this intimate reading of the novel I knew it was something I really wanted to read despite never hearing of the author and his works before nor it being the typical type of book I would go for. Despite this, I was engaged by his thoughtful insight into the current issues faced globally, the novel namely focusing around migration.
As a novel that is so centred around crisis faced internationally, Moshin uses the concept of doors to speed up the migration process and function as a means of interconnecting the war-torn countries of the world with the affluent streets of London. I’ve seen a lot of reviews argue that the doors Moshin implements in his narrative as “failed” attempt at magical realism, however, viewed objectively they stand to be a good metaphor for diaspora globally, akin to the likes of magical doorways in C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
As a reader of the book I did find it difficult to digest. Despite the linguistically simplistic narrative voice of the novel, the topics covered in comparison were discussed with strikingly lucid observations. This matter-of-fact style of discussion arose a controversial impression on me: on one hand making me uncomfortable, but also being forced to question my own stance on the topics Moshin covers within his novel, whether it be about the treatment of immigrants into host countries, the wars being fought in foreign lands or as a member of a host country, how I would feel about the country being overrun with such a multitude of people.
While the book does have the topic of migration at its epicentre, Exit West also focuses on the relationship of Saeed and Nadia in the tumultuous state of their home city as well as how their relationship changes when migrating through the doors. As a lover of romance I was initially disappointed at the lack of connection the pair had though ultimately I was aware that the pairing of the two was more out of consolation and familiarity rather than being the driving force of hope within the novel.
Ultimately, I found the novel, though short, immensely though provoking and would advise it as a good read for the conscientious citizen within us all.
Until next time,
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her.
When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas,to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other. (Goodreads Synopsis)
I still don’t really know how I feel about this YA/New Adult Contemporary Romance novel. I initially picked this up back in May 2018 planning to read it during the Summer because that’s my favourite time of year to read YA books. I really wanted it to be a gateway to more reading of contemporary books over the summer and luckily it served as such.
Within the first sitting I managed to read 150 pages and I was finished in 2 days… I hadn’t read a book that quickly in a very long time (it actually felt like I hadn’t read any book for a very long time). I liked Penny as a main character and her slightly neurotic tendencies resonated with me a lot. I also loved that she was a student starting college because I absolutely love stories with a school setting. Penny also resonated with me by being an English student, although admittedly I am awful at creative writing unlike Penny – and I further liked how Penny’s story about Anima reflected the relationship between Penny and her mother.
This book however does deal with bigger issues of race and sexual abuse though these are somewhat “shoehorned” into the story without wholly contributing to the overall plot. Though I think its important for Choi to include these elements I don’t know how effective they are at breaking stigmas/raising awareness in this particular context.
While I enjoyed the novel while reading it I’m unsure if I will pick it up again in comparison to other contemporaries I’ve read though I am very grateful in manged to get me out of my post-uni reading slump and into reading other YA novels throughout the summer
What did you think to Emergency Contact?
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved? (Goodreads synopsis)
As far as YA books go I actually really enjoyed this one! I’ve seen a lot of bad reviews for this book on Goodreads for the cliché nature of the plot as well as the simplicity of the storyline but I think it was something that actually made it more accessible as a novel. The best way I could describe the plot of the book is it’s likeness to the film ‘You’ve got mail’ but for the millennial age. Jessie and SN engage in increasingly intimate conversations about the trials and tribulations both at high school and in their personal lives via instant messaging. This then develops into a search for the true identity of SN (I was very happy when I found out who it was! I was physically grinning at the result)
Being the nosy person I am, I always love a good dual narrative in a story and though I didn’t get to hear the voice of SN via chapter alterations I enjoyed the communication between the two unfold via the messages (If you like this element too, Emergency Contact by Mary H.K Choi does this really well!).
Not only does this book explore the intense rush of first love, it also deals with feelings of loss as well as homesickness. These opposing feelings leave us as the reader aching for Jessie, alternating between grief and her romantic endeavours with all her possible love interests. For these reasons I think the novel has more substance than other readers have found it having.
I really recommend this YA novel to read at this time of year, stories set in schools always manage to capture me.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that book lovers and Autumn are a match made in heaven.
Autumn is by far my favourite season and September has been my favourite month of the year for as long as I can remember. Aside from it being my birthday month, I’ve always loved the atmosphere of back to school, purely because I love stationary more than any sane person (yes, I am a notebook addict/hoarder). As well as this, September has the perfect in-between kind of weather I love and I feel most at home wearing cosy cardigans, knitted tights and corduroy skirts.
To accompany the cosy atmosphere of the colder days and ever darkening evenings, books as equally as heartwarming are definitely on the agenda. I thus present some of my favourite autumnal reads:
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Despite only discovering and reading this novel for the first time back in April of this year, I WISH I had read it during Autumn. I’m a lover of stories set at school/uni anyway, but this books lyrical language and addictively degenerative plot definitely makes it the perfect read for long autumnal evenings.
- The Time Travellers Wife: I first read this book in France 3 years when we went away for my 18th birthday. One of my favourite things to do was to watch the mists over the hills in the early morning while snuggling down with my book for a couple of hours. I loved this book on first reading it despite not being my typical type of read. The span of Clare and Henry’s relationship made me completely invested in the characters outcomes and the jumping between narratives and time periods kept me interested until the end.
- Any of the Harry Potter’s: Pretty much a staple at this time of year along with their movies and the soundtracks. The whole Harry Potter universe makes me very nostalgic and emotional. I love that so many people have investment in this series of books/films and to me they sometimes seem like a welcome relief to reality, especially during darker colder days.
- Frankenstein: This year I’m studying a Gothic module at University from September-December which is going to make the darkening days even spookier for me. Frankenstein is by far one of my favourite texts I’ve ever studied. After reading it in one sitting on my 17th birthday, I was captured by Mary Shelley’s writing style and the history of both her and her mother’s lives. (I’ve also recently being watching the Frankenstein Chronicles starring Sean Bean which is an adaptation based off Mary Shelley’s monster – another good way to get into the spooky Halloween atmosphere later in the season).
- Pride and Prejudice: My love for period dramas has been instilled from my parents watching them for as long as I can remember, the most longstanding of these being the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. This is overwhelmingly nostalgic for me and I’m definitely due for a re-watch/re-read very soon.
- There’s Something Inside your House: Anyone who reads this blog will know of my undying love for Stephanie Perkins. When she released “There’s Something Inside your House” this time last year I ended up putting it off for 10 months purely because I really can’t stand Horror. Despite this, I did end up reading the novel over Summer and it’s definitely a perfect read for Halloween week. This teen Thriller/Slasher novel reminds me a lot of the Scream films and the book had me on the edge of my seat a lot!
- Oliver Twist: This perhaps might be edging over into Christmas a little more than Autumn but Dickens’ melancholy tale of orphan Oliver has been really appealing to me the last couple of weeks. I’ve had the beautiful mustard Vintage Classics edition sat on my shelf for a few months and with a bit of luck I’ll be able to read it over the coming season in amongst my Uni texts.
Hopefully I will manage to make my way through some of these over the next few months! What are some of your favourite books to read in Autumn?