Review: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful surprise!

Since I have become an active participant in the Book Community in 2017, I have watched countless books set in the Shadowhunter world be released.

I have quietly watched from the sidelines as fans swooned about the continuation of the world and ongoing story arcs.

Looking forward, with The Wicked Powers series in the works for Cassandra Clare, I want to take part, gosh darn it!

So, now it is time for some catch-up. A lot of it.

I have previously read Clockwork Angel and really enjoyed it. Ultimately though, I decided that I want to start with The Mortal Instruments series instead, so here we are!

I’m not going to provide a short synopsis for City of Bones, as I usually do in my reviews, because honestly, everyone already knows what this is about.

For this first novel, I chose to listen to the audiobook and I adored it. I thought the narration was engaging and it kept me focused the whole way through.

I loved finally getting to meet characters that I have heard referenced so frequently, like Clary, Jace, Simon, Isabelle and Magnus.

I was pleasantly surprised at how witty the banter was between characters. I live for that.

It always gives me all the feels when a character can literally make me laugh.

In short, I guess I am a Shadowhunter fan now. Is there a special term for us that I should know?

Looking forward to continuing on with this world. This really did it for me!

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Review: This Coven Won’t Break (These Witches Don’t Burn #2) by Isabel Sterling

This Coven Won't Break (These Witches Don't Burn, #2)This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

As this is the second book in the These Witches Don’t Burn duology, this review may contain minor spoilers for the first book.

Proceed at your own risk!

Now entering her Senior year of high school, Hannah Walsh just wants to put the pieces of her life back together and forget about the tragedy that happened last year.

Her father is gone, her home destroyed, but she still has her Mom, best friend and girlfriend, Morgan, to count on.

While struggling with her grief, Hannah matured a lot. Sometimes it was hard to remember that she was still in high school.

I love that she remained connected to her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, and that we got to learn so much more about the infamous NYC Blood Witch incident. That’s what I had been hoping for all along.

As Hannah tries to recover however, the Witch Hunters are actually increasing their activities and apparently, they are now nationwide!

Armed with a biological serum that can strip Witches of their powers, the Hunters are determined to clear the world of Hannah and others like her.

There was quite a bit of action in this installment and moving from place-to-place. For me, it lost a little of its charm compared to the first book because of this.

Odd, I know, but one of the things I enjoyed so much about the first book was the examination of relationships and I didn’t feel that as much in this.

With this being said, I do think this was a lovely conclusion and I definitely plan to pick up the prequel novella, This Spell Can’t Last.

I also will pick up anything else this author chooses to write!

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Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moody, dark and secretive, just like me.

Ninth House was a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new, Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus, secret societies and magic.

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed it even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the story if I had been holding the book in my hands and there’s a lot to take in here.

A lot of details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as back and forth timelines, I think just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex’s character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life, raised by a hippie Mom in California, who ends up at one of the most elite institutions in the world.

After a close call that could have ended her life, Alex instead ends up being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale, but why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a murder mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these topics that I found extremely interesting, was the great amount of privilege on the Yale campus, and the way uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page of drug abuse, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem so incredibly real.

I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Not going to lie, this sort of crushed my heart.

I found this story to be so sad, y’all. It truly hit me right in the heart.

The idea of childhood innocence and optimism being dashed on the rocks of reality.

You cannot outsmart the market; you cannot have it all.

In an Absent Dream, a prequel novella, tells the backstory of Katherine Lundy, Eleanor West’s Assistant.

Her world was a goblin market with the door first manifesting to her in a large, mysterious tree which appears in a place it had never been before.

Talk about every child’s dream!

A portal world accessed through a tree that probably only you could see.

The description of the goblin market itself, not just the vibrant atmosphere, but also the system’s function, was fascinating. I think a lot can be taken from that as a social commentary on our own economic system.

That’s one of the things I love about McGuire’s writing, the stories hold so many different layers depending on how far you want to look.

There’s something for every reader within the pages.

I thought this was a super solid addition to this series. I enjoyed the relationships and how Lundy got to travel back and forth between the two places.

I’m looking forward to continuing on my Wayward Children journey. I wish this series would keep going on forever and ever!

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Review: The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Black FlamingoThe Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED THIS SO MUCH!!!!

The Black Flamingo is a novel written in verse. My first read ever in verse. Going in, I was concerned. I wanted to read it because of the subject matter, but I just wasn’t sure if the format would work for me.

My experience with poetry, of any sort, is limited, and those I have had, were not great. My mind just generally doesn’t work that way. Maybe I’m too literal, but I tend to have a hard time deciphering the meaning and I become easily frustrated.

I decided to try the audiobook because it is read by the author, Dean Atta, who happens to be a well-known poet, and I figured, who better to hear the words from, in the way he wants them to be heard.

Upon conclusion, I know that was the correct decision for me. I definitely recommend the audiobook for other readers who may be apprehensive about a novel written in verse.

It literally feels like you are sitting down to coffee with a new friend and hearing about their life thus far.

This story follows Michael, a mixed race, gay boy growing up in the UK. The narrative follows him from the very beginning of his life, up through his time at University; although the bulk of it does take place during his teen years.

He goes in depth into his thoughts and feelings surrounding his family, his heritage of being part-Greek Cypriot and part-Jamaican, his heartache over his absentee father, his discovery of his sexuality and many other topical issues.

As a reader, it completely sucks you in. I could not stop listening. I just let the words wash over me and take me into Michael’s world.

With this novel, I felt the same as I did with Kacen Callender’s, Felix Ever After, in that I was completely and whole-heartedly entranced by the main character’s story and emotions.

I think with both it has to do with the writing. You are reading from the main character’s perspective the entire way through and you get access to their deepest, most open thoughts. Thoughts they may never choose to vocalize to other characters.

I think due to this special insight and openness with emotion, it is very easy to become attached to them, as you know how precious they are and how hurtful the world can be. It made me feel protective of both Michael and Felix; it also opened my eyes to perspectives they discussed that I will never experience myself.

That’s the best way I can think to describe how this book made me feel. My apologies if that makes no sense at all.

My best advice, read it for yourself. I think you’ll understand after you do.

I loved the evolution of Michael’s character as he literally grows up and discovers the best ways for him to express himself and live happily. His character is very open to the experience of University life and takes in all the activities that may not have been available to him when he was younger.

When he joins the Drag Society he begins to gain the confidence he needs to finally be the person he wants to be. These sections, particularly the final scene with his performance, were incredibly moving. Applause for days!

In short, this is an amazing novel, one I think any person can read and take their own lessons from. I will definitely be more comfortable picking up novels written in verse in the future.

Let this be a lesson to you, read outside of your comfort zones!! You never know what GEMS you will find!

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Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

PetPet by Akwaeke Emezi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Angels can look like many things. So can monsters.

Wow, this book is a lot to swallow. It is heavy; there is so much here to process.

Pet is a wildly creative story following, Jam, a black transgirl, living in a sort of metaphorical utopian city called, Lucille.

In this futuristic-feeling city, the angels have gotten rid of the all the monsters. There are no monsters left, or so they say.

Jam lives with her parents, Bitter and Aloe. They are so loving and supportive of Jam. She is content.

That is until when night when she is alone in her Mom’s art studio, Jam accidentally cuts her hand and drips blood on one of the paintings.

Okay, no big deal, right? Her Mom won’t get that mad.

But then the painting starts to come to life!

A being is literally crawling off of the page and coming to life. He’s big, he has horns, he has claws; Jam can’t believe her eyes!!

This mess is certainly going to require a bit more explaining then a few drops of blood on a page.

Jam begins communicating with this new being. His name is Pet and he is here to hunt a monster from the House of Redemption.

How can this be? There are no monsters left and Jam knows Redemption.

He’s her best friend. She knows his whole family; there are no monsters there!

Pet is insistent though. He is not wrong and Jam begrudgingly agrees to help him in his hunt. She doesn’t think he will find anything, but she’s goes along with him anyway more to appease him than anything.

Jam and Pet work together to try to weed out the monster hiding among them.

As mentioned above, this book is heavy. Initially, I was under the impression that this was Middle Grade for some reason, but that can’t be correct. I would definitely classify this as YA and maybe the marketing even does that, I’m not sure.

Dealing heavily in metaphor, this story lays out a horrifying reality for Redemption and his family. I was moved by where this went and the vigilante justice that followed.

If you are looking for an impactful, unique, moving story to pick up this summer, with a ton of great rep and beautiful, metaphoric writing, you should ABSOLUTELY pick up Pet!

I am looking forward to reading more from Emezi!

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Review: Dark Disciple (Star Wars) by Christie Golden

Dark Disciple: Star WarsDark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The only way to bring down the Sith’s most powerful warrior may be to join forces with the dark side.

Dark Disciple is an Adult novel within the Disney Star Wars Canon. To put it in timeline perspective, it is my understanding that this book falls after the novel, Catalyst and just prior to the Revenge of the Sith movie.

Interestingly, or at least for fans, this novel is based on a story arc scripted for The Clone Wars television series that went unproduced after the show was canceled.

My initial attraction to this book, besides the fact that I want to read all the Canon novels, was Asajj Ventress, the infamous former apprentice to Count Dooku.

This book built out her character in such a pleasing way. I love when a antihero gets their time to shine.

As the war rages on in the galaxy, Count Dooku’s tactics become more and more brutal. The Republic cannot stand by while hundreds more innocent lives are lost.

The Jedi Council surmises the best way to defeat Dooku, perhaps the only way, would be to join forces with someone who knows him best.

Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku’s former protege, becomes their focus for the mission.

Ventress, now making ends meet as a bounty hunter, is perfect for the assignment. After Dooku attempted to have her killed, she severed all ties with him and that hatred runs deep.

Quinlan Vos, the Jedi Knight assigned the mission, sets out to find Asajj with the goal of getting her to assist him in assassinating Dooku.

Once the two meet up, their budding relationship grows quickly. I loved the banter between them as they struggled to figure out a power balance.

Ventress ultimately teaches Vos many things, including how to harness the power of the dark side; a line that is most dangerous to cross.

As is to be expected, there was a ton of action in here. I loved the various battle scenes, but also loved the quieter moments between Vos and Ventress.

I certainly don’t need romance in my Star Wars, but for me, it was more about watching Ventress being able to let her guard down and open up to someone.

She has such a tough facade and reputation, and rarely lets that slip, even for a moment. Reading her in the more vulnerable moments, particularly when she told Vos the truth of what happened to her fellow Nightsisters, it gave me all the feels.

Additionally, the deep bond that forms between them was so well written. A forbidden romance if ever there was one.

Ultimately, this story did shred my heart in a hundred million pieces, but I’m willing to forgive Christie Golden because she wrote it with such care and grace.

Overall, I loved this story. Highly recommend to Star Wars fans who enjoy to dabble in the power of the dark side.

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Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third installment of the beloved Wayward Children series, returns the reader to Eleanor West’s School.

At the beginning of our story, a girl, Rini, falls from the sky into the little pond behind the school. Students observing her arrival are shocked, but what she has to tell them shocks them even more.

Rini comes from the land of Confection and she is searching for her mother, Sumi.

But how is that possible? Sumi died years before, at the school, before she ever had the chance to conceive a child.

Nevertheless, Rini persists. She is clearly real, she is right there in front of them, although she is slowly starting to disappear. With her life on the line, Rini won’t let reality and logic stand in the way of her finding her mom and saving not just herself, but also her world.

Sumi was one of my favorite characters from Every Heart a Doorway, so I was excited to get to this book, as I knew there was a connection to her.

In spite of Eleanor’s rule for no quests, a quest is very much where this book goes. Cora, Christopher, Nadya and another one of my absolute favorites, Kade, assist Rini in her search.

A bone flute is used in this story, which I thought was so cool. Christopher, whose world was a skeleton underworld, was able to use the bone flute to summon skeletons right out of their graves and I was living for it!

The kids meet up with another of the original characters from Every Heart, so that was a lovely surprise as well.

The land of Confection, the world Sumi and thus, her daughter is from, is a nonsense world with some logic; some rules the nonsense must follow.

I’ll be honest, the whole concept of a nonsense world freaks me the heck out and Confection is no exception.

Even as a kid, I was super weirded out by Alice in Wonderland, which I would also classify as a nonsense world with some logic.

Overall, this is a delightful novella. Unsurprisingly, the characters were fantastic, the writing is top shelf beautiful; I just really, really enjoyed it.

I cannot wait to continue on with the next book in the series! Do you think Seanan McGuire could just keep adding to this series forever?

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Review: Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Clean GetawayClean Getaway by Nic Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Clean Getaway follows 11-year old, Scoob, as he goes on an unexpected RV adventure with his beloved Grandma, nicknamed, G-Ma.

G-Ma is an extra special lady, one who Scoob loves to be around. She always seems to understand him and have the right thing to say.

Scoob’s Dad has been pretty tough on him lately. Particularly after he got into a little trouble at school just prior to Spring Break.

As far as Scoob and his Dad are concerned, any plans Scoob may have had for fun during Spring Break are cancelled.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, G-Ma arrives in a legitimate house on wheels and tells Scoob they are going on an adventure.

He packs a bag and off they go. It seems G-Ma has a plan, the specifics of which are a mystery to Scoob.

Once on the road, G-Ma gives Scoob a copy of a book called, The Green Book. She tells him that she, and his Grandpa, had to use this book while traveling together in the 1960s.

The Green Book was used as a guide by black people in the United States initially, and then I believe in other countries around the world, seeking safe lodging and amenities during their travels.

While I knew of the existence and use of The Green Book, I have never read about it as part of a fictional story.

I thought this was a tremendously clever plot device to open up communication between the characters. I think as a discussion point for adults, with children, it is an easily understandable way for children to begin to learn about the history of race relations in our country.

Scoob is initially surprised by the book. Sure, he knows a bit about the Civil Rights Movement and the people involved, but he never really considered the real life implications on his own family.

As an interracial couple in the 1960s, G-Ma and Grandpa faced a lot of hostility and discrimination when they were seen together in public. Scoob begins to understand that more as him and G-Ma are given nasty looks when they stop at a diner in a remote town.

Apparently, a white woman together with a black boy can still raise some eyebrows. Scoob doesn’t like the feeling at all, it makes him so uncomfortable. Later, thinking about it more, he even comes to fear that some of the hateful people from the diner may follow them with the intent to do them harm.

Yeah, as you can tell, there are definitely some serious issues tackled in this book. Scoob and his G-Ma have some great, candid discussions about things that G-Ma has experienced and I think Scoob learned a lot about his family and himself over the course of the story.

Stone is such a gifted writer. Her stories, while full of serious, topical issues, also contain such wit and humor. It really makes them so accessible to every reader.

Scoob is a sweet, funny, caring boy; a great protagonist to follow along with. And don’t get me started on G-Ma. I love that woman.

Although this is a fairly short story, even for Middle Grade, it packs a serious punch. There is so much emotion and heart in this story. It is truly lovely. I just find Stone’s style of writing so engaging. It is more than writing, it is absolutely storytelling in its purest form.

I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. I do feel that this would be a great book for parents to read with their children this summer though!!!

So, add it to your summer reading list and prepare for a great adventure! Don’t forget to pack your tissues.

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Review: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

King and the DragonfliesKing and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poignant Queer Middle Grade.

After Kingston’s brother, Khalid, unexpectedly passes away, King is convinced he has transformed into a dragonfly.

He spends his afternoons down by the bayou where the dragonflies flit about in great numbers. He’s constantly searching for the one. The one that is Khalid.

One of King’s most distinct memories of his brother was when Khalid told him he should stop hanging out with his close friend, Sandy Sanders.

The reason, people think Sandy is gay. Khalid urges King to stay away from him because, ‘you don’t want people to think you’re gay too, do you?’

This hurt King. He never thought his brother could hurt him, but this did and he doesn’t truly understand why.

Now he fears something in him is wrong. There’s a pretty girl at school, his friend Jasmine, that likes him. King’s not sure he likes her that way though. He knows people expect him too, but it doesn’t feel right.

When Sandy goes missing, the entire town begins to search.

King is surprised when he ends up finding Sandy in a tent in his backyard. Sandy tells him his Father, who also happens to be local law enforcement, has been physically abusing him.

Devastated to hear what Sandy has been suffering through alone, King vows to help him. As the two rekindle their friendship, King begins to vocalize how he is feeling about himself and his sexuality.

This is such a beautifully told story with so many great discussion points for young readers. And let’s be honest, older readers as well.

In addition to being a story of a boy discovering his truth, there are also examinations of grief, race and power.

I enjoyed the scenes between King and his parents, who are both struggling with their own grief after the loss of Khalid. The conversations between King and his Father were especially moving.

Callender did a phenomenal job of writing King’s character in regards to his feelings of trying to fit the mould that others expected him to fit; like trying to fit a circle into a square hole.

His inner dialogue as he tried to work out for himself what he was feeling seemed so real. I wanted to grab his hand and tell him it would be okay, but in our world, maybe that’s not true. I want to believe that it is and Callender definitely makes it seem like that is possible.

I highly recommend this story, well, to the world.

Everyone should read this.

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