Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

*This review will contain spoilers, especially if you haven’t read the first book: Lady Midnight. However, I won’t give any spoilers away from THIS book.*

“Fiction is truth, even if it is not fact. If you believe only in facts and forget stories, your brain will live, but your heart will die.”

Synopsis from Goodreads – click the link to read it!

Feelings: Cassandra Clare does a lot of things well, but for me there are two stand out skills: character writing and plot twists. She writes beautifully complex characters that make me fall in love and go through a gambit of emotions. We go on these incredible journeys with them and these stories are so full of twists and turns, I literally have no idea where a story will end up. Ok…one more thing she does really well is dual stories. She can take us back and forth between two major events seamlessly. This happened a couple of times in this specific book and it kept me on the edge of my seat!

This book’s ending…I can’t. It was so beautifully, painfully well written and I had legit tears falling from my eyes as I read. So powerful in so many ways and it really set up the next book.

Issues: About halfway through the book I realized that almost every character had multiple possible love interests. Clare’s books always involve long, drawn out love triangles, but this one seemed to have a lot going on. I didn’t dislike it, necesarily, it was just a lot to process.

Characters:  I LOVE that we got to see some of our old Shadowhunter friends. There definitely had bigger roles in this story than they did in Lady Midnight and I am thrilled about it.

In my review of Lady Midnight, I said that Emma seems like the perfect combination of Clary and Jace and I stand by that. She’s sarcastic and confident like Jace, while also having the best qualities of Clary. I love that they were both around for her in this book, too. She had to make some tough decisions and will continue to, perhaps her hardest choice of all is coming soon! While I enjoy reading about her, I don’t know that I necessarily connect with her.

JULIAN. What a dynamic character. He is such a hero and he may be one of my favorite characters in the Shadowhunter universe. The way he defends those he loves and feels things so fiercely…love him.

In the first book, I wasn’t sure what to think about Kit. I especially didn’t know what to expect from his big reveal at the end. In THIS book, though, I think he comes to terms with his new life at a very realistic pace, which I appreciated. Sometimes in YA, characters embrace life changes very quickly and it can be hard to buy in to. I think Clare write Kit’s experience really well.

Ty is a character that I’m loving more and more. I love his confidence; he knows he’s different BUT he knows WHO he is. He’s surrounded by such a loving family who embrace him as he is, which has given him a really strong foundation. I can’t wait to see the direction his story takes, but I’m nervous about how he’ll be affected after the way this book ended.

Finally, I think Diana’s big secret was handled really well. Others who have gone through similar experiences may think differently and I’d be interested to hear their opinion. However, from my point of view, we knew Diana had something people didn’t know about her and I believe the character she chose to reveal her secret to was well chosen.

Final thoughts: I read this book really quickly. You wouldn’t think it was 700 pages long, but I flew through it…which is the case with all of Clare’s books. If you haven’t joined the Shadowhunter universe yet, I would NOT recommend starting with this trilogy. Read Clare’s books in publication order and then strap in for a crazy ride!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.59/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2017

Earlier this year, I listed out 10 books I was looking forward to from the first half of this year. (You can see that post HERE.) I included 5 books that are part of a series and 5 stand-alones that were released through the month of June. Now it’s time to look at the second half of this year, which I cannot BELIEVE it’s time to do. For each book, I’ll include the release date and the synopsis from the book’s Goodreads page. The first 5 are either the first book in a new series or a continuation of an existing one, followed by 5 stand-alones.

The Last Tudor (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #14) by Philippa Gregory

Released August 8 — The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days, dying on the scaffold for her faith. But few people know about her two sisters, cousins to Elizabeth I who also faced imprisonment and death sentences for treason.  Katherine Grey was the beauty of the family who earned the lifelong hatred of her cousin Elizabeth I when she married for love. Mary Grey was an extraordinary little person known as a dwarf in Tudor times, who defied convention to marry the tallest man at court in her own secret love match.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Released August 29 — Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Released September 5 — Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken. His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them. But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake

Released September 19 — The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail? With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

Renegades (Renegades #1) by Marissa Meyer

Released November 7 — The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

 

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marise Wiseman

Released July 25 — On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.
More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl. At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction… .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

Released July 25 — Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Released September 5 — On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Released September 19 — Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions. Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Released September 26 — One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted. International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

What books are you looking forward to for the rest of 2017? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Fantasy Series I Want to Start

This list started as 5 general book series that I wanted to read, but when I finished putting it all together, I realized that they’re all the same genre – fantasy. This genre really lends itself beautifully to multiple books. There’s always a large amount of world building going on, so there’s always somewhere for the story to go and it needs pages to spread out. These series are ones that I’ve heard about from other readers and have been recommended to me, so I’m really interested in giving them a go…you know, in my infinite free time. Ha! For each series, I include the synopsis of the first book from its Goodreads page.

Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima

Books in series – 4

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell—the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off. One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back. Meanwhile, Raisa ana‘Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her… The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Books in series – 3 (plus short stories)

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Books in series – 3

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is – no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood… and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history. As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together – and trying to tear them apart.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Books in series – 2

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.  When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Books in series – 3

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him. But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Have you read any of these series? Do you have any recommendations on where to start? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Reading Challenge Update #2

It’s time for another reading challenge update! I posted my first update in March and at that time, I’d only “traveled” to 8 places in my reading. At this halfway point of the year, I’ve read about 16 places. I included London, England twice because those two books showed me very different experiences. I’ve done most of my book traveling in North America, so I’d like to branch out a little more soon. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!

Travels Completed: 16/80

My reading has taken me to:

Africa

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (South Africa)

Asia

– Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (Vietnam)

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen (Bombay, India; Modern Day Mumbai)

Europe

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton (London, England)

– May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden (London, England)

– Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (Easbourne, England)

– The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (Andalusia, Spain)

North America

– March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Washington, D.C.; Troy, Alabama)

– The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (Brooklyn, New York)

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June (Alexandria, Virginia)

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (Boston, Massachusetts)

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Utah)

– Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Los Angeles, California)

– Geekerella by Ashley Poston (Charleston, South Carolina)

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead (Shaker Heights, Ohio)

– Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Feelings: I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school. It was one of our assigned readings in my English II class and I remember really loving it. I couldn’t remember WHY I loved it, though, so I decided to give it a second read.

It’s a good book. It’s definitely a more philosophical story, rather than a traditional structured plot. Santiago speaks to the wind, to his heart, and to the desert, digging deep into metaphors and symbolism. It’s not exactly an easy read until the end. As everything gets more interesting and the plot picks up, I felt the need to continue reading. Before then, though, I was easily able to put it down and not return to it for a while.

Issues: The book is certainly slow at times and a bit repetitive. Santiago comes back to various quotes that the old king said to him, but he says them word for word over and over again. At some points, it makes you want to say, “Yes, yes, we know.” They’re insightful thoughts that are repeated, but they just get a little old.

By the end, it still doesn’t necessarily feel like anything happened. Sure, he travels a far distance, meeting interesting people along the way and getting himself into tricky situations, but it still feels stagnant.

Characters: Santiago is an innocent boy and it is a sweet journey that we take with him. He just wants to find purpose and love as he travels for his Personal Legend. He makes simple decisions and thinks things through. He’s a very easy character to follow. I enjoyed seeing him discover ancient truths and get more in touch with himself.

Final thoughts: This book has a good audiobook version, as well, narrated by Jeremy Irons. His voice adds a lot of depth to the words and helps ground the storyline. Overall, I like this book. It’s one that I’ll probably come back to a few times over the course of my life.

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Podcast Spotlight: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I recently jumped on the bandwagon that is the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. I was in the market for a new show to obsess over and boy, did I find one. The show’s co-hosts, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, dig into one chapter at a time, going through the Harry Potter books in order. Not only do they analyze them, they treat them like a sacred text. They are both absed at Harvard Divinity School and bring in different practices to each podcast.

Each episode begins with a 30 second recap of the chapter in question, as well as a discussion on that week’s theme. Then they choose a spiritual practice to use while approaching that chapter, which is where things get interesting. Sometimes they’ll imagine a section of the book and discuss what they’re seeing in their heads. Other times, they’ll select a random line or two and approach it from a literal and allegorical standpoint. At this point, I’m about halfway through the first book with them and I think these are the only two practices they’ve used so far.

I was hesitant to listen to this podcast at first, wondering if treating Harry Potter as a sacred text was almost sacrilegious. But what I’ve found is that the approach allows me to connect with the text more and to see it as more than just an entertaining story. I see so much more depth and complexity, probably far more than J.K. Rowling ever could have intended. We see character motivations in a different light, as well as symbolism and lessons galore.

As someone who has read the books multiple times, I really enjoy this podcast series. I think it would also be really fun to read a chapter, then listen to the podcast episode about it, then continue on like that. Everything is fresh in your mind and you can see if you’re seeing the same things they are. They are very much aware of spoilers (meaning they try really hard to avoid them) so you’re safe there.

They have just recently begun going through the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up, if you want to give it a listen! For more information, check out their website at harrypottersacredtext.com.

What are some podcasts you enjoy listening to? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading (and listening)! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Cinderella Retellings

You guys, I really love fairy tales. I’m not necessarily one of those Disney fairy tale crazy fans, but I just love the genre in general. Give me a set of prince and princess characters, a talking pet sidekick, and a happily ever after any day.

I also really get into fairy tale adaptations and retellings. There’s something really fun about reading a reimagination of a classic story and finding ways that they parallel. I’ve seen and read all kinds of adaptations over the years – Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood – but I think most often, I’ve read Cinderella retellings, so that’s what I’ll focus on today. These are 5 of my favorite Cinderella retellings.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

This is the most recent Cinderella adaption that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. We have a science fiction fandom twist to the classic story, which parallels the film “Ever After” more so than the original tale. It’s witty and chalk full of references to bigger fandoms. The love story is a little different from a classic fairy tale and their meet cute is unique. We’ve got a fun cast of characters here for this modern take on a classic – plus it’s a quick read!

 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I couldn’t leave out my favorite of them all! I remember seeing this book around for a couple of years before actually picking it up and I’m SO glad that I did. Cinder takes us on a galactic journey with this fairy tale twist and throughout this series, we see other adaptations as well, including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. The connections to Cinderella are pretty prominent in this first book and it’s a gripping, hilarious story.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

This is another modern adaptation of Cinderella, with some looser connections. Our main character lives with her stepmother and stepsister and has a fairy godmother in her abuela. This retelling focuses less on the dynamic between the main protagonist and her “Prince Charming” character and moves it more towards family and friendship. The characters are all VERY real, which is great for a fairy tale adaptation!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Time for a classic retelling of Cinderella! You may be thinking about the movie, but I’m just going to stop you right there. Don’t even. This is a classic case of the book being significantly better than the movie. It doesn’t even come close. This author is one of my favorites when it comes to fairy tales. All the elements are there – magic, friendship, self-discovery, hope, and a happy ending. Plus, a prince. Got to have a prince! If you haven’t ever read this book, give it a go. You won’t regret it!

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Another throwback example! I remember reading this in middle school. It was one of the first fairy tale adaptations I’d read and is probably the reason I love them so much today. This book gives us a look at the aftermath of Cinderella’s class tale – post-ball and post-wedding life. The twist with this retelling is that there’s no magical anything, it’s a more realistic take. This is a more empowering tale, as Ella didn’t go to the ball in search of a prince, but of a way out of her miserable life. Definitely a different take!

What’s your favorite Cinderella retelling? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn