Review: Clockwork Angel (#1) by Cassandra Clare

Twelve Days of Christmas – Day 7

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In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to these books, but in some ways I’m glad I’m reading this book now, when fantasy is coming round to being one of my favourite genres. Also quick shoutout to one of my best friends Chloe who I’m buddy-reading this with! It’s so much fun to have conversations about our reactions to all the twists and turns in these books.

I really love Tessa as a protagonist and it’s so awesome that she’s a woman in these times and this kind of magical community! I love how Clare doesn’t shy away from conversations Tessa has with other female characters and the discussions this book brings up are so important. I can’t wait to read more of them in the next two!

“”One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa,”

I also have to talk about this brilliant plot! I felt as though I was eased into the story, which picked up around halfway and then BAM, the real action started. It was so wonderful to read such well written fight scenes and so many plot twists! Doing a buddy-read made me very aware of the moments that shook me, because I was quickly on the phone and messaging Chloe to tell her how I was reacting. It’s making this experience so special!

Clare portrayed a magical and vivid view of Victorian London, and the Steampunk vibe is perfect. It’s such a unique feel to fantasy, and really makes this world stand out from so many others.

“”and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.””

Overall I’m loving this book and it’s so nice to be back in a brand new fantasy world! I have a lot of these books to go but it’s awesome to have so many to look forward to.

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Twelve Days of Christmas – Day 3

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Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. Viv’s mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Honestly, I understand why everyone loved this book so much. And I definitely enjoyed it. But it’s just not up there for me…and honestly, I felt like it had a lot of problems. Really? Feminism is great. It’s brilliant. But have you ever thought it’s going too far the other way? I believe more in equal-ism than feminism. Girls are not better. We suffer the same, we should have the same opportunities. 

I understand how important this book is, I really do. And I can’t disagree that sometimes being a woman can still feel different than being a man. But I have to say that the biggest problem I had with Moxie was that it very much overshadowed men, and I would constantly feel myself thinking ‘men suffer too. Not all men do this to woman. They shouldn’t be grouped, and they shouldn’t be discounted. It’s so unfair.’

It occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word.”

Other than all of these issues, I did enjoy actually reading this book. The characters are pretty cool, and I loved the focus on family and friendship groups. It’s always good to be able to find out about parents and grandparents, which was great and gave the book an interesting dynamic. 

Even though the plot was pretty predictable, there was enough ups and downs to keep me interesting. I did feel the need to keep reading and find out what was going to happen to Moxie. 

But I also have to say that the issues were so many that it felt…forced? Like, I understand that girls go through some sh*t. But to have one issue after another with absolutely no support from any kind of authority felt so unrealistic? 

“After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Overall, very very mixed thoughts on this one. In one way, it’s a step in the right direction, and we do need more books like this. But it’s also in the danger of taking the subject a little too far, and could be incredibly damaging to young girls and their views of guys.

★★★
3 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

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So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Meh. Unfortunately this book was very mediocre. I had fun reading it, sure, but it really didn’t impress me. Weirdly, I read the sequel, Twelve Days of Dash and Lily before the first book! It’s the only series I’ve ever read backwards, but I don’t think it particularly mattered too much.

I found Lily a bit whiny in this one too – but actually not so much! I just saw both characters as flawed, genuine 16 year olds, and that was okay. They had their qualms and struggles, but it displayed teenage angst accurately.

“You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here’s a hint – ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn’t just the women. It’s the great male fantasy – all it takes is one dance to know that she’s the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face.”

Unfortunately, I also didn’t feel particularly festive during this one? I was thinking back to when I’ve read other festive books, and I feel like this one could have had a little more…oomph. I wanted Christmas trees on sale on corners. I wanted Gingerbread houses. I wanted MORE SNOW. Snow flurries in Central Park and with ice skating and UGH just more.

I think part of the problem was the fact that this book took place both before and after Christmas, as I felt more festive at the start of the story. I just wish I’d seen Christmas day with their families, and I know that decision was obviously part of the plot, but I would have liked just one family Christmas scene to make me feel like it truly included that special day.

“And right away you know – this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don’t want a very long courtships. They want to know immediately.”

Overall, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this book. It was a fun read with moments of hilariousness and also moments that touched my heart. It did have the bits of Christmas that sparkled, and I enjoyed reading both characters stories. I thought it was brilliant that Dash made a great bookworm and relatable character for us readers. I had fun, but that was all unfortunately!

★★★
3 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

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Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Eh. I’m always very sceptical when it comes to E. Lockhart. How To Be Bad and We Were Liars are both up there with some of my favourite reads. And her other books are with some of my worst. But I thought I’d give this one a go, and picked up a copy when it was released. It’s taken me until now to pick it up, and for good reason. I just didn’t enjoy this read.

This book kind of reminded me of Gone Girl, and I really didn’t like Gone Girl. For one, we have an unlikable protagonist. This is one of my pet hates of a book. If I can’t relate to or sympathise with a main character/narrator, I end up not enjoying the book. At the end of the day, if you don’t care what happens to the main character, what’s the point in even reading?

I found Jule to be a selfish, unreasonable and downright hateful character, and I had nothing in common with her. If I felt like this, why even read?

“Do you think a person is as bad as her worst actions?…I mean, do our worst actions define us when we’re alive?”

I carried on reading because I wanted to give this one a go, but unfortunately this book was told in reverse. Someone tell me, please, who would think ‘Oh I’ll write a mystery! And write it in reverse so everyone finds out what happens right at the start’! I mean this may not be exactly true, as what I believed to be the main event happened around halfway through the book. But I guessed that event when I read the blurb.

I guess Lockhart wanted us to understand the hows and whys of these big events, but for me that just didn’t work. Maybe I should have understood Jule’s reasoning behind what she did, but she’s so twisted and sick that there was no way I could even begin to understand.

“Or, do you think human beings are better than the very worst things we have ever done?”

Overall, the only reason I actually continued reading was to see if anything else was going to happen. I gave the book a chance for the first 100 pages, but this read was so short that I thought I may as well finish it anyway.

I’m glad I gave this one a go, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.


1 star

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

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It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I can’t even explain to you how much I adored this book, but I’m going to damn well try. Shirin is a teenage girl in America just after 9/11, and she is Muslim. I cannot even tell you how much I adored this concept. So often, YA is too focused on a romance, friendship, family, dystopia or fantasy world. Never, is religion the focus. And I absolutely loved that this book centered more than anything else around Muslim culture.

I may not have experienced this kind of discrimination first hand, but I have friends who have suffered because of their religion. I’ve listened to their stories, and every time, they break my heart into tiny little pieces.

“I didn’t believe it was possible to hide a woman’s beauty. I thought women were gorgeous no matter what they wore, and I didn’t think they owed anyone an explanation for their sartorial choices.”

I love how raw this book is. The events were so emotional and sad, but hit home so much for me. I cannot even begin to express how important this book is. This is so different to anything I’ve read in YA, and frankly, it’s about time that a Muslim teen gets to tell her story. In fact, we are way past that time. This should be normal, this should happen every day. But unfortunately, we still live in a world that experiences events just as Shirin does in this book. But stories like these, words like these? They’re the most amazing kind of start.

I loved Shirin in every way. She was such a well-rounded and well-developed character, and I loved the conversations she has with her brother, her teachers, her friends, her family. Everyone is included in this book and it was done so well. Ocean was a beautiful contrast to Shirin as a love interest, and it was brilliant how he broke down her barriers and had such a deep love for her.

“Different women felt comfortable in different outfits.”

Honestly, this might be one of my favourite books of this year. It has absolutely blown me away. Along with all of these compliments, it took me under 2 days to read this beauty. I have only one criticism for this book, which is that I wish Shirin’s parents would have found out about Ocean. I loved the relationship Shirin had with her family, and it would have been such an interesting scene to read about.

This book broke my heart a thousand times over, and glued it back together with strings of hope as strong and as bright as the stars.

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Songs About a Boy (#3) by Chris Russell

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Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart. Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?

I can’t believe the thought ever even crossed my mind to dismiss these books as cheesy, trashy fanfic. They are so much more than that. I picked this 400+ page book up on Sunday night, and I had finished it by Tuesday. For me, that’s absolutely insane. And I’ve not exactly been at home all that time – I’ve been looking after the flat, going out and going to uni. But this book just absolutely flew by for me, and whenever I had a spare minute I would pick it up and dive right in.

That being said, I can’t totally dismiss the cheese or the trash. Because honestly, it does have those elements. It’s a bit like looking back on High School Musical. You can’t believe how cheesy it is, but you would watch it with your girlfriends any day of the week. It’s unrealistic, dramatic and far fetched. But goshdarnit, it is good.

This is for sure a complete guilty-pleasure read, but I can’t deny that it’s very well written. Every single character in this book holds their place and has a lot of depth, and that’s just so hard to do! To be able to build such individuality into so many people – especially the band, the management team and even Melissa’s family – is so impressive.

Being 19, I’m definitely way out of the target audience for this series. But the 13 year old inside me couldn’t put this down, and made me reminiscent of the simpler way I used to read. It’s perfect nostalgia for those years, of loving the sweet teenage relationships and band obsessions.

Unfortunately, I can’t put enough emphasis on the far-fetched concept of this book. Charlie is a 16 year old girl flying around the world photographing a band, with little to no equipment or professional photography training. As I’m studying photography at uni, this was a little hard to get out of my mind. No one around me would even dare to dream of having an opportunity like this, and most of those people are already starting their professional careers.

Overall, I would definitely say go for these books! Just make sure you clear your mind beforehand, and understand that this is going to be a drama-filled, unrealistic but wonderful rollercoaster. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price. This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

This book is absolutely stunning. I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to read this, but I find short stories so hit and miss! Some (*cough* Tales of Beedle the Bard *cough*) can be blatant gimmicks. And others, like this, can be downright beauty.

I am so, so happy that this one fell into the latter. All 6 of these stories are based on classic fairytales, but with a new and fresh take set in the Grisha universe. I haven’t actually read the Grisha trilogy yet, but I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom! What I love about this book is you don’t actually have to read any of Bardugo’s books to understand any of the tales.

“They pray that their children will be brave and clever and strong, that they will tell the true stories instead of the easy ones.”

I actually can’t chose a favourite of these stories, because they’re all so beautiful in their own ways. Ayama and the Thorn Wood, The Witch of Duva and The Water Sang Fire definitely all stood out for me though! I love how each story took up around 50 pages, and I think having that time and space is just crucial for the reader to know the character enough to connect fully to the story.

I can’t write this blog post without telling you all about the incredible illustrations that come with the hardback edition I own! Round every single page there’s a band of illustrations which build up as the story progresses. For example, in one story we start with a fox, and slowly the band builds up until we have trees and other forest creatures around the perimeter of the double-page spread. I can’t even begin to explain the beauty here, the amount these drawings add to each story and make them feel like fairytales.

“They pray for sons with red eyes and daughters with horns.”

I honestly have so much to say about this book that I’m going to have to stop myself from rambling and just say this. Leigh Bardugo, you have done short stories right. I have never experienced a novella quite like this one. It stands out in the fairytale experience, and it took me to many different worlds between the pages. I found it perfect for this festive time of year, so comforting and interesting. I’m sure these stories are ones I will come back to many times again!

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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