Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

Apparently I’m on a morally grey character kick at the moment, but I’m so glad I finally picked up this book. I actually tried to read this one a couple of years ago, but I got around 60 pages in and realised it wasn’t quite the right time for me to pick it up. I’m so glad I waited, as I definitely enjoyed it more now I’m reading more fantasy as I understood it a lot easier!

There’s definitely something so unique about Schwab’s stories and I loved the concept of having multiple London’s that each had their own features. I read this one with Alex and I read the sections so quickly each day. I read a mixture of physical reading and listening to the audiobook, which was a mixed experience. The audiobook was good, but the narrator didn’t quite fit for Lila’s parts and I did prefer reading it physically.

I’d rather die on an adventure

The plot was super quick to get through and full of action and adventure which I loved. I can already tell this series is going to be a quick and entertaining one to read as we go on! I really like the characters as even though they’re very morally grey, I like the portrayal of their vulnerabilities and they seemed very real to me.

I like how the romance didn’t take centre stage in the story and didn’t feel very lovey-dovey, but I did miss a sense of tension that might have come with the closeness of the characters. I feel like one of the only things missing out of this book was the stakes sometimes feeling lower because of it.

than live standing still.

I’m super excited to see where this series is going to go and I’m so happy to be reading something else by V.E. Schwab!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Bridge of Souls (#3) by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?
Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.
But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

I’ve read this whole series with Alex from Alex’s Books on YouTube, and I’ve had so much fun! Neither of us had read the final book in the trilogy, Bridge of Souls before, and were super excited to finish off the series. I honestly believe this one was my favourite in the series and the adventures of Cassidy and Jacob get more entertaining and heartfelt with every book.

All of these books score 10 points for atmosphere, and this one was no different. I loved the setting of New Orleans and I feel like V.E. Schwab has written all of these books so visually. Just as with Edinburgh in City of Bones and Paris in Tunnel of Bones, I could picture New Orleans perfectly, especially the French Quarter.

Death will come for us again, one way or another.

The characters are such a joy to read about and I love the friendship Cassidy has with Jacob, who is a ghost. This made for an interesting part of the story as we found out more about their dynamic. I even got a little teary and emotional at the end of the book. I also love how Lara has remained a friend throughout this entire series!

This was another one day read for me, as all of these books have been. I read each one on audio and physical format, and this one was no different. I love the writing in all of these and found each hard to put down. All of these books have been creepy, but this one was by far the creepiest. I love the level these books have achieved in being just scary enough to still be very enjoyable to read, with just the right amount of chills.

We can’t live in fear of it. That’s no way to live at all.

I wish there was going to be more books in this series as I’d definitely read more about their adventures, but we shall see!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tunnel of Bones (#2) by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.
She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.
When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.
And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever. 

I’m reading this series alongside Alex as part of the readalong we’re currently hosting, #ghostsalong. If you want to find out more, our announcement video is linked below and we’ll be starting the last book, Bridge of Souls on Monday!

Although I’d read City of Ghosts before, it was my first time reading Tunnel of Bones and this book is such a great addition to the series. We continue following 12 year old Cassidy Blake and her parents as they travel around the world filming a paranormal TV show. But there’s a bit of a twist – Cassidy can see ghosts and draw back the veil to the other side. Her best friend, Jacob, is also a ghost and travels with them.

In this book, we visit Paris, which I loved and made for such an amazing atmospheric setting. One of my favourite aspects of these books is the atmosphere, which make you feel so involved and enveloped in the story. I once again listened to most of this book on audio and read the end in physical format, and loved it all.

What you can’t see is always scarier than what you can. 

Cassidy is such a fun character to follow but isn’t without her own moral dilemmas which I find so interesting and gives a great dynamic to the story. Considering these books are middle grade/young YA, there is so much depth to these stories. This book is even creepier than the first story and the poltergeist we follow seriously gave me chills. While listening to this while I was running, I couldn’t help but looking behind me a couple of times.

The writing is so easy to read and compelling but doesn’t feel shallow at all. Schwab does such an amazing job of keeping you on the edge of your seat and making you want to read more. I continued to love the characters and enjoyed finding out more about them. I was also happy to see some of the characters returning from Edinburgh in book 1.

Your eyes play tricks on you, filling in the shadows, making shapes.

This was such an enjoyable addition to the series and I’m so excited to read Bridge of Souls!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Vampires Never Get Old by Various Authors

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.
Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.
Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. 

Overall, this was a brilliantly diverse collection of short stories about vampires, tackling the fact most popular vampire stories follow cis, white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual vampires. It takes everything we know and expect from vampire myth and folklore and turns it on its head. I read this an audiobook and I really enjoyed the whole experience. It had a brilliant cast of narrators that changed with the stories and fit the whole book well. I really liked how the editors of this book wrote a short follow up of each of the stories that explained the folklore behind each one.

As this book contains many different stories, I’m going to go through them all separately, but overall I was super impressed with this book!

Seven Nights for Dying by Tessa Gratton ★★

This one was such a strong start to the book and I really enjoyed it. We follow a young girl being lured into the world of vampirism and it tackled some super interesting topics. It was sex positive and followed a character who is bi/pan, and also discussed grief, belonging, loss and anger. We follow the main character as she tries to make a decision about whether she wants to become a vampire or not, which also fit the short story well as it focuses on 7 days. I liked the family aspect and if I remember rightly we had a really positive family relationship featuring a single parent!

The Boys From Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse ★★

The second story was also strong and I did enjoy it, just not quite as much as the first one. I loved the setting as we follow our main character late at night in a diner where he works, and the whole story reminded me a little bit of The Lost Boys. In this story, there is a legend surrounding a song which mysteriously begins playing on the jukebox at the diner. The legend being that vampires come when the song is sung, and the person who sang the song will then disappear. Again, this story has some really important discussions about grief, loss, race and sexuality, and the only reason I haven’t rated it higher is because I honestly can’t remember as much as I would like about it!

Senior Year Sucks by Julie Murphy ★★

I’ve read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and really enjoyed it, and I feel like her contemporary approach to a vampire story worked so well in this one. We follow Jolene, who is a fat vampire slayer and I loved her! I really liked that this one was fat positive and sapphic, and also that it followed a vampire slayer rather than the vampire themselves. Again, this one fit the short story narrative really well and left me wanting tor read more by Julie Murphy.

The Boy and The Bell by Heidi Heilig ★★

I sadly can’t remember this story so well, which is why it has a lower rating. This one, as with many of the other stories, is steeped in vampire folklore and follows a trans boy and the idea of people being buried before they are supposed to. We follow our main character, who is a grave digger trying to learn from the corpses he is digging up, when he starts to hear a bell ringing. I would say that I won’t say more because of spoilers, but honestly I can’t remember much more about the story sadly!

A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed ★★

This story was absolutely brilliant and is no doubt my favourite of the entire collection. It was so well written and creative, and is written in second person addressing ‘you’ as the reader. The idea behind this story is it’s written as a guidebook for newly sired Desi vampires who have been turned against their will by British tourists. It was so funny which is what I loved the most and the writing was so witty. It also has some really interesting and important discussions about Colonial India and taught me a lot! I’ll definitely be checking out more books by this author.

In Kind by Kayla Whaley ★★

Yet another story that I really enjoyed and is a close second favourite after Ahmed’s! This story follows a girl who has been murdered by her father, who believes he killed her out of ‘mercy’. Her body goes missing and instead of being buried, she is turned into a vampire and wants to enact revenge on her father for what happened. I love how this book talked about the main character’s degenerative neuromuscular disorder and that she still uses a wheelchair as a vampire. She talks about how much her disorder is inherent to her identity, and I really liked the discussions broached by this story. I loved it a lot.

Vampires Never Say Die by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Although this one didn’t quite reach the 5 star level of the previous two, I found it super interesting and really enjoyed it too! This one follows vampires who use Instagram and hide the fact they are vampires. One of these vampires has befriended a human on social media and the human girl decides to throw her a surprise party, but doesn’t know her friend is a vampire. Although I felt a little uncomfortable with the fact the human girl is 15 at the start of this story, I did still really enjoy it and it worked well as a short story.

Bestiary by Laura Ruby ★★1/2

Unfortunately, the stories took a bit of a dip for me as we get towards the end. In this one, we follow a girl who lives in a zoo and has a bond with the animals who live there. This one really fell flat for me and overall, just felt like it wasn’t really going anywhere or that anything really happened. Some of it was entertaining and I liked the themes of capitalism, but I just found there wasn’t as much to enjoy.

Mirrors, Windows and Selfies by Mark Oshiro ★★1/2

I found this one also fell a little flat and was by far the longest story. It honestly felt like it went on forever, but simultaneously had little to no real focus. We follow a young Latino man who is born as a vampire and has been controlled by his parents all his life. Throughout the story, he is trying to find out more about himself, including what he looks like. Although again, we follow some interesting themes of control, isolation and loneliness, and I did find the format (Tumblr posts) interesting, it fell flat. I also had a slight problem with the narrator or tone of writing (hard to pinpoint as I listened to the audio!) sounding very overenthusiastic and therefore inauthentic.

The House of Black Sapphires by Dhonielle Clayton ★★

Things did start to look up again here with the final two stories, and even though this was far from perfect I definitely enjoyed it more than the previous two. In this story, we follow a Black family who are forced to move around and run an apothecary shop. This one is definitely 10 points for atmosphere and I really enjoyed reading about the relationship of the sisters, but I still found the plot disappointing and something didn’t quite click.

First Kill by V.E. Schwab ★★

The final story and one I was most looking forward to was First Kill by V.E. Schwab. And although this one didn’t make it to 5 stars or become my favourite, I did really enjoy it and can definitely see the potential for the Netflix adaptation that is in the making! Without saying too much and spoiling the story, we have two teenage girls who have crushes on one another and there is some real sapphic angst. I really enjoyed it!

Overall….

★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: City of Ghosts (#1) by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined. 

This is my second time reading this book as me and Alex are hosting a readalong of all 3 of these books throughout the next few weeks! You can join us on Twitter by using the hashtag #ghostsalong, and you can find more information in the YouTube video below.

On a second read, this book was just as much fun as the first time. I decided to read most of this on audio format and I absolutely loved it – it was such a great way to reread this one. The first time I read this, it made me want to visit Edinburgh, and I’m sad to say I still haven’t made it to Scotland. Yet again, this book drew me to the city once more with the atmosphere and adventure.

”Stories have power,” she says.

Cassidy makes for such an interesting main character and I love her friendships. She has such entertaining dynamics between the ghosts she can communicate with and her best friend Jacob. There are some interesting moral discussions raised by her surroundings and story, which I liked.

I really liked the writing, and found it super entertaining for an older reader. Although parts of the plot were slightly predictable, there is definitely enough for any age to enjoy and I found myself shocked at parts even re-reading this one.

”So long as you believe them.”

Overall, this is such an entertaining and fun start to the series and I can’t wait to carry on following Cassidy Blake on her adventures!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy
.

I’ve been putting off this book for a while as I was a little hesitant about how much I would enjoy it. With The Invisible Life of Addie Larue grabbing top spot and being my favourite book of 2020, I am now so worried about not loving her other works quite as much. But although this didn’t quite match up, I still absolutely loved it!

The Near Witch is part fairy-tale, part love story, part nightmare. It opens on a scene where the main character, Lexi, is telling her little sister a bedtime story, and the book never strays far from that tone. Reading this book has the feeling of going on a rambling journey and becoming enchanted by a creepy tale. This definitely ended up being darker than I expected but in a gentle way that wasn’t too intense or overwhelming, and I really liked it. It was creepy in the way fairy-tales can be, rather than a typical horror!

Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own.

One of my favourite things about V.E. Schwab is her incredible writing. The writing in this was mystical and beautiful and I adored it. She chooses every word purposefully and it shows, and I feel like that’s the reason it took me slightly longer to read than I expected, as I wanted to make sure I really absorbed every part of this book and every single word on the page.

The writing also showcased the amazing world this book is set in. Near is a village on moorland, surrounded by rolling countryside and forests. I loved the vibe this gave off with the creepy, foggy, vast moor and forests, with cottages few and far between. I could picture the world so clearly and it felt like the perfect setting for this story. I also really liked the main characters and that bubbled along in the background of this story. And I could really empathise with how Lexi was struggling with how those around her were acting throughout this story.

Right now they take pieces of me with them.

Overall, this was a beautiful and haunting tale that I really enjoyed reading. It also had such an incredible atmosphere which I loved.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #37

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

Hi all! I’ve been a little better at buying books recently, but I have something very exciting to show you all today! My lovely boyfriend Mark gifted me a book for Valentine’s day that I am so, so happy and excited about. I have been looking for the Owlcrate version of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue for a while now, and I’d almost given up on being able to find one I could afford. I was just trying to convince myself I didn’t need this beautiful edition, when Mark gave me this one. I couldn’t believe it!

Image result for owlcrate the invisible life of addie larue
Credit: bookishluna.com

This is the beautiful back cover of the book, with the front cover being similar to the American hardback. I can’t wait to see them next to each other on the shelf!

What have you bought this week?

-Beth

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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

This is the kind of book that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. It draws you into the pages until you know nothing else, and you are left gasping for air. It shakes you up and makes you never, ever want it to end. This book was astounding. Beautiful. Clever. Brilliant. And I will never have enough words to describe how much I adored it. After all, the hardest reviews to write are the ones for the books that you fall in love with.

This book follows Addie LaRue, a girl who is cursed to be forgotten. Until one day, after nearly 300 years of wandering the earth without leaving a mark, she meets a boy who remembers. Told over those 300 long years of Addie’s life, we flit between everywhere she has been, and modern day New York, where she meets Henry, who remembers her name.

Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. 

This is a romance. A mystery. A historical fantasy. It is so many things, but in every way it is utterly encapsulating and absolutely breathtaking. I fell for Addie’s story and the way she wandered the earth, learning more about herself with every situation she found her in. She was broken by the curse she was under, but also stronger and a lover of life because of it. Her story was unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I couldn’t resist the urge to know what happened to her.

It is about the world and wandering it, friendship and love, life and death, loss and hope. It is a beautiful narrative of a girl who longs to be remembered, and a boy who longs to forget. The prose is written in such a way that I wanted to savour it as it if it was the last chocolate on earth, and I also wanted to keep on turning the pages. It was truly enthralling, and so intense.

After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?

I wish I could tell you how much this book made me feel. Intrigued. Sorrowful. Overjoyed. Infatuated. Heartbroken. Hopeful. I sobbed more than I ever have at a book before, but was still left with a warmth in my heart that I don’t think will ever leave. I have always struggled to pick out a favourite book, but V.E. Schwab, you may have just gone and done it. Thank you so much for such a breath of fresh air, that I just want to push into the arms of every reader I come across, and tell them to read it, savour it, let it take you on this wild, beautiful ride.

I will say your name, Addie LaRue. I will carry you with me and I will not forget.

I remember you.

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

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Goodreads | Amazon

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons: 1. It has such a pretty cover, not going to lie. 2. It’s has such an intriguing synopsis. 3. I’ve never read a VE Schwab book before, and I thought MG might be a good introduction!

And I definitely wasn’t wrong. I don’t usually read middle grade at all, but it didn’t stop me from really enjoying this one. I read it in just over a day, and I just know I would have loved it in my pre-teen years!

‘”Stories have power,” she says.’

This book was so much fun and overall a great adventure. I’ve never visited Edinburgh myself, but this book has made me want to. It seemed to capture the history and essence of the city, and it was so atmospheric. The fact Cassidy was visiting a city for the first time herself too made it even more of an adventure, which I loved.

City of Ghosts is such an entertaining novel, fast paced and full of action. I really couldn’t put it down, even though the plot was definitely predictable for an older reader. Unfortunately this brings me to my only criticisms, this book lacked depth. Not much, I just wish the characters were a little more fleshed out and the plot a bit more intricate. It’s totally what I expected from a MG book and I completely understand the reasoning behind it, but that’s my opinion as an older reader.

‘”So long as you belive them.”’

Saying this, however, I still found depth in some of the more poetic lines and passages, and the relationships Cassidy had. Her somewhat complex relationship with Jacob was so interesting to read about and I’m interested to see where it heads in the further novels. I also found her relationship with her parents well written, and I really liked the scenes with her parents. They led such interesting lives themselves!

Overall, definitely a very enjoyable read, just lacking a little depth and leaving me wanting more. I’d definitely consider re-reading this around Halloween!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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