ARC Bookish Review: A Change is Gonna Come by Various

A Change is Gonna Come by Various

Published: 10 August 2017 by Stripes Publishing

Genre: Diverse, Anthology, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Featuring top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla. Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman, and Phoebe Roy.

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Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: A Change is Gonna Come is a phenomenal landmark in YA fiction! The book is a collection of short stories and poems covering a range of genres, everything from dystopia, contemporary, realistic issues, historical, and surreal fantasy – phew! And all written by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic authors, both published and debut. 

Whilst growing up I could never have dreamed of coming across a book that captures different stories written by people who looked like me or had a similar upbringing – case in point, 13-year-old me would never have thought I’d see an inner London borough in the title of a YA story (Tanya Byrne’s Hackney Moon in case you’re wondering). Each and every story in Change resonated with me in different ways. Ayisha Malik’s A Refuge was fantastic in bringing a relevant and timely topic to a YA audience in such an accessible way, putting backstories to the nameless faces we often see in the news.

Homa was already climbing on top of a mound and overlooking the jungle as if she were there to conquer it.

I loved how the diversity of the authors reflected the diversity of the genres – there’s definitely something in here for everyone! Patrice Lawrence’s The Clean Sweep read like a Black Mirror episode to me! It left my skin crawling with its dystopia feel but at the same time there was a lot of familiarity in the setting too. Aisha Busby’s Marionette Girl really took you into the character’s head and in a few short pages made me empathise with what can be a difficult and misunderstood illness – and she’s a debut author too!

The dark’s shifting around me. It’s crawling out of the walls.

We Who? and Fortune Favours the Bold were searing in their accuracy portraying racism and Islamaphobia. The backdrops of Brexit and terrorist attacks were so relevant and hopefully give a voice to what so many young people feel and go through. We Who?, written by the legend Nikesh Shukla of The Good Immigrant fame, was really cleverly written to make it applicable to lots of people (you’ll see what I mean when you read it!) Meanwhile, it’s frightening how much I related to Yasmin Rahman’s protagonist in Fortune – the idea that you’re on alert after every devastating attack, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I look forward to more from Rahman because she absolutely has a very bright future in publishing ahead! 

If people want the freedom to say and think what they want, you have the freedom to challenge them. It’s your duty.

I loved the exploration of identity in Hackney Moon and Dear Asha. I could really relate to Mary Bello’s character in Dear Asha – the idea of visiting a new place which is at once totally unfamiliar and at the same time an intrinsic part of you. Tanya Byrne’s approach in Hackney Moon was great in that it was not at all condescending – in fact, for me the message was that we often need to make mistakes and bad decisions before we figure out who we truly are and to be comfortable in our own skin. I was also blown away by Musa Okwonga’s The Elders on the Wall. There were lines that I could relate to as a young person growing up feeling screwed over by the older generation.

“You youths can reach where we are if you toil,” // They say, pouring oil down that wall’s face.

If it’s not obvious already, there really is something for everyone in A Change is Gonna Come. I’m so thankful of the contributing authors for writing such strong voices and stories, for Stripes Publishing getting behind such a worthy cause, and the YA community for being such a welcoming place that an anthology of this sort doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. If you are at all interested in supporting and reading diverse books, or just understanding the world through the eyes of people from a different walk of life, A Change is Gonna Come will not disappoint! The book is out on 10 August so pick up a copy ASAP 🙂

Do you have any diverse book recs? Let me know in the comments below!!

ARC Review: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Published: 4 May 2017 by Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical, Mystery

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

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Synopsis from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation. Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: I have been eyeing up Ms Wein’s books for some time now especially Code Name Verityher wartime book that I’m told portrays the endurance of friendship during times of difficulty. The Pear Thief is actually billed as a prequel of Code Name Verity but it can definitely be read as a standalone which is what I did.

The Pearl Thief is set in rural Scotland and honestly this book made me fall head over heels with the landscape because Wein’s descriptive language and setting was so evocative. I will confess that there were quite a few words that were totally new to a born and bred Londoner like me (burn – which I think is Gaelic for ‘fresh water’ for example) so some of the descriptions weren’t the easiest for me to visualise but despite this I was able to get an idea of the gorgeous highlands and grand country house that Lady Julia lived in – testament to Wein’s writing definitely! I will say though, this is one of those books where a map at the beginning would have done wonders and perhaps a glossary for idiots like me 🙂

The river has a voice that doesn’t die. It is as inhuman and ancient as starlight.

Lady Julia our protagonist was an interesting character. I didn’t immediately take to her but she grew on me as the book went on. I liked how adventurous and gutsy she was and willing to be open-minded and experimental even if society frowned upon it. Her friendship and dynamic with Ellen was easily my favourite – it was complex and a lovely surprise in a historical YA book! There was quite a cast of secondary characters but as The Pearl Thief is told from the Julia’s perspective, I felt we didn’t get to delve into their personalities as much as I’d have liked to – especially the McEwens and Mary who stood out.

Wein wove in societal issues like discrimination against the traveller community, rape and poverty in a really subtle way and gave an insight into what life was like in rural Scotland during that period of history. The discrimination theme was eerily timely and a little frightening how many parallels I could draw between Britain in the 1930s and 2017! One of the unique things about The Pearl Thief was the premise: the Strathfearn family estate being sold to private developers – a part of history that is oft-overlooked. The sexier Downton Abbey-esque era definitely gets more attention and so it was intereting to see a teenager dealing with a drastic change of fortune. I enjoyed seeing Lady Julia rise above her title and circumstances and discover her privilege but also we’re not all that different – be it Lady or traveller.  

They were the ‘dirty bold sleekit tinkers’. They were not dirty, did not appear to be all that bold, and it remained to be seen how sneaky they were. In fact, I was floored by the girl’s beauty.

The mystery and plot of The Pearl Thief definitely kept me guessing. I managed to figure out some of it right towards the end but was still pleasantly surprised at the reveal. I loved that the mystery had a solid story behind it, the pearls were given significance and a history which made it all the more interesting. However, I felt the pacing of The Pearl Thief could’ve been better. I definitely think the book could either have been shorter and punchier or instead just gone the whole hog and had more detail about the other characters – instead it was somewhere down the middle and had me at times just wanting to return to the central mystery.

Besides some minor issues, The Pearl Thief was a solid historical YA with a unique setting not often found in young adult lit. Wein’s descriptive language really added authenticity and the mystery was good whodunnit that kept you guessing. If you’re after something with a great heroine like Pullman’s classic Sally Lockhart series or Y. S. Lee’s brilliant The Agency series this one’s for you! The Pearl Thief is out on 4 May in the US and UK. Thanks again to Bloomsbury for the ARC 🙂

Are you planning to read The Pearl Thief? Or have some other brilliant YA historical/mystery recs? Let me know in the comments below!

Bookish Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Published: March 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton UK

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep. 

Review: Every so often a book will come along that makes you think “wow, I wish I could write something like that!” and Strange the Dreamer about sums that category up. I got the gorgeous hardcover through FairyLoot (whooo!) and savoured the whole reading experience, especially as I’d recently met Laini Taylor during her UK tour (blog post on that here!) They hype was strong with this was from way back in 2016 and so I had high hopes… needless to say Strange delivered and then some 🙂

Stolen name, stolen sky. Stolen children, stolen years.

I want to start with Lazlo because *hearts* – but not in the Rhysand way (I’m sure you all know what that means…) Lazlo was so likeable and a character you couldn’t help but root for. I spent most of the book just wanting the world for Lazlo because he hella deserved it. It’s not often you get such a pure character that doesn’t also come across as a little too sugary, but Ms Taylor got it bang on with Lazlo, he was earnest yes, but very genuine. Sarai was another strong character – I loved how principled she was even though she had every right to be bitter, being punished for something that was before her time. The secondary characters were also great, interesting and complex but I felt like we didn’t see enough of them! Thyon and Calixte, Sparrow and Feral, Azareen and Eril-Fane clearly all have their own back stories and parts to play so I’m hoping we get to see more of them in the next and final book.

But dreams were a different matter. He was Strange the Dreamer. This was his realm, and there were no limits here.

Interestingly, during the event, Laini mentioned that Strange the Dreamer doesn’t have a villain – and while initially , I thought maybe I didn’t agree entirely, the beauty of this book is how it makes you re-examine concepts like good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain. Nothing about the conundrum in Strange is clear cut black and white – Laini said she wanted to tackle the aftermath of war and whether forgiveness and healing can overcome violence and vengeance and I am in awe of how she handled this, through complex characters and flawless worldbuilding. Unfairly, YA seems to often have a rep for being about fluffy romances and high school drama, but then books like Strange knock misconceptions like that out of the park, especially as you can draw parallels between this fantasy story and many things going on in the world today. 

Vengeance… if you really feel it – then you speak it like it’s a still-beating heart clenched in your fist and there’s blood running down you arm, dripping off your elbow, and you can’t let go.

So yes needless to say, I completely fell in love with the story in Strange the Dreamer, it was totally original and Laini had me on tenterhooks the whole time – I could not have seen that ending coming or much of the book at all. At the signing event, Laini described the book as a love letter to fantasy fans and it really is! Strange the Dreamer is all about the beauty of dreams, the strength of imagination, and the wonder of love and evil. The story was woven well, and it all came together brilliantly at the end. One thing I did appreciate was that although Strange is the first in a duology, the ending didn’t feel like a cop out, it was very much the end of one story and the beginning of another.  

For what was a person but the sum of all the scraps of their memory and experience: a finite set of components with an infinite array of expressions.

Final mention goes to the EX-QUI-SITE writing in Strange the Dreamer. I fell in love with Laini’s writing when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Strange  does not disappoint – in fact I think it’s miles better if that’s even possible. I found myself highlighting vast swathes of the book and conjuring up the most fantastical images of Lazlo’s world. Laini really does have a gift stringing together ordinary words in the most extraordinary way and hearing her talk about it at the event was beyond brilliant. If gorgeously written fantasy is right up your street, but Strange the Dreamer isn’t already on your shelves/kindle/TBR you must go and get it now! I promise you won’t regret it 🙂

Every colour was deeper, richer than the real, and there were so many of them. If the weaver of the world itself had kept the snipped ends of every thread she’d ever used, her basket might look something like this.

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? Did you manage to meet Laini during her UK tour? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: April 2017 by Walker Books UK

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life. 

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Review: I actually finished The Hate U Give a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been stalling on writing a review because I was worried about doing this stunning book justice. The hype has been strong with this one and whilst THUG isn’t actually out in the UK yet, I came across it whilst on holiday in Singapore earlier this month (so technically I few halfway around the world to get my hands on it – dedication!) proceeded to grab it and devour it in a day or two. Also fair warning, this review is a bit of a long love letter…

Let’s start with the characters because that is easily one of my favourite things about this book. The protagonist, Starr Carter has one of the most compelling voices I’ve come across in YA fiction. There are points where she is speaking directly to us, the reader, and seriously it’s difficult to remember that she is a fictional character. Her personality is so colourful and she is searingly honest about how her life is divided in two: the Garden Heights Starr and the Williamson Starr but at the same time naive about what she is sacrificing by having it so. In this way, Starr is brilliantly realistic – she is hyper aware of reality but at the same time just wants to fit in and initially doesn’t want to rock the boat. I loved reading about her relationships with her friends and family, the conflict of feelings she experiences when she becomes witness to the worst crime, and also how she bravely finds her voice. 

Being two different people is so exhausting. I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.

And Starr isn’t the only standout character. Every other character felt fully formed – not one of them felt like they were trotted on to depict ‘Label X’ and then shown the exit never to be seen again. Instead, all of the secondary characters were given backgrounds, page time, interaction with the protagonist and most importantly, an original voice. Khalil is a good example – his death is what sets off the chain of events that make up the plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this character wasn’t fully formed, I mean it happens often enough in books. But not THUG, no siree.. Even though Khalil is ‘on screen’ for a couple of chapters, his presence is felt throughout the book and Thomas makes you care about him and want justice for him which contextualises Starr’s response to her experience.

The drug dealer. That’s how they see him. It doesn’t matter that he’s suspected of doing it. “Drug dealer” is louder than “suspected” will ever be.

The same goes for the other characters. They were all distinct and real – and honestly I would be happy to read a book where Kenya is the protagonist, or Maya, DeVante, Khalil, or even freaking Uncle Carlos. Because Thomas writes in such a way that makes you care – you want to know these characters intimately, you want to know their history, how they got to where they are. A shout out here to the portrayal of Starr’s parents. I’ve often complained about absent parent syndrome in YA but this is most certainly not the case in THUG – not only are the parents present but they are parenting hard. I really liked how realistic Mr and Ms Carter were, the latter’s past was always acknowledged but never glorified, and their own difficulties were also made clear; they might be parents but they are also people.

That’s the hate they’re giving to us, baby, a system designed against us. That Thug Life.

I also want to mention the setting. The contrast between Garden Heights and Williamson was stark but not overdone – everything about Thomas’ writing is very much show not tell. The deprivation of Garden Heights was clear but the sense of community in spite of this was palpable to me. It felt like a real neighbourhood, one with the entire spectrum from young to old, ordinary to eccentric. I loved how Thomas showed us the best, like when the community band together in times of need, as well as the worst, like the gangs and turf wars that tear it apart.

This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us…

The crowning glory of The Hate U Give though is the subject of the novel – a shooting of black boy by a white policeman, something that is sadly all to common these days. Thomas deals with the topic so deftly, she puts the big questions to us, specifically, ‘just because a person isn’t a saint, is that enough to condemn him to death?’ Thomas takes the narrative beyond the usual black and white and lays out the grey for us. At no point does THUG shy away from the big issues it grapples with whether it’s police shootings, casual and institutionalised racism, social deprivation and crime etc.

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.

In short, The Hate U Give taught me A LOT. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a landmark this book is – both in the publishing world but also, personally to me as a person of colour. I became very conscious of the fact that I’ve ‘experienced’ casual racism, and how it’s important to confront it rather than excuse it for the sake of keeping things cordial because this only serves to normalise such behaviour. In case it’s not obvious, I ADORED this book and think it should be made into a required text! This is one of those times that the book not only deserves the hype but surpasses it. And if you needed further convincing, I’ve already got both my sisters to read it with very positive results! The Hate U Give is out on 6 April but I recommend having it on pre-order 😉

Have you read The Hate U Give already? Or have it on pre-order – if so what about THUG are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Published: March 2016 by Andersen Press Ltd.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia.  But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending – one that will rock his life to the core.

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Review: This was another book club read, (so far all two of my 2017 reads have been book club ones…) and again another one I would never have picked myself. The blurb is an odd one and the title didn’t give anything away either so I wasn’t hugely interested going into this book and had no idea what to expect. 

One of the things that came of the book club discussion was that the pacing was a little off. The first 2/3 of the book didn’t have any discernible plot and we essentially just followed the characters as they went about their lives with little variation. It is the last third of the book that the pace picks up and the writing and character development gets really interesting. We all agreed that it would’ve been much better had the book started with the climax because what follows was infinitely more fascinating.

And most of all, there was the crushing weight of destiny. The ossifying conviction that he was living out some ancient and preordained plan… Something horrible and inevitable.

The setting is rather unique and I think it was this aspect of the book that kept me turning the pages. There are quite a few Americans in my book group and it was interesting to hear that in their opinion Zentner’s portrayal of the ‘rural’ American Deep South was quite accurate. He deftly handles the spectrum of religion and political attitudes in a way that makes racism and class disparity not the focal point – instead they’re in the background, quietly influencing the way characters behave. I thought this was such a brilliant and subtle way to highlight issues without making the book and characters the sum of their views or into caricatures.

He didn’t think Lydia would understand because her family was so awesome. And he didn’t think Dill would understand because his family was so awful.

Moving onto the characters, I must admit that I didn’t really connect to Dill or Lydia, even though I could sympathise with some of their dilemmas. I was totally cheering on Lydia when Dill was accusing her of deserting him – even though you can understand where his fear is coming from, there is no justification for him to take it out on Lydia. But on the other hand, I found Lydia rather naive when it came to her rose-tinted view of her new life in the big city which irked me somewhat. Travis on the other hand did make an impression on me. He was quietly optimistic at the bleakest of times and found happiness in the simplest of things like books and being a fanboy online – I guess I could relate!

They’re amazing. I forget about everything I’m not good at and everyone I’m not when I read them. They make me feel brave.

One of the things that struck me about The Serpent King was the all-pervasive bleakness. This is not an airy fairy read by any means and I wasn’t expecting sunshine and unicorns, but at points the grim reality that some of these characters exist in was pretty overwhelming. The Serpent King to me was about the resilience of the human spirit after it’s been through hell and, even though Dill’s experience is on the more extreme end of the scale, I saw it as a great message to keep going even when it feels totally fruitless. 

Times are simpler when no one hates you because of your name and it doesn’t occur to you to be ashamed of it.

On a lighter note, I’m going to acknowledge something which I think is wholly underrepresented in YA: responsible and present parenting. Lydia’s relationship with her parents, especially her father, was beautifully portrayed. He was her advocate and supporter, giving her the best in life, whilst also taking pains to make her aware of her privilege in comparison to her friends. I for one would like to see more healthy parent-child relationships in YA – especially ones that are feel genuine like Zentner has written. 

You’re destined for great things, Lydia. That comes at a price. Everybody wants to be close to greatness and get a piece for themselves… You have two friends right now who may not be glamorous, but they love you for you.

The Serpent King was an interesting read but not for the plot itself. Instead, I found its merits lay elsewhere like in the authentic setting Zentner has created and some of the characters and relationships he has written. A good read if you’re after something that is a little different to the conventional YA novel. 

Have you read The Serpent King? Or do have any recommendations in a similar setting or dealing with similar issues? Let me know in the comments below!!

ARC Review: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Release Date: 9 February 2017 (UK) by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: Untitled (#1)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and other like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: Well The Edge of Everything surpassed my expectations! And that was partly to do with the fact that I’m an idiot and, having read the Netgalley blurb, thought this was a contemporary (realistic) romance?? I did not clock at all that this was a fantasy until quite a few pages in… But when I did, an already promising start just improved 10x over. The story itself is an intriguing one, not much good comes from having a boyfriend literally from hell it turns out (!) It took a while for me to get the gist of the Lowlands but when I did I was totally immersed in the star-crossed lovers’ fate and the thrilling ride that Zoe and X embarked on to save themselves and stay together.

A frantic beetle was flitting back and forth between the panes of glass, trapped forever with the wide world in full view. X knew what it felt like to be that bug.

The Edge of Everything is one of those rare books where I could forgive the instalove and actually get behind it! Jeff Giles has crafted the characters in such a way and with so much depth that it’s almost inevitable that they would be attracted to each other and you cheer them on because they complement each other really well. I loved that Zoe is the badass, fierce and bold one in the pairing whilst X is very much the shy, naive but hopelessly in love one. I loved that the sweetest stuff between them was often unsaid/thoughts or physical gestures. 

I really warmed to Zoe – she’s dealing with some pretty horrific stuff but manages to stay strong throughout. She’s by no means perfect, and I liked that we saw this part of her. At times she’s pretty mean to her little brother but it is the way she loves fiercely and loyally whether it is her family or her friend Val that really shines through. X on the other hand is less snarky but so resilient considering how he has grown up and what he is expected to do. The fact that X is able to hold on to his ‘humanity’ having never experienced it is such a beautiful thing. Reading about their first meeting and what follows, the sweet moments and the heart wrenching really swept me up and just totally immersed me in their story.

He realised now that he didn’t know very many stories – and certainly no pleasant ones. So he told her their story. He began with her knocking him down on the ice.

I also loved how the other characters all had their own stories and personalities – whether it was Regent, Banger and Ripper in the Lowlands or Jonah, Val and Dallas (loved the dialogue between him and Zoe!) in Montana. The female characters were very badass and inspirational – with brilliantly sharp tongues! The sibling relationship between Zoe and Jonah was also interesting, especially how far she was willing to go for him, and I liked how her protectiveness brushed off on X too. In that sense, I’m really glad this is the first in a series, because I seriously need more page time for these secondary characters! 

The world building was top notch and Giles writes beautifully. The Lowlands was fascinating and I liked how some of it is recognisable and other bits totally original. Again, this book set us up with lots of questions about how the Lowlands works and I’m looking forward to discovering more in the next installment. This is the second book I’ve read in so many months where it’s set in a snowy location. Zoe’s Montana was beautifully described and the bits on caving which I’d probably usually find rather dull actually had me vividly imagining (and later googling!) chandelier-esque rock formations. The story weaves together a good mix of fantasy elements and romance and moved along at a thrilling pace.

The light, meanwhile, was dying fast. The coffin lid over Montana was getting ready to shut.

One of the things that really stuck out to me about The Edge of Everything was how Giles dealt with ‘big’ issues like morality, grief, and the afterlife but did it in a non-claustrophobic or preachy way. I found it really interesting to see how the characters dealt with different, and often uncomfortable, feelings like remorse and mercy and it was actually quite emotionally stirring. I liked that Giles does not shy away from the worst base instincts of humanity but doesn’t glorify them either – if anything he highlights the ambiguity inherent in things like morality and that was a fascinating thing to see in YA. 

The Edge of Everything is out on 9 February in the UK – it is a stunning debut, so make sure to grab yourself a copy. I am already eagerly awaiting the sequel which sadly (and worryingly!) isn’t even up on Goodreads yet (don’t leave me hanging Mr Jeff Giles!!!)

Are you looking forward to The Edge of Everything? Any recs for great urban fantasy YA? Drop me your thoughts in the comments below!

Bookish Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Published: March 2016 by Simon & Schuster

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Series: The Dark Artifices (#1)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word… Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles… When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge – and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks… and before the murderer targets them. Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets… 

Review: This was my first read of 2017 so I had high hopes for it, wanting to start the year on a high. It was actually a book club read, and one that if I’m being totally honest would not have picked myself. I actually abandoned The Mortal Instruments part way through the third book because I just could not engage with the plot, couldn’t relate to the characters, and just did not care for what was going on. 

However, Lady Midnight was a very pleasant surprise! I’ll start with what was easily my favourite thing about Lady Midnight which is the story itself. Cassandra Clare has crafted a brilliant story. It was a solid mystery which moved along at a good pace and I liked how all the different story arcs and elements wove together at the end without leaving any glaring plot holes. Plus, a big bonus was the fact that there was no mahoosive cliffhanger to be found at the end – always a thumbs up from me. 🙂

What did you do, what could you do, when what threatened the ones you loved was something else you loved just as much?

I really liked how the mystery was the main plot line but it was woven with relatable issues like family, responsibilities, secrets etc. One of the reasons fantasy, especially high fantasy, is my favourite genres is because it is pure escapism – it’s totally removed from reality and lets you immerse yourself in a completely different world. For this reason, urban fantasy doesn’t usually appear to me but I found that wasn’t the case with Lady Midnight. The California setting was also a nice change to the New York setting of TMI. The world building was great, but I found it even more impressive as I was essentially relearning the whole Shadowhunter ‘verse and Clare really helped brush up on the TMI and TID series without coming across like a dry history lesson and regurgitation of the plot lines of previous books.

The characters also left an impression on me – I found them so fascinating! Julian’s multi-layered personality was refreshing compared to some of the ‘tortured soul’ 2D male characters you can come across in YA – frankly, Julian had way bigger fish to fry than nurturing his angst (although there is a tiny bit of that – it’s not YA without it!) i.e.playing father to his younger siblings. I loved how family was so important to him and a tangible part of him, his paternal instincts, and how many of his decisions revolves around being a father figure. The sacrifices he makes to keep his family together really made him across as a properly complex character to me.

When you were twelve years old and you were all that stood between your family and annihilation, you didn’t learn moderation.

Emma, on the other hand, was a little irritating in that she came across as priding herself on being sharp and on top of things but her obliviousness to a certain plotline was a bit much for me and had me rolling my eyes. But I loved the other characters! Again it was brilliant to see the same representation in LM as in TMI whether it was sexuality, autism, suicide or mental health. I also really liked how the secondary characters felt like fully formed characters – each one had a distinct personality and this was given quite a bit of page time rather than token nods. Mark and Ty were easily my favourite characters, struggling with their differences to ‘the norm’. 

My only criticism of Lady Midnight was the flowery and overly-descriptive writing Cassandra Clare seems to be fond of. The book was really long at 500+ pages and honestly I think she could easily have cut down by just removing repetitive descriptions. I got tired of hearing about how many different shades of yellow made up Emma’s blonde hair, how bodies look through what I assume must be completely translucent shirts, and dark and long eyelashes against sculpted cheekbones. Some of the metaphors and similes were also very overwrought and jarring that I often stopped to try and figure out what Clare was trying to get at. For example:

A pearlescent lightening of the water, as if white paint were spilling into the world through a crack in the sky.

Those slight annoyances aside, I really recommend Lady Midnight to anyone who wants original and interesting characters wrapped in a solid mystery. It goes without saying that this will go down well with fans of the Shadowhunter series and may convert others like me who gave up on TMI! I’m now eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Have you read Lady Midnight? What did you think? Is it better than The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices? Let me know your thoughts!!