Book Review – Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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TITLE: 
Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
AUTHOR: Cassandra Clare
PAGES:  698 pages
PUBLISHED: March 8th 2016
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry Books
GENRE: Young Adult, Urban Paranormal/Fantasy, Romance, Mystery

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Emma Carstairs, who we met in the final book of the Mortal Instruments, City of Heavenly Fire. Clary Fairchild befriends her after seeing her lose both her parents and Emma becomes parabatai with Julian Blackthorn so they can stay together. Julian (or Jules) is Emma’s best friend and in the Mortal Instruments we get a sense that Emma isn’t 100% committed to becoming parabatai with Jules, but does it so that she isn’t sent away from him and the Blackthorns, who’ve become a family to her. This novel contuines with the lives of Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family and what became of them.

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MY REVIEW:

Oh yes. I read this monster of a book in one day. You know when you read a book and get so into it that hours later you think to yourself “have I eaten?”

That was me. I completely skipped lunch and nibbled on some biscuits because I could not put this down!

In my opinion, you need to have read both The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments before reading this. I know other review’s say you don’t but I really think you miss out on a lot. Not just little references but whole characters and story lines that you don’t know about.

I did not read the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy series and was a bit spoiled so that was a little annoying (my own fault) but I don’t think those novellas or The Bane Chronicles are 100% necessary to read before this. Also my review below is going to contain spoilers but I will try to put the big stuff in a hidden spoiler tag.

“You’ll fix me because we’re parabatai. We’re forever”

I really did not know what to expect with this but the writing reminded me a lot more of The Infernal Devices than The Mortal Instruments. This follows the story of Emma Carstairs, who we met in the final book of the Mortal Instruments, City of Heavenly Fire. Clary befriends her after seeing her lose both her parents and Emma becomes parabatai with Julian Blackthorn so they can stay together. Julian (or Jules) is Emma’s best friend and in the Mortal Instruments we get a sense that Emma isn’t 100% committed to becoming parabatai with Jules, but does it so that she isn’t sent away from him and the Blackthorns, who’ve become a family to her.

I love Emma! She is the distant relative of Jem Carstairs who makes an appearance, along with Tessa Grey in this! I loved the throwbacks and Emma is nothing like Clary or Tessa. If anything she is a bit like Jase but without the cockiness. She trains extremely hard and is a top Shadowhunter. She is definitely not a brat like Clary could be, or weak like Tessa. You have to really admire how much Emma is will to sacrifice for those she loves.

I really love Julian as well. He shoulders so much responsibility, I have no idea how he doesn’t just explode from it all. Emma seems to be his only safe place, the only thing that helps him, but their love is illegal. We find out that parabatai’s are forbidden by Law to never romantically fall in love with each other. If they do fall in love and the Clave finds out the punishment is extremely fierce. For almost all of the book we are not told why that it is a law, until Jem tells Emma what the consequence is.

As for the other new characters, I absolutely love Mark who is a half-faerie half-shadowhunter and was taken by The Hunt in the final book of the Mortal Instruments. He almost felt like the main character to me, although I really don’t think he and Emma should ever actually get together. Emma is clearly made for Jules. We find out Mark’s fate in the faerie realm and how the Clave essentially broke their promise to help get him back to the Blackthorns family. I really felt his love with Kieran, even though he betrays him, but I really hope they get their happily-ever-after. I was very confused with his feelings towards Cristina and I really can’t see him being with her at all. I didn’t feel any real spark between them. Sure, they found each other attractive but I think Cristina hesitated to sleep with him because she is still in love with Perfect Diego, and Mark is still in love with Kieran.

Tiberius (or Ty) and Livvy were adorable, as were all the Blackthorn kids, but I kind of wish, especially at age fifteen they realised how much of a burden they were placing on Julian. At age fifteen I feel like they could take their own share of the load and do the cooking/cleaning and helping take care of the youngest one (Tavvy), instead of leaving everything for Julian.

Every scene with Clary and Jace was so lovely. Even Magnus and Alec showed their pretty little faces at one point and Izzy and Simon were referenced to. Even though I literally just finished the final book of the Mortal Instrument series (so late, I know) this was a nice little nostalgic touch.

I also love Cristina and Perfect Diego. They definitely seemed like side-characters and we didn’t get to know them as much as the other new people but I loved how tough Cristina is and her friendship with Emma was very sweet. I really hope we get to see her character grow in the next book. I am not sure if I completely trust Perfect Diego yet, even though Cristina seems to have forgiven him by the end. I think that although Cristina didn’t hear him say anything to his brother, it doesn’t mean that he is innocent. I am curious to see if his brother is going to make an appearance in the next book.

And that ending with Kit!! Did not see that one coming and I am really curious as to where his character is going! I can forsee more Jace in the next book! Yay!

I know Cassandra Clare gets a lot of hate (whether it’s justified or not is completely your opinion) but one thing I really love about her writing, beyond being a very good storyteller, is that she pushes the boundaries of what is “normal” in her novels. I felt like this when she had Magnus and Alec in the Mortal Instruments enter a relationship. Even if you don’t like her books, you have to admit that the Mortal Instruments is a very popular series that has been turned into both a movie and TV series. Having a prominent gay couple is really cool to see and I love that people embrace these characters. In this novel I thought it was amazing that Cassandra Clare included not only Hispanic characters (Cristina and Perfect Diego are from Mexico), mentioned that (view spoiler), Mark is bixseual, but also that Ty has autism. Clare handled Ty with perfection. He wasn’t stereotyped and he was loved by his entire family for being exactly who he is.

Overall this is such a great start to the series. I am curious if this is going to be a trilogy or turn into The Mortal Instruments and have many books. I think Cassandra Clare has grown so much as an author and I really feel like this is already better than the Mortal Instrument series. It’s the perfect blend of everything we know like demons, shadowhunters, warlocks, faeries, parabatai, but with family bonds, crazy action and an epic forbidden romance.

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Book Review – The Change Room by Karen Connelly

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TITLE: 
The Change Room
AUTHOR: Karen Connelly
PAGES:  320 pages
PUBLISHED: April 11th 2017
PUBLISHER: Random House Canada
GENRE: Romance, LGBT, Adult Fiction

MY RATING: 3/5 birds

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SUMMARY:

Eliza Keenan is the mother of two boys, a business owner and wife to a math professor named Andrew. Her life is defined by her family and she only gets time to herself when she goes for her twice-weekly swim at the community pool. One day she meets a mysterious and intriguing young woman who she nicknames “The Amazon”. The weekly meet ups turn into an illicit affair between the two woman, which threatens her entire world but can something that makes Eliza feel so good, be really that bad?

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MY REVIEW

This type of contemporary story isn’t something I would normally pick up but I am trying to make an effort to read more novels by Canadian authors and when I saw this on NetGalley I was intrigued. There were aspects that I liked (the writing) and disliked (the characters/story) which lead to three stars.

I was conflicted about Eliza. I didn’t actively dislike her but it was hard to get behind the white, upper-middle-class whining. She complained about balancing work, kids and marriage in her white suburban life and it was really hard to give a damn. This isn’t to say that I don’t think her issues are legitimate to her but it was a bit boring to read over and over again. I also don’t have kids so I really could not relate to how much of the novel was focused on them, most of which was her complaining.

I also thought she was incredibly selfish and a bit ridiculous. For example there is a paragraph where Eliza is describing in detail how much she cleans (*yawn*) around the house and how her mother told her the way to ruin a good marriage is to keep score of who did what. So Eliza “did many tasks herself, resentfully, or in a state of resigned oblivion, often late at night after the kids had gone to bed.”

Yes…because resentfully doing anything in your marriage is super healthy, right? And then the next sentence is about how Andrew suggested hiring a cleaner, which he did himself, but in Eliza’s words after “a couple of duds and one klutz” she went back to resentfully cleaning everything herself.

Oh lord. First, just the fact that you can afford a cleaning should be enough. This is not a cheap service in Canada and I only know a few well-off family friends that have cleaners. Eliza sounds so uptight, even people that clean professionally are not up to her standard and she would rather “suffer resentfully” then work with someone. Then she wonders why her marriage is failing?

Stories like this are always a bit uncomfortable for me, personally. I have a pretty strict moral code when it comes to cheating so it hard for me to understand Eliza’s POV, even if we are told how bad of a husband Andrew is or how stressful her life is, I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t end things before cheating/having an affair.

I was also surprised at how much detailed sex there was in this. Now, if you look at the books I read on Goodreads you see I have read a lot of erotica, bdsm, LGBT stuff so it wasn’t that I am a prude, it just did not work for me. It was really distracting from the actual storytelling and it felt like the author added it for “shock value” which I did not like.

The Quebecois woman was also bit stereotyped in my opinion, and also the line about Eliza’s brother (I think?) who works in the oil rigs in Alberta and makes a ton of money, most of which “goes up his nose”. While that is true for some rig workers it’s a terrible stereotype and so cliché. It also makes other Canadians look down upon Alberta.

I would be interested in reading other novels by Karen Connelly, the writing itself was very well done and I wish I had like this more but unfortunately it just did not work for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Canada for letting me read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review – City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

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TITLE: 
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6)
AUTHOR: Cassandra Clare
PAGES:  725 pages
PUBLISHED: May 27th 2014
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban-Fantasy

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

This is the long-awaited and final epic instalment of the Mortal Instruments series, which first began with City of Bones, published in 2007.

Sebastian Morgenstern, Clary’s brother, is using the Infernal Cup to create evil Shadowhunters, known as his Endarkened army, that do his bidding and threatened the lives of everyone around him. No one can stop Sebastian and when the ultimate betrayal is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon and Alex must find a way to stop Sebastian before he tears the world apart.

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MY REVIEW

In the words of Frodo Baggins “It’s done. It’s over.”

I put off reading the final book of the Mortal Instrument series because I have a bad habit of starting and not finishing series and as time went on I forgot some of the characters and the plot of the previous books. Although I find the TV series is pretty bad, watching a few episodes actually helped me remember a lot. It is always difficult when a series spans five years to recall every detail and character but Cassandra Clare did a great job of drawing me back in even after all this time.

I still think the third book is the best. I think this book was way too long and I admit I was bored at a few points. I also didn’t like how everything with Sebastian turned out. I was expecting more, you know? And it was so disappointing that even after everything the Clave had been through they literally did not learn a single thing. Peace is obviously not going to last very long in this world…

And Simon’s fate was really heartbreaking but I am really looking forward to reading Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy and also Emma’s story in Lady Midnight.

Overall this has truly been a great series! I definitely will re-read it at some point (at least the first three) and although I don’t think this was the strongest ending, especially if you compare it to The Infernal Devices ending, it is a fantastic series and I would recommend to anyone!

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Top Ten Tuesday – Books On My Spring TBR

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Each week The Broke and Bookish hosts a Top Ten Tuesday based on a chosen literary topic. This week’s topic is top ten books on my Spring TBR pile! TBR stands for “To Be Read” and I have so many books to choose from that I want to read this spring, some of which have been on my TBR pile for a while and others are brand new. So to the list without further ado!

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1. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – Expected publication: March 28th 2017 – The blurb for this seems very promising, as well as all of the hype and 5-star review already surround the book. It sounds like a great ‘coming-of-age’ story with some mystery as well.

2. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett- Expected publication: April 4th 2017 – In my last Top Ten Tuesday post I mentioned that I would be watching ‘You’ve Got Mail’ for Valentines Day and this novel is said to be a modern teenage spin on that movie. I don’t even care what the rest of the synopsis is, I’ve already been sold.

3. Joy Ride by Lauren Blakely – Expected publication: May 1st 2017 – I swear Blakely has a new book every month or so but this caught my eye as a fun read. Goodreads is having a giveaway contest for it and you can enter here.

4. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 – I really don’t know the exact circumstance around this author but she was targeted on twitter with a huge amount of hate and this book hasn’t even been released yet! Many authors that I respect and adore have stood beside her and I will too.

5. The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich – Expected publication: May 16th 2017 – The synopsis for this sounds so good! An LGBT book with teenage spies who fall in love while trying to protect a girl they were supposed to be falling in love with? Sounds like a bad 90’s rom-com and I love it.

6. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor- Expected publication: March 28th 201 – I believe Laini Taylor is a master of the fantasy genre and her new novel sounds like another wonderfully intriguing mythical world to fall into.

7. Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) by Abigail Roux & Madeline Urban – This is the only book on my list that isn’t expected to come out soon and has already been published. I have been meaning to finish this series for a while now and I really can’t wait to get back into the world of Ty and Zane!

8. Missing by Kelley Armstrong – Expected publication: April 18th 2017– The premise sounds deliciously mysterious and I really love Kelley Armstrong’s writing. I love supporting Canadian authors as well!

9. Anchor Me (Stark Trilogy #4) by J. Kenner – Expected publication: April 11th 2017 – Just when I thought the Stark trilogy was complete (it IS called a trilogy after all…) J. Kenner is publishing the fourth book following Nikki and Damien Stark turbulent relationship.

10. The Dead List by Jennifer L. Armentrout – Expected publication: April 2017 – Armentrout is doing a new standalone mystery/thriller YA? Say no more. I’m in.

What are the books on your Spring TBR pile? Tell me below in the comments!

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Book Review – Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World

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TITLE: Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World
AUTHOR: Doug Saunders
PAGES:  384 pages
PUBLISHED: October 4th 2011
PUBLISHER: Vintage Canada
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Canadian, Urban Planning, Architecture, Sociology, Economics/Politics

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The twenty-first century is entering an epoch that is reshaping our cities and economies by the appearance of Arrival Cities, a term coined by Saunders, which explains the final migration from the rural village to urban areas. This isn’t a localised event focused on the developing world, it is a global phenomenon that is affecting everyone worldwide. These arrival cities establish new lives, where immigrants integrate themselves into a new world socially and economically, to set up life for themselves and their family. Saunders explores slums, gecekondu, favlas, barriadas and various other arrival city enclaves, which provide low-cost housing usually on the outskirts of major cities for individuals to gain entry-level jobs and to generally provide money for their family back in the village until they can make the full transition to urban and middle-class life.

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MY REVIEW

Arrival City is a richly-themed study of migration across the world, looking at a very old problem in a new way. Saunders casts arrival cities in a positive light, especially the slums which were previously thought as dysfunctional but as he explains, are very organised and an integral part of our society. He explains clearly the role that is needed for producing functional arrival cities and more of the process of acculturation than total immersion. I personally enjoyed this book and how he provided an unromanticized view of village life which is still a big hindrance for governments resisting arrival cities as they have a warped sense of village struggles and culture. I also enjoyed how he humanised the phenomenon by introducing us to real individuals and their personal stories. From this I could make the connection from my own families immigrant history to Canada, and the migrants presented in the story, and perhaps our lives aren’t so different even thousands of miles away.

I noticed that Saunders omitted any discussion about the role of economic growth in playing a part of raising the living standards of migrants. In places like China and Brazil, countries he wrote about, their economies are growing at an alarming rate and at what point does the wealth trickle down to the poor? Following the ‘trickle-down theory’ which essentially gives tax breaks to business which in turn creates more jobs for lower and middle class individuals and leads to goods at lower prices, these seem like all things that would be very beneficial to migrants who are in need of jobs and cheaper goods but Saunders doesn’t speak much about the effect economics play into arrival cities.
Saunders raises many issues not just about what is happening right now but for the future of our cities. After I read the book, I wonder what the consequences of mass migration to cities with non-functioning enclaves in the future will be, especially if governments continue to ignore communities that feel complete isolation and then diverge into more extremist ways of living

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Book Review – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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TITLE: The Hating Game
AUTHOR: Sally Thorne
PAGES:  384 pages
PUBLISHED: August 9th 2016
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Enemies to Lovers, Chick-lit, Rom-Com, Humour

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Lucy Hutton pestering Joshua Templeman. Her mortal enemy at work. She hates him more than anyone and they constantly play passive aggressive “games” to irritate one another while sitting one desk away. Joshua thinks Lucy is annoying and too quirky with her colourful clothes. Lucy thinks Joshua is an uptight jerk.

When a new promotion at work threatens to unbalance the careful hatred Lucy and Joshua have, they both up the game. But at what cost? Especially when the games become confusing and the hatred changes to something more.

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MY REVIEW:

I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. There are many 5 star reviews but the words “chick-lit” “rom-com” and “cheesy” got to me. It was also a GR Best Romance book finalist. I was caught between expecting a lot and expecting nothing.

What I found was a book that made a laugh out loud, made me crave Josh and Lucy’s interactions (both crazy and sweet), and the amount of “cheese” was just perfect. The author really captured that wild obsessive-like behaviour you get when you first start dating someone and start to fall for them. It really put a big smile on my face and reminded me of those good ol’ days. I loved how much they were all over each other from day one, using “games” as a way to keep their infatuation with one another, whether it be mentally noting the shirt colour choices or staring into each other’s eyes (the “Staring Game”) for long periods of time.

The chemistry between Lucy and Josh was wonderful. Some of the best I have read in a while. When Lucy stands up for him against (view spoiler) I just wanted to cheer. Josh was so endearing and the character development we get from the beginning of the novel was very well written. At first he is just an asshole who most likely has a crush on Lucy. No, the reader’s aren’t fooled. He is like the little boy on the playground who pulls on the girl’s pigtails to show her that he likes her. But then we really get to know him, as Lucy does, and we learn about this shy sweetheart who is sometimes hurt, sometimes lonely, and he becomes so real. Their highly witty hateful banter becomes even better sexual tension that was so much fun to read. I actually really enjoyed their banter in the beginning. I know some other readers saw it as childish, and it was, but it was also so hilarious. I loved all of Lucy’s jabs where she insinuates that Josh is the devil, and lives “close to earth’s core”.

Yes, this is chick-lit. Yes, it is predictable, it is sometimes cheesy and sometimes silly, but I loved it. I had a big smile on my face at the ending.

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Book Review – Beautifully Broken by Laura Lee

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TITLE: Beautifully Broken
AUTHOR: Laura Lee
PAGES:  326 pages
PUBLISHED: November 15th 2016
PUBLISHER: LAN Fiction LLC
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Forbidden Romance

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Kat, drinking in a seedy bar on her 18th birthday when she meets Gavin. Or “Sparkles” as Kat dubbed him. We learn quickly that Kat has had a tough life. She has been in the foster system since she was a kid, never knew her dad, and has a heroin-addicted mother who is barely present in her life. Tonight she is trying to forget her problems and Gavin seems like the perfect distraction. Their attraction to one another is off the charts and neither of them can deny it.

Kat goes home with him and lies about her age and turns every question he asks –like what she does for work – into a game so he barely knows anything about her. Imagine his surprise when a few days later she is sitting in his classroom and Gavin a.k.a. Sparkles is also Mr. Cooper her English teacher! They both try to deny their attraction and know their situation is wrong even though he didn’t know she was in high school and she is eighteen, but fighting their feelings is harder than they thought.

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MY REVIEW:

When I first saw this book and all the 5 star reviews I was a little skeptical. The premise of a forbidden romance between teacher and student isn’t something I normally find appealing to read but something compelled me to pick this up and I am glad I did! This book definitely goes down as a guilty pleasure read.

Kat was really an amazing character. Life threw her so many curve balls and she took everything in stride. She was even more mature than Gavin in certain parts of the novel. And even though parts of her were broken, Gavin’s constant reassurance of telling her she is worthy of love and respect helped her feel whole again. It was such a feel good novel in that aspect even though there was a ton of seriously dark drama. This was definitely more real than I thought it would be from the blurb, which was a good thing. The dialogue was very well written as well. Their flirty banter was cute and believable and Kat and her friends acted and talked like real eighteen year olds.

I also liked the non-judgemental aspect of stripping in the novel. Kat described most of her coworkers as being college students just trying to earn a quick buck so they can advance in life. We find that some of the girls that have worked there have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, veterinarians etc. Although I think this is not the case for many strip joints, I think it is still a good lesson that you shouldn’t judge someone for where their life leads them.

I know some readers have a hard rule with cheating and I think this may blur the line….Just a forewarning but (view spoiler). Decide what you will about that. I didn’t mind but I know others consider once the two main characters have had any kind of physical contact another woman/man in the picture is unacceptable.

I was also really frustrated with the ending. I could completely understand Kat’s POV and why she chose what she did but Gavin really had no excuse.

Overall this was a really interesting and angsty read. If you are looking for serious drama but with a HEA then this is the book for you! Thank you Netgalley, LAN Fiction LLC, and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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