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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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Each week The Broke and Bookish hosts a Top Ten Tuesday based on a chosen literary topic. This week’s topic is “Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book”! As I began to think about this topic I realised that I have become very picky with what I choose to read, especially regarding books that instantly grab my attention. I just feel like there are too many books I want to read and I may never get a chance to get through them all in one lifetime!

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1. A Great Synopsis – This is kind of a no-brainer but if I pick up a book and the synopsis has already hooked me then I am sure to continue reading. The only time this becomes an issue is if something in the synopsis gets me excited but reviewers indicate that it doesn’t actually occur in the novel, that is always so disappointing!

2. The Author – I definitely have a few favourite authors and if they put something out I will read it. Doesn’t matter what it is, if they are trying out a new genre, or the synopsis is different I will read anything from my select few favourite writers.

3. Recommendations Online – If any of my wonderful goodread friends recommend something to me I can almost guarantee I will read it. I have some very thoughtful followers that have very similar tastes to me and if they give something 5 stars, it makes me want to read it too!

4. Recommendations from my Friends/Family – I have quite a few people in my life that read as much as me and I love getting recommendations from them. In particular, if my fiance’s mum and sister tell me to read something (or even better buy me books for my birthday/holidays) I will read it and most likely enjoy it!

5. Romance Novels where the hero is described as a “sweetheart” – Lately I have been drawn to romance novels (in any genre; YA, NA, Fantasy, Sci-fi etc.) where the hero is a complete and utter sweetheart. I have been getting a little sick of the whole “alpha male” thing in romance novels and if the hero is sweet I will read that in a heartbeat!

6. Canadian Authors – I have been trying to read more Canadian authors and novels set in Canada. Unless the synopsis is really bad I have been picking up more by Canadians.

7. Space Opera Genre – I have been OBSESSED with reading novels in the space opera genre and so far I have not turned away from one! Give me galactic space, fast romance and spicy drama, please!

8. Beautiful Prose – if my Goodreads friends or other reviewers online have indicated that the novel has amazing prose then I am pretty much guaranteed to read it. Even if the genre/synopsis doesnt intrigue me at first, I know the writing will suck me in.

9. Hype – This doesn’t always guarantee that I will read it but generally if I have heard a ton of buzz around a book I will try to read it (unless the synopsis is something I really dislike).

10. The Cover – I put this last on the list because although a great cover will draw me to the book if the synopsis isn’t interesting I may not read it. As silly as it sounds a great cover design is still important to me and can draw me into a book.

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I want to hear your thoughts! What things make you pick up a book? How do you decide what to read next?

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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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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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ARC Book Review – Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

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TITLE: Coming Up For Air
AUTHOR: Miranda Kenneally
PAGES:  320 pages
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: July 1st 2017
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
GENRE: Young Adult, Romance, Sports, Contemporary

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
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MY REVIEW & SUMMARY:

Guys, this was so good.

Like really, adorably, amazingly good!

I wasn’t a huge fan of Catching Jordan, Miranda Kenneally’s first novel in the Hundred Oaks series. When I received this from Netgalley I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who absolutely loves swimming, I was hoping this would entice more than football does and I just could not put it down! I seriously read this in one sitting! Although the romance was perfect (who else loves the “best friends to something more” trope?), I was absolutely enthralled with Maggie’s competitive swimming world.

Maggie is trying to qualify for the Olympics. Her entire life is eating and swimming. Her only free time involves hanging out at the local burger place on Friday night with her three closest friends, Georgia, Hunter and Levi. Levi is her best friend and the most understanding of her schedule as he is a competitive swimmer as well. As Maggie lives vicariously through her friend’s lives she realises that she may be missing out of the quintessential high school “experience”. After a disastrous hook-up Maggie decides to ask Levi to help her gain some experience before heading off to college. After he hesitantly agrees the line between friendship and something more becomes blurry.

The healthy sex attitude in the novel blew me away. The way the characters, and especially one of the teachers, approached sex was really well done. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It wasn’t this crazy secretive thing. No one pretended that teenagers don’t want to experiment and have sex. It was realistic and healthy and just normal. A real breath of fresh air in the YA world and I have to applaud Kenneally for that.

Even if you didn’t love Kenneally’s other novels, I would still recommend this. Kenneally does an amazing job of showing us Maggie’s intense routine and it was hard not to admire Maggie’s passion and determination. It really does amaze me that there are people out there this dedicated to their sport.

Now I am going to have to go back and read the rest of the Hundred Oak series!

*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review – For Finlay

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**ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

TITLE: For Finlay
AUTHOR: J. Nathan
PAGES:  214 pages
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: January 30, 2017
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Enemies to Lovers, Sports

MY RATING: 4/5 birds

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SUMMARY:

Finlay lived her entire life in the shadow of her older brother, football star Cole Thatcher. She hates always being referred to as Cole’s little sister and always craved an identity of her own. This causes her to push her older brother away, a mistake she regrets every day when her brother suddenly dies.

Two years later, moving to a new town to work for the Alabama college football team she is trying to live her brother’s dream. Even if it means working beside the new quarterback Caden Brooks. She has reasons to hate him for taking her brother’s place on the Alabama team but soon hatred turns into sexual tension as neither of them can deny the strong attraction they feel.

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MY REVIEW:

This was a very sweet NA book that reminded me a lot of the Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy. I am glad I picked this up, even though I really have no interest in football because it was very enjoyable! Both Finlay and Caden are great characters. I like how the mistake and the whole reason that Finlay hated Caden as much as she did before even meeting him was very realistic and this book had no drama just for drama’s sake. The conflict was well written and interesting.

The only issues I had was that I could have done without Caden’s POV entirely! I felt like it didn’t really add much to the plot for me and it would have been interesting getting to know Finlay better and learning more about what she wanted to do in life, like picking a major, future plans, her relationship with her parents etc.

I also found some of the scene changes in the novel disorientating. For example, Caden and Grady get into a fist fight and instead of continuing that storyline and finding out what happened, it starts the next scene with Finlay swimming at 4 am. The author could have easily started the new paragraph in Caden’s POV. Where did the rest of the day go? We obviously learn what happened when Caden comes to where Finlay is swimming but I would have rather followed the story closer…or why have Caden’s POV at all?

The epilogue was very sweet and we definitely get a HEA, although I was a bit disappointed that Caden never resolved his issues with his dad because I felt like his dad’s new wife had a point when she spoke to Caden at the hospital when he was sleeping beside Finlay.

Overall this was a very fun and entertaining read but it goes beyond the typical NA novel by talking about dealing with death. If you enjoyed The Deal by Elle Kennedy or Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock I would definitely recommend this!

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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