5 stars · series · young adult

A Gathering of Shadows: suffering from sequel syndrome


A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows

Shades of Magic #2
Book 1: A Darker Shade of Magic

author : v. e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 512

memorable quote :

Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.

favorite character : holland (& kell’s coat)

summary :

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

review :

I went into the Shades of Magic trilogy knowing absolutely nothing, because sometimes that’s the best way to let yourself slip into a book. To fall into the world headfirst alongside the characters. Book one immediately drew me in, with the inventive and captivating writing, array of interesting characters, and a plot that held back nothing.

Book two was . . . different. The tone was different, the setup of the story was different. My reaction was different.

I didn’t hate it. I still loved the characters, and some of their actions made me love them even more. I still loved the world and the world-building skills of V.E. Schwab. If this had been a standalone novel or the first book in a different series I would have loved the book itself.

But we go from book one, A Darker Shade of Magic, in which entire worlds are at stake and people are dying, to book two, where the main characters participate in a magical tournament. Sort of like the Olympics of magical sparring. And all of the important, life-altering, terrible things that could shatter the world at any moment happen only in the background.

It’s hard to take the plot very seriously when it sort of reads like a fanfiction. As if someone saw the overall plot and thought it would be interesting to throw in some entertaining gladiator fighting in the middle of it.

To be honest, it’s great fanfiction. The descriptions are so astounding the visuals pop off of the page. The feats of magic are entertaining and the characters get in several quotable quips. But I can’t help but feel as if the series would be better as a duology.

It feels odd to like a book and the writing, but feel as if the entire plot line has been misplaced.

I would still recommend this book, because it’s a fun read and the ending is a great bridge to book three.

5/5 stars

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5 stars · science fiction · series

Undivided by Neal Shusterman; an amazing conclusion to the series

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undivided

unwind #4

book 1: unwind
book 2: unwholly
book 3: unsouled

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 372

favorite characters  conner & risa

memorable quote :

Best way to save humanity is to turn the monsters against one another.

summary :

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future.

But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

review :

Unwind was one of those books that, after I read it, I knew immediately I was going to love it and keep rereading it forever. It took me a little while to realize it was going to be part of a series. I’m so amazed at the turns this series has taken–the ups, the downs, those nail-biting moments in-between. Neal Shusterman proves again and again that he’s one of my favorite authors because he’s brilliant, and writes wholly (ha) unique and compelling narratives, and creates these characters you can’t help but love.

Undivided, the final book in the Unwind dystology, came with a bittersweet feeling. I often hate to end series because, while I have this pull to know what’s going to happen, I can’t help but feel like I need to stretch out my time in the story. I don’t want it to end. Oftentimes it takes me longest to read the books I know I’ll love because I’m afraid of the terrible things that could happen to the wonderful characters.

Not to say that Neal Shusterman isn’t also capable of creating amazing, compelling villains, or those characters who float around in the gray area between good and evil. As much as I care for some of the amazing crew they’ve picked up along the way, I always need me some Connor and Risa.

I won’t spoil anything. I will say that this book made me cry like I haven’t since I read book one for the first time. It’s amazingly thoughtful, terribly reminiscent and poignant in today’s world. It’s sweet. It bites. And it’s everything that I could have ever wished for.

What I love most about this series is that when it’s bad, you can’t imagine it will get any worse. And it does. And then when it’s good, you can’t imagine it’ll get any better, and then it does. There’s never any way to predict it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sad to say goodbye to those surprises, and these characters, and those moments that made me laugh or cry. But I’m glad for the journey–if only so I can force everyone I know to read these books, immediately.

Undivided proves, once and for all, that this will be one of my favorite series of all time.

5/5 stars

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Dearest readers, I don’t think that I can rightly explain to you how much I love this book. I mean, I read it for the first time in the eighth grade, and now here I am, twenty-three and still loving it.

Yes, I’m old now, but that’s beside the point.

This is the kind of book that lasts. It’s the kind of book that makes you think, and delve into the mythology, and desperately want more. I didn’t realize for years after reading this that there was a sequel–and do you know how happy I was when I found out there was another book written in this world? And book five was just recently released. Imagine my head exploding. From happiness. From all the good things.

Well, bad things do happen in this book, but at least they’re beautifully written bad things.

The thing that makes The Thief stand out so much for me, even all of these years on, are the characters. The Thief himself, Gen, is kind of a sarcastic asshole, but he’s a criminal, so you shouldn’t expect anything less. The best part is that there are plenty of characters who don’t let him get away with that, which leads to plenty of banter. I don’t think there’s a piece of dialogue in here that seems frivolous. Everything either furthers the plot, or gives something away about the characters, or delves into the myths of this place.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that I met the author last month at Book Con, and a small literary piece of me died and went to that great library in the sky. Book conventions are amazing things. Anyway, I’m getting distracted.

Go read this book, if you haven’t already. And if you have–discuss it with me!

 

5 stars · series · young adult

Scythe by Neal Shusterman: chilling and amazing

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Scythe

Arc of a Scythe #1

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 435

memorable quote :

“You have three hundred sixty-five days of immunity.” And then, looking him in the eye, said, “And I’ll be seeing you on day three hundred sixty-six.”

favorite character :  scythe faraday

summary :

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

review :

I’ve never met a Neal Shusterman novel I haven’t loved.

Honestly, he’s one of the best, most creative, most terrifying authors out there. His books will captivate you until the very end because you honestly cannot predict what will happen next. He’s the kind of author more than willing to kill off any character, so no one is safe–especially not in these worlds he builds. Which is a little ironic, because Scythe is in a way about a society of immortal people.

Imagine a world where people kill themselves for fun. You jump off of a building ten stories up and know in three or four days you’ll be fully healed–best of all, that first fix is free. Legally, they aren’t allowed to not bring you back. No one left in the world remembers a time when everyone born knew that they had only a certain amount of time left to live. Now, death is controlled by the Scythes. They are the only ones who can kill–or ‘glean’, as they call it to make it sound less like murder–and after they’ve chosen someone, they die for good. They’re really the only things to fear in this new world.

I loved this book. But it literally gave me nightmares. I’d stay up just to see how much I could read before I’d really have to get to sleep, and this is the kind of plot sure to give you an existential crisis. There’s some talk about what the point of life is when in the past, all of those people were going to die, anyway. But without death, or war, or hunger, or anything to struggle against, and with even nanites in their blood to keep them from feeling anything too strongly, there’s no art. No inspiration for it. People have all of these years and they just don’t know what to do with themselves in that time. It’s why Rowan and Citra are intrigued by the idea of becoming a scythe’s apprentice; it gives them each a purpose in life.

They each tell part of the story and  I loved hearing each of their voices. Essentially, they’re having the same life experience, but it impacts and twists them in completely different directions. Still, this is the one decision that will unite them forever, although they hadn’t known one another before the apprenticeship.

I don’t want to say anything more because I don’t want to give anything away. I mean, even in the summary of the book it says something that doesn’t happen until halfway through the book. This is the kind of novel you should dive into and just let yourself be immersed in the world and the characters.

It’s so good. I don’t think I can say that enough. Book two can’t come to me fast enough!

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Spelled by Betsy Schow is a fun mashup of fairytale madness

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Spelled

author : betsy schow

pages : [paperback] 345

favorite character : kato

summary :

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

review :

If you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience for unlikable narrators, then Spelled isn’t the one for you. If you’re like me and can put up with Dot’s shenanigans, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book.

Spelled is the first in a series about fairy tales ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella to Greek mythology. There’s a little bit of everything in here, and it’s kind of awesome that even major fairy tales will just have a minor shoutout in the background of a scene. How casually it’s all thrown together just shows how usual this is for Dot, when her entire life revolves around these magical things and the so-called ‘rules’ of story that ensure the good guys win every time. All until Dot ruins the magic holding her world together and everything about happily ever after seems to become its opposite.

Dot is forced on a wild adventure with extremely unlikely (and also kind of unlikable) companions. It’s a little strange that out of three main characters, not a single one of them is inherently pleasant. I wasn’t sure of how to feel about that at first, but this isn’t your typical fairy tale. Just like Dot is fighting to get her normal life back together, she’s also fighting the magically satisfying character growth that’s coming her way.

And the worldbuilding was excellent! I love the nods to original stories, like Dot’s magical heels. Familiar but unique, all at once. The patchwork quality of the land was great as well, because you never knew which story connected with the other and would cause more magical mayhem.

This is a very quick and fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll definitely be reading more of the series!

3.5/5 stars

3 stars · science fiction · series

The Woods: The Arrow, a very gruesome and gory graphic novel

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The Woods, Vol 1: The Arrow

author : james tynion iv & michael dialynas

pages : [paperback] 128

summary :

WHY WE LOVE IT: As fans of James Tynion IV’s work in the Batman universe (BATMAN ETERNAL, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS), we were eager to publish his first original comic series. THE WOODS gives us that same eerie, smalltown horror feel we get whenever we read a Stephen King novel.

WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: James Tynion IV is a former protege of BATMAN writer Scott Snyder, so you know he’s learned a lot about how to craft a compelling tale. If you’re fan of teen conspiracy comics like Morning Glories, Sheltered, and Revival, you’ll immediately be sucked into THE WOODS.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.

Collects issues 1 to 4 of the critically acclaimed series.

review :

I picked up this volume on a whim when I was browsing the graphic novel section of my library. The concept seemed interesting and I liked the way that the artwork is done, so I decided to give it a shot. While this wasn’t my favorite, there was definitely enough intrigue here to get my interest.

This at first reminded me of the Quarantine books, because it’s an isolated high school and kind of shows how teens will begin to build their own society (or crumble under the pressure) when they’re removed from everything they know and find familiar and are faced with a deadly situation. Except in this case, we also have the faculty and principal struggling to decide what to do with the student body now that the entire high school has somehow been transported to an alien moon. As can be expected, nothing is going to go smoothly. Especially when the moon’s inhabitants are lethal.

While I liked the slow build to these issues, where a little more information is teased out in each chapter, there was never quite enough. I was still looking for the original thing that was going to happen here, what would make this series really stand out. I think that I’m still looking for it, even among all the high school drama and nightmarish creatures. Maybe a lot of it is the unnecessary gore? The shock factor wasn’t enough to really impress me.

I do like that there seems to be some kind of underlying conspiracy here that we’ll find out more about, eventually. I know that there are at least four more volumes to come after this, so I hope that the anticipation isn’t built up too much and that the revelations start coming. I’m intrigued enough to immediately reserve volume two, mostly because I’m hoping for more. Particularly because some of the main characters are being mysteriously vague and frustrating. And when the character who’s an asshole starts to seem to know more than anyone else, that’s when I have to begin to worry.

Overall, I liked this volume. It was a super quick read. But it wasn’t anything to rave over, and I’m hoping the next volumes really pick up the spooky conspiracy/alien atmosphere introduced here!

3/5 stars

 

5 stars · fiction · mythology · young adult

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan: Percy is back and I’M SO EXCITED

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The Hidden Oracle

The Trials of Apollo #1

author : rick riordan

pages : [hardcover] 376

memorable quote :

Yep, that pretty much describes my life: because Poseidon.

favorite character : percy

summary :

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

review :

Rick Riordan has managed to create one of those worlds, and capture one of those literary voices, where I always find myself wondering if his new series will manage to captivate me or if it will disappoint. I have a good feeling that The Trials of Apollo (trilogy? series? I don’t even know how many books to anticipate anymore) is going to blow my mind.

The Hidden Oracle takes place after Riordan’s last book in the Heroes of Olympus series (which you should read if you haven’t yet!) and seems to take place parallel to his new Magnus Chase debut (Norse myth and equally awesome) if the hints Percy drops about Annabeth’s whereabouts fall into the right timeline.

Oh, yes. Did I just casually mention Percy? Because he’s back and better than ever. Actually, he’s back and scarily mature, because he needs to deal with terrifying things like SATs and Annabeth threatening his life if he dies while she isn’t around to save his butt. Apollo narrates the entire book, but Percy’s sass and mystifying ability to survive anything comes through better than ever. We also get to see familiar faces like Niko and Will who are incredibly adorable together.

As I mentioned, Apollo is the narrator. One thing that really stuck out to me is bisexual Apollo. I love that Riordan remained true to myth here, because some people don’t realize that most of the well-known gods have had their love affairs with both men and women (and more complicated mythical creatures, but I’m not even going to get into that). Apollo is turned mortal by Zeus for mysterious reasons, though of course Apollo insists that he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. But he soon finds himself as a mortal teenager, with plenty of hormones ramping up, and he manages to give a thorough assessment of which guys and gals he’d date (if he wasn’t so old–or young, now?) every time he encounters someone new in the book. Because of course Apollo is sure that any sane mortal would love to romance him.

I honestly thought that his ego was going to get in the way of me enjoying this book but it was more entertaining than anything else. New character Meg, on the other hand, took so long for me to get used to. For a majority of the book I felt like Apollo, wishing that she’d just flit away from the action. But I have a feeling I’ll like her more as she matures and grows throughout the series.

On a personal note, I was freaking out a little when I realized that one of the demigods in the book is named Kayla. She doesn’t have the biggest role in the world, but every time she popped up again my heart was happy to know that I have a namesake out there in the PJ universe.

I could ramble on about this book for ages, but suffice it to say that it was amazing. A little different from the other books, because there was so much character building there was a little less action. The action is definitely ramping up for even bigger and better trials to come!

5/5 stars