Quick Review: A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

I thought that the Charlotte Holmes series was only so supposed to be a trilogy. In fact, it was in my year-end review of Series I said good bye too last year. So talk about a surprise to find out that there was a fourth book. It’s always a little unnerving when an author decides to extend their series beyond the original plans because sometimes the story just isn’t there to support it. I felt that A Case for Jamie ended things pretty well. Lucien Moriarty was caught and Jamie and Charlotte were able to have a reconciliation. They didn’t know where their relationship was going to go but they knew that they were going to have some kind of relationship. I thought it was good way to end it. This book really wasn’t necessary but also not unwanted or unwarranted. Charlotte and Jamie are in Oxford for summer courses and while they are there they pick up a case. The year before, the drama department had a series of unfortunate accidents that ended with a student disappearing. The stakes are not as high this time, since the mystery has nothing to do with them but it still works. Charlotte is healing from the all the trauma of the past couple of years and from her family. Living with her Uncle Leander has really been good for her. It also, as well as this case, has given her time to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she is. It also gives her time to truly work out her feelings for Jaime. I missed Jamie’s narration but it was fascinating to be on Charlotte’s head a little more. Getting a first hand account of not just how she deduces but also how she is processing her own trauma. I think we expect people to get over the trauma quickly and move on but it’s not the simple. We don’t change over night and that is what this novel illustrates. It’s a little bittersweet but also very healthy. I’m glad we had this final chapter. It may not have been as exciting as the previous books, it did give us the true closure we needed.

Quick Review: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

The Everlasting Rose is a good sequel to The Belles.Camille and her fellow Belles are on the run from Sophie, who is now queen. Their world has been turned upside down with new found knowledge about how the Belles are born and many other secrets. In the first book, I found Camille beyond frustrating because she made a lot of naive and well stupid decisions. In this one she is much more clearheaded and ready to fight. She knows the what is at stake is willing to do anything to stop it. She discovers a strength inside that she never knew she had. She still makes the occasional stupid decision that made me want to scream but not as many. That is what we call growth. I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series because it does wrap up pretty nicely but also leaves a few things open for the story to continue. Camille and the Belles are in a better place now then the beginning of the first book but I’ll be interested to see what happens now that certain ideas have been introduced to the story. However, if this is the end then I am satisfied with how it ended and thoroughly enjoyed this series.

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I finished this book a couple of days ago but needed a few days to fully digest it. It was a very good and well written but it is also very uncomfortable. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the cover. It is about sexual violence towards women and doesn’t hold back. In fact the book has a warning of his contents of violence and sexual assaults. Even knowing that it was part of the plot didn’t make it any less upsetting or uncomfortable to read. That being said, it also has a beautiful love story between two equally powerful women and female friendships that is not always depicted in YA. I’m going to put my review under the cut because I want to sensitive to those who are experience trauma and may not want to read. I also there will be spoilers as there is no way to talk about the themes of this book without doing so. Continue reading

Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

***Possible Spoilers from this book and the previous Grishaverse novels***

In King of Scars is the perfect mix of the previous two series in the Grishaverse. It has the mystery and court intrigue of Shadow and Bone and the caper mystery of Six of Crows. In a way it’s two different novels. You have King Nikolai who is trying to save Ravka from falling apart while trying to vanquish the monster from within. Left over power from the Darkling. Then you have Nina, who has returned to Ravka’s service by helping to smuggle Grisha from neighboring nation Fjerda. She is also there to bury Matthais. Nina is still dealing with the aftereffects of the Parem addiction and how it has changed her powers. While at the moment these two story lines don’t have a lot in common, you can bet it will all come together in the end. Nikolai is just as charming as he has always been, even with the world seemingly against him. His country is struggling financially and in between two powerful nations. He’s trying to do everything he can to keep them afloat while avoiding another war. To complicate things more, he’s turning into a monster, thanks to the power the Darkling put on him during the last war. Nikolai has always come off as flippant and care free but his love for his country has never been in doubt. More proof of that is the lengths he will go to keep it safe, even from him. A welcome character development is Zoya. The beautiful but hard as nail Grisha from Shadow and Bone. In the past series, she was nothing more then the mean girl who wanted to be the best, the favorite. She did come around to Alina’s sign when the Darkling finally revealed who he was. Here we finally get to know her better and why she is so stand offish. As always there’s more then meets the eye and I found myself liking her, which is something I never really thought I would before. Meanwhile, Nina’s new power takes her mission to horrifying places. They may have destroyed the Fjerdian’s research on Jurda Parem in Six of Crows but apparently that strain wasn’t the only one they were working on. Nina organizes her own heist-like rescue to save more Grisha’s from a truly terrifying fate. I like how Nina is dealing with her grief. I like how she admits that she is not always the noblest of people and has thoughts of lashing out and being rash. It’s real and despite the pain, she hasn’t stopped. She still is out there fighting for the good. There were a lot of twists and turns in this one as you would expect from Leigh Bardugo. It was truly enjoyable and I can’t wait for the next one.

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

I really did not expect to be so drawn into this book. I knew it was going to be good but I was really touched by Shirin’s story. She is a 16 year-old Muslim girl living in the US 1 year after 9/11. Let’s just say it wasn’t easy for her. It was just easier for her to get through her day to just shut down and not let people in. She tried to convince herself that she didn’t care that people called her names or insulted her or just plain treated her like a walking stereotype. She had seen the worst of humanity after the post 9/11 fear of all things Islam and her wearing a headscarf made her an easy target. She went through the motions at school and break-danced after school with her brother and that was it. That was until she met Ocean James, a boy who seemed interested in actual getting to know her. This terrifies her. She doesn’t know why a guy like him would be interested in a girl like her and knows that while he might be a nice boy the world is not. She tries to push him away to try to protect him but also to protect herself from the world of hurt. The worst thing is that when she finally let him in and things inevitably go bad, she questions whether she is worth all the drama and hatred that is brought his way. That was truly heartbreaking. Over the course of the book, Shirin starts to open up not just to Ocean but to everyone else too. Yes, people are horrible. Even more so when they are afraid but shutting everyone else only shuts you out of opportunities and experiences that you would have missed otherwise. It gives them power over you. I know easier said than done. Ocean is also a good example of well meaning White Allies who try hard but don’t really understand how white privilege works. Ocean, truly doesn’t care that Shirin is Muslim or that she wears a headscarf. If anything, he likes that she is different and unapologetic. Shirin spends most of the book trying to push Ocean away because she knows what a shitstorm it’s going to be when their relationship goes public. He doesn’t believe her and tries to convince her it’s going to be okay. Well, sadly she is right and when racism against her threatens him and his place in school, it’s Shirin who has to make the decision to stay or go. The problem that many of us White allies is that we think we know what’s the best thing to do but fail to listen when our brothers and sisters of colors speak about what they really need from us. Ocean, while in love and well intention thought she was overacting, that he understood his classmates better. What he failed to realize was that he lived a privilege life and people will always accept him no matter what because of who he is. His life may not be perfect but it will always be easier then those in the marginalized communities. It’s a lesson we all need to learn. This is just a beautifully written book and I hope that it’s added to school curriculum for years to come because it has so much to give.

Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

I really do love a good mystery, especially when it’s well done. I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find that I was wrong. The clues were there but unless you were paying attention, you completely missed it. Just as many of the characters. Stevie is an amateur sleuth who wants to solve one of the greatest mysteries in American history. The Ellingham Academy was started by an eccentric millionaire. He had a dream to have the brightest kids study at his school and focus on what they want. An educational experiment unlike any other but when his wife and daughter were kidnapped and another student was killed during the first school year, the school became infamous. Despite it’s history, the school still strives and Stevie is determined to solve it’s most famous mystery. The problem is that once she arrives another student is killed and another goes missing. Her conservative parents pull her out of the school for fear it isn’t safe only to be convinced by their employee, Senator Edward King (not so subtlety modeled after Steve King) that the school is safe. Of course, King has his own reasons for Stevie to return. His son, David, is also a student at Ellingham and Stevie and him have a complicated relationship. Stevie doesn’t like making a deal with King but her want to go back overrides her concerns. A bright spot is when the author of the definitive book on the Ellingham case needs a student to help with research on a new edition of the book. Soon Stevie is making breakthrough in the case but at what cost. This is the middle book in the trilogy and they often times feel slow but this one moved at a pretty fast clipped. One of the revelations, I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come midpoint of the book, really throwing me off. It was a great misdirection by Johnson, to get us to focus on one direction while the answer was in the other direction. There were answers and part of the original crime was answered but who so many more are still unanswered. Who killed Iris Ellingham and is Alice alive? What happened to David and Hunter and how do they play into the mystery? Were Hayes and Ellie’s death really accidents or did they know something more? I’m really looking forward to the finale next year.

Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’ve said it one but I’ll say it again. Holly Black is at her best when she writes about fairies. She is just well versed in fairy mythology that makes this world feel so steeped in tradition but also new and original. Add all he Royal Court intrigue and you have one great story. The Wicked King is the second book of her Folk of the Air trilogy and after the first book there was a lot of stack. Jude outmaneuvered her father to get the throne away from him and save her brother from having to grow up to soon. She tricked Carden into the throne while controlling him and thus the real power in the kingdom. A lot of the story revolves around those who have power and those who do not. Jude a human living in Fairy often times felt powerless. Even though she learned how to fight from Madoc she would always be at a disadvantage but the thing she has over fairies is that she can lie. Lying and her cleverness is what got her this far but controlling Carden is harder than she anticipated. He doesn’t like being commanded by her anymore than he does being the High King. Things get even more complicated when the Queen of the Undersea is taking this moment to push her advantage and someone close to Jude has or will betray her. Fairies may not be able to lie but that doesn’t mean they can’t deceive. Jude’s strength is her ability to strategies. To see Jude constantly adjusting and planning is truly fascinating. She is constantly looking at all the angles but even the best make mistakes. As much as she plans, she can’t always see the whole chess board. In the end, after all her planning and scheming she is not only maneuvered by Madoc but Carden as well. I’ll admit, I did not see the ending coming. I guess I should have guessed something was up since the title of the next book is The Queen of Nothing but it was still stunning. It’s agonizing that I have to wait until next year to find out what’s going to happen but I know one thing. Jude has not been defeated yet. She’ll be back and all fairies better beware.

Review: The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

For the last book in the series, I didn’t find this one all that exciting. I felt it lacked in action and suspense that the others had. To me the outcome that our heroes would would succeed never seemed in doubt. Even when they themselves didn’t know how they were going to defeat Alex. Whatever suspense that the last couple of books tried to create was gone. Maybe that’s because the big battle between the Mages of the Magisterium and the followers of the Enemy of Death happened at the end of the last book. This book they had to battle the arrogant teenage Alex, who accidentally turned himself into chaos and wanted nothing more then power. Not to end Death or prove a point. He wanted a cool headquarters, his enemies gift wrapped for him and his girlfriend. That’s it. Talk about a boring villain. As for our heroes, Call who has been plagued with the fear that he wasn’t who he thought he was because he carried the soul of the Enemy of Death. Throughout the series he dealt with self doubt and the doubt of everyone else. He would keep track of every evil thing he did and tried to figure out if that made him evil or if he was already evil. Battle after battle, he worked to do everything to save his friends and eventually came to the conclusion that he knew who he was. He was good and bad like everyone else but the decisions he made were his own and not someone else’s. That’s a lesson for all of us. So all in all it was a good series. I think that maybe if I was a middle school kid reading this than an adult, it would have been more exciting. I would recommend it to any young kid who is reading or has read Harry Potter as another series they might like but maybe not for adults unless you are a big Holly Black or Cassandra Clare fan.

Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Earlier this week I told Kate that I keep trying to Quit Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters but just can’t. This was after a discussion of authors continue stories of characters after the story had ended. She felt that Clary and Jace, Simon and Alec’s story ended up after the original trilogy. Not that I totally disagreed with her. I didn’t really like the second Mortal Instruments trilogy as much as the original but it did bring about some interesting characters that wouldn’t have existed if Clare had stop after the first three. I keep reading her Shadowhunters novels because Clare knows how to write characters. The secondary characters in The Dark Artifices are so well constructed it really brings to life the story. I have nothing against Julian and Emma but I was far more interested in Diana, a transgender shadowhunter who lived in fear of being found out. Despite her own fears she remained a well respected in the community. As cliche as it sounds, it took the Gwyn the fame leader of the Wild Hunt to see her as she is and without question to give her the strength to stop hiding. Ty a shadowhunter with autism. Shadowhunters have long shunned mundane medicine, so Autism isn’t something that they know or understand. Of course that can be said for us Mundanes as well. To Shadowhunters he seems strange and slow but he is actually quite brilliant. Change is not something that deals with easily so when his twin dies at the end of the last book and how he deals with it is so heartbreaking. And then there is Christina, Mark and Kieran. A Shadowhunter, a shadowhunter half fairy and a full fairy prince in a full blown three-mance. (is that a word? Well it is now because I not sure how to explain their relationship) Of course there is Magnus, the high Warlock of all our hearts still about. Helen and Aline a married shadowhunter couple coming back from exile and so many more. I know that Clare has been planning these books out years ago so she knew where the story was going to back in 2012 when she first introduced the Blackthorns. She couldn’t have known that her story of Shadowhunters using fear and bigotry to lead them towards fascism and tyranny would be so timely. Sadly. It only makes the wide variety of characters from different backgrounds, cultures, races, beliefs and lifestyles that more vibrant. The story would not have worked or would have not been as enjoyable without such a diverse and inclusive cast, just as our world is far better off with wide array of voices and viewpoints. No matter what people tell you. So while, I do agree that some of her characters stories have passed and it’s time to move on, I’m glad that she has continued the story to include so many more voices because it has definitely kept me interested.

Quick Review: Arch-Enemies by Marissa Meyer

What is the definition of a villain?  The Renegades and the Anarchists would say the other is a villain.  The Anarchists wanted to fight for prodigies rights.  They were no longer willing to live in fear and hiding but there methods of violence did sit well with others.  The Renegades used their powers to defeat them and now run Gatlon City.  Both the Renegades and the Anarchists wanted to change the world but had different ideas on how to do it.  Does that make either one of them villains?  This is really the question in the center of the series.  Nova was raised to hate the Renegades.  She sees them as dangerous and not what they appear to be.  She blames them for the death of her family and for the destruction of her uncle.  Meanwhile Adrian was raised by the Renegades and sees what they do as trying to make the world the better place but sometimes frustrated with all the rules.  Things get even more confused when the Renegades reveal their new weapon against Prodigies who break the rules.  Agent N, that take away their powers.  Soon all patrols are being trained on how to use it basically making Renegades judge, jury and executioner.  This is troubling to both Nova and Adrian but for different reasons.  Nova believes this a gross misuse of power and to easy for it to be abuse.  Who is to stop a rogue Renegade from using Agent N on someone they don’t like?  But Nova also starts to see that not all Renegades are bad people and truly believe what they are doing is for the good.  Which makes her question everything that she was taught.  She keeps having to remind herself that she is an Anarchist and that she has a mission to save her Uncle Ace Anarchy.  To complicate things even more to complete her task she must get closer to Adrian, who she may or may not have feelings for.  You know it wouldn’t be a YA novel without some kind of complicated romance.  It’s a fun series as the characters are enjoyable to read and constantly questioning your own loyalties.  Are you with the Renegades or the Anarchists?