Uncovering Karou’s past with an angel may just bring about a war with monsters.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
No. of pages: 510
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.
Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
After falling in love with this franchise I’m excited to jump back into the dark academic world of Karou and her art college and cafe. Uncover more of the mythology of Angels and Chimera. And follow more of the forbidden love between Karou and Akiva… oh and see if she and stop a supernatural war.
I really hate admitting this, especially after loving ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ so much, but ‘Days of Blood and Starlight,’ for the most part, was, well… boring. The pacing was slow, there was so much tedious content that didn’t drive the plot forward. I could summarize the entire book in a few pages and you wouldn’t feel like you missed anything. Granted the ending was pretty epic – a nice few plot twists; but the entire book leading up to those last few chapters was soul-suckingly dry. In fact I put this book aside a number of times to read other novels.
Where ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ was told in first person from the perspective of Karou, we get multiple perspectives, and moments of omnipresence departing from the intimacy of the first person narrative in ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.’ It was fun at first, but then it became more and more scattered. Jumping backward and forward in moments in time solely for plot devices and reveals. I got a little discombobulated. Disorientated. It completely pulled me from the narrative and it was very hard to get lost in the world of Angels and Chimera in very short chapters jumping all over the place – not to mention that not a lot happened. Some posturing from the White Wolf and Karou whining about events that ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ ended on… now she was basically in a holding pattern.
I felt like Karou had lost her mojo. She was being manoeuvred. Controlled. All of her independence, adventurous spirit, inquisitiveness was gone. It didn’t make for thrilling reading. All the things I loved about ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone:’ the first person POV, the urban fantasy genre, the dynamics of Karou’s found family, and unravelling a mystery – this sequel delivered a scattered narrative geared more towards high fantasy, a bunch of new characters that did not interact with each other much, and those that did, was precursory. The one shining light was Zuzanna popping back into Karou’s life. And that was pretty much it. Karou and Akiva’s relationship felt like some whingy complicated thing that tried to be angsty. I lost all investment I had for them.
I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly, but it just didn’t happen. I perused over some reviews on Goodreads, just to check that I wasn’t having a brain embolism, and was gratified to find that there are others who share my opinion, so now I don’t feel so bad about my dislike for this middle book.
I’ve invested a lot of time in this series already, and with only the final book to go, ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters,’ and that cliff-hanger – so I’ll definitely continue going on with the franchise. But I think I will have to reserve judgment on my recommendation until the completing the last of the trilogy, because the first two books are practically polar opposites. The conclusion will be the tie breaker….
Riley McCullough thought her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell. Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother is comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen-year-old. As if her friend’s surprise trip didn’t suck enough, her ‘best summer ever’ falls to pieces when she’s sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at her like she doesn’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left—or what he’s hiding. Her luck takes a turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. Alas, her happiness is short lived. To escape nuclear Armageddon, she shelters with her dad in a bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the family she still has.
Told from Riley’s perspective, with the death of her mother and having to live with her estranged father, who has a cabin in an isolated spot in New Mexico. Her life is turned upside down. To top it off she survives what is perceived as a nuclear strike as her and her father take shelter in a bunker… life has changed forever and Riley has to find the strength to deal with her new circumstances.
I felt our protagonist Riley was written well and had depth and complexity. All of the reveals, and Riley’s reactions to them felt plausible and realistic; though – would have liked her to question more. But being a fish out of water and dealing with grief would distract her from critical thinking.
This had one of the most realistic death and mourning scenes I’ve read in a while. It so closely mirrored my own experiences – a sudden death, being there at the hospital when they’re gone, being with the body, having a small funeral and how grief comes in waves afterwards.
The middle of this book did feel slow – not a lot happened, but it matched the isolated tone of a small town in New Mexico.
There is a great plot twist, but it didn’t come as a surprise, I’d sleuthed it out very early on. The clues are subtle, but if you’re paying attention they are glaringly obvious.
The storyline was fairly simple, but the plot did not feel lacking. The story was compelling and I read it in 2 sittings. Though I’m not really wanting to explore other titles from Matthew S. Cox. I was initially interested but upon discovering nearly all his titles have a tween protagonist, the target demographic felt a little young, and something about an older man continually writing from this point of view left me uncomfortable. Plus, I’d wanted a bit more variety in writing style.
I’d definitely recommend this for younger readers, it’s perfect for its intended market. I definitely enjoyed my time with this book.
When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.
For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study … as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first.
Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance. In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race …
Space archaeology and scavenging for alien technology – sounds like a fantastic adventure to me! That’s exactly what ‘Unearthed’ is, an action packed quest with highly motivated teen protagonists.
There is so much to love about ‘Unearthed,’ it delighted the child inside me, and reads like any movie sci-fi adventure. The action picks up in the first chapter and does not let up until the last word. With alternating chapters between our protagonists; Jules, daring to travel to an alien planet and prove his father’s life’s work is not the makings of a crazy zealot… and in the process save all life on Earth; and then there’s the witty Mia, a scavver (scavenger) who’s grown up in the slums and had to fight and work hard for everything she’s got. And she’s snuck her way onto the alien planet in hopes to strike it rich with finding some alien technology to sell and rescue her (illegal) sister from a nefarious work contract. They both are compelling characters and clash repeatedly bringing joy and interest to me as a reader. In the first chapter Mia saves Jules from other scavvers with her sassy attitude and street smarts, and it just gets better from there.
The pacing is steady all the way through, and I did not want to put the book down, but I do feel the pacing could have been a touch faster – especially for YA sci-fi – because we get a lot of detail, some flashbacks that could have been more succinct to really drive the plot forward at a cracking pace. But that is just me being a nit-picker, ‘Unearthed’ was such a compelling read.
The plot felt predictable, I guessed the twist at the end in chapter two. I think there were too many obvious conversations between Jules and Mia that gave it away far too early on. Besides that, the pair are always scrambling, running, desperate to get out of danger… which had me investing in their plight, because they were not always entirely successful.
I loved the writing style of Kaufman and Spooner. It’s embellished enough to create tone and ambience without being pretentious or moving ‘Unearthed’ away from its target demographic. Reading this book was effortless. But that is no surprise to those who have followed my reviews – I’ve felt the same from any other novels I’ve read penned by these authors.
This is a great family-friendly space adventure with high stakes that I would happily recommend to those searching for a light-hearted romp on an alien planet. Hardcore sci-fi fans may find this a little simplistic, but this is YA, so you need to take ‘Unearthed’ in the context in which it is written. For me this is a winner!
I waded through over a whopping 200 new releases for June to find the top picks I’m interested in. This list is dominated by mystery/thrillers and romance. There’s definitely three titles I’m looking to add to my shopping list… the rest I’m still undecided about. I wonder what will tip my opinion either way?
The Only One Left – Riley Sager (Thriller/Mystery)
At seventeen, Lenora Hope Hung her sister with a rope
Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.
Stabbed her father with a knife Took her mother’s happy life
It’s now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope’s End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.
“It wasn’t me,” Lenora said But she’s the only one not dead
As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth—and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.
The Silent Bride – Shalini Boland (Thriller)
It’s the wedding day of Alice’s dreams. Until it becomes a nightmare…
Alice and Seth are a perfect love story: the handsome doctor and his beautiful fiancée. They’re wealthy, well liked and made for each other—the envy of all their friends. Alice can’t wait for the day of their dream wedding. But when she arrives at the altar, she doesn’t recognise the man waiting to marry her.
When this stranger insists he’s Seth, her husband-to-be, the entire congregation seems to agree. Even her parents try to persuade Alice to go through with the wedding.
As panic sets in, Alice’s world comes apart. Where is the real Seth, and why have all traces of him disappeared from her life? Fearing she’s losing her mind, she sets out to uncover the truth and escape the nightmare she’s living in. But with everyone around her convinced by the fake Seth, how can she ever hope to find the man she loves?
Borrow My Heart – Kasie West (YA, Contemporary, Romance)
When a girl overhears a guy getting verbally destroyed by his friends for being catfished, she jumps in to save the day—and pretends to be his online crush. A young adult romance from the critically acclaimed author of Places We’ve Never Been.
Wren is used to being called a control freak. She doesn’t care; sticking to the list of rules she created for herself helps her navigate life. But when a cute guy named Asher walks through the door of her neighborhood coffee shop, the rulebook goes out the window.
Asher is cute, charming . . . and being catfished by his online crush. So Wren makes an uncharacteristically impulsive decision—she pretends to be the girl he’s waiting for to save him from embarrassment. Suddenly she’s fake-dating a boy she knows nothing about. And it’s . . . amazing.
It’s not long before Asher has her breaking even more of her own rules. But will he forgive her when he finds out she’s not who she says she is? Wren’s not so sure. . . . After all, rules exist for a reason.
…and the following 5 novels I’m still undecided about:
From New York Times bestselling author J.C. Cervantes comes a sparkling, unforgettable YA romance, perfect for fans of You’ve Reached Sam.
Best friends and soul mates since they were kids, Hart Augusto and Ruby Armenta were poised to take on senior year together when Hart tragically drowns in a boating accident. Absolutely shattered, Ruby struggles to move on from the person she knows was her forever love.
Hart can’t let go of Ruby either…. Due to some divine intervention, he’s offered a second chance. Only it won’t be as simple as bringing him back to life–instead, Hart’s soul is transferred to the body of local bad boy.
When Hart returns to town as Jameson, he realizes that winning Ruby back will be more challenging than he’d imagined. For one, he’s forbidden from telling Ruby the truth. And with each day he spends as Jameson, memories of his life as Hart begin to fade away.
Though Ruby still mourns Hart, she can’t deny that something is drawing her to Jameson. As much as she doesn’t understand the sudden pull, it can’t be ignored. And why does he remind her so much of Hart? Desperate to see if the connection she feels is real, Ruby begins to open her heart to Jameson–but will their love be enough to bridge the distance between them?
The Seven Year Slip – Ashley Poston (Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism)
An overworked book publicist with a perfectly planned future hits a snag when she falls in love with her temporary roommate…only to discover he lives seven years in the past, in this witty and wise new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.
Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it.
So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone—she isn’t sure her heart can take it.
And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again.
Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future.
Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed.
After all, love is never a matter of time—but a matter of timing.
Zero Days – Ruth Ware (Mystery/Thriller)
The New York Times bestselling “new Agatha Christie” (Air Mail) Ruth Ware returns with this adrenaline-fueled thriller that combines Mr. and Mrs. Smith with The Fugitive about a woman in a race against time to clear her name and find her husband’s murderer.
Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.
Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery from an author whose “propulsive prose keeps readers on the hook and refuses to let anyone off until all has been revealed” (Shelf Awareness).
Have You Seen Her – Catherine McKenzie (Mystery/Thriller)
A thrilling and timely novel about three women with dark secrets whose lives intersect in the picturesque and perilous Yosemite National Park from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Please Join Us.
Equipped with a burner phone and a new job, Cassie Peters has left her hectic and secretive life in New York City for the refuge of her hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California. There, she begins working again with Yosemite Search and Rescue, where a case she worked a decade ago continues to haunt her.
She quickly falls into old patterns, joining a group of fellow seasonal workers and young adventurers who have made Yosemite their home during the summer. There, she meets Petal, a young woman living in a trailer with her much older wife, keeping a detailed diary of the goings on of the park, and Jada, a recent college graduate on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, documenting their journey on Instagram.
When these three women cross paths, Cassie’s past catches up with her, and the shocking consequences ripple out far beyond what any could have imagined in this unputdownable thriller.
We Could Be So Good – Cat Sebastian (Historical Fiction, Romance, Queer)
Colleen Hoover meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.
Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.
Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.
Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.
There were some other titles that could have made this list, but I was trying to be brutal because the number of books that piqued my interest was enormous – and I’m trying to limit my book buying. Any titles that you think should be on this list let me know in the comments.
Immortal warlock Magnus Bane’s life has been long, adventure-filled, and never dull. Though snippets of his past have been hinted at in the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices, here his deepest secrets are revealed: his involvement in the French Revolution, his witness to the speakeasies and sleaze of Prohibition, and his place in smuggling Camille Belcourt… or his first date with Alec Lightwood.
Eleven stories in this collection fill many a delightful gap in Magnus Bane’s colourful history. Shadowhunter fans won’t want to miss a single delicious detail.
This read like a contemporary autobiography – you know the ones where there’s a bunch of essays of certain events? Each chapter deals with a different place, topic, or time, filling in gaps between the events that have taken place in The Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices trilogy. It is all told in that chaotic and humorous tone that we have come to associate with Magnus Bane. I laughed out loud so many times that this book has become my instant most favourite book of the Shadowhunter universe to date.
Don’t expect a storyline, don’t expect any major reveals or new characters, this is just a fun peek into Magnus’s life that is totally all about fan service! It was great to get a little more background on many characters from the previously published books, and get to spend more time with the early times of Magnus and Alec’s relationship. I have to say I was squee-ing like a tween at the adorableness of this couple.
I was hoping for a more in-depth peek, and maybe a glimpse into the future of Magnus and Alec but I’m certain they will pop up again later in the books that follow this one.
The narrative style is very tongue-in-cheek, and makes light of serious situations (much like Magnus does) but has some heart to it. I feel like we could have gotten to know Magnus better, but it is what it is. And my impression of this collection of short stories is purely down to entertainment value and fangirl service.
It doesn’t necessarily expand the Shadowhunter universe any, but if you love the Magnus/Alec pairing than this is catnip for you.
Great start to and interesting trilogy with angels and monsters… and a alt-chick in art college.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
No. of pages: 418
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
A great urban fantasy with an interesting twist on the angel genre. I’m not a fan of the angel genre in the first place, hence the long period of time it has taken me to start reading this trilogy since I was convinced to purchase the books. I was pleasantly delighted to discover the world building and mythology – it’s not necessarily religious, more of accessing a different dimension. And it was fascinating to learn all about the chimera.
Karou is an intriguing protagonist, and learning about the world through her eyes as a courier-fetch girl raised by chimera, sending her on tasks to collect teeth from customers. Otherwise, Karou is attending art college and loves to hang out with her bestie at an oddity of a café. It gives me a little bit of The Mortal Instrument vibes, but I really enjoyed the artsy world and the unusualness of chimera… and the secrecy behind it, and Karou is thirsty to find out more.
The tone and atmosphere is dark academia and mystery and it completely drew me in. I want to unravel the mysteries and love the college aesthetic. It gives me alt-chick vibes.
Then there is Akiva, an angel that appears in Karou’s life that she is inexplicably attracted to. And it’s not the fluffy feathered winged variety of angel you usually get in this genre, but more like a fire/molten lava special effect with his wings… kind of like a holy fire type of thing which was fun to read. There is also a hint that there is a past between them which doesn’t make sense because Karou has spent her whole life being raised by a found family of chimera. It was refreshing to read that there isn’t necessarily an antagonist – or bad guys at this point in time. Especially with monsters being in the mix. Taylor does a great job of humanising them and building relationships and community.
I got intrigued about the past lives angle, or maybe Karou’s soul from in a different place/time… It left me interested in finding out more.
The writing style is melodic and artful in itself without being too elitist. I was easy sucked into the world of Karou and her chimera, and finished the book in two settings. The pacing is consistent throughout and I was never bored in any place of the narrative. The book ends on a few twists and cliff-hanger that had me keen to jump into book two, ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.’
A solid recommendation from me, which is saying something because I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy – but this one really drew me in.
The Shadowhunter gang rally once again to fight enemies from all sides.
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, LGBT+
No. of pages: 733
Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.
Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.
The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?
When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…
Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the world.
What a lovely ending to The Mortal Instruments series. It was fun getting to revisit characters I’d fallen in love with 10 years ago. When I started book #4, after having watched the television adaptation my disappointment grew as the book and plot had been spoiled for me – should have known that, I don’t know why I thought any different. ‘City of Heavenly Fire,’ however was so different to the television show, I got to experience it for the first time.
This is a chunker of a novel, and the first couple of hundred of pages felt paced a little slow. We are introduced to a slew of new characters. At first I wasn’t sure why we were spending so much time with them, but by the end it’s obvious Cassandra Clare did this on purpose to set up her next trilogy in the Shadowhunter universe. I really enjoyed my time reading this book, but felt it was a little too long, and had moments where this got waffly. There were also a few times where I felt like the author had a checklist of things she wanted to explore and resolve and the scenes did not feel organic to the plot or character motivation. But that is me nit-picking as to the reasons why I didn’t feel like I completely got into ‘City of Heavenly Fire.‘
Cassandra Clare is the master of drama and plot twists, but for some reason this finale did not feel as big as her other novels. I didn’t get all that emotional, the reveals lacked some wow factor… or maybe I’m turning into some sardonic robot and I’m going dead inside? As I said before, I really enjoyed ‘City of Heavenly Fire,’ but it just didn’t have the punch I was expecting – especially with such a huge word count.
Clare’s writing style is as breezy as ever, once I got through the first quarter the pacing picked up and I fell into the regular rhythm and completed the book in one sitting from the halfway point onwards. I loved that we got to explore new places, new characters, and the gang had to work together to face down seemingly insurmountable odds. There is still the silly teen humour and sarcasm at weird moments that is fun, but we can really see how these characters have grown, and they are not so bumbling anymore. Though, I was surprised at the juxtaposition of the Clave – one moment praising our group as hero’s, and the next dismissing them as inexperienced teens who don’t know enough to weigh in on important matters… I mean, pick a lane Clave!
The resolution, or epilogue, where we sort out the character arcs and development was a little meh. I felt, though sweet, we could have gotten a little more insight into their future directions. It just resolved some emotional issues and then ended. I don’t know if that means these characters are going to be revisited in future novels in the universe, or that’s all we get. It was a little of that flipping through the last couple of pages wondering if there were some missing…
The main plot was outstanding. The elevation of antagonists, the theme of the Clave turning on itself and politics of the Downworlders really builds a realistic tapestry with the Shadowhunter universe. Things constantly change and grow, alliances shift, people in power are succeeded… I’m not usually one to enjoy political manoeuvrings that much in novels, but Cassandra Clare has a flare in her writing. The machinations of the political climate are so clearly character motivated that it is engaging to read.
So, I’m glad I’ve finally gotten around to finishing this series, the characters have earned a place in my heart. I would have liked a more succinct story, and a more explosive and resolute ending, but The Mortal Instrument series is hard to deny why it is so epic, so popular. It is the cornerstone for urban fantasy for me, and for a genre that I’m not all that into, that is saying something. A definite recommend for me. I feel the YA demographic will appreciate the themes of identity, found family, coming of age, morality, and paranormal elements all wrapped up in teen drama and angst.
A wishy-washy, practically white-washed tale of Greek mythological creatures.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
No. of pages: 327
“You must never do anything that might expose our secret. This means that, in general, you cannot form close bonds with humans. You can speak to us, and you can always commune with the Ocean, but you are deadly to humans. You are, essentially, a weapon. A very beautiful weapon. I won’t lie to you, it can be a lonely existence, but once you are done, you get to live. All you have to give, for now, is obedience and time…”
The same speech has been given hundreds of times to hundreds of beautiful girls who enter the sisterhood of sirens. Kahlen has lived by these rules for years now, patiently waiting for the life she can call her own. But when Akinli, a human, enters her world, she can’t bring herself to live by the rules anymore. Suddenly the life she’s been waiting for doesn’t seem nearly as important as the one she’s living now.
The mythology of Sirens is interpreted in this young adult centric world of partying and pretty dresses. The work of a Siren is isolating and deadly – calling sailors to their death. But as Kahlen begins to question why things are as they are, will it mean her death or the destruction of the things she holds most dear?
This was a quick and easy read. It drew me into the narrative well enough and kept me engaged, but wasn’t what I would call outstanding. I liked how it explored the themes of control, abuse, loneliness and depression. The mythology is solid, but there is something about this story that I can’t quite identify that it missed. Maybe it was the frozen maturity of the Sirens – who are meant to be well past 50 years old, yet still acting like superficial teens. The characters felt underdeveloped.
There was a wide range of ethnicity, but we don’t see their culture being represented. It felt mostly white-washed.
The Sirens were allowed to have some semblance of a life outside their duties demanded by the Ocean, but we only hear about clubbing, shopping, reading, and painting. I would go nuts if that was all I was doing for 80 odd years. I just feel like there was so much missed opportunity for the girls to grow and develop… or heck even use their powers in a more subtle way to expand their worldly view. This book felt like it was written by, and for tweens. There wasn’t a lot of complexity in the characters or with the plot.
The romance felt sweet, but fell under the trope of ‘instalove’ for me. I would have liked to see it develop a bit more and see them falling for each other for more than their looks and one or two superficial interests.
Kahlen wasn’t a particularly engaging protagonist. She’s pretty much a goody-two-shoes in the Siren stakes. She also does not engage much with the other Sirens, or with the general population; but instead whines about how unfortunate her predicament is, how guilty she feels for luring many to their deaths. It would be a great starting point for an interesting character arc, but unfortunately that is all she does. I was hoping to see her try to make amends for her actions. Challenge the Ocean harder, explore the reasons why she has to do what she does, seek help to deal with her guilt and grief. But all in all she is an incredibly passive character.
Cass’ writing style is somewhat melodic, but given that the Sirens travel the globe, visit exotic places and explore the ocean, I was expecting a lot more atmosphere – a balance of the beautiful and the terrifying. There was no mention of the creatures living in the ocean, of pollution, of the wonders of the deep. I felt let down. But the word choice and sentence structure is lent to that younger end of the YA demographic, so I can see them being able to digest this easily, and if enraptured by the fantasy of looking pretty, having little responsibility, going shopping and clubbing and staying young for 100 years, they will enjoy this.
I still don’t understand what the thing about the Ocean constructing prom dresses for the Sirens out of salt was all about – was it to keep modesty for the characters given the target market? The other thing that got me was an 80 year old woman, with a big chunk of life experience, still did not know how to style her hair or put on makeup. I mean come on!
Despite the glaring contextual issues and plot holes ‘The Siren’ is a pleasant and easy read that was nice escapism, but it felt a little flat and underdeveloped. But having discovered that this was Cass’ first attempt at writing a novel, and had been passed on by many publishers, and only later published due to the popularity of The Selection series, I can understand this novel a little better in this light. But maybe the publishers should have done a better developmental edit to help Cass really shine and keep an upward momentum in her catalogue.
Genre: YA, Thriller, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTIA+
No. of pages: 346
High schooler Matt’s father is rich, powerful, and seemingly untouchable—a criminal with high hopes that his son will follow in his footsteps. Matt’s older brother Luke seems poised to do just that, with a bevy of hot girls in tow. But Matt has other ambitions—and attractions.
And attraction sometimes doesn’t allow for good judgement. Matt wouldn’t have guessed that when he makes a new friend, one who is also carrying a secret. The boys’ connection turns romantic, a first for both. Now Matt must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.
‘The Friend Scheme’ brought all the angst and coming out vibes alive on the page. A mob family and a masculine and toxic environment don’t make the best place when Matt starts having feelings for another boy. But Matt is used to keeping secrets – but is it time to start revealing truths in order to get close to Jason… it’s a big decision and Matt with have to dig deep to find the courage if he wants to find love.
There was something about this though that kept me from being fully absorbed into the story; and it took me a while afterwards reflecting on the book to pinpoint what it was… Matt is a member of a criminal family, and this involves murder, a protection racket, and a war with competing family over controlling parts of the city (who deal in drugs). It was how Matt seems to have morals and does not want to be a part of this lifestyle, and yet the hard questions about the consequences, beliefs and integrity of these criminal actions aren’t really addressed. They are mostly in the background or ignored in favour of Matt dealing with his friendships. I felt Matt was so isolated from the reality of his families actions, from the real world that it kept something inside me squirming. I guess I was indignant and wanted him to scream from the rooftops about all the injustice. That by his actions he is complicit in all the corruption and illegal activity.
You can say that he is effectively innocent, and that he doesn’t know any different having grown up in that environment, but I just feel his character is painted in a way that is contra to that life. He was too passive. And in that vein ‘The Friend Scheme’ felt like it was a bit of a fantasy scenario for the sake of the romance.
Even love interest Jason is some too-perfect hunky guy that is chasing after Matt.
All of this does bring up some important themes about organised crime and how Matt is practically held hostage through loyalty, and maybe even the threat of death. There is also a lot of toxic masculinity woven into the family culture that prevented me from really getting into ‘The Friend Scheme,’ half the time I wanted to reach into the book and either throttle or swing an uppercut at the ignorant cast.
All of these things felt a bit triggering about the type of discrimination gay youth have faced.
There is some lovely character development for Matt, but as I mentioned, his role felt passive; this story was so focused on the romance that I felt like his character was done a bit of a disservice. He could have been given a greater opportunity for growth, forming stronger ideals in the face of the extreme challenges his family posed. Plus there was a bit of that privileged white man thing going on – and that privilege, the money they have, was all blackmailed from hard-working family businesses. It’s not easy to deduce that ‘The Friend Scheme’ really had me standing on the soapbox over so many injustices and ignored issues.
I will say that Cale Dietrich has such an endearing writing style, it shows vulnerability and really drags out the feels for the protagonist. I had several moments where my eyes filled with water or I got pins and needles. There are some great little plot twists that kept me engaged too. They weren’t completely a surprise, but definitely a delight.
I was a little conflicted about the attitude of sex around our protagonist. I like how it is sex-positive and safe in nature, but it didn’t feel like it was coming from a built up place of love and affection; more a casual lusty encounter – which for first times, and the angst that was built up didn’t quite ring true for me. Especially for such a romance-centric storyline.
This was a fun read, I would have liked to seen Cale Dietrich tackle some of the heavier issues presented in the narrative through Matts eyes, but other than that it reads like a cute wish-fulfilment scenario that I would happily recommend.