The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Hello guys! Allison here! I’m back with a buddy read with Meaghan!

Quote: “This is just prison with sandwiches.”

Stars (Out of 10): 6.5

Favorite Character: Ummmm…..I’ll get back to you on that

Spoiler Free: I’m trying to find words for my review, but this is the best way I think I can describe my experience. Imagine you’re on a train. You didn’t like the place you were leaving from and you for sure don’t think you’re going to like the place you’re going. As the train leaves the station, it promptly derails and everything that could go wrong does. However, after a while, the train just hops right back on the tracks like nothing bad ever happened. You’re pleasantly surprised by all the views along the way. And as you reach the final station, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. It’s the most unexpected thing, but it makes it so much better. This is the best way to describe my experience reading the Silver Mask.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he’s broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine’s plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! It’s Meaghan here again with another review! After dreading the continuation of this series (don’t remind me of book 3 please), I finally got into book 4 of the Magisterium! Here’s what I thought!

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Havoc will always be the only good character anymore

Spoiler Free: This book was better than I expected. Not that much better, mind you, but better than the trainwreck that book 3 was led me to believe.

The entire book is pretty action packed, built mainly on build up of prior books, but does have the occasional rest chapter, where information is gathered and plans are formed. This lead to a super quick read. However, where this was a flaw in book 3 and led to a feeling of an unfinished book, I felt it added well to the plot of this novel, keeping readers on their toes and needing to pay attention to every moment.

However, while I felt the plot was definitely strong, and led to the high rating I gave this installment of the series, both the world building and characters had holes I just couldn’t overlook. While I won’t go into detail in this section to avoid spoilers, I felt many explanations for certain laws/traditions of the world were off, or felt a bit out there. Additionally, there were two major problems with the returning characters, especially the ones that only appeared near the end. Firstly, this book made me realize just how idiotic the community of Mages is, and made me lose any trust in their ability to do anything, ever. Additionally, some of the characters and their actions just seemed so off from what we learned about them before.

Finally, we make our way to our MC, Call. I normally found his narration unique, funny even, but at times during this novel, he just got annoying. His thoughts for most of the novel went more to the “everyone hates me” mood, and while the occasional angst and teenage self-pity is fine, but this was just excessive. I get his head space, I get the why behind all of this doubt, but even after multiple moments of confirmation from other characters, this doesn’t lessen. It made certain moments annoying to read, as sometimes irrelevant feelings seemed to be explained again just to add filler. Additionally, this created a very repetitive mantra at points.

Also, let me just say this, but I still can’t stop drawing parallels between this series and Harry Potter. It’s not so much in the larger details anymore, but the smaller details. But this has always been the case from the beginning!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?”

-Synopsis from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review! One of my goals for 2018 is to make sure I review every book I read (besides graphic novels and some other exceptions), so I’m catching up on the three books I’ve read so far now!

Stars (Out of 10): 4/10 Stars

Favorite Character: I didn’t get to know anyone enough to like them (only decent dude seemed to be the love interest though)

Spoiler Free: Let’s preface this by saying I was originally going to give this a 6/10, but then I started actually writing this review.

There were many things I didn’t like about this book. First, we have this random romance that really had no purpose at all, and completely disappeared once the real plot got started. Additionally, I didn’t find myself actually liking any of the characters. Sofia just got on my nerves, and I couldn’t find myself relating to her at all from the very beginning. In a horror novel, this lack of attachments means you just end up not caring what happens to the character, which takes away the impact all the torture and gore had.

Also, I personally felt that gore/violence was used to substitute for actual plot, which kinda had me rolling my eyes at points. This also mean that the ending kinda fell flat due to wishy-washy build up.

However, I do have to say this book made me curious to the truth behind it. Due to my dissatisfaction with the lack of concrete answers to any of my questions in this book’s endings, I feel almost forced to continue the series. I’m way too curious now to know what’s all going on!

(Sorry for the abnormally short review, I just felt the spoiler section wouldn’t add much more than repetition of ideas already shared!)

Everless by Sara Holland

“In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! This time, I read Everless with my YA Lit Discord’s book club, and oh man was it a rollercoaster! I absolutely loved it, more thoughts below!

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Liam (so much depth throughout the story!)

Spoiler Free: Oh man, I could not put this book down! This definitely would’ve been one of those “devour in one sitting” books had I not been reading it on my commute (and been forced to put it down constantly.) Right from the beginning, the plot and world just draw you in. You’re constantly forced to consider every event and the secrets it holds, as Jules constantly reminds you that secrets are everywhere, and the Geldings and other royals will do whatever it takes to keep them. And this book definitely delivered on that front! I questioned everything, had so many theories, and still I was surprised by every twist this book seemed to take! That, plus the able to fully capture my attention without a full focus on romance, just proved how well written this book was, and how fascinating the idea was.

Almost everything about this book screamed that it was just another YA fantasy book in the kingdoms wave. Yes, the premise seemed awesome, but so many do. So needless to say, I definitely went in with mediocre expectations. But with each new page, the book constantly rose above and beyond anything I expected it to be!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

“An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! This time I read Fairyloot’s October choice, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, with my Discord channel’s book club!

“She would bloom where she was planted and let her roots close around the throats of her enemies.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Gotta say Shiro, only character who didn’t seem super evil? (Oh and the Crown Prince, he was decent too)

Spoiler Free: Now I’m not going to say this is the best release of 2017, because it really wasn’t. But I will say that this was a very enjoyable read, and it’s still messing with me right now.

Xifeng is not an MC that you necessarily want to live up to, but she’s amazing because of that. She is strong and powerful yes, but she is also selfish, shallow, and to be honest, more than a little bit evil. Getting to be inside her brain was downright scary at points, but that just contributed to the uniqueness of this book. The book still wants you to support her, and this creates almost an inner battle within us. Do we support this women, ready to do anything to follow her destiny, or do we support those that try to bring her down?

But the characters was not the only thing this book had going for it. While I did find the plot predictable at points, and not necessarily the book’s strongest trait, I absolutely loved the world. While it could have been more developed, I really enjoyed a book that just seemed fully immersed in the world’s culture. It didn’t stop to explain every little thing, it just existed, and that made the story flow pretty well in my opinion.

Lastly, this book went super fast. The more simple level of writing, when compared to Laini Taylor’s Strange The Dreamer and Maggie Stiefvater’s All The Crooked Saints at least, fits well to the story, but also makes it not that difficult to digest, meaning I actually finished this quite quickly! Overall, in terms of language and writing style, it felt like just your average YA fantasy.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review! I picked All The Crooked Saints as the first book to read again after my mini slump, and I am so glad I did.

Also, the facebook article by Maggie on why she wrote ATCS, and what inspired me to pick up the book when I did

“This is a madhouse!”                                                                                                                                               “The world’s a madhouse. This is a place to heal it.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10 Stars

Favorite Character: I can honestly say that I felt for them all.

Spoiler Free: Some novels need 500 pages to make you like the cast of characters. Give Maggie Stiefvater 18, and you’ll be ready to put your life on the line for them. The way Maggie chose to use POV and focalization, when combined with the amazing metaphors used constantly, made the characters feel real and three dimensional from the start. For a tale as character-based as this one, this fact was integral to my enjoyment of it.

This is not an action novel, not a thriller. This is not the book that will keep you up until the late hours of the night, gripping pages and sweating bullets. You won’t zoom through each word and sentence and phrase as if you can’t get enough, as if you are racing to the end. This book is a slow one, and I have to say I loved it for it. The changes, the miracles, are not ones that should be expected to happen in an hour, a day, even a month. So yes this book was slow, with language that was meant to make you slow down rather than speed up. Yes this book, of 320 pages, took me more time to get through than books with much higher page count. But it fits the story, fits the meaning this book is trying to push. It forces you to stop and think about what you read, about the meaning Maggie is trying to get across. (And if you just can’t handle slow books, no matter how meaningful, than unfortunately I don’t believe this book is for you.)

I also have to admit that this is the book that made me fall in love with Maggie’s writing style. I’ve read/tried to read many of her books so far, and while they’ve always hooked me plot/character wise, the pace was often off putting. But taking my time with this one made me see all the hidden gems Maggie sticks into her writing. From lengthy metaphors that somehow explain perfectly what the story is trying to get across, to short lines here and there that make you stop and think, it shows how much attention to detail Maggie pays, and I cannot wait to read more of her books now.

One last thing that I loved about the book (at least, spoiler-free thing), was its level of immersion. When I was reading this book, nothing else existed. I was in Bicho Raro, seeing these people, experiencing all the emotions. Even inside the novel, mentions of other places on Earth were jarring, because while reading, it felt like Bicho Raro was all that there was, all that needed to be. The level of culture, lore, and backstory that this stand-alone had was something all stand-alones should strive for. The lacking part of most fantasy stand-alones did not exist here (which I consider to be lack of immersion, since there are less pages to develop an entire world in.)

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, and I’m still uncertain of how exactly it affected me, how it changed me. All I know is that it did.

“I was looking for a miracle, but I got a story instead, and sometimes those are the same thing.”

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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We’re Back!

Hey guys! Meaghan here (and Allison!), back from our mini hiatus! It came kinda out of nowhere, and we’re very sorry about that!

Recently, both of us have started college, and the tide of new work and experiences completely swamped us! While we have been reading, we haven’t been able to find the time, or motivation, to write reviews for the past few months.

We decided to make some changes to how we do reviews, making them less structured, but still just as full of opinion and content! Instead of having multiple sections in both our spoiler and spoiler free portions, we are instead having just a section for spoilers, and just one for spoiler free. This allows us much more freedom in writing our reviews, and removes the repetition of information that sometimes occurred in the old format!

Both of us have found more time in our schedules, and with the holidays coming up, we should have tons more time to read. I will also be periodically uploading reviews for the books I’ve read in the past few months, as I find I still have much I want to say about some of those reads!

Thanks to everyone for sticking with us, we are extremely happy to be back!

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

“Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire…”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“I would not just disappear into a void as though I’d never existed. I would not accept that I was less than these people just because they’d designed me that way.”

Stars (Out of 10): 2.5/10 Stars

Overall Thoughts: I have friends that both loved and hated this book, so I had no idea what to expect going in. For the most part, I loved the plot and the story, and was enjoying reading it (read it all in one sitting, it had me hooked!). And then I hit roughly 60% of the way in, and this book decided to do everything I disliked basically. The star review dropped quickly after that. Also, I desperately wanted this to be a stand-alone, but suddenly it’s a trilogy and I hate that I now feel obligated to continue reading.

The Good: I really enjoyed the plot for most of the book. I enjoyed the political intrigue and planning going on. I also felt that the author did a decent job of making the main character, Nemesis, act like a different creature and think different in general from a ‘normal human,’ even if it made it really hard to relate at first, and get into the book.

The Bad: I’m gonna try and be as vague as possible without spoilers. First off, I never found myself able to connect with characters, and when I was about to with Nemesis, the situation suddenly changed and I wasn’t a fan of her anymore. The side characters, often a saving grace in a book, were constantly either dead or lying, or suddenly ditched by Nemesis, so you never could really get attached to those guys either.

Now here’s my problem with the plot, and why I started disliking the book after 60% in the vaguest terms possible. For the first 50-60% of the book, we follow more of a physical plot, based on actions and effects rather than emotions and change there. By the time the author decided to make the romance more tension filled, I was way too into this physical plot mindset to be able to fully go along with the emotional plot shift we had for the next hundred pages or so. This made the sudden focus on emotions and relationships really jarring, and unnatural feeling. Even worse, we take a sudden spin back to this physical plot for the last 5-10%, and by that point, you got sucked into worrying about emotions, and less about actual events, so you get all disoriented by the sudden change again. And on top of that, the ending was such a mess of truth and lies that that’s hard to discern when you’re just coming out of a whirlpool of emotions a chapter ago. I’ll be more specific about this down in spoilers, but this was probably one of the main things that irks me still after reading.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

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Release by Patrick Ness

“Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! This is my first experience reading a Patrick Ness book (except for reading a chapter or two from The Rest of Us Just Live Here)!

“It was so much easier to be loved than to have to do any of the desperate work of loving.”

Stars (Out of 10): 5/10 Stars

Overall Thoughts: This book was, okay? I really liked parts of it, but then other parts were confusing and felt completely unnecessary (basically the whole extra side plot going in, if I’ll be honest.) It did a great job of dealing with tough issues in the main plotline with Adam, but then this magical realism tie-in plot about a girl who died kinda took away from it. I honestly found myself skimming those parts more as I continued further into the book, as it just read so odd and was pretty confusing. If we had just had the plot with Adam, and his horrible yet freeing day, I probably would’ve ended up rating this book higher.

The Good: It was dark and it was gritty and it was everything it needed to be to properly tell the story of Adam, of his heart broken by friends, lovers, and family. It dealt with everything realistically, and while yes it was a bit weird for everything to suddenly go wrong on the same day, I understand that was needed for this novel to be the way it is. Adam’s story was a tough one to read, but it’s one that I feel we all need to hear, the cruelty and hardships he faces just for being different than what his family expects to be, just for being himself and having his own beliefs. On top of all that, it also dealt with issues that all of us might feel, losing friends to the future and struggling with love and the loss of it.

The Bad: My main issue with the whole novel is definitely the whole magical realism subplot about a dead girl and some magic queen. It didn’t feel like it was given enough space to actually make enough sense, but then I also feel it took up too much space in the novel, took me too much out of Adam’s story at points. If this idea had been given it’s own space and time to exist, it could have flourished, and I could have enjoyed it. But it felt like these two stories combatted for my attention more than they flowed together to create a larger meaning, and that is why I had to rate the book the way I did.

The Graces by Laure Eve

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! I know this came out quite a while ago, but I still had my NetGalley ARC and decided to finally give it a shot!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

“That night I think we were trying to fight against death, against boredom and banality, against everything that made us cry and stare at our futures full in the face with dread.”

Stars (Out of 10): 3.5/10 Stars

Overall Thoughts: I really wanted to love this book, because I absolutely fell in love with the amazing covers. However, it seems it didn’t really do it for me. I felt like a floated along through the entire book, reading and enjoying the story, but not feeling connected, never feeling worried or scared when bad things happened, and never feeling happy or overjoyed during the happy moments. Additionally, even though the plot idea was pretty intriguing, I felt the main ‘twist’ was way too obvious way too early, so by the end I kinda already knew what to expect, and the secrets that everyone was keeping.

The Good: I really liked the dark atmosphere the book kinda seemed to have, and what the ending could mean for book two (even if parts of the ending felt vague). I also did enjoy reading this, just less so than a lot others for reasons below.

The Bad: I did not find myself really caring about any of the side characters, and the MC even less so. I also am not the biggest fan of books with little plot in the beginning, and it felt like this one floated as things were beginning to build up. And while later that become important later, while reading it just wasn’t that enjoyable. Additionally, the most important part of the plot was pretty predictable.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

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