The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Heather at Bookables!

“It’s a classic love story. I hit on him at a party, he asked me out, then we fought an epic magical battle between good and evil side by side, and now we need a vacation.”

The Red Scrolls of Magic is the story that Magnus and Alec always deserved. My two precious boys, both trying to live in a world that wants them to be something they’re not, but together they are able to find happiness; it’s too pure. There is a reason why they are so many people’s favorite OTP and ship of all time, and I think this brand-new installment is going to make so many people happy.

And this brand-new spin-off takes place during City of Fallen Angels, when most of the Shadowhunter universe believes The Mortal War to be over. I do recommend that you read at the very least Lady Midnight before picking this one up, because there are so many layers and elements that you just will not appreciate without knowing certain twists that are revealed in The Dark Artifices.

Magnus and Alec are off trying to be romantic in Paris together, finally going on their very first vacation together, but a good friend soon informs them that they could potentially be in grave danger. A cult, The Crimson Hand, and their sacred book (yeah, you guessed it), The Red Scrolls of Magic, and the sacrifices they are making in the name of the cult leader. But the thing is, many people, including the Spiral Council, think that Magnus not only started this cult back in the day, but also that he is still leading it. Magnus also is discovering that someone or something has possibly tampered with his memories, yet he feels like there might be some truth in him starting the cult many moons ago.

“Seek the children of demons. Love them as you love your lord. Do not let the children be alone.”

We get to see so much of Magnus’ past in this book, and so much of it is heartbreaking. I mean, if you have followed my reviews while I read everything by Cassandra Clare in 2018, you will know that Magnus has always been a favorite character of mine. But all the flashbacks in this book, in juxtaposition to the man we all know and love, it pulled at my heartstrings constantly while reading. Magnus Bane is a literary gift and I will thank all the higher powers for him and for Cassie Clare for creating him every single day.

And this story is broken up in three parts that I will summarize in three sentences:

Part I – City of Love (Paris)
– Romantic vacation quickly turns into a mission from Hell (factually).

Part II – City of Masks (Venice)
– Best party ever, and holy moly cameos from above (literally).

Part III – City of War (Rome)
– All the action, I’m living my best gay life, and the cliffhanger of all cliffhanger endings (truly).

“When was it decided that a warlock child is worth less than the children of the Angel?”

Like all the books in the Shadowhunter universe, bigotry and prejudices are at the forefront. How everyone looks at the Shadowhunters, who share blood with angels, is completely different than the Downworlders, especially Warlocks who share blood with Demons. And hatred will always breed the cruelest acts. The Shadowhunters and the Clave can be pretty closed minded over anyone who is deemed different, so Alec being gay AND dating a warlock is something that has shaken up many Shadowhunters.

But Alec, unconditionally loving himself and Magnus, has started something beautiful, and because of it, many other Shadowhunters are learning to love and accept themselves. Aline and Helen are major side character in this book, and we even get to see them meet for the very first time. Friends, I don’t even have words. Not only are Aline and Helen my favorite queer ship in the Shadowhunter world, they are probably my favorite sapphic ship of all-time. Seeing the Asian girl get the Fae girl of her dreams? It just does something to me every single time. Also, speaking of Shadowhunter cameos, Lily Chen is also in the story, and she is the Asian pansexual love of my life, so I was truly living my best life with the entire cast of characters in this book.

“He’d always assumed that storybook moments like these were meant for Jace, Isabelle, anyone but him. Yet here he was.”

But, to me, this book was all about forgiveness and how sometimes forgiving someone is the most powerful move you can possibly make. We are all more than the mistakes of our parents and people that did horrible things who happen to share our blood. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone is deserving of love, and sometimes that comes in the form of forgiveness And sometimes, beyond anything else, we need to forgive ourselves for past mistakes that we’ve made. Who you are in this moment means way more than who you were growing up, or even who you were last year. Sometimes people really do deserve second chances, and I hope you give yourself all the chances in the world to become the person you want to be.

Overall, I loved this with my whole heart. These characters, all the queerness, the themes, the story, the mysteries, the twists; it was all amazing, especially knowing everything we know from all the other books that have taken place after the events in this one. And if you love the Warlocks in this world, then this is truly going to be the book for you! This was just a wonderful addition to the Shadowhunter world, and I think so many people are going to love it. Also, with all the Shadow Market activity and cameos, I really can’t wait to read the last two short stories in Ghosts of the Shadow Market this June!

Please use caution reading the rest of this review if you have not read this book and all the series leading up to this book! And as always, I’m going to do a little mini character breakdown on my thoughts and feelings on all of the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

“If only the world were a fairy tale, Nephilim.”

(Art by Cassandra Jean!)

Magnus Bane – Bi, Indonesian, High Warlock of Brooklyn. Magnus is truly going through some shit in this book, and my heart breaks for him. On top of everything, he is so scared to tell Alec who his real father is, and… my heart.

Alec Lightwood – Gay, Shadowhunter, willing to protect Magnus at all costs. Me and Alec honestly have a rocky Shadowhunter history together, but I truly have grown to love him so much, and I love his love for Magnus. Alec is unsure of so many things, but he is never unsure about his love for Magnus.

Aline Penhallow – Lesbian, Asian, Shadowhunter, love of my life.

Helen Blackthorn – Bi, Shadowhunter, half Fae, second love of my life.

Leon Verlac – Bi, Shadowhunter, annoying as fuck. And people are really going to dislike him because of the “I’m bi, so I want to sleep with everyone” stereotype.

“She has seen so many tragedies, and they both knew the worst tragedies were born of love.”

Tessa Gray – Seeing her and Magnus talk about their love for Shadowhunters? Fuck me up, fam. Few things are better in the Shadowhunter universe than Magnus and Tessa’s friendship.

Peng Fang – We meet this vampire and blood seller in the Paris Shadow Market and I seriously just want to know everything about it, because there is no way he isn’t going come more into play.

Izzy and Jace’s Phone Call – I had to list them with this character breakdown, because this phone call, and Simon trying to ask them for sex advice, was one of my favorite things in this book. The grapefruit suggestion almost took me out, honestly.

Johnny Rook – Be still, my heart. Johnny is normally at the LA Shadow Market, but he is at the Paris one and helps Magnus out a little bit. Also, I remember something that Johnny has in a TDA book and I can’t wait to see how he got his hands on this relic.

Shinyun Jung – Korean, has a history with the cult, and is traveling alongside Magnus and Alec.

Prince Adaon – The smile I had on my face when I saw this sweetheart at the party. Ah, I can’t wait for him to be king already and to let my poor baby Kieran live his best life. Ah, my sweet Unseelie Princes, I can’t.

Malcom Fade – My jaw dropped, friends. Dropped. The High Warlock of LA is for sure in this book and throws the best party I’ve ever read about. And we know all the shit he was up to in Lady Midnight, so I was honestly quaking.

Catarina Loss – Probably my favorite warlock (besides Magnus, obv) and I always smile over her, Magnus, and Ragnor Fell’s friendship. Give me a cameo from her in every Shadowhunter book, please.

Raphael Santiago – Ace/Asexual, Mexican, vampire. Friends, I can’t cry anymore, okay? I always love seeing Raphael and Magnus and their friendship, but seeing Raphael and Alec bond and become friends, in the Raphael way, it truly broke me. And I just keep thinking about their son, and… I honestly am crying more? Wow.

Lily Chen – My pansexual and Asian goddess. I would die for this woman and I want nothing more than for he to have her own full-length series. Also, seeing Helen and her kiss? Can officially confirm: Helen loves Asian women and I am truly living on cloud nine forever.

Hypatia Vex – Warlock, runs the London Shadow Market. Seriously, this book is a warlock wet dream.

Barnabas Hale – Warlock, LA Shadow Market runner, and always a treat to read about.

Asmodeus – I’ve been screaming since City of Heavenly Fire to learn more about Magnus’ dad, and this book truly delivered. Yet, we have so much more to learn, and I think the next book is going to be everything.

“If I’m a hero of war, so is he.”

It is truly just a wild ride to see baby Magnus and baby Alec at the start of their new relationship, figuring out what they both want, what works, and what doesn’t, to seeing them married, seeing them as fathers, seeing them get the life they deserve, even if the world around them is still in chaos. To just know Alec becomes Consul of the Clave and is going to change the world for all Downworlder children. Friends, I am weeping at the honor of getting to see Magnus and Alec’s lives together. What a blessing, truly. Also, because I know people are going to be using the search engine on my blog to find this information: yes, Alec and Magnus do have sex for the first time in this book, but yes, Cassie keeps it totally YA and fades to black it before it becomes not PG13. (Also, friendly reminder: cis women, don’t fetishize m/m sex, thanks!)

And I know I make a lot of jokes about Aline and Helen, but they truly make me happier than any other couple in all of these books. I had no idea that they were even going to be in this story, let alone letting us see them meet for the first time, and seeing Aline being the disaster gay she really is trying to ask Helen out. And with everything I said about Magnus and Alec and seeing them start out but knowing where their path leads in the future together, seeing Aline and Helen, and knowing all that they were forced to endure because of bigotry, it just takes everything to a whole other level.

Overall, I just loved this completely. I laughed out loud, I cried over so many cameos, I smiled from pure happiness at my OTPs starting out their relationships, and I always wanted more of everything. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Lost Book of the White, because I have a feeling that it’s going to be even better than this amazing series starter! Especially with that cliffhanger ending! Lord, hear my prayers.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for violence, talk of past loss of a loved one, abandonment, talk of suicide in the past, past parental abuse (physical), torture, cult rituals, and war themes.

1.) City of Bones ★★★
2.) City of Ashes ★★
3.) City of Glass ★★★
1.) Clockwork Angel ★★★
4.) City of Fallen Angels
2.) Clockwork Prince ★★★★
5.) City of Lost Souls ★★★★
3.) Clockwork Princess ★★★★★
6.) City of Heavenly Fire ★★★★★
*.) The Bane Chronicles ★★★
*.) Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy ★★★
1.) Lady Midnight ★★★★★
2.) Lord of Shadows ★★★★
*.) Ghosts of the Shadow Market 8/10
3.) Queen of Air and Darkness ★★★★

 

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5) by Alyssa Cole

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#1.) A Princess in Theory ★★★★
#2.) A Duke by Default ★★★★

“Out of all the train cars in all the world you had to walk into mine.”

Oh my word, this was glorious. Alyssa Cole just keeps proving, over and over, that she is the queen of romance, and that the Reluctant Royals series is such a bright shining light for the romance genre. And I truly and utterly fell completely in love with Likotsi and Fabiola, and this is one of my new favorite f/f stories ever written.

Likotsi is the personal assistant to Prince Thesolo, who we get to know very well in A Princess in Theory! She is also Black, a lesbian, and (in my opinion) a sexual icon. Seriously, I haven’t swooned this hard over a character in a long time. But Likotsi finally has some free time and is planning on spending some time exploring the city, but technical difficulties make her train break down. But maybe fate is at play a little bit, when her ex spots her through the train window.

Fabiola is an up and coming jewelry maker, who is social media famous, bisexual, and is also Haitian and from a family of immigrants, who are having problems with deportation. This book is such a sexy second chance romance, but it really shines a spotlight on very real things that are going on here in America and weaves these important discussions into this beautiful story seamlessly.

But Likotsi and Fabiola decide to get some lunch together, which kind of turns into them spending the day together. And the chapters begin to alternate from the present, to them meeting on a Tinder-like app, and then to why they eventually called it quits eight months ago. And I was so damn enthralled in all the timelines. And the chemistry between these two? Out of this damn world.

Also, I just wanted to also say that this is ownvoices for the Black representation but also the queer representation! And if you all have time, you should check out this article from The Mary Sue because it is magnificent.

Overall, I hope Alyssa Cole never stops writing this series. I will honestly read ninety-nine more installments, with the biggest smile on my face. This series is the stuff that OTPs are made of and Once Ghosted, Twice Shy proves that the side characters are even equally as perfect. And friends, I don’t even have words for how excited I am for A Prince on Paper this April! Also, I totally think you could read this one without reading the previous full-length books in the series! And I completely recommend you do so, if you’re looking for something quick, steamy, and romantic.

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Content and trigger warnings for deportation and forced separation of families.

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt! ❤

 

My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis

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ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Did I just start 2019 off with the cutest sapphic relationship set up, that also featured a pan love interest? Wow, the blessings for this new year already! Friends, I loved this. And if you’re looking for something diverse, something hella cute, something super romantic, and something that’s a really quick read, then look no further.

“Why was it so hard to find good mainstream media where you could see two girls falling in love with a happy ending? Even harder if I wanted to find stories with black girls. Brazilian black girls falling in love? Mostly, I’d only found them in indie and self-published books. Maybe it would be easier to enjoy more media if everything I tried to watch didn’t look as white as the walls of my apartment.”

My Fake Canadian Wife is an ownvoices story for the Brazilian and the queer representation. Our main character, Dora, is a lesbian and is an aspiring photographer from Brazil, who moved to Canada to go to school, and is still currently living there. Sadly, their camera broke so they are currently working as a barista at a local café trying to save up money. That is, until Dora receives a letter from immigration telling her that she hasn’t updated her student Visa and that she is going to be deported if the situation isn’t corrected.

Dora is feeling helpless, and unsure if she wants to move back with her family in Brazil, but a coworker introduces her to Abby, who is a librarian, pan, adorable, and totally willing to marry Dora to keep her in the country. But first, they have to see if they are both willing to commit to something like this, and they have to find out if they even like being around each other for long periods of time. And what better way than for Dora to spend Christmas and the holidays with Abby and her family? And they both learn a lot about themselves and the kind of relationship that they want and need.

Last year, I fell in love with The Melody of You and Me which starred a pan main character who fell for a Filipino girl, and at this point I think M. Hollis is writing stories specifically for me and my interests. Even though both of these stories are filled with very real and challenging situations, but are heartwarming, sapphic stories that just fill my body and soul with so much pure joy and happiness.

Overall, I just loved this and I really appreciate the stories that M. Hollis keeps writing. They always make me feel so seen, and I always have the biggest smile on my face while reading their stories. I’ll be the first to say that this story is a little predictable, but that didn’t make me love it any less. I hope 2019 is filled with f/f romances like this! And I hope M. Hollis never stops writing them, especially after reading the author acknowledgements because you can really tell they put a lot of themselves into this beautiful story and it really shines through.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer and talk of the loss of a loved one.

 

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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(My amazing friend Madalyn, at Novel Ink, gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💖

“Of all the stories about my family, the Fernweh women and the island of By-the-Sea, there are two that no one will ever forget. One is the story of how my sister, Mary, and I were born. And the other is the story of the summer we turned eighteen. This summer.”

This was nothing short of a beautiful delight to read. This was moving, and powerful, and magical, and sweet, yet also heartbreaking. This reads like a mix between Girl Made of Stars and The Wicked Deep, and if you love either (bonus points for both) then you will completely love this story, too!

This book is set on a very small island, where Georgina and Mary’s graduating class only consisted of 30ish kids. This summer is not only Georgina and Mary’s eighteenth birthday, but it is also the last summer before they leave the island for the first time to go away to college. Their mother runs the inn that has been in their family for many generations. Yet, no one really stays until the summer solstice, when a magical bird comes to the island and attracts so many tourists.

Georgina – Our main character, a lesbian, and a witch who has not discovered her power(s).
Mary – Georgina’s twin sister, who has already discovered that her power allows her to float in midair.
Vira – Georgina’s best friend, who works at the local ice cream parlor, who is aroace, and my freakin’ favorite.
Prue – Visiting the island, bisexual, and has feelings for Georgina.
Harrison – Prue’s brother, who has come to the island to see a bird that appears every summer.
Annabella – The magical, one of a kind, bird, who also might be somehow related to Georgina and Mary.

“I think a person can be a home, sometimes, just as much as a place or a house can.”

The entire island, and all of these character’s lives change when Annabella doesn’t make her annual arrival to the island. Georgina makes it her mission to not only find out what happened to Annabella, but also what happened to her sister, Mary, because she is acting really depressed and secretive. Georgina also is trying to figure out if she will never manifest any magical abilities like most of the women in her family, and she is also realizing that maybe she has real feelings for someone visiting the island this summer.

Yet, this book also has a darker message about rape and rape culture and the topic is laced throughout the entire story, so please use caution. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship with the person. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said before. It doesn’t matter any circumstances; if it’s not consensual then it is rape. Rape culture is so real, so apparent, and so very much thriving in 2018. And for anyone who needs it, especially right now: I believe you.

“Because there was nothing in a girl’s history that might negate her right to choose what happens to her body.”

This is also a story about sisterhood, and unconditional love, and it discusses the sacrifices that we are willing to make to help the ones we love. This is a book about sexuality and those moments when you feel so validated and you feel like you are finally the person you’ve always wanted to be. This is a book about community, and found family, and respecting your family heritage, culture, and customs.

“How I would miss you—every part of you—but especially the smell, always the smell: of salt, of brine, of water, of spells, or potions, or feathers, and of what it would mean to leave it all in just two months.”

Overall, I just loved this. I think it’s the perfect blend of light and dark. It feels so whimsical since witchcraft is delicately folded in to this story, but it feels so hard-hitting and realistic, too. The messages, discussions, and themes are important and life changing. The characters feel completely fleshed out and I couldn’t help but fall in love with all of them. Plus, the f/f romance in this was magnificent and gave me all the feels. And this story is written so very lyrically, that I never wanted it to end, because I wanted to stay on this island with these characters forever. I truly loved this, and I think it’s one of the best 2018 publications. I recommend it with my entire heart and soul.

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Content and trigger warnings for off page rape and sexual assault, mention of drugging people without them knowing (not in a date rape way, but it still felt bad to read), underage drinking, drug use, anxiety depictions, and an animal death.

Buddy read with Taryn at Taryn and Her Books! ❤

 

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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ARC provided by Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

“We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable. And there is a fire catching among us.”

Once I heard that this was an ownvoices Asian inspired fantasy world where two girls, who are forced to be concubines to a demon king, try to overcome it all and fall in love, I knew this was going to be a book for me. But friends, I fell in love. Girls of Paper and Fire will make it onto my best books of 2018 list come December.

In this world, there are castes that people are born into which determine your social standing in the world:

Paper – Humans. Lowest class. They look just like you and me.
Steel – Half human, half demon. Middle class. Look mostly human but will have a little bit of an animal attribute.
Moon – Demons. Highest class. Take on animal characteristics.

“Demon men can take what they want. Our homes. Our lives. Our bodies.”

And each year, the demon King takes eight paper girls to be concubines; some willing, others completely unwillingly. And these eight girls will live an entire year in the palace, living somewhat in the life a luxury, waiting to see if the King will call one of them to his chamber every night. And the impression they leave on the king will impact how their future goes after the year is up. And no girl can afford to make a mistake, because they will be punished in unthinkable ways.

This story stars a young girl named Lei, whose mother was ripped out of her life and taken by the king seven years ago. She has since grown up in a remote village with her father. But even though Lei is Paper caste, she has golden demon eyes that make her very unforgettable. So, palace guards eventually come for her. And this year, Lei gets taken to become one of the King’s paper girls.

“But perhaps the gods have forgotten us, or grown bored with our small corner of the kingdom. Because here I am, about to share the last thing I’d ever want to offer the King. Myself.”

To me, this is a book about rape, and rape culture, and how rape survivors will reclaim their bodies in all the different ways. And how rape is always about power, never about sex. This book is about how rapists can be charming, good looking, friendly, and have the entire world at their feet. It doesn’t matter. This is a book about reclaiming your body after someone forcibly takes it. And how everyone heals differently at their own pace.

Content and trigger warnings for rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, abandonment, heavy grief depictions, loss of a loved one, murder, abduction, captivity, torture, branding, violence, a forced medical/health exam, physical abuse, graphic animal death, and war themes. Please use caution, this book can get pretty dark at times. Make sure you are in the right headspace.

“Order was restored the only way the King knew how. Bloodshed.”

This book is also about finding love; for others but also for yourself. And it is about finding your worth and knowing that you are worthy of love regardless of what has happened to you in your life. The world can be such an ugly place, but unconditional love still hides within it, and it’s so very beautiful. And love is always worth not only a risk, but it’s worth everything. And the f/f romance in this? One of my favorites of all time. It’s slow burn, but I say that in the best way possible. Without a question, my biggest ship of 2018 is within this book’s pages.

“Her kisses heal the parts of me that the King broke. They tell me: You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”

And not only is the story amazing; Natasha Ngan’s writing is out of the world. I was completely captivated by the world and felt completely teleported into this world. And the masterpiece that she created? So damn impressive. My amazing friend, May let me in on some of Natasha’s inspirations with the paper girls and the regions they are from, and I’m just blown away. It’s so impressive the amount of work and love this author truly put into this story. This is seriously a work of art, and it just made me appreciate and love this world, characters, and book even more.

Overall, this meant so much to me. From the messages and the themes, to just me seeing queer, Asian girls falling in love against a world that wants to tear them apart, it meant everything. Yet, this book does end on a massive cliffhanger, so be warned. But it has hyped me so much to see what Natasha will do next! And book two will for sure be one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. But in the meantime, I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with the start of this amazing story.

“Our kingdom believes words have power. That the characters of our language can bless or curse a life.”

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Dude read with Em at Runaway with Dream Thieves! ❤