A Curse So Dark and Lonely (ACSDAL #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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ARC provided by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast with a much darker theme. In this version, the Prince is forced to repeat the quest to find love over and over each season, while causing more and more bloodshed each time. But after three-hundred seasons, this season will officially be the very last one.

Harper – The Belle. Eighteen-years-old and from DC, before she is captured. But back home, she has a hard home life, living with her mother who has cancer and they can’t afford medical treatment, and a brother who is forced to pick up his father’s mantle to work for crime lords because he left his family in so much debt. Harper also has Cerebral Palsy, which I understand has very many different types on a spectrum, but she is high functioning. (Also, if you are an ownvoices reviewer, I would love to link your review and boost your voice on your feelings about the representation!) And besides Harper’s Cerebral Palsy representation, which is also at the heart of this book, her brother, Jake, is also queer and has the sweetest boyfriend, Noah, who is black.

Rhen – The Beast. But the dark themes I brought up above is that each season when a girl doesn’t fall in love with him, he turns into a different beast and kills whatever is in his way. And then a new season begins, and the curse starts all over again.

Grey – Rhen’s guard commander, and the only living person left at the castle with him. Not only is he a loyal friend to him, but he captures the girls and brings them back for him.

Lilith – The enchantress who has cast this spell on Rhen and his kingdom. I’ll be honest, this character very much reminded me of Ianthe from A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Freya – The shining star of the book, if I’m being honest. She has a child of her own but is also taking care of three of her sister’s children. I don’t know why I loved her so much, but she really was my favorite in the entire story. Give her a spin-off, please.

And these characters come together to set the stage and remake the story of Beauty and the Beast unlike any other. We get to see Harper decide if she wants to save a kingdom or her family and we get to see Rhen decide if he is worth saving. And even if this book was a little hard for me to get into at the start, I ended up really getting interested by the end.

There is a good discussion in this book about feeling responsible for things that you have no control over. Whether that be mistakes that your loved ones are making, deteriorating health of loved ones, or even just people doing bad things to you and the people you care about. Some things are really out of our control, and I liked the dissection of this in this book, because I think it is easy to feel responsible for things that sometimes really aren’t our faults.

“We are not always presented with the choices we want, but choices exist nonetheless.”

Overall, I didn’t love this or even enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but it did have a lot of things that I adore. Harper and Rhen do travel around his kingdom a lot, and I love me a good traveling story. Also, they frequent inns and taverns a lot, which is another thing that is so very much in my reading wheelhouse. But even though I completely understand that this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I just couldn’t get over the abduction plotline and even begin to really root for the romance in this book. I will say though that I was really surprised this wasn’t a standalone, even though it totally can be read that way, but maybe I will love the next installment more!

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

Content and trigger warnings for abduction, captivity, talk of cancer, loss of a loved one, murder, death, torture, abuse, a pedophile comment, attempted sexual assault, sexual assault (by Lilith), thoughts of suicide, and a lot of ableist speech (always in a negative light from the villain).

Buddy read with Julie, Amy, Chelsea, Jules, Jen, & Chelsea! ❤

Ghosts of the Shadow Market (Stories 1 – 8) by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman, & Kelly Link

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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 ★★★★

Hey, friends! Okay, so I am just too hyped to keep talking about all things that involve the Shadowhunter world, with Queen of Air and Darkness coming out in TEN DAYS! Holy moly, the blessings! I honestly haven’t been so excited for a new release in years. You all also know that I have been reading everything in this world for the last six months, so I know this book is going to literally be the cherry on an already delicious cupcake! (And your girl is hungry!)

I do want to say that Ghosts of the Shadow Market is scheduled to come out in June of 2019, and will include ten stories in total, but only eight have been released singly so far! Therefore, I am not going to give this collection a total star rating, I’m just going to let you know my individual star rating for each story separately, then come release I will do more in-depth and full review, that will also include the two stories that haven’t been released yet! But I hope this post gets you all hyped, because I can’t wait to read the final Dark Artifices book with the entire community in just a few more days!


Son of the Dawn – ★★★★

“Every world contains other worlds within it.”

It is official, The New York City Shadow Market is the coolest one we’ve seen so far? Abandoned theater? Ahhh, the aesthetics. But this story takes place in 2000, and I will be honest with you all, I sure in the hell wasn’t expecting a story about how Jace came to join the Lightwood family. Damn, my emotions are all over the place, because seeing Raphael alone makes me weep. Also, I think it was really smart for Cassie Clare to show us a “good” side of Robert Lightwood, especially after finishing Lord of Shadows. Also, all that talk of parabatai bonds? Lord, help us all. But I think my sappy self cried hardest over two initials. Okay, I know this brief review is all over the place, but this was such an unexpected treat and I was smiling while reading this entire story. From Izzy watching Alec discover who he is, to me crying even more over Max, to Jace being Jace even at a young age, to Lily Chen actually making me laugh out loud, to me screaming at seeing Raphael confirming that he is ace, I love all of this. And even just seeing Raphael come to Brother Zachariah for help and to go on what ends up being such a meaningful adventure, that really impacts all their lives eventually, it was just amazing. I really loved this short story and I think it was such an amazing glimpse at the past, that really makes you appreciate the future so much more.


Cast Long Shadows – ★★

“Old sins cast long shadows.”

Okay, I’m still hyped for The Last Hours though, but I think it is mostly for James Herondale, even though Matthew Fairchild is such a little sweetheart. I loved seeing him interact with Brother Zachariah, and loving him just because so many of his loved ones love him. I love that feeling, and I think that’s something in life that I experience a lot that books rarely depict. But in this short story takes place in London 1901, and we get to see Matthew dealing with something that’s really bothering him, while willing to do anything to find out the truth. Oh, and Alastair Carstairs is such a little jerk, but I know Cassie is going to give him a homelife (and a father, I think) that is going to make us feel a lot of empathy toward him. But why the hell is Sophie (my queen, still) and Gideon’s kid friends with him? Yet, I love seeing Henry’s disability rep, I love seeing Charlotte say fuck your misogyny to the Clave, and I just love seeing all these glimpses at old friendships that we already love, but also all the new glimpses at what is to come. And seeing Jem, Will, and Tessa living their lives after Clockwork Princess will never not equal parts break my heart and heal my soul. And yeah, I’m still crying over that staff. Lord, help me.


Every Exquisite Thing – ★★★★

“Foolish people say so many things. But we know who we are…”

Anna Lightwood deserves the entire galaxy and all the stars within it, please spread the word. Like, the child of Cecily and Gabriel is a true blessing to the Shadowhunter universe. And the end of this made me happier than any other Shadowhunter short story I’ve ever read. In short, this story is love letter to nonbinary people, and we get to follow Anna embracing being a genderfluid lesbian. Even though everyone knows that queer people existed all throughout history, this story highlights how it was harder to come out back in the 1900s. But seeing Anna live their best life was everything and it warmed my heart so very much. And, again, Cassie Clare is just being more and more inclusive and she impresses me so very much. And there is f/gq romance in this story, too! But the heart of this story is identity and being the person you are on the inside on the outside, too. Okay, I’m done gushing; this story we also get to see Anna and Matthew explore the London nightlife and meet a woman named Leopolda in a club and bring to ask a few questions. And soon, them and Brother Zachariah are trying to figure out what she’s up to. And I think that we are soon going to get a lot more background story on Tessa, and I cannot wait for The Last Hours, friends. It is going to be so amazing, and now Anna is going to make me even more excited!


Learn about Loss – ★★★★

“I want you to give them both a span of time. Both of them in a time and place where they can be young and happy and together.”

Current mood: Forever weeping over the masterpiece that is the end of this short story. You all, Will and Jem will always be best friend goals, and honestly are the definition of platonic unconditional pure love. (I mean, I won’t go into my polyamorous wants because Cassie Clare didn’t bless us!) But friends, this story just has a lot in it that I really appreciated. And I loved this dark carnival Shadow Market. This story is set in 1936 Tennessee, during the end of the Great Depression, and not only do we follow Brother Zachariah, but also the soon-to-be Iron Sister, Emilia, who easily stole my heart. And Sister Emilia’s promise? Goosebumps. Perfection. Also, I think these stories are really going to make an impact for QoAaD.


A Deeper Love – ★★★

“…those two twin souls, the only souls she had ever loved.”

Friends, I was not expecting a WWII story set in London that starred Tessa Gray and Catarina Loss working as nurses. But oh my gosh, it was so beautifully and hauntingly unexpected. And there is still a Shadow Market that they bargain at, but even the paranormal war is impacted (both positively and negatively) by war. And Brother Zachariah just happens to be at the Shadow Market, where bombs are dropping from the sky, while he gets into his own altercation with a fae who thinks he is meddling in affairs that do not involve him. And I believe the point of this story was that we get to see that weapon poison that Julian and Emma deal with in Lady Midnight. I also cried for probably a third of this just because Brother Zachariah and Tessa both dealing with loss, while healing and living with love, just guts me every time. It’s so pure, and so hopefully, and just gives me all the feelings under the sun. The power of love is something so strong, and this story just left me in awe, honestly.


The Wicked Ones – ★★★

“They’d both given a piece of their hearts to a Herondale. And they both loved someone they could not have.”

Oh, boy. So, this story is set in 1989 Paris, where we meet a young girl named Céline and get to see the uprising of Valentine. Céline has constantly run away from her abusive home, and the parents that torture her and call it love. And when she was eight years old, she ran away and felt safe and at home for the very first time – at the Paris Shadow Market. But in this story we see her almost ten years later, and she is desperately trying to feel welcome with Valentine and his elite crew. And she is also realizing she is completely and utterly in love with Stephen Herondale. But while this is going on, Brother Zachariah is in search of a lost necklace and a lost child. This story really dives deep into how manipulative people can gaslight to get what they want, and will always try to isolate people and convince them that what they are doing is in their best interest. It is always really interesting to see the rise and fall of Valentine Morgenstern, but this story just made me feel really sad for Amatis and for another child who has yet to be born.


The Land I Lost – ★★★★★

“Your voice is the music I love best in all the world.”

First and foremost, it is very obvious that Lily Chen is not straight, but Cassie Clare confirmed on Tumblr that she is pan! The blessings. The actual blessings. Also, hello, my new favorite character. Lily is half Japanese and half Chinese, and was made a vampire under the saddest of circumstances. And her love for Raphael Santiago warms my black heart like nothing else in the entire Shadowhunter world. And even though I could go on forever about my love for her, this story is more about her and Alec going to the Buenos Aires Institute together because Jem and Tessa are in need of help, and someone requested Alec personally. This story is actually pretty dark, so content and trigger warnings for abandonment, captivity, sex trafficking, sex slavery, and war themes. Nothing is graphic, but it is very much talked about, so please use caution. But Alec soon finds out that the Buenos Aires Institute is being heavily influenced by Horace Dearborn, and they are allowing children whose parents were killed in the Dark War to be orphans living on the street, just because they are Downworlders. Alec then comes across a Shadowhunter child who they are also unwilling to help, and the other Downworlders are too scared to bring in, therefore he must take action. You all, this novella was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Seeing Magnus and Alec be such good fathers to Max, and then adopting their second child, Rafe, it is something I don’t even have words for. And they are allowing their children to be whatever they want to be, Warlock or Shadowhunter, and will never stop giving them unconditional love. Even just seeing glimpses of Jace and Izzy being an uncle and an aunt had me smiling so big! It is a joy to read, pure joy. But we learn so much during this longer addition to the anthology, too. All the information we got of/from Mother Hawthorn? Damn.


Through Blood, Through Fire – ★★★★

“But we bear so much that seems unthinkable. The only truly unbearable burden is living without love.”

Okay, I won’t lie, even though I have loved watching Brother Zachariah go on this quest of finding the lost Herondale, I feel like it is my least favorite aspect of this anthology. And even though this short story gave us major insight on Rosemary and Jack, it wasn’t a big surprise after reading The Wicked Ones. But then, once the story catches up to the events at the end of Lady Midnight, and Tessa drops the REAL information of this story. You all, my jaw dropped. And my eyes? The tears won’t stop coming after that last paragraph. Wow, the blessings. The happiness. The everything. Queen of Air and Darkness can’t come soon enough.



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Buddy read with Lea at drumsofautumn! ❤

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

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ARC provided by Flatiron in exchange for an honest review.

“Remember—magic is a cheater’s game, and everyone who sees it wants to play.”

Enchantée is a book that is set in historical Paris, during 1789, but this is a version of Paris unlike any other. Yes, the French Revolution is beginning, and the people are starving and rioting, while Marie Antoinette and other aristocrats ignore their pleas. But some people in this alternative history are able to wield magic to help make their lives a little easier.

In this world, there are three different types of magic:
Magie Ordinaire – changing things
Glamoire – changing oneself
Magie Bibelot – making objects sentient

This book stars Camille, a young girl able to wield magic, but is very scared to get caught because the stakes are so high. Yet, she still turns magic into scrap metal so that they have a little money to live off of. But her younger sister Sophie is not in the best of health, and both of their parents have just died to smallpox. The only person who is supposed to be looking out for them is their older brother, Alain, who is drinking and gambling away what little money they do have.

But when Camille helps out a couple hot air balloon makers, then she finds a magical dress that is hidden away in a secret trunk, and she ends up taking her and her sisters future into her own hands and will stop at nothing to ensure their health and safety. From there, she throws herself into a world of aristocracy, filled with nobles who do not even realize the food they are wasting while people in the streets are starving.

I wanted to love this so much, friends. But sadly, it just fell so very short for me. I felt like the author was trying to cram so many important things that happened in France in that time into this book, while also trying to write her own story, and both elements just made this entire story feel disjointed and left a lot to be desired. And honestly? Even my synopsis of this book sounds a lot better than the book actually is.

I was so bored throughout. I just kept waiting for something more exciting to happen, but it never did. The twists and turns were so predictable and so lackluster. And them ignoring the gross behavior that Alain displayed made me so angry. And their constant views on sex workers made my eyes almost roll out of my head completely. Oh, and the villain was straight up from a comic, twirling his mustache, I swear!

I will say that one of the main side characters, Lazare, is biracial (Indian and French) and he does have a really good discussion about how he feels like the French never let him forget that he isn’t white. I really appreciated that. I also appreciated that Camille was willing to do whatever it took to care for Sophie. You all know I’m always here for good sibling relationships. But besides these two elements? I really didn’t enjoy this one.

I’m so sorry, friends! I do feel like I’ve been really not enjoying a lot of the historical stories I’ve read in 2018, so maybe you will enjoy this a lot more than I did. A lot of my friends have actually given this one really high praise, too. But I’m wishing you all happy reading, always.

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

Content and trigger warnings for degrading comments about women (I honestly feel like I read the word “whore” at least twenty times), slut shaming, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, illness of a loved one, alcoholism, gambling addiction, loss of a loved one, blood depictions.

Buddy read with Mia at Pens and Parchment, Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills, & Kayla at Books and Blends! ❤

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1) by Cassandra Clare

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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 ★★★

“No one is ever the villain of their own story.”

Lady Midnight was completely worth me reading eleven back-list Cassie Clare titles for. Holy shit, this book was everything. Everything. And honestly this was one of the best things I’ve read all year. I am so in love, friends. This world just gets more complex, the banter gets funnier, the cast gets more diverse, and the stories get more and more enthralling. And this is easily the best book I’ve read from Cassie Clare yet.

But I went into this brand-new series, that has been building up in the previous series for some time now, never expecting the main story to be about a secret murderous cult. Like, the blessings. Basically, in Lady Midnight Emma is still unable to let the mysterious deaths of her parents go unsolved, even though everyone else thinks they were just the first casualties of the start of the Dark War. But it has been five years since then, and the Cold Peace is still being held up by the Shadowhunters, making it so no one can help or work with the fae.

Emma and the Blackthorns are living back at the LA Institute, and upholding that law even though they know it’s wrong. That is, until they get an offer that they can’t refuse. And we are thrown into a world of ley lines, sacrificial killings, necromancer magic, and a baffling puzzle that Emma and the gang need to figure out quickly.

Lady Midnight is truly a book all about forbidden love. It is filled with angst, heartbreak, and pain. But it is so expertly done, that you’ll ask for more and say please while doing so. Cassandra Clare is just perfecting her writing, her stories, her characters, her plot twists, and her diversity with every single book. This book honestly blew me away. Also, yes, you need to read all eleven books leading up to his one, truly.

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 the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

(Perfect art by Loweana – who seriously makes my favorite art for every single fandom; The Cruel Prince, Six of Crows, and now The Dark Artifices!)

Emma Carstairs – My queen, my love, my entire heart. My favorite main character in… forever. I’m not joking, I actually like her that much. Easily my favorite character in all of Cassie Clare’s books. Wow, The blessings. I’m not deserving.

Julian Blackthorn – My soft, sweet boy. Too pure for this world and all the Shadowhunters. I will protect him at all costs. Also, full disclosure, I’ve had a thing for the “dark haired, broody, tortured artist” type since high school and Adrian from Vampire Academy and Julian really is the epitome of that, too. And some of his one-liners? God, I was swooning so hard.

“These pictures are my heart. And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

Mark Blackthorn – Mark Blackthorn is responsible for 90% of the angst I felt in this book. “Why lie?” is now my favorite ending line of every book and I will be haunted. Also, what a bi icon. My heart.

Kieran – My dude really messed up in the middle of this book, but my subconscious just falls in love with all the queer faeries Seriously, it is beyond my control at this point. Plus, you all know that fae princes are literally my greatest weakness in this life, so….

“You are all that exists on the earth and under the sky that I do love.”

Cristina Rosales – What an amazing new character. Cristina is Latinx and from Mexico and the most precious angel in the world. Her and Emma’s friendship was so wonderful and just warmed my heart during every scene.

(Gorgeous art by Haunted Duck Princess!)

Livvy Blackthorn – This sweet little protector. I love Livvy so much, but I’m so scared how she is going to handle possibly being alone.

Tiberius Blackthorn – Ty is honestly one of the best characters I’ve read about in years. Cassie Clare has done such a beautiful job with his character and showing that people on the Autism spectrum just learn and consume information differently; never wrongly. But I don’t want him and Livvy to separate, I’m weak.

Dru Blackthorn – This shy little sweetheart gave me so many feels in this book. And again, I think Cassie Clare creating a thirteen-year-old struggling with body image is something I wish I had when I was thirteen. Every book, every series, every new character, Cassie just impresses me more and more. And I can’t wait to see more of Drusilla.

Octavian Blackthorn – My heart always breaks for Tavvy, because even though he is only seven, all he has ever known is war. I mean, that’s so relatable to our world, and that breaks my heart, too.

Diego Rocío Rosales – I honestly really like Diego, who is also Latinx and followed Cristina from Mexico, but I don’t want him to ruin my polyamorous dreams, but if he’s willing to add to them then I will be the happiest human on Earth. Thanks. But I am really scared to meet Jaime.

Gwyn – Leader of the Hunt and stealer of my heart. Give me everything about this man, because I am highkey ready to call him daddy.

Iarlath – Someone kill this man, quick.

Anselm Nightshade – Vampire and pizza place owner! That combination is going to lead to nothing good.

Arthur Blackthorn – I lowkey dislike Arthur. I know he has been though SOME SHIT, but I just feel so damn bad for Julian every time I think of him, and it just really ruins his character for me.

Johnny Rook – This death was hella brutal. I was not prepared. But I will also say that I was so surprised when this book started out, on page one, with the Shadow Market and introduced us to this character, because I know the short stories that are currently being published are all about this magical place and I can’t wait to learn more.

Kit Rook – AKA: Christopher Herondale. DAMN! I honestly screamed at this reveal. I can’t wait to learn everything about him. Also, this really solidifies that you really should read Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy before starting this book.

Diana Wrayburn – Questionable face tat, but I can’t wait to learn more about her.

Malcolm Fade – If Lady Midnight taught me anything, it is that warlocks are so damn over-powered. Holy moly, the power this dude had. Also, friendly reminder: no body = no death. Okay, thanks, bye.

Annabel – Oh shit. Apparently the 2 AM “u up?” text is powerful. I’m scared, friends.

Tessa & Jem – That “item” that they were after. Shit, son. But seeing Jem build a relationship with Emma? So beautiful, I don’t even have words for it. I really hope that they are in Lord of Shadows more, because I honestly can’t get enough of them.

Clary & Jace – Holy shit, mom and dad are running the NY Institute now? Damn, they grow up fast. Real talk, one of my favorite moments of this book was Jace and Mark’s heart to heart, where he tells him that he has only given witchlight to two people before. Ahhh, the feels.

Izzy & Simon – Um, how are my babies engaged?!?! Ahhhhh! I honestly screamed when this information was presented, even though we didn’t get to see my favorites in this book at all. But still, I am so damn happy, and they deserve the world, and each other, and I’m honestly just overcome with emotions.

And you all knew I wasn’t going to write this long review and not talk more about the budding polyamorous relationship that I think Cassie Clare is building for us. I truly think with my entire body and soul that Cassie Clare wanted to have Tessa, Jem, and Will be in a polyamorous relationship, but it was still not that talked about back when The Internal Devices came out. But, dear reader, I think she is going to right her wrongs and give us the relationship of my dreams. And with two of the partners being fae? Lord, this is my actual dreams.

“It was a sort of love few other people could understand. It was total and it was overwhelming and it could be cruel.”

But I know that Emma and Julian’s forbidden relationship is going to be the actual death of me. The only really negative thing I can say about this book is that I think the laws revolving around parabatai and the age restrictions that make these kids pick lifelong and life-altering relationships is so unbelievable. And let’s be real, Emma and Julian got done so dirty by their forced arrangement. But seeing how this bond is going to… maybe ruin them? Lord, I can’t. I actually can’t. And Mark Blackthorn is just going to intensify the angst, but I’m highkey ready for that!

I always appreciate that the heart of every Shadowhunter novel is about oppression and prejudices that impact everyone; friends, families, entire societies. The Clave is the political force that makes and implements the rules in this world, and much like my own world, many are really harmful, extremely backwards, and very exclusionary. And I love seeing young people fight back against the generation that wants to keep them in these broken cycles that are filled with hate and fear.

Another cool addition that this book gave us was the talk of Scholomance. I feel like I don’t remember this being something in the other books, and it is like a detective school, but Shadowhunter style. Diego already attended it, and it looks like Ty is going to eventually go to it, and I’m just really interested to see more.

“There is nothing more important than love. And no law higher.”

Okay, let’s talk about the sex. First off, birth control runes? Praise/bless. I loved this more than words and Clary is honest to god doing the lord’s work. The sex on the beach. Like, it might be a tiny bit unrealistic (sand is not your friend during sex, I promise) but like, I had to wait 102 books for Jace to whip out that condom in Hell, but Cassie Clare gives us a hot sex scene in this first book of a series? The blessings. And Julian was the virgin and not Emma? The gifts keep on coming. Seriously, you all, I was screaming with joy over everything in chapter eighteen. Also, huge shout out to Solly for sending me the naughty version of the beach scene, because he knows me.

Also, a big shout out to Lea for sending me the short story that is only found in first editions of Lady Midnight! And, friends, it was perfection! Overall, this is one of the best things I’ve read all year and I am so damn thankful that I read all those other books to get to this one. I experienced pure happiness while reading this book, from the first to last page. And I am literally posting this review and running back to my bookshelves to pick up Lord of Shadows!

“I breathe when you breathe, I bleed when you bleed, I’m yours and you’re mine, you’ve always been mine, and I have always, always belonged to you!”

(Beautiful art by Cassandra Jean!)

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Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, loss of a loved one, torture, blood depictions, self-harm, anxiety attacks, PTSD, talk of cancer, and graphic violence.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Do not cling to the hand that holds you down”

Empress of All Seasons is an ownvoices Japanese fantasy that was a complete delight to read. I was completely immersed from the very first page, and the last page left me wanting the next book immediately. But this is a tale of family (both found and blood), and honor (both given and earned), and love (unconditionally and conditionally).

The emperor is a human who rules this world and is cruel and demands power in every aspect of his life. In this world, there are many kinds of yōkai, who can turn into different kinds of animals, phantoms, monsters, and demons, and the emperor enslaves all that he can find. The emperor also lives in a magical palace, where there are four rooms controlled by the High Priest, one for each season, that are also incredibly cruel.

And the emperor is looking to marry off his heir, and the only way for him to find a worthy empress is for her to win a competition that will make the girl prove she can survive these four magical rooms and to beat each season’s punishments. It is a little reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Red Rising, but each girl is required to get a limited number scroll, that will be found once they figure out a riddle, to move onto the next room.

“The rules were simple: Survive the Rooms. Conquer the Seasons. Win the prince.”

Mari – Yōkai, whose mother, Tami, is the alpha of their Animal Wives clan. Mari has grown up surrounded by beautiful women whose mission is to go and seduce the richest of men in their animal form, and then on their wedding night steal everything that they can and bring it back to the village. And sometimes when they come back, they will also be pregnant from that night. If they deliver a boy child, it will be sent away, but if they deliver a girl child, then they will be able to retire and prepare their daughter for the way and life of Animal Wives. And even though Mari’s mother is the most beautiful and powerful of the clan, Mari didn’t inherit the looks or the powerful animal form of her mother. But Tami has prepared Mari to be powerful in another way; to be skilled in fighting and to maybe win a competition that will be the greatest heist of all the Animal Wives.

Taro – The Cold Prince, and the Emperor in waiting, but his father, the current emperor, is terribly cruel while Taro is terribly smart. He accidentally invented and crafted metal collars that enslaves all of the yōkai that his father uses to control them.

Akira – The Son of Nightmares. Half of his face is terribly scarred, and the other side perfectly beautiful. His father was a trader, but his mother is a ghost, and they were forced to flee and live in hiding after their village attacked them. He keeps all of Mari’s secrets, and helps save all the people that she defeats during her training, when she should be killing them. Also, he is so very silent and able to sneak around like no one else.

Hanako – Weapons Master and love of my life. She is also leading the yōkai resistance. I want an entire book of her and her white ferret. Also, she is queer. I will say that this book maybe had the “bury your gays” trope, but you never get confirmation, but it for sure feels like it. So, please use caution, and I wish I didn’t have to keep writing this in reviews in 2018. Also, I really recommend you all check out Acqua’s review, because they go way more in depth with the heteronormativity in this world, and it really opened my eyes.

“We’ve been pushed around and forced into quiet rooms our whole lives. Nobody’s ever asked us what we wanted. The prize isn’t the prince. It’s the power.”

This was a really compelling story that I never wanted to put down. And I really think that Emiko Jean has created such a beautiful start to a story that I cannot wait to read more of. From the magic of the rooms, to seeing these four characters live the lives they have been dealt, to seeing this beautiful world turn into something so scary because of one man’s hate and oppression, I just loved it all so much.

“Men are conditioned to take. Women are conditioned to give.”

I will say that this book for sure has major instalove and it didn’t feel organic or believable in the slightest. Also, Taro as a character easily won me over because of his softness at the beginning, but I really grew to find him unbelievable and just kind of dislike him and it made me sad, honestly. I also think this was supposed to feel like an angsty love triangle, but it never really felt like it. But Mari, Akira, and Hanako are still everything. Also, I can’t wait for more Hiro either!

Overall, I can’t wait to see what comes next. I thought it was beautifully written, and I was able to pull so many breathtaking quotes from the ARC copy I had. I loved so many of these characters. The story was unique and so very enthralling. And I loved the Japanese mythology and culture that was always at the forefront of this story. I completely recommend this story, and I truly think it is the start of something that is going to be amazing.


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

Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, loss of a loved one, parental abuse, physical abuse, torture, captivity, slavery, abandonment, drugging, self-harm, blood depictions, and thoughts of suicide.

Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly, Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams, and Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤

 

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

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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 ★★★★★

“You are the blade of Heaven. Make sure you are worthy.”

Friends, we did it, we read all of the The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments. I’d like to take a moment and thank each and every one of you who motivated me to read this backlist instead of just jumping into The Dark Artifices. Seriously, I am so grateful because even though the road started off rocky, I quickly became so attached and fell so in love with these characters and this world. (But we don’t talk about City of Fallen Angels, that book never existed!)

Basically, if you are on the fence about starting this series, and not sure what it is about, this is a story about a paranormal world that is hidden from the mundanes (non-magical humans). We see vampires, werewolves, fae *swoons forever still*, angels, demons, and everything else you think of when you think paranormal. And we also are introduced to the world of shadowhunters, the warriors who are sworn to defeat the demons.

But this is also a story that puts friendship at the forefront constantly. This is a tale about found families, choosing who you want to share your life with, and realizing that neither of those things require the same blood. This is a book about unconditional love, and selflessness, and doing anything you can to protect those you care about. And you follow so many different characters, friend groups, and families along the way.

“There will always be those who want to tell you who you are based on your name or the blood in your veins. Do not let other people decide who you are. Decide for yourself.”

And there is just something so beautiful about seeing all these stories, characters, and families intertwine. All these bloodlines mixing truly feels like something so special to read. I don’t compare things to Harry Potter too often, but I will say that the feeling I had while flipping these pages, never wanting to stop, excitedly purchasing the next book, it was all so reminiscent of my Harry Potter experience. And there is really no higher praise that I can give a book series than that.

I loved this final story. I believe with my whole heart and soul that Cassandra Clare just kept improving throughout all of these books. And I have only the highest of hopes for what she will do next. But the rest of my review is going to touch on a couple key things that happened in this book and things that have happened in previous books, so please use caution reading the rest of this review if you have not read this book and its predecessors! And as always, I’m going to do a little mini character breakdown on my thoughts and feelings on all the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

“I think sometimes we are reckless with our hearts the way we are with our lives. When we give them away, we give every piece.”

(I could not find the artist’s name, but I found this amazing picture on Pinterest!)

Jace – I didn’t hate Jace in this book. Damn. There. I said it. Are you happy now? Again, I think Cassie Clare just gets better and better at writing as these books go on, and I was legit happy with Jace’s character, even his pervy dude scenes, because #relatable. But my beautiful friend, Lea, pointed out that Jace brought a condom to Hell and I honestly died of laughter for about five minutes. I aspire to the level of confident that Jace has to not only think he could put it in while in hell, but to also bring protection just in case. But like… I’m here forever and always for safe sex portrayal, especially for teens, even in Hell, my good dudes.

Clary – I feel like I’ve never fallen in love with Clary the way that I have with other characters from this world, but I’ve never disliked her. And I really like how Jace took a backseat and trusted her to finish her own story. Also, I love how she used her power at the end, because I always forget what a badass power it is.

Simon – My sweet, kind, geeky, selfless boy. Simon honestly might be my favorite of this entire world. And him constantly willing to sacrifice parts of himself for his friends, you all… I need all the tissues in the world. He is friendship goals, boyfriend goals, and just human goals. This boy deserves the world.

“I don’t want the world. I want you.”

(Beautiful fanart by taratjaht!)

Isabelle – And Izzy is truly my world. I think Cassie Clare did such a wonderful job crafting her character to break all those gross “mean girl” stereotypes. Izzy is hard and soft, confident and unsure, and beautiful inside and out. Her friendship with Clary in this one also made me really weak. But her realizing she actually loves this selfless vampire, this kind dork, and sweet boy… you all, it is still breaking me. Sizzy 4 lyfe!

Magnus – Okay, be honest, how messed up am I that I really enjoyed seeing Magnus’ dad? Like, damn. I’m impressed and want to know everything about Asmodeus. Magnus was amazing, like always, even though he lost his cat. Ahhh, my heart! But I can’t wait to see what happened in Peru, and some more of his adventures, in The Bane Chronicles!

Alec – I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jace or Alec until this book. Alec was a realistic eighteen-year-old that just had his heart broken, to me. And he was actually amazing throughout this entire story, while showing us all the things he is struggling with deep down. Also, his dad is a fucking asshole even after he was like “my best friend, who was a dude, loved me and I told him to fuck off!” Like, I’m sorry, was that supposed to make me like you and realize you are tolerant of your kid being gay? Miss me with that shit forever, please. But Alec was, and is, going through a lot, and he was still able to tell Magnus what he wanted and what his limits were at the end of this book. Like, I think I finally ship them together.

Emma – Okay, let’s be real, she is Jace junior, BUT 102 times better. But I instantly loved her and wanted her to be protected. I can’t even imagine the grief or trauma she went through and is still going through. And I can’t wait to learn more about her, while she hopefully learns more about her ancestry.

Julian – Legit, these kids are like thirteen-years-old and I’m like “don’t become parabatai, you’re soulmates!” like an insane person. I can already tell that Emma and Jules are going to give me all the feels when they are older. And their writing on each other? Cutest, most pure shit in the entire world. And Julian wanting to be there and raise his brother and sisters when he is just a kid himself? What a sweetheart, and I’m ready to protect him at all costs.

Brother Zachariah – Legit, this character made me cry more than any. From saying where his home was, to asking if someone might play the violin. My heart, I can’t. And I am most excited to see where his storyline goes. And to see him talk about his past with a few young shadowhunters.

“Ghosts are memories, and we carry them because those we love do not leave the world”

Luke – I’ve loved Luke from City of Bones and I loved him through the last page of this book. Legit the best dad, and he deserves the entire galaxy.

Jocelyn – I honestly just came to hate Clary’s mom more and more as this series progressed. Luke is too damn good for her. She not only was a shitty mom to Sebastian, but she was to Clary, too. And hearing her say all that horrible shit about how she wished she could kill him in the crib and stuff. Like, I get it, he’s evil, but can you like not say shit like that? Fuck. Maybe he didn’t get all his evil from Voldemort Valentine.

Mark – At the start of this book, learning that he was half fae, I instantly fell in love. Seriously, I need to know everything about this hunt, and I’m praying that it will be touched upon more!

Helen – At the start of this book, learning that she was half fae AND QUEER, I instantly fell in love. I felt so bad for her at the end of this book because of how she was treated for being half something else, but I can’t wait to learn any and everything about her.

Aline – In my review for City of Glass I wrote, “Um… is this new character Asian and queer? Because, I think she is, and I think I’m head over heels in love with her already.” AND MY SENSES JUST KNEW! JUST KNEW! I bet this character ends up being one of my favorites.

(Gorgeous fanart by DREI SJ!)

Jordan – His death was actually my least favorite thing about this book. And don’t get it wrong; I hated him from the first time I realized who he was. But… the way Cassie made him and Maia so in love, to only realize that fans were probably like, “yo, this some abuse apologist bullshit” so she killed him off and…

Maia – …Maia realized she never could have been happy with him? Like, no. Sorry. That’s not how it was written. And it’s so messed up because I should be so happy that at least the abuse apologist storyline is over, but it just makes me angry how much it got swept under the rug. Especially because Maia is like one of four characters of color. I don’t know, friends. I just, I didn’t like it. Oh, and then she is obviously going to just jump into another relationship with the Bat dude? Like, why does Cassie Clare treat the character of Maia so poorly? It felt so forced and I felt so much cringe while reading it. But I do love how she is in charge of the pack now, so hopefully I enjoy her in other books.

Raphael – Oh and then one of the other three characters of colors dies? Feels bad, man. Especially because I was really starting to feel for Raphael. Poor guy just got dealt such a bad hand in life. But I can’t wait to see his past with Magnus in The Bane Chronicles.

Maureen – This death actually made me sad, too. Like, she didn’t even have a chance. They couldn’t have captured her and done something? Like, how heartbreaking. Seriously.

Seelie Queen – Okay, but where did this bitch go? I literally gasped when I found out who was warming her bed. I’m still not over it.

Kaelie Whitewillow – We are all rooting for you!

Sebastian – You all, I really came to like Sebastian’s character. Was he a little extreme? Yes. Does Cassie Clare love threatening incest? Yes. But even before the evil left him, I felt a lot of empathy for him. He really is the product of growing up with no love, and it really doesn’t have to do with his demon blood. Maybe it’s my age while I’m reading these for the first time or something, but I actually felt a great deal of sadness from Sebastian, and I think he was a really good villain in this book because of the emotions he was able to evoke from me.

So, to summarize, Jace and Clary did it in Hell (protected), Simon and Izzy are the OTP of my dreams, Magnus and Alec deserve all the happiness in the world, I better get more of this fae hunt society thing with Mark, Emma and Julian are already killing me, Sebastian was wild and evil but I still felt bad for him, Maia is a hot mess but it’s Cassie’s fault, Raphael deserved better, and all I want is Alline and Helen to rule the shadowhunter world. It has been a wild ride, friends.

Overall, I am so happy you all convinced me to read this series, instead of just jumping into Lady Midnight. This book in particular gives you so much new information and characters, I think you’d for sure be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t read at least this book. The road might have started out a little rocky for this series, but I really did come to love it with my whole heart. Simon and Izzy are in my top five OTPs of all-time, Magnus is one of my favorite characters in all of literature, and I already need to know more about everything fae! I can’t wait to continue on with The Bane Chronicles!

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Content and trigger warnings for attempted rape, assault, captivity, attempted/desired incest, self-harm, violence, blood depiction, death, murder, loss of a loved one, abandonment, drugging, and war themes.

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare

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1.) City of Bones ★★★
2.) City of Ashes ★★
3.) City of Glass ★★★
1.) Clockwork Angel ★★★
4.) City of Fallen Angels

“You are a Shadowhunter. You serve a greater cause. Your life is not yours to throw away.”

Friends, this is the highest four star rating. Like, I almost want to give this book five stars because I enjoyed the last 25% so damn much. This is easily my favorite Cassie Clare book yet, and I truly had such a wonderful time reading.

This is the second installment in this history prequel series that stars a young girl named Tessa, who has traveled to London from America, who was trying to find her brother in Clockwork Angel! Well, she found him, and this book is dealing with the ramifications of what she found out. Yet, this book is also about Tessa trying to carve out a place for herself in a world that is unfamiliar to her in so many ways, while also trying to learn about her true past and who she wants to be in the future.

Okay, my review is going to touch on a couple key things that happened in this book and things that have happened in previous books, so please use caution reading the rest of this review if you have not read this book and its predecessors! And as always, I’m going to do a little mini character breakdown on my thoughts and feelings on all the main characters in this book.

Tessa Gray – Poor Tessa got so many big puzzle pieces about her life handed to her in this book. And she is truly believing that her father was a demon, which could completely be true and really intrigues me. I mean, I would personally be upset that he wasn’t from fae lineage, but what can you do?

“I was born into this world to love you, and I will love you in the next life, and the one after that.”

Jem Carstairs – Jem is my favorite character in this series. He’s biracial, Chinese and British, living with a terminal illness, and just the sweetest character in all of literature! And I know without question he would be the one that I pick, even if he’s not the one that I’d pick for Tessa. Also, I’ve dated enough rude and brooding boys to last me (and Tessa) a lifetime.

“I have wanted to do this,” he said, “every moment of every hour of every day that I have been with you since the day I met you. But you know that. You must know. Don’t you?”

Will Herondale – Even though Jem is on the cover of this book, I feel like this was Will’s book. We learned so much about him and we finally get to see what happened to him five years ago. Honestly, I love Will, and even though I won’t completely excuse the gross things he said at the end of Clockwork Angel, I understand him and appreciate him. (If only I could feel the same about Jace! Lord, help me!)

Charlotte Branwell – So happy for her! I honestly love how determined she is for herself, but also how proud and supportive she is of her found family. I love this house mom, forever.

Henry Branwell – So happy for him! He’s alright, but I like him because Charlotte loves him!

Sophie Collins – Again, Sophie is an MVP for me in this book too. I really loved her in Clockwork Angel, and that love only grew in this one. I really hope she keeps remembering her worth, regardless of what happens with boys in higher stations. And I really hope she gets to become a Shadowhunter or something, because she’s just lovely, and brave, and I feel so much joy every time I read a scene with her!

Benedict Lightwood – Please don’t be a dick, don’t be a dick, don’t be a dick.

Magnus Bane – Magnus, my Asian and bi baby, legit had me rereading paragraphs from laughing in this book. Seriously, such a fantastic character. And such a caring character, who just makes this world so much brighter. I’m looking so very forward to his novellas.

Camille Belcourt – So thankful that I read City of Fallen Angels, only because it made me appreciate everything that happened between Magnus and Will that made Camille tell Alec the things she believes. Like, friends, I was laughing out loud.

Jessamine Lovelace – This bitch. You all, I knew she was trouble, I just didn’t know how much. But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if she gets a redemption arc.

Nate Gray – Like, what a lame and pointless character. Seriously. But like, now I want to know everything about Tessa’s necklace.

Axel Mortmain – Where the fuck is this man? For real?

Like I said above, this is my favorite Cassie Clare to date! I just feel like this book took on a much darker and more mature theme, while also blending in some amazing adventure and all that good angst! I truly feel like the romance in this is one of my all-time favorites, and that’s really saying something. I just never wanted to put this book down, and I was always smiling (or crying) while reading it. This was nothing short of a treat to read.

The romance in this book was actually incredible. I kept complaining on bookstagram at 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, that this isn’t a love triangle and that its so obvious that Tessa only feels platonically for Jem. Then after that 40% mark, my world completely shifted. Friends, this is one of my favorite love triangles of all time.

I will say that I can completely understand how people can see issue with Tessa maybe feeling obligated to start something with Jem because he is dying. And obviously that’s a really terrible position to be in and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but I truly believed by the end of this book that Tessa does have genuine feelings for Jem. Even if I also believe with my entire heart that those feelings are stronger for Will.

“When she closed her eyes, she saw Jem’s face, and then Will’s, his hand to his bloody mouth. Thoughts of the two of them swirled together in her head until she fell asleep finally, not sure if she was dreaming of kissing one of them, or the other.”

You all are going to read this paragraph and you’re all going to be like “it’s not that deep, Melanie!” But I really do think that Clockwork Prince is a love letter to all the different types of love that we will have in our lives. From just friendships and wanting to support and love them unconditionally, and how magical it is when we find our own found family. To romantic love, which is that gut wrenching, pure bliss, that we don’t even have words to express, but how we don’t feel truly whole without those people/that person. And to all that messy love in-between. Even though I don’t feel the romantic love between Tess and Jem as much as I do between Tessa and Will, that doesn’t make the love lesser and it definitely doesn’t make it any less real.

“Could you really love two different people at once? Could you split your heart in half?”

And I believe with my whole heart that these three main characters should start a polyamorous relationship. These three individuals love each other so much that it just feels right, maybe even obvious, that they should be a triad or a vee. Because being in a polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean it has to be about sex. I mean, it could be, but it also means being there emotionally for your two partners, too. And even though I do believe that they should all be in a relationship with each other, they could also just both be in a relationship with Tessa and it would still be valid and pure and everything I’ve ever wanted. Cassie Clare, hear my prayers.

“I cannot explain love,” he said. “I could not tell you if I loved you the first moment I saw you, or if it was the second or third or fourth. But I remember the first moment I looked at you walking toward me and realized that somehow the rest of the world seemed to vanish when I was with you. That you were the center of everything I did and felt and thought.”

Okay, so something else I want to talk about is Tessa being a warlock! Like, Magnus is immortal, and we are seeing him constantly throughout The Mortal Instruments, but I’d just like to point out that I haven’t seen Tessa. So, friends, I’m scared. I’m real scared. I also know everyone talks about how heartbreaking the final book is, but I think it’s going to be even more heartbreaking than I’m anticipating.

Overall, I loved this book. Easily my favorite Cassie Clare book, yet! Again, I just want to say a big thank you to all for motivating me to pick this up, and for not spoiling me for anything. I can’t believe I’ve made it this long without being spoiled to anything, but it’s truly making my reading experience so much greater! And I can’t wait until I finally uncover every secret and can gush with you all forever over this world! I can’t wait to read Clockwork Princess, I just wish I didn’t have to read City of Lost Souls first!


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Content and trigger warnings for death, murder, loss of a loved one, talk of past torture, abandonment, talk of chronic illness, grey area consent of a kiss, grey area cheating, drug use, talk of suicide, and self-harm.

Buddy read with Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤