Love, Magic and My Humble Opinion

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Synopsis: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Rating: 3.5 stars

This book was The Book Clubs personal choice for last August (I’m very behind on my reviews) and I went in pretty blind. I’d heard a lot of praise for the book and knew it focused on LGBTQ+ characters but that was about it.

The writing style is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, it felt very unattached and that really fit with the plot of the novel and the whole ‘company that helps you forget’ aspect. But I am a very character focused person, the plot of a book can be complete rubbish as long as I connect to the characters, so reading this was really weird for me because it was so unattached I didn’t feel attached to the characters.

But as I got further into the book I found myself getting attached without realising it. I was growing invested in what happened to Aaron, his family and friends and hoping for a happy outcome. I still wasn’t as attached as I normally am and I think that was because of the writing style of the novel.

I loved the story, the concept and I appreciate the reasons behind the writing style but the disconnect with the characters just did not pull me in as much as I was hoping it would. I couldn’t quite give this book 4 stars because it didn’t quite give me the enjoyment my other 4 star reads have but Adam’s novel is extremely important in today’s society and I would recommend it to people based on that alone.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

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Synopsis: It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Rating: 5 stars

This book is just perfect. I was so worried it would suffer from second book syndrome, especially when I read that it was about a magic competition (it’s been done so many times!) but Schwab manages to make it so original. Although the competition is the main focus of the plot in this book there’s still so much else happening that half the time I completely forgot the competition was happening. Then when the focus was back on the Element Games I was sucked in and didn’t want those sections to end. There was the perfect balance of magic, competition and actual plot in this book.

The real winner for this series for me will always be the characters. I have never connected with characters that I am nothing a like so well. I was so worried they would all change after the events of books 1 (you can read my full review here) and they did change a little. But it was appropriate change for the events, they were still fundamentally themselves and I love these characters so much so it made me so happy.

I’m not going to say much else about this book because I could honestly ramble about it forever. All you need to know it this book made me laugh out loud, it made me cry, it made me smile, it made me want to throw it against the wall in frustration! (But I didn’t because it’s a precious book). It is one of my favourite series of all time (second to Harry Potter and joint with Percy Jackson) and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone even if fantasy isn’t your thing because this will make fantasy your thing.

Annihilation by Jeff Vander Meer

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Synopsis: Welcome to Area X. An Edenic wilderness, an environmental disaster zone, a mystery for thirty years.

For thirty years, Area X, monitored by the secret agency known as the Southern Reach, has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border– an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. Eleven expeditions have been sent in to investigate; even for those that have made it out alive, there have been terrible consequences.

‘Annihilation’ is the story of the twelfth expedition and is told by its nameless biologist. Introverted but highly intelligent, the biologist brings her own secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, their stated mission: to chart the land, take samples and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.

But they soon find out that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. An unmapped tunnel is not as it first appears. An inexplicable moaning calls in the distance at dusk. And while each member of the expedition has surrendered to the authority of the Southern Reach, the power of Area X is far more difficult to resist.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Annihilation was nothing like I expected, I went in thinking it would be this cool sic-fi about four badass women but that is not what I got. The only part that was anything like I went in expecting was the mystery and the intrigue. I was guessing along with the characters and had no clue what was actually going on and I kept reading hoping to find out.

But a lot of the mystery was due to the book just not being very clear. I didn’t know what was happening when everything was simple let alone when everything started getting tense and mysterious. The area they entered wasn’t described very well and the events that took place seemed jumbled and unclear.

I would have been able to cope with the confusing plot if the characters had have been decent, but for lack of a better word they lacked character. None of the characters are given names, just the title of their job, the reader doesn’t get to know a lot about them and we only hear from the Biologists point of view. We learn a little about her past but not enough to create a connection with her and she relays everything that’s happening in a monotonous way. There’s not emotion, no connection, you don’t feel for the characters and want them to succeed.

I basically just finished this book to try and get some answers, but (spoiler alert) I didn’t get them. There’s no emotional motivation to read and the only reason this book managed to get 2.5 stars and not less was because I did have be turning the page as quickly as I could to find out what happened next, but even that was disappointing. If you’re looking for some kickass females in a  weird sic-fi land this is not the book for you.

Signs Point To Yes by Sandy Hall

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Synopsis: If only Jane’s Magic 8 Ball could tell her how to get through the summer. With her “perfect” sister, Margo, home for her “perfect” internship, Jane is not going to be able to spend the summer writing fan fiction, as she had planned. And her emergency babysitting job requires Jane to spend the whole summer in awkward proximity to her new crush, Teo, a nerdy-hot lifeguard with problems of his own. With his best friend out of town, Teo finds himself without anyone to confide in…except Jane. Will Jane and Teo be able to salvage each other’s summer? Even the Magic 8 Ball doesn’t have an answer…but signs point to yes.

Rating: 3.5 stars

I don’t usually read contemporary novels, I like to stay firmly in the fantasy genre but last year I had a sudden urge to dive into some contemporary and this book caught my eye. Not only is the cover gorgeous but the plot sounded cute and fluffy which is exactly what I needed.

Is this breaking the mould and unlike any other contemporary you’ve read before? No. Is it your typical cute story about two teens who have known each other but never got to know each other and when they do they fall for each other? Yes. There are a couple of surprises along the way (I won’t say too much, don’t want to spoil it for you) but nothing I couldn’t have predicted would happen.

The characters are very likeable and I really enjoyed that Teo wasn’t the typical overly popular jock but instead a friendly, down to earth guy who just needs someone to talk to. Jane is likeable as well, I was expecting her to be the manic pixie dream girl type but instead she was just normal. She didn’t always make the best decisions and wanted to do what was best for everyone else. The one character I really did like was Jane’s sister, again I don’t want to reveal too much but I would love a sequel focused on her.

Did this book blow my mind? No. But it did make me smile, it was exactly what I needed at the time. A quick read that didn’t take a lot of concentration, just something to breeze through in the sun when my brain was fried.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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Synopsis: She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Rating: 4 stars

When I first started reading this book I was slightly confused about the setting, was it western cowboy or Indian desert? Well it’s a little bit of both, mainly Indian desert but with a badass protagonist who could easily take out any cowboy with her pistol.

The characters are so rich and develop amazingly throughout the novel and although the goodreads synopsis above talks about the romance in the book it wasn’t a huge part of it. I did enjoy watching it develop but it wasn’t the main focus, there were other far more important things happening and I really enjoyed that part of it.

The world and the magic system itself weren’t the usual type I enjoy reading, I much prefer worlds with magic flowing freely but I was really drawn into Miraji and the different magical beasts and powers that you encounter throughout the book. The second half of the novel was definitely my favourite because there was more magic present but I don’t want to say much more else incase I spoil it for you all.

Although I loved this book the slower first half meant I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars. But it is an amazingly developed diverse fantasy that I would recommend to any fantasy lover or anyone looking to branch into the genre.

The Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Synopsis: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Rating: 4 stars

How this woman comes up with her ideas I’ll never know but I love them. This Savage Song is defiantly darker than your usual YA and that’s one of the things I loved most about it, Schwab doesn’t try and hide anything from her readers, she doesn’t fluff anything up for them or try and shield them from the horrors of her world. It’s right there in front of you which makes it such a tragic book.

The whole concept is heartbreaking, with posters growing from violent acts and what is considered the most monstrous of all actually being the most human. The way that Schwab crafts her characters makes you connect to them when they are nothing like you which is what I love about her writing and she does it exactly the same in this novel. Although I did prefer reading about August to Kate I still connected with them both and didn’t find myself rushing Kate’s chapters to read about August like I usually do when there are multiple perspectives. Also, no romance! One of the most amazing parts of this book is that the two main characters are male and female and there is no romance what so ever, just a mutual respect for each other and a budding friendship.

Like I could with all of Schwab’s books that I’ve read I could go on for ever about the depth and development to her worlds, she makes something that should seem out of this world so realistic. The world she creates in this duology is so like our own in so many ways yet like nothing I have ever read before.

As much as I enjoyed this book it didn’t quite match the emotion and love I have for her trilogy, Shades of Magic, so I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars but if you’re new to Schwabs books then this is where I’d recommend to start. It matches Shades of Magic in every aspect, character development, world building, thrilling plot, but for me Shades of Magic is just more my type of book.

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