To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.

To devour what they left behind…:Reviewing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Hi everybody! I know, I know. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finish this novel, but I’m super excited to share this with you. Lately, I’ve been on a historical mystery kick. I feel the genre is very under appreciated. Despite this book taking me forever to read (not because of length, but because I’m lazy), it was absolutely worth my time. Now let’s talk about The Shadow of the Wind.

Daniel Sempere was just a young boy when his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He immediately found himself drawn to The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julian Carax. Being the son of a bookseller, Daniel uses his father’s connections to find more books by Carax. Soon, he finds out that all of Carax’s books have been destroyed and he may have the only remaining book of Carax. Daniel’s search for the truth reveals the dark and tangled web of Barcelona, full of murder, lies, and forbidden love.

Zafon’s twisted and intricate novel is worth the deep dive that requires to read it. Admittedly, it can be a bit of the struggle to keep up with the plot as so many characters are being introduced at every turn, but it all ties together in the end. There are points in this book that made me audibly gasp. Some people might say I’m spoiling the book by saying it has plot twists, but they are amazing plot twists. It is a mystery, after all. That is part of the genre. This novel is immersive, suspenseful, and thoughtful all at once. The atmosphere of Zafon’s depiction of Barcelona in 1945 is enough to pull the reader into the story. The novel has bits and pieces of many other genres, which is what makes it so interesting to read. I highly recommend The Shadow of the Wind to just anyone at all as it has something to satisfy every reader and will keep you hanging on until the very end.

Big Gods Don’t Cry: Reviewing The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book Four of the Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hey everybody! I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth yet. Granted, I’m still super busy but I have my weekends back for some relaxation, which includes catching up on my books. In case you have forgotten, I am still a fan of Rick Riordan and all of his series. I actually saw The Lightning Thief: The Musical earlier this year and loved the hell out of it. Now, it’s time to talk about the latest book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Tyrant’s Tomb.

Yes, Apollo is still teenaged boy with unfortunate name of Lester. Yes, he is still miserable. Thanks for asking. To make things worst, it turns out his mortal birthday also happens to be the day that Caligula and Commodus are planning to attack Camp Jupiter, home of the Roman demigods. On top of all of that, an evil undead king is planning on attacking once the blood moon rises. And if you think it couldn’t get worse, Apollo also must figure out how to cure the poison inflicted on him by ghoul. With all of that being said, he must team up with Meg, Frank, Hazel, and Reyna (and a few other unlikely friends) to save Camp Jupiter or (hopefully not) die trying.

I’m still surprised by how much I am enjoying this series. I really didn’t think that I would be delving back into the world of YA novels. Riordan has proven to have staying power, though. I guess the connection I make with this novel is the fact the main character (Apollo/Lester) is technically an adult who then has to deal with the struggles of teen angst as well as deal with adult issues. He still makes for an enjoyable main character to follow. This novel had a slightly more emotional angle to it as we have Apollo facing his past actions and coping with that guilt, which is kind of a heavy topic for a YA novel. I did enjoy that aspect of it, though. Riordan still keeps a nice sarcastic tone throughout the novel that never feels like it is too much or inappropriate. There was plenty of action and adventure to be had that every Riordan novel gives you. Go ahead and read The Trials of Apollo. I’m looking forward to the next novel. Also, I might go see The Lightning Thief on Broadway in the near future.

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

At Night, We Shine: Reviewing Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Hi everyone! I’m glad to be back and to have finally finished another book. Along with all of my important adult jobs, I’ve also been busy in the world of ebooks. I have finally caved and started using my Kindle. I’ve been one of “those” stubborn people who have adamantly refused to use any sort of electronic book, but I have a hard time saying no to cheap books. Let’s get on to reviewing yet another book by one of my all time favorite authors.

Tristran Thorn is a young man who will do anything for the love of his life, Victoria Forester. When they see a star fall to Earth, he promises her to retrieve the star in exchange for her love. Tristran then embarks on a perilous journey through lands far beyond the Wall. He must race against unknown dangers to save the star and learn that his world was not what he once thought it was.

I can best describe this novel as a fairy tale for adults. Gaiman combines the classic language and structure of a childhood fairy tale and his signature fantastical writing. It is a more upbeat story with a nice, romantic ending. The story definitely reminds me quite a lot of The Princess Bride, with its quirky characters and how it embraces many fairy tale tropes. The story is nicely paced, as well as straightforward. It has some “adult” moments, but nothing extreme or overly graphic. The novel is a fun mix of romance, magic, and adventure. I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling nostalgic. I am biased when I say this but, I love Gaiman’s Stardust.

On another note, if any of you think that this novel sounds familiar, it is because a movie of the same name based on the novel came out a while ago. I saw it in the theaters as a kid and loved it then. It’s available on Netflix, if you are interested. It’s not a great movie, but it is a fun movie. It has a great cast that includes: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I hope some of you remember this because I’ll be disappointed if no one else remembers this movie.

To Be, Rather than to Seem: Reviewing The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Hi everyone! This review took a while because I’m easily distracted. I had actually read this book a while back, but had since forgotten the details of the novel. In fact, most of the books I review for this blog are books that I have read previously, but I wanted to share them with you all. With that being said, here is my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. It is a magical experience for all those who enter through its gates. They call it Le Cirque des Reves and it appears at random and opens only at night. Little do the guests know of the fierce competition behind the scenes. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair have been training their whole lives for a mysterious game of magic with only one winner. When the two young illusionists fall in love with each other, it leads to dangerous consequences that leave the circus and its performers in peril.

Morgentern’s novel is an elaborate and magical read. The writing is layered and atmospheric. It is certainly an immersive read as it alternates between perspectives, even sometimes shifting the writing style a little to accommodate the characters in the scene. The story can be a bit vague at times, but it is part of the experience. It does pay off at the end of the novel. I particularly enjoyed how the rich details and symbolism tie into the themes of the story, such as the elaborate clocks or the various circus tents that Morgenstern puts great care into describing. The novel has an overall romantic feel, and I don’t just mean that in the sense of there is a love story. I remembered why I enjoyed this novel in the first place. If you want something with magic, romance, and danger, then I would go ahead and recommend picking up The Night Circus.

See No Evil: Reviewing Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Hi everybody! I’m just out here cranking out more book reviews. I’m sure a lot of your have already heard of this novel or seen the Netflix movie based off of this book. I watched it when it first came out and, overall, I did enjoy it. I’ll be making some more comparisons in my review. For those of you who are interested, let by tell you about Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

The apocalypse started and no one saw it coming, literally. The world has been invaded by creatures that drive people to madness with a single look. Malorie, a mother of two young children, must take her chance to get her and the children to safety. With her only chance being a rough trip down a river, Malorie must embark on the perilous journey and escape whatever might be chasing her and her family or lose her mind and life in the process.

This novel carefully straddled the line between character-driven and plot-driven. Overall, the plot is certainly intriguing but the characters felt a little bland to me. It felt as though the only reason I really cared about any of them was because of their situation. The whole situation with the creatures actually gets a better explanation in the movie. In fact, the movie actually did a slightly better job depicting the whole chaotic nature of this apocalyptic scenario. I did, however, enjoy the suspense of the novel and the quick pacing. For those of you who have seen the movie, it’s not a spot-on adaptation. It is pretty close, though. The novel doesn’t hold back in depicting any graphic violence, of which there are a few instances. In conclusion, Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a good read if you are interested in apocalyptic/survival stories. The whole thing felt a little overhyped to me, but I can’t say I didn’t find enjoyment in this novel. Overall, I’m going to go ahead and recommend reading this novel.

To Err is to God: Reviewing The Hidden Oracle (Book One of The Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hi everybody! I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa, two posts in such a short period of time! How is this even possible?” Well, to answer your question, I’ve been feeling more motivated than ever. I also saw The Lightning Thief: The Musical today and it was awesome. I’d highly recommend it. This leads me to my next point, which is that I have been a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series since I was in grade school. I was reading the Heroes of Olympus series into college. For Christmas, my mom had given me the third book in Rick Riordan’s latest series because it had his autograph. Obviously, I had to actually start the series. Now, here is my review of the first novel in The Trials of Apollo.

Apollo once had everything. He was the god of the sun, music, poetry, archery, and many other things until Zeus cast him down from Olympus as punishment. Now a mortal teenager named Lester, Apollo must restore his Oracles to power and prevent a new wave of monsters from destroying the world. With the help of some unlikely demigods, Apollo must complete his quests in order to restore his place on Mount Olympus or die trying.

After reading this first book in his latest series, I realized how much I genuinely missed Riordan’s writing. The things in the novel that made me laugh at thirteen-years-old make me laugh now at twenty-two. Riordan incorporates his usual charm and sarcasm into his writing. Apollo is simultaneously very unlikable and very charming as a main character. Though the plot is still relatively similar to the other novels, Riordan knows how to throw in new elements to make it feel just as new as before. The novel has a tongue-and-cheek feel that could appeal to adults. The characters are still relatable to teens and middle-grade kids. (Don’t quote me on that, though. I could be wrong). Reading this novel, I realized how much I missed Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter. While there are certainly novels that I can safely stow away in the memories of my childhood, this new Riordan series has brought me a fun and familiar nostalgia. If you are a current or former fan of the Percy Jackson series or a Greek mythology nerd, I am going to go ahead and highly recommend if you are looking for a fun adventure or looking to revisit your favorite YA/Middle-grade series.

Not Surviving, But Thriving: Reviewing Vengeful by V. E. Schwab

Hi everyone! Wow, it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve done a book review. It’s taken me way too long to finish this book. If you want to, you can check out my review of Vicious, the first book in the series. But for now, let’s discuss Vengeful by V.E. Schwab.

Victor Vale and Eli Ever were only the tip of the EO iceberg. Now, a new player has entered the game. Marcella Riggins is powerful, beautiful, and can destroy anything with the touch of her hand. With her sites set on the city of Merit, Marcella decides it is time to claim what she believes is rightfully her. With Victor on the run and Eli being held in an EON detention center, the two must find away to stop Marcella and her powerful friends then end each other once and for all.

Just like Vicious, Vengeful has a thrilling and suspenseful edge to its story telling. The chapters are short but they are packed with gory detail and some great examination of the characters. The novel does get gory so, squeamish readers, you have been warned. I love the complex, morally grey nature of the characters. My only real complaint about this novel was it felt a little slower than its predecessor. There were some longer sections just dedicated to some of the characters’ backstories. I didn’t find it boring by any means. I just felt it dragged on a bit at times but, once you get back into the action, the book picks up very quickly. I found it hard to set this book down. If you loved Vicious then you will certainly love its sequel.

I saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and I have some thoughts

Hi everyone! Originally, I was going to make this post about my favorites of 2018 but I ended up seeing the newest movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise tonight. In my previous post about having “too much story,” I admitted that I was hesitant about this movie and if it was messing with the original lore too much. You all know that I am a die hard Harry Potter fan, who also enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Let me tell you what I thought. Spoilers Ahead!

I wanted to start by talking about the thing I liked about this movie. First, I loved seeing Newt again. I really enjoy his atypical characteristics. Eddie Redmayne is charming as anything and it comes through again. In addition to Newt, I also enjoyed seeing him and Jacob back together for adventures. I can’t go any further without mentioning how I loved seeing Newt and Tina together. (I really ship it.) As for the story, I did enjoy seeing the lore of Grindelwald come to life as that was a very important part of what led to Voldemort’s rise to power. Along with that, seeing Dumbledore before in his teacher days was one of the best parts of the movies. There was some really good world building and great character development. I can’t completely say the movie didn’t have some great elements. 

Let’s get to what I didn’t like. First, I’m still not happy about Johnny Depp being casted. He did a fine job in the movie but they should have replaced him with someone less controversial. I shouldn’t feel guilty supporting this movie. There was definitely some muddling of the lore that seemed to appear out of nowhere and with no preface. With the reveal of Credence possibly being a Dumbledore and not a Lestrange, I found myself a bit baffled. I know it’s mostly for sequel bait but it’s still a weird reveal. Along with the whole familial confusion, there was also infanticide! I was not expecting to see babies being murdered and I was disturbed as any other person should be. My biggest gripe, beyond all of that, is that there were not enough beasts in the movie. I wanted to know if Newt had made any progress in helping people learn to understand magical beasts but that was completely thrown away for the Grindelwald plot. The actual beasts are what drove the first movie and I really enjoyed seeing all of that. The charm of the first movie just got lost in this one. Only Newt, Tina, and Jacob were the driving forces of what made the first movie so enjoyable. 

In conclusion, I don’t think this movie gave “too much” story. Instead, I thought it told the wrong story. It wasn’t a badly written story by any means. It was just too much of a turn from what the first movie delivered. The plot twists felt as though they were mostly there for shock and sequel bait as opposed to story building. Now, I am aware that this is JK Rowling’s world and she can do whatever she wants with it. There, however, has to be some consistency. I understand we can’t know everything about the Wizarding World. I am just saying, though, that the world building felt lost in the epic-ness of the movie. I’m not hating on this movie by any means. I would definitely watch it again. I’m just intrigued as to where the story is going to go from here.