Mini reviews and DNFs: Daisy Jones & The Six, Raybearer, and more

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is the first contemporary fiction novel I’ve read since 2018! I thought this was good, I probably won’t ever reread it, but I am looking forward to the TV adaptation.

Things I like

  • complex, feminist female characters
  • examines complex, tough issues (abortion, drug addiction, alcoholism)
  • realistic, messy relationships
  • oral history format

but…

  • cliche ‘band breakup’ story, but my connection with the characters kept me involved

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Raybearer is a West-African inspired fantasy novel, and I cannot believe it’s a debut. I’m so impressed by the writing, world-building, mythology, and magic system. If I read this a few months earlier I would have loved it even more, but in the last month I’ve started transitioning to the adult genre and YA hasn’t really grabbed me. However, I did enjoy this. I look forward to reading the next book(s), and I highly recommend this!

Things I like

  • the writing is phenomenal
  • world-building, mythology, magic
  • asexual and bisexual rep
  • dynamic in the counsel is fascinating
  • the cover is gorgeous, and I saw somewhere that it features fabrics/patterns from the different nations in the book, which is so cool!

but…

  • didn’t feel very connected to the characters- the internal narration was mostly dedicated to the plot, and I would have liked to hear more about the characters’ feelings
  • I got major polyamorous vibes from the council, and I wanted to see more of it, but hopefully in the next book it will be explored more when the characters are older


Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

DNFed at 21%

I wasn’t going to read Midnight Sun, but the hype totally drew me in. I mostly blame it on Twilight Tik Tok. So I tried, and it was just so bad. If it was a shorter book I might have been able to soldier through, but it’s over 650 pages and I just couldn’t do it. We’ve just moved beyond the need for the ‘girl is so beautiful but doesn’t know it’ and ‘she’s not like other girls’ tropes. It would be interesting if this was modernized a little bit, with some old tropes thrown out, but I get that’s not really possible when you’re just telling the same story from years ago from a different POV.

The 13 by M.M. Perry

DNFed at 11%

I was drawn to this because it reminded me of Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner, which I loved. Unfortunately, the beginning didn’t grab my attention. I read some reviews that said it got better, but I just didn’t want to put in the time to see if that was true. The main reason why I DNFed this is because of the dialogue. There are sentences like, “we’re max compat, yeah” and it just pulled me straight out of the story. There was so much lingo thrown around that wasn’t explained, so I had no idea what was going on.

Reading Struggles and Reviews: The Bane Chronicles & Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Clary Funko Pop from @libraryofthenight on Instagram

The Bane Chronicles

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I always enjoy The Bane Chronicles much more than I think I will- I managed to finish this in one day. I really enjoy Magnus, Ragnor, and Catarina as characters, and I love their dynamic as friends.

My favorite stories are “The Course of True Love (And First Dates)”, “What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything”, “The Last Stand of the New York Institute”, and “Saving Raphael Santiago.” I love the stories with Alec. I can’t wait to finally read The Red Scrolls of Magic so I can see more of their relationship. Raphael’s sacrifice in City of Heavenly Fire is so much more meaningful after reading about the beginning of his and Magnus’ relationship. “The Last Stand of the New York Institute” is so good because I hate it so much, if that makes sense. It’s truly revolting the things that the Circle did, and I can’t believe that Luke, Jocelyn, Robert, and Maryse were all a part of it. It really clouds my liking of their characters. In The Mortal Instruments, it’s never explicitly described what the Circle did. I wish it had been described, because I think it would have made Valentine a much scarier villain.


Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I blew through TBC in one day, and my reading experience couldn’t be any different for TFTSA. I have struggled to get into this- I wish every story was a little shorter. Part of the reason I think I’m having such a hard time engaging in these stories is that Simon’s character seems pretty different from The Mortal Instruments. I don’t know if this is because half his memories are gone, or if it’s because Clare is writing with three other co-authors, or if they’re purposefully trying to make him much funnier. He just doesn’t seem as charming or naturally funny, but that could be because so much of his humor in TMI involved bouncing off and interacting with the other characters. The whole “shadowhunters-vs-dregs” plot is so frustrating, but that’s shadowhunters for you.

Ok, so almost three months later I finally finished this book. It was a STRUGGLE. First, what I decidedly don’t like. The characters just seem so off to me. Simon’s humor is so forced, and for me, his appeal came from his easy and witty humor. The writers just took it so far into the next level that he did not seem funny to me. Also Isabelle just drives me insane in this book. I love her character in every other book she’s in, but this one almost completely destroys her for me. Isabelle even says at one point that Simon has completely changed her and turned her into a sappy, lovestruck girl, and I just don’t think anyone could do that to Isabelle. Her arc in this book seems so forced and very off-line from her arcs in the rest of the books.

The plots are also a weak point for me. When Simon and Clary are drugged my Magnus to make them figure out they need to be parabatai- it just lost me. There was an explanation for why it needed to happen, but it seemed like a poor explanation and did not line up with the characters past actions and motivations.

Finally, what bothered me the most is the fact that (almost) EVERY character is described as having brown skin. Jace, who is just a tan white dude, whose skin is usually described as “golden,” because of course it is- is described as having “brown” skin. Jem, who is half Chinese, is also described as having “brown” skin. There’s a lot of dialogue out there about how writers won’t describe Black characters as having Black skin- they will use weird descriptions like “chocolate colored skin that’s glowy,” or something like that. But then white and Asian characters are described as having brown skin? Definitely don’t understand, and also I think it’s lazy writing.

Perhaps the only saving grace of this book is Malec- and I don’t even know if his story can raise the rating for me. Magnus’ and Alec’s story “Born to Endless Night” is by far my favorite. I also enjoyed “Pale Kings and Princes.” None of the other stories really stood out to me.

Rereading The Mortal Instruments Books 5-6

City of Lost Souls

Rating: 5 out of 5.

City of Lost Souls is definitely tied with City of Heavenly Fire for my favorite book in the series. The plot is great and the character development is equally fantastic. Sometimes I forget why Jonathan Morgenstern is such a scary villain, but then I reread this book and I remember. He is just plain evil, and the dynamic between him and Clary is so intriguing.

As I said in my last review of the first four books, I got tired pretty quickly of New York as the setting, so part of the reason I enjoy CoLS so much is because it takes place in a magically traveling townhouse. This might sound far out, but Cassandra Clare writes it in a way that makes it totally believable and plausible. I love getting to travel all around Europe in this book.

Character-wise this novel also just really did it for me. I love Alec and Magnus’ struggles, as well as the progression of Simon and Izzy’s relationship. Clary has grown by leaps and bounds since the first three books, and her character is so much more enjoyable for me to read. In addition to Clary’s character, another vast improvement I saw was the writing of the fight scenes. I thought they were so much more engaging than in previous books, and really captivated and thrilled me.

City of Heavenly Fire

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is by far the longest book of the series, but it never drags. Edom is such an intriguing setting, and all the characters really grew while there. While in Edom, I felt like we finally got to see Alec and Jace act like parabatai. In previous books it was always established that the two were parabatai, but I felt like we never really got to see the intensity or depth of their relationship. It kind of came out of nowhere, but it makes sense because the longer Cassandra Clare writes in the Shadow World, the more details she will uncover.

Simon was definitely one of my favorites in this book, and I definitely look forward to rereading Tales form the Shadowhunter Academy. Alec also really gets the chance to shine in this book. The Blackthorn’s storyline is so heartbreaking, and it really shows the children’s strength.

I have no qualms with how this series is wrapped up. At the end, I love getting to see Jem and Tessa together, and I love how all the characters arc were wrapped up, but at the same time they were all set up for future stories.

Rereading The Mortal Instruments Books 1-4

I love reading new books, but I love rereading my favorite books just as much. It might be my terrible memory, but I always forget little details, and sometimes major ones, and when I reread a book it’s almost like I’m reading it again for the first time. One of the book series I reread the most is The Mortal Instruments, or anything by Cassandra Clare. In fact, I read it so much that I told myself I was not going to reread any Cassandra Clare book this year. This became a problem when Queen of Air and Darkness came out, because my terrible memory made me forget most of what happened in Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows. I tried reading Queen of Air and Darkness, but I just couldn’t get as into it because I knew I was forgetting so much of the story. Then by chance I browsed through my goodreads account and discovered that I actually haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series since 2016. I had no idea it’s been four years since I read one of my favorite series, so I decided to reread every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I’ve read every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles except Ghosts of the Shadow Market, Queen of Air and Darkness, Chain of Gold, and The Red Scrolls of Magic, so I’m excited to use this reread as a chance to finally get to these.

City of Bones

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I definitely feel the most nostalgic when I read City of Bones. Cassie Clare does such a good job introducing us to the Shadow World and immediately making me care about the characters. The banter in this book is so good, especially between Simon and Jace- it always makes me smile. I noticed that during this reread I found Clary slightly annoying. I forgot that I felt this way towards her, but I think in 2016 the last time I read this book I felt the same way. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m getting older, and Clary is written as a really stubborn sixteen-year-old girl. I think the angle Cassie Clare was going for is that Clary is so blinded by her love for her family and friends and her desire to save them that she doesn’t consider the consequences. I totally think this is a valid angle, but I feel like sometimes the lines got blurred between just being rude and being rude/abrasive for the sake of the people she loves.

City of Ashes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One aspect that majorly weirded me out in City of Ashes is the incest. I know it’s a super old scandal and it’s been talked about a lot, but it definitely bothered me this reread. I don’t think it really mattered that much to me when I first read these books. I think it’s because I knew they would end up together and not related, and also because when I first read this series the first five books were already out, so I was able to read the books back to back.

This is really the first book where hints and connections start getting dropped about all the different bloodlines, which did get me excited for the rest of the books.

The major setting for The Mortal Instruments is New York. It’s basically another character. I’ve never felt this before, but by the time I finished City of Ashes I was kind of sick of New York. I think this is because now that I’ve read most of The Dark Artifices, and I knew what was coming in City of Glass and later books, I was just really looking forward to getting to read about Idris, the Faerie Court, Los Angeles, and all the other places we visit. Finally my last gripe, if Jace would just talk about his problems so much could be avoided! I still love him, but he definitely annoyed me at parts. I actually ended up lowering my rating to four stars because after reading City of Glass, I realized I did not enjoy this book as much as others in the series.

City of Glass

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I love City of Glass because finally we go to Idris and get to see more of the Clave and meet characters like Amatis and the Penhallows. Clary at the beginning still drove me pretty crazy, and I was glad when Luke, and even Amatis, finally gave her some parental-like guidance.

Valentine definitely bored me and I was glad to see him go. I think Sebastian is definitely more interesting, and I think his beliefs and methods are just a little more plausible to me as a villain. I just never really understood Valentines’ beliefs, which might have been the point because he’s basically got very Hitler-esque tactics.

I really love the ending because it wraps up so nicely. It’s really easy to see how this was originally intended to be a trilogy.

City of Fallen Angels

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This has a really slow beginning for me. I didn’t get excited until the last 75 pages. There’s a couple reasons this felt slow to me. First, we’re back in New York, which just makes me miss Idris. Second, because the last book wrapped up so nicely, this book is almost like a second first book. The plot had to be reestablished. This was also very heavily character based and not plot based, and part of what I love about Cassie Clare books are the major plot twists, so City of Fallen Angels just lacked a lot of that excitement for me.

I did enjoy this because I saw so much growth in Clary. She seems worlds more mature, which definitely makes sense given everything she’s gone through. I also really enjoyed getting to read more about Maia and getting introduced to Jordan.

Review: The Fallen World Series by Laura Thalassa

The Fallen World Series by Laura Thalassa

The Queen of All that Dies: 4 stars

The Queen of Traitors: 4.5 stars

The Queen of All that Lives: 4 stars

Finally I am out of my reading slump, and suddenly I’ve found myself a new favorite author: Laura Thalassa. Last year I read her novel Pestilence, and I really enjoyed it. At the end of March I got around to reading the sequel, War, and thus launched my Laura Thalassa reading marathon.

Thalassa has quickly become one of my favorite authors due to her refreshingly realistic female protagonists and her interesting and complex world-building. The Fallen World series takes place in a future version of our current society, where the entire world is war-ravaged and conquered by an evil king, Montes Lazuli. The main character, Serenity Freeman, is a soldier and emissary, and through a strange series of events ends up married to Kind Lazuli.

At first glance, the plot sounds familiar: helpless girl is kidnapped by evil guy, falls in love with him flaws and all. I started this series expecting that to be the case, but I was pleasantly surprised. Serenity Freeman is a mix of Jason Bourne, Evelyn Salt, and Natasha Romanov. When trapped in a van full of her enemies, she is the lone person to emerge alive. Her serious badassery made her such a refreshing read.

As for the enemies to lovers storyline, sometimes it works for me sometimes it doesn’t. In The Fallen World series it worked for me all thanks to Serenity. Her internal struggle with doing the right thing, saving the world, and falling for a monster is what kept me intrigued. Thalassa is excellent at making you hate, then love, then hate her characters. I understood Serenity’s reasoning, and sometimes even though I didn’t want to, I understood King Lazuli’s reasoning.

The main reason I love this series is because Laura Thalassa went there. That’s the only way to describe it. Laura Thalassa took the dial for “insane plot twists” and turned it up until it broke. The end of book two shook me to my core. I won’t give any spoilers here, but please go read this series for a killer world, badass heroine, and unpredictable plot. I seriously love this series, as evidenced by the fact I read it in five days, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too. Now on to reading more Laura Thalassa books!

Check out Laura Thalassa’s website: http://www.laurathalassa.com

Review: The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh BardugoGrisha-trilogy-1024x521

 

 

 

 

My overall rating: ☆☆☆/☆☆☆☆☆ (3.3 stars)

Shadow and Bone: 3.5 stars

Seige and Storm: 3.5 stars

Ruin and Rising: 3 stars

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company


Shadow and Bone Summary (from Goodreads)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.


My Thoughts

The last few months have been some of the busiest of my life. I finished my third-to-last semester of college, during which I read sixteen books for school in addition to a numerous amount of PDFs. Then over the summer I took not one, but two classes, during which I read two books and again, a numerous amount of PDFs. In the midst of all these readings for school I found it hard to make time to read for pleasure, especially during the last few months. When I’m busy or overwhelmed, I tend to reread books because I know the plot already, so if I leave it unfinished it’s not a big deal. In addition to taking two classes over the summer, I also started working at a new job where I somehow ended up logging over 40 hours each week. My summer in three words: exhausting, stressful, short.

In the midst of this crazy summer I did find the time to read a few books that I’d never read before. Finally, after years of putting it off, I decided to pick up Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, the first in the Grisha Trilogy. I bought Shadow and Bone over two years ago, and for two years it had sat on my shelf, untouched except for when I was reorganizing. One reason it took my over two years to read this series is because of the hype. This series is incredibly beloved by so many people in the book community. Whenever a book or series is so beloved and hyped by so many people, I tend to avoid it. I’m scared of it not living up to the hype, and I’ve heard about it so much that I honestly just don’t want to hear about it anymore.

So, what did I think of this beloved trilogy? For me it rides the line between fine and good. It was okay. Is it spectacular? No. Is it overhyped? In my opinion, which might be an unpopular one, yes.

One of the things I did like was the world/setting. Bardugo did an excellent job creating the Russian-inspired fantasy world of Ravka. In YA fantasy novels, a lot of worlds are very similar. This was a breath of fresh air. I also appreciate Bargudo’s magic system, if it can even be called that. In the novels, ‘magic’ is called The Small Science. Basically, the ‘magical’ powers and abilities are based in science, which is pretty cool to me.

The plot was lacking for me. The same thing kept happening over, and over, and over. How many times do I need to read about the Darkling (bad guy) catching up to Alina (our heroine), trying to capture her, and in the end her escaping? I don’t think this series needed to be three books. Two definitely would have sufficed. One huge aspect of the plot is the search for three magical amplifiers. The big question is, what is the third amplifier? It takes basically the entire third book for our main characters to figure it out when readers could figure it out hundreds of pages earlier.

Now onto the characters. While the plot was definitely lackluster, one area where Bardugo excels is in character development. Alina was realistic and relatable, and I did enjoy her as our narrater. But my most favorite thing of all was how the lines between good and bad were blurred for both Alina and the Darkling. I LOVE when characters are complex and imperfect. Bardugo did this fantastically, and this is honestly the only reason why I’m considering reading other books.

I just felt no surprise or joy when I was reading these books. In the end, I was very underwhelmed by the Grisha Trilogy. I loved the characters, but the plot was unimpressive and predictable. This is Bardugo’s first series though, so I am willing to give her another shot in the future.