Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Title: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 23rd May 2017
Pages: 699
Genres: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter's life is bound by duty. Constrained by honour. The world of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners - sworn to fight together, die together, but to never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn't just forbidden - it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from him. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Christina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and 'unsuitable' Nephilim. They'll do anything in their power to expose Julain's screts and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows - the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devices a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, it's only that book I've been awaiting like mad for over a year... That's right, it's the second book in Cassandra Clare's latest trilogy, The Dark Artifices - and the first book, Lady Midnight, ripped out my heart and trampled all over it. Repeatedly.

Lord of Shadows is no different. Strap in, kids, because this is an emotional roller coaster and a half... although I'm not sure why anyone would expect any different from the Shadowhunter world. Once again, Clare astounds me with how believable it is, this world that has so many layers to it, so much depth and history. I was once again reminded of how intensely her writing draws me in, and how every single emotion felt by any of the characters can immediately be felt by the reader.

This book may even change how you previously felt about characters in Lady Midnight. In the first instalment, I wasn't that bothered about Mark, Kit or Kieran. I don't know what else to say except I just wasn't that drawn to them. Cristina was cool, but I think in Lady Midnight, my focus was definitely on Emma and Julian.

However, in Lord of Shadows, my opinion completely changed. I came to love Kit, who in this instalment is getting to grips with being not just any Shadowhunter, but a Herondale, and the nostalgia was real as I recognised bits of Jace (The Mortal Instruments) and Will (The Infernal Devices) in him. Mark, Kieran and Cristina piqued my interest much more this time round, too, likely because they had more going on this time.

That's another thing - if you thought Lady Midnight was action-packed, you haven't seen anything yet. Lord of Shadows switches between Los Angeles, London, and Cornwall, and the contrast of these awesome settings not only kept me interested for the entire 700-page novel, but also provided insight into different Shadowhunter locations around the world. It was especially interesting to see this new generation of Shadowhunters stay at the London Institute, the setting for one of Clare's other series, The Infernal Devices. As you'd hope and expect, it's full of sneaky references...

Something else which struck me was the amount of parallels with our current political climate. We don't appear to live in the most tolerant or open-minded world at the moment, and as it turns out, neither do Shadowhunters or Downworlders. Offensive views are challenged by a few characters in Lord of Shadows, hitting the nail on the head each time. It's subtle enough to still provide escapism whilst obvious enough to make you want to do lots of mini fist-pumps.

And... this wouldn't be a sufficient review without mentioning Emma and Julian, would it? I'm not going to go into detail about them because fans will know that their relationship is a complicated one, and there are lots of things to spoil that I'm not going to. Just let it be known that they remain my ultimate OTP and they DESERVE HAPPINESS, DAMMIT.

Anyway. The third and final book isn't out for two years. I'll be nearly 21?! Like, I'm an adult, but 21 is a proper adult... so that'll be weird. Not sure I can wait that long for the next book, but I'll have to, won't I? And it'll give my heart some time to recover from this one. This is an author whose books you need to read, people. I've never been more invested in another book than I am in anything Clare writes, and I read a lot, so that's saying something. Come on, get your heart smashed into pieces. Join the club. You know you want to...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

Title: Noah Can't Even
Author: Simon James Green
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 4th May 2017
Pages: 365
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT/Humour
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyoncé tribute act is a totally unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn't herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is... Well, it's pure HELL.

Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light?

But Noah's plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. And that's when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.

If you're like me and you're fast approaching the dreaded exam season, chances are that you're currently dealing with two things: stress, and less time to read. Like, much less time to read. And whenever you pick up a book, you immediately feel guilty that you're doing something for pleasure rather than revising. (Or maybe that's just me?...) I've read hardly anything lately, unless you count my Death of a Salesman textbook, which I don't. But, picking up Noah Can't Even and only intending to read the first couple of pages for the time being, I found that once I started, I couldn't put it down.

Readers, this is the perfect book to read during exam season! Give yourself permission to tear yourself away from your work, because Noah Can't Even is quite possibly the funniest book you will read this year. Seriously, it is constantly and consistently hilarious - I loved Noah and his quirks, and the awkward situations in which he often found himself.

In addition to being bloody funny - and, at times, painfully awkward and relatable - it also touches on important topics such as homosexuality and bullying. I don't think LGBT issues are prevalent enough in YA in general, but especially in UK YA. Have I ever read an LGBT book where the main characters are in their mid-teens? Uh... one, yeah. This one.

That's not all - there are so many clever twists and sub-plots weaved together in a way I very much envy, and it was clearly done well, because I haven't devoured a book so quickly for longer than I'd like to admit. Needless to say, I cannot wait for whatever's next from Green. The Inbetweeners meets Geekhood, Noah Can't Even is a wonderfully awkward and important book that will have you in stitches from start to finish.
Watch my videos with Simon below! The first is an interview, and the second is a game of Heads Up...

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd

Title: The Pavee and the Buffer Girl
Author: Siobhan Dowd
Published by: The Bucket List
Publication date: 2nd March 2017
Pages: 112
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

When Jim's family halt at Dundray, the town is an unfriendly place. Bullying, name-calling, and a new school to navigate without a word of reading.

Then Jim meets Kit, who takes him under her wing and shows him how to survive. But everyday prejudice and mindless violence threaten to uproot all their lives.

When this book was given to me by the lovely Nina at Sophia Bennett's book launch in March, I was so happy. I talk about it a bit in this video, but basically: this book, along with Non Pratt's Unboxed, was pretty much all anyone could talk about at last year's YALC. The illustrations are gorgeous, the story is important, and of course author Siobhan Dowd established the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which works tirelessly to get the love of reading to young people who need it. Honestly, if you're not at least intrigued by it from that paragraph, I'm kind of surprised, because it's a special one (as all of Barrington Stoke's/The Bucket List's titles seem to be?!)

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl tells the story of Jim, who has just arrived in Dundray with his family and is starting an unfriendly new school with his cousins, and Kit, a girl who takes him under her wing. The townspeople don't take too kindly to travellers, and Jim has to deal with bullying and name-calling as well as the possibility that they'll move along again before he can have a chance to get the education he wants.

For people unfamiliar with the terms in the book's title, as I was, 'Pavee' is a term a person may use to describe themselves, but may object to if used by people outside of their community and on the grid, people known as 'Buffers'. I appreciated the opportunity to read about a topic from someone who knows what they're talking about, especially as here in England these communities are only ever spoken of in a negative or satirical light.

The illustrations are of equal brilliance to the words within. Can we have more YA with illustrations, please? Once again - and I know I've said this on the blog three or four times now - Barrington Stoke and The Bucket List get things right. As a publisher (not gonna lie, I get really confused with publishers and their imprints - can you tell?) they are consistently pioneering and definitely one (ONES???) to watch.

The reason I've given this book four stars isn't because there's anything wrong with it, but simply because I didn't love it as much as books I've given five stars to. The Pavee and the Buffer Girl is essential reading, especially during this time of global intolerance towards anyone branded as 'other', and will make a delightful addition to your shelves.