A collection of Shadowhunter short stories proves a good read between series’

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So well have I done with all the Shadowhunter world books this year that the only 2 I have left to read are the collections of novella’s in Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy and The Bane Chronicles. Keen to try and reach my achievement of reading them all by the end of 2017 I decided to push on and read Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy, the book that would ultimately complete my Good Reads 2017 challenge of reading 52 books this year.

This book picks up with Simon after the end of City of Heavenly Fire so if you haven’t read the mortal instruments series it’s probably best you do that first to avoid any spoilers as this collection is full of references to both The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments. It also looks forward into the books that came after this one, The Dark Artifices and offers a brief glimpse at some of the new characters who Clare is going to be building her new adventures around in the Shadowhunter world so we meet Emma and Julian and Mark & Helen Blackthorn.

Set inside the school for Shadowhunters we follow Simon as he trains to become a Shadowhunter himself and the different people he meets during his journey and the friends he makes and trials he faces. Popping in and out of the school we find lots of familiar faces who are either just dropping by to see Simon such as Isabelle, Clary and Jace or we have some guest teachers who drop by to share their stories from the Shadowhunter world in the case of Magnus Bane, Tessa Grey and Robert Lightwood.

There are lots of cautionary tales in here for new Shadowhunters that give us extra glimpses into the world we’ve learned about through the previous series’ and it’s nice to revisit stories that have been touched on but never fully explored in the past. They are also great at highlighting the political and social inequalities in the Shadowhunter world, the prejudices they inflict on others and their harsh rules that they often live by and hide behind. As we have moved into The Dark Artifices this has become more important to Clare’s storytelling and so this book was another great chance to explore stories that make you think about whether at its core there is something corrupt in the whole world.

I am not a lover of short stories which is effectively what this book is, all be it strung together cohesively into a sort of story. I sometimes find myself losing focus with them but I didn’t find this an issue with this book. It was because of the way the stories were drawn together and fed on from each other that I think helped with this. It didn’t feel so much like jumping from one time period to another without reason or hearing about tales individually from each other, they were all linked with clever storytelling and strong moral teachings from each one.

I have given this a 4 out of 5, but honestly, I’d probably lean more towards a 3.5 however this is because held up against the other Shadowhunter novels it is one that you really could take or leave and not impact your understanding of the others. It was a good read but it was really a filler book to get us from The Mortal Instruments to The Dark Artifice through the use of the short stories that had been written about the world.

A better than expected look at the love of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must be upfront and declare myself absolutely obsessed with Hamilton the musical, from the first time I heard it I’ve been hooked and it’s helped both me (and my children) learn so much more about the history of the United States and the key figures in its establishment. Coming from the United Kingdom this is something we do not generally cover in our education system and it’s been great to learn through a medium so engaging as the music and lyrics of this wonderful show. Of course, one of my favourite relationships in the show is that of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler and when I saw this book it immediately caught my attention.

Melissa de la Cruz has been known for writing Young Adult books for a while and previously has penned the novels that accompany the Disney Descendants franchise. For me this nearly put me off this book altogether as I wasn’t quite sure I wanted someone to take the Hamilton romance and simply translate it from stage to page and add a lot of Young Adult sugar coating on top. I didn’t want it to taint my enjoyment of the love story because it was being dumbed down for a younger audience.

You can imagine my surprise therefore when I found this novel to be written in a style that immediately pitches itself as both intelligent and informed. This is not simply someone who has seen the show and decided to further romanticise the story. Instead, there has been significant research into the Schuyler family and the relationships between Eliza and her two sisters Angelica and Peggy. There is not simply an exact copy of the chain of events portrayed in the musical but instead, this story of Alex and Eliza’s love takes us through several years where initially they didn’t find it easy to like one another and events surrounding the war threatened to see Eliza dislike Colonel Alexander Hamilton quite significantly.

In this story, we find that rather than being the meek and somewhat giddy character she can appear in the show Eliza was hugely involved in the war effort, proactive and greatly intelligent. Her two sisters are instead the more vivacious characters who found it easier to mingle in the society their station raised them to

The only disappointment I had with this book was that once we reached the Happy Ever After moment when Eliza marries Alexander the story comes to its close, now fans of the show will know that this was very much only the beginning of their story and that there is much still to tell. I had hoped a little glimpse into this and felt that I could have cheerfully kept reading for another 200 or so pages. I wanted to know about the raising of their family, their changing relationship and the challenges they faced as Alexander grew more involved in the establishment of the new United States of America.

This book was much much better than I had anticipated, I flew through it in only 2 days and I would recommend it to any fans of the musical. It’s not simply a cliched retelling but an intelligent and well-written novel which enhanced my understanding of a romance which took place against the backdrop of huge change and revolution.

A fulfilling conclusion to Ahdieh’s Arabian adventure in The Rose & The Dagger

The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & The Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year I’ve tried hard to really focus on completing series when I’ve started them. I’ve so far managed to blitz through around 6 sets this year and I was keen to complete The Wrath & The Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh as well. Having really enjoyed the first book I was really keen to see how they would continue the wonderful Arabian story in The Rose & The Dagger.

The second book picks up very quickly after the end of The Wrath & The Dawn with Khalid trying to rebuild his broken city of Rey and Shazi having been taken to safety by Tariq to a settlement in the desert where she has been reunited with her sister and father. Tariq is still working with his uncle and the head of the desert tribes to try and overthrow Shazi’s husband who is still greatly misunderstood for killing his brides each night after their weddings. Shazi has been the only one to survive and Tariq is disappointed that his true love has fallen in love with another.

I found the first 100 pages of this book a little slow to get going, the chapters would flit between Khalid and Shaharzad and we really miss them being together and the sparks that would fly when they were. The initial chapters though are forgotten once the action does get going. We have so much going on, lots of new characters and romances and relationships and some really jaw-dropping OMG moments that keep you glued. Once the action was underway I flew through the last chapters, scared to take my eyes off the page in case I missed anything. There is magic, betrayal, true love, grief and loss and it makes for a wonderful end to this duology.

Again the atmosphere of the world Ahdieh builds jumps off the page in spades. Whilst there are lots of unfamiliar words for the different clothes, weapons and cultural references to the Arabian world in which this book is set it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. Instead, it brings a really exotic flavour and a world in which I could spend all day.

I couldn’t recommend this book, or the duology as a whole any higher. It’s been a really fun journey and because these books have quite a different setting I have a feeling they will linger with me for some time to come.

A great fun contemporary read about falling in love unexpectedly

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of the breakout Young Adult contemporary books of this summer. Everyone who is anyone has been reading and raving about this novel over the past few months. I felt it only proper to read it before the summer drew to a close.

This is a novel about family values and culture versus the need to break out and find yourself and your own voice. Dimple is about to go off to college to study her love of coding but her family are keen for her to make an arranged marriage and become a good wife who will be there to support her husband and family. Dimple is independent and strong-willed and while she loves her family she loves coding more and she is not ready to give up her dreams just yet. She is surprised when her parents agree to her attending a summer coding programme at San Francisco University and she heads off determined to give it her all and win the coveted prize at the end of the programme, hence showing everyone that she is as good as she thinks she is and has a bright future.

On her first day Dimple is thrown when a young man comes up to her and tells her he is her future husband. You see Rishi has already been told all about Dimple, he’s going to the summer programme at SFU for the sole purpose of meeting the girl his parents have told him he is going to marry at the agreement of all their parents. The only problem is that no one told Dimple!!

This story was really funny, from the time when Dimple meets Rishi we fall in love with Rishi immediately. He is in a really difficult position as he likes Dimple, a lot, and he has been told that she is aware of their marriage and so when he finds she has no idea he has to backtrack and pretend that it doesn’t matter to him and he enters that dreaded ‘friend zone’. He’s such an endearing character, he’s instantly likeable and you feel for him as he is trying to be the devoted Indian son, making a marriage and going off to study a subject he doesn’t necessarily love in order to provide for his family in the future.

The way in which Dimple and Rishi impact each other’s lives is lovely, from a misunderstanding they grow into friends and from friends into a relationship which will change their lives for the better. They are each other’s biggest cheer squad, they learn about what it means to see life through the other’s eyes. Dimple to learn that complying with her cultural values needn’t mean giving up her dreams and Rishi in living his own dreams doesn’t mean he cannot be a good son and make his family proud.

This was such a quick book to read, the chapters are all quite short and snappy and we flick from Dimple to Rishi’s perspective every page or so to ensure we are aware of both points of view throughout. It’s nice to see how they each view their blossoming relationship and how they help each other to grow throughout the narrative.

It’s a great contemporary summer read, funny and emotional and with great characters leading the story.

I loved this book so much more than I expected…even if I did know what was going to happen next


A Game of Thrones
 (A Song of Ice & Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been doing really well with my good reads challenge this year, having read 49 of the 52 books I hoped to achieve over the course of 2017 and so I decided to invest some time and read one of those really big books that I’ve been putting off for a while and one that I’ve always thought of as somewhat of a challenge, Game of Thrones, the first of George R. R. Martins’ A Song of Ice And Fire series.

I have been a viewer of the HBO show for the past few years and so I wasn’t coming to the story fresh, I had a full and open awareness of exactly the story I’d be reading and so I was waiting for all the big plot points throughout and there were no surprises in store. The only surprise I found was that whilst I’d expected quite a wordy and highly overwritten book I found instead one that was much more accessible than I’d expected and written in a style that would lend itself to a variety of readers and not just those who enjoy high fantasy tales alone.

I had anticipated that I might struggle to find the characters I’d loved within the pages, lost among long and complex descriptions of their houses allegiances and lots of background that the show had chosen to discard and instead I found that this book had some serious pace. The chapters were long but really very engaging and the action moved along at a pace that surprised me. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective and so we hear the voices of the characters we love in turn from Eddard, Tyrion, Jon, Daenerys and Arya along with others we hold such affection for. Often when authors attempt to write from multiple points of view we sometimes lose the essence of the characters but Martin does a wonderful job and each holds their own voice and individuality and make it an exciting and gripping book to read.

There is no secret that Game of Thrones has become one of the most read books of all time since the release of HBO’s groundbreaking series and often we will find that huge fans of the show, such as myself, will never choose to delve into the written version preferring instead to follow the action on screen but it would seem that millions of fans have found joy in the written versions too and it is with that in mind that I decided to explore the books. I sought to find more than I had in the screen version, to expand my understanding of the world and background of the Seven Kingdoms and the families therein. It didn’t let me down, I loved every second of reading this book. It is a hefty book at nearly 800 pages and yet it didn’t once feel like a chore to get through. I flew through it, when I wasn’t reading it I wanted to be, not because I needed to know what happened next but just for the sheer joy of the character’s narration and the world Martin has built that I longed to be back in.

It seemed strange to be back at the start of the story again, many of the characters within have been on so many journeys since then that you almost forget where they started out. You have differing opinions about so many of them now and some have been long departed due to gruesome ends and it’s been nice to go back and relive their stories again. I for one had forgotten how much I adored Lord Eddard Stark, what a magnificent character he is and how important a part he played in starting the Game of Thrones. All the clues for what will follow are there, especially regards the huge plot reveal that was made at the end of Season 7 of the show regards Jon Snow. It makes you view him somewhat with more respect and sympathy when you understand the secret he held of his sisters.

I am quite sorry to have finished this book, thrilled to know I have so many more to go in the series and keen now to go back and review the first season of the show again. It’s been a wonderful read and this may very well be one of my favourite reads this year.

An explosive start to the Throne of Glass series

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read and loved the Court of Thorns & Roses novels by Sarah J. Maas and with it being around a year till we can expect the next installment from that series I decided that in the meantime I should try the other series from this wonderful author, Throne of Glass. I’ve heard lots about this series as well and the reviews are very positive so with that in mind I started off the series with this first novel in what is an ongoing and developing story, Book 6 having just been released this week.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the absolute no nonsense delving into the story, right from the first page the story kicks off with Assassin Celeana being taken to meet the Crown Prince who is looking for someone to be his Champion in a contest his father the King is holding to find someone to fulfil the role of Royal Assassin. In this contest, she must compete against a variety of thieves, murderers, professional soldiers and other Assassins to win her freedom from the mines where she is currently a prisoner. This story is Celeana’s fight to win each round of the competition and to ensure that she never has to return to the brutal mines at Endovier again where she knows she will die.

The essence of this story is Celeana’s relationships with the people she meets in the royal palace, the Head of the Kings Guards Chaol who mentors her through the competition and helps her train, her relationship with the Prince, Dorian who she is building a close relationship with which could turn to more than just friendship. The other contestants in the competition, a foreign Princess in the palace who as a political pawn is trying to cope with the wrongs done to the people in her country by the King. Against this backdrop, people are being murdered in vicious circumstances and Celeana is scared she may be next.

I loved this book. I liked the sheer range of characters, there are so many we are introduced to in this novel that I’m sure we are going to learn more about through the series that you feel you can forgive Maas for not exploring all of them in depth at this stage. I like that we have a love triangle setting itself up that you cannot quite decide on which side of to fall. You want to root for both sides. Celeana is a kick ass lead character, she is feisty and strong and intelligent. You want her to succeed and we are sure that there are lots of stories still to explore about her past. I really enjoyed the introduction of paranormal elements to the story, the demons and fight against good and evil during the final duel.

I am excited to see where this story takes us next. Having read Court of Thorns & Roses and its expanding world I know how capable Maas is of building stories that are all encompassing and I can see a great deal of potential in this world and its history and the development of its future. I gave this one a 4 out of 5 stars because I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

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A new thriller author for me and a story of loss and starting over

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book seemed to be prominent on bookshelves over the last year, it’s presence always hovering and intriguing me as this author’s debut seemed to have gripped so many other readers I decided it was worth a try.

The opening of the book immediately takes us into the story as the opening chapter walks us through the hit and run that kills young 6-year-old Jacob whilst his mother walks him home from school. The driver fleeing the scene is shocking and the heart-wrenching grief of his mother means we are instantly engaged in the characters and the resolution of the crime which has left this innocent young boy dead.

From there we are led into alternating chapters between the police officers investigating the incident and trying to piece together what happened and that of Jenna, who, having lost her son is fleeing her grief and running away to a small Welsh village to escape her past. It is clear the police are having no luck finding the perpetrator of the crime and we follow them over the course of a year as they seek to find new leads whilst the victim’s mother has fled her home seeking to forget the incident.

Many of the reviews I read of this book spoke of amazing twists in the tale approximately half way through and said it’s story ‘blew them away’, maybe I was reading a different book as from the outset I had pretty much gathered what this major ‘twist’ was going to be and also how this arc in the story was going to then be played out.

The character of Jenna is written really well and I can understand why people become so engaged in her story of grief and distress. As a character I really liked her and was invested in her seeing justice, I wanted her to be able to see the person who killed her child brought to justice. I liked the small Welsh village she escaped to and the people she met there and how they all closed ranks around her and helped her start again.

For me, I could only give this book 3 stars because whilst I enjoyed it there wasn’t the same sense of suspense I’d been led to believe the book would give me. It didn’t take me somewhere I wasn’t expecting to go. The clues were there in the chapters if you read closely enough you would guess where the story was headed and I wish the secrets had been guarded a little more closely so as to hit me more unexpectedly.

The other reason I only gave a 3-star review was the ending of the book and the revelation of the true story and reasons for the hit and run had one aspect that left me feeling the author had tried one twist too far. There was a link between victim and driver that didn’t need to be there, it didn’t make it feel real for me.

I’m trying very hard in this review not to give away anything more about the story of this book than is absolutely necessary because whilst there were aspects I didn’t enjoy there was much to like about the book and it is worth reading if you’ve enjoyed thrillers such as The Girl on The Train or Gone Girl.

A breathtaking end to Bardugo’s duology about a misfit gang of thieves and crooks

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So this month it was my ambition to read the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo and having read Six of Crows earlier in July I moved onto Crooked Kingdom and was excited to continue the stories of Kaz, Inej, Matthias, Jesper, Waylan and Nina the gang of misfits who managed to break into the unbreakable Ice Palace to rescue a Sui boy a secret so dangerous it could change the world.

Crooked Kingdom picks up immediately after the end of Six of Crows with our characters having just arrived back in Ketterdam and been double crossed by Waylan’s mercher father who has reneged on his payment for the job they did on his behalf. Inej has been captured by him and is being held until Kaz hands over the boy he broke out of the Ice Palace.

Now after Six of Crows we know what to expect, we can look forward to lots of double crossing and criminal genius from Kaz and his associates as they come up with another elaborate plan that will allow them to gain their revenge on the evil Van Eck and get the payment they have all staked their futures on. This book did not disappoint and from very early on we are cheering as Kaz makes his first genius move of the book in order to recover his friend and wraith Inej.

I loved the multiple points of view in this book, as with Six of Crows the different chapters allowed us to continue to explore the individual stories of all the characters and to develop our love for them that began in Book 1. For me my favourite character remains Kaz because of the different complex emotions he keeps bubbling just below his surface. The wonderful way he just does the unexpected and always comes out on top and his management of the people around him.

The relationship I loved most was Jesper and Waylan, from the first book when they were just discovering each others criminal skills and jokingly having Jesper drive Waylan crazy it has become one of the gems where they will do anything for each other, Jesper is helping Waylan to adjust to the fact he is now wearing the face of Sui escaped prisoner Kuwei and the ongoing rejection and double crossing from his father Van Eck. Jesper in this book reveals more about his background with the arrival of his father in Ketterdam and now Waylan is helping him to reveal the truth about his present criminal activities to his father. Their growing closeness and eventual unbreakable bond was beautiful to read about.

This whole duology was so exciting, the way the story arced across both books and took so many crazy twists and turns, the breathtaking moments of suspense and then the literally arm pumping punching the air times when the gang came through were just amazing. It is a series I will look back on very fondly and would highly recommend anyone to read.

A fast paced adventure with it’s roots solidly in friendship, an amazing book


Six of Crows
 (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been continuing to challenge myself by reading new authors and different genres over the past few months and the Six of Crows duology has been raved about by so many people that I literally couldn’t help but delve into this wonderful book by Leigh Bardugo.

Set in the Grisha world this book has the same setting as the Shadow & Bone series and I wasn’t sure if the fact I hadn’t read this earlier trilogy would mean I couldn’t delve into Six of Crows with the same understanding. To reassure any readers with similar reservations I can confirm that in no way did my not having read Shadow & Bone reduce my understanding of the world of Six of Crows.

Six of Crows is a wonderful novel about a group of six misfits who are hired to conduct a heist into an unbreakable island and rescue a political prisoner. A mix of unusual characters from different walks of life they are pulled together by Kaz Brekker, gang mastermind, and together they must travel across their country to another realm where if they can rescue a scientist, held prisoner they will be paid a huge sum beyond their dreams.

Immediately when I began this book I loved the setting, it has a feel of old fashioned Netherlands, the language and speech patterns the characters use reflects this and it sets the atmosphere wonderfully. It also begins with a slight Gangs of New York vibe also, as gangs in the barrel battle to hold the position of top dog. Kaz Brekker is a misfit, a boy with a tangled past and a score to settle and to do this he needs to raise as much money to help him so when the offer to lead this heist comes up he can’t say no. Kaz is the best at what he does, he’s a criminal mastermind and with the help of his chosen assailants, he is sure they can pull off the impossible.

This book was wonderful, it was told from all the multiple points of view of the different gang members. We have lots of back stories to learn and Bardugo does a wonderful job of outlining these throughout the book and before we know what’s happening we care deeply about each of them and the threads between them and their loyalties have grown and they make wonderful heroes to read about.

This book is full of excitement and action and it moves along at a wonderful pace. The plan the gang is following is held back from us and we only learn as it unfolds and this makes it wonderfully mysterious and keeps you reading chapter after chapter so quickly your head will spin. This is a substantial book and yet I read it really quickly. We are left with an unresolved ending and we are clearly going to resolve this in book 2, Crooked Kingdom and so I now cannot wait to move on and read this.

A really strong book and one I would highly recommend.