Review: A Conjuring of Light (A Darker Shade of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

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An old darkness has taken over Red London. The Maresh royal family prepare for the worst to guard their kingdom against the unknown invader. Political enemies and allies are formed, and Kell and Lila must join forces with an old enemy to find a way to destroy the new threat. But time is running out, and as the darkness becomes more powerful, Red London’s only defence may not hold for long.

Personal Take: The last instalment of the series is quite an emotional one, and I tried not to reveal too much in the synopsis, as a lot of things happen. The book begins with high stakes, and my nerves were nearly fraught with tension. I have to say, I loved all of the characters, especially the secondary ones. More light is shed on their backstory, and I loved them all. Which was why I was gutted with the payoff each time. The villain, too, was so well crafted. The storylines were well-tied in the end, and Schwab did an amazing job in giving each character the right ending, and not deliver a copout because it was expected.

I cannot wait for the other books to be published about this world, because I still want more.

Audience: Older readers for language.

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Other recommendations: I reviewed A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. I also reviewed This Savage Song, which is part of the Monsters of Verity series (this is a MUST READ!). Schwab has also written Vicious, The Archived series, and The Near Witch.

Review: A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V.E Schwab

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It’s been four months since Red London was ravaged by the power of black magic. Four months since Kell abandoned his illegal activities. Four months since he had saved his brother, the Maresh prince of Arnes, in the only way he knew how. As Arnes and its people try to move past the horrors of what it experienced, the magician’s competition between the three ruling kingdoms came at the right time to Red London. As the other kingdoms make their way to display their magic prowess, Rhy risks political stability by enrolling Kell into the games, while it also draws a mysterious sailor back to Red London, along with a certain pirate.

Personal Take: After the adrenaline-inducing events from the last book, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the sequel. In what one can call Schwab fashion, the book started slow, then built up momentum so fast, I could not stop reading. In A Gathering of Shadows, we are introduced to the politics in Kell’s world. The expansion of cultures was a great addition. Although this seemed isolated from the seemingly bigger plot in the book, I still enjoyed the many POVs that connected towards the end– and oh, what a finale it was.

There is something about Schwab’s writing that just demands full concentration, and you just cannot let go of that world. And with that cliffhanger, I’m dying to see to know what happens next!

Audience: Older readers for language.

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Other recommendations: I reviewed A Darker Shade of Magic, as well as This Savage Song, which is part of the Monsters of Verity series (this is a MUST READ!). Schwab has also written Vicious, The Archived series, and The Near Witch.

Review: Ms. Marvel (Vol 1) by G. Willow Wilson

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Sixteen-year old Kamala Khan is an American Muslim living in New Jersey. By all accounts, she’s ordinary, except for trying to fit in as she is at school, as well as meeting her parents high expectations of her. On the night Kamala decides to break the rules of her curfew, a strange fog engulfs the neighborhood, giving Kamala strange shape-shifting powers. Unwittingly, she takes on the identity of Ms. Marvel, and saves the life of one of her classmates. As if trying to find one’s identity isn’t hard enough as a teenager, now Kamala has to figure out what kind of superhero is she willing to be.

Personal Take: This is the first Marvel comic I’ve read, and I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s different from reading a novel, as it catapults readers into events pretty quickly, but I loved the characters the moment I got to know them. The life of an American-Muslim seems spot on, and add to it the complexity of being female– the humor and light-hearted take on it was gold. I also loved Kamala’s inner quest to find out who she is as a person. The setup against the first villain is also interesting, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next volume.

Again, this is my first comic, but I can already feel that this series will be quite endearing to me.

Audience: Younger to older readers.

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Other recommendations: There are about eight volumes of Ms. Marvel out, with the 9th one coming out in July 2018. Needless to say, I will be reading all of them!

 

Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

In a desolate world, a lone gunslinger is in search of the mysterious Dark Tower. In pursuit of his goal, he hunts down the Man in Black, who has poisoned every town the Gunslinger has passed by during his journey. The Gunslinger, Roland, encounters a young boy who remembers nothing of his past, except that he was from a place called New York. Unsure of his purpose in this world, or how he came to be here in the first place, Roland takes him along for the long journey, unknowingly starting a chain of events that tests his loyalty and his desire to find the Dark Tower.

Personal Take: This is the first Stephen King book I have read, and I’ll be honest, I’m still not sure what to think of it. The concept is interesting, but there was so little of the quest that I wasn’t sure what the purpose of the Gunslinger was. Some of the events were really intriguing and creepy, but there was little explanation of why this was happening. Until the end, the events that were unraveling were confusing, and I wasn’t clear why the Dark Tower was important. I know this is the first of the book out of seven, and I am intrigued enough to keep reading the series. But I had high expectations of Stephen King’s writing, and I don’t feel that The Gunslinger met those expectations.

Audience: For older readers, for language.

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Other recommendations: King is known to publish a huge amount of books, but his most notable ones are The Dark TowerThe Shining, It, among other horror books.

Review: Story by Robert McKee

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Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track.  In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: As the synopsis says, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to know about the movie industry, but a few novel writers also recommended this book to understand the structure and substance of story, which was why I picked it up. This book is dense with information. I thought I was going to get lost, but McKee introduces each element layer by layer, and ensures that any important point is threaded in the new lesson, and repeated constantly. I would say one of the things I found daunting was that it was too thick and full of information, but that this information is helpful makes me appreciate it even more.

For writers who have trouble with characters, structure or pacing, I suggest picking this book. It can be hard to go through, but it is definitely rewarding.

Audience: Writers of all ages.

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Other recommendations: To accompany his book about the structure of story, McKee also wrote a book on Dialogue.

 

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

In a universe where the presence of magic varies, Kell lives in a world which prides itself to be in harmony with magic; Red London. He is also the only rare magician – an Antari – to travel to other Londons, which vary in their magical powers. These worlds are sealed from each other, and Kell, being the only Antari in Red London, is the official messenger of the royal Maresh empire, could travel between them. His other unofficial job (and crime) is smuggling objects between worlds for special prizes. But when he accidentally smuggles a mysterious object, with a dark power, into Grey London, where he meets, a thief who robs him, saves him and somehow gets roped into a perilous and magical adventure.

Personal Take: I’ve only read one book by Victoria Schwab, which I LOVED. Reading this one was a similar experience – this heady rush of adventure and action, and colorful characters. The world was build so solidly, so exquisitely, I could almost see it before my eyes. The different Londons almost made me miss London itself. The conditions and lore around magic was very well thought out. The characters were so quirky, and lovable and perfectly flawed, I could not get enough of them. Delilah Bard especially made quite an impression! The magic battles and fights were epic.

The pace was perfect throughout, where it took its time introducing the world, but then we were knee deep in chaos along with our characters. I could not tear myself away from the last few pages, and was left completely riveted by the end of it.

I cannot wait to read the next book!

Audience: Older teens and adults for choicey words, and blood.

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Other recommendations: One of the first books I’ve read by Schwab is This Savage Song, which is part of the Monsters of Verity series, which was mind-blowing, and I cannot wait for the sequel. Schwab has also written Vicious, The Archived series, and The Near Witch.

Review: The Anatomy of Being by Shinji Moon

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As Shinji Moon’s debut book of poetry, The Anatomy of Being is youthful and fragmented, a journey inward from the perspective of the hopes and pains of adolescence. Broken up into four chapters, she holds your hand and takes you inward with her, from skin to flesh, to flesh to bones, from bones to all that lies within. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, The Anatomy of Being marks a very distinct time in a young girl’s life, and aches and aches to be heard and devoured. (from Goodreads)

Personal Take: This book was quite an emotional experience. The poetry, though longer than what I’m used to reading, is so raw and pure. The confessional style both hits home where its relatable, or bounces off base, but the imagery is so specific and engrossing, I could almost feel what she wrote about. This book didn’t contain poetry alone, but prose as well, which also followed the confessional theme. The tone was equal parts dark and brooding, and hopeful. The Anatomy of Being has the sense of an artist who has put her soul into her art, and it shows. There is precision in her pain and reflections, and nothing pretentious in her journey. There were poems I couldn’t relate to, but I couldn’t help admiring purity of it.

If you’re into poetry, this is a book worth delving into.

Audience: Older readers for raw style and sexual themes.

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Other recommendations: Shinji Moon hasn’t published anything after this book, but readers will also enjoy Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey.

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: Honestly, I picked this up for the fun title, but also hoped to glean some wisdom from it (because like many, I take the world too seriously sometimes).  I enjoyed reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Manson has such a personable tone of voice (he is a blogger), so the whole book felt like a real-time conversation. There were some interesting perspectives that I hope to remember. What I loved about it is that it was almost the anti-self help book, delivering readers with some tough messages that needs hearing. As with conversations though, it tends to get side-tracked and lost in anecdotes, that sometimes when he wraps up a chapter, I wasn’t sure what the point was, but those were minimal occurrences

There are so many personal learnings in this book, and readers can focus on different aspects of it. I’ll definitely flip through the pages of this one from time to time as a refresher to not give a f*ck.

Audience: This book is candid in expression, so definitely for older readers.

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Other recommendations: Manson published only one ebook called The Guide to Relationships.

Review: Lullabies by Lang Leav

Set to a musical theme, love’s poetic journey in this new, original collection begins with a Duet and travels through Interlude and Finale with an Encore popular piece from the best-selling Love & Misadventure. Lang Leav’s evocative poetry speaks to the soul of anyone who is on this journey.

Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: I’ve read bits and pieces of Leav’s peppered all over the internet, but having a collection in my hands; that just left me breathless. I loved that the themes were connected to music. The poems and stories itself were beautiful; all at once guttural and emotional, but still poised enough to be delivered clearly. Some of her poems can be a bit heavy on the tongue, or too long, but that was just a minor observation. Her stories too, were beautiful one-shot moments.

If anything, this book left me feeling emotionally spent, because it hooked me along its lines throughout. I’m definitely a huge fan, and will continue to collect and learn from her work.

Audience: Touches on sensuality, so I’d say older teens and adults.

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Other recommendations: This is the first Lang Leav that I’ve read, but I know I’ll be picking up her other works: Love & Misadventures, Memories, The Universe of Us.

Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

In Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: By now, anyone who knows me knows about my obsession with Neil Gaiman and his work. So it’s no surprised that I got this the moment it was released, especially as I wanted to get into Norse mythology for a while now. The stories were organized perfectly, starting from the beginning of creation, through events and adventures that brought about the end of the world.

The interesting thing about the way Gaiman approached this, is that he wrote the gods to be casual, adopting a colloquial dialogue in the way they spoke. It wasn’t jarring, but unexpected, which only Neil Gaiman is able to pull off. This in no way hindered how the stories were told though. The gods came to life with each story, slowly revealing their personalities, but also, ultimately, showing what the vikings valued in themselves and their deities.

The end of the arc was the one the that really got me excited– the final culmination of all the choices made by the gods brought into one point, and it was epic. I was still buzzing from the it long after I finished the book. This is a book I’d definitely read again, and it’s opened by appetite to read more about Norse mythology.

It acts a great, light introduction to the subject.

Audience: I’d say adults for the complexity of the stories themselves.

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Other recommendations: As a huge fan of Gaiman, I’ve made it a point at least try to read everything I can get my hands on. Two I recommend (but did not review yet!); American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, The Graveyard Book and  The Oceans at the End of the Lane. Of the books I reviewed: Neverwhere, Make Good Art, The Sleeper and the Spindle, Good Omen: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnus Nutter.