A Darker Shade of Magic Book Review

adsomTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Pages: 401
Format: Kindle

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Now I understand what all the hype surrounding this book was about.

This book is full of magic and adventure, of power and control, of longing and desire, and of struggle and pain. There was so much happening in the book that I couldn’t helped be sucked into the story and really divulge myself into the characters’ stories. I found myself completely enraptured and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I found Kell to be an awesome character. Though he didn’t show much emotion throughout the book (frowning, more frowning, a little bit of pain and annoyance, and a few tears, sure, but… okay, nevermind, he had emotion), I found his character to be one that was both curious and fun. I loved his magic as an Antari and how though he continued to say he had much stronger magic than those around him, he never really showed that off. Sure, he’d do little things here and there, but it wasn’t about showing off so much as knowing he had the ability, and also how his views on magic could potentially cause the outcome of how it’s used – or how it uses him. Throughout the book I found that his thirst for power from the stone later given to him was realistic enough that if someone had magic in their veins and touched it that they’d also crave it. I loved his character and how he continually fought for others – even though they would’ve been mad about it.

Lila, on the other hand, is quite the character and I freaking love her. If she were real, I’m pretty sure we’d be friends. I love her sense of humor and how stubborn she is and how she’s always fighting to get what she wants because in her world – in her London – she doesn’t exactly have anything. I loved how she on more than one occasion put Kell in his place when it came to his position versus hers or how he viewed his life versus how she’s lived. She was a spitfire, Lila Bard. The way she questions not only others, but herself, when they show even a bit of kindness or “charity” and how they don’t expect something of it (or if they do, they say to give it back over time) is something of an admirable quality about her given her circumstances.

Now what about Holland? He was the other Antari in this world and I felt like I just didn’t get enough about him. Like… I loved how he came in as an anti-hero leaning on villain, and I found myself wanting to just know more and have more of him in it, so I’m kind of sad that he wasn’t. I think it’s because there was a lot of mystery surrounding him, but I felt like his character could have been talked about more or something because he was just so interesting!

As far as other side characters go, such as the Dane Twins, Rhy, Barron, etc., I loved how each played such a big role in Kell’s and Lila’s lives without some of them really having to do much in them. I mean, the twins are the villains of this novel, so they kind of play a big part, but others have little pockets of significance with the two main characters and I loved how Schwab placed their chapters into the story and how the characters were written to add more depth to the others.

I thought that the plot itself was great, although sometimes I felt like it hopped a bit from one thing to another and it was kind of like, “Well why was this placed here?” And sometimes it would later catch up and it would make sense.

I thought that the chapters from other characters and other scenes added to the plot and showed just how alive the magic in this world(s) is and how it can really be clever in its own right. And the worlds themselves? How there are four Londons, all on top of another, and the concept of the doors and how you need a trinket from each to get to another? It’s so cool! I loved the concept and how it was dealt with and how each London has their own way of magic, how it’s like a trickle down effect and that it lessens the farther it goes (Black London being the strongest, then White, then Red, then Grey).

Towards the end, though, I felt like the climax to the end was really rushed. I felt myself wanting more from the chapters, whether it be descriptions or more magic or just something… I don’t really know how to describe it, but it just needed more. I mean, I guess it is the first book in the trilogy, so it kind of makes sense? But I felt that some parts were lacking and could have just used that little push to bring it to where it needed to be.

Overall, though, I highly enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, charming, and it had me craving more. I can’t wait to continue on with the trilogy.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it.

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A Silent Voice Series Review

asilentvoice1Title: A Silent Voice
Series: 7 Volumes Total
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Manga – Young Adult – Contemporary
Format: Purchased paperbacks

LEARNING TO LISTEN

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

This will be a series review, so I will be covering all seven volumes of this series. There may be spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free.

This manga series is, in a word, stunning. I love the art and the characters and the story, and I’m so glad that it was so critically acclaimed in Japan because of the heavy subjects that it undertakes and how it’s executed in the story itself.

The story itself is about a boy named Shoya who always wants to have fun and never be bored. He often takes dangerous risks with his friends (such as jumping off bridges into shallow-ish water) in order to find those moments of fun and adventure. When his friends decide to cool it with all of the dangerous stunts, that’s when Shoko, a deaf girl, is transferred to his class and he thinks of her as kind of like a boss he has to beat in a video game.

Of course, that doesn’t exactly turn out well in his favor. He bullies Shoko without realizing he was being a bully by yelling at her, ripping out her hearing aids, and just causing chaos for Shoko. His other friends join in and eventually she has to transfer again.

That’s also when Shoya’s friends turn against him and he pretty much becomes a loner for the next six years.

I love how the story uses X’s over people’s faces because we’re seeing everything through Shoya’s point of view, and he doesn’t think about or care about anyone. Only when someone does something nice to him does that X fly off of their face and he sees who they are and becomes friends with them. I thought that that concept was demonstrated really well and that it was very important to the story itself.

When Shoya runs into Shoko six years later in high school, he returns the notebook she used to communicate with the other students to her and, to her surprise, he also learned sign language so he could communicate with her.

He tries very hard to redeem himself and make up with her and show her that he’s extremely sorry for the way he was as a kid, and though I thought this was sweet I oftentimes found that it became overbearing the way he was going about it. I did see immense growth in him, though, and I was glad to see that he was also affecting others around him in a positive way.

Shoko was a very defining character as well not only because she was deaf, but because she always tried to be kind to everyone and not let things get to her – at least on the surface. There are a couple of darker moments with her that made me want to reach out and comfort her. I thought that she was a very generous and warm character and I’m so glad to see some sort of deaf representation in manga (which I’ve never seen before).

There were also characters who were fat, or had a very ugly personality, or who was once bullied, or who tries her best in everything. Even Shoko’s younger sister is “different” in that she takes pictures of dead animals and dresses like a boy. I loved that there were so many varied personalities, body sizes, and disabilities shown in this series.

The plot, overall, was one that gripped me and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was cute in many places, and there were a few times where I felt some things were unnecessary or were just too extreme, but the main story was very gripping and I loved it to bits.

If you’re looking for a diverse manga set in Japan, then I highly, highly recommend A Silent Voice.

Each volume has it’s own rating, but for my series rating I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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The Sun is Also a Star Book Review

thesunisalsoastarTitle: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 344
Format: Received in November 2016 Uppercase Box

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

This book was both parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and I don’t know which one I’m feeling more of right now.

I thought that this book was very well written and that the sentences were strung together beautifully. I felt like the characters were real, that their problems, their universe, was real and that I was there with them experiencing everything that they were the whole time. They felt alive and so different but so connected, and I loved that. Plus there were situations that were going on in not just their lives, but in multiple people around them, and each felt real and genuine.

I felt that the plot was fluid and that it went from one scene and thought to the next smoothly, and I loved how there were chapters in between with different characters and also just fun chapters on things like love, eyes, the universe, and stuff like that. I could tell that Nicola Yoon did a lot of research because even I could remember these facts I had read on some of the more scientific parts of the story that were true. It felt like I could connect not only to the characters, but to the whole story in general, which was a very exciting feeling.

Natasha and Daniel’s chemistry together was one that melted my heart. I was afraid because of the insta-love feel of the story in the beginning, but it felt natural the way the circumstances occurred. Of course, I don’t know if this would actually happen in real life (maybe it has?), but I felt the plausibility of the situation and highly enjoyed it.

I found it interesting how Natasha always looked to the facts of things and didn’t believe in things like true love, destiny, and other concepts. I actually found it kind of refreshing, in way, because oftentimes the main characters are dreamers (like Daniel) and I think that because she relied so much on facts and data was actually very cool. Though I was glad she was warming up to the idea of those concepts as the day went by. I thought that she handled herself well in many situations, and I loved how she tried so hard to hide her expressions and emotions, but they slowly came out with Daniel.

And Daniel? Oh my God, he’s freakin’ hilarious! I found myself laughing out loud a lot while I was reading his point of view. He has a lot of jokes and a way with words, so no wonder he wants to be a poet. But otherwise I was glad to see him like his culture but still want to go for his own dreams. His family, though, made me very sad, much like Natasha’s, but in a different way. I understand family and culture and all of that, but still, I wish he could’ve had a better conversation with his father about what he wanted to do.

Overall I found this book to be very well done. The character I was most frustrated with was Natasha’s father because wow, how could someone regret having a family like that? I don’t know how to explain it cohesively, just the way he regretted meeting his wife and having his children irked me. And I’m obviously not one to endorse cheating, though I did kind of root for the lawyer and his secretary? It’s weird.

I found the struggle of deportation to be real, the need and want to be seen and heard and loved to be real, and I loved reading from the perspectives of a Jamaican young woman and a Korean young man.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Water’s Wrath Book Review

waterswrathTitle: Water’s Wrath
Series: Air Awakens #4
Author: Elise Kova
Publisher: Silver Wing Press
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 350
Format: Purchased eBook

Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.

The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.

As this is a sequel, there will most likely be spoilers.

Okay, I’m not going to lie: I can’t remember the beginning of the book. In my defense, I started reading this back in April and I just finished now in December, so… Yeah. I mean, I remember bits and pieces, but not everything.

Anyway, from what I do remember, I was very impressed with Vhalla’s character without Aldrick always by her side. We got to see how strong she was without him and how far she’s come since she was the shy library apprentice a year ago. She definitely showed that she is strong in mind and magic without him, but despite that there was still that aching longing for Aldrik that never went away (for either of them for the other). She showed that she had a lot of knowledge and she didn’t have to rely on her magic all the time, or Aldrik all the time, to make decisions and get things done. I think that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about her in this book.

Aldrik was a very distant character in this book in the beginning, but as the book continued and more went down (so many feels, omg), he became much more open and more raw with Vhalla than we’ve seen him, which was unusual for him. I did, however, think that that vulnerability was healthy to see. Although I do think that his emotions often clouded his judgement in some instances, he was still the Fire Lord we’ve come to know.

We got more of Fritz and Jax in this novel and oh man, Jax just makes me smile. He’s so full of himself and so charming that it’s funny, and I love how Fritz reacts when they’re around his sisters and Jax keeps flirting with them. Too good. I liked that there was humor sprinkled in because there was a lot of sadness and hard times going on that it was nice to have that bit of humor. I also think that the friendship between Fritz and Vhalla really shone in this book and I was really thankful that Vhalla had such a close friend.

So there were several major plot points that happened in this book that CRUSHED ME. I won’t mention either because of major spoilers, but just know that I am 1) heartbroken that both happened, and 2) and I’m being hopeful that things will happen in the last book that will remedy at least one of them. P.S. One of said major plot points did actually have me shedding actual tears and Ican’tevenwhydidithappen.

Also, I knew that Victor couldn’t be trusted but DAMN. I wasn’t expecting him to go to such an extreme and to learn more about his past a little with Aldrik and just… wow. So much happened toward the end that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

This book hasn’t been my favorite of the series and I think it’s because of the feeling I get when Vhalla didn’t really… react to the major plot points. I mean, she did with one really well, but the other? Not so much. And then there were just a few things I found very convenient and just… I don’t know, I’m having a hard time placing my finger on it. But I did enjoy the book, don’t get me wrong. I just think the focus was kind of all over the place and not super centralized.

Overall, I did enjoy the book (what I remember of it, haha…ha…), and I’m anticipating the last book. I can’t wait to see how it’s all wrapped up and how the conclusion unfurls in this beautiful fantasy series.

I rated this book 4/5 stars.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone Book Review

hpsorcererTitle: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Series: Harry Potter #1
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: June 26, 1997 (illustrated edition published October 6, 2015)
Genre: Children’s/Young Adult – Urban Fantasy
Pages: 256
Format: Purchased Hardcover

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley–a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry–and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

The beloved first book of the Harry Potter series, now lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay.

Yup, I’m doing reviews of these books. Why? I’ve never read the series all the way through before. GASP. I KNOW. It’s so weird, right? I was always the kind of person to never get into the hype of things and I just didn’t know about them, really, when I was younger. I’ve seen all the movies, though, and I love them to bits (they’re some of my most watched movies as I watch them any time they’re on TV), but as for the books I’ve only read the first three and part of the fourth. And I didn’t even start reading them until I turned 20! So I decided I’m going to challenge myself this month and read all seven books by the new year. That’s right! Rayna’s reading Harry Potter!

If you want to follow along with me as I read, you check out my Twitter where I’m using #RaynaReadsHP to talk about my thoughts, but I’m also doing an Instagram story with my reactions, too, so check out both! Now that I’ve said that, onto the review!


As I’ve read this book before, this is a reread, and I think I enjoyed it more than the first time! This world is so magical and the characters are so fun. This book is definitely light hearted compared to the later ones, I’m sure, but it still had its creepy moments (Filch is creepy AF) and it’s harrowing moments (like, why do people want to kill an 11 year old child?), but overall it was extremely enjoyable and I found myself smiling a lot as I read it.

The plot is centered around a boy who’s treated horribly by his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin when he’s left on their doorstep as a baby by some wizards and witches after his parents have died. He’s often left with nothing or hand me downs and left overs. I was shocked to really think about it and see how abusive this dynamic is, and it made me just mad at the Dursleys for how they treated Harry just because he was “different” and wasn’t their own child. As Harry grows up and strange things happen around him, and he gets his letter, he’s thrust into the wizarding world where life is much better for him – even though Lord Voldemort is still looking for him.

I thought that even though Harry’s life does get better and he’s thrust into this world, he was oddly calm about it when Hagrid had bust into that shack on the sea to tell him all about it. Like… I was in disbelief that Harry wasn’t in more disbelief or asking questions. I mean, I get he was eleven and everything, but I’d be a little confused if magic was never really introduced to me before. But I also guess that the weird things that happened around him were enough to convince him? I don’t know, I just thought that was funny. Harry as a character, though, was very brave and intuitive for his age. He was always ready and willing to do what was needed to save others or himself or just take on what was next. I liked him, for sure, and am interested to see what happened next with him.

I thought that the friendship that formed between Ron and Harry was in a manner in which a lot of friendships formed at that age: with food. It felt like it just sprang forth and was introduced to us and I think that it felt kind of genuine because do YOU remember how you formed friendships back then? I don’t but I know it was much easier and different than now. I thought that the two were fun together and that I really just enjoyed the Weasleys overall. They’re a fun family, really funny, and I need more of all of them. Ron, himself, was kind of sullen? I mean, I get he’s the youngest boy in the family, so he had a lot of pressure put on him. Maybe that’s why? But I found his character to be likable, for sure.

Hermione was treated poorly at the beginning, and I mean, I guess I understand why if she was acting like a know-it-all, but I thought Harry and Ron were just kind of mean to her until she stood up for them and lied to the professors after taking on the troll. And then that friendship formed and everything was fine (even if Ron and Hermione still fought), but I also found it to be believable. I loved that she was kind of like the conscience of the group and the voice of reason, even if she was ignored sometimes.

Neville is a precious cinnamon roll and I just want to squeeze him! He had so many unfortunate things happen and I didn’t remember how much of a role he played in this book! In the movies it was always the Golden Trio, but nope! Neville had a lot to do with the story, and I loved that.

I didn’t realize how awful Malfoy was in terms of his views of others. Like, wow, calm down there. I was glad to see Neville and Ron stick up for themselves as well as Harry during one of the Quidditch matches, though, and I thought that even though Malfoy was pompous, I found myself interested in how his character arc will form in later books.

Hagrid was so awesome! I thought that he made himself to be kind of like a father figure to Harry throughout the book, like he wanted to help him and protect and stuff. I don’t know, I just thought that the way Hagrid talked to Harry and was around to help was so great.

Dumbledore, McGonnagal, Snape, Filch, Quirrel, and others weren’t as present as I had hoped or remembered? Maybe I was projecting the movie onto the book, but I really want to see more of Dumbledore, McGonnagal, Snape… I want to learn so much more about them! I know it’s only the first book and they’re obviously going to be in the later books, too, but I just want more now!

I thought that some of the circumstances that happened in the book were kind of convenient in some ways, like things happened easily or some things weren’t fleshed out enough. That was probably my biggest gripe: I wished so much more had been fleshed out. Like, I seriously wanted to see more than what there was. I know that it’s only the first book (and therefore the smallest) and a lot more things will be revealed and stuff in the later books, but dammit, I want more!

ANYWAY, I really enjoyed this first book! There were just a few things that bugged me in very small ways, but it was overall enjoyable and I really liked the voice, the characters, the plot, and more.

As for the illustrated edition: omg the illustrations were beautiful! I loved how it added to the story and that we got to see the illustrator’s take on the characters and the world. They were all very beautiful and I think I enjoyed the book more because of it.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!