City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab – A Review

Note: This is a repost of a review published last year. The sequel to City of Ghosts, Tunnel of Bones, is now available.


“Every time I get nervous or scared, I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure.”

The Book

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Amazon | Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
Publisher: Scholastic, 2018


What It Is

Cassidy Blake is a young girl who can see ghosts, and Jacob is her best friend, who happens to be a ghost.

Due to an accident in which Cassidy almost drowned, she gained the ability to cross “The Veil,” allowing her to see ghosts and observe them reliving their deaths. While she doesn’t exactly have a normal life, things start to get a little crazier when her parents begin working on their new television show, discussing the most haunted places in the world.

See, although Cass can interact with real ghosts, her parents, world-renowned ghost experts, don’t know this. They’ve written loads of books about ghosts and hauntings, without having actually ever seen a ghost. If only they knew about their daughter’s secret…

The family (and Jacob) travels to Edinburgh, Scotland, an ancient city of castles, cobblestone streets, and lots and lots (and lots) of ghosts. Not all of these ghosts are harmless – the Raven in Red, a spirit that snatches children away on cold nights, sets her sights on Cassidy.

Cassidy and Jacob, with the help of their new friends Lara and Findley, go on a daunting adventure to stop the Raven from stealing Cassidy’s very life force. This novel has some truly spooky moments and haunting scenery.

This is an exciting middle-grade novel from the author of Vicious, Vengeful, A Darker Shade of Magic, and more.


My Thoughts

This was such a delightful book to read. It gave me strong vibes of one of my all-time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I definitely recommend if you enjoy City of Ghosts.

It’s a lovely book that focuses on friendship and facing your fears. Cass puts herself at risk to save her best friend, and Jacob does the same for her. Their unusual friendship is so sweet and endearing.

I wish we had seen more of Lara’s character, who starts off pretty cold, but who you quickly warm up to. I found myself wanting to know more about her history, and that of her ghost-obsessed grandfather. I can only hope that the sequel that Victoria Schwab is currently writing includes some more of their story.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that this is a middle-grade book – it truly reads like something that people of all ages can enjoy, much like Cassidy’s beloved Harry Potter. I already know that this is a book I’m going to go back to over and over again. I had quite the book hangover when I finished it, but then this happened:

Capture.PNG

I can’t wait to read the next book. I’m aching to know more about Cass’s story, and I still want to know how Jacob died!

The only (slight) problems I had with this novel is that I wish it was a little bit longer and that there was a bit more character development. While many of the characters did have personalities and backstory, more would have been nice.


Verdict (Buy, Borrow, Read)

Buy. This is such a wonderful book, especially to read in October as we near Halloween. Plus, you’re going to want to reread it when the sequel comes out!

Have you read City of Ghosts? What were your thoughts?




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

A Shifting of Stars (Of Stars, #1) by Kathy Kimbray – A Review

097ec-shiftingofstars_fc

A Shifting of Stars (Of Stars, #1) by Kathy Kimbray
Fantasy | Young Adult
Self-Published
Released May 28, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I was fortunate enough to be sent a free e-ARC of A Shifting of Stars from the author, along with the opportunity to participate in her cover reveal.

A Shifting of Stars is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy. Our heroine in the story is Meadow Sircha, who watched her mother die from a wilting sickness as their emperor squandered the money of their kingdom instead of bringing life-saving medicine into their communities.

One night, Meadow takes a chance and shows up at the Gathering of Wordsmiths, an underground poetry/story community, and gets in front of the crowd to take a stand against the emperor and his famed gladiator fights. When she is finished, another member of the audience is inspired, and follows her onto the stage, sharing his own tale of misfortune at the hands of the empire.

Their cries for revolution are overheard by the emperor’s son, Prince Malthe, who happens to be traveling past. Meadow is arrested alongside the owner of the establishment where she spoke out, and they are taken to the city to be imprisoned.

From there, Meadow is rescued by members of the Emperor’s palace staff. Before she can get out of the castle, however, she discovers that Prince Malthe has a very dark secret. She also finds out, much to her horror, that her father has been arrested at Prince Malthe’s request.

As Meadow escapes the palace’s walls, she is aided by two boys that she recognizes from the Gathering of Wordsmiths – Vogel and Casper. They promise to help Meadow free her father, along with Meadow’s best friend, Anai. The journey is a long one, and they have to pass through the Sparselands, a forest that is generally avoided due to unknown dark magic.

I was hooked from the first chapter, as I love books that begin in desolate or dark settings. We first meet Meadow as she makes her way to the establishment where she wants to share her story, walking along streets where…

“…buildings cringe with moss. Walkways glisten with dirty puddles. Teetering balconies slouch from walls with garments strung between casements like cobwebs.”

Another aspect that is revealed about Meadow early on is that she has lost her mother, something that made me feel empathy towards her character. As I’ve written about before, my own Mother died nine years ago, and when I read about a character expressing the same feelings I’ve been dealing with all these years, it always serves to attach me to them.

“…I need to release my sorrow. To reclaim my spirit. To make things better. Since losing Mother, I’ve barely slept, never mind being able to rise with the sun. I’ve missed so many days at the market that my father has often picked up my slack, working longer than he should to bring in more coin.”

That last quote – I know that pain well. After my mother died, I missed days and days of work, I struggled to get out of bed, and it was like the whole world lost meaning to me for weeks.

I enjoyed the characters in the story, although Meadow’s love interest was predictable. While I could have done without that budding romance, the rest of the story was great.

I won’t be giving any spoilers away in this review, but I was absolutely not expecting the ending! I was shocked by it, but it was a twist that I haven’t encountered often, so it was refreshing. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth – A Review

51G97HeU76L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Young Adult | Fantasy | Portal Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Harper Teen
Released October 23, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I remember the first time I heard of The Light Between Worlds – it was in a booktube video about new releases. As soon as I heard the premise I added it to my TBR because it sounded so unique. I couldn’t believe that no one had done it before.

The plot focuses on three siblings: Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie Hapwell. They find themselves seeking safety in an air raid shelter during World War II, and something completely unexpected happens – they open their eyes to find they’re standing in a forest with a stag walking towards them. They’d been called to the Woodlands by Cervus, the guardian of the Woodlands. The siblings spend several years in this fantasy world, aiding the Woodlanders in their own war.

This book isn’t about their story in that fantasy world, though. It’s about how they deal with coming back to the real world. As I already stated, I can’t believe no one has done this before (that I’m aware of), because it’s an amazing plot. We’re always so focused on the magical lands that our characters find themselves in that we never take a moment to consider what their lives are like once they come back to their normal, everyday lives.

The first half of the novel is told from the point of view of the younger sister, Evelyn, and the latter half is in the words of Philippa. Evelyn has struggled with the transition back to her real life and only wants to go back to the Woodlands.

This book had very strong Narnia vibes, which is part of the reason I loved it. I grew up reading portal fantasy such as the Narnia book, and Laura E. Weymouth did an incredible job of turning such an over-used type of story and forming something unique and new with it. This is the author’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in the future.

I really enjoyed the dual timelines. For the most part, each chapter alternates between Evelyn trying to keep her head above water in her real life and what it was like being in the Woodlands. Even though the Woodlands are fighting a war against a ruler who is trying to take over the forest to use for fuel for another war that he’s fighting, Evelyn still finds so much beauty in that world and feels at home there.

“Why are there always people who want to own everything good and bright in the world, and destroy those things if they can’t be bought? Isn’t it enough to just know such things are there?”

There was one aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy, and that was the romances of both Evelyn and Philippa. Both romances felt very insta-lovey and there was absolutely no build up to these relationships. In each case, the girls find a nice, well-mannered boy who is willing to take care of her and suddenly they’re dating. I don’t think these romances were needed at all, and they just made the novel feel fluffier than need be.

One unexpected aspect of this book is that it made me feel incredibly homesick. I found myself dreaming of the city where I spent my 20s and missing it so much. It’s not to be unexpected, as the novel deals with finding where you feel most at home, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen. It actually made me enjoy the book even more since I always love it when a book makes me feel so much emotion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and can see myself re-reading it in the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun to read and reminded me of what it means to feel at home.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand – A Review

51zjJcGnWnL

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Young adult | Retellings | Holiday
Published by Harper Teen
Released October 24, 2017
Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_0_and_half_star

I kept seeing Cynthia Hand’s The Afterlife of Holly Chase on Bookstagram and Booktube, recommended by people with similar tastes to my own. I finally got it from my library in December and decided to give it a go since the story takes place around Christmas.

This novel is a modern re-imagining of Charles Dicken’s classic A Christmas CarolIn this new version, there’s a group of people that work for “Project Scrooge” and they pick one person every year to surveil and treat to a Christmas Eve just like that of Ebenezer Scrooge with the goal of teaching them the meaning of Christmas.

To put it bluntly, I did not enjoy this book. I found all of the characters annoying or bland, especially Holly. The plot seemed ridiculous to me and I was unable to take any part of the book seriously.

In the novel, Holly’s mother has died, and I thought that would finally make the character more relatable to me as my own mother passed away nine years ago. There was a single part where that was the case:

“Before, I thought Christmas was a day my mother had created entirely for my benefit. After, Christmas felt like a black hole that would suck me into it for weeks. It made me think of my mom when I didn’t want to think of her. Which understandably made me cranky, but you’re not allowed to be cranky on Christmas. You’re supposed to be all merry and bright.”

That’s a statement that I can 100% understand and agree with. I often miss my mother the most on holidays and have to force myself to not think about it. At the same time though, Holly is pretty much incapable of feeling anything other than “ooh, hot guy” or “oh, woe is me.”

I struggled a lot with Cynthia Hand’s writing style. I understand that the narrator is an annoying teenage girl, but I could not handle sentences like this:

“I fanned myself for a minute and then scanned the movie section, not finding anything good, not really expecting to see anything, but theaters typically have AC, I was thinking, and that’s when one of the titles totally jumped out at me.”

I made it to page 265 before I couldn’t do it any longer and DNF-ed it. It might be fun for a much younger reader, but I felt as though this book was incredibly childish and the main character, Holly, had absolutely no redeeming qualities. While I’ll always recommend Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this was a hard pass for me.

Book Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

“Every time I get nervous or scared, I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure.”

The Book

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Amazon | Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
Publisher: Scholastic, 2018


What It Is

Cassidy Blake is a young girl who can see ghosts, and Jacob is her best friend, who happens to be a ghost.

Due to an accident in which Cassidy almost drowned, she gained the ability to cross “The Veil,” allowing her to see ghosts and observe them reliving their deaths. While she doesn’t exactly have a normal life, things start to get a little crazier when her parents begin working on their new television show, discussing the most haunted places in the world.

See, although Cass can interact with real ghosts, her parents, world-renowned ghost experts, don’t know this. They’ve written loads of books about ghosts and hauntings, without having actually ever seen a ghost. If only they knew about their daughter’s secret…

The family (and Jacob) travels to Edinburgh, Scotland, an ancient city of castles, cobblestone streets, and lots and lots (and lots) of ghosts. Not all of these ghosts are harmless – the Raven in Red, a spirit that snatches children away on cold nights, sets her sights on Cassidy.

Cassidy and Jacob, with the help of their new friends Lara and Findley, go on a daunting adventure to stop the Raven from stealing Cassidy’s very life force. This novel has some truly spooky moments and haunting scenery.

This is an exciting middle-grade novel from the author of Vicious, Vengeful, A Darker Shade of Magic, and more.


My Thoughts

This was such a delightful book to read. It gave me strong vibes of one of my all-time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I definitely recommend if you enjoy City of Ghosts.

It’s a lovely book that focuses on friendship and facing your fears. Cass puts herself at risk to save her best friend, and Jacob does the same for her. Their unusual friendship is so sweet and endearing.

I wish we had seen more of Lara’s character, who starts off pretty cold, but who you quickly warm up to. I found myself wanting to know more about her history, and that of her ghost-obsessed grandfather. I can only hope that the sequel that Victoria Schwab is currently writing includes some more of their story.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that this is a middle-grade book – it truly reads like something that people of all ages can enjoy, much like Cassidy’s beloved Harry Potter. I already know that this is a book I’m going to go back to over and over again. I had quite the book hangover when I finished it, but then this happened:

Capture.PNG

I can’t wait to read the next book. I’m aching to know more about Cass’s story, and I still want to know how Jacob died!

The only (slight) problems I had with this novel is that I wish it was a little bit longer and that there was a bit more character development. While many of the characters did have personalities and backstory, more would have been nice.


Verdict (Buy, Borrow, Read)

Buy. This is such a wonderful book, especially to read in October as we near Halloween. Plus, you’re going to want to reread it when the sequel comes out!

Have you read City of Ghosts? What were your thoughts?




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Book

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Amazon | Goodreads
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Published: 2017
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, adventure, LGBT
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram

What It Is

Set in the 1700s, the story follows Henry Montague (“Monty”), his sister Felicity, and his best friend Percy, as they embark on their grand tour of the European continent. For Monty, this is going to be the last year before he’s forced to help run his father’s estate (a future that he is definitely not keen on) and, also, a year before Percy has to go off to Holland to attend school. Thus, it is supposed to be a year of parties, gambling, drinking, and romancing.

Things do not go as planned, however. In fact, things start going terribly, terribly wrong. They encounter highwaymen and pirates; conspiracies and alchemical cure-alls. The three of them end up having a tumultuous adventure, full of surprises and lucky escapes.

There’s another reason Monty is looking forward to his grand tour – he’s in love with Percy, only Percy doesn’t know it. Alongside the adventure story, we also get to watch the blossoming (and trials) of their relationship.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue deals with several heavy topics that give the book an added dimension. Most obviously, it deals with homosexuality in the 1700s, a time when people could be severely punished for the act. Percy is also bi-racial, and we witness how he gets treated by higher society, and the racism of that time period. There are also underlying themes of child abuse, chronic illness (Percy has epilepsy), and sexism (Felicity is prevented from going to several of the events that Percy and Monty are dragged to, even though she actually wants to go).

The book is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once, and has something for everyone, from fight scenes and romance, to swashbuckling and alchemy.

What I Loved

The relationship between Monty and Percy was spectacular. Every time they fought in the book, or something pulled them apart, I felt it in my heart. I was rooting for their romance throughout the whole book.

All of the main characters were so well-developed, and I really appreciated that in fiction. Despite Monty being self-absorbed, naive, and very spoiled, he’s still relatable. I found myself wanting him to succeed, even when he was making very terrible decisions. Although, at times, I also wanted to reach into the pages, grab him by the shoulders, and shake him whenever he did something spectacularly dumb. A large part of this book is his coming to terms with who he is and his realization of how others see him.

Percy is instantly loveable, and just a genuinely great friend. He puts up with Monty’s foolishness (to a point), and, even when they’re fighting, he’s still there to support him. One of the things that immediately pulled me into loving his character is that he carries around a violin he inherited from his deceased father. My mother died in 2010, and the loss of a parent and the role that their heirlooms play in your remembrance of them really resonated with me.

Then we get to Felicity, who is simply a badass. I can’t wait for the sequel, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, to be released, because it focuses on Felicity’s adventures after the end of The Gentleman’s Guide. Whenever Monty and Percy are panicking and unsure of how to proceed, Felicity comes to their rescue. She also took it upon herself to educate herself in science and medicine, which, due to the times and the feelings of her family, she otherwise would not have been allowed to study.

What I Disliked

This is hard. I spent a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something I could say in this section, but I have nothing. I suppose the only real thing I disliked was that it was too short. I wanted so much more. Luckily, there’s the sequel…

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Buy! This was an incredibly fun book to read. I originally downloaded it for my Kindle, but before I was even finished with the book I purchased a physical copy from Amazon because I knew that this was a book I would be going back to several times.

Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think?

2018 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The National Book Foundation announced their longlist for young people’s literature. There are some obvious names on the list, like Tahereh Mafi, but a few others you may not have heard of yet.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

I haven’t read any of these yet, although A Very Large Expanse of Sea and The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge are both on my reading list. Have you guys read any of these? What did you think?