“City of Ashes” by Cassandra Clare

So, I realized recently that I have a terrible track record when it comes to talking about book series. I always have the best intentions, I start off with the first one, promise to talk about the others and then I forget or get distracted by something shiny and then never come back to it. I’m gonna try to be better. So, in the spirit of that, here is my considered opinion of the second book in the Mortal Instruments series- it’s awesome. This should come as no surprise.
So, it picks up not long after the first book ends and everyone is still trying to come to grips with the fact that Valentine, not- Voldemort, has returned and Clary and Jace are trying to cope with the fact that they are brother and sister, which I cannot stress enough isn’t true, but they don’t know that yet. So, they’re still Luke-and-Leia-ing it up, which honestly is really sad. Like, I enjoy a good romance as much as the next girl, maybe more, but this is still just kinda sad. And weird. Definitely weird. Because, I mean, what are you supposed to say? “Oh I wish they could be together”? “Those siblings would be such a cute couple”? Because at this point the reader isn’t supposed to know it either. I just cheated and peeked at a later book. I’m really not sure the author thought this thing all the way through, to be honest.
Anyhow, so the whole Shadowhunter world is in chaos as everyone tries to figure out what Valentine will do next, and what he does next is kill a bunch of people, rather predictably, to be honest. But still, it all is very cool and fairly cinematic the way it is written, it’s very easy to imagine it and the way it will look on screen, whenever it is the second movie comes out. The part on the boat in particular is very, very cool and how Magnus spells Luke’s truck so that it can just drive across the water? Awesome. I want my car to be able to do that. And how Clary uses that rune to completely destroy the boat? Girlfriend packs a mean punch. Oh, yeah, uh, in case you haven’t read the books, or don’t intend to, there are these runes that the Shadowhunters can draw, mostly on themselves, for things like healing, balance, strength or endurance and they’re basically magic. Well, Clary, because she’s awesome and the main character, can pack a whole lot more juice into your average rune than anyone else. She can also create new runes, which no one thought was possible before she started doing it. So, to destroy the boat, she carved the one for “open” into the hull and poured as much as she had into it. The boat was torn apart. Even the rivets flew out, that’s how big of a wallop she has. So, very cool. Makes up for the fact that she still doesn’t really do much fighting and in battle she mostly gets kidnapped and hit upside the head. But, that’s not really her fault, she wasn’t raised as a Shadowhunter, she didn’t even know she was one until recently, so she’s never been trained. You can’t blame someone for not knowing something they never thought they’d need to know.
And then there’s Simon, Clary’s best friend. This is where things get a bit tricky for me. See, this is where the series has me on shaky ground, as there is definite shades of Twilight in that particular storyline. That whole “love triangle, one of whom is her best friend and loves her deeply and faithfully from afar” thing. That is always super annoying. Especially since they’re following the Twilight tradition of the best friend being the one who loses out. Though, I will grant you, watching her genuinely try to be with him was a nice change of pace. You can’t really blame the poor girl- her mom is in a coma, the guy she’s in love with is apparently her brother, her home and everything she owns is destroyed, she’s found out her life is based on a lie and then her best friend leans over and kisses her. What’s she supposed to do? Shove him away? So she tries and it’s sweet and sad that she just can’t be that for him, that all she can think about and all she wants is Jace. And poor Jace, he just fell so hard and so fast. She’s the whole world for him and he can’t have her, and now she’s with this other guy. It just kills him. Honestly, it’s crazy how much he cares about her and worries about her- at one point he runs into the demon of fear, which kills by showing a person what they fear most in all the world. Apparently that much mind- bending terror, magically amplified no doubt, will kill a person pretty quickly. Anyway, what he sees when he sees the demon is Clary dying. Seriously, that is the thing that he is more afraid of than anything else in the world. Well, that and his father, since that’s what he sees the second time he runs into the demon.
Anyway, there’s a nice change of pace from that stupid trope when Simon breaks up with Clary, instead of the other way around. And there really aren’t any bad feelings, he just tells her that he knows it’s not working, he knows she doesn’t feel that way about him and that he would rather have what they’ve always had, a true friendship, than pretend at anything else. He would rather have that truth than a lie that would twist everything about them. So that was nice. Oh, and Simon is turned into a vampire, which I’m not sure how I feel about. I mean, cool, he’s now fully a part of that world, yay awesome, but I’m not a huge fan of vampires. And I don’t really understand those who are. So… neutral. Neutral I suppose.
As I said, I think this book was awesome and it ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, as someone announces to Clary that they know how to get her mother out of her magically induced coma, so that leads quite nicely into the third book.

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“Mr. Real” by Carolyn Crane

Okay, so I recently sort of discovered a new author, Carolyn Crane. I say “sort of” because of this book. It was… to say “bad” would be a misnomer. “Unreadable” comes closer. I literally could not read this book. It was too stupid. I originally thought, Hey, I like her other books, the Disillusionist Trilogy, I’ll probably like this one. Sure, the premise is retarded but it sounds retarded in a fun way. Wrong! It was just straight up retarded. Like, horrifyingly bad.

So, the premise is that the main character, Alix (my first hint that it was a bad book. Who spells that with an i?) inherits a house and a bunch of other stuff from her cooky, old aunt when she dies. I say “cooky” because it turns out the lady was a witch, like an actual magic using witch, and not one of the wiccan types who are mostly about being in balance with nature, but who used actual magic and, get this, managed to transfer that magic to a computer somehow. So that anything you click on,¬†using a computer that has that code in it, will magically appear a day later on your front porch. Like I said, the premise sounded really, really stupid, but whatever I was willing to roll with it. Where she really lost me was the heroine, Alix. With an i. Instead of treating this ludicrous macguffin with kid gloves and a healthy dose of suspicion, since it’s a magical freaking computer and last I checked, magic comes with a price, she decides to use it to go shopping. She “orders” a supposedly great outfit, though based on the description you couldn’t pay me to wear it, and an insanely expensive necklace before it comes to her- she should use it to order a man! And not just any man, no no. She should use it to order a tv commercial character who is played by a guy that she met years ago, for a few weeks that she is somehow still half in love with. No, it didn’t make sense to me either. Any of it. Nothing in that previous sentence made any sense to me, but whatever because she goes for it.

The explanation why she should do such a thing is really, really stupid too. It’s not that she’s smart and just did a dumb thing, or just got caught up in the whole, “Hey, I can have whatever I want!” after years of poverty or whatever. No, no. She’s just that kind of person. She’s crazy, she’s wacky, isn’t that just so much fun! She randomly used magical objects that she doesn’t understand for completely selfish reasons! Isn’t she just so wacky and fun? Honestly, in any other book, she would be the first casualty. She’d be the smoking puddle of ooze on the floor that everyone looks at and goes “So now we know not to do that. Thank you, Alix with an i, for that object lesson.” Instead, no no. She’s just so crazy and fun, and so deeply misunderstood. What part of any of what she does make sense, or is in any way a good idea? None of it! Does the book care? No!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read the rest of it after that. I flipped around a lot, trying to see if it redeemed itself at some point and it most assuredly did not. The guy shows up and since he’s supposed to be some sort of secret agent in the commercials, he thinks he’s a secret agent there and he seriously wonders whether he should kill her, and then the guy she is inexplicably still half in love with after all this time, after minimal contact, I cannot stress enough how minimal the contact was, they never even met socially, shows up and stuff happens and… I don’t know. I think the fake guy goes crazy or something. There seemed to be some sort of standoff or something. Anyway, yeah, amazingly stupid. I’m actually really put off Carolyn Crane right now. Which is a shame because her Disillusionist Trilogy was actually really good. It had this superhero vibe that I seriously dug. But now I don’t even know if I can read her stuff again. It was that bad. I feel dumber for having read it. I spent actual money on this book. Like actual, factual money. And I ordered it online, so it had to be shipped to me. So that’s even more money and some poor package deliverer’s time. Oh god.

Terry Pratchett Quote

Okay, so if you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that I mentioned a Terry Pratchett idea that is mentioned several times in his books and can be boiled down simply to- “Be yourself. As hard as you can.” Well, I decided I might as well be thorough and tracked one down. It’s a bit lengthy, but I like it and I feel like it says pretty much everything that needs to be said. It’s from Good Omens, which was cowritten by him and Neil Gaiman.

“Then something very strange happened to (Mary)… She discovered, under layers of silliness and eagerness to please, Mary Hodges. She found it quite easy to interpret builders’ estimates and do VAT calculations. She’d got some books from the library, and found finance to be both interesting and uncomplicated. She’d stopped reading the kind of women’s magazine that talks about romance and knitting and started reading the kind of women’s magazine that talked about orgasms, but apart from making a mental note to have one if ever the occasion presented itself she dismissed them as only romance and knitting in a new form. So she’d started reading the kind of magazine that talked about mergers.

After much thought, she’d bought a small home computer from an amused and condescending young dealer in Norton. After a crowded weekend, she took it back. Not, as he thought when she walked back into the shop, to have a plug put on it, but because it didn’t have a 387 co-processor. That bit he understood- he was a dealer, after all,¬† and could understand quite long words- but after that the conversation rapidly went downhill from his point of view. Mary Hodges produced yet more magazines. most of them had the term “PC” somewhere in their title, and many of them had articles and reviews that she had circled carefully in red ink.

She read about New Women. She hadn’t ever realized that she was an Old Woman, but after some though she decided that titles like that were all one with the romance and the knitting and the orgasms, and the really important thing to be was yourself, just as hard as you could.”