“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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“City Of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

So I’m gonna be honest- I tore through this series like I haven’t in a while. I very quickly developed a fangirl reaction to not only this series but the trailers for the movie that comes out in August, which btw looks epic. But, first things first, let’s talk about “City of Bones”.
So, it’s another of those “there’s a whole other world beneath our noses” books, which isn’t quite played out, but I feel like it might be getting close to it. I mean, I know it’s a classic way to enter a brand new world, you can’t beat it, it’s the perfect way to introduce the audience to this new world and all it’s weird rules and creatures. But still, do you know how many times I’ve read it? I can’t tell you, because I’ve lost track. But that little quibble aside, and one other that I’ll get to in a minute, I really loved this book. Clary was awesome and brave, and not in the usual way you’d expect in a book about demon- hunting. She wasn’t much for flying sidekicks or whatever, and wouldn’t be for several books, but she’s a fighter and she refused to give up. Her mom was missing, her world was in chaos and she was in danger and there was very little she could do about it, but she didn’t give up and she didn’t even consider giving up. She just kept fighting and trying to protect the people that were important to her.

The whole Shadowhunter thing is pretty cool too. Apparently they’re the Nephilim, the offspring of humans and angels, a thing that I first heard of in an X- Files episode years and years ago. (You can’t say my nerd pedigree isn’t spotless, heh- heh.) There’s also something about Seraphim blades and stuff that I’m honestly a bit fuzzy on because they have to, like, name the Seraphim blade before they can use and that’s never really explained. Does each name confer a certain power on each blade? Are they power levels? Why? How? It’s never explained, and I would really like an explanation. But other than that, I quite liked the world she made. It seems pretty realistic and well- crafted.

The weird thing about these books, among the other thing that I still haven’t mentioned, is that there’s this guy, the bad guy, Valentine, which is a stupid ass name for a bad guy, everything else aside (why name you’re villian after the holiday for love?), and he is basically Voldemort. Seriously, before anyone who’s read these books argues with me, think about it- he’s all about how his hidden kind of human is the best, mundanes/ muggles are terrible, and those with power are the very best. There’s even this thing he says about how the Downworlders, vampires, werewolves and warlocks, aren’t as good as the Shadowhunters because they’re tainted, have dirty blood, mudbloods if you will. It’s crazytown. Did she realize she was doing it when she did it? But that’s not even the weirdest part. The weirdest part is that all of the adults in the book are ex- members of his little gang of not- Deatheaters, called the Circle. And pretty much all of the main characters are the children of ex- Circle members. Not only that, but- spoilers- Clary is the biological daughter of Valentine, not- Voldemort himself. Can you imagine if that had popped up in Harry Potter? It certainly would have livened things up a bit, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, then there’s Jace, the love interest, and he is bad- freaking- ass. Like, seriously, he is a badass. He is an ass- kicker of the first order, great warrior, great demon hunter. Not only that, but the boy is really funny. These are character traits that I really look for in a fictional man. You can’t lose with a funny ass- kicker. Especially when you have one that is so clearly gone over the heroine. It’s really, really sweet. I loved their romance and just watching those two. They are very, very cute together and for once I wasn’t too irritated by the obvious setting up of a love triangle/ forbidden love thing, mostly because of how she did it, which was… weird. And not in a good way, weird. Yeah, this is the thing I was going to get to, spoilers by the way, see the thing is, is that at the end of the book, there’s this big confrontation with Valentine and he tells Clary and Jace, after they have spent the entire book falling in love with each other, that they are brother and sister. That Clary’s older brother did not in fact die all those years ago, like Clary’s mother thought, right before her mother left Valentine forever, barely two months pregnant with Clary. That her brother had survived the fire and that they, Clary and Jace, are in fact, full blooded brother and sister. So, yeah. She went to a weird place. Now, I want it fully understood, that it is not in fact true. Sorry, spoilers. I mean, I knew that ahead of time, because I picked up the first book after browsing through a display of all the ones that have come out already, including the new one that talks about Jace and Clary’s brother Sebastian, so I knew it wasn’t true, that it was all a horrible lie from her horrible father, but still. Yech. Why would she go there? Seriously. Wha- why? I mean, I get the point. Beyond eventually introducing her real brother later on and it also proves what a dick her father is, because he could see they loved each other, he even commented on it, there’s the whole “doomed romance” thing, which is like half the point of the book I think. And this way you don’t have to question either one’s character or strength, or the strength of their love, but still. Couldn’t she have found a less… icky way? The whole thing is weird. But again, it’s all a horrible lie from her dick of a father. So, there’s that.

Anyway, bizarre storytelling choice aside, and how they’ll spin that in the movie I have no freaking clue, it was a really, really good book. I seriously did tear my way through the entire series in no time flat. It was even one of those that, if I had to walk away I spent the entire time thinking about it. One of those where you’re like “You don’t understand! There’s this book!” anytime someone wants to talk to you. It’s one of those. So, really, I can’t recommend it enough and I will totally be in line to see it opening day when the movie finally comes out.

P.S. I figured out how to embed videos! Finally! Yay!

“Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame- Smith

This is a really good book. I mean, I went into it expecting to like it, since it’s part of the recent trend of retconning classic literature or history to include things like vampire, werewolves or demons, which I think is hilarious and awesome, so I was pretty positive that I would like it before I ever read it. But I found myself impressed by, first of all, how well the author researched this book. This is clearly a man who has read a biography or two of Abraham Lincoln. I honestly expected to find a bibliography at the back of the book. And secondly, I was very impressed by how well he wove the whole “vampire hunter” thing into Lincoln’s life and American history. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Lincoln’s pre- president life, I know what I learned in history class basically since I’ve never been terribly interested in the Civil War, but what he wrote seemed pretty accurate to what I knew and what I sort of vaguely remembered hearing about. And the part about how vampires were the true villains behind the south and slavery? Awesome! And it actually kind of made total sense, in a really weird way. Of course vampires would see that as a perfect way to feed. Why wouldn’t they? Who would go after them for it? Okay, who in the south would go after them for it?

I can’t say as I was totally impressed by the “vampire hunter” part of it, since we never actually see Abe doing that much vampire hunting in the book. It’s mentioned that he does it, and that he is a great hunter, but the author mostly focuses on actual biographical information about Lincoln’s life, slightly to the detriment of his street cred. The reader just kind of has to take his word for it that Abe is as big of a badass as he says he is. Hopefully that will be fixed in the movie, which I am very much looking forward to.

Also, I felt like there were a few too many description of dreams in the book. It happens like four or five times in a 336 page book. That’s a bit much. And at least two of those times he pulled the same thing, where it treats the dream like it’s really happening until all of a sudden Abe is jerking upright in bed and gasping. That’s kind of an old, tired trick to pull in the first place, and to pull it more than once is kind of sad. That said, the bit of foreshadowing of Lincoln’s death was nice, and nicely Shakespearian, though honestly who needed it? Does anyone not know that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? Anyone? But maybe he was trying to play like we didn’t know what would happen to Lincoln, like he was introducing us to a brand new character, or a little known person from history or something. An odd card to play, but whatever.

All in all though, an awesome book and one that I’m very glad that I read. It sat in my To- Read stack for over a year before I ever got around to it, and now I feel bad for that. So, for anyone who’s been intending to read it, but just hasn’t yet- go ahead and dig it out. You will not regret it and will walk away with a serious new respect for Abraham Lincoln. Not that I was lacking in it before, he’s always been one of my favorite presidents, but learning all this new stuff about him, even filtering out the vampire stuff, has made that respect blossom into possible hero worship. And to then make him a vampire hunter, well… he’s a total badass. And an awesome president. I especially love his quip to cowardly general Mclellan “If you do not want to use the army, I would very much like to borrow it.”

“Demon Moon” by Meljean Brook

Okay, so if you’ve read my earlier post listing the authors that I love, you don’t really need to be told that I love this book. But I did. I totally loved this book and it’s one of my favorite of all time. It advanced the over- all story arc while still telling these people’s particular story, while not forgetting everyone else in the storyline. It was fantastic.

The characters are flawed, very much so, while remaining completely awesome. There’s no Mary- Suing, thank god, and while they have their talents and beauty,and all the things about them that make them very cool people, there is never any doubt that they are real people. The only part that I found outside the realm of believable is how smart Savi apparently is, and since they kind of come out and say she’s like a super genius, and considering how many tv shows and movies pull that same kind of stunt, I’m calling it within bounds.

I will be honest and say that when I stop and think about it while not reading the book, I don’t really see how Colin and Savi work as a couple, since they have little in common and are very different people, but while you’re reading the book it never feels like an issue. I guess that one can be chalked up to one of those things, since there are real life couples that don’t make any sense to other people. And they do seem like the kind of people that would genuinely enjoy each other’s company and take it from there, so I suppose I can let it go.

And once again, it seems to be a specialty of Meljean Brooks, it did seem genuinely impossible for them to be together. Unlike in other books, I’ll say it again cuz it’s irritating, where you just want to yell through the page for them to get over themselves and they can live happily ever after, perhaps accompanied with a nice smack upside the head, in this book the deck really did seem stacked against them, completely impossible for them to be together. Admittedly, a little of that did come from Savi being unwilling to stand by Colin as his blood lust, what with him being a vampire and all, forcing him to have sex with a different woman every night since Savi couldn’t supply all his blood needs, but I’m not gonna blame her for that one. What woman, or man, would want to stand by and watch the love of their life do that? None that I can think of, and none that wouldn’t end up hating their love and themselves in the end. But the way she worked it out was simply awesome and the moment at the end, when they decided that they would rather risk taking each other’s blood and dying of it than live apart was simply beautiful. I tear up every time I read it. Typing it now, it sounds really melodramatic and overwrought, but in the moment it felt very right and honestly, the whole book was leading up to that moment, when they chose each other over everything else. But I’m a romantic.

Elsewhere in the book, the Guardian corps’ war against the demons is heating up, and there’s a very cool/deliciously creepy thing with the Chaos realm in the book, which I won’t get into since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else. Also, Michael as a leader and a person is getting more rounded out and realized which comes in handy for later in the series. He’s clearly very much a work in progress for the author. I don’t think she had a real good grip on him early on in the series, and that kind of shows, but she’s obviously working her way inside his head, slowly but surely as the series goes on, and this one starts to give us some nice insights.

All in all, I totally, obviously, recommend this book. It’s a little long and the mythology of the series is not for the faint of heart, since it’s almost ridiculously complicated, but it’s a great read and a great series. You should totally read it.

I Refuse

Just to let you guys know, I will not be reading, or reviewing, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. I refuse. I’ve read a description of it and it sounds retarded. It apparently started as a “Twilight” fan fic thing, which is a mark against it as it is, and what I’ve heard of it does not endear itself further. Soo… if you were hoping for that, I’m very sorry, but you will be disappointed.

Oh, and as a note about “Twilight”, here’s my view: they are stupid in ways that have been ennumerated all over the internet and are good in ways that have been squealed about all over the internet, but I don’t really like them. They are badly written, the characters are one- dimensional, they were clearly written as fantasy for a woman who was quiet and unremarkeable in school and their treatment of vampires and werewolves hurts me. That said, there is something about them that reaches into the back of your head, grabs something, and twists. I find it best to avoid them. So, while I won’t blame anyone for liking them initially, I will judge the crap out of them for not coming to their senses.