Monday, July 28, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 29th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.

Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that jeopardizes the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and threatens all of their futures.

This brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures."

Ever since reading Goodwin's The American Heiress, I have been waiting impatiently for this new book of hers!

Secrets of Sloane House by Shelley Gray
Published by: Zondervan
Publication Date: July 29th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"One woman’s search for the truth of her sister’s disappearance leads her to deceit and danger in 1893 Chicago.

Rosalind Perry has left her family’s rural farm in Wisconsin to work as a housemaid at Sloane House, one of the most elegant mansions in Gilded Age Chicago. However, Rosalind is not there just to earn a living and support her family—she’s at Sloane House determined to discover the truth about her sister’s mysterious disappearance.

Reid Armstrong is the handsome heir to a silver fortune. However, his family is on the periphery of Chicago’s elite because their wealth comes from “new money” obtained from successful mining. Marriage to Veronica Sloane would secure his family’s position in society—the lifelong dream of his ailing father.

When Reid begins to realize that Rosalind’s life may be in danger, he stops thinking of marriage prospects and concentrates on helping Rosalind. Dark things are afoot in Chicago and, he fears, in Sloane House. If he’s not vigilant, Rosalind could pay the price."

Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Gilded Age and the 1893 World’s Fair, Secrets of Sloane House takes us on a whirlwind journey of romance and mystery."

Everything about this description makes me want to read it! Plus, Chicago and Wisconsin? My homeland!

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: July 29th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.

So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” (The New York Times). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.

Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species."

I think it's the 1940s road trip aspect that calls to be.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments Book 4) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: April 5th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Every action has it's consequence. There is a price to pay for bringing Jace back from the dead, as there is for Simon being a vampire who can now walk in daylight and repel attacks on his person because he bears the mark of Cain. Yet when Jace was brought back or when Clary traced the mark onto Simon's forehead, none of them thought that the punishment for that one action would be so severe. They all are trying to resume their normal lives and are planning for Clary's mom's wedding to Luke when the repercussions start to be felt. Simon has apparently the most to deal with, what with his mom finding out about him being a vampire, resulting in his being kicked out having to move in with one of his band mates. But that family squabble could happen to anyone, minus the vampirism, it's the threats on his life that are more disturbing, as well as different factions of supernaturals having an unhealthy interest in his ability to walk in daylight. Though it's Jace's problem that could be their undoing. Nightmares seem like a mundane concern when stacked up against Simon's problems. Though the nightmares might be what undoes them all.

Have you ever been reading a book or a series of books that just turns you off reading altogether? There's just something or a lot of somethings that piss you off so much that the thought of picking up another book and reading any written word makes you panic and flee into fits of hyper productivity in anything other then your "to be read" pile. This is a rare occurrence for me, the last time happened to coincide with the final Twilight book and put me off reading for the entire month of August. I'm thinking that I can overcome this malaise quickly... or at least I hope I can because I really have other books to read, but in the meantime, well, my office is getting clean!

As you have probably guessed I am not the biggest fan of this series, even if I have been taking a sort of gleeful revenge by writing scathing reviews. Yet after this forth book I almost think I can't take it anymore. And there's two more books! OK, I am getting a little twitchy thinking about those final two volumes. Power through, power through. Yes, I have developed a mantra in an attempt to just get done. Also, it's not that these Mortal Instrument books are the worst I've ever read, it's just lazy writing (how can a windowless room have a stained glass window later in the scene?) with predictable plots, like, stop hitting me over the head with you "subtle" foreshadowing Clare! I just don't like these books. There. I've said it. I. Don't. Like. These. Books.

I shall now illuminate my reasoning like a window magically appearing in a windowless room, seriously, editors, how could you not fix that. I had hope with City of Fallen Angels because the book did shift it's primary focus off the angtsy Jace and Clary (have I mentioned before how much I hate these names?) and Simon has became our protagonist, and I was all hyped. Simon, someone different, a geeky little vampire and how he's handling his transition... which somehow became the most boring story ever. One is that Simon's vampirism has made him sexy so he's juggling two girls, please, no. Stick to who he is. The other is that there are SO MANY good becoming stories out there about newbie vampires and this one didn't even come close. I think my common refrain for this series is just go watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and leave it at that. But other great shows with becoming stories... how about Being Human? I'm talking UK NOT US people. If it wasn't for the fact that I know there is so much great literature, films, and television shows about vampires, this series would have sworn me off them for good. As it is, I could do with a supernatural reprieve for a few months. Thankfully I swore off True Blood awhile ago otherwise I wouldn't be able to watch it's final season.

But nothing is getting to me as much as Clary and her budding artistic abilities. Thank Lilith that Clary has stopped talking about the sky, it literally made this book shorter by a hundred pages. As an artist, illustrator, and designer myself, I have one thing to say: Get the Terms Right Clare! It is very apparent when someone is writing about things outside their skill set and they don't bother to do the research. This gets on my nerves. I'm sure that everyone who has a specific trade or knowledge of something will cringe when it's wrongly applied. I sometimes catch it with things I have a passing knowledge of, but like when I'm watching the new series of Father Brown, I'm not the person on the message boards posting about how his vestments are wrong for the time period. Also, this guy does exist, go check out the imdb boards!

However, on art, I'm going to call you out! Firstly, art terms and writing terms aren't interchangeable. So while artists sometimes use the word "draft" it rarely means the same thing, but I'll let this one slide, because sometimes common vernacular ends up trumping actual meaning. But you're not getting away with Clary calling her drawing of Jace an illustration. It could be a drawing, a sketch, or a portrait, but NOT an illustration. See, an illustration is an image that accompanies text. I mean just look at the freaking definition in a dictionary! An illustration is "something that illustrates, as a picture in a book or magazine." Unless Clary is writing some erotica about Jace that she needs an illustration of his sleeping body for IT IS A DRAWING. I'd say do better Clare, but after four books, I see you can't do better, it's the same thing over and over again. I'll finish your series, but then we're done.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Glass

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments Book 3) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 24th, 2000
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

The final battle with Valentine is coming. The Clave have called all Shadowhunters home to Idris to discuss the options before them. Jace doesn't want Clary to come because he is worried that she will be in harm's way, and his whole purpose in life now is to protect Clary. If they can't be together, she can at least be safe. Jace should know by now that Clary does what Clary wants, and in violation of every law the Clave has set up, she creates her own portal to Idris to find the cure for what ails her mother. Her arrival with Luke luckily remains secret, but Simon's inadvertent arrival with the Lightwoods causes a stir. Downworlders are not allowed within the city! Instead of sending Simon home, the Clave secretly hold him prisoner, proving that perhaps Valentine is right and the Clave is irreparably corrupt. With spies within the capital and no one being who they seem, can the destruction of Valentine really save the Shadowhunters, or are they a dying breed?

When you're a teenager every little crisis feels as if it's "THE END OF THE WORLD." You're just a giant ball of angst and hormones. This might be why I connected so strongly to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even if I didn't start watching till I was out of my teens, I still remembered what it was like. The genius of Joss (yes, we're on a fist name basis, I did meet him once and talked about Upstairs, Downstairs with him) is that he not only empathized with the plight of the teenager, but he deftly skewered it. He created a show wherein the hyperbole of teenagers was actually true with the fate of the world resting on Buffy Summers's shoulders every week. I think I can safely say that "The Mortal Instruments" books wouldn't have been written if Joss hadn't been a trailblazer for the kick-ass teenage girl. In every page of Clare's work we have a paean to Joss, and in some instances lines lifted directly from Buffy, sigh. Yet, it is very obvious Clare isn't Joss. She clearly lacks the inability to know when to employ irony and humor.

While reading City of Glass, I kept thinking of the season three episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Zeppo," where we follow Zander's misadventures while only catching glimpses of the earth shattering apocalypse Buffy and Angel are dealing with. Why this episode? Because in the Buffy and Angel parts the writing was purposefully over the top and nothing but angst, angst, angst. Every single scene with Clary and Jace is encompassed in that overwrought acting by Sarah Michelle Geller and David Boreanaz. Or, in a non Buffy example, the "Potter Puppet Pals" sketch with Harry banging his head on the wall just saying angst over and over again. Clare is blind to the fact that she needs to lard her angst (and her faux incest, see, I knew it was going to be fake) with a little levity now and then. Because the truth is that Jace and Clary are quickly becoming the couple you hated to be around in high school because every second of their relationship is fraught with drama. Just because a book is YA doesn't mean it's obligatory to be so childish with your hormonal emotions. But then again, everything I've read about Clare's own behavior seems to indicate that she hasn't left this mindset herself, so perhaps it's not her writing that needs to grow up, but her?

Speaking of her writing... besides City of Glass encompassing everything I hate about "final" books in a series, ie, spending too much time waffling between politics and punching, with epic battles that bore me to tears with little to no respite for character development, her writing has started to become even more predictable, I know, that's hard to believe, but it's true. There comes a point when you've read enough of an author that you start to know their "tricks" and there turn of phrase. Certain words are used maybe a few too many times, a romantic moment will "stop her mouth with a kiss" (yes, I'm looking at you Shakespeare loving Lauren Willig). One of the worst perpetrators of this repetition is Tolkien, who, while I have been criticized by Tolkien geeks as overly stating the issue, I say, read his books again and on almost every page someone will stoop and look to the compass points, north, south, east, west. I certainly don't need this information every two seconds, thank you. J.K. Rowling must have read too much Tolkien at a young age because she also overuses stooping, but I always lay the blame on Tolkien, not Rowling.

A good editor should fix these problems for you, say, "Hey Jo, lay off on the stooping, how about crouching or hunching?" Tolkien is forgiven a bit because he was more a historian then a writer, so, well, you don't read his books for language. Clare's fatal flaw is her need to describe the sky, CONSTANTLY. Not just once or twice in a chapter, but as the sun keeps setting she repeatedly and stiltedly talks about the color shift. I think I will literally kill someone if I have to read yet another unrealistic description of the sky, which erratically shifts colors in ways no sky could. Blue hour my ass. Clare obviously knows nothing about color, but that is a rant for another day. Today's rant has concluded.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine."

When Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in Barcelona, no one knows his whereabouts for seven days and seven nights.

His story begins when he meets the strange Marina while he's exploring an old quarter of the city. She leads Oscar to a cemetery, where they watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o'clock in the morning, a woman shrouded in a black velvet cloak descends from her carriage to place a single rose on an unmarked grave.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten postwar Barcelona--a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons--an reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's haunting Marina has long been a cult classic in Spain and is now an international bestseller."

So, my book club recently read one of Carlos's books and we all thought that aside from some explicit scenes it felt like it could be for kids... well this one is. I am mildly intrigued, but also wondering why name a character who makes me think of where boats are stored...

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series, this is the epic conclusion to Susan Dennard's trilogy that started with Something Strange and Deadly and continued with A Darkness Strange and Lovely. With supernatural forces, epic romance, and a mysterious Egyptian city, Eleanor and her team are set for an adventure they will never forget.

It has been a tumultuous time for Eleanor Fitt since life as she knew it in Philadelphia came abruptly to an end. While the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and Daniel—have helped her survive her brother's violent death and an invasion of Hungry Dead, Eleanor has lost just about everything.

And now, Jie is missing—taken by the evil necromancer Marcus. Eleanor is determined not only to get her back but to finally end this nightmare. But to do so, she must navigate the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt amid the rising Dead, her unresolved feelings for Daniel, and her volatile relationships with Joseph and Oliver, her demon. And it won't be easy. Because Allison, her friend from Philadelphia, has tagged along, becoming strangely entangled in Eleanor's mission.

It will take all of Eleanor's powers of black magic, and all of Daniel's and Joseph's trust, to succeed. But there will be a price. People will have to suffer the consequences of what Marcus has done, and what Eleanor, Oliver, and the Spirit-Hunters will do to stop all this deadly chaos."

OK, yes, this is all about the cover lust...

Sixty-Eight Rooms: The Secret of the Key by Marianne Malone
Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Filled with magic, mystery, miniatures, and adventure, the Sixty-Eight Rooms is the perfect series for fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Dollpeople!

Chicago sixth graders Ruthie and Jack think they’ve learned everything about the magic of the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. But the magic starts to act strangely when Ruthie and Jack discover two rings that are out of place—and out of time—and a portal that shouldn’t be open but somehow is. Ruthie and Jack follow the clues to seventeenth-century England and the Brownlow house, where they meet the Brownlow’s governess, Rebecca. But Rebecca has a few secrets of her own—and she might even be in the wrong century! Can Ruthie and Jack discover the truth about Rebecca’s mysterious past, or will they end up stuck in the wrong century themselves? Their quest for answers takes them from 1930s New York City and San Francisco to turn-of-the-century China. The only one who can truly answer their questions may be the woman who started it all: the room’s creator, Narcissa Thorne. But to talk to Mrs. Thorne, they’ll have to go back in time and find her!

Unlock the magic . . . in the exciting conclusion to the Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures!"

I wish they had these books when I was little. I was obsessed with the Thorne Miniature Rooms! Still am, as a matter of fact...

The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble
Published by: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Trading Places meets Pride and Prejudice in this sexy, saucy romance—first in a new series from the author of YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Three friends. One Wager. Winner takes all.

The Earl—‘Lucky Ned’ Ashby. Pompous, preening, certain that he is beloved by everyone. The Miller—John Turner. Proud, forced to work as the Earl’s secretary, their relationship growing ever more strained.

The Doctor—Rhys Gray. Practical, peace-loving, but caught in the middle of two warring friends.

Their wager is simple: By trading places with John Turner and convincing someone to fall in love with him, Ned plans to prove it’s him the world adores, not his money. Turner plans to prove him wrong.

But no one planned on Phoebe Baker, the unassuming governess who would fall into their trap, and turn everything on its head…

Three best friends make a life-changing bet in the first book in a witty, sexy new Regency trilogy from acclaimed author Kate Noble, writer of the wildly popular Emmy award–winning web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."

I don't usually go for traditional romances, but this is firstly, by the author of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and secondly they mentioned one of my favorite films in the blurb, and I'm not talking P and P, I'm talking Trading Places!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book 2) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 25th, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Clary's mom is still in a coma. But her mother isn't her only family anymore. Clary not only has an evil father planning world domination under the guise of the greater good, but a brother in Jace, whom she was starting to fall for, luckily they found out about their shared genes in time, no matter how much they wish it wasn't true. Jace and Clary being the offspring of Valentine has caused quite a stir among the Shadowhunters. Because Clary is new to this "other" world she is basically ignored by the Clave, but Jace... Jace isn't getting off that easy. Until Jace can prove his past ignorance of his lineage and that all his motives where for the good of the Clave he is to be locked up by the Silent Brothers.

While he is detained awaiting his "trial" by the sacred Soul-Sword that will know if he is telling the truth, his father Valentine arrives at the Silent City and massacres the Brothers and steals the sword, the second of the Mortal Instruments. Even if Jace wasn't under suspicion because of his father and being at the scene of another crime, he'd want to get to the bottom of this because it's in his blood as a Shadowhunter to protect the world from the downworlders. Downworlders who are flocking to Valentine as he uses the sword to call them to his side. Can Jace, Clary, and the younger Shadowhunters work secretly for the good of all without being accused of ulterior motives?

I'm sure you've all experienced this phenomena. You're reading a book, it's good bordering on great and because of some reason you set it down. It could be work, it could be prior commitments, it could even be another book you've been dying to read and it has finally come out and you can't wait another minute to start it. But you set down your book and when you pick it back up the magic is gone. There's a part of you that's thinking, it's not the book, it's me, the common refrain of all breakups. You try to make it work, but no matter how hard you try you can't reconnect.

The book is now a chore to read and you're just pushing through, trying to finish, all the while wondering what happened. This happened with me and City of Ashes. In the beginning I was flying through it, surprised by how much I was enjoying it after the first book was, well, wasn't up to my high expectations. I was even able to forgive Clare's habit of unbelievable predictability. She's so heavy handed with the foreshadowing that it's laughable. She telegraphs every punch so that there is no surprise when the blow falls. But I was ok with all this and then I wasn't.

I am not sure if it was the superiority of writing and worldbuilding of the book I forsook City of Ashes for or just that City of Ashes had reached it's apex and was quickly declining, but we irrevocably had a falling out. Yes, it was my mistake to set down this book, because who knows if I would have grown to dislike it as much as I did. I have an inkling that I would, and that inkling is Jace. I hate Jace with the fury of ten thousand suns. He is an unlikable arrogant ass. What's the refrain all good writers should abide by, show don't tell. Having all the characters say that Jace isn't really all that bad doesn't counteract the douchebaggery he's perpetrating on every single page. He's not a misunderstood misanthrope, he's a dick. An unrepentant ass isn't ever going to be a good hero or even an antihero, they're just going to be always an ass. And in this case an ass surrounded by a whole lot of flat two dimensional characters.

But what I despise about Jace is that he's basically the love interest. I was relieved when at the end of the first book that it turned out Jace and Clary are siblings because then Clare could drop this stupid budding love affair. Of course, I can see that they are somehow going to miraculously not be related just so they can get it on, and that is where the book tipped for me, when Jace was brought back as the taboo love of Clary. By having Jace, all be it temporarily, not the love interest I became interested in the book. Clare quickly cured me of all I liked, hence I think our breakup was inevitable.

So about this love. Let's say that Jace and Clary are related and there's no deus ex machina waiting in the wings to make their love acceptable, then we're in familiar literary trope territory, incest! Man, authors love incest, consensual, non consensual, startling revelation, secretive, scandalous, fabulously camp, it's out there from Flowers in the Attic to Game of Thrones to Veronica Mars to Arrested Development. And, it's just overdone already people. Using it as a shocking plot device over and over makes it lose it's shock value.

I could spend hours sitting here just listing all the books I've read or shows I've watched where this was supposed to be a big icky reveal and instead had me rolling my eyes going, oh please, not again. Donna Tartt, Diane Setterfield, Charlaine Harris, George R R Martin have all pulled this and have desensitized me to this trope once and for all. THE ONLY way this trope would have helped this book would have been to permanently part Jace and Clary on the romantic level, but that's not happening, so just, cut it out, ok, it's bad that I just got Dave Coulier from Full House in my head just then... but that's the level this trope has reached... bad and tacky 80s comedian level.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Bones

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 27th, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Clary's life has been turned upside down. One night her and her best friend Simon are at a club when she sees something no one else can. There's apparently a shadow world in New York and for some reason Clary is starting to see it. After this shocking discovery Clary's mom Jocelyn is kidnapped and this new world of demons and angels and vampires and werewolves holds the key. There is a group of humans known as the Shadowhunters, and they protect the world from the demons from the downworlds. They keep all of humanity safe and ignorant. Clary has spent her life safe and ignorant, but only at her mother's behest. Jocelyn was once a Shadowhunter, part of the elite Circle lead by her husband Valentine to overthrow the Clave, the organizing body of the Shadowhunters. Jocelyn came to hate the purity of blood the Circle demanded and fled her husband and that world to raise her daughter as a mundane, safe from the dangers of this shadow world. But everyone's past comes back to haunt them. Valentine isn't as dead as everyone hoped and his ideals haven't changed in the fifteen years he has been in hiding. Can Clary, a girl just thrust into this other world, be able to help stop history repeating itself?

The concept of plagiarism is horrifying to me, yet in our society it is oddly pervasive and somewhat accepted. As a creative person who has artistic output the thought that someone would take my work, my blood, sweat, and tears, and claim it as their own, it makes my blood boil. I am so wary of the taint of plagiarism that I have this obsessive self-policing instinct that recoils at the thought that I would cut corners to get a faster or better end result even using just the bones of another person's idea. Plagiarism in any form is abhorrent to me. Yet there were many instances at school where students would get caught showing the work of others as their own. They would lift artwork straight off of deviantART and an observant student or teacher would call them out. Why you might be wondering am I ruminating on artistic copyrights? Well, even if you've only been half aware of the controversy, Cassandra Clare is an author who has, apparently, been rightly tarred as a plagiarist. She is an author who, while the taint has stuck, has also been accepted by the YA community and become very successful. An odd conundrum of our times where theft and unoriginality are king.

While the roots of the story start in fanfic, I want to make it clear that this is just one cast against one person and that fanfic is a thriving and interesting genre that uses pre-existing characters in new ways and isn't being denigrated by me. The bones (haha) of the case against Cassie is that in her fanfic trilogy devoted to Draco Malfoy she basically was ripping off not just witty dialogue from Buffy to Pratchett to Red Dwarf (classified by her as "an obscure British sitcom" and yes, in my mind she should go to hell for saying that) but full scenes and settings from other authors. She was called out, her work was categorized as plagiarized and was pulled from the site it was on. Yes, there was also a lot of name calling, Cyberbullying, and other horrid stuff you can read all about elsewhere, but the fact is she got a book deal from this. This alone disgusts me. But with the eyes of the world on her she wasn't able to rely on the witticisms of Joss Whedon anymore, she took her plot structure from her fanfic trilogy, stripped it down, rebuilt it, and what is left is boring. Even if you were unaware of all this controversy swirling around her you could not help but notice that this book lacks originality, it lacks that spark that's needed to make it more then just a mish-mash of other tropes and plot devices as old as the written word. Cassandra Clare, in my opinion, is a bad writer, not to mention morally corrupt and a bad human. She used the reflective glory of other "true" writers to give her work a shiny allure, that while tarnished, is still there.

But I can't ignore the fanfic roots of City of Bones mainly because this is so obviously Harry Potter from Draco's point of view. And even if I didn't know about the Draco Trilogy, once a flying motorcycle shows up, there's no doubt it's Harry Potter. This book is giving us front row seats to life with the Death Eaters, with a little more Nazism thrown in, sieg heil! In fact it's just too much of everything thrown in, too much borrowed and re-interpreted in a flat way. Here's some Harry Potter (a stele is so a wand no matter what Clare says), add some Rick Riordan, a little Piers Anthony/Bill Willingham (mundies, really, Fables much?), an aroma of Celtic mythology, a dash of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, just have at it. But never once does all this thisness convert into something it's own, something cohesive and original. All this translates into major worldbuilding issues. I'm ok with a magical world coexisting alongside a mundane world, as long as it makes sense. Whether it's willful ignorance on the part of the mundanes, or spells and wards keeping them away, something has to be explained as to how this ignorant coexistence works. Having carriages going over cars and slipping in and out of traffic with not an eyelid batted, please.

The laziness in the worldbuilding though is never so obvious as in the characters that inhabit this world. City of Bones has this feeling of one epically long night of party crashing, much like the aforementioned Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a book and movie I detest. When you go to these parties you meet people, you get vague impressions, and then they're out of your life forever. That's how I felt about all the characters. They are flat two-dimensional people who will maybe have a defining characteristic, but overall, they are forgettable. After almost five hundred pages with Clary all I know about her is she's a short red-head who draws. Seriously, this is ALL I KNOW about the protagonist of this book? Um... major flaw here. While I know people will jump down my neck for this, but I actually think Bella Swan has more of a personality then Clary. There, I said it. I do think that this issue would have been fixable it there was some buildup before throwing us into the action of the book. How about a few days spent with Clary living her normal life? Some way for us to identify with her and the world she's about to lose. A way for the reader to forge a connection, because without this bond I have no conduit to help me in this book's world, and it makes me care about nothing. Valentine could kill them all for how much I care about them and perhaps I would help him, especially with Jace.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close."

Not very surprising to me that no other books are coming out this week. No one wants to compete with the juggernaut that is Deborah Harkness...

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:

1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew

And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.

From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise."

I'm of two minds with regard to the new Bryan Lee O'Malley book (BTW, this is exempt from Harkness conflict, because they are so different). One mind is going, OMG, finally, something new since the final Scott Pilgrim, other mind, but his other standalone, Lost at Sea, sucked... see, two minds.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Sever

Sever (The Chemical Garden Book 3) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Rhine is now officially her father-in-law's medical experiment. Brought back to the family compound, her husband doesn't even know she's being "treated" in the basement, along with many other people who were supposedly long gone. Even when finally faced with the truth of his father's crimes, Linden can't quite cope and chooses to believe the lie he's lived his entire life. Yet he is savvy enough to try to protect his two remaining wives by hiding them at his uncle's house. After all that Rhine has been through she is surprised to see that two of her fellow captives are willing to help her find her brother and put right what went wrong.

Rhine's husband Linden and her sister wife Cecily help in the hunt for Rowan. Finding Rowan won't be as hard as Rhine thought. In the aftermath of her disappearance and supposed death in a medical experiment, Rowan might just have cracked, as his anti science rantings and bombing of medical centers would indicate. But maybe, just maybe, there's a giant conspiracy afoot which will make friends of enemies and hopefully end this death sentence hanging over all the world. Twenty is too young to die.

And then the series became a rip off of M. Night Shyamalan's The Villiage, which was a rip off of Running Out of Time... but with a bit more of a lean towards the Margaret Peterson Haddix book, and I threw my hands up in the air in exasperation. If it wasn't for that unexpected bloodbath at the end in which I took not just a little bit of joy, there would be nothing memorable about this book other then the faint melancholy I feel for what this series could have been. The unbelievability of the underlying reason for everything that happens means that everything in the book is on an unstable base and is therefore unbelievable as well.

Just because a book is set in a dystopian society doesn't mean that you get to ignore logic. The whole point of dystopian versus fantasy is that it is a possibility. Something could go wrong with our society, a virus, a massive power failure, a war, something that could go wrong does and we are plunged into a future nightmare. You can't just decide that I have this cool idea as to how society could became a certain way and force it on society. People have a hive mind mentality, they won't go against this hive mind, and what DeStefano suggests happens is so against the hive mind, it's unacceptable as what drives the plot.

So, now is the time if you haven't seen The Village to stop reading, because besides spoiling this book I plan to spoil the movie, neither of which are worth your time, so really, I'm doing you a favor. OK, so in the utterly predictable movie The Village, a group comes together and basically removes themselves from society. They have seen the horror that humanity has became and want to live a safe, insular life without any outside influence. The group makes this decision for their safety, their heath, and the safety and future of their children. Self exile for the continuation of the species. This is feasible on a small scale, because they are like-minded individuals who are brought together through grief and come to a similar conclusion.

With Sever we learn that the ENTIRE United States decides to eschew technology and anything outside the contiguous forty-eight states in exchange for perfect health and children with genes that will mean they live out their lives at the physical peak of humanity, which, of course, backfires on them. They even re-write history so that the outside world no longer exists. What country does DeStefano live in? The US going all "Village" and giving away it's love of gadgets and technology and access to the world for perfect health? Um no. We sadly live in a world where a person would kill someone for an iPhone, there's no chance in hell this would ever happen. To disconnect from the outside world, well maybe, but give up gadgets? No. The hive mind will prevail!

I can't believe in a virus that is caused by a situation that could never, ever, ever, happen. I'm sorry, I just can't buy into the world of this series anymore, which, by they way, it's title doesn't make any sense. "The Chemical Garden" um... yeah, not working. I thought it would be cool if maybe it was poisonous plants that did this, but using it as a pun on a hospital nursery, lame. Yet it is to do with what is in that nursery that the moral question the series is asking originates from. All this comes down to is the question of what would we do for our children? I'm not saying that the breeders could actually get everyone to agree to this world by playing the "children our our future" card, but I can see where they are coming from.

The Village was for the future and the children, and look what those parents did to give them a better world. Would we be willing to let our children suffer pain if it helped in the long run? Is Vaughn's evil experiments and dissection of his dead daughters-in-law excusable because it was for the greater good? It's kind of like trying to pardon a Nazis... medical advancement versus what is morally right. I'm sorry, but if I'm getting joy out of watching your characters die and comparing your book to a bad movie, there is no way that I'm really going to bother with these weighty issues. I'm just going to take your books to the used bookstore and get it off my shelves. I need the space for better books, not to dwell on philosophical conundrums.

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