Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Lost Souls

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments Book 5) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 535 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Jace is now bound to Sebastian. He has unwittingly turned to the dark side and is the center of a world wide manhunt. Yet the Clave think it's a simple kidnapping, little do they know that the two are bound together. One cannot be harmed without the other getting the same wounds. Therefore, if found, Sebastian cannot be killed if Jace is to live. The two want Clary to come and join them, which she secretly does, but only because she feels that by going with her brother and her true love that she can find some way of separating them and saving Jace. Clary is unprepared for the depths her brother will sink, but luckily her friends are willing to sink to equal depths in order to save her and Jace. Team Good is on the job, raising demons and summoning angels all to find a way to save Jace. Yet even if the separation succeeds can they find out Sebastian's plans and stop him before it's too late?

One thing that is really big right now is to have everything interconnected. Now, I don't mean everything as in EVERYTHING, but it's becoming so that book and television series are no longer independent. You can't just read or watch one thing without having to read and watch all this other stuff as well, from online exclusives to ebooks. Now more then ever it is about the whole universe a story inhabits. The worst perpetrator of these crimes against consumers is Marvel. The Marvel Universe is so interconnected that you literally have to watch everything to know what's going on. You can't just watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., oh no, you have to also go see the new Captain America movie because apparently the whole first season was building to the reveal in the movie, which someone could have warned me about.

I mean seriously, I got so lost between two episodes because I didn't have the time to go see Captain American: The Winter Soldier and everything on S.H.I.E.L.D hinged on that movie that I almost swore off Marvel then and there. And yes, I know Marvel has always had this interconnected universe, but these days it's getting out of hand, being more about forcing the consumer to want it all then just letting them stick to what they like, and FYI, I like Captain America in WWII, not in modern times, so there.

For series I love, I do want it all, but with the caveat, they can be connected not dependent. Thor and S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America and The Avengers, they can have jokes and characters crossing over all they want as long as I can enjoy each one individually. They must be separate and enjoyable on their own. Cassandra Clare has fallen prey to this trend and it's making me want to throttle her more then usual. After the third book in the Mortal Instruments series she had her first Infernal Devices book come out, Clockwork Angel. This series is set in the same world but in the 1800s, and due to some of her characters being immortal, well, those characters carry through, most notably Magnus Bane.

Flash forward to present day and the Mortal Instruments and book four, City of Fallen Angels, and references to Clockwork Angel pepper the text, liberally. I was kind of ok with it... at first. By the time this book, City of Lost Souls, was released another book in the Infernal Devices series had been published and Clare doubled down on the references. Now not only is her book lacking in plot, believable characters, and continuity, it is now at the point where tons of references are going over my head because I didn't read two of her other books. The thought of having to read more of her writing makes me want to scream. The fact that this book has a whole new level of things to infuriate me makes me wonder how I will ever finish this series.

But here's the nail in the coffin for me and Clare, she doesn't care about her writing so why should I? You might be wondering how I reached this opinion, well, it's right there on every page of her books if you look. Her writing is lazy. And by lazy I mean the writing feels like it was just vomited onto the page without anyone ever going back and checking for overuse of words (seriously, don't use the same phrase two sentences in a row), not to mention continuity, where windows randomly appear in windowless rooms (a common occurrence) and futons have bedposts.

Yet for me the issue this all ties back to is her plagiarist tendencies. A good author will create a unique and wonderful world that has originality and won't make you think that the book is half Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix half Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two. But even if the world did feel like that, a good author could make it their own with character development and dialogue. Instead Clare just relies on the words of other writers versus coming up with her own. I actually lost count as to how many direct lifts there were from Buffy. I knew from the end of the previous book that City of Lost Souls was shaping up to be very much Angelus wreaking havoc on Sunnydale, but seriously, this is how it ended? THE EXACT SAME WAY AS BUFFY!?! Look to the screencap as proof because you don't need to take my word for it!

Does assembling real work by others into a vague plotless book make you an author? I don't think so. It makes you a lazy bitch who is just churning these books out as fast as you can to rake in the cash probably only stopping to call your lawyer to see if a sentence is changed just the right infinitesimal amount so that you can't be sued. And it looks like Clare is going to keep on doing this... it's people like her that make me worry about the future of writing; lazy ass people who feel entitled to do whatever they want, damn the consequences.

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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review - Deborah Harkness's The Book of Life

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

Matthew and Diana return from the past to find much changed and much the same as it ever was. There has been loses while they were gone, and they must morn them. But life goes on, as Diana's ever increasing belly shows. The time has come to find answers as the lives growing in Diana's belly depend on them. Matthew delves into the science side at Yale while Diana goes to England to find out the answers of Ashmole 782. New and old technologies are used to find out secrets of their supernatural kind. Secrets that will hopefully bring the Congregation to a new understanding of how the world works. Witches and vampires and demons are more alike then they are different and these similarities should be embraced not segregated. But in the end there will be a battle, but will it be political or will Matthew's dangerous past come back to haunt him?

The "All Souls Trilogy" baffles me. It has so much wasted potential but, like some other series that I have found middling, it has a fierce fanbase that I don't want to rile, as well as a few close friends. This is the same fanbase that can see no wrong in Outlander, the forty year old women who will beat you to death if you say anything against Jamie Fraser. I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just not at the point in my life where this reaches out and touches something deep in my soul, instead I'm sticking by my opinion that this is Twilight for middle aged women. Before I actually read this installment I was excited for the conclusion of this series. Shadow of Night really captured my interest with it's historical bent, but sadly this volume decided to focus on science versus history. The mess this resulted in felt like Michael Crichton writing YA. The writing was clumsy with the shift from Diana's first person narration to Matthew's third person narration. The ending was a trite cliche with an extremely unrealistic HEA. In fact, was there actually enough to merit the moniker "book" when anything of interest was unresolved and everything seemed like it could be summed up in an afterword?

Now for the fun part. The part where I take apart The Book of Life and point at everything that drove me crazy. Shall we start with Stevie Nicks? I think we shall. What the hell is it with Stevie Nicks and witches? Yes she's rumored to be one, but she denies it so often and then does an about turn that you could get whiplash. But the fact of witches identifying with her music has gotten to a point in our culture where it's so cliched that to use it you seriously are going to incur my wrath. It just shows a laziness that you can't think of something more interesting and will just rely on the stereotype. Wasn't this whole series trying to say that things are more complicated and confusing then what you'd expect? Well, that means I'd expect something better then Stevie Nicks. At least she didn't show up and do an extended music video in the middle of the book for absolutely no reason, thank you American Horror Story: Coven and Ryan Murphy for bringing me that cringe worthy moment in television history. That moment is also the first thing that popped in my mind while reading this book. Ug. Stop.

As Gallowglass says "This family was more fun when we had fewer medical degrees." Thank you Gallowglass, aka the one character I like, for pointing out the obvious. The characters zeal for scientifically researching the world of creatures and their problems, from studying blood rage to genomes to The Book of Life itself made me want to scream in frustration. I like the history, I don't like the science. Yes, in books that tackle supernatural beings we have to look at the world they now inhabit, the fact that DNA and genetics can uncover centuries old secrets, but do we need to do it in such detail? Let's all go to Yale and get a research grant and blah blah blah, blood rage, blah blah blah, babies, blah blah blah, what was I even talking about? Now I'm not saying science can't be interesting, but it's more interesting when it's real. When it's made up mumbo jumbo by an author that isn't that accomplished and has tons of plot holes and inconsistencies? No thanks.

But you know what's worse then science? Politics! I hate politics. I pay attention because it's what every good citizen should do. Also, I live in the epicenter of political evil right now, so, well, it's a main topic of conversation, as in, what stupid and illegal thing happened today? But do I want to read, watch, listen, osmose politics for fun? NO! Here we have ANOTHER book with an unnatural union being thwarted by a secret governing body that just doesn't get the world is changing. Again, Twilight much? Any urban fantasy author will tell Harkness that it's best to leave the overly political BS that governs your world off stage. Seriously, all those meetings in Venice where they were droning on and on about all the different species that Harkness has created I was more interested in the architecture. The boat rides to and from the meetings were more thrilling. How did she make Venice boring? Well, she made a lot of things boring and took a lot of pages to do it, so really, I shouldn't be that surprised.

Writing this review is making me realize why it took me a month to read this book. ME, who usually devours a book in a few days no matter the length. OK, let's get this over with. So, what annoyance shall I conclude with? Oh, how about Diana! At the beginning of this series Diana was the conduit for the reader. She was fairly normal, aside from the whole being a witch thing. But over time as her relationship with Matthew deepened, she has become something other then human, something more. She now has arrows and firedrakes and weaving IN HER ARM! Yes, it's kind of cool, but there's also the fact that she is totally unrelatable now. She's a superhero, so we can look up to her, but the truth is, do people really truly ever relate to superheroes? They might want to be them, but relatability isn't part of that. Maybe my whole problem with this book and it's fans is that I can't relate at all and perhaps it's better if we just keep our distance.

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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Fever

Fever (The Chemical Garden Book 2) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Rhine is free of her husband, but there is more then one kind of prison as she is quick to learn as she and Gabriel are captured by a madame who runs a carnival inside a wickedly electrified fence. Rhine and Gabriel are trying to get to New York from Florida and have only made it as far as South Carolina before their luck starts to run out. Kept in a drugged state, the two of them perform for madame's customers, hoping that they can break free and find Rhine's brother Rowan. But once free of the carnival they face more horrors then they can imagine, all with Rhine's father-in-law quick on their heels. Stowing away on trucks, Angel Blood withdrawal, unexpected comrades, creepy men, snatchers, danger at every corner with no money and no food. Rhine is starting to realize just how naive she was in thinking that she just had to get away from her husband's house, because his reach is far. Can she ever escape the marriage she was forced into and go back to her old life?

Never in all my years of reading books has a series gone to the bad so fast and so irrevocably. I might point a figure at Mary Norton and her Borrowers, but that was more her tendency to drop plot points and start each book from scratch then writing a hot mess that is just shit. If this series had been just content to leave well enough alone ending with just the right amount of hope and ambiguity with Wither then I'd be all for DeStefano. As it stands, I'm having a hard time coming to terms with a series that started out so uniquely and so strongly and having it turn so unoriginal, disjointed, dark, and dare I say, predictable?

Was this really how the series was outlined? Because Wither clearly states it's book one in a trilogy... so, seriously, this was the plan? THIS? I am just baffled. Fever has no identity, no core of originality, it quite literally doesn't know what it wants to be so it tries to be everything and fails at it all... it just has so many random dystopian tropes thrown into it that my head wants to explode. The impossible love story, evil carnies, the dying hooker with the heart of gold, the sad little crippled girl who everyone underestimates... blurg. When the book eventually got to the "good" orphanage, I expected a medley from Annie to be sung. Just no.

Yet Rhine is the biggest shock of all. She came across as a unique and intelligent, if confused, girl in Wither. What the hell happened? Now she's all naivete and seriously stupid. It seems as if once Gabriel and Rhine left the house they lost their identities in the process and became bumbling idiots. Rhine grew up on the streets of New York. She had to have been street savvy and smart to avoid capture all these years. The only reason she got caught was because it was a fake job set-up, not because she was dumb enough to be pulled off the street our dragged out of her home. Heck, her and her brother killed the last man who invaded their house! Yet outside Linden's estate, oh gosh, let's steal this boat, oh dear, we don't have money, shucks, we've been captured by an evil madame who runs a carnival and is going to turn us into sex salves... say what!?!

Rhine had how many freakin' months planning this escape and she didn't think to, oh, I don't know, steal a whole heck of a lot of the jewelry Linden gave her and hide it under her clothes to fund their flight? And how about not stealing a boat that can only run on fuel, I thought Gabriel knew about boats, so get something with a sail as well as a motor idiots. Oh, and yes Rhine, Gabriel is in love with you and wants something more, so stop acting like it's a shock, you do know what goes on behind closed doors, or in tents... and of course Vaughn put a tracker in your leg, before the wedding he obviously examined you to see if you could bare children, it only makes sense that he would tag you as the cattle he views you are.

Fever seems to take, not just one step back from the progress it made on women's rights and personal liberties, but it seems to jump off a cliff. Wither smartly showed us a world of exploitation and horrors that was relatable and fascinating, but never stooped to sensationalism. Everything had it's reason, everything was there for a purpose, to show us how the three wives coped, to show us what captivity did to Rhine's state of mind, everything in it's perfect place giving us a compelling narrative. Yet here it seems that the book has shifted away from the exploration of these salient arguments and instead has embraced exploitation.

The sex carnival seems to be not there for a discussion on the personal liberties of brides versus whores, but to my mind, there just for sensation, to make us shocked. Therefore all the good the first book has done is ripped down with shock for shocks sake with no insight, no deeper meaning. The sex and drugs that Rhine was previously exposed to were a creepy background threat lurking in the shadows, here the sex and drugs come forefront and are exploitative, and not in any way that is good or open for discussion. Seriously, a prostitution carnival? Just, no.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
Published by: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?"

Ok, after devouring all of The White Queen, I'm kind of now on a War of the Roses kick...

The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco
Published by: MIDNIGHT INK
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A murdered mother leaves a shop full of secrets.

Much to Alanis McLachlan’s surprise, her con-woman mother, Barbra, has left her an inheritance—The White Magic Five & Dime, a new-age shop in tiny Berdache, Arizona. Reluctantly traveling to Berdache to claim her new property, Alanis decides to stay and pick up her estranged mother’s tarot reading business in an attempt to find out who killed her. With help from a hunky cop and her mother’s live-in teenage apprentice, Alanis begins faking her way through bogus tarot readings in order to win the confidence of her mother’s clients. But much to her surprise, the more she uses the tarot deck, the more Alanis begins to find real meaning in the cards."

And speaking of magic (ie, The White Queen), this looks like a fun new series about magic!

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

Violet’s portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony—and this is exactly the period Zee’s husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track—besides some motivation and self-esteem—is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn’t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head—that is, if they were to ever uncover them.

In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer."

A house, multiple generations... the family, a little Royal Tenenbaum-esque, I'm sold.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Wither

Wither (The Chemical Garden Book 1) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Rhine is one of three. There were more girls, lots more. All snatched off the streets and locked in a van and driven for inspection by their future husband. The ones that weren't chosen had a fate that still haunts Rhine as she remembers the gunshots in her nightmares. The world is dying. Aside from the first generation who are gracefully aging, all females die at twenty and all males at twenty-five. Rhine has four years left to live and she doesn't intend to be trapped in a cage for the pleasure of her husband while her old life and her twin brother are out there, waiting for her return.

But Rhine and her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, are kept under lock and key in their palatial rooms taken out just for special occasions, and never, ever, allowed to leave the property. They wait on their husband's whims while their fear of their father-in-law, Housemaster Vaughn, grows daily with rumors of his medical experiments in the basement. While Jenna and Cecily have accepted their new lives, Rhine can't, Rhine won't. She will gain her husband's trust and then make her move. With the help of a servant, Gabriel, she hopes to escape, no matter what her conflicted feelings about her husband, Linden, are whispering to her heart.

If Shirley Jackson was writing YA today, this is what her book would be like. There's just such a compellingly creepy vibe within this dystopian world that's part Logan's Run part Mormon nightmare that harks back to classics such as The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House but written for the sensibility of today's teens who were raised on a steady diet of reality shows. There is a scary believability to the story that makes it that much more terrifying. The isolation of this small group of women as sister wives might seem to some preposterous, but I say, look to the past and you can see terrifying echoes of what was and what could be again.

As recently as the Victorian era women were literally property. Their husbands owned them and could do what they liked with these all too human possessions, from turning them into baby factories, using them as accessories, to locking them up in an asylum if they got out of hand. DeStefano has just taken what was and amplified it ever so much to pile on the creep factor. By taking away all choice in marriage (again, something that was rare anyway), by cranking down the ages of the brides, by allowing marriages to have more then one wife, and by adding medical experimentation, she has created a heightened reality that scares me yet I could totally see it happening, even today in some hidden compound in the woods.

Wither varies from other dystopian books in that while this virus that has somehow become a ticking time bomb in the genetic code making women die at twenty and men die at twenty-five is front and center, it isn't, in my mind, what the book is about. World plagues are common fare for post apocalyptic books and this does give Wither the every moment is precious and each moment left in captivity is one less moment of freedom vibe. Yet looking deeper, this isn't about the plague, or a downtrodden society, or a lack of creature comforts, which the characters actually have far more of in captivity then in freedom, it's about the encroachment of human rights and what all these things that have happened to society mean to woman, and a select few women in a large house in Florida, and four wives in particular.

While I mentioned earlier the Victorian mentality that is revived here, it also pays to just look at the world around us as it is. Women's reproductive rights seem to be a fine topic of discussion in the government where men who know nothing feel they have every right to say what happens to my body. Vaughn is just a totem of these people's views with his experiments and his liberties with his daughters-in-law's bodies. A plague killing us young, yeah, could happen eventually, but our rights to our own bodies, that could happen sooner rather then later and that really scares me.

Yet the acceptance of this world and this life would be the scariest of all. By having three wives we are able to see how three different people react to a similar situation. Jenna views it as a comfy prison to live out her remaining years, Cecily views it as her dream come true, while Rhine... Rhine is where it gets interesting. While Rhine never gives up on her plans to escape captivity, by having her as the book's narrator we get more insight into how she feels. While it is obvious that the wives come together with their traumatic bonding, a situation like this can not help but bring up Stockholm Syndrome.

Rhine has lived in a society where it was highly likely that at some point she was going to be snatched off the street and forced into some kind of bondage, either prostitution or marriage. So she already has an expectation of capture. Therefore, once captured, her expectations and reality will clash, and the question becomes, will she submit to her fate or fight? She does maintain a fight deep down, but also she is able to sympathize more and more with, not only her fellow wives, but with her husband. She grows to care for Linden. It is not known if Linden knows the full horror of what has happened to Rhine and how her life was destroyed by becoming his wife, so Linden could either be a co-conspirator or a victim like Rhine, but either way, Rhine does come to "love" Linden... her small acceptance of this life is the scariest, yet also sadly understandable, aspect of Wither.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review - Leigh Bardugo's Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Book 3) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 17th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (Different edition then one reviewed)

The Apparat's plan to win the war is to bide his time underground in his white cathedral with his disciples and rise victorious when all Alina's enemies have killed each other. While this kind of strategy has led to his long and successful career in the halls of Os Alta, Alina is going crazy underground as his prisoner. Her illness after the battle with the Darkling has left her sick and frail, but being so far away from the light she summons means she is unable to fully heal, unable to escape the Apparat and her growing fear that he might realize a dead saint is less work then a living saint. Luckily for Alina her fellow Grisha are concocting a plan to release her from this underground tomb and resume their hunt for the final amplifier in the hopes that then Alina will have the strength to defeat the Darkling.

Escaping though is the first and easiest step, and in truth, it wasn't easy at all. But working their way out of a labyrinth of underground caverns is quite easier then locating a rebel prince who has become a sky pirate employing guerrilla tactics or hunting down a mystical creature that may not even exist. All this just in the hopes that they might succeed. Yet with the Darkling striking out faster, sooner, and unexpectedly at every turn, Alina wonders how her misfit bad of Grisha can survive and how they even became compatriots in the first place. With despair driving them more then hope, Alina wants to be the light in the darkness but fears that her lust for power might make her more similar to the Darkling then she dares admit to anyone, even Mal.

A satisfying conclusion is the hardest thing to achieve. A delicate balance of all the possible outcomes while remaining true to the characters and giving the readers closure. Some might say it's impossible, others improbable, but Leigh Bardugo came very close to a perfect ending with non stop action and wit. Mal becoming even more Malcolm Reynolds as he paraphrases Nathan Fillion's character from the Firefly episode "The Message" to my delight. Though I do have issues with the improbability of the happily ever after, I still felt a satisfaction wash over me, with maybe a little eye rolling at the convenience of things. Yes, after a bleak tale almost everyone wants love to prevail, cue the happy welcome home to the Shire music and end credits, but there's me going, but can't it still be a little dark? Perhaps I should stop falling for the baddies and the rogues so that when they are vanquished or cast aside I won't be left there brokenhearted.

Yet my inability to stop falling for the bad guys was a foregone conclusion with the Darkling. What made Ruin and Rising so amazing and so fully rounded a book was the insight Bardugo gave us about him. Here we don't have just a mindless baddie whose sole goal is power and destruction. We don't have a cookie cutter villain with a goofy gimmick, like a bullseye iris (don't ask me why I'm thinking of Charles Dance in Last Action Hero, I honestly don't know). Bardugo gets that bad guys can't be all that bad, there has to be more. Here we have a multifaceted villain. He's not black like Spinal Tap none more black, he's black like an oil slick or the night sky, there's rainbows and depth, there's hints of blue that make the black blacker, but a splash of light every now and then. His back story is gut wrenching, especially if you read this edition with the prequel story "The Demon in the Wood." To the rest of the world he's this improbable being of such destructive force that he is terrifying, but to Alina, he's just a boy, like calling to like. What wouldn't we do if we spent lifetimes alone and persecuted? Your only wish to be loved and safe and have someone tenderly say your name. Your true name. To learn at the end that you are in fact truly alone, that would destroy anyone.

Aside from the whole wanting to go off with the Darkling, I also kind of really want to just move into the world of this book. Because I don't want this to be the end. I can't accept it for some reason and this has spurred me and my overactive brain on to start asking fifty million questions about the world Bardugo has built. I have so many thoughts on the worldbuilding that I can't sit still. I don't think it's a lack on Bardugo's part either as to insufficient information, but more my insatiable curiosity. Unless of course you have the same questions, then perhaps we all need to sit down with Leigh and work things out. The exception to this is the distances. I really don't think that Bardugo worked out her distances on her map very well. In the first book it took far longer to get anywhere, and as each book progressed it took less and less time to get from one place to another, yes, I know they had improved transport... but still, it's off. Make a key, stick to it, alright?

As for my other questions, I'd have to be like the Darkling and have a really long lifespan because, well, some things I want to know are past, some are present, and some are future, unless I had the ability to time travel, that would make this faster. Firstly I want to know if Morozova just created the applifiers or did he plan on using them. It seems like a lot of work to go around and make them and not use them. But if he used them, well, did they respawn on his death? But then they thought, maybe he didn't die, so then, well, it makes no sense. Though I really want to know more about the physics of the fold. So it's this big blackness dividing the country and it's the blackest black inside. Well, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, this is a north south divide. How is there dawn in West Ravka or a sunset in East Ravka? Just how? See, I just need more and more books in the world to work this all out once and for all. Leigh's got to get on this ASAP.

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