Monthly Archives: February 2013

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

city of bonesBook Description (Amazon): 

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

My Review:

Executive summary: fun

I picked up this book from Half Price a few weeks back on a recommendation from a friend of mine. This book was sort of a Twilight-Harry Potter hybrid. The main character, Clary, had a lot of similarities to Harry (including the rhyming names).

The book begins at Pandemonium, what I assumed to be one of those “under-21” clubs where they listen to trance music and spin glowsticks. (I have never been to an under-21 club. And since I am well over 21, I probably never will.) At the club, Clary witnesses a blue haired boy being brutally murdered by two boys and a girl, none of whom her best friend Simon can see.

Her mother decides that they should spend some time away for the remainder of the summer. Clary is upset about it and storms out of the house to go see Simon’s bandmate recite poetry. While there, she sees Jace (one of the boys from the club) and learns that his tutor would like to meet her. They are about to leave when Clary’s mother calls and tells her not to come home. Like a teenager, she does the opposite, and stumbles upon a demon  at her house. She accidentally destroys it by sticking the Sensor that Jace gave her down the demon’s throat. She’s injured during the fight, and Jace finds her and takes her to his home to meet his tutor, Hodge, and so she can heal.

When she awakens after the demon attack, she meets Hodge, as well as siblings Alec and Isabelle (the other two from the club). Hodge tells her about Valentine, the name the demon mentioned. Valentine was a Shadowhunter (supposedly dead) who tried to purge the world of “downworlders” (faeries, vampires, werewolves, and warlocks). He used the Mortal Cup to create more Shadowhunters to beef up the Circle with more warriors. And now the Mortal Cup is missing.

Jace and Clary return to Clary’s home to see if any clues exist to help understand her mother’s disappearance. While there, Madame Dorothea, the neighbor who runs a psychic shop, tells them that Clary’s mother was a Shadowhunter who was in hiding. When they return to the Institute, Hodge reveals that he already knew that Clary’s mother, Jocelyn, was a Shadowhunter. And also that she was a member of the Circle and was Valentine’s wife!

Hodge summons a “Silent Brother” named Jeremiah to read Clary’s memories since she has no idea how it is that she is able to see the shadowhunters (what Jace and the others are called) when other “mundanes” (humans) cannot. Jeremiah can only partially penetrate her mind as there is a block there, reminding her of the name Magnus Bane.

They very conveniently are invited to a party at Magnus’s house, where they find that Clary’s mother has been bringing Clary to Magnus every two years since she was born so that her memories of the shadowhunters will continue to be repressed. Simon, who is desperately trying to get with Isabelle, consumes a drink that a faerie made and turns into a rat. Simon the rat is stolen from Clary as they leave the party, and they go off to find the vampires they assume took him.

They go to the vampire hotel (which I pictured in my mind as the Clermont lounge in Atlanta), find the vampires, are helped by werewolves, and escape with Simon who eventually returns to being a human. (Convenient)

Insert awkward love triangle with Clary and Jace kissing which Simon stumbles upon. Then Simon tells Clary how he has always loved her and was using Isabelle to make Clary jealous…

Clary begins doodling in her sketchbook and realizes that by using the stele (something that I assumed was basically a wand despite the attempt to tell us that shadowhunters don’t use magic. Um, OK), she can manipulate the photos and reach into them. She then figures out where her mother has hidden the Mortal Cup that evil Valentine is seeking. She, Simon, and the 3 young Shadowhunters go to Clary’s house to talk to the neighbor (Madame Dorothea who they met earlier in the story) about the tarot cards (that Jocelyn painted for her) that she showed them previously. Clary uses the stele to reach into the card and remove the cup. Madame Dorothea then opens the portal and they are attacked by a Great Demon which luckily they are accidentally saved by Simon. When they return to the Institute with the cup, Hodge turns on them and gives the cup to Valentine who he has been supporting since the beginning. Valentine leaves with unconscious Jace, and Hodge flees.

Clary then seeks out Luke for help. Luke turns out to be a werewolf who used to be part of Valentine’s crew but isn’t any more. The two of them with the help of Luke’s pack find Valentine’s lair and attack. It turns out that Jace is also Valentine’s child (thought to be killed in the same fire that killed Valentine), which gets rid of that awkward love triangle now that Clary and Jace are siblings. O_o Valentine escapes through a portal with the cup, and the story ends with Clary tending to her mother who is in a coma.

Verdict:

3 stars.  Once you see the Clary = Harry thing, a lot of other really obvious similarities fall into place. Valentine = Voldemort (in love with Clary’s mother and trying to purge the world of “undesirables”). Luke = Sirius (they’re both even werewolves). Mundane = muggle…etc. etc. I can’t really give anyone props for thinly veiled plagiarism. However, I did find the characters mostly interesting and the story was pretty good (albeit too lucky or predictable at times). But I guess the main thing for me was that I never felt completely “in” the book. I don’t think there was enough explanation of how everything really worked to make me feel like I was in the story. I never really understood the runes or the inner workings of all of the different species (?) of creatures. I will probably read the rest of the books once I get my hands on book two (esp since I already own book three), but I am not holding my breath!

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An Acceptable Time – Madeleine L’Engle

photo-1So my post last week about A Wrinkle in Time was referencing this book (which I had already begun). The Houston library is piddling around with the books I have requested and I hadn’t yet taken my journey to Half Price. So I scoured my bookcases for something I hadn’t read yet. Surprisingly (my collection of books is not that vast as I tend to borrow a lot of them), I ran across this book! Now I had read A Wrinkle in Time, The Swiftly Tilting Planet, and A Wind in the Door as a child. How had I missed this one? So I did a little research (without spoiling anything for myself) and found out that there are 3, 4, or 5 books of the Wrinkle in Time series, depending on how you want to categorize it. If you are in the 5 book crowd, this book is the last one. (Apparently the 4th book, which I also have not read, is a prequel to the first three.) Its publishing date of 1989 makes me suspect that it fell into a black hole of me being too young to read it when it first came out, but forgetting that it existed when I was old enough. So I’m old enough now, I guess!

Polly O’Keefe is spending the autumn with her grandparents Drs. Kate and Alex Murray in Connecticut to get some better education than her crappy school in South Carolina (and also to escape the death of a friend). The last names ring a bell from the characters in A Wrinkle in Time and the reader soon finds out that Polly is Meg and Calvin’s daughter (and got Cal’s red hair). Only a page or two into the book, Polly goes for a walk and sees a strange man with a dog on her grandparents’ property, but when she gets to the tree he’s standing under, he’s no longer there. She continues further on her walk and finds Zachary, a college student who she met the previous summer in Greece. He seems keen on her while she seems to want to keep him at arms’ length. Either way, the book starts very quickly and a little peculiarly.

Zach comes inside to meet her grandparents and their friends, the siblings Louise (a doctor) and Nase (a bishop) Columbra. Zach is currently doing an internship nearby in Hartford with a boss who is strangely interested in Ogam stones. Nase also is interested in these ancient stones, having found a few around his and the Murray’s property. (Ogam stones are associated with druids from ancient Britain.) and the two begin to discuss them. After dinner and Zach’s departure, Polly goes for a swim in her grandparent’s indoor pool. While swimming, she hears a tapping on the window and meets an unusual girl who asks her about Karralys (the man she saw earlier with the dog) and then quickly runs away.

After her swim, Polly tells Nase about her strange encounter. Nase is quite surprised but encourages her to tell her grandparents and Louise. They all but dismiss her, but Polly decides to learn some Ogam, as she is a gifted linquist. The following morning, she goes for a walk and stumbles upon a lake and soon realizes that she has gone through some sort of space-time continuum (tesseract) and is now 3000 years in the past. She meeting Anaral (Annie) who was the girl at the pool, Karralys the druid officially, and Tav, the warrior. She also learned that Bishop Columbra had also visited these People of the Wind.

Unsurprisingly when she returns to her own time, she confronts the bishop and the situation is discussed with Louise and Polly’s grandparents. They conclude that there must be a reason for Polly to have tessered and since she is now involved, it would be too dangerous for her to leave the area. Her grandparents want her to avoid going to the star watching rock where she first entered the tesser at least until after Halloween and she agrees.

However, her love for swimming gets her into trouble. She is awakened by the pool beckoning her to come swim. There she discovers a crown which upon placing on her head, causes her to return the past. She listens in on a tribe meeting discussing the lack of rain, and that a human sacrifice, of Polly, should be conducted to appease the Mother. Karralys (who disagrees with the sacrifice) removes Polly’s crown, for her safety, thereby sending her back to the present.

This time, her grandparents are (understandably) far more freaked out and decide that she should not go walking around the property at all. When Zachary arrives again, he is curious what is going on, and the whole weird situation is explained to him. Bishop Columbra, who is supposed to meet them, never arrives. Zachary, being a self-absorbed ass, is desperate to travel back to the People of the Wind so they can fix his heart (apparently damaged from rheumatic fever). When they arrive back in time, they find the Bishop and Annie being carried off by warriors from the tribe across the lake. Polly “summons” (aka coincidentally is there when) Louise the Larger, the black snake from her grandparents’ land,  arrives scaring the warriors away and immediately making Polly a goddess who can control snakes.

Talking to the bishop reveals that the opening to the present is now closed, leaving him, Polly and Zachary trapped in the past. During the raid, two of the “People across the Lake” were injured and left–Klep, the future leader, and Brown Earth, who  soon persuades Zachary to return to the People across the Lake with him because “they have a better healer”. With Zachary gone, another raid happens to the People of the Wind and Polly is captured and taken across the lake. It is obvious that Polly is there to be sacrificed although Zachary continues to insist that she is there so that he can be healed. The sacrifice is to happen during the full moon so she has a few days to figure out her plan, which sort of dissolves in the end anyway. At the last possible moment, Zachary realizes that he is a self-absorbed idiot and refuses to let Polly be sacrificed, and the two of them are rescued by the People of the Wind. Karralys, who is also a master healer, helps heal Zachary’s heart, even though he didn’t deserve it. Klep and Annie agree to be married, connecting the two groups of people. Tav is sad to see Polly go, but she, Zachary and the Bishop return to the present permanently. Polly tells Zachary to never contact her again. (hooray!)

Zachary, to me, was the perfect dislikeable character. Initially, he seems like a bit of a stalker. And then we find out that he is a self-absorbed jerk (proclaimed by him). And then we find out that he really is a self-absorbed jerk by his actions. When Polly escaped from the People across the Lake, I thought “ok, leave him”. But that’s because I’m not very nice. And it’s a fictional story. L’Engle is nice. She allows Zachary to be saved, despite the fact that he probably didn’t deserve it. I think this is a statement of her religious beliefs.

L’Engle was an Episcopalian (fairly devout as far as I can tell). Her view is that of universal salvation (all people will be redeemed by God) and has the following quote, “I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.” This statement rings true in many ways in the book–the saving of Zachary, the love between Annie and Klep, the forgiveness of Zachary for almost having Polly sacrificed. The book itself has a lot of obvious religious connections. One of the main characters is a (presumably Episcopalian since he was married) bishop. The book title itself is from Psalm 69:13. Maybe the most obvious is when Polly begins singing the hymn and realizes that “Christ in the hearts of all who love me” is still a valid statement despite Christ not existing for another 1000 or so years.

Verdict:

Overall, I’d say this book is closer to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series than the previous (more sci-fi) novels of L’Engle. Or perhaps I just was old enough to realize that I was being slyly given rhetoric. 🙂 Overall, it was a good read, but I tend to prefer a bit more science in my science-fiction. I’m going to give this a 3.5 star.

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Weekend Trip to Half Price Books

Used book stores are a danger. I walk in looking for one specific book…and I walk out with all sorts of new friends. I went to the Half Price Books on Saturday with the intention of picking up Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises (next book club read). They had only one Hemmingway and it wasn’t that one. (Who is hoarding all the Hemmingways?)

So I started looking for some other books on the book club list, but I didn’t find any of them either. And then I ever so accidentally wandered into the young adult section. Danger! I bought the hardcover Hunger Games (I had originally borrowed it from the library but bought Catching Fire and Mockingjay when they released soI needed it to complete my hardcover set). And then, since I’m getting married next month, (and I have six bridesmaids) I saw this glorious picture with the set of Harry Potter books. But my collection is incomplete. I only had books 5-7 because my sister and I shared 1-4 and she kept them. So Half Price Books provided me with books 2 and 3. (Still in need of 1 and 4!)

a+b-13 copy

(Photo taken from Capital Romance)

But wait!! I did buy two books that I haven’t read yet. I picked up books 1 and 3 (I meant to get 2!) of the Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones and City of Glass) that my friend Carly recommended. And the lady who checked me and my pile of young adult fiction out at Half Price Books non-sarcastically (seriously) told me they were really good too. So those are at the top of my to-read pile. Now back to the original task of finding that Hemmingway!

*Note: I brought home Hunger Games to put with my other two, and I couldn’t find them. And then I remembered that my dad borrowed them from me because he wanted to read them. So I guess I’m not going to grow out of the young adult book phase any time soon! 🙂

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A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

photo (2)This is sort of a review, sort of a prequel for my next review. A Wrinkle in Time is my absolute all time favorite childhood book (and possibly shaped my childhood and  future more than Pee Wee’s Playhouse, but that’s another story for another time).  This book was written back in the day when young adult books were in the 150-200 page range (not the Harry Potter 600+ page range), so as an adult, you could easily read this book in an afternoon if you were so inclined. Or you could read the graphic novel (which I not-so-subtly asked my mom for as a birthday gift this year. Yes, I know I’m an adult.) which is an even quicker read.

Book  Description (Amazon):

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

Review:

There are a lot of reasons that I connected with this book–I was the awkward girl with braces and mousy brown hair who was good at math and science (like Meg). I loved reading fantasy and science fiction, and for once, the main character was someone I could relate to in some ways. (My parents are not physicists, and I have a small family so there are some differences!)  That aside however, it can still stand on the fact that it is a great book. It has interesting characters (particularly Charles Wallace, who is such a great character), darkness and whimsy, and science in the science fiction. Despite the book being 50+ years old, it doesn’t date itself. It really feels like it could be set in any time (until, I guess we figure out how to manipulate the space-time continuum to travel at will…) which is why if you have never read this book, you should take an afternoon to do so. And make your kids read it too. Interest in math and science is never a bad thing. 🙂

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