Mortal Instruments

Will we be Blest with a sequel?

Blest by Blaise Lucey started off slow, but boy, it is take off in the end.  After the first half, I found I had trouble putting it down.  I love stories about angels and demons falling in love – and this one was no exception.  While I had some little issues with the beginning, specifically pace (insta-love) and world-building (background for it), by the time I was half-way through I was so very sucked-in I was sitting on the edge of my chair while reading because I was desperate to know what happened next.

Since the book begins with the first half, however, let me address a few of the short-comings.  First, there was a lot of love between two character who merely spent a few minutes, and one afternoon, together.  Even for the PNR stuff that I read, which is usually all about insta-love, that is giving the relationship development shot-shrift.  There is no reason why the characters couldn’t have developed the feelings over a little bit of time, a month or two for example.  Then, frankly, some of the vitriol towards Jim by the demon kids would have been more on display and a deeper connection to Claire and Jim would have been easier to feel.  There was no need for their birthdays to be quite so early in the school year – or the story – a little more of the suspense as to why the two characters were this books version of Romeo and Juliet would have only added to the plot. The acceptance of why they were different was also a little quick (and this is the second book I’ve finished in the last 3 days that treated this the same) – way too quick  – like, the Flash might as well be moving in slow motion compared to the speed at which they all accept the supernatural and paranormal and that angels and demons are real.  It was just too quick.  It didn’t give me time as a reader to adjust and again, I think a little more page time spent on that would have added to the overall plot and pace of the story.  Once things got going though, there were a bunch of reveals – and that was great as I felt much more involved in the story and it was easier to stay engaged.  I am just a little curious – as I don’t see this being billed as the start of a series, and lots of loose ends were tied up, but there is still certainly loose ends that aren’t tied up, including the events of the epilogue, so I hope there is at least one more coming.

Despite the need to pay attention to some of the terminology, lest you get lost, this reminded me much of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments – and some of the hints that were dropped had me holding my breath that the reveals weren’t going to be the same as with City of Bones, and thank goodness, they weren’t.  But to me, Blest had tones of City of Bones with the love between our main protagonists and the good vs evil nature of things.  Unlike Mortal Instruments, however, I have enough details to hold me to book 2 (assuming there is one **fingers crossed**) and enough to make at least another good book or two out of the things that aren’t solved and the stuff we don’t know.  And some of what we don’t know has such potential – like the back stories to the parents of all our teenage cast, the mythology of the Tribunal and how the demons were originally banished, exactly what the feathers that each of Claire and Jim have that are “opposite” the rest of their respective wings… there quite a bit of fodder to serve as the basis for some excellent follow-up books.

Even out the pace a little with the second, balance the relationship building and world building to give me more, and we may have a new favorite YA/Angel and demon series!  At least, I really hope there will be a second!

p.s. LOVE the cover!!

My love for YA, the Fae, and really almost anything by Holly Black

I think back to when reading YA stuff became such an obsession for me, and I realized that while much of it has to do with my undying, unyeilding, still-growing-even-after-all-these-years, love of Harry Potter, much of the rest of the love/obsession came from two other authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  I picked up City of Bones when it first came out (I think it was one of a few that I picked up at the release party for Deathly Hallows – I think – one of the others I know for sure was the Alchymest (Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott).  And I devoured it.  The Club scene where Clary sees the Shadowhunters reminded me much of my youth when we trekked into Manhattan to go to the Limelight. The story was enthralling and I loved it instantly.  I loved the world it was set in (right up until the dawn of City of Fallen Angels, when I was disappointed by the contrivances needed to stretch what I swear I remember seeing was originally slated to be a trilogy into more than that, but I digress…).  That was the start of the love affair with all things demon, vampire, werewolf, etc., in the YA world.  Holly Black’s Tithe Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales, #1)was the start of the love affair with YA Fae stories on the other hand.   I am not sure when I read this, but it was certainly after Sorcerer’s Stone (as I read that before Chamber of Secrets came out – I was one of the not so large group to read the first right after it was published) but before City of Bones.  The dark and creepy gothicness of Tithe and its sister books sucked me in.  I couldn’t get enough.  I even ended up diving into the Spiderwick Chronicles, clearly written for an even younger audience.  The courts, the settings, the quest in Ironside for a fairy that could lie…  it was all so much fun.  Then, some of the more mature PNR stuff started making its way into the to read pile and I flitted away from Holly.  I caught the Curse Workers when those came out (and really feel like there was unfinished business in the last of that series, and wouldn’t turn away from one more of them) but the universe of books to read was just becoming impossible to track.  I do have a life outside of reading after all.  So, to it was much to my delight that I noticed I had missed a book that was both Holly Black’s and Fae.  I hesitated because these days I tend to steer clear of stand-alones but for Ms. Black and the Fae, I didn’t hesitate long.  And I am so glad I read this one!

The gist of the story goes something like this:  in the town of Fairfold (some where in the US presumably based on the relative ease of a move to Philadelphia by Hazel’s family at one point), the Fae are a part of life.  There is a horned boy in a glass coffin near the town that has been sleeping for ages.  Hazel and Ben, her brother, hunted Fae when they were little, pretending to be knights.  Jack is both Ben’s best friend and a changeling. One day, the horned boy is set free and a terrible monster is set upon the town.  Hazel is trying to solve the mystery of the horned boy’s release because all signs seem to point to her being the one who broke his glass coffin.  She encounters the Alderking who requires that Hazel bring the horned boy to him, as well as a sword Hazel found when she was younger.  Turns out, Hazel also made a bargain with the Fairies when she was younger and she has been serving the Alderking as a knight for some time, during the night, without her remembering (her not remembering is thanks to the Alderking’s magic).  Hazel wants to rescue the town, the “boy” she loves, and the horned boy.

I found this to be one of my favorite stand-alone stories in a while.  The suspension of reality is just enough to bring magic to the story but not so much so as to be overdone.  Some of the elements were, I thought keen observations of society.  While others made me happy The Darkest Part of the Forestthat they were teaching a message of tolerance and courage.  The scene where Carter’s and Jack’s human parents are at their house defending Jack and Hazel’s mother also stands up for Jack were both demonstrative of the mass hysteria that humans get swept up in, so often without all the facts and based in fear alone, as well as how important it is for good people to stand up to injustice.  Especially when the injustice is being done to others.  While I can’t say whether Ms. Black intended that social commentary or lesson, or whether it was just what I read into it, I thought it was well written and provided clues to me that this was going to be a story with an ending I would be pleased with.  And I was so happy to get to the end and find that feeling was completely accurate.

There are some dark and scary moments.  It is indisputable that the portion of the narrative around a 10 year old girl finding a boy’s dead body, half eaten by something, only to then have her be attacked by a hag intent on killing her, only to have the 10 year old strike the hag dead with a magical sword, is grim.  The story of the monster, her genesis, and how that is resolved is both dark and clever, disturbing and understandable.  And many of the details in between are creepy and scary.  But, like always with Ms. Black’s storied, the imagery is wonderful and  it is tremendously easy to get swept up in the story.  I had a very difficult time putting this one down.  I just wish there was the potential to see more of Jack, Hazel, Ben and Severin for apparently, my love affair with all things YA and Fae continues!

Bane Chronicles, take 2

bane8This is just a small update:  there are now pages for the first eight installments of the Bane Chronicles (the last 2 will be along shortly).  I don’t think I will review each of the eight.  To do so would mean I would have written more than the authors…  not to mention, while they are something to take up time, I don’t believe you are missing much if you miss these installments.  There are a few clever things, but just a few. And almost every one of them felt like they were unfinished.  Since installment 8 is really the only one that takes place in the middle of the stories we know as the Mortal Instruments, leaving so much unfinished feels lazy and like a let down.  It takes away from any enjoyment I might have otherwise found in these mini-installments.  You can see from the (lack of) depth each story is treated with on my pages how (not) important they are to the universe of the MI and ID. Read at your own risk…!

The Bane Chronicles, the Bane of my existence…

… and I am only one installment in.

So, the history of the phrase “bane of my existence”, which generally means something which causes misery or death, is middle and old english “bana” which means destroyer or murderer.  So, the “Bane Chronicles” seems aptly named after all…

This is yet another e-book only debacle.  At least that’s my thoughts after the first installment of the Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare.  There are 10 installments, each written by Clare and one of two co-authors: Sarah Rees Brennan or Maureen Johnson.

The fist, whole whopping 80 or so pages, is co-written by Brennan.  And the adventure promised was pretty adventure-less.  This amounted to just a few short stories about Magnus, Ragnor and  Catarina have in Peru.  We see  4 “adventures” – one in each of 1791, 1885, 1890 and 1962.  In 1791 Ragnor joins Magnus and they end up on a ship, intended to protect the cargo but the ships sinks.  In 1885 Catarina also joins them and they help a client find treasure.  In 1890 Magnus is trying to learn an instrument as he has fallen for a boy who teaches the instrument and when the boy breaks up with Magnus, he steals and enchants a carpet (turns it into a magic flying carpet) and gets really drunk (and there’s a bit about getting healed by some guinea pigs).  In 1962 Magnus meets a woman who is a their and a con and convinces her to run away with him.  bane1

We end with finding out that Magnus has been banned from Peru, but we are never told why.  I think it’s important to see what was promised (from Goodreads):  

“Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices know that Magnus Bane is banned from Peru—and now they can find out why. One of ten adventures in The Bane Chronicles.

There are good reasons Peru is off-limits to Magnus Bane. Follow Magnus’s Peruvian escapades as he drags his fellow warlocks Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss into trouble, learns several instruments (which he plays shockingly), dances (which he does shockingly), and disgraces his host nation by doing something unspeakable to the Nazca Lines.

This standalone e-only short story illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality populates the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. This story in The Bane Chronicles, What Really Happened in Peru, is written by Sarah Rees Brennan and Cassandra Clare.”

See where they said we can find out why Magnus is banned?  I highlighted it in red so that it can’t be missed.  It was clever at the end of the first “chapters” to tell me that what I just read wasn’t why he was banned, setting my expectations for learning the answer.  To not be told it at the end – wow, what an easy way to NOT be creative.    And the bit with the monkeys, and the other bit with the guinea pigs, I am not sure creative or interesting describe it so much as it felt that the author(s) were trying to be so over the top that it ended up just stupid.

lastsamurai2

The dialogue and reading in this was choppy and felt like it was written by a 10 year old, without an editor.  I don’t know if its a result of the collaboration (I have found that books written as a collaboration are not as well written, and they suffer from the Last Samurai “too-many-minds” syndrome (if you don’t know what I am talking about go watch the scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DAWlspPiuI) and fall flat on their butts just like Capt. Algren.  Sometimes, after multiple installments the collaborators figure things out and survive the sword fight, other times, they continue to fail miserably (and frankly, should surrender and put the readers out of their misery).  The worst part is, there are two authors here who were miserably lazy and uncreative.  Does it really take two minds to write something so awful?  Especially when the page count is only 80 pages!!!!  Have I mentioned that these e-only books are a waste of time and money, more often than not?  I think I have (devoted an entire post to it, at least once before).

It’s a shame, I always liked Magnus as a character.  He was funny and clever and I loved him in the MI and ID*.  This set of adventures did nothing to add to the character.  And the “shockingly”, well, lets just say that the music he plays gets some page time but not much else does.  And there really isn’t anything shocking about this story except how badly written it was.  I am hoping that the little series gets better as suffering through 10 installments that are this bad will be rough.

Thought I would share some examples of the awfulness (and my reactions when reading them)…

“Ragnor’s suspicious nature continued to make Magnus very sad and disappointed in him as a person, such as when they visited Lake Yarinacocha and Ragnor’s eyes narrowed as he demanded: “Are those dolphins pink?” “They were pink when I got here!” Magnus exclaimed indignantly. He paused and considered. “I am almost certain.” (my thought: how does sad and disappointed come from that?)

“Pardon me, but we did not have the time to exchange that kind of personal information,” Magnus said. “I could not have known! Moreover, I wish to assure both of you that I did not make any amorous advances on female monkeys.” He paused and winked. “I didn’t actually see any, so I never got the chance.” (my thought: trying to hard to make Magnus seem over the top.)

“Life could not be entirely devoted to debauchery and monkeys. Magnus had to finance all the drinking somehow. There was always a Downworlder network to be found, and he had made sure to make the right contacts as soon as he’d set foot in Peru.” (my thought: maybe something fun and like one of the adventures promised will come of here? Then, a few pages later, the disappointment again set in.)

“I also prefer not to remember the time we spent in the desert. It is a mammoth desert, Magnus. Ordinary deserts are quite large. Mammoth deserts are so called because they are larger than ordinary deserts” (my thought: no crap, mammoth is larger than ordinary.  There was nothing more clever the author could come up with here?)

“So ended our love,” Magnus said. “Ah, well. It would never have worked between me and the plate anyway. I’m sure the food did me good, Catarina, and you were very good to feed me and put me to bed—” (my thought: now trying to hard to be clever.)

And my (least) favorite:

“I progressed to full hallucinations? It’s official. That sounds like . . . almost the most drunk I have ever been. Please don’t ask questions about the most drunk I have ever been. It’s a very sad story involving a birdcage.” (my thought: please ask, maybe that story will be better!)

I think I need someone to remind me – was the dialogue of these characters always this awful in the MI and ID books?  Yikes!  9 more like this… I may have to take a cue from Magnus and have a lot to drink before reading the next installment.

*NOTE:

MI refers to the Mortal Instruments Series and ID refers to the Infernal Devices Series, both by Cassandra Clare and where we first meet Magnus.

The infernal conclusion of the Infernal Devices

Clockwork Princess (CP for short) by Cassandra Clare is yet another disappointment. Given how strong the Mortal Instruments series started (but quickly faded and the series should have ended at the end of book three, before it jumped the shark), I had high hopes for the Infernal Devices series. While there were some good moments in this series, this latest installment really wasn’t worth the effort of reading.

Like in the PNR genre, many of these YA series are becoming so very formulaic and predictable. It is disappointing. I have started to venture into the Steampunk sub-genre in the hopes that I will discover something new and exciting, but it seems that as the YA authors also venture into that area, they bring staleness and predictability and they let that guide the plots, instead of finding a fresh take or the excitement that this new area should provide. (To prove a point, my next post will be a comparison of CP and Kady Cross’s latest since I read them back-to-back.) And CP suffers terribly from this. I think the only good news is that it appears that this might be the last of this particular series.

The other malady that this book suffers from is the romance. It is so over done and under done at the same time. The romance between Tess and Will is so boring. And the author’s desire to couple every character takes away from the romance of Wll and Tess and makes the romances pretty boring as they are not given time or page space that they need to develop and to make the reader feel invested and to want to root for them.

Then there is the silliness. About what, you might ask. Well, it is hard to read the story with a straight face when one of the two biggest battle scenes in the book talks about battling a giant worm. Yes, i said giant worm. Since the worm is supposed to be something one of the characters turns into, couldn’t the author have found something more original, more demonic, more menacing and scary, than a giant worm? Every time I read the phrase “giant worm” I chuckled. And not because I think it was intended as comic relief but because it felt ridiculous to imagine the scene in my head of the Shadowhunters and a giant worm. And something more demonic could have made the story so much better.

Finally, after the climax of the takedown of Mortmain, there were too many chapters of cleaning up the coupling. When the epilogue came around, my first thought was “what else can there be to tie up?” The only redeeming part, really, was the revelation of a few of the details including what the clockwork angel really was and its intention. It was a relief to get the details as to Tess, her origin, and why she is different. But even getting all these facts filled in couldn’t save the overall story and the predictability.

When all was finished, I was left with a sense of relief that I had finished what seemed like a silly master of time. I will be glad if this was the last we see of the Infernal Devices series.

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So easy in the City of Lost Souls

So, another installment of the Mortal Instruments series is over.  And I added the spoiler/refresher page.  Without the review though.  Because this review will probably be more like a stream of consciousness and less thought out than most of my reviews.  Why?  Because there were just so many things good, great, bad and awful that I just don’t know where to start or how to organize it.  So, I am taking the easy way out and am just going to brain dump.

The series, during the first three books, was a nice balance of character development, relationship development and plot.  Not a lot of superfluous… stuff.  Not a lot of extraneous scenes, irrelevant dialogue or wasted scenes and words.  Here, my plot summary could be done in just a very few sentences.  And that’s a shame.  Although I liked this installment better than the last.

I had three big issues with this book – be warned, this review is a spoiler filled review.  Don’t continue to read if you don’t want to know what happened!  

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…  This biggest disturbing fact:  if Jace wants everything Sebastian wants, and doesn’t want anything Sebastian doesn’t, and Sebastian has so very much control of Clary, then it seems to me that Sebastian wants Clary too.  And, for the record: uck! Sexual assault scene aside (since yes, I know that sexual assaults are about power and violence and not about sex), if Jace really does want Clary that bas, what does that say for what Sebastian wants?  Seems to me that he might just harbor some incestual feelings that I really don’t want to think about, but couldn’t help every time Clary reminded the reader that Jace was being controlled by Sebastian.  So again, uck!

Second was how little time with the Iron Sisters.  What a set up for such a brief little visit and such a let down.  There’s so little to what could have been some great meaty pages that I can’t say much more on the topic.

Third, there were a number of things that were just too easy.  How awfully convenient that the ex-Iron Sister that Jace killed happened to have a blade covered in angel blood to let Sebastian’s plan slip.  Just too easy.  How awfully convenient that Magnus could help Simon summon an angel and the angel would just so willingly give up the sword.  Just too easy.  How easy was it for Clary to have something would let her communicate with Simon in the fairie rings (ok, maybe here it should be just way too obvious that the Queen was setting Clary up).  Just too easy.  And how simple it turned out to find a cure for Luke’s stabbing.  And how nice to have Camille all bundled up by Maureen.  A fake immortal cup, raising Lillith again, creating dark shadowhunters…?  So easy.  Even though I know there is another book to come, I half expected this book to end with the killing of Sebastian and Clary and Jace’s happily ever after (and the other couples too), since everything else was so easy.

Ok, I lied.  There is a fourth problem.  It seems as if Clary and Jace “got together”.  Under the influence of fairie drugs.  We don’t think it happened at first, but then Sebastian reveals that he has scratches on his back that had to have come from Clary scratching Jace.  Really?  Gloss over this, make it un-rememberable and under the influence?  I am hoping that Sebastian was exaggerating or I mis-read.  Please, please, please tell me I am.  I so do not want to think that the YA romance had our couple coupling that way.

I liked the start of so many things.  There was the potential to teach us about the Iron Sisters, more history of the angels and the shadow hunter, the tease as to who Magnus really is…  Alec and Magnus, Izzy and Simon…  Clary’s range of emotions and her second guessing whether or not to trust her brother or not felt so genuine.

The author continues her ability to give me just enough words though to be able to see the movie that is the Mortal Instruments series in my head.  I love that I read a sentence or two and could pause, close my eyes, and totally see the world she’s built and the characters I (for the most part) love.  The set up for the next book is good – Sebastian on the loose and our gang needs to find him; Jace unable to really touch Clary because of the bit of heaven inside him (ok, a little cheesy but I can live with it as long as this is solved in the right way in the next book); Alec and Magnus… **cries** … must get back together; Simon and Izzy (Yippeeee!  Finally we might see them as a couple!); and maybe more of the Iron Sisters, I hope, and some of the fairies (I don’t hope as much).  So, while so mush was too easy, waiting for the next installment (2014?  really?) won’t be!

More Truly Awesome Jane True (and other things that aren’t so awesome)

I spent some time yesterday catching up.  I wasn’t posting because I was off reading.  I managed to cram in Lover Unleashed by JR Ward, Tempest’s Legacy by Nicole Peeler, A Werewolf in Manhattan by Vicki Lewis Thompson and the start of Accidentally Catty by Dakota Cassidy all in over the last week (or so).  And then I had to attempt to catch up.  So, numerous reviews and pages have been updated or created.  And, I am happy to say:

  • Jane True continues to be wonderful
  • Lover Unleashed brought me back to the beginning of the series, reminding my why I love the brotherhood
  • Werewolf in Manhattan is a great start to the Wild About You series (good story and really good steaminess) and is for fans of things like the Vegas Vamps, Queen Betsy, Sookie Stackhouse, Accidental Friends, etc.  It’s a fun and light PNR, not the dark going after a great big bad evil like the BDB or Midnight Breed (etc.)

Now for the things that weren’t so awesome.

  • How in the heck did Swoon by Nina Malkin get a sequel?  It’s mind boggling.  It was not a favorite book of mine.  But, I read it and created a page since apparently Swear, book #2 in the Swoon series comes out later this year.  Given my predilection to read even terrible sequels, I am sure I will get to it eventually.  You just won’t see me eager to do it.
  • I can’t seem to figure out if Dakota Cassidy’s Hell series will only ever be the two.  The first was ok, the second was really enjoyable.  And, because of the apparent limit to the series, I combined that series with the Accidental Friends page.
  • And finally, I seem to have not made a dent in my “to read” pile, since every time I take a book or two off, a book or two more get added.  Take this last week for example.  I took of the ones I listed above, but added Red Pyramid (it was sort of bashed by some friends, so now I am eager to see what all that hating is about) by Rick Riordan, City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (see my post on prepping for this for my reservations here) and The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch (which I will get to as soon as I finish Accidentally Catty since it’s a galley, waiting for a review).

Now, if only I could find a way to manage my nook contents with one program instead of 3 (well, 2 really plus the B&N website make 3)….