Book-to-Movie: City of Bones

August 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm (Book to Movie) (, , , )

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones came out about a week ago in theaters. I’ve now seen it twice.

For all their flaws, I love the Mortal Instruments book series. And with any book that you love, there’s this DREAD when you hear it’s been officially greenlit for production. Options are one thing- so many books are optioned but never made. But actually going into production? That’s when it becomes real, and suddenly you’re looking at pictures of actors and hearing names of directors and designers and screenwriters and producers and OH MY GOD WHAT IF IT’S AWFUL AND YOU HATE IT AND THEY RUIN IT AND THEY TOTALLY RUN ANYONE OFF FROM DISCOVERING THE BOOKS BECAUSE THE MOVIE IS SO BAD…

Okay, so some of us (me included) can get a bit worked up about it.

But it’s a side effect of being invested in the books- if we love the book, we get passionate about it. We want to see it done right, we want whatever comes out of it to do it justice. In order to keep some semblance of sanity, I try not to look at pictures leading up to the release. I very frequently skip trailers where possible. I spend most of the time leading up to the release by studiously convincing myself that I don’t know a book exists. It’s the best way I can look at a movie adaptation as completely its own thing.

So there was anticipation and more than a little fear when my brother suggested seeing it last weekend. To be fair, he didn’t care what movie we saw, because he was showing off the luxury theater with the cushy leather recliners.

I can say, with total honesty, I loved this movie. Not just as an adaptation, but also just as a movie. Did I have some technical quibbles with it? Absolutely. But I thought this was, without reservation, an excellent production.

Spoilers abound.

Some quibbles:
-There were some consistency issues. I’m not talking about translating from the book, I’m talking about purely within the movie itself. When Clary and Valentine go through the portal or interact directly with the surface tension, they come away soaking wet. Yet both times we see Jace put an arm through the portal, he’s completely dry, as is his clothing.
-Also, during the scenes at the Hotel Dumort, daylight becomes a tricky tricky thing. Bright daylight is shining down on Simon, but it’s pure night when the wolves break through, but then it’s shifting dawn when they burst out onto the roof. Little goofs like sweat sheens or degrees of wet hair kept shifting between parts of scenes, as well.
-some of the funniest moments in this movie happened in moments where nothing was being said. But. Those funny moments tended to fade out because they were held for a beat and a half too long. It’s a matter of seconds, but because it’s a consistent fault, it tends to bring notice to it.

And one tiny quibble about it AS AN ADAPTATION:
-Izzy’s red stone necklace? The one that warms to warn her of demons in the vicinity? It’s only in one scene. The Izzy in the book is never without it. It was a small bother, but a bother nonetheless, especially because it’s such an easy thing.

But seriously, a two hour movie and those are my only quibbles?

The casting was brilliant. The sense of connection between the characters, the small expressions, the casting director did a phenomenal job. Other than a few too many sweeping vistas of the city, the sense of New York was woven very well into the film, and oh my God the Institute. It was gorgeous! The costuming was a lot of fun, even if the runes weren’t quite as I’d anticipated (and why are Izzy’s runes so much more delicate than the boys’?), and Magnus?

Oh my God, Magnus. Our first view of him is phenomenal. I can’t even…

The pacing, aside from the extra beats, was great. It made for a tight story and a continuing sense of action, even in the quieter moments.

And I actually really loved most of the changes they made. Part of the challenge in translating a book to film is in keeping things tight. Readers have the luxury of flipping back and forth to remind themselves of when something was first brought up. Viewers have to be able to follow a cohesive timeline. So shifting the final action to the Institute, rather than introducing a new location, made a lot of sense. Shaving things off for the sake of clarity is a necessity, and I liked the choices they made in that regard. The soundtrack was fun, at times very well woven through it, and when the vampire fight starts, the shift in music was brilliant.

Also, I thought it was incredibly smart move to pack the previews with YA-adaptation trailers. Vampire Academy, The Book Thief, and Catching Fire, and they perfectly hit their target audience.

All in all, this was a fantastic movie, and a solid adaptation that gives me SO MUCH FAITH in the slew of translations coming out over the rest of this year and next.

Until next time~

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Book Review: Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare

February 1, 2012 at 10:36 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

This is the second book in a series, so if you haven’t read the first one, Clockwork Angel, there will be spoilers below.

Despite all their efforts, Tessa and the Shadowhunters of the London Institute are no closer to finding the Magister, nor to Tessa’s unusual origins. Now an ultimatum from the Council leaves them only two weeks to find Mortmain or the Institute will be taken from Charlotte and Henry’s hands and Tessa will be easy prey for the Magister. Along with self-destructive, charmingly offensive Will, gentle and ailing Jem, and the ever-pouting Jessamine, they’ll have to understand why the Magister is at war with the Shadowhunters if they’re to have any hope of deflecting his purpose.

Every time I read one of Cassandra Clare’s books with my eye toward writing a review, I notice a certain similarity about my notes: they’re almost all about the characters. Sometimes things that really stand out about a character, sometimes the way a character relates to another, or compares to another, the way they interact with others…I have a little over two pages of notes and there are maybe two lines that aren’t about characters. The thing is, I LOVE her characters, largely because she does not spare them a damn thing. If her characters are in a situation where they can get hurt, chances are they will be. It forces them to stay dynamic, to continue reacting to things and adapting to things, and those reactions have a consequence on others that will then force them to react. So, true to form for me, a lot of this review is going to focus on the characters, because that’s what I find most riveting about this book and the others in the series.

I love that we get to start seeing Jem stand on his own a little more, rather than simply being Will’s better-natured shadow. Always being mild and good-humored, which is most of what we see through the first book and into the beginning of this, makes him a little bit of a doormat, and thereby a less interesting character. The slash of temper, of fury and bite and the deep hurt that accompanies that, makes him more rounded and frankly more appealing. Part of that comes from Tessa getting to know Jem better, but part of that is also Jem choosing to put himself forward more, choosing to step out of Will’s shadow.

Through this book we come to understand the parabatai relationship a little better, and through that we come to understand a little better the dynamic between Will and Jem. They chose to bind themselves to each other and finding out their different reasons is especially revealing. Of Will Jem says “When Will truly wants something, when he feels something, he can break your heart”, but Will is an overtly passionate person. He throws himself into things, even when it’s nothing more than a facade or a diversion, but the intensity of what he feels is always out there, vibrating in the air around him like a plucked string. Even when the truth of the feeling is hidden, the intensity of it isn’t. Jem is the opposite; he holds himself back from things, partly from his health and general life-expectancy, and now he’s finally letting himself want something with everything in him, and actually letting himself pursue that. When Jem wants something, truly wants something, he is far more heart-breaking than Will, because his intensity is matched by blinding sincerity.

When it comes right down to it, Jem is a much better friend to Will than Will is to Jem. Will calls Jem his ‘great sin’, proof of one of the many ways in which he is unutterably selfish. Even when Will starts from good intentions he mucks it up somewhere along the way, generally from a complete and total lack of thought. It’s more than keeping people from getting too close to him; it’s that he genuinely hurts the only people who love him in spite of how he behaves. That’s not to say that the relationship between Jem and Will becomes all angst and pain in this book- it doesn’t at all. But it does become more real from incorporating those elements.

I love the bickering amongst the Institute children. Will and Jessamine snipe at each other incessantly, Jem weaves through it with good grace, and Tessa inadvertently makes it worse half the time. Watch teenagers in any group setting and you see the same dynamics, along with Charlotte’s resigned pleas to occasionally behave themselves.

I felt so bad for Charlotte through this book. It’s easy to forget how truly young she is because she’s so weighed down by her responsibilities in the Institute, but she’s only 23 or so. She’s trying so hard with no one to truly help her, and what she can accomplish is significantly diminished in the eyes of her peers because she’s only a woman, and a woman has no business running an Institute. She exhausts herself for so little thanks, and on top of that she has the squabbling children, and the Downworlder relations, and Henry. Oh, Henry. He means so well, but he’s so clueless, except- every now and then, we get a flash of the Harry that lurks behind the absent-minded inventor. When he actually focuses on something, when he pulls himself into the present, we see the man who could be a true partner for Charlotte. He’s aware of the others within the Institute but Charlotte invests herself in them.

In the first book, it was easy to feel sorry for Jessamine. She was so earnestly wistful about the life she wanted it was easy to be sympathetic. After all, the life of a Shadowhunter isn’t easy and it’s not the life she chose- how horrendous a life of that sort must be when it’s against everything you’ve ever wanted. Still, it’s harder to feel sorry for her this time around. She’s so purposefully self-deluding. She’s resentful and rude and flat-out refuses to adapt to reality and changing circumstances. It’s hard to feel any true sympathy for someone that purposefully disconnected from common sense. I understand that she has dreams, but she also has a stubborn streak a mild wide laced with an overgenerous share of hatefulness. I don’t feel sorry for her; I flat pity her.

The secondary characters are amazing. Sophie continues to grow. She’s not a creature in the shadows, for all that a large part of her job is to be exactly that, and she continues to gain appealing aspects. The dynamics between the Lightwood brothers are wonderful. It’s easy to see how certain traits stay in the Lightwood family. Sometimes Gideon and Gabriel have echoes of Alex and Izzy but they’re not mirrors. Gideon is especially intriguing. Gabriel is still young enough that he’ll take his father’s opinions as his own rather than investigate his own, but Gideon has gotten a see a little bit more of the world. He has all the Lightwood stiffness and then some but he also has the wounded charm of someone whose world has fallen around him. Woolsey Scott is just frickin’ hysterical, and I actually really liked Consul Wayland. He’s a very fair man who knows that what is fair isn’t always easy or even kind. Magnus is, as ever, gorgeous. He’s beautifully complicated, and I think Woolsey’s observation best sums up Magnus’ outlook across both series: you can’t save every wounded bird.

Interestingly enough, Tessa is fairly stationary. It’s not that she doesn’t continue to grow and develop but that she’s caught between so many other people that she ultimately ends up in very nearly the place she started. In the first book she was caught between Will and the chance to rescue her brother; here she’s caught not only between Will and Jem but by the expectations placed upon her by the London Shadowhunters and the continuing mystery of her origins. And I love it. We know that Tessa is going to be around long after those in the Institute turn to dust. It’s a fact of her life, an unavoidable consequence of what she is, very much akin to standing still while the rest of the world moves on without you. It’s heart-breaking- but it’s also encouraging because we see how she can approach that with grace and unfailing spirit.

And remember that JG that Jace finds in the Silent City?

Be on the lookout.

Until next time~

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A Reminder of the Things

December 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , )

If I’m completely honest, I am way too mellowed out by the Christmas happenings today to be able to think coherently.

This weekend had so many things!

Yesterday was the annual craft fair at the O’Dome. This thing is HUGE, over three hundred vendors, and my mom and I go together every single year. It’s the only official mother-daughter thing we do each year and I look forward to it so much. It’s really an amazing thing to see so many different kinds of crafts piled together into one space. We’ve been going so many years that we know the vendors by name and sight and they point out the stuff we wouldn’t have seen before. We see other customers we see every single year, plus other people we recognize from various places. We marvel at some of the amazing stuff on display, and- well… maybe we marvel a little over some of the really kind of ugly stuff too. We tease each other and help each other pick things out and all in all, we emerge four hours later with significantly less money.

The daughter part of me and the crafter part of me (among other things, I make jewelry) have a lot of reasons to love going to the craft fair. Here’s the thing, though- the writer part of me loves it too.

The people watching is extraordinary (and hysterical) but mostly it’s the inspiration. Every single thing on those tables? That was someone’s inspiration! We look for inspiration that results in words on a page but it’s there all around us in so many different mediums. The crafts on those tables started out as an idea- a design that they labored to translate from a picture in their head down onto paper, and from paper into some other format. Whether it’s jewelry, wook work, wreaths, candles, cloth work, soups and spices, or ornaments, or any number of other things. Every single one of those items starts with inspiration.

But between inspiration and the final product is a hell of a lot of work.

Which is why going to the craft fair always inspires me to buckle down and put that hard work into my current projects, whether they’re crafty or wordy.

Then today was the day of the Christmas trees. We put up and trimmed four of them. Four! Not all in the same house, it should be said. Here in the apartment, we have my roommate’s seven footer in front of the windows, with my three foot up on the kitchen counter. She’s haphazard in the way she decorates hers, so there are all kinds of ornaments and different types of garlands strung randomly. I’m…well, to tell the truth, I’m really frexing OCD about decorating my tree. Then over at the mother’s, we helped them decorate their two trees. It’s not that they really have the space for two trees, but more that they feel guilty if they don’t do two trees because they have SO MANY ORNAMENTS. And we add to them every year at the craft fair, plus they’re addicted to the ornaments from Cracker Barrel.

So rather than doing a typical blog today, I’m just going to give a quick reminder of the two current giveaways.

As part of Leah Cypess’ blog tour, check out my review of Nightspell. Any comment at all will enter you into the grand prize drawing across all the blogs on the tour for a one-of-a-kind, uber-cool, annotated copy of Mistwood. For my part of the giveaway, leave a comment answering the question in the post for a chance at some signed swag from both books.

The second giveaway has TWO (2!) prize packs. To enter this one, hop over here and tell me what your favorite part of this time of year.
Prize pack one includes: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahareh Mafi, copies of Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini, fun swag from multiple authors, and a handmade bracelet (handmade by me, in point of fact, and it came out really good)
Prize pack two includes: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahareh Mafi, copies of City of Bones and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, fun swag from multiple authors, and a handmade bracelet that my roommate drool.

Both giveaways will be ending around the 20th (exact dates given in the posts) so be sure to check them out! US only (sorry, international shipping is prohibitively expensive).

Until next time~

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The Gift of Reading + Giveaway

November 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm (Giveaway) (, , , )

Growing up, Christmas was my absolute favorite time of the year.

It wasn’t really the gifts, though that was of course exciting. It was everything about the season. It was the chance that we might actually get some temperature changes (I live in a part of Florida where the temperature rarely drops below 70), the chance that the wind might snap and snarl a little- and maybe even get a flurry of snow. It would mostly likely melt before it touched the ground but for a few seconds, you could hold a snowflake against your hand and call it real.

It was the food- oh my good God, the food. In my family, Christmas is the season for three times as much baking as any other time of the year. Cookies- drop cookies and rolled cookies, iced/decorated cookies, gingerbread and ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, and countless other kinds- and Swedish tea rings, lefsa (which my grandfather insisted on calling shoe leather), cinnamon buns with orange vanilla icing, cakes and cheesecakes, and so many pies- pumpkin and apple and cranapple and blueberry. There’s ham and ham gravy- which every year my brothers threaten to drink straight from mugs- and stuffing and sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes and various other veggies and breads. For weeks, the entire house smells AMAZING, and every time you take a breath everything just comes rushing in. And, of course, there are leftovers, so the joy just continues.

It was the decorations. My family never really went overboard with the decorations. We very rarely did house lights because there was no one to safely put them up and we didn’t do the lawn decorations because they were expensive (among other reasons), but the decorating of the tree was a tradition. Mom would carefully unpack and unwrap each ornament and almost all of them had a story. Some we’d made when we were little; some were passed down through the family. My mother is a firm believer in a balanced tree- she would put the hook through the cord and hand it to one of us, and as we paced around the tree to find the perfect place to hang it, she would remind us of the history. We had an entire herd of clothespin reindeer, some of them from us, some of them from when she was a kid. And then there’d be the tinsel battle. Tinsel is a Very Serious Matter in our household. Mom usually just forbid us to touch it so she could do it herself because the way we did it drove her crazy. My brothers would take handful and just toss them up, so the tinsel got all clumpy and messy and looked like a decoration fairy had gone on a binge purge. I’d take handfuls of it as well, but I’d drape it so the strands clung slightly together at the ends, giving the tree a cobweb effect. Mom, on the other hand, put in on strand by strand. While we never did any outdoor decorations, every year on the weekend before Christmas, we’d go out driving and just marvel at some of the amazing things other people did. There were some houses that must have spent a fortune on their power bills for December, but it had to be worth it. Some of them went far past decoration to sheer art. There was one house I will always, always remember because they put on a whole show- including timing the ripple of the lights to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

It was the shopping. Not so much the buying stuff as the shopping experience. I’m not a shopper- I tend to walk in knowing what I need, go right to it, get it, and get out. But when I was little, I loved trolling around the mall either with my mom or my friends because there was just so much to see! And most of the stuff I wanted to look at I didn’t actually want to have, I just wanted to look at it, to admire it. Or, me being me, to laugh at it upon occasion. When I was younger I didn’t tend to notice the grumpy people that come out in droves during this time of year; what I noticed was the people being friendly and cheerful, the ones who would go out of their way to help others, the ones who always had a smile for everyone around them and were all about brightening people’s days.

It was the ritual. Filtering through all the other things there was ritual and tradition, things we did a certain way every year because the way we did them was just as important as what we were doing. There was the light of the Advent candles and the reading of the scripture. There were all the rituals for baking and cooking and getting the house ready for company. There was even the ritual of hiding the presents and laughing at my brothers as they tried to wrap things. They’ve gotten better at it, but for a long time they just divided everything into two stacks and brought half to me and half to Mom to wrap for them.

It was the family, of course, wonderful and exasperating and lovely and obnoxious as only family and close friends can be. We had our card games, our movie marathons, and my brothers and I being as we are, more than a fair share of beating the crap out of each other in video games.

More than anything for me was the music. I grew up in music. At church, in the car, in the house, in the stores, my mother and I always sang together and Christmas music was our favorite. Words can’t even express how much I loved the music.

Whether taken individually or as a composite, Christmas was the time of year I constantly looked forward to.

And then I grew up and went to college and started working retail, specifically at a craft store, and I grew to pretty much loathe Christmas. I couldn’t stand to listen to the music anymore and the stench of cinnamon pine cones in concentration meant I couldn’t smell or taste anything else. I saw a few cheerful people but I had to deal with many, MANY more grouches, and I didn’t have the time to just go browsing and see All The Things. Plus, I was a broke college student, so after selling other people decorations all day, I couldn’t afford to put up my own decorations in my apartments and I wasn’t home to be able to put them up with Mom.

After three years, and three miserable Christmases, I left the craft store and started working in a bookstore. We still get busy and we still get more than a reasonable share of grouches, but the whole atmosphere of working in a bookstore is different. It’s taken a little while, but I’m back to loving Christmas and everything about it.

Even the grouches.

SO- to celebrate, I’m giving away two prize packs.

Prize Pack 1: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, paperback copies of Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini, plus some fun swag from multiple authors and a handmade bracelet.

Prize Pack 2: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, paperback copies of City of Bones and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, plus some of that fun swag and a handmade bracelet.

Want to know how to enter?

Just comment below and tell me your favorite part about this time of year. It doesn’t have to be about Christmas, just the time of year. Don’t forget your email address so I can contact you! Entries will be accepted through the end of Saturday, 17 December, with the winner announced the next day.

And stick around! On Friday, 2 December we’ll be having a special review post as part of Leah Cypess’ mini-blog tour. Cool prizes from the individual blogs as well as an overall prize for the tour, so check out her website for more info!

Until next time~

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A Bit About Jargon: Pre-Orders

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Industry, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

You know you want it.

It’s that book you’ve been waiting a whole year for- maybe even two or three years. More if you’re a Jordan or Martin fan. It’s that book you scour the internet for, squealing over a cover reveal, searching for teasers and any words the author might release about it. You look for the contests so you can get it early. You have it marked and circled in really bright colors on your calendar. You’ve requested the release day off of work so you can run out, buy it, and just start reading it then and there.

So have you pre-ordered it yet?

You’d be stunned at how many people would answer no.

The thing is, if you really want the book, you should pre-order it, and here’s why:

You have nothing to lose by putting your name down for one. Now, if you’re looking at e-books or if you’re doing it online, that’s different. Obviously there’s money down for that one, and if you get the first few pages and it sucks, e-books aren’t returnable. But if you’re doing it in a store, there’s no money down. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, so you’re risking nothing by having one set aside for you. What that does is guarantees that there’ll be a copy for you if you want it.

For small- to mid-release titles, not all bookstores are going to receive copies in quantity, or even at all. There’s a finite amount of shelf space at a bookstore, so not every title gets to be represented. Sad, but true. If you don’t have us bring it in, we may not be getting it.

For most new releases, publishers send us between three and eight copies, depending on whether or not it’s got extra displays or promotions. Think about that, though: if there are three to eight people in your area who want that book as badly as you do but don’t have to worry about class or work and can get either get to the bookstore right away or send someone else for them, then you don’t get your copy. *sad face* Then you have to order it anyway, but you don’t get it when you were actually wanting it.

For larger releases, we generally get a certain number of books above our pre-orders. There’s a whole equation for it tucked away somewhere but the warehouse considers pre-orders to be an accurate indiation of how many people in our area want the book.

Now me? I live in an area where, for some reason or another, people refuse to pre-order. I don’t know what it is, but everyone just assumes that the book will be there if they want it, regardless of what the title is. They want the books, but they won’t pre-order it.

That results in little things like the Breaking Dawn fiasco.

We were required to have a midnight release party for it, and we were told fairly early on that the number of books we received would be strictly dependant upon the number of pre-orders we got. We busted our butts trying to get those pre-orders, but most people didn’t want to put their name down. They said they’d just come and get it that day, despite our warnings that we wouldn’t be getting that many books above our pre-orders. Despite multiple warnings, even. By the night of the release, we had 45 pre-orders. I think the buyer pitied us because he sent us 130 books.

Then we had 97 people show up for the party.

We were completely sold out of the book by four o’clock that afternoon, as was EVERY OTHER PLACE IN TOWN, because we all got quantity based off our pre-orders. We had to struggle to get more books in, but people STILL wouldn’t put their names down, so as soon as we got them in they sold to other people. This went on for WEEKS (to be fair, it was complicated by the fact that this was a buyer-managed title so we had to beg to get quantities above what their equations told us we should get).

October 4th, we’re going to have a crush of parents in to pick up Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune, and the kids whose parents have to work during the day will come crowding in at night. We’ve got less than 20 pre-orders and one of those is mine. The buyer knows this is a huge title, they’re going to send us quite a bit, but what about two days from now, when Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath comes out?

If we’re slated to get a certain amount (like in the case of Goliath, about 8) and our pre-order numbers don’t break past a certain percentage, they don’t send us any extra, meaning the pre-orders actually come out of those numbers. If we’ve got three pre-orders, there are five left out in the wild.

Really reduces your chances of getting that copy when you want it.

Pre-ordering through a store costs nothing. You do not pay to reserve the title. We take your name and phone number, and when it comes it we set one aside with your name on it. Release day, we give you a call or email as a courtesy reminder that the book is in. Then, you can come get it or not. Found it somewhere else? That’s fine. Got it as a gift? That’s fine too. Come in and read the first chapter and realize the book is going to dash all your hopes and dreams, and you will actually shrivel and die a little inside if you read the rest of it? You don’t have to buy it.

I like to try new authors, and because I read YA, there are a TON of debut authors. It’s a gamble, trying a new author. You don’t know if you’re going to like the style or the characters, and with debuts, a bookstore may or may not be stocking them without a publisher push. It sucks, but there it is; buyers have to manage a finite amount of display space, so they do their best to tailor to what’s known to sell in each store. So I put in a pre-order. When it comes in, I flip through the first chapter or two and see if I’m caught. Do I like the writing? Do the characters interet me? Does the story intrigue me? If the answers are yes, I buy the book. If the answers are no, I simply have the hold cancelled and it goes out on the shelf.

No money changes hands unless I actually decide to buy it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to get a book when you want it because of a pre-order. It costs nothing, and it takes less than a minute to give us your information to hold it for you. You can even pre-order multiple titles at a time, and we’ll let you know as each comes in (I do my orders a month at a time and just flip through them as they arrive, and I can buy or not buy as I choose).

On November 1st, when Ally Condie’s Crossed comes out, or on December 6th when Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince comes out, do you really want to be one of those people without a book because you didn’t put your name down?

Please, please, as a bookseller I am BEGGING you: if you want a book, take the two seconds to put in a pre-order. You literally have nothing to lose.

But you have a lot to gain- specifically, a guarantee of the book on release day or whenever you want to go pick it up.

Just to satisfy a curiosity, what books are you looking forward to in the next few months? (And are you going to pre-order them?)

Until next time~

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Obstacles and ADD

June 3, 2011 at 9:00 am (Writing) (, , , , )

There are three cats in my apartment.

One of them is sitting behind me on the top of the couch, wrapped around the back of my neck, and purring up a storm. Don’t mistake this for affection- he’s hungry.

One of them is curled up so tightly against my leg, one of his arms actually wrapped around my thigh, I can’t move without his claws flexing into my skin. This is actually my cat. He feels I neglect him horribly during the day when I’m gone for hours and hours working to keep food in his bowl.

The third cat is sitting a few feet away on the coffee table, tail wrapped around her legs, staring at me. Whenever I show any signs of moving towards her or even acknowledging her presence, she hisses at me. I have a feeling this is because every other night this week, when she yowled and cried by the downstairs door to be put on her harness and taken out, I’ve ignored her. Because the last time I gave in and took her out, I ended up losing all the skin off one elbow and knee.

There’s a large tv that’s so nice most things look bizarre on it, lots of dvds stacked around it, and netflix instant play. There are eight bookcases, most of them double stacked with loooooots of interesting books just begging to be read. At least two of them have books filled with non-fiction waiting for me to take pages and pages of notes for research. There are books waiting to be reviewed, books that patiently wait for me to lose myself in them, books that are waiting less-than-patiently to blow my mind.

There’s a bathroom that should probably definitely be cleaned.

Ditto kitchen.

Double ditto bedroom. (Is there such a thing as a triple ditto? The bedroom’s really kind of bad)

I have an entire closet full of craft supplies. Jewelry projects I haven’t touched in a year, notebooks to decorate, canework to make, music to learn. My ear infection is finally gone so I should be able to get back to the gym without serious fear of passing out on the treadmill.

And there’s the internet.

Oh, dear God, the internet.

Instant messaging and memes and blogs and Twitter and facebook and games and research and staggering, eye-popping, brain-numbing amounts of internets.

So what’s the point of all this?

All of these are obstacles to being productive. They are things that keep us from sitting down and getting to it.

And they are so HARD to resist!

This is why I go somewhere else to write, but even on days where I’m not trying to write I notice myself falling prey to obstacles like these. It’s not even that glorious productivity is the goal on these days, but there’s something profoundly depressing about realizing it’s bedtime- and then realizing you have done nothing useful since getting home from work. You get hom from work, rather brain dead, change into pjs, manage to put something together for food (however questionable that something might be), sit down on the couch…and become useless for the rest of the night.

It’s evening as I’m writing this. About ten o’clock, in fact. I’ve been off work for five hours. I clocked out, walked next door to the grocery store, got food, drove home, and preheated the oven so I could pop the food in and forget about it for a while. Changed clothes- pajams for the win- and nearly tripped over the cat. One of the cats. I wrapped my dad’s father’s day present so I could send it out- still haven’t dug out the address to write it on there yet- and had to wrestle the butcher paper away from the hissy cat who would glady eat me in my sleep. I grabbed my food, sat down on the couch, turned on the tv…and writing this is the closest to productive I’ve been. I’ve watched three episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, two episodes of The Unusuals, and an episode of Archer; I have no idea what I’m going to watch next. I pulled out my clipboard at one point, tried to take notes for an upcoming rewrite, and realized my brain doesn’t function after work. All of my productivity is on days off or before work.

I am surrounded by obstacles.

And the obstacles are winning.

I seriously have things I need to be doing right now. I need to be brainstorming for this rewrite so I can figure out what the hell I’m doing. I’m not usually in this drifting state with projects and it is unbelievably frustrating, especially considering I have to sit on my queries for a month for I send them out (self imposed, no weird query regulations or anything). I’m drifting and I’m frustrated and it makes it hard to focus.


So the obstacles are winning.


So tomorrow, I am waking up before I have to, and I am curling up in bed with a book (and possibly a cat, just not the one who wants to eat me alive) and I am reading for a few hours. Recharging. I work an uber-long shift all through the afternoon and evening, I will be a zombie when I get home, and that’s okay because I’ll have read and recharged in the morning. And then I have a day off. I am NOT going to sleep in like a slob (okay, I’m going to sleep in, just not to the point where anyone can call me a slob) and then I’m going to go to my writing cave. And I’m going to go again before work on Tuesday morning.

And I’m asking you to hold me accountable.

By the time one o’clock Tuesday afternoon rolls around, I need to come away from my writing cave with at least four book reviews (five would be better) and at least ten pages of notes for this upcoming rewrite. A title would be fantastic, but I don’t think I’ll push my luck.

And if I get there- if I actually manage to shove away all the obstacles and get done what I need to get done- you get a prize.

How frickin’ cool is that? Guilt trip me into doing actually work, get a chance of getting rewarded for it.

So, here’s the deal: GUILT TRIP ME. Everyone who encourages, bullies, guilt trips, cheers along, whatever it is we want to call it gets entered into a drawing. If I actually make it, I will be giving away a shiny new copy of Cassandra Clare’s City of Fallen Angels complete with Jace’s letter to Clary. You’ve heard me rave about how much I love this series, and this is the one with the ending that has everyone talking. You know you want it. So, if you live in the US (sorry, postage is expensive), and if you want an amazing book, help me kick off the ADD and the massive array of obstacles and get SOMETHING productive done in the next week.

Before I…go on vacation and become thoroughly, spendlidly, amazingly unproductive for…two and a half weeks.

Fear not, there were will still be reviews and rambles. Otherwise I might lose track of what day it is and that’s never pretty.

All comments before 1 pm EST on Tuesday June 7th will be considered by Sir Random Number Generator!



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Book Review: City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare

April 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Note: This book is part of a series, following City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and Clockwork Angel. If you have not read these books, there will be spoilers below.

In the first half of the Mortal Instruments series, Clary Fray learned she was actually a Shadowhunter, a race of part-human, part-angel demon hunters who more or less police the unnoticed aspects of our world: werewolves, vampires, warlocks, fae, and demons. Her mother was kidnapped and fell into a coma, her father- who she thought was dead- turns out to be a Really Bad Guy, her best friend has been turned into a vampire and can now walk in sunlight, and she’s fallen in love- with someone who for a time turns out to be her brother, and then turns out not to be because her real brother is a half-demon Really Bad Guy raised by their father. Who also raised Jace, the boy she’s in love with. (In other words: issues). However, Valentine and Sebastian have both been killed, the war has been ended, and Jace and Clary can actually be together. City of Fallen Angels picks up two months afterwards.

The Mortal Instruments was originally meant to be a trilogy, leaving us with the bad guys dead and a tentative, hopeful Clary and Jace who clearly would have some issues to work out, but they’d get there. Then came the news that there would be more. In some ways, however, this can really function as the start of a new trilogy with the same characters. It builds off of what came before but the two months divide and the nature of this new over-arc really make it its own thing, rather than just a continuation. This also builds a great deal off of the things we learn and the characters we meet in Clockwork Angel. Can you get by without having read CA before this one? Yes, but trust me, you want to read it first. The payoff is wonderful.

This book lets us see a lot more of Simon. We spend quite a bit of time living in his perspective and I love it. He’s not a slightly goofy tagalong any more, he’s real with a lot of issues to work through and he’s finally defining himself outside of Clary. He’s still her best friend, but he’s not limited by that anymore. We see the very real strain of trying to lie to his family about his vampiric status even as he’s trying to adjust to it- and not really succeeding. His ability to tolerate sunlight means that he can mostly fake a normal life for a while, but he hasn’t thought about what that means in the long term. He is always going to be sixteen. The people he loves, the friends he has, he’s going to watch them grow old and die and he is going to stay, physically, exactly the same. He doesn’t take care of himself the way he needs to because he’s still a bit grossed out by it all, which means he’s straining his control. However much Simon may personally dislike Raphael, Raphael has some very good points, but Simon isn’t ready to listen yet. Still, there’s a part of him (Simon) that’s slowly starting to see the virtue of endlessly wandering.

And oooooh, that Mark of Cain at work. I knew it was going to have to come up again in a pretty major way and was not at all disappointed.

The relationship building between Simon and Jace is amazing. We saw hints of it at the end of City of Glass but we actually see it evolving into a friendship- a little twisted and full of barbs, but a genuine friendship nonetheless. It doesn’t matter that it’s still based off of Clary, because it’s something that’s between them. Helping each other, looking out for each other, is a way of looking out for Clary, because both understands how much the other means to her. And, of course, the mango. Oh, the mango.

It was the sympathy between Simon and Magnus that surprised me, but it was a lovely surprise. We live, we love, but it gets a little more difficult if we keep living and living and living and those we love don’t. Simon’s only starting to understand what that will mean for him. Magnus has had a long time to understand this, to accept this, and I think this a large part of the reason the joy that Tessa saw in him is gone. (On a side note: loved the reference to Tessa as one of the constants in Magnus’ life, but a little saddened by it too, as it means she’s still alive when all those from the London Institute of her story are dust and shadows.) Well, the joy isn’t completely gone, but it’s tempered by weariness and experience, and the bumps in the road with Alec make that worse.

Alec and Magnus finally have a relationship out in the open, one Alec’s parents actually seem to be okay with though they clearly don’t take it seriously, and so far it’s been this glorious honeymoon period of world travel and postcards of “Wish you were except not really”. All honeymoon periods end, but their’s hits rather abruptly when they’re called back to the Institute. Suddenly Alec has to remember- or at least realize- what it means that Magnus is 700 years old. He has to realize that Magnus has loved a lot of people and he has had to watch them die, again and again and again. The jealousy, the anger, is understandble, and given that this is Alec, it translates very easily into petulance. When you’re eighteen and in love and suddenly hit that kind of wall, you can’t really take a moment to put yourself in the other person’s position, but how amazing that Magnus has the kind of courage and strength to love again and again even though he always loses the ones he loves. It isn’t going to be easy for them, but I have hope- perhaps foolishly, but sometimes hope is a divine foolishness, isn’t it?

I love Izzy. Every book I love her more and more, and we actually get to go a little deeper past the kick-ass Amazon with an inherited penchant for inappropriate footwear. She actually makes a great deal of sense if you look at her as a product of her parents, especially given the things we learn about her parents. For the first time in her life, she’s actually making female friends, not just looking at them as rivals for one thing or another- although, given that this is the case, should she be just as awkward about girl talk as Clary? She’s always shown a lot of strength but now we get to see some of her vulnerabilities as well, the kind caused not by trauma (such as the death of her little brother in CoG) but the kind that always exist.

We get to meet a new character in this one, and he can be a little hard to talk about it one wants to avoid spoilers, but may I say he’s pretty frickin’ awesome? Having done horrible things, he fully intends to spend the rest of his life working to prevent it in others, and doesn’t expect any forgiveness what he’s done. He has an amazing strength, even as he still has these gaping wounds that slowly fill with equal parts of hope and pain. Look very much forward to seeing more of him.

After quite a bit of discussion (arguments) with her mother, Clary has left school and started training full time at the Institute, though they haven’t actually hired an instructor yet. I actually love seeing the training, the fact that she has to work to master these skills she theoretically should have been learning for years, and that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to her. Her pride when she actually manages a perfect back flip is adorable, especially given the circumstances. She has a lot of adjusting to do, particularly in her relationship with her mother. A lot of things have changed since the first chapters of City of Ashes, and their relationship has to change as well. Neither of them is particularly sure of their footing right now. It’s a point every parent-child set has to come to at some point, but with so much else going on, with so many other reasons for it, it’s a slow process.

Clary is finding the places she belongs, not just a question of blood but of talents. She’s starting to acquire the skills, but she’s also making the connections that lead from one thing to another. She’s slowly learning more about her unique talent with runes, and also learning when perhaps that shouldn’t be used. Just because someone can be done, it doesn’t follow that it should. I was so proud of her for calling for backup before she went investigating, but Clary! WHY DIDN’T YOU WAIT?! OKay, so maybe she still has a few more things to learn on top of all those other things.

Then, of course, there’s Jace, who gets battered more and more by each progressive book. Which, let’s be honest, is at least half the fun in reading them. He’s still trying to be the Jace everyone has always known, cocky and swaggering and unaffected by anything, but this boy has some serious issues and no idea whatsoever on how to handle them. The man he regarded as his father taught him, very thoroughly, that to love is to destroy, and Jace has learned that a little too well. He doesn’t intend to cause that much pain, and he genuinely does it out of ignorance as to how these things are supposed to work, but if he would just be sensible and TALK to someone- ANYONE- he’d have a much easier time of it. Not an easy time, but easier. Going through the remnants of the man who’s biologically his father brings up a whole host of turmoils over the man he thought he was his father, and he doesn’t know how to resolve that. He’s terrified of hurting Clary, but by trying to protect her, he hurts her in ways she has no defense against.

Of all the characters in the book who could sum up Jace and Clary, the one who does so the best is an interesting choice. That kind of love that can burn down the world or raise it up in glory. It’s very much true. The love between Jace and Clary is so overwhelming, touches so many other people, and they would do literally anything for each other, something that can have (and already has had) disastrous consequences.

Google anything about this book and you’ll see a lot of people ranting about the ending, but honestly, given everything that climbs towards that moment, I can’t envision any other way it could have ended. Frustrating? Yes, so be prepared to throw the book across the room when you get done with it. But it was, in a word, satisfying. It satisfies the need for a resolution of all the mysteries you have through the course of the book, satisfies the need to desperately want the next installment, satisfies the basic principle that Cassandra Clare isn’t afraid to do horrible, painful, amazing things to her characters to make them grow.

As always, there are so many little things to love. The running joke of Simon’s vampire mojo (or lack thereof) is adorable, and rather reminiscent of Will’s insistence upon the existence of demon pox in Clockwork Angel. The continued gag of the band’s name gets increasingly ridiculous but I love it. I love how Luke continues to develop; he very much represents the Downworlder idea that age doesn’t matter, because he stops treating Simon like a teenager after he (Simon) becomes a vampire. He treats him as a Downworlder, someone peculiarly ageless, because he’ll always look sixteen. So it’s rather fitting that it’s Simon who observes that for a man who’s never been married and never had children of his own, Luke has a whole horde of kids to look after. It really cements Luke’s image as a father figure, someone who can be relied upon and loved and be loved by, especially for a group of people that has so many collective daddy issues. Maureen is adorable- though, also, kind of creepy, given who she’s named after and what happens to her. Maia gets to stay in the picture and then some, and totally kicks ass. That a friendship starts between her and Isabelle cracks me up for so many reasons, but it also gives the Shadowhunters, specifically the younger Shadowhunters, even more ties to the Downworld, which is important. The more ties they have, the more the understand the Downworld, the less removed they make themselves, which helps foster genuine respect and understanding. Or at least has the potential to do so.

Absolute favorite thing of the book: Jace Lightwood. He doesn’t even hesitate anymore, he introduces himself as Jace Lightwood, everyone calls the Lightwoods his family, and it’s something he doesn’t have to question. That’s something he needs, especially given how chaotic everything else is around him. It doesn’t matter whether his name by birth is Wayland, Morgenstern, or Herondale: in every way that matters, he is a Lightwood.


Until next time~

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Book Review: Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

April 26, 2011 at 9:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , , )

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking: why on earth is this crazy girl switching in the middle of the series when there’s another City book out? There’s actually a fairly simple answer to this. The Infernal Devices, while technically a prequel to the The Mortal Instruments is actually designed to be interwoven through the second TMI trilogy, and the books build off of each other. This book was meant to be read between City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels, with the forthcoming Clockwork Prince meant to be read between City of Fallen Angels and next May’s City of Lost Souls; Clockwork Princess will follow, finishing out the ID trilogy, and then City of Heavenly Fire will close things out for TMI.

Have I confused you enough yet?

On with the show! (but keep in mind, reading it in the intended order means we get to appreciate some major spoilers from the first TMI trilogy, so if you’re leery, be careful of what you may see below)

Clockwork Angel takes us to 1878 London, a city that trembles on the edge of Progress; clockwork has become an art and steam has powered the way to faster travel, greater transport, and an entire world open to exploration and trade. Tucked away in the seamier areas of the city, however, the dangers of the Shadow World lurk to prey on unsuspecting mundanes, and the Shadowhunters of the London Institute and Enclave are there to uphold the Accords and the Law- when they aren’t squabbling like children past their bedtime. Into this gray, dismal world comes American Tessa Gray, bound for London to reunite with her brother Nathaniel after their aunt’s death. Met at the docks by a pair of intimidating sisters, she’s held captive so they can train her unique talent- the ability to Change completely into another person, living or dead- and hand her to the Magister. Her rescue is only the first adventure in a London ripe with intrigue, danger, a deadly threat, mysterious origins, and people who are rarely what they seem.

Steampunk, along with its steamless cousin of clockwork, is hugely popular right now, but Clare handles it with as much finesse and skill as the gritty streets of New York in TMI. Her London comes alive under grey skies and narrow streets packed with hawkers and vendors, where carriages are a fact of life, one dresses for dinner, and calling someone by their first name without permission Just Isn’t Done. It’s not just a different setting, it’s a different time period, with different expectations and manners and rules. We never question it though; even in the midst of familiar banter and teasing, we aren’t jarred out of the slightly formal language indicative of the time. Seeing a man’s shirt sleeves speaks to familiarity (and a certain level of rudeness) and there is something unbelievably erotic in the act of removing a glove. We’re taken deep into that world and kept there until, breathless, we read the final page and start swearing because we have to wait until December to find out what comes next.

The first character we meet is seventeen-year-old Shadowhunter William Herondale. Which, let’s admit it, made me snerk as soon as I saw the name. We immediately have a solid impression of Will: cocky, arrogant, likes to show off, intensely loyal and protective, and devil-may-care while hiding all sorts of dark and twisty pain and vulnerability. (Sound like another seventeen-year-old Herondale Shadowhunter we know?) It’s too easy to say he’s a copy of Jace, though, or that Jace is a copy of him, because there are so many differences between them. Will lies like he breathes, but the lies are always spoken with the intent of presenting the worse possible facade. He acts as though things touch him but lightly, but he isn’t necessarily a good actor- we see too many flashes of what lies beneath, of what’s missing, and then we have chance to find out that he’s only had five years to polish that act. Only five years, you say? That’s so long! But when you lie with every piece of you, when you’re a genuinely good person who feels the need to hide that at all costs, five years isn’t nearly long enough. He’s tortured and reckless, impulsive, forward, but he doesn’t trust. Finding people he can trust actually scares him, because if he trusts them he might confide in him, and he confides in them, if he shares the burden that keeps him from laughing even as he treats everything like it’s funny, he fears they’ll hate him for it.

Most people let him get away with it because they don’t realize how much lies beneath that carefully cultivated exterior, and the one person who does asks no questiosn about it. And then there’s Tessa. This is a terrifying new world, one whose beauties can be very hard to see under the circumstances, but she has a spine of steel and an unflinching view. She can accept the hard truths, however painful, and continue forward, bruised but brave into what the future may hold. A heroine who loves books as much as she does will always have a soft spot in my heart, but her tartness, her kindness, her curiosity, even her fears make me adore her. Her fasination with seeing herself in the mirror is born from fear, not vanity, and asks a very real question about how much of our identity is defined by the way we look. Her devotion and loyalty to her brother, even as she can clearly admit his faults, is beautiful. She’s perceptive and persistent and feels very deeply, but she doesn’t hesitate to be hard with those who can benefit from that. She has the kind of strength to survive a lot- knowing what I do of Clare’s writing thus far, I’m a little scared to think of what she may be called upon to survive.

Though we don’t see much of him at first, James Carstairs- Jem- is an amazing foil for Will, his parabatai. In that instance, of course, we think of Jace and Alec again, but in some ways, I think Jem and Will display that relationship with more truth, largely because Will reciprocates it more. Will is every bit as intent on protecting Jem as Jem is on protecting Will. On the surface, Jem seems the complete opposite of Will in every way, and not just in the extreme physical contrast. Jem is perpetually mild and light, able to let Will’s more provocative statements go without rising to the bait, but that very mildness conceals incredibly deep emotions. His story is tragic and seemingly without hope but he has a strength that most can only envy (and be infuriated by). His gentleness, despite the horrors he’s seen and survived, and what he continues to suffer, is a choice that clearly illuminates his character. He and Will are very good foils for each other because all those outward differences conceal the fact that, in essentials, these two boys are very much the same, which speaks to how certain things will develop in the future books.

The rest of the characters inhabiting the London Institute are varied and fascinating. Charlotte, tiny and bird-like, absolutely brilliant and desperately fond of all her charges, has to fight for her place as Head of the Institute as a woman very much in a man’s world, and the battery against that position is a physical wound that cannot heal, because it keeps happening. She’s genuinely compassionate, despite her own pain, but sometimes that compassion takes her a step too far. Henry, her husband and an absent-minded brilliant inventor whose inventions rarely come together exactly as he thinks they will (but are nonetheless fairly spectacular), is congenial and mild but there’s somehow something just a little sad about him. Not sad in the sense of pathetic, but sad as in something that lingers within him and makes him understand mechanics so much better than people. Clare has said that YA is not about twenty-something married people, and she’s right, but I very much want to learn more about their marriage, especially given the small things we’re told or witness. Jessamine is…well, Jessamine is a spoiled, entitled bitch, to put it bluntly, who wants nothing more to escape the Shadowhunter world as her parents did, and she doesn’t particularly care how she achieves that. She’s petty and cruel and self-centered, but her fierce desire for an ordinary life can’t help but make us empathize with her a little, especially on the rare occasions where she steps up into the world in which she’s been raised since being orphaned. We don’t get to learn too much about Thomas and Agatha, Sighted humans who work for the Institute, but we do we get to see quite a bit of Sophie, technically Jessamine’s maid, but in reality a sort of general employee. Her scars show more than most but she’s survived the events that caused them, and taken care that she’ll never again be in the position to receive more. She’s the only one without any designs on Tessa, and while she’s too conscious of the divisions between servant and friend, she’s the one person who just sees Tessa, not what she is or what she can do. The Lightwoods aren’t actually part of the Institute, much to their dismay, but…um…SNERK! I laughed SO hard every time we learned something new about the London Lightwoods, simply because there are so many parallels with the present day Lightwoods in TMI. Let’s just say Alec and Izzy inherit some of their traits quite honestly, and the running references to Gabriel’s sister are priceless.

Then, of course, there’s Nate. Nathaniel Gray is Tessa’s older brother and the reason she’s come to London following her aunt’s death, only to be told that he’s been imprisoned and will be killed if she doesn’t cooperate with the Dark Sisters. All of his sister’s energies are bent towards rescuing him, but we slowly piece together the fact that Tessa has been rescuing him for years. We do no favors by trying to conceal from people their own inherent flaws, something Tessa has to learn rather painfully, and his gambling and drinking have put them both in a very bad position time and time again in New York; now, in London, he’s pursued the same course, but there was no one to bail him out of it until the Dark Sisters got their hands on his sister. As much as Tessa loves him, she’s very up front about his shortcomings, which, we come to realize, is why she can be so upfront about/to Will. She’s had lots of practice.

Here are the reasons the book really needs to be read between CoG and CoFA: Camille and Magnus. The name Camille you’ll recognize from City of Bones, when Raphael admits the head of the vampire coven, Camille, is not in town at present. Is there a guarantee that this is the same Camille? Not at all, but there are very rarely coincidences in Clare’s world. Nefarious plots? Absolutely. Coincidences? Not so much. Camille is everything we have come to expect in vampires since Anne Rice got us all fired about them: she is gorgeous, cold, cruel, with an intellect as keen as a blade, and not particularly burdened by any sense of morals. When you have forever, certain things tend to get left by the wayside. She’s also completely ruthless, and perfectly willing to bend information- or at least the delivery of it- to her own advantage. She’s definitely someone to keep an eye one in future books, and not just the books of ID.

Two words: Magnus Bane. Oh my God Magnus! He’s peculiarly unchanged in the way immortal people almost have to be. He still dresses flamboyantly, still has a teasing turn that isn’t entirely cruel-even when sympathy seems like its own kind of cruelty and teasing- and still has an eye for beauty. When he said black hair and blue eyes was his favorite combination, I choked on my soda. He is still, in every way, Magnus, but he isn’t tired yet. Tessa notes that his eyes are full of joy, which isn’t something we see in TMI. There, he’s tired, he’s bored, and he’s hurt, but with a chance to reclaim that joy, tempered by even more experience. And, coincidence being what it is, I don’t think it is one that both he and Camille are in New York.

The details of this series are beautiful, whether they’re in reference to the clockwork mechanisms they come up against or the clothing that, as much as anything else, defines the setting. And, of course, those details can come to stunning importance. In this kind of prequel, especially, when we’re recognizing the blueprints of what came later: vampire motorcycles, Sensors, flashlights, etc, it’s genius. It isn’t just foreshadowing. Certainly they all add in to what gets revealed, but they don’t always build to quite what we think they will. Sometimes it’s just a specific image that repeats, and it’s gorgeous and haunting and usually a little sad, but they’re not the things that define the action. And oh, the action. This book has much more in the way of quiet moments, largely given the more intricate manners and formality of the setting, but the action sequences are breathtakingly written and keep us with one finger under the next page so we don’t lose any time fumbling to turn it.

Despite the many, many somber scenes and pains, there is so much humor in this book. A lot of it comes from the interactions of Will, Tessa, and Jem, of course. Will makes light of almost everything, but Jem- despite playing the straight man- definitely gets in his fair share of wit. The conversation about the ducks…once again choking on the soda, much to the dismay of my notebook. The recurring joke about demon pox is adorable, as is the continued half-amused resignation at Will’s antics (like biting a vampire. Again. At least Simon had the excuse of ignorance and rat instincts, though now I wonder if mundanes can be cured of darkling status by the holy water detox). The “morally deficient” exchange absolutely cracked me up, and there are so many smaller things scattered through, tiny observations that pass in an instant, that keep us from ever sinking too deep into the many pains the characters go through.

As a fair warning, some of you may want to stop reading here: below are some things that caught my attention and made me form my own theories or questions about how some things will play out in the next book. Right or wrong, I have no idea, but if you want to form your own opinions and theories, you might want to avoid mine. And, of course, to avoid spoilers, because theories inevitably give things away whether they turn out to be true or not.

Cecily. We hear the name several times, usually when Will thinks he’s alone and is in a great deal of pain or general misery. I think what we’re being led to believe is that Cecily is in fact Cecily Lightwood, daughter of Benedict Lightwood and sister of Gabriel, and the girl whose virtue Will has reputedly tarnished, and for whom Will might actually harbor a deep affection. Honestly? I doubt it. The name Cecily is tied to Will’s deepest pain, and he wouldn’t bring her up as a joke or as a barb. My theory: I think Cecily is Will’s little sister, someone he failed to protect, which is turn connected to why he showed up on the doorstep of the Institute clutching the Pyxis.

J.T.S. The initials are on a watch that Tessa is handed to give her the connection she needs to Change. Clearly, the initials are significant, but we’re left with no idea who they belong to. This theory is far-fetched, but having jumped into my head it just will not let go. I have no guess what the T stands for, for the other two stick in my mind as Jonathon Shadowhunter, the man who first summoned the angel Raziel and asked for the Nephilim to be created, the very first Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters are, of course, mortal, which would at first glance make it impossible for the watch to Jonathon Shadowhunter’s. He’d be long dead and dust by now after so many centuries or millenia. Except…wouldn’t it create a difference, to be the first? To actually commune with the Angel and ask for that gift for all of mankind? So, couldn’t it be possible that he is still alive? And that if the person who got hold of his watch actually knew him in some way, that could explain parts of that person’s knowledge. It’s a long shot, but it interests me.

Final one: Tessa. Her origins are a mystery, though we learn a little bit more about them. She should be a warlock, and she mostly is, but there has to be a reason why she has no warlock’s mark and why she has the ability to not only Change but also access the thoughts and voice of the people she becomes, in essence truly becoming them. My theory: I think her mother is the child of a Shadowhunter. Nephilim blood is dominant, but there are those who leave the Clave, and while the children are contacted every six years, it’s entirely possible that some could be kept secret or slip through the cracks, especially if the child doesn’t actually know. A warlock is the offspring of a demon and a human, but if that human actually has angel blood, that would change the type of warlock produced, and we’re told that Tessa’s mother didn’t even know what she was, and we already know that she wasn’t the demon. There’s a flaw to that, though: again, the Nephilim blood is dominant, so it would show in Nate, and he is thoroughly mundane. The mystery of Tessa’s origins will have to be addressed eventually, especially considering the clockwork angel and how integral Tessa’s talents are to the action, but I’m rather fond of this theory.

For teasers (and horrible teasing, from time to time), follow Cassandra Clare on Twitter: @cassieclare . She’s really good about interacting with her readers, and you learn all sorts of interesting tidbits, including sneak peeks at things yet to come.

Until next time~

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Book Review: City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare

April 22, 2011 at 9:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Note: this is the third book of a series, following City of Bones and City of Ashes; if you have not read these, there will be spoilers below.

Previously, in City of Ashes: The revelation of Jace as Valentine’s son led many others, including some he thought of as family, to regard him with deep suspicion, and the Clave’s Inquisitor was out to prove that Jace is his father’s weapon. It’s a different weapon she should have been concerned with. Valentine slaughtered the Silent Brothers to claim the Soul Sword, second of the Mortal Instruments, and began a ritual with the blood of Downworlder children to convert the sword to demonic energies. Simon and Clary’s attempt at a romantic relationship hits some snags when a visit to the Seelie Court shows that Clary is not yet over Jace, and Simon’s fears result in his becoming a vampire. In a monumental battle aboard Valentine’s ship, the Shadowhunters fight against a host of demons while Jace and Clary try to keep their father from finishing the ritual.

In City of Glass, we leave the gritty streets of New York with the dirty glow of street lights and the bawl of taxis, clubs, and cell phones for the beautiful land of Idris, ancrestral home of the Shadowhunters. It’s not just a journey of miles- Idris, specifically the glass city of Alicante, is cut off from the rest of the world in so many ways. It isn’t just about being geographically isolated, though they are. There are impenetrable forests and snow-capped mountains that make crossing into it difficult. There are misdirection wards around the entire country- mundanes don’t know of it in any way, to such an extent that even the globes and maps are wrong. More than anything, though, Alicante and the rest of Idris exist in a bubble of time. The descriptions of Alicante are like from a fairy tale, this perfect, shining city where everything is glorious and lovely (and kind of reminds me of a differently colored Gallifrey…). They ride horses and everyone knows where everyone else lives. Even at a time like now, when everyone is gathering from all over the world for the Council and the influences of many other cultures are evident, it’s the Nephilim culture that writes over everything else. Saris have angel runes stitched into the patterns, weapons are everywhere, and even the houses are covered in runes and Marks. They’ve separated themselves from everything else; that insurmountable divide between the Nephilim and the rest, the Downworlders and mundanes, isn’t just a mindset, it’s an entire culture. We see that separation in the previous two books but mostly in the attitudes and the lack of comprehension of pop culture references; here we get to see where that comes from.

I love characters. As far as I’m concerned, story is there to make the characters do interesting things, and this series just gives us so much to love. Taken as individuals or when studied through their relationships, Clare’s characters are just utterly fascinating. And heartbreaking. Let’s not forget about heartbreaking, not that we possibly could.

Clary shows such astonishing growth through this book. She still has a way of not thinking things through, and she doesn’t always ask for advice when and of whom she should. She still asks appallingly personal questions of people she’s just met, has a stunning talent for losing steles, and reacts more than she acts. She’s coming into herself though. She’s finding a deeper strength, learning more about the world she’s a part of. It isn’t enough anymore to be stuck on the sidelines while everyone else is risking their life to save things. She’s always had things she was willing to fight for and now she’s learning how. More than that, though, she’s learning how to do it on her own two feet. It’s interesting to me that she hears Hodge’s voice in her thoughts so often. She knew him for such a short time but the influence he had on her continues to show through in small ways. More and more, she becomes Jocelyn’s daughter- not the artistic daughter of Jocelyn Fray, but the steel-spined warrior daughter of Jocelyn Fairchild, the woman who was willing to sacrifice everything to do what she thought was right and save not just her own people, but the people she believed were worth protecting. It’s Jocelyn’s strength that Clary’s finding, even as she’s finally learning to define herself apart from her mother, her father, even apart from Jace.

In each successive book, our hearts break even more for Jace, Jonathon Christopher whatever his last name actually is. He tries so hard, fights so hard, but he’s always fighting himself at least as much as his actual enemies. He turns himself into a weapon aimed at his own heart, but the way he does it, he hurts those who love him. Lies never protect people the way we think they will, and his frequent explosions, his attempts to protect the ones he love from the threat he sees himself to be, cause almost as much harm as what he’s trying to protect them from, and he doesn’t handle the stress of that at all well. Give him a seraph blade and a physical demon before him, it’s a battle he can understand, but this welter of emotions and manipulations and the incredibly complicated relationships that arise from that leave him mentally and physically bombarded. Those relationships are beautifully, painfully drawn, especially when it comes to Valentine. Luke very astutely notes that Jace is only ever really himself- the question of his family ties are central to the story and the series, and yet, it doesn’t really matter what his last name is. He’s only ever Jace. The only person who actually defines him in any way is Clary, and he is terrified of that. As much pain as his ties to Valentine cause him, though, there’s something very real to that bond; as twisted as he is, Valentine genuinly loves Jace. The proof of that? Not going to say it, but it made me massively choke up.

I love that we get to see more of Alec here. In the previous two books, almost all we’ve seen of him is sullen and scared and angry. We’re still slowly seeing more of him, but it’s a start. He still tries too hard to be the adult. Eighteen is such a weird age, trembling between two extremes, and we place so much weight on it as a society that we forget that eighteen doesn’t actually feel any different from seventeen. By the standards of the Shadowhunters, Alec is an adult, but he’s most often around those who are younger and given that Jace is so charismatic, he isn’t the one in charge. He’s still an ass, but it comes from being stiff and taking himself too seriously. That’s fixable, if he’ll unbend enough to be honest. He fixates on having “lost” someone he never had a chance of actually having, but when he finally loses something real- something heart-breaking- he finds the strength to take a step forward, to finally have the courage to decide who he is and what he wants. And what a step!

Another person taking hard steps is Simon, which I really love to see. He’s a vampire now, but because Jace gave him his blood to save his (Simon’s) life, Simon now has abilities that are almost lost to legend: he can walk in sunlight. It’s not unheard of, but it’s exceedingly rare across very long spans of time, and it makes him an object of intense scrutiny. He hasn’t been a vampire for very long, so there is SO much he doesn’t know. Raphael has a very valid point: Simon acts like he’s still alive, like being a vampire only changes his diet instead of his entire life, and he hasn’t thought beyond the next few weeks. Other than a few self-pitying moments, he hasn’t thought about what it really means to be sixteen forever, to see the people he loves grow old and die (well, most of them are Shadowhunters, so maybe just the die part), but being in the cells of Alicante forces him to take some perspective. Taking the action he does before Brocelind plan…it breaks my heart, but it’s amazingly brave. It’s genius, and it’s tragic, and knowing that it has to continue to play out, that it can’t be something as simple as a shield, just takes my breath away. And the thing with the cat? Priceless.

There are so many little character things to love. I love that we get to see Luke lose his temper in a genuine way, not a “I need to protect them by pretending not to be connected to them” kind of way. It helps him transition from the role of Uncle Luke to the father figure Clary sees in him, that she needs for him to be. Finally getting to meet Jocelyn- not the overprotective mother on the losing end of an argument with a sulky teenager but the Jocelyn that grew up in Idris and risked everything- is amazing. Her story is amazing, but what we really take from that is the recognition within Clary: the traits that Jocelyn’s story gives us simply define the strengths Clary has already had to find on her own. I actually love Raphael, he is such an interesting character. Valentine’s behavior is consistently creepy in that he genuinely believes in his own cause and methods- “He left us naked before the hosts of hell but for these lines painted on our skin”- but you can see what everyone saw in him when they were younger. You can see the charisma, the magnetism, that attracted the Circle to form around him. Max… And Simon’s cell mate, his absolute despair over something as cold and uncertain as truth is gorgeous, especially as it rolls out later. (Trying not to give away too many spoilers, guys, but my email is on my contact page, feel free to send me a message if you want to hear the details of just how much I loved those reveals). Clare is a master of dropping hints, things that barely give us pause when we come across them but turn out to be so incredibly important when we realize what’s just smacked us upside the head. I love the bromance that’s slowly building between Jace and Simon as they reluctantly find ways to respect each other. It isn’t just about Clary, it’s that they’re genuinely building a friendship that gives some spectacularly funny moments.

Of course, it’s never as easy as just a story, or just characters. What we find in these pages resonates within our own lives to such an extent that we’re made breathless by it. New as she is to their world, there are things that are easier for Clary to see, corruptions that are easier for her to accept, because she hasn’t been raised with the steadfast belief in the Clave. No matter how much we rebel, no matter how much we take matters into our own hands and believe ourselves invincible, we want to believe in our authority figures, want them to be right and for the world to make sense. To find out otherwise, especially when you’re as young as many of these characters are, is terrifying. The nature of appearances, the nature of truth versus story, they’re things we deal with all the time, however much we want to bury our heads in the sand. It’s what Jace learns, the way he deals with these things, that hit us the hardest though, because we want an excuse for the uglier parts of ourselves. We all have the ugly parts. Some of us have more than others. The idea that we could pin the blame on something else, some external force that means we don’t have to accept the responsibility for it…it’s tempting. And it’s too easy. It can never be as easy as that, no matter how badly we want it to be. For better or worse, we are what we are, without regard to where we came from or how we were raised. None of that is a choice- the choice is where we go from here, what we do with the things we’ve learned. It isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be, because it can’t be.

I don’t know if it’s just an oversight or if there’s an actual reason for it, but I was startled by the apparent discrepancy of gender issues with the angels. Ithuriel is described as neuter: it. Its wings, its blood, its face, etc. Raziel is a he. Like I said, I don’t know if there’s a reason for it, but it caught my attention and I’m curious. (A curious Dot is like a curious cat- never a good thing).

Absolute favorite line of the book, possibly of the series thus far: “It’s like a cotillion, this partners business, but with killing”. IZZY, I LOVE YOU.

Until next time~

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Book Review: City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare

April 18, 2011 at 9:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Note: This is the second book for the Mortal Instruments series- if you have not read the first one yet, there will be spoilers below

So, previously, in City of Bones: Clary Fray, having very recently discovered that she is a Shadowhunter (a race of part angel part humans bound to protect mankind from demonic invasion) and that everything her mother ever told her of family is a lie, has rescued her kidnapped mother at a high cost: her mother is still comatose, the father she thought was dead is actually alive and a Really Bad Guy, and the infuriatingly arrogant, vulnerable, hot boy whose kisses light her on fire…is her brother. For Clary Fray, life pretty much sucks right now, and it’s only going to get worse as the Clave tries to hunt down Valentine.

And again we’re thrust directly into the action. Long before the Shadowhunters know that Valentine is up to something, we readers know. We don’t know why, or what he’s going to accomplish with it, but within the first few pages we know he’s controlling demons, killing Downworlders, and Has A Plan. Bad Guys with Plans are always a little terrifying. It’s almost a teaser, being given this short view into what Valentine’s doing, but it’s not a false start- knowing that he’s a continued threat is what drives the true opening, by hurtling Jace into a place designed to make him hurt and react.

Perception is really at the core of this book, perhaps of the entire series. The way we perceive ourselves, the way we perceive others- and the way they perceive us. We see what we choose to see. It can blind us to the truth, it can make us grievously hurt the ones we love, because we can’t see the whole picture. The revelation of Jace as Valentine’s son causes even the people who know and love him, the people who call him family, to suddenly view him as Valentine’s arrow, a weapon and a trap rather than a young man who belongs with them, and in the name of protecting themselves, some truly terrible things are allowed to happen.

It’s interesting to me that through the entire book, everyone remarks on how much Clary looks like her mother and how much Jace acts like his father. Through that, each is seen as an equal extension of the parent in question, and also highlights how little we know of Jocelyn. We know that she and Clary look alike, and we hear a lot about her from the people who knew her way back when, but we don’t really know her to determine if she and Clary share a lot of the same active characteristics. Valentine, on the other hand, shares his attitude with everyone, and by clearly seeing that influence on Jace, how Jace’s personality has been shaped by that outlook, we get a much better understanding of Jace beyond the cocky exterior.

The relationship between Jace and Valentine is gorgeously drawn, taut and fraught with contradictions, an extremely delicate balance of devotion and abuse. The conflicts build immediately off of other conflicts, and nothing about it is easy. Nothing about it should be easy. However dark and twisty he may be, Valentine has a real affection for his son, a love that is returned, and there’s something a little unnatural about standing on the opposite side of the war from a family member. There’s a choice that has to be made between what you love and what you believe is right, and that choice is heartbreaking.

I am so glad we get to see more of Magnus. He’s as perverse and enigmatic as a cat, but if you look beyond the glitter and the flamboyant clothing and the apparent lack of concern for anything beyond himself, there’s a lot of wisdom to be found. IF you pay attention. He gives these pearls in the quiet moments, the tense heartbeat right before someone hurtles his/herself into action, the moments that are easy to overlook. He understands people very well (well, he should, given how much experience he’s had with them), and as old as he is, as much as he’s seen, it must be tempting to disconnect, to pull away from the mortal world to prevent forming attachments that can only hurt as the other person grows old and dies and he doesn’t. And yet, he keeps doing it, which speaks a lot to what’s going on under all the glitter. He’s remarkably patient with Alec’s fears and hesitations, even when he’s clearly hurt by it, because he knows the value of love, knows that it’s worth waiting for through the bumps and obstacles along the way. I don’t know that he’s my favorite character, but he’s certainly one of the most fascinating.

The fight scenes are unbelievably well written, with that barely contained frenzy of too much going on all at once all around you, but we’re still able to focus. It’s smooth and transitions well, but keeps our pulses pounding. The rhthym flows well through the natural lulls where characters can swiftly exchange necessary information and check on each other back into the stabby-stabby. This mirrors the skill with which the perspective shifts are done. It’s an easy trap, I think, to get bogged down in those shifts, to give in to the temptation to use another character to rehash what we’ve just seen, but Clare always keeps the action moving forward. We see a great deal more of what’s going on, especially when there are multiple catastrophes happening around the city, but it never feels like cheating. Those switches, sitting behind someone else’s eyes for bit, also gives us so much more about the characters. Each character interprets the others in different ways, and that’s lovely to see.

I love that Clary doesn’t instantly have these amazing Shadowhunter skills. Does she have her moments of kick-ass? ABSOLUTELY. But she’s not suddenly as talented as- say- Isabelle. She has natural gifts, but there’s also the clear fact that she’s going to have to learn how to use them, that she’s going to have to train to have any aptitude beyond a certain amount of luck. By making her weak, it actually makes her stronger, because it makes her more real, gives her things she has to do and overcome. However much she questions it, Clary is really growing into herself- even as Jace is more and more doubting who and what he is. Their relationship doesn’t alter just from finding out that they’re brother and sister- though it has to- but because the footing is changing. In the first book, Clary was someone who very much needed to be protected, because there was a high chance she’d trip over a shoelace and fall on a sword. Jace cast himself as her protector, a clearly defined role. But here, things are changing. Clary still needs protection but she can also help protect others, and Jace isn’t sure he has that ability anymore.

Of course, we can’t really talk about this book without talking about Simon. In many ways, he’s still very much Clary’s (and by extension, the Shadowhunters’) kicked puppy. He tags along, gets hurt, goes away, and always comes back. Love and loyalty, yes, but there’s also a part of him that doesn’t know any place else to be than by Clary’s side. We see flashes of potential in him, a way for him to grow, but he’s not there yet. Right now he’s not even the sidekick, he’s the tagalong (no, not the Girl Scout Cookie). (Yum, Girl Scout cookies…) What happens to him is going to force him to grow, force him to make some hard decisions, especially knowing that he is pretty much always going to be as he is. And- however much Clary might grow and learn and change, she’s still going to be pretty much as she is now as well. He makes a start of looking at some hard truths- I’m looking forward to seeing him have to face the rest of those truths in future books.

There is so much I love about this book, especially little things. I love the almost slapstick mania in the Seelie Court; it’s funny as anything and then suddenly we get this knife-sharp pain, and the contrast is just lovely. I actually really love the Inquisitor. She’s clearly unhinged but the more we learn about her, the more we understand her, the more we actually feel sorry for her. She does terrible, thoughtless things and blurs the line between hard law and personal vendetta until it’s all but meaningless and yet…we still have sympathy for her, which is just astounding writing on Clare’s part. Valentine, too, exhibits this trait- he has a talent for spinning things in such a way that we actually want to believe him. He just sounds so reasonable. We don’t forget that he’s murdering children or summoning demons or intends to do all these horrible things in the name of creating his little happy place kind of world, but he actually makes it sound logical, like it’s genuinely the best overall way.

Middle books of trilogies (as this was originally intended to be) often fall prey to being placeholders. They exist to bridge the first and third books but that’s about it. This one doesn’t fall prey to anything. It constantly stokes the action- and the stakes- higher and higher. Clare still isn’t scared to wound her characters horribly, isn’t afraid to shove them into the dark places and let them struggle to find a way out- or to see if other’s will climb in there to rescue them. There’s a kind of breathless excitement about what’s going on that makes it hard to put down, and you never pull away to think “okay, this is the middle book”. You just want to KEEP GOING. I absolutely loved this book, loved the pain and anguish and oh-so-fragile hope that we get to see, and can’t wait for more.

Until next time~

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