REVIEW: City Of Bones By Cassandra Clare

 

I have made it quite clear before that I am often guilty of judging a book by its cover – If I like the cover art I am more likely to read the blurb and if the cover art annoys me I will likely not give the book a second glance – but I have not admitted that I also judge a book by the quoted people on its cover. If an author I like or admire has said something glowing about the book I am much more likely to read it, and likewise if an author I dislike is quoted I am more hesitant.

This was the case with City of Bones. On the front and back covers as well as in the page of praise inside, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame raved about the series, and the cover and blurb have been fashioned to appeal to the same demographic (teenage girls who like girl meets supernatural being styled romances). Now, I have been quite open with my disdain for the Twilight Saga in this blog so it will come as no surprise that I had a few worries about this book, and the series in general. However my brother (who has no interest in Twilight-esque novels and whose taste in YA is similar to my own) greatly recommended The Mortal Instruments series, and I have heard great things about them in general so I suspended my doubts and dove in.

What I found pleasantly surprised me. Yes, there was an element of Forbidden Love that has become such a cliché in YA literature lately, but it was not of the breed that really irks me, and was more true to the reality of puberty so it could easily be forgiven. Besides the Forbidden Love (which was less prevalent than the very brief blurb insinuated) I was quite impressed with what Clare has created. Her world is a clever combination of the real urban environment of New York paired with the hidden world of Downworlders (Werewolves, Vampires, Warlocks and a fascinating array of demons and half-demons) and the Shadowhunters that are trained to kill any Downworlders that break the Accords (a treaty between Downworlders and Shadowhunters). Her descriptions of the  physicality of different demons and locations hidden by glamour were evocative and fit perfectly into the urban setting. The settings are clever with a certain cheeky logic to them: from a diner that serves such delights as locusts with honey, whole raw fish and blood of various beasts, but then had a perfectly normal human menu on the back; to an abandoned building adopted by werewolves as a makeshift hideout with a glamour proclaiming it Jade Wolf Chinese Cuisine that is so complete that sometimes fledgling lycanthropes even deliver the occasional order of mu shu pork.

The plot moves very quickly from the set-up into the full-on action sequences. Clary Fray is the book’s leading lady, an ordinary teenager who knows nothing of the city’s secret underworld until she follows a couple of suspicious looking teens into a back room of the Pandemonium Club because she sees one of them draw a knife. Upon following them she sees a very strange altercation between the group and a blue-haired boy their companion (a gorgeous girl) lured into the room and subsequently witnesses the boy’s murder. When she tries to alert someone she discovers that no one besides her can see the mysterious trio, and at least one of the apparent murderers (a gorgeous boy with tawny hair and golden eyes called Jace) is very interested in her ability to see him. Meanwhile Clary’s mother has been acting cagey and after forbidding her to go out the next night (which she disobeys) calls her in distress, warning her away from their apartment before the line is cut short. When Clary, accompanied by Jace reaches the apartment it has been ransacked, her mother is missing and a monstrous beast attacks her.

From that point onward Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters (or Nephilim) a race of humans with angel blood that use runes inscribed into their skin and enchanted weapons to fight malevolent demons and other Downworlders. From Jace, his companions Alec and Isabelle and their tutor Hodge, Clary learns about the way of the Shadowhunters and her ingrained but forgotten connection to them while they try to uncover the whereabouts of her mother and the evil actions of a rebel Shadowhunter thought to be long dead.

There is plenty to like in this book (and hopefully the rest of the series), especially for teens and lovers of supernatural action, but unlike some tales in the same vein it isn’t simply love and action scenes with some filler masquerading as plot. The characters are well-developed, with true-to-life teen issues of identity, friendship and hormones making them seem more than just attractive teen warriors. The relationships and interactive dialogue between the characters are believable and there are some great witty one liners.

ultimately it’s not an intricate piece of literature, but it is a very well-constructed example of a genre that is growing from strength to strength, and it is highly enjoyable. I hope I enjoy the continuing installments just as much 🙂

I give City of Bones by Cassandra Clare:

4/5 Stars

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REVIEW: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow

My experience of this book did not start well. I read the first chapter and then put it aside for a week or two, always choosing to read any of the other books rather than this one. Why? Because I couldn’t stand the main character! I thought she was an annoying, stereotypical spoilt-little-rich-girl who only thought of herself. It also didn’t help that she had the same name as an ex of mine – Tamara – a name I use to like, and who knows, I may have been more forgiving of the spoilt-little-rich-girl if I hadn’t had that bad ex experience. However, I did give the spoilt-little-rich-girl/Tamara and The book of tomorrow the benefit of the doubt and forced myself to keep reading and they both taught me not to judge so quickly.

The book of tomorrow may not be the best book I’ve read all year, but after a couple of chapters I found it quite addictive and in fact, my original shunning was turned on its head as i virtually abandoned other books to read this one (especially on the bus- its great bus reading 🙂 )

The book of tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern is narrated by Tamara Goodwin, a 16-year-old girl who lives in Ireland in a giant house with wealthy, distant parents, and engages in drinking and other typical teenager behaviour with a couple of ditzy promiscuous friends and randy teenage boys.  Or at least she use to, before her father downed a bottle of pills with a chaser of booze and Tamara found him dead in his office. Tamara is very blunt about the tragedy and how much it “sucks” that her and her mother now have to sell their house and move in with her hick uncle and aunt in a small Irish town. When Tamara first moves into the gatehouse next to the old burnt-out Kilsaney castle, she sees no upside to the situation and complains about everything. But soon Tamara starts to notice how strange and controlling her aunt Rosaleen is, how silent and non-confrontational her uncle Arthur is and the general secretiveness of the household.

In a chance encounter she meets Marcus, who drives the library book-bus, and while hanging out and flirting with him she spies an interesting book to borrow….one with no title, no author and a lock. Marcus tells her to take it anyway, and after another chance encounter with local nun Sister Ignatius, gets it unlocked, only to find that it’s blank – the book isn’t a novel, it’s a diary. After Sister Ignatius encourages her to write in the diary, Tamara takes it to the old Kilsaney Castle ruins, a place she’s formed an affinity for, and prepares to write her first entry. However, on opening the pages of the book Tamara finds there is already an entry written in her own handwriting and with tomorrow’s date. Confused and curious she reads the entry which details events that will happen that day. When she finishes reading and finds that the day unfolds exactly as it said it would, she is even more confused and despite Sister Ignatius suggesting that she probably wrote it and forgot about it, or wrote in her sleep, Tamara knows she didn’t write the diary. When the next entry appears in the middle of the night as she watches, Tamara believes the entries are appearing for a reason – to warn her of what is to come and help her make different decisions. She uses the diary everyday and slowly unravels the mysteries of her family, Kilsaney Castle and her mother’s worsening condition.

The book of tomorrow is an interesting blend of genres: 1 part YA, 1 part mystery/thriller, 1 part family drama with a dash of fantasy. It covers issues such as grief, family secrets, growing up and fate. It is not the deepest novel, but was more in-depth and emotional then I expected from the first couple of chapters. Not a book that everyone would like, but I would recommend it to people who enjoy novels about skeletons in a family’s closet and how different people deal with death.

I give The book of tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern:

3 ½ / 5 stars

REVIEW : Beatle Meets Destiny By Gabrielle Williams

Beatle Meets Destiny

Welcome all to my first blog review 🙂

On the surface Beatle meets Destiny is a pretty simple story : boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy already has girlfriend, *YAWN* but once you get into the meat of the story, it is so much more than that.

The book centres on a boy, John “Beatle” Lennon and a girl he meets at the bus station on Friday the 13th, Destiny McCartney. Beatle and Destiny are pretty ordinary teenagers in year 12: Beatle has a twin sister, Winsome (that was actually born 6 weeks after him because he was born premature due to an accident his mother had), a kooky superstitious hippie  mother, a couple of close friends, a girlfriend called Cilla (which happens to be his sisters best friend),  he walks with a limp and is wanting to get into film school; Destiny is one of nine kids all with names that “mean” something (Grace, Prudence, Patience, Frank, Faith, Charity, Hope, Destiny of course and Ernest), the daughter of stylish parents, she also has a couple of close friends, writes a regular “joke” horoscope column and excels at Art. They both live in Melbourne, Australia but Beatle’s family is in a poor-middle class area and Destiny’s live in a huge grand house in Kew.

The narrative swaps between the two lives, broken up occasionally with documentary interviews with twins which makes sense at the end of the story (I’m not giving it away 😉 ). The pages involving Beatle and Destiny are printed with the occasional coffee ring or spot, which makes for a very quirky and casual look, and the pages on the twin interviews are printed with bold stripes on the corners, somewhat like the cover, which gives the different parts distinction.

The differing families of the two as well as Beatle’s guilt over already having a girlfriend gives the story a satisfying “star-crossed lovers” feel, but it’s not just about their relationship. The book explores themes of friendship and family, “accidental” relationships, superstitions and destiny, being a twin, and being young and getting into trouble. It is a simple story but with plenty happening, so it soon becomes addictive and enjoyable reading. it also has an effortless, young humor to it that I really enjoyed. I think it would be a great book for teens, especially those of a similar age, and it could easily be a lighthearted addition to an English curriculum.

I give Beatle meets Destiny By Gabrielle Williams:

4/5 stars.