laugh

Review: City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare

City of AshesCity of Ashes (Goodreads)
Author:   Cassandra Clare

Rating: ★★★★☆

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

Details

Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
Genre: YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008
Pages: 453

Paper copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukBarnes & Noble • Bookworld (ePub)

Please note: This review is for the second in the Mortal Instruments series and so contains spoilers for the first book, City of Bones. You may wish to read my review of that book instead!


Review

It’s been quite a while since I read City of Bones, but after I saw the film recently I was keen to get back into Jace, Clary and Simon’s world to see what happens next. I didn’t think the movie was done very well, but that’s another story I’ll rant about another time…

At the end of City of Bones, (spoiler incoming) View Spoiler ». There’s no time to clean up the mess before Alec and Isabelle’s mother, Maryse turns up with the Shadowhunter Inquisitor, charged with finding out what is going on. Meanwhile, “Downworlder” children are being murdered in New York City and the Shadowhunters must find out who is behind it before they strike again.

In my City of Bones review, I mentioned I was disappointed by the cheesy one-liners that are everywhere in the dialogue (and I mean, everywhere). In City of Ashes the cheesiness is still there, but I think after having seen the movie and got used to the slightly toungue-in-cheek nature of Cassie Clare’s storytelling style, I’ll admit I didn’t find it quite so annoying.

There are still some annoying things about the characters in this story, mind you. Jace, for one, was just so whiny and brooding all the time. I mean, he does have quite a lot to be brooding about, but he’s always so grumpy, I’m not really sure what Clary sees in him! (my blogging buddy Philippa is going to kill me at this point, she loves Jace! Sorry!).

I did, however, enjoy the development in almost all the characters in this story – Simon’s transformation, the development of Clary’s powers, and the fact that we’re never quite sure which side Jace is actually on until the very end. Also, there is an almost exquisite awkwardness about Clary and Jace’s relationship. I’m going to hide this behind spoilers because really, if you haven’t read City of Bones, you don’t want to know yet! If you’re in a feed reader, click through to see the spoiler.

View Spoiler »

This series is written in such an engaging style – I struggled to put it down at all. I thought the storyline was a little thin, but it was the character interaction that kept me turning the pages all the way through.

Despite most of the plot threads being tidied away, City of Ashes ends on such a cliffhanger that I am almost having to jump right into the next book immediately!

Fans of YA Urban Fantasy, what are you waiting for? The Shadowhunters’ world is waiting for you.

The Mortal Instruments

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare City of Ashes City of Glass
 cityoffallenangels  cityoflostsouls

#6: City of Heavenly Fire

TBP May 2014

Review: The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth, Terry PratchettTitle: The Long Earth (Goodreads)

Authors: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Rating: ★★★★☆

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there’s no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget – a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a ‘stepper’. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one… 

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Science fiction
Published: HarperCollins, June 19, 2012
Pages: 336
My copy: Digital RC from the publisher via Edelweiss, thanks!

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Joshua is a natural stepper – that is, unlike the rest of Earth’s population, he can “step” to the other realities that make up the Long Earth without the use of a stepper box. Since the stepper box was invented, humans have been migrating away from “Datum Earth” to inhabit the alternative worlds across the Long Earth – worlds untouched by humans and covered in forest, arable land and mining prospects. Joshua heads off on a research journey with a man reincarnated into a computer to the ends of the Long Earth.  Meanwhile, back on Datum Earth, the world economy is collapsing and unrest is starting to rise among those who are unable to step or are against it for various reasons.

The story follows Joshua and Lobsang’s journey across the Long Earth, as well as snapshots of other people’s experiences. The book as a whole is more of a collection of shorter stories exploring the possible effects of suddenly having millions of untouched Earths at humanity’s fingertips. The descriptions of each Earth explored were very imaginative and I’m sure they could have gone on much longer, describing endless worlds with various permutations of dinosaurs or seal-people or whatever took their fancy! There’s a gradual building of tension throughout the story but the climax was a bit of a fizzer, I thought. Perhaps there’s more to come.

The Long Earth is rich in philosophy and is what I would call “proper” science fiction – exploring future possibilities with a healthy dollop of high-tech gadgets. I’m no expert in quantum mechanics but I always find stories about the possibilities of multiple realities fascinating. This particular variation is not the usual interpretation – each step in the Long Earth is a bit different than the last, but ours is the only reality where Homo sapiens has evolved.

The characters in this story disappointed me slightly. I didn’t really engage with Joshua. He seemed quite grumpy and prickly all the time. I did quite like Lobsang in the end, even if he did make some baffling decisions.

I am a huge fan of Pratchett’s Discworld series, but if you’re expecting a light and funny read from The Long Earth, you might be disappointed.  That’s not to say there aren’t funny moments – in fact there were quite a few places where I recognised Pratchett’s turn of humorous phrase. I haven’t read any Baxter before, but I’ll be adding him to my to-read list now.

Science fiction fans will love The Long Earth, but if you prefer action, you might find this a little slow.

Warnings: Mild violence

Review: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Bones (Goodreads)

Author:   Cassandra Clare

Rating: 

Series: The Mortal Instruments, Book 1 of 4 (5 & 6 planned)
Genre: YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008
Pages: 512 (paperback)

Paper copies (paperback): Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk • Diesel Ebooks

Clary Fray has just witnessed a murder in a nightclub, committed by three teenagers that only she can see. Things only get more strange as her mother disappears, she is attacked by a demon, and she and her best friend Simon are drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters.

Review

Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, Faeries – The Mortal Instruments has it all. This is not, however, another Twilight clone. City of Bones begins what promises to be a great story of good against evil, tolerance against bigotry, falling in love with the wrong people and learning that all the stories are true.

City of Bones came well-recommended to me and I was looking forward to seeing whether all the hype was deserved. As I read the first few chapters of this book though, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Here were Clary and Simon, ordinary teenagers. They meet a trio of mysterious, tattooed youths who seem very free with information about their secret world.

As more and more details about the Shadow World are revealed, I couldn’t help but cringe at the dialogue even though it was quite funny at times. Pretty much everything Simon says in the whole book is a chucklesome one-liner, and the other characters engage in witty repartee even in the most dramatic of situations. Teenagers, at least the ones I know, just don’t talk like that. I just felt a little like such an epic story deserved characters who took the whole thing a little more seriously.

Despite their dialogue, I did become quite fond of the characters as the book went on. Clary, despite being blind as a bat when it comes to relationships, was a sweet character. She did seem to spend rather a lot of time looking at Jace’s muscles – but who wouldn’t, right? The obligatory love-polygon (it’s more than a triangle!) aspect was well written and left me wanting to read the next book to tie up the loose relationship ends.

The second half of the book was action-packed and left me unable to put it down – I nearly missed my station on the train a few times this week! I loved the Shadow World that Cassandra Clare has created. The storyline (in the first book, anyway) was quite reminiscent of the Harry Potter series – I was unsurprised to find out later that Cassie Clare had previously written Harry Potter fanfiction and has supposedly used some of that material in City of Bones. I’m hoping that the story will take on some more unique elements in the rest of the series.

City of Bones was an entertaining and exciting read. Read this book if you loved Harry Potter and if you’re a Young Adult fantasy fan.

Read it to your little ‘uns? Not really. There’s no swearing or naughty bits, but it’s really a story for bigger ‘uns.

Challenges: City of Bones fits neatly into the Immortal Challenge in several categories, but I’ll slot it into Werewolves since my Angels/Demons section is looking pretty full.

Review: Snuff, Terry Pratchett

Title: Snuff (Goodreads)

Author:   Terry Pratchett

Rating: 

Series: Discworld, No 39

Genre: YA/Adult Fantasy

Published: Doubleday, 2011

Pages: 378

Paper copies (hardback): Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository

E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk • Ebooks.com

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.

He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.

They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

But not quite all…

Review

The National Year of Reading theme for February is Laugh, and if there’s one Fantasy author who makes me laugh, it’s Terry Pratchett.

I’ve loved reading each book in the Discworld series as they’ve been released for a long time now. I love the world that Pratchett has built over the years, populated with its many varieties of people and creatures and reflecting the real world in a slighty wonky mirror. I usually find that the stories begin fairly quietly, then become harder and harder to put down – the type of stories that cause me to miss my stop on the train, or stay awake reading until I realise that it’s suddenly two am and I have to be up in a few hours.

Snuff is no exception, almost making me rather late for work a couple of times, although in this case the most exciting part is a fair way before the end of the story and the rest sort of comes in bites of action.  This installment in the story of the Discworld is about murder, slavery and prejudice with a tip of the hat to Jane Austen. There are some pretty dark goings-on such as torture, loss of children and sacrifice that aren’t directly dealt with in the story, but we see the aftermath.

In general, I’m not a fan of the Commander Vimes books. The stories about the City Watch are great, don’t get me wrong (plus I think I have a bit of a thing for Captain Carrot), but Vimes occasionally comes across as being a bit too self-important, for all his supposed hatred of his titles. He always seems to know exactly what’s happening before it happens. While that may make him a good copper, it tends to annoy me for no particularly good reason.

That said, I do enjoy the stories he is usually a part of, involving other races and their acceptance into Ankh-Morpork society. I also love Lady Sybil and little Sam and I think they should be in more stories!

While Snuff was not my favourite Discworld book, it is still a very exciting and funny read. Get yourself a copy and have a Laugh this month.

~~

On a related note, here’s my Discworld shelf. A shiny gold star goes to anyone who can tell me if I’m missing any!

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