romantic

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 Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni, Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Helene Wecker (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Historical and Paranormal Fantasy
Published: HarperCollins, April 23 2013
Pages: 496
My copy: the publisher via Edelweiss

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Not available on kindle • Barnes & Noble

Review

I was first attracted to The Golem and the Jinni because of the cover (see my recent Cover Lover post), but the blurb further intrigued me. It combines two genres that I love to read – historical fiction and mythological creatures.

The Golem and the Jinni is the story of two creatures of myth – a Golem created out of clay and animated with dark Kabbalist magic, and a Jinni of the Syrian desert, trapped for a thousand years in a metal oil flask. Each of them comes to America with migrants, and must try to find their way while keeping their natures secret. Luckily for them, each has a confidante in their respective ex-pat communities who helps them to integrate into society as best they can. They meet in New York at the turn of the twentieth century and each instantly recognise the otherworldliness of the other. This story is not just about their relationship, but also about the lives of those in the Jewish and Syrian ex-pat communities as well as others who call New York City home. Each has their own story of heartbreak and hope and their story threads are woven into the picture of immigrant life. It was a hard life for those who chose to leave their countries, families and all that was familiar and make a new start in a strange country, but the community banded together to help newcomers, and as long as you brought with you a willingness to work hard, things worked out just fine.

These are characters that stay with you after you’ve finished reading – the doctor who was possessed by a demon and cannot look at faces anymore, the coffee shop owner who knows all the business of her customers and oils the cogs of community life, the young heiress who cannot face the life of boredom that awaits her once she is married.

As the characters travel through the city of New York, it almost feels like the city is a character in itself. I’ve only been to NYC once for a couple of days, but I could feel the spirit of the city as I read about the Jinni walking the streets and visiting the different neighbourhoods.

Throughout the story the subject of religion is brought up at different points – from the Jinni trying to understand why these strange humans would bother believing in a ghost in the sky who grants wishes, to the agnostic Michael re-discovering the soothing sounds of his childhood in the Synagogue. This is by no means a religious story, but the different ways that religion manifests in people’s lives is explored in quite a profound way. The main feeling I took away from the story is that for many people, their faith is a constant – a comforting way to deal with everyday pressures, joys and tragedies. Thankfully, the different religious groups in NYC keep to themselves and there’s no actual religious conflict during this story.

The Golem and the Jinni has been compared to quite a few books, such as A Discovery of WitchesThe Night CircusJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I really didn’t think it was similar to any of those. The pacing is spot on – quite comfortable for much of the story but gradually building with the tension. The romance element is very subtle, almost non-existent in fact, but still quite lovely.

Helene Wecker has created a beautiful story full of loneliness, self-discovery and magic. It is a perfect combination of folklore set in a historical setting. I found it very enjoyable and I’ll be looking out for Wecker’s future works for sure.

Warnings: Sexual situations (not graphic) but on the whole, quite squeaky clean.

What did others think of The Golem and the Jinni?

  • “It’s a magical tale, but the magic is not overt. It’s subtle, and lies more in the sense of wonder and creation than the fantastical.” – Let Them Read Books
  • “Absolutely stunning and captivating I cannot recommend the Golem and the Jinni enough.” – Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer
  • “Both subtly magical, and mythical, The Golem and the Jinni excels at crafting a wide array of characters, as well as showcasing 19th century New York.” – Ageless Page Reviews

Review: The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure Julie KagawaTitle: The Eternity Cure (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #2
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror
Published: Harlequin Teen, 30 April 2013.
Pages: 446
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

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

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2

Please note, this is my review for the second book in the Blood of Eden series and so contains spoilers for the first book. You may wish to read my review of The Immortal Rules instead!


Review

After the rollercoaster ride that was The Immortal Rules, I was keen to get stuck into The Eternity Cure. I was delighted to discover that, although a little slow at the beginning while things were re-capped, this second instalment gripped me just as much as the first!

Allison Sekemoto has delivered her friends to safety, but as a vampire, she is not welcome with them. She resumes her search for her mentor, Kanin, following her sense of his presence as her sire. She knows he is being held captive and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren, but instead of being led to Kanin, she discovers her sibling, Jackal – the leader of the Raider city her human friends had been held captive in not long ago. It seems he and Allison might be after the same goal in the short term, but is it safe to trust him?

Even though the subject matter in this story is often quite dark and violent, there is just enough light-hearted humour to bring the story out of being a depressing read. The first few chapters contain quite a lot of re-cap from the first book, so it felt a little slow to someone like me who only just read the first book, but once the action got going, it was all go, go, go. The journey into and back out of New Covington was nail-bitingly suspenseful and there were just enough twists to keep me guessing all the way to the end. And wow, what an ending! The third book cannot come fast enough!

When Allie first meets back up with Jackal, I was a bit confused. I didn’t remember him playing a very large role in the first book – apart from being a heartless bastard, that is. In any case, he was an interesting and enigmatic addition to the new storyline, and even by the end we have no idea whether he is trustworthy or not. Such a well-written character, and I enjoyed his snark, even if I wanted to slap him more than a few times! Zeke, also, is quite different in this book – harder and more kick-arse. As the only human through a lot of the story he does a great job at making sure none of the vampires push him around, even if they could rip out his throat at any moment.

The one thing that slightly disappointed me about this book was the romantic aspect. I know, I know, it’s young adult, there has to be some romance, and after the scene at the end (no spoilers) it is necessary to a certain degree (my heart! *clutches*), but hear me out. After Zeke appears back on the scene, he knows that Allie is a vampire and that she is now working with Jackal, but he forgives her way too quickly, in my opinion. The rebuilding of their relationship could have been drawn out until the very end of the book in exquisite agony for each of them, but no. I’m trying not to give too much of anything away here, so I’ll just say that the romantic elements of this particular book didn’t work for me.

The Eternity Cure is a much darker book than The Immortal Rules in a lot of ways, but still brilliantly written and full of edge-of-the-seat suspense all the way through. I would highly recommend this series to any dark urban fantasy enthusiasts.

Warnings: Graphic violence.

Blood of Eden series

immortalrules The Eternity Cure Julie Kagawa

What did others think of The Eternity Cure?

  • “Even better than the first book! Fast pacing and high action combine for a gripping, edge of your seat read!” – Auntie Spinelli Reads
  • “It is Jackal – Allison’s blood brother and old enemy – that truly makes an impression in this instalment. He is cocky, presumptuous, unpredictable, and, more than anything, a brilliant source of dark humour and entertainment.” – Realm of Fiction
  • “…I don’t know that I’ve ever read a vampire story — especially from the point-of-view of the vampire — that I’ve loved more.  And I’ve read a lot of good ones.  Trust me.” – The Starry-Eyed Revue

Review: The Immortal Rules, Julie Kagawa

The Immortal RulesTitle: The Immortal Rules (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)  

Rating: ★★★★★

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #1
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror (Vampires and Zombies, oh my!)
Published: Harlequin Teen, April 2012. Paperback March 26, 2013.
Pages: 485
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

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

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1

Review

I heard so many amazing things about this book around its original publication date in 2012, but avoided it because, well… vampires. I really wish I had picked it up though – I ended up loving it as much as everyone else seemed to!

At some point in the near future, a deadly disease wipes out most of the human population of earth. The vampires were not susceptible to the disease, and barricaded themselves within certain cities, keeping some humans nearby as a food source in exchange for relative safety. In trying to create a cure for the disease, the rabids were created – mindless zombies who roam the world outside the cities, killing any living creature in their path.

Allison (known as Allie) lives in the fringe of the city where everyday survival is a struggle for those who choose to remain unregistered as “blood donors” by the vampires. One fateful night, Allie and her group are attacked and killed by rabids. Allie, however, doesn’t stay dead. She is “rescued” by a vampire – turned into the very thing that she hates.

Allie spends much of the story trying to come to terms with the fact that she is now dead, no longer human, and a blood-craving monster. I really admired her strength, but also her vulnerability as she mourns the life she left behind, even if it wasn’t much of a life. Her journey out of the city and towards the fabled city of Eden is very tense – at any moment she could be discovered or attacked, or get a whiff of blood and lose her self-control. The pacing is just right and I couldn’t put the book down – in fact it kept me reading well into the night with a torch while I was camping over the Easter weekend!

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole business with the religious group at first. I was slightly annoyed that religion had come into it, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense for someone like Jeb to have such a single-minded purpose. I must admit I thought Zeke was a bit too much of a warm fuzzy romantic interest rather than a real leader, but he does improve by the end. I hope Allison manages to run into him again before long.

Vampire society, while briefly introduced to Allie by Kanin during her training, doesn’t play any part in this part of the story. The fact that we see barely any other vampires and that Kanin disappears from the picture so quickly made it painfully obvious that this is just the first part of a much larger story. I’ll be interested to see how he comes back into things.

I would highly recommend The Immortal Rules for anyone who likes the sound of a gritty dystopian, with vampires and zombies who are slightly different from the current norm. The second book in this series, The Eternity Cure, is due for release at the start of May and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it!

Warnings: Graphic violence including towards children.

Blood of Eden series

The Immortal Rules The Eternity Cure

What did others think of The Immortal Rules?

  • “If you swore never to pick up a vampire book again, this book is worth breaking that promise over.” – Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “Allison is actually a kick-ass heroine set to rival the likes of Buffy and whilst I didn’t see her as more than a regurgitated Katniss at first, she soon proved to be a hell of a lot more.” – Once Upon A Time
  • “The Immortal Rules is anything but traditional, and most importantly it is GOOD. (And by good I mean awesome to the point where I had trouble doing my job because I kept telling myself to read “just one more page” on my Kindle app.)” – Nina on Goodreads

Tour: Socialpunk, Monica Leonelle – Review and Giveaway

Welcome to The Oaken Bookcase stop on the Socialpunk Blog Tour! You can find links to the other blogs taking part on the socialpunktrilogy.com site, but make sure you enter the giveaway below my review first!

Title: Socialpunk (Goodreads)
Author:  Monica Leonelle (@monicaleonelle)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.

 

Details

Series: Socialpunk Trilogy (1 of 3)
Genre: YA Dystopia/Cyberpunk
Published: Spaulding House, March 27 2012
My copy: Review e-copy from the Author
Paper copies: Amazon.com
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

I really enjoyed reading this book – the action just keeps on rolling and I found it very difficult to stop reading!

At first, Socialpunk looks a lot like another YA dystopia I read recently, Divergent. Like Divergent, Socialpunk is set in a future Chicago, cut off from the rest of the world. There’s some jumping on trains and joining of social groups, here called a “hash” rather than a faction, but that’s really where the similarities ended.

Socialpunk is filled with interesting future tech – cybernetics, creative art directly from thoughts and food in pill form, to name but a few things. It’s a fascinating society as well, although we don’t get to hear as much about how it all works as I would have liked. What are the hashes for? Perhaps we’ll find out in the future books.

The story is action-packed and very compelling. I found the love polygon a little overdone for my tastes – it seems everyone is in love with someone else, but the relationships are all very sweet. Ima herself is a strong and determined girl with a past that makes her vulnerable. I do think that I’d put up a bit more of a fight if someone was trying to implant cybernetics in me, though!

Fans of high-tech dystopian stories will love Socialpunk. I know I’m looking forward to the next instalment, Socialmob, due for release in July 2012.

Giveaway

Monica Leonelle is holding a tour-wide giveaway to promote the launch of the Socialpunk Trilogy, open Internationally!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

What did others think of Socialpunk?

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: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Goodreads)

Author:   Laini Taylor

Rating:

Series: Book 1 of 3 (planned and unnamed)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Published: Hachette Book Group, 2011

Pages: 418
Paper copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukEbooks.com

“Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.”

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Review

I was a bit wary picking this book up since it has been hyped beyond any other book recently released. Thankfully, Daughter of Smoke and Bone delivers. I started reading it a couple of days before I was due to do some travelling for work and thank goodness I did – it gave me a few uninterrupted hours of reading time during which I couldn’t bear to put the Kindle down.

I’ve intentionally left this review fairly vague to avoid spoilers, and also because it had been a while since I read any reviews or descriptions of this book before I started reading it which ended up working really well – the story starts slowly, revealing piece by piece of Karou’s lives in Prague and “Elsewhere”.

I loved this book! The action was fast-paced and exciting, the story of love and hope of peace between warring races is sweet and lovely, and the romantic scenes were rather swoon-worthy. Karou is a strong, but vulnerable heroine. I felt the love-at-first-sight introduction of Akiva was a little overdone at first, but later the reasons unfolded and it made more sense. I shall say no more in the interest of avoiding spoilers!

I loved the descriptions of places in our world, especially Prague. I only visited the city for one day but I certainly remember the twisting passageways and odd little shops tucked away in the old town area. What a brilliant setting for a fantasy tale!

The worlds and events described in this book are so detailed that I felt I was almost seeing the action taking place before me. I was so pleased to discover that the rights to make Daughter of Smoke and Bone into a film have been acquired by Universal Studios – I thought a couple of times while reading that the story could make a beautiful and unique movie, and I really hope they will do just that.

The story shifts between Karou and Akiva’s points of view, and also jumps backwards and forwards in time to tell different parts of the characters’ histories. I found this a little off-putting at times, especially as they are just getting into exciting events and suddenly we are in a flashback to a much earlier time. The flashbacks are rarely more than one chapter so we get back to the action quickly, but I felt they disrupted the flow of the story a little.

The ending left me open-mouthed and desperate to know more. The second book in the series will be called Days of Blood and Starlight and is due for release in September 2012. I cannot wait.

Challenge: I read this book as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge, hosted by Book’d Out.

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