Book Review: City of Ashes

If you really love something, you never try to keep it the way it is forever. You have to let it be free to change.

cityofashes_cassandraclareTitle: City of Ashes

Author: Cassandra Clare

# of Pages: 453

Published:  January 1, 2008

Rating: 4 Hearts

Synopsis:

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? [Goodreads]

My Opinion:

This book was fantastic! I didn’t necessarily love the first book, but I liked it enough to read the next book in the series and I am so glad that I did. This book was intriguing, hilarious, and action-packed.

What I liked:

Above all, I liked the relationship/friendship between Clary and Simon. I just find there to be something so special and innocent about the two of them. Maybe it is because they have known each other practically their whole lives, so it is safe or because how Simon thinks and feels about Clary is just so sweet. I haven’t decided yet, but I can’t wait to see what is in store for them.

The character of Magnus Bane is slowly growing on me. I wasn’t too much of a fan of his in the first book, but he really came back for the win in this one. Besides his “secret” relationship with Alec, I just find him to be absolutely hilarious. From his outrageous outfits to his remarks; there is just so much spunk and attitude surrounding him. “… a warlock who looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog and dresses like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

I really liked the take on faeries, vampires, and werewolves in this series. I am normally not one for fantasy novels (besides Harry Potter and Twilight), but I think the way they are portrayed a bit differently than usual is quite creative.

**SPOILER** One of the character changes that I most enjoyed is Simon’s transformation to a vampire. He is by far my favorite character in all his nerdy-ness, so I wasn’t so sure how I felt about him becoming a child of the night, but in the end it worked for me. He adapted to it and the jokes he managed were the best! “Because I forsee many romantic picnics in our future. You, drinking a virgin piña colada. Me, drinking the blood of a virgin.” **SPOILER**

This was a beautifully written sentence: “Inside him the cold of fall battled with the memory of summer.”

What I disliked:

The Jace and Clary thing. I understand the story there and in the first book it made sense- long lost brother and sister who met not knowing they were related and ended up falling for each other only to find out they are siblings. That is where it should stop. It seemed as if they were trying to end it, but then certain events would throw them back together such as the seen in the Faerie Court. I thought that part could have been left out. I am not going to bash this storyline as incest, but it needs to end.

I haven’t figured out why all of a sudden in this book there are random Bible verses thrown into the mix. I am a Christian and I enjoy a good fantasy book about demons and angels every once in awhile, but I don’t see why we need to bring the Bible into it. The first book was good and it made sense, sticking random verses in there didn’t really help the story.

What I thought overall:

I really, really enjoyed this book. I am so glad I didn’t give up on the series after the first book, because City of Ashes was definitely worth my time. It made me laugh on multiple occasions and held me on the edge of my seat. I honestly couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait to start the next one. Do I recommend reading it? Yes (but only after reading City of Bones).

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Book Review: Leaving Time

Could love be not grand gestures or empty vows, not promises meant to be broken, but instead a paper trail of forgiveness? A line of crumbs made of memories, to lead you back to the person who was waiting?

leavingtime_jodipicoultTitle: Leaving Time

Author: Jodi Picoult

# of Pages: 398

Published: October 14, 2014

Rating: 3 Hearts

Synopsis:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. [Goodreads]

My Opinion:

I have been highly anticipating this novel. I bought an e-reader, so I could read the prequel. I went to a meet-and-green with Jodi. I have a signed copy of the book. But I have to admit that it is not my new favorite. I just didn’t love it. Being an avid Picoult reader, I love how she never fails to deliver a twist ending and I must say that this one really threw me for a loop.

What I liked:

I found the incorporation of elephants to be a refreshing addition to the story. It was packed full of facts that I thought were very interesting. I don’t want to give too much away, but a couple of my favorites facts are that elephants hold grudges and have trunks that stretch like accordions.

The relationship between Thomas and Alice in the beginning. Thomas was so nerdy and cute with his glasses fogging up when he came to Africa for the first time; plus his adorable little trick with the origami elephant. “It was almost as if there was a tear in the fabric I was made of, and he was the only color thread that would match to stitch it back up.”

The twist ending was completely out of the blue… well at least for me. I won’t give it away. I will say that I don’t think it was one of her most creative plot twists, but it was definitely one that I didn’t see coming. I always try to figure out where she is headed, but for some reason what she picked never crossed my mind. Which was a nice surprise.

Jenna and Virgil’s friendship was really genuine to me. There is just something about a washed up, old detective and a preteen hanging out and having some good laughs that is just so sweet. I love weird, unexpected friendships and this one had moments that really made me smile. As the story progressed, I really liked how he became protective over her, like the father figure she never had.

What I disliked:

The characters in general were not very likable. There is a preteen, a psychic, and an ex-detective. Yep, I know, a bit cliche. Then add the missing mother and crazy father who both happen to be scientists, and throw in the extended family consisting of the three others who work with elephants. Jenna– I felt for her wanting to find her mom and everything, but I thought her character was a bit far-fetched. She was thirteen years old, but came across more like eighteen. She just seemed to be a bit too mature and was just way too street smart and book smart to be taken seriously. Serenity– I am not one for psychic stories, but I liked her the most from the beginning. I felt she had the most character development and I could really see her story being real (minus the actually believing in psychic things). I found her to be funny, confident, and maybe I’m biased, because she drove a yellow VW bug and I am obsessed with those. Virgil– I don’t care much for drunk characters, but I thought it was a bit lazy to create a character with the alcoholic ex-detective stigma. He was just too easy and not very original. Alice– the mother; I thought she was great in the prequel and in her younger years having so much attitude and spunk, but I started to dislike her as the story progressed. Thomas– I liked him in the beginning and I never actually came to a point where I hated him, but I felt he was doomed from the start. He was extremely smart, had a mental disorder, his disorder causes him to have an abusive lapse, and then ends up being cheated on. “A bruise is how the body remembers it’s been wronged.” Poor guy. I would crack too.

 Infidelity is not something I necessarily like to read about. I understand that not all relationships are perfect, but even when things get tough, I don’t think it is ok to just peace out and find the next best thing. Or not peace out and just do in secret. The relationships were pretty messed up in this story and I partially blame Alice for this; she didn’t really seem to understand what marriage means. It seemed to me like she gave up too easily.

The storyline is really quite confusing. It was so full of theories and subplots that I just found it to be really hard to follow at times. Once I made it past the halfway mark, it started to pick up speed and make more sense. But then you hit the last fourth of the book and the twists start coming out and the confusion comes back.

What I thought overall:

It was a good novel, but not a Picoult masterpiece. If you want to learn a little about an amazing animal, while reading an interesting book about a young girl searching for her long lost mom… then I would definitely look into it. It provides some great laughs, lots of interesting facts, and a few smiley/teary moments. Was this my new favorite Jodi Picoult novel? No. Will I read her next book? Yes. Do I recommend reading it? Yes (specifically for avid Picoult readers).