City of Bones

city_of_bonesTitle: City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Number of Pages: 485

Fiction

Plot Overview: At New York’s Pandemonium Club, Clary Fray – and only Clary Fray – witnesses a brutal murder. That’s the first problem. The second problem: golden-haired, arrogant, not-quite-human Jace, who helps to commit the murder and catches Clary watching. Soon, Clary is sucked into a labyrinthine underworld replete with demons, angels, vampires, and werewolves, where nothing is as it seems and no-one can be trusted.

What I Liked: Jace, as a character, was occasionally entertaining, and the story featured characters with nonstandard sexual orientations, which was excellent.

What I Disliked: Cue the rant… Clary as a leading female character is a royal pain. Due to her unique situation as a mundane (more on that terminology later) who can see the supernatural, she’s often put in a position of weakness and confusion, causing extreme reliance on Jace and the other Shadowhunters (the not-particularly-clever moniker for the supernatural-hunting teenagers). This creates an awkward dynamic – one wants to root for Clary but is stuck wishing that she could be self-reliant for once. Jace fits the arrogant, talented, attractive love interest stereotype to a T. Also, the world that Clary operates in reads like a completely boring cross between the Bible, Harry Potter, and Twilight. Supernatural teenagers? Crack open any one of the Twilight books. Werewolves and vampires that hate each other? Perhaps the only plot device in the entire saga. Lucifer and the descendants of angels? Pure Christian lore. Normal, non-magical humans, the term for which starts M-U-…? Straight out of Harry Potter. A twist that’s decently imagined but poorly executed? Looking at you, Breaking Dawn. The writing style did little to distinguish itself from other novels in the same genre.

Other Notes: Cassandra Clare has expanded this world into many sequels, so perhaps they aren’t all this disappointing.

Other Reviews: The Guardian reviews this book here.

Final Verdict: Exceedingly unimpressive. Don’t read.

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An Abundance Of Katherines

41dmcwlqdnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Title: An Abundance of Katherines

Author: John Green

Number of Pages:

Fiction

Plot Overview: Colin is a prodigy. A prodigy who isn’t quite a genius and who has been dumped by 19 Katherines (always K-a-t-h-e-r-i-n-e, never Catherine or Kathryn) in a row. Most recently, it was K-19, kind and wonderful, who’s totally driven Colin off the rails. So Colin’s best friend, Hassan, drags him out the door and into the car for a road trip, ending up in Gutshot, Tennessee. There they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, her boyfriend TOC (The Other Colin), TOC’s friends JATT and SOCT (Jeans Are Too Tight and Short One Chewing Tobacco, respectively), and a town struggling to stay afloat. There Colin begins work on his masterpiece – the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which attempts to chart the course of any relationship.

What I Liked: The characters were decently strong; Colin definitely grew on me as the book went along. Green is excellent at developing his characters. The routes they take throughout the story are unusual and worth following. The use of footnotes in this book is a nice touch, distinguishing it from the average YA road-trip novel. Speaking of which, I love the world this story operates in. From anagramming to hog hunting to secret caves to Katherine predictability to storytelling, it’s so fun to live in for 215 pages. The plot is different, yet not incredible. In terms of writing style, it’s classic John Green: natural, funny, yet occasionally pretty.

What I Didn’t Like: The characters were stereotypical: the nerd, the lazy, sarcastic best friend, the not-exceptionally-pretty yet still attractive girl, the terrible boyfriend. They started predictably and ended predictably. I have the same quibble with this book as I have with most road-trip stories: some of it feels far-fetched. Staying with a stranger? Just being allowed to up and leave on a trip? That’s somewhat outside the realm of possibility. Also, the story was unspectacular. Boy goes on road trip to get over broken heart and falls in love again.

Other Notes: John Green is an exceedingly successful author – he’s behind titles such as The Fault in Our StarsLooking For Alaska, and Paper Towns. Alongside his brother, he runs a YouTube channel, Crash Course, where he teaches pieces of classes such as English, World History, and American history.

Other Reviews: The New York Times has published a decent review of this book, which can be found here.

Final Verdict: Fun, alternately lighthearted and serious. Worth picking up.

The Demon King

Title: The Demon Kingdk_cover_md

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Number of Pages: 506

Fiction

Plot Overview: Hanson Alister goes by many names. Han. Cuffs, his street name, for the silver bracelets locked around his wrists. Hunts Alone, when he stays in the Spirit Mountains, among the native clans of the Fells. With a mother and sister to support, he makes a living however he can, be it hunting, running errands, or stealing and killing. Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir to the throne of the Fells (the crown passes through the female side of the family) realizes that she may be a mere pawn in a deadly fight for power between Lord Gavan Bayar, the High Wizard, her clan-born father Averill Lightfoot, and her mother, Queen Marianna ana’Rissa. Raisa battles for her freedom. Han battles for his life. The Kingdom of the Fells teeters on the brink of disaster.

What I liked: This book checks all of the major boxes required for a excellent book.

  • Characters: Well-drawn and relatable. Extra props to the smooth, only slightly evil Micah Bayar (son of Gavan) for his suave arrogance – he was a royal pain but so fun to dislike. Amon Byrne, Raisa’s childhood friend, earned points (P.S. The point system is completely arbitrary) for his steadfast loyalty. Han wore so many faces throughout this novel, making it hard to pinpoint exactly what he was like, but his sarcastic, dry wit was a delightful constant. And Raisa! Witty, intelligent, brave Raisa, determined to rule wisely and be an effective queen by herself. She’s one of my favorite female characters in literature.
  • Story/Plot: The world felt fully detailed. The story was unique, and the plot unpredictable. Chima was smart to hide her plot twists as secrets: since the focal characters were unaware of what was to come, so was the reader.
  • Writing style: Descriptive while not overly flowery. The writing was just icing on the proverbial cake; it added another dimension to an already rich story.

What I disliked: The only thing I found annoying was the sometimes blatant nature of Chima’s exposition. Occasionally, she resorted to unabridged moving along of the plot, even if it meant a character asking an obvious question. Other than that, I really enjoyed it!

Other Notes: Cinda Williams Chima has also written the Heir Chronicles, which I took up briefly, then stopped. The Demon King is the first of four books. The middle two (titled The Exiled Queen and The Gray Wolf Throne) are not terribly exciting, but worthwhile, because the fourth book (The Crimson Crown) is breathtaking. She’s just released another novel, Flamecaster, set in the same world as The Demon King, which I’m so excited to read.

Other Reviews: Thea James, at thebooksmugglers.com, has published a longer review (as well as reviews for the other three books), which can be found here.

Final Verdict: Read it! I loved it.

The Falconer

15791085Title: The Falconer

Author: Elizabeth May

Number of Pages: 373

Fiction

Plot Overview: One year ago, Lady Alieana Kameron watched helplessly as a faery ripped out her mother’s heart. From that day forward, she has hunted the fae with a merciless vengeance. Alongside her mentor, the cold, unforgiving faery Kiaran MacKay, she must protect her native Scotland while hunting her mother’s murderer.

What I Liked: Strong, witty, leading female character? Check. Faeries, in all shapes, temperaments, and sizes, with Gaelic names? Check. A couple of quirky supporting characters, including a goofy pixie sidekick named Derrick? Check. Steampunk weaponry? Check. Nineteenth-century Scotland as a backdrop? Check. These are the ingredients of a really fun read.

What I Didn’t Like: The storyline, though compelling, is not particularly original. There wasn’t any plot device that I couldn’t see coming. Alieana, for all her excellent qualities, had a wishy-washy streak that was sometimes frustrating, especially during the romantic episodes (yes, there’s a romance. It’s not my favorite element of the book). Also, the sentence structure throughout the book is very monotonous. The story was told in first-person limited, and nearly every sentence started with “I [insert verb]”. However, annoying though it was, the lack of diversity was not nearly enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Other Notes: I was thrilled to see a story set in Scotland! Also, this is Elizabeth May’s debut novel. A sequel, The Vanishing Throne, is currently out, and the conclusion to the trilogy appears to be in the works.

Other Reviews: Jia, at dearauthor.com, has a quality, in-depth review out on this book, which can be found here.

Final Verdict: The enjoyable elements in this book outweighed the negative ones. Recommended, with reservations.

Let’s Get Lost

18812437Title: Let’s Get Lost

Author: Adi Alsaid

Number of Pages: 338

Fiction! (As a side note, the non-fiction unit was cool, but I have such a deep and abiding love for fiction that everything else pales in comparison. I’m so excited!)

Plot Overview: Traversing the country on a road trip to see the Northern Lights, Leila turns up in the lives of four others when they need her most. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, she meets Hudson, an auto mechanic with a heart of gold. Just outside of Kansas City, she picks up runaway and petty thief Bree, who savors every moment on the open road while trying not to look back on the life she left. Elliot, rejected on prom night by his best friend, tumbles into Leila’s life when she almost hits him with her car. And finally Sonia, whose life peeled out of control when her boyfriend collapsed on a basketball court two months ago. However, unbeknownst to them, they have helped her as much as she has helped them.

What I Liked: Hudson’s story was the best – it felt the most real. When he interacted with Leila and/or his father, it felt light, funny, authentic; it could have happened in real life. Next to that, Bree was a fun character to read about (although her story was subpar). And Leila, for all her faults, was a wonderfully witty constant throughout the loony journey.

What I disliked: Bree’s story was a little far-fetched; this book definitely requires some significant suspension of disbelief. As a little kid, we probably all threatened to run away from home at some point, but it was very rare that anyone actually went through with it, so to have a character who ran away from a troubled home to hitchhike around America was hard to stomach. There’s a part of me that loves Bree’s nomadic character, but the setup felt too unrealistic for me to truly appreciate her. Both Sonia’s and Elliot’s stories felt repetitive and one-dimensional. They kept butting their heads against their problems, never learning from their mistakes. It was a true slog. And Leila’s backstory was a little disappointing/cheesy (another willing suspension of disbelief moment).

Other Notes: Alsaid has also written Somewhere Over the Sun and Never Always Sometimes.

Other Reviews: The best, most in-depth review that I could find from this book comes from Tabitha at notyetread.com. You can find her take here.

Final Verdict: Show up for Hudson, stay for Bree, and leave after that. Alternatively, you can take your chances slogging through the stories of Elliot and Sonia.