(The Hunt #2)
|Til The World Ends||Anthology||Paranormal
|Shadowhunters and Downworlders:
A Mortal Instruments Reader
|The Mad Scientist’s Daughter||Cassandra Rose Clarke||Science Fiction
|Shadows in the Silence
|Courtney Allison Moulton||Paranormal
|Jodi Meadows||Science Fiction
|Nobody But Us||Kristin Halbrook||Contemporary
|Prodigy (Legend #2)||Marie Lu||Science Fiction
|The Madman’s Daughter
(Madman’s Daughter Trilogy #1)
|Megan Shepherd||Science Fiction
(Vampire Queen #2)
By: Holly Black / Kendare Blake / Gwenda Bond / Sarah Rees Brennan / Rachel Caine / Sarah Cross / Kami Garcia / Michelle Hodkin / Kelly Link / Kate Milford / Diana Peterfreund / Sara Ryan / Scott Tracey / Robin Wasserman
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Rating: 2 Stars
|Summary: Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, epic urban fantasy set in a richly imagined world of shadowhunters, vampires, werewolves, fairies, and more, has captured the imaginations and loyalty of hundreds of thousands of YA readers. Originally a trilogy (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass), the series has extended to six titles, plus a prequel trilogy, the Infernal Devices, and a planned sequel series, the Dark Artifices. A feature film is planned for 2013. Shadowhunters and Downworlders, edited by Clare (who provides an introduction to the book and to each piece), is a collection of YA authors writing about the series and its world.|
When you think of The Mortal Instruments, do you think, wow, this is such a hard-hitting series of such high literary value that it deserves an entire book of scholarly analysis? No? Me neither, which is why most of the essays in this collection reflecting on Cassandra Clare’s books didn’t work for me. A few authors, like Sarah Rees Brennan, get it right, but the majority of these ‘contributions’ seemed to be like written from the perspective of an English lit major doing a term paper on Shakespeare, and given what I know about the quality of City of Bones and its sequels, I’m being diplomatic when I say that’s really stretching it, looking for complexity, secondary meaning, moments of brilliance that are either sheer coincidence or simply not there.
As a disclaimer, I’m not really a fan of The Mortal Instruments, having only read City of Bones which I found mediocre at best and City of Lost Souls which was a favor (although I did enjoy The Internal Devices and kudos to Holly Black from bringing those books up), but I do like to read about authors sharing their thoughts on their works. Clare does an okay job in her introduction, sharing how she got the ideas behind Shadowhunters and Downworlders, but it’s kind of telling she only shares the story behind how she got the ideas behind the book and skirts around the writing process which is actually what I’m more interested in. There’s much more to writing a book than just world building and character development, and I’m disappointed Clare doesn’t discuss the elements, say dialogue, style, prose, that separate a story from a good book. Like, why introduce Clary to the Shadowhunter world the way she did in City of Bones? Why write the dialogue the way it is? What’s with the incest? Unfortunately, I’ll never know from reading this book.
But the bulk of Shadowhunters and Downworlders isn’t Clare discussing her book, it’s other authors discussing her book – and that’s the hit and miss part I alluded to earlier. I don’t know if Clare had a set goal for the essays, but if I were her I’d have set it as each author’s personal response to reading the books. Because the ones that were personal reactions to the series are so much stronger than the ones that tried to rationalize the books as something greater than what they really are via some literary analysis mumbo jumbo … take the first essay by Kate Milford discussing the hidden nature of the Shadowhunter world; I don’t think even Clare knows what the hell Milford’s written, because she’s doing a couple of incongruous things at once, praising Clare’s cleverness taking advantage of the New York setting as she’s creating this supernatural world that coexists but is hidden from ours, talking generally about this common enough plot device, and relating her personal experiences not necessarily involving her experiences reading the book. None of it really follows or comes together that well. Has Clare done a good job with the New York setting? In places, but does the writing warrant the kind of (deep but rather generic) insight Milford’s offering? Nah.
And it just goes on, Diana Peterfreund with more of a summary of the series (thanks though!) than how Jace’s snarky attitude actually worked for her, Kami Garcia with a thesis that could apply to almost every book I’ve ever read while never actually discussing why her rule matters in The Mortal Instruments for Simon or for Jace, Rachel Caine with a research paper on tattoos that has almost nothing to do with the books, and Kendare Blake with one of the most wacked out pieces I’ve ever read about the taboo of incest. Umm … it doesn’t take a geneticist or Mendel type to figure out the taboo’s because society has a compelling reason to prevent the horribly mutated spawn that would result thanks to all those messed up recessive alleles expressing themselves in children who are the product of incest. That alone moots every single one of her arguments and left me bashing my head on my desk as Blake tries to explore all these angles of justifying the squick … yeah, no thanks.
I’m not saying none of the essays are any good though. True, I said a lot of the essays suffer from their authors overanalyzing and overrationalizing the significance of the books, but Michelle Hodkin’s feels like an exception. Do I see the significance of Simon’s Jewishness while I’m reading the books? No, but that’s why I like Hodkin’s, she makes some interesting points about the character and his beliefs, and that’s the kind of essay I would’ve liked to see more of, one that digs deeper into an aspect of the book or presents an alternative way of thinking about Clare’s writing, and I truly wish more of the authors took this approach. Couple of other shout outs, Kelly Link and Holly Black get props for writing the transcript of what could be a book club discussion about immorality, and Sarah Rees Brennan for the best essay of the bunch, one filled with not only humor and her unique take on the books but for actually putting forth some positive reasons for supporting the series.
Bottom line, I expected A Mortal Instruments Reader to discuss the books, present ideas and (possibly new) points of view, not offer generic analyses mixed with plot summaries. As editor, the responsibilities fall on Cassandra Clare to make sure of that, and I have to fault her for not doing more editing so this book isn’t just a collection of essays full of big ideas of tangential importance to her series like it’s turned out to be. So while a few essays are quite interesting, it’s a meh overall.
Tldr: Mortal Instruments fans aren’t missing anything much by skipping this book
Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.
Boundless (Unearthly 3)
By: Cynthia Hand
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Katy’s Rating: 3 stars
Mitch’s Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.
Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.
As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfil her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.
In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.
2 for first half & 4 for the second half – attempted spoiler-free review
I really struggled with the first half of this book. I remember Hand being a better writer, which is why I gave the last bok 3 stars despite what happened. Or maybe it was just pent-up animosity and unresolved resentment I had for the last book. Hallowed made me SO mad, and I’m not ashamed to say that I disliked Christian. He was boring. He was reserved, and not a mysteriously hot way. And he was kind of creepy.
I kept yelling at myself, “Why the heck are you reading this book?” throughout the first half as I moved from being annoyed at Clara being so hung up on Tucker (it’s her own damn fault) and nauseated by Clara and Christian’s attempt at having a relationship and forcing themselves to belong together. I wanted to yell every time I saw a variation of that phrase or the word soulmate. As far as the story went, nothing really interesting really happened except them trying to adjust to college life and having a few training lessons.
But it started getting more interesting halfway into the book. I am trying very hard to write a spoiler-free review, but I will say this. I was told that Christian will become more tolerable in this book, and I remember saying, “But, but, I don’t want to like Christian.” Well, begrudgingly, yes, he does grow on you. Now for all of those who are going to take that statement as a good reason not to read the book? Don’t. I promise you won’t regret it if you do decide to read this book.
As for the rest of the story, I read the novella before reading this book, and I think that does give me a strong premise for liking Angela’s story. It doesn’t make me resent her any less for being a brat, but I do have a deeper understanding of where she is coming from. I had a feeling she was going to get herself in that situation as I was reading the novella – both secrets, but the older WHO did catch me off guard.
While we’re on the subject of who, I’m sure everyone can guess the secret about Christian from early on – maybe not the who, but the role the who played in this book. What I was surprised to find out was that Christian had known all along, and it was the other parties that did not know. And I was shocked to find out the ties related to the secret, although I do recall a scene from the novella involving a kiss. Ew!
I will give Hand credit for ending the book on a powerful note. It totally deserves 4 stars possibly higher. The whole time I was reading, I kept trying to understand why Hand was pushing so hard for Christian and Clara to be together. And the end just broke my heart. But she threw in just one more thing at me which made me elated but baffled at the same time. Because I don’t understand what Christian is to Clara. Sure, I get the lesson that Sam tried to teach us, but it makes me wonder about a lot of things like why and what’s the point – which is why I didn’t give the second half more stars.
I know I’m being cryptic about a lot of things, but that’s just because I can’t reveal anything about this book. I will say that I am glad I read this book – the last of this torturous series. Now for those who were disheartened or infuriated by the last book, I hope you decide to give this one a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Sorry, I tried, but I just don’t get the appeal. I’ve heard lots of good things ever since Unearthly and I certainly understand the praise – in an angel paranormal landscape littered with train wrecks like Silence, Halo, and Hush, Hush, Boundless is far from terrible. Still, when I’m looking at the story, all I see are the same generic concepts as pretty much every other book in the genre, just better done. That’s great for people who actually enjoy reading about romantic woes, love triangles, and a smidge of plotting just so we can say there’s a story beyond just the romance, but I don’t think I can ever get beyond the fact that this is still really just a romance masquerading as an angel plot.
And ultimately, that’s my problem. Say what you will about how great Boundless is, but, at the end of the day, it still has more in common with its oft ridiculed peers than with a true angel book. Sure, the girl is a little less angsty and not quite so insecure, the love triangle isn’t nauseatingly vomitrocious, and the plot is a bit more than just your average good versus evil angels capped off by your typical fight to stave off the end of the world as we know it, but in the end Boundless is still working with the same ingredients that made all those other angel books ‘bad’ – can I really say this is ‘good’ when it’s the book equivalent of making the same shitty stew but using slightly better quality ingredients? Why does Clara have to spend fully half the book doing random college stuff with Christian while her father conveniently withholds the vital stuff that moves the plot along in the second half until the midway point of the book? Why does she spend so much time obsessing over her failed relationship with Tucker to the point the actual plot involving the threat to her life feels more like a minor inconvenience? Why does the climax of this book fail as much as Unearthly – when Clara basically just ripped off some dude’s ear? If I can make a comparison to Heaven, another angel book with a superficially similar plot, yeah, at least Hand’s protagonist isn’t shallow or sanctimonious and her depictions of college life aren’t nearly as laughable, but when all’s said and done I don’t think there’s really anything here I haven’t seen before there.
Actually, maybe there is one thing, something that’s bothered me ever since Unearthly – Hand’s excessive use of foreshadowing. Part of it, Clara’s vision starting out the prologue and the rest of the book being her trying to figure out her purpose and the end revealing how her initial vision worked out, well, that I get is the hook of the series and have no problems with, but it seems to me like Hand enjoys revealing things with basically the writing equivalent of ‘see, see, here’s a detail that’s going to be important later, so I’m going to make it so obvious you HAVE to notice it’ – there was the color of Jeffrey’s wings the last two books, and this time around, all the stuff about how something is going on with Angela. But you know what? After all the foreshadowing, you don’t just reveal exactly what I’ve been expecting based on all the hints marked by the big neon signs, otherwise the reveal just becomes anticlimatical, and anticlimatical reveals are boring. My reaction before reading this book was seriously ‘you can’t muck up the last book in the series with excessive foreshadowing, can you?’ – and somehow, I was still bored, because Hand really doesn’t deliver with the ‘is Jeffrey good or evil because of the color of his wings’ plot she’s got going on for two books now, THAT was textbook anticlimatical, and Angela’s storyline really wasn’t any better. I don’t think I learned anything about how her relationship with Phen
evolves devolves after what happened.
The worst thing by far though, is the love triangle. I’m sure that’s a bonus for lots of people, but for me, it’s a massive detriment. Why? I don’t get the appeal of Tucker. He’s just a cowboy who can’t do anything because everyone else has angel powers, so Clara’s relationship with him is basically ‘she’s out saving the world while he’s back at the ranch doing… manly things?’ – so I see all my friends rooting for Tucker and I’m like, ‘umm why?’ because he comes dangerously close through most of the book of falling into the useless love interest trap, and I have no patience with useless characters. Then again, even though Christian does things, I don’t like him either, but at least there I’m not alone. For me, the only thing the triangle does is give a license for all these characters to act like jerks whenever it’s brought it, and why is that a good thing? And the other thing about love triangles is that you have to write the ending a certain way, otherwise you piss off your fanbase, so while I think many many people will be very happy after reading the ending – even if many others will be disappointed, it doesn’t really make much sense. Not spoiling it, but the whole point of Clara’s triangle dilemma is left unresolved except for a massive deus ex machine delivered by Uriel.
Yeah, basically, I’m thankful this is series is over because I’m not the kind of guy who enjoys reading about people bitching about their love lives for most of a book that’s nominally supposed to be about conflict between Heaven and Hell. A conflict that’s not even well done thanks to all the huge hints scattered throughout that left me five steps ahead of Clara and company the entire time. Next!
While we were reading “Everbound” by Brodi Ashton, the topic of Christian and Tucker came up again…
K: Tucker, sigh, I love tucker.
M: that was me bashing my head against my keyboard
K: That was me giggling at your reaction
Since Mitch was wanting to know WHY Tucker was so great so that “maybe [he’ll] finally figure it out…
Don’t listen to Mitch. He’s just jealous of you because you so hot because you have manly muscles from working so hard on your farm.
Even though your initial attitude had me all
hot and botheredfrustratingly riled up. But I realize you were just trying so hard to stay away but couldn’t in the end. You have a great sense of humor, and you’re one of those who tease girls that they like. Mitch is just mad because he doesn’t understand that while it can be infuriatingly hot, you were never too assholish as some guys can be.
And once you let your true side through, you are so sweet and have that southern charm that just made me swoon but not at all sappy. You are protective, yet not overbearingly so. You’re also devoted and fight for what you believe in.
Don’t listen to weird, disconcerting, creepy guys like Christian or those like Mitch who just don’t understand.
A girl who DOES understand you 😉
Mitch chose not to respond because he didn’t want to “pour cold water if [I’m] all hot and bothered? :P” and because maybe he felt like “letting [me] have [my] moment for once.” Isn’t that sweet?
By: Gregg Rosenblum
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Rating: 1 Star
|Summary: Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.
Only a few escaped the robot revolution of 2071. Kevin, Nick, and Cass are lucky —they live with their parents in a secret human community in the woods. Then their village is detected and wiped out. Hopeful that other survivors have been captured by bots, the teens risk everything to save the only people they have left in the world—by infiltrating a city controlled by their greatest enemies.
Revolution 19 is a cinematic thriller unlike anything else. With a dynamic cast of characters, this surefire blockbuster has everything teen readers want—action, drama, mystery, and romance.
There were actually tears in my eyes after I finished this, and not because Revolution 19 is particularly emotional or poignant. Nope, I couldn’t stop laughing at how awful this train wreck is – it’s exactly what I’d imagine a Michael Bay book would be like, if he ever wrote one – so let’s just say, between this and Dark Eyes, the majority of Writers Guild of America members should stick to their day jobs and leave the book writing to people who know the difference between screenplay and prose.
I’m going to cut Gregg Rosenblum some slack though and not make any unfavorable comparisons to Terminator, because I do get the feeling he’s aiming for something a bit more high concept – I, Robot. So I did some digging and Rosenblum actually cites that as one of his influences (Isaac Asimov’s seminal novel, not the Will Smith movie), except, to avoid copyright issues maybe, Revolution 19 isn’t even anywhere close to the Asimov novel. In fact, it’s not even close to the Will Smith movie either, it’s more like the worst case scenario of the movie except a hundred times shittier. I mean, the entire premise of Revolution 19, the Great Intervention, robots taking over the world to save mankind from ourselves, is clearly based on the evolution of the Three Laws of Robotics as seen in the movie (and explored in Asimov’s book).
For those unfamiliar with Asimov’s work, the Three Laws are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
So what do the Three Laws have to do with robots taking over the world? Basically, the First Law originally requires robots to protect humans individually, except eventually their artificial intelligences extended the law and interpreted it as a directive to protect humanity from ourselves, leading to the whole enslavement of mankind for the good of peace and to prevent violence thing. Of course, Asimov’s solution is the Zeroth Law of Robotics:
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
Rosenblum on the other hand doesn’t or possibly can’t explore the intricacies and ethical quandaries of artificial intelligence in any meaningful way, so what we’re left with instead is a lame derivative plot that lacks any sort of theme whatsoever. Just imagine instead of Will Smith’s character defeating evil artificial intelligence V.I.K.I. at the end of I, Robot, we’re now all beholden to our new servant droid overlords, and they’ll rant at us in C-3PO’s annoying voice if we disobey like the characters in the book do. And we’re going to obey, because the psychological torture of being ‘lectured’ to by C-3PO’s soundalike will cause irreparable mental harm and selective amnesia and eventually force us into toeing the line. Ha.
Of course, it doesn’t help either that the writing actually is of Michael Bay screenplay quality:
Four soldier bots were waiting for them at the city limits. The bots towered over the humans—they were at least eight feet tall and as wide as two men. They raised their lase arms and aimed a warning shot at the survivors’ feet. Chunks of street rubble sprayed out, one small piece striking the young boy in the left eye. He screamed and fell, clasping his hand over his face. Blood ran between the boy’s fingers. His father pulled off his own shirt, picked up the still-screaming child, and pressed his shirt against the boy’s face. The boy clawed at his father’s hands, but his father held him tight against his chest.
I’m sure that quote would look great with Bay’s signature explosions and the four giant killer robots showing off all their whirly parts of death in glorious computer rendered 3D graphics, but on paper, stage direction isn’t going to cut it, sorry – although actually, I’m still thinking about the lecture-y torture sessions and the resulting ambiguously inflicted psychological trauma, because that quote is actually the best example of robot on human violence in the entire book, and it’s from the Prologue.
But you know what’s even worse? Even the characters are like Michael Bay caricatures. *shudders*
“You were staring at your stomach like a monkey that had just discovered its belly button,” said Cass.
“Drop it, Cass!”
“Like a monkey saying, ‘Oh my God, what is this hole doing in my belly?’”
Does that remind anyone else of Shia LaBeouf’s random rambling in Revenge of the Fallen?
“Right, what’s there possibly to worry about?” she said. “Just some surgery in the garage with a drunk doctor.”
Yeah. I think I’ve said enough, so I’ll just close this review with some of the awesome Hollywood logic that pervades this book:
“Our parents are here, because if they’re not here they’re dead, and they can’t be dead. So we’re here to rescue them.”
Maybe I should just stick to watching the trailer?