Posted in Books, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

Book Review: The Infernal Devices Trilogy – Cassandra Clare

In case it wasn’t clear enough already, I would like to point out two glaringly obvious points:

  1. I am currently going through a YA (young adult) fantasy phase when it comes to my literary choices and its not likely to stop anytime soon. I know that there is a distinct group of people (people who can’t understand that reading is supposed to be fun) who will say that 30 is a little too old to still be reading YA and to those people, I say (with all the kindness in the world): piss. off. I happen to think that there is a lot that we, as adults, can learn from the YA genre. I will not bore anyone by recounting those here but those who still read YA will know exactly what I mean.
  2. I am a very emotional person. I am the kind of person who will cry at the cinema when a beloved character dies in a film or when Rose doesn’t even think about the physics behind sharing a door panel with Jack when the Titanic sank. I cried when Stuart Little became part of his adopted family, I cry at heartfelt and inspirational speeches especially if they immediately precede an important but tragic battle. I am a crier, and I’m damn proud of it. Lol

 

So it will come as no surprise to those who know me if I start this review by saying that I absolutely blubbered over this trilogy. I read the Goodreads reviews and maybe when I’m less emotional over how this book ended I may understand what they’re saying about this being wish fulfilment and contrived but for now, I just don’t get where the negativity is coming from because I think this trilogy was brilliant. Okay, let’s get to the review.

 

The Infernal Devices trilogy is meant to be a prequel to The Mortal Instruments BUT I think for maximum enjoyment, the reading order should be as follows:

  1. City of Bones
  2. City of Ashes
  3. City of Glass
  4. The Infernal Devices Trilogy – Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess
  5. City of of Fallen Angels
  6. City of Lost Souls
  7. City of Heavenly Fire
  8. Tales from The ShadowHunter Academy
  9. The Bane Chronicles

 

I regret not reading them in that order because I think the books may have packed a more emotional punch if I didn’t already know what was going to happen, having read all 6 books of the Mortal Instruments already. But then again, this trilogy did not need any more ammunition to make me cry. It was heartbreaking enough already.

 

The trilogy tells the story of Tessa Gray, who moved from New York to London in order to be with her brother Nathaniel. Little did she know that Nate has been caught up in the shadow world of demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and shadow hunters. She is captured by two warlocks whose purpose is to unlock Tessa’s powers, because Tessa isn’t what she seems and has abilities far beyond anything she can ever imagine. She is rescued by Will Herondale, a young shadow hunter from The London Institute and introduced to people who will eventually become like the family she never had. She meets James  (Jem) Carstairs, Will’s parabatai (like a blood brother) who’s also got secrets of his own; Sophie, a mundane with a tragic past; Charlotte Fairchild, the head of the Institute who’s trying to prove that a woman’s worth goes beyond her ability to give birth and Henry Branwell, a brilliant if somewhat absent-minded inventor and Charlotte’s husband.

 

The big bad of this book may seem underwhelming, and I found it ridiculous at first that he could even be considered a threat. But there is no better motive for world domination and destruction than the thirst for revenge I guess, and in a way, its the fact that no one expected him to be a threat that made him so dangerous to the shadow hunters. The villain is, as they usually are, extremely firm in his beliefs and convictions and has the added advantage of foresight. He’s been planning his revenge on the shadow hunters long before Tessa was ever born, and has had the patience to wait to be able to carry out his plan.

 

This trilogy also involves a love story. In fact, it involves one of my most hated things in the world: a love triangle: Will – Tessa – Jem. I was ready to hate this book because I usually cannot stand love triangles. I find them silly, stupid, and saccharine and its beyond belief how three seemingly sensible people could be driven to do senseless things all in the name of love. But this triangle is different. I won’t go into too much detail about it because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But this triangle is not annoying, there’s no flip-flopping involved, neither is there cheating; there is selflessness, sacrifice and above all, there is so much love and friendship that it kept me up till midnight and resulted in the aforementioned blubbering.

 

(Are you listening to me Stephenie Meyer? This, THIS is how you write love triangle!)

 

Its not so much the love story that makes this book worth reading. The world building and the fantasy elements are also notable; there is the underlying lesson that we are all capable of something great and that just because someone is different doesn’t mean that they are to be feared or persecuted. The battle scenes were quite good as well. But the true lynchpin of this story is the friendship between Will and James. HONESTLY. I am now obsessed with the parabatai concept and where can I get one please? I loved how these two refused to have anything, even death, come between them. I love how they managed to be there for each other despite the odds, and I want to believe that there is a world out there where they are still fighting side by side, so in tune to each other because their hearts and souls are – and always will be – one.

 

(Also, can I just say, I love that Jem is half Asian. I love that he speaks mandarin and that a lot of the important dialogue in the third book was in mandarin.)

 

I am now more convinced than ever that Cassandra Clare haters should just shut up and let the past lie where it belongs: in the past. Yes, she’s done some dodgy things but let’s give credit where credit is due. She’s done a fantastic job building the Shadow Hunter world. Her words just flow into a seamless narrative that is easy to read, and that is capable of touching the hearts of her readers. I am a fan, and I will continue to be if only because of this gift of a trilogy that she’s given the world.

 

READ THIS TRILOGY, FELLOW YA LOVERS. You won’t regret it!

 

Happy Sunday everyone! x

Posted in Books, LGBT, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Remember your first crush?

Remember walking down the corridors of your high school and blushing whenever you catch a glimpse of that one cute guy who seems to shine just a little bit brighter than everyone else?

Remember the late night conversations with your friends trying to decipher and construe every conversation and gesture, looking for any hidden meaning or indication that he feels the same way?

Remember your first heartbreak, like when you find out he likes someone else and you comfort yourself with a tub of rocky road ice cream and listen to emo music (Jann Arden in my case)?

These are the kind of memories that this book evokes. It takes you back to a time in your life when every feeling and emotion is magnified (probably because of teenage hormones). It recalls the innocence of first love and I think it captures it perfectly, with just the right amount of self-deprecating humour, sweetness and angst. 

But you know what the most beautiful thing about this book is?

Its about two teenage boys falling in love for the first time. I am really happy to be living in a time where books like this can be published and widely read, not just by the lgbt community but by mainstream readers as well. I think that ten years ago, a kid growing up confused about his sexuality would have felt alone and depressed whereas I fervently hope that now, with all the support and books like Simon, they would know that there are other people going through the same thing and that it DOES get better.

I love Simon’s internal monologue, I really like getting into his head and seeing his take on things. I love that he is a huge fan of Harry Potter and I love that he does theatre. I love the fact that he thinks “coming out” shouldn’t be exclusive to gay people and that straight people should come out as straight too. I love that he thinks straight shouldn’t be the default setting and I love that he was able to bring a sense of humour to his own eventual coming out. 

I know that coming out is a really serious issue for teens, and I’ve read several books where this hasn’t turned out well. But, spoiler alert, its great to read a book for once where family and friends really rally around the character in order to give him support. It gives you hope that that kind of tolerance will eventually be the norm. Love is love people, get with the program.

There’s a mystery to be solved here and if you guys are anything like me, you’ll be tempted to just read through the end to find out who “Blue” is but trust me, you don’t want to spoil the experience. I honestly guessed it early on but I kept getting thrown by the red herrings. However, just like when I’m reading crime and mystery, I know that its rarely the obvious suspect whodunit because where’s the fun in that? And also if you’re really observant, Blue gives himself away in one of his emails to Simon. 

Anyway, if it was possible to die from sweetness overload, I would have keeled over last night. I finished the book and just went “awwwww“. It kinda makes me miss high school, although I wouldn’t go so far as to wish to go through adolescence again. If you’re looking for a nice and easy read, add this to your to-read list! I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

Book Review: The Mortal Instruments Series – Cassandra Clare

I’ve been on Goodreads long enough to know that one of its golden rules is that thou shall never judge a book by another member’s review. Although I sometimes make the decision to read or not read a book based on the community’s rating/s, I try not to be put off by negative reviews,  especially if a book’s blurb sounds particularly interesting.

There are a lot of negative things about Cassandra Clare on the internet. Apparently, she was involved in some scandal a few years ago because of a Draco Malfoy fanfiction plagiarism accusation which led her to be banned from a fanfiction website. I’m not too clear on the details, but allegedly, huge parts of ‘City of Bones’ is lifted off the material in question so people were outraged when it went on to sell millions (plus movie and television adaptations). 

I personally don’t understand why she’s being singled out for something that seems like common practice to me (I’m looking at you EL James). I am not trying to defend plagiarism, I think there’s nothing worse than an author trying to pass off plagiarised content as original material. But take 50 shades of Grey for example. That started out as Twilight fanfiction didn’t it? The similarities were painfully obvious; if you take away the BDSM and add the sparkly vampire element, the basic structure of both series is the same. It still made EL James a household name (and suddenly made it acceptable to be reading about S and M). 

I can see why people would think that The Mortal Instrument series is some kind of fanfiction for Harry Potter. 

1. Valentine Morgenstern – obsessed with the purity of Nephilim bloodlines is almost a reincarnation of Voldemort

2. The Circle – Valentine’s followers who repented and renounced him when he presumably died is the nephilim equivalent of the Death Eaters

3. Mundanes – the Nephilim’s term for the human race. Mundanes = Muggles?

4. Jace Wayland – I personally find it hard to believe that he’s based on Draco Malfoy. I think he’s much more developed as a character. Physically, okay, he’s also got blond hair but that’s it. Or is Jace meant to be Harry Potter? 

Actually, the further on that the book series progressed, the less I felt like I was reading fanfiction. Its unfair to think that one author is copying off another simply because there are similarities. I think its hard to come up with a truly original concept in fantasy fiction. You inevitably come across a variation of a theme that’s already been explored in some other book. That doesn’t mean that the author doesn’t deserve some credit for the book itself if the book happens to be GOOD.

I fully agree that Cassandra should just own up to her shady past, because the truth is, these books are absolutely brilliant. They don’t deserve all the negativity surrounding them because they actually contain original content, in my own humble opinion. In addition, if I think about all the things that make a fantasy series great, I find that a lot of those things can be found in these series and more besides.

1. World Building – I think Cassandra Clare did such a good job of building the Shadow World, especially with regards to the history of the shadowhunters, family legacies, notable Downworlders (vampires, werewolves and warlocks), immortals who have directly or indirectly affected current events. There’s even a tie-in to the prequel series (which I’m only just starting to read).

2. The idea that no matter how different we are, we are all the same and we need each other so that good triumphs over evil. I am a sucker for these kind of storylines. 

3. A hero’s journey – Clary Fray and Jace Wayland both literally go to hell and back to triumph over evil and they discovered a lot of things about themselves along the way.

4. No one is born good or evil. It all comes down to choice. You see this a lot in fantasy series and there’s a reason for that. I believe that the things that happen to you don’t shape who you are, its the choices and decisions you make that make you who you are.

5. Runes tattooed onto a shadowhunter’s body that serves as a source of power.

6. Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane. Enough said. These two should have their own series.

7. Simon Lewis, an ordinary mundane who got sucked into the shadow world just because he’s in love with his best friend Clary, and ended up playing a more vital role than anyone could have predicted.

8. Plot twists and secret histories. I love love love plot twists. I think some of tbe plot twists in the. book should have been explored more in the tv series but I supposed when you’re uncertain about whether its gonna be picked up for another season you should cram as much in one season as you can and leave off some of the other plot devices. But I hope there’s a flashback episode somewhere in the Shadow Hunter tv series future.

9. The Silent Brothers. They turn out to be so much more intriguing than I thought they were.

10. The parabatai concept. A parabatai is someone who grew up and trained with you and with whom you share such a special connection with. It is a bond as strong as marriage and if your parabatai dies, a part of you dies as well. Together, you are better fighters than if you are apart. The catch? You can’t ever fall in love with your parabatai (they’re usually same sex, and except for Jace and Alec for obvious reasons, this was never a problem before!). I really think a whole series should be devoted to exploring the parabatai bond. 

So, I have gone on and on about what I love about this series, enough for you bookworms to know that if your trust me, you should buy all six books right now. Seriously, Amazon sells all 6 for the bargain price of £12. Click here to buy!  I really think fans of YA and fantasy will get into this. Or I could be wrong.

Cheers bookworms! 

Posted in Books, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

I see no shame in an almost-30 year old reading young adult books. Partly because in some ways I’m perpetually stuck in adolescence, but mostly because there are still things we can learn from them.

Finding Audrey is a lighthearted book that deals with some heavy issues. Its never quite clear what kind of trauma Audrey went through although its implied that she was bullied by some of the more popular girls and the school did nothing about it. She developed general and social anxiety as well as depression because of it. She hasn’t been out of the house for a year and she wears dark sunglasses everywhere because looking into people’s eyes without a barrier give her palpitations. 

Most people underestimate eyes. For a start, they’re powerful. They have range. You focus on someone thirty metres away, through a whole bunch of people, and they know you’re looking at them. What other bit of human anatomy can do that?

Anyway, she’s in therapy and she’s taking baby steps to get better. She meets her brother’s friend Linus who somehow gets past her barriers by finding ways to talk to her that won’t make her anxious. They start off with writing notes and then she eventually gets the courage to buy a mobile phone so they can text.

I was skeptical about this at first because I though that Ms Kinsella will try to make us believe that love (teenage love at that) will somehow magically cure mental illness. Because that’s what it is: an illness. Chemicals in your body are actually causing you to have these thoughts so its useless for people to tell you to just snap out of it. People who are living with this illness are aware these thoughts are unreasonable but they can’t control it, not without help. So no, I don’t think there’s a love affair out there that is more powerful than clonazepam. Or prozac.

But Sophie Kinsella dealt with that in a nice way. The love story was almost an aside, an addition to the journey that Audrey took to find herself again. In fact, the bulk of this book was made up of Audrey’s family, who are hilarious. There’s a fun side story about how parents suddenly forget how to talk to their kids once they reach puberty and that’s something we can all relate to. How many times as teenagers did we think or say the words ‘you don’t understand!’ in relation to our parents? Almost every damn day. I think teenagers are the most selfish people in the world, and the most self-centred. Thank goodness we mostly grow out of it.

Anyway, this is a fun book to read. There were lots of laugh out loud moments. I gave it a three-star in Goodreads because it tended to be too abrupt on some of the developments and I feel like nothing was really resolved. And yes, as much as I know love its not the next big cure for depression I can’t help but wish we got a little more of the love story. But i really enjoyed going through this journey with Audrey. 

Posted in Movies, relationships, Self-Discovery, Young Adult

Flashback Friday: Now and Then (the movie)

Today, I actually woke up hours ahead of my alarm and decided I wanted to watch an old movie before I have to haul my ass to work. Something comforting, something that will take me back to my childhood and to remember that feeling of innocence and wonder, that feeling that the world is full of promises and you have your whole life ahead of you. (Jeez, sometimes I think and talk like I’m approaching middle age! This turning 30 thing is really getting to me. Moving. On.)

So I decided to watch Now and Then. Back then, it was my go-to movie when I needed a boost. In those days before Netflix, one actually had to go to an honest-to-goodness video store to rent a movie. They even had them on those plastic case thingies with the movie poster on the front and the synopsis at the back. The movies were in VHS format and back then that was THE height of technology.

For most of the year, I went to school in the city. I was raised by my aunts and uncles because my parents had to stay in the country most of the time to run our business. They alternated months to come visit myself and my siblings. It was a rare privilege to have them both over and I can count on both hands the number of times they’ve done so when I was growing up, weddings and graduation ceremonies mostly. Not even for our birthdays – mum usually came to that one. 

It sounds sadder than it was but it actually never bothered me that much, at least when I was younger. Do I wish I had more time with them? Sure. But I guess that sense of obligation and responsibility was instilled in me early on, and I always knew at the back of my head that without their sacrifice I wouldn’t have all the privileges I was enjoying: going to a good school, having everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had if it weren’t for that arrangement. 

Together in London, our first family trip. 🙂
So even as my brother and sister bawled their eyes out every time one of them had to leave, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and put on a strong front. I did all of my crying in the toilet after, in private.

The point of all that backstory is to illustrate just how glorious and how hotly-anticipated summer vacations were to me between the ages of 10 to 15. Mostly because it was the only time my entire family could be together in one setting for an extended period of time. Back then, I was young enough to be excited over staying in the country. I used to like the fact that I’d be staying in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business, where simple pleasures were appreciated because there was nothing else to do, where the ocean was literally on our backyard (we had a seawall built to keep it away). Maybe because we were apart for most of the year, my parents – mum especially – tried to spoil us for those two months. We get to request what we wanted for lunch and dinner so she could cook each of our favourite dishes. We mostly get to do what we want – my brother could go hours and hours on the Playstation and no one would bat an eyelash.
Of course there were drawbacks. The place was a province and back then there were no phone lines built in town, let alone cellular services. The Internet was some futuristic invention and nobody could even dare imagine that someday we’ll have something like 4G. In a way that was a good thing, people actually had real face to face conversations instead of status updates on Facebook. Electricity was a fickle thing, and because it was a coastal town we were so frequently visited by typhoons even during the summer. My family had a generator at the back of the house so that we could still have some light during those extended days of rain and blackouts. We couldn’t keep it running for 24 hours though, so there was nothing we could do about the nights. 

So it wasn’t perfect, but we were all together. And watching films is one my family’s favourite things to do so my dad would encourage us to go to the video store and rent the movies that we liked and we’d take turns picking a movie to watch. He always looked so dismayed when I came back week after week with Now and Then in hand. He could not understand why I was so fixated on the story of four girls growing up in a small town in Indiana. 

Its set a time when they were no longer children but they’re not quite teenagers either. Everything is new, every experience is delicious. You start keeping secrets from your friends, especially when it comes to boys, because no one wants to be the first to admit that the enemy has suddenly become incredibly attractive. Its a story about enduring friendships and how important it is to have something constant to cling to when everything just seems to be changing.

All of my little adolescent crushes and youthful romances happened during that summer. I have to say, most of the time I was caught up in my imagination of what could be; nothing really happened between me and the guys I liked except for a few flirty conversations, a dozen secret smiles and a thousand longing looks. Everyone was scared of my dad, as he was one of the more well-known businessmen in town and had a reputation for being – well, not as friendly. Stand-offish. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t really allowed to interact with the locals. But my cousin was, and we used to ride around in a ladies’ scooter, cruising through the spots in town where the guys we liked were gathered just to see and be seen. I used to get so giddy during those moments and I’d come home with windswept hair, a slightly guilty demeanour and a secret happy smile.
I started writing a diary and pouring out all my teenage emotions and sweet little encounters. My God, i could fill pages and pages back then. I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was. I must have at least 10 volumes starting from the age of 9. I still re-read them sometimes, they give me a laugh. Its nice to remember that there was ever a time where my most pressing problem was how to catch a glimpse of the cute guy next door. 

Watching Now and Then brings back the memories of all those summers, before I was old enough for cynicism to set in, before I became a bit selfish and unappreciative of the simple pleasures of life in a small town. Before i grew up and moved on to wanting more complex things. Its nice to remind ourselves once in a while that we don’t have to make life so complicated, that the secret to happiness probably lies in keeping things simple. Let’s all take a trip down memory lane with Christina Ricci and the rest of the girls.

P.S. i was gutted to hear that the actress who played the young Chrissy died of drug overdose. Rest in peace. 😢

Posted in Books, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Review: When Its Real – Erin Watt

Sometimes certain books just land on your lap at the precise moment in your life when you need that book’s story the most, and this is one of those books for me.

There is nothing earth-shatteringly original about this book. Its very premise has already been done thousands and thousands of times in the YA genre. Ordinary girl meets famous boy and somehow, she alone is immune to his charms; she alone can treat him like a normal human being and make him feel like there is more to him than fame, fortune and good looks (because of course he is always good looking). Thus love story ensues. Cue meet-cutes, kissing and chases on the ocean shore.

The above paragraph may make it seem like I am mocking this book. I AM MOST DEFINITELY NOT. I think that only snobbish people will knock a book down because its not “literature” or because its not original or because it adds nothing new to the genre. Well, I happen to think we read books, fiction in particular, so that we can be transported to another life or another world where we can forget about our own sets of woes and problems and read about somebody else’s for a while. Unlike our own lives (and unless we’re reading, say, a bloody trilogy), we know that some kind of resolution will always come in the final pages.

For me, there are two kinds of “good” books: the kind that make you think and change your perspective of things and the kind that just make you feel good. When It’s Real falls into the latter category. Its well-written, just the right amount of sappy, not so much angst that it makes you want to throw the book across the room, and its so damn cute. There’s also a little bit of a message there about the hazards of social media. My friend told me when I started this blog that I have to relinquish all my rights to privacy once I put myself out there. And that’s just me with a handful of followers and with complete control about what I do and do not share with the wider world. Think about those popstars who dont have that option, that choice. I wonder if they really know what they sign up for when they chased fame and glory. 

Jimmy Kimmel does a portion on his show called Mean Tweets which always crack me up because celebrities get to read what people say about them on Twitter. Its funny but at the same time I can see where some of those tweets can really hurt, and they’re really really personal. So this book made me think about that. 

If I have one (or two) complaint, its that I feel like the “conflict” was a bit sudden and extremely contrived, and the ending may have been a bit rushed. But other than that, great book!