City of Bones: Book Review

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: McElderry Books

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy

Pages: 485

Rating 3/5

After arriving extremely late to the party where all of Clare’s fans have gathered in this very popular series, I have finally finished the first book in The Mortal Instruments. The verdict is in! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and meeting new characters. As I previously stated in my What Are You Reading Wednesday’s post, I had picked this book up once before about a year ago and set it back down. At first read I wasn’t gripped nor compelled to continue the story. However, going in a second time I decided to be more open minded and look at this from a refreshed perspective.
I have not yet seen the movie. My friend absolutely loved it and she advised me to watch it. I did however start the television series Shadowhunters. Only about 3 episodes in but I really like it. Writing this has me thinking of how much I want to continue watching the show but I feel like I need to finish the books first because there may be some spoilers. Speaking of spoilers, I’ll do my best not to give any of the really juicy stuff away. Again I am late reading this book so I feel pretty confident that quite a lot of people out there have already read the series.

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New Your City, she hardly expects to witness a murder— much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

The world of the Shadowhunters is thrilling, action packed, and has just enough of a touch of romance but not so much that it takes away from the action. In this first book Clare eases us into an intricate new world. It is very strongly knitted together. Not only is there a whole other world within the one we are so typically used to, but this other world is invisible to anyone who does not have the Sight. Clary, our teenage protagonist of the story, is as normal as they come. She is a brilliant young artist with a personality as fiery as her red hair. It isn’t until her birthday comes to pass that she is even able to see Jace who is one seriously bad-ass shadowhunter. After Clary’s mother is kidnapped she dives headfirst into the Shadowhunters world with her best friend Simon right at her side. This was a little funny because neither of them have had any sort of training and more times than none they manage to just get in the way of some battles. Having to be rescued themselves rather than helping to destroy their enemy.

Jace and Simon, two peas in a pod or as opposite as black and white? I found both to be true. Jace is burly with beautiful blue eyes and golden blonde hair. He’s definitely the strong silent type. Never really letting anyone see what’s inside. He masks his pain and anger with sarcasm and very cocky jokes. Simon has his own handsome physical features as well. I mean, who doesn’t love a nerd with glasses? Especially the sweet, caring type. Simon always has Clary’s best interest at heart, caring deeply about her safety. He’s a little more open with his feelings, albeit it does take him years to admit to Clary that he’s in love with her. Both are very determined young men who care deeply about their friends. Friends they have both grown up with and consider to be family. These two are clearly the love interests of this story.
Alec, ohhh Alec. Handsome? Yes. Bad-ass? Also yes. His attitude could use some serious adjusting though. To be fair I’ve never been in a situation like his.  Not once have ever had to feel ashamed for my sexual orientation so I truly enjoyed this about his character. The way Clare wrote this into the story was clever. Touching on a subject that while widely accepted today, is still harder for some older (more traditional) generations to accept as a reality. I like the way she adds a very real and hard issue into a fantasy world. Making Alec seem all the more human. I was very very close to someone in high school (my best friend) whom I watched go through the same transition that I assume Alec is making now. As the story continues I’m sure we’ll see what will happen and how this struggle will only make his character grow into a bigger bad-ass.
Isabelle, Alec’s sister, is not your typical side character. At first meeting her she has a huge attitude problem. One that will make you either want to slap her, or condone her for being so outspoken when all the others can’t ever seem to say what they truly feel (including Clary). There were moments I literally shouted “Thank you!” to her, other times it was more like “What the hell is her problem?!” She does get a lot better as the book closes to an end. While an awesome Shadowhunter herself she does carry some general personality traits of a typical teenage girl. She’s very into her looks, very comfortable with her body and is not at all afraid of showing it off. Though when Clary comes into the picture we start to see some cracks in her confidence. Which again was something I really liked because it showed me that these characters, while fictitious, are not perfect and still have plenty of room to grow (six books to be exact).

Being a huge sucker myself for strong lead female protagonists I was excited to see how Clary’s character would turn out. What with all the huge praise she’s gotten from fans how could my expectations bar ever be high enough? Sadly after reading this I admit that I’m a little disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high. A lot of the time I was wondering where Clary’s common sense was, she even came off a little selfish. Caring more about what she needed and how she was going to get it rather than the people she was dragging into it. I suppose that isn’t entirely fair though. After all Clary is only a teenager who’s thrown into this whole new world and her then her mother is taken from her. Just snatched away with little to no clues as to where she might be. That’s gotta be a shocker for anyone! Surely her maturity is something we’re meant to experience with her throughout the next five books.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars because I just didn’t fall in love with it. Maybe I’m still in my fantasy funk. There were just too many times where I felt a little bored with the story. This being my second time picking it up it was still a little hard to get into. Of course all books are going to be a little slow in the beginning. After all this is a very vast and beautifully detailed world that Clare has built, it is definitely going to take time to explain it all in depth. I did however love to whole idea of Shadowhunters, magical runes, stele weapons, forsaken humans, and various other demons (vampires, werewolves, warlocks) all living right under our noses. Already I’ve picked up the second book, City of Ashes, though I’m not in a hurry to finish it.

 Would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely. It is a great fantasy read and very fun. It will make you gasp and yell and even laugh. For anyone who is looking for a great adventure I would advise you to pick this up and clear your schedule because you won’t want to put it down once you get into a few chapters.

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Also here’s a fun website for anyone who gets really into the Shadowhunter’s world 🙂 enjoy!
http://shadowhunters.com/

What Are You Reading Wednesdays!

012115_0342_whatareyour1It’s the first week of April! Every time this month rolls around I can’t help but think of the phrase “April showers bring May flowers!” It’s one of my favorite sayings, mostly because it was taught to me as a kid and it’s just so fun to say. If we’re lucky enough here in Cali then we’ll get those showers to which we really really need.

In this first week I decided to pick up City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I decided to give this series a shot. Mostly because it’s gotten so much hype and good publicity that I wanted to see what I was missing out on. Also I’m reading it as part of my 2016 challenge. I chose this book to fulfill the “A book you previously abandoned,” quota.

I did actually pick this book up a year ago when I bought it, but for some reason after about a third of the way through I set it down. I wasn’t exactly taken with the characters. It could be the story itself or it could just be me! After reading the last book of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer I fell into a huge fantasy slump. All of a sudden I just didn’t want to read fantasy books for a while. Thus began my contemporary phase 🙂 so it really hasn’t been such a bad thing at all. I never thought I would read anything but fantasy (which I guess is a little naive)  but I am grateful for the slump which brought me so many more options for reading.

Currently I’m 112 pages away from the ending of City of Bones. This second time around I’m absolutely loving it. I feel that this is the book that will get me out of my fantasy slump. There are  quite a few books I have just been itching to read. I can’t wait to finish this book and get started on my next book review.

 

The Book Thief: Book Review

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 550

Rating: 5/5

There are some books you pick up in a bookstore, read the back, admire the cover and consider taking home with you. Then decide against it. You have too many books in your hands already and so back on the shelf it goes. You’re next visit finds you in front of the same book, with the same dilemma………maybe next time.

This book was published in 2005. For several years I would walk by this book, sometimes picking it up but never taking it home. It wasn’t until after I watched the movie (I know I know, always read the book first) that I ran to the store and finally brought it home with me, where it would  then sit on my shelf for another year. Of course now I find myself wondering why on earth I didn’t read this the first time it was in my hand! Had I simply opened it that first day I would have enjoyed what is definitely going to be one of my all time favorite books, much much sooner. This book is beautiful, heart wrenching, tear jerking, brilliant, clever and at times definitely funny. 

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger finds her life changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Graver Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burning, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement, Liesel’s world is bother opened up and closed down.

-Synopsis

It truly is difficult to choose whether to write about one favorite theme in the book or to touch on all of them. There are so many brilliant themes and stories within this one story. One that stood out to me the most was that this book is first and foremost about the Germans who were unfortunate enough to be stuck living under Hitler’s rule. Growing up in America we all have had these premature notions that all Germans, in relation to WWII, are cold hearted people. That simply isn’t true. Reading this book puts into perspective something we’ve all either forgotten or never bothered to think about. Germans are just people, people like us. There were many in Germany who hated Hitler as much as we did. Many whose beliefs were greatly rooted in humanity itself rather than hatred for those who dare to be different. As we see in the Diary Anne of Frank, there were those who risked their lives for friends, family and neighbors. The Hubermanns were two such brave people. There were also many children, like Liesel and Rudy, growing up in a cruel world they didn’t fully understand. Merely doing what adults told them to be the right thing to do.

Liesel – “I don’t understand. What did he do so wrong?”
Max – “He reminded people of their humanity.”

When we first meet Liesel she’s a nine year old girl thrown into a new foster family because her mother is a communist and wants to keep her last living child safe. Poor Liesel looses her birth family, is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping a secret that could take her new family away, and later struggles with the loss of a good friend she may never see again. Not to mention she has to abide by the strict rules her society has set down for her entire country. Rules her and her family do not believe in. All before she reaches puberty! Liesel’s character is forced to grow very quickly for her age. She does so beautifully with the help of the relationships she builds with Max through words and imagery, and Hans through his “accordion heart,” and compassion. I think those two are easily the biggest influences in her life, and of course the books. Hans (her foster father) teaches her to read and she becomes obsessed. When Max comes into her life he teaches her how to use those words and the power that they can hold. Demonstrated by Hitler and his rise to power through intensely intimidating speeches.

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“Words are life Leisel”

Words are indeed life. Zusak paints glorious images in our minds while simultaneously feeding us all the necessary emotions that will throw us right there on Himmel Street to accompany Liesel side-by-side on her journey.
Something fun I greatly enjoyed noticing are the captivating personalities of my favorite characters. Max’s was…….brilliant. Though he has no choice but to hide away in the basement he does not in the least bit seem to be a weak character to me. Through out everything he remains hopeful, astute and strong willed. It just amazes me that someone in such a dark situation can be such an inspiration to those around him. I adored the similarities between Rudy and Liesel, and Rosa and Hans. Rosa consistently berates Hans for….well everything. Likewise Liesel never misses an opportunity to give Rudy lip, calling him a soukerl the way Rosa so endearingly uses on Hans. Despite this Rudy is always very caring and kind towards Lielsel. “How about a kiss, soumensch?” He’ll ask after going to great lengths for her happiness.

There were a few moments when I felt a little frustration with our narrator, Death (though that frustration quickly dissipated). On a few occasions he gives away the ending. This he even admits himself.

Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and now so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me.
– pg. 243

Yes, I very much agree that the most rewarding part of the book is the journey itself, not just the ending.

If, while reading this or watching the movie, you asked yourself “I wonder if I should read that book,” then the answer is irrefutably…..yes. I HIGHLY recommend reading the book before you watch the movie. However if like me you did the opposite, don’t worry. You will still greatly enjoy the book  more. You may even feel as if they are two different stories as the movie  absolutely does not do the book justice. The first time I saw the movie I cried. The first time I read the book, I died. Reading the book, you spend more time with the characters and you feel as if their relationships are your own. These people are your neighbors and your family and your mentor and your best friend. Words and books somehow become just as much a part of you as they were to the book thief herself.

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