P. Pufferfish can’t decide which book to talk about (and ends up going with City of Heavenly Fire)

Ohhh gaawwwd, why did I eat so much? I ate KFC two days in a row, ate roast duck for dinner last night, and went out for KBBQ tonight with some friends. I don’t remember having ever consumed so much meat in one week, EVER. I tried to eat most of the salad bowl they provided for us and ordered vegetable platters along with the meat ones to make myself feel better (and because I like the taste of lettuce, bell peppers, and mushrooms), but I still feel like a massive artery-clogged lump. *GROOOAAAAAN* I think I’m actually sick of meat. *SHOCK*

Anyways, because I continue to be a bad person, I read 3 more books in a row without reviewing any of them, and now I’m stuck, once again, writing about 3 books in a row before I forget their plot details.

Today’s featured book: City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) by Cassandra Clare.

Format I consumed it in: E-book, from the library near my house.

The premise: In City of Heavenly Fire, the final book of TMI, we see the horrible consequences of Clary’s stupid, stupid decision from the previous book! Demon and brainwashed-Shadowhunter attacks on Institutes everywhere! The soon-to-be protagonists of The Dark Artifices trilogy appear (well, in Julian’s case, he makes a reappearance)! Sebastian’s creepy, incestuous obsession with Clary crosses over into whole new territory! But hey, at least Jace is back and normal again. Things aren’t SO bad.

At least, not for some. Alec is still heartbroken over his break-up with Magnus. Simon and Izzy are having trouble defining their relationship. Raphael is stuck working under Maureen, the new clan head (my god, it’s true after all!), and is very displeased (I wonder where this is heading? *Chortle*). Everyone is forced to Alicante for an emergency meeting after Sebastian takes over the aforementioned Institutes. Things are a-stirrin’ in the Downworld. Clary gets a new sword (this is a bigger deal than it seems)!

CoHF is a very action-packed, fast-paced book, so I actually can’t say any more without spoiling things (at least, until I get to the next section), but basically– A LOT OF SHIT HAPPENS, AND YOU WILL LOVE IT.

My thoughts: In this book, more so than in any of the others in TMI, I really felt that there was a gap in understanding between Clary/her peers and their parents/the adult Shadowhunters. There was really this feeling of “we’re on our own with this one”. Clary and friends’ top priorities and the Clave’s haven’t usually lined up in previous books, and more often than not, Clary just goes ahead and does whatever she wants without approval, but in CoHF, with most of them on the cusp of adulthood, we get a clear idea of what these kids will be like once it’s their turn to take over as leaders in their community, and how attitudes and values can change within the span of a generation or two.

My favorite things: When Jace forces his way into Magnus’s house to speak on behalf of his bro Alec and finds out from Magnus that the others have all been there before him, to no avail (I love Jace and Magnus’s interactions with each other). Emma. Raphael. Maia and Lily working together to gain power. The way the Seelies’ betrayal is written– it was done very believably, imo. The whole bit in Edom, especially the Alec-Jace moments and all the stuff with the Heavenly Fire. SIZZY. Malec. TESSA AND JEM.

Things I wasn’t a big fan of: UGH, MAUREEN. But at least she was only in there for a little while. The Bat/Maia relationship– it just felt forced to me. Clary and Jace having sex one cave away from where the others are sleeping in Edom– I get that they’re teens and they’re in love and they think they might die any minute, but geez, guys, timing!

ALSO! My god, Simon’s amnesia! I felt SO BAD for Izzy! I was mentally on my knees, fingers crossed, hoping that they’d somehow get around it and he wouldn’t lose his memories after all, but then it happened and I actually thought Cassandra Clare was going to end the series in a bittersweet way like this, but THANK GOODNESS she decided to give Izzy a happy ending. The poor girl deserves to be happy like everyone else!

Rating: 5/5.

 

 

Advertisements

P. Pufferfish is a good person (a.k.a. City of Fallen Angels gets a review)

Okay, I sat for about 3 minutes and remembered the majority of the plot of CoFA, so here is the review for that, posted AFTER the review of CoLS (could I have done a double-review instead? Yes, but I didn’t think of that till now, so too bad). cityoffallenangels

Today’s other featured bookCity of Fallen Angels (Book #4 of The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare.

Format I consumed it in: E-book, from the library down the street from me.

The premise: Camille Belcourt, Magnus’s ex-girlfriend from The Infernal Devices, tries to recruit Simon to her side (against Raphael Santiago, who is now her rival/enemy). Simon is hesitant, but doesn’t outright tell her no. He goes home and pretty much gets kicked out by his mom, who has found his bottles of blood and thinks he’s a monster. Kyle, the new lead singer of Simon and friends’ awful little band, offers Simon his spare room to stay in. Simon continues two-timing Isabelle and Maia, which he and Clary both acknowledge is a terrible idea. Random people with Simon attack him as he moves around the city, but the Mark of Cain on his forehead causes them to be blown into smithereens for trying to harm him. So far, CoFA seems to be about Simon more so than anyone else.

Meanwhile, Jace has been having nightmares about killing Clary, so in a fit of noble self-sacrifice/machismo or whatever, he decides to keep away from Clary, who starts to wonder if he really loves her after all. One of Jace’s tactics for avoiding Clary is to play bodyguard to an unwilling Simon, showing up at Kyle’s apartment, staying overnight in Simon’s room (this book is the first time I’ve seen what Jace/Simon shippers have been on about for years), coming to Simon’s shows, etc. Unfortunately, Jace and Clary show up at the same show, and Jace gets distracted from his bodyguarding duties by Clary (of course), and Simon, who’s been going without blood for days, loses control and attacks Maureen, a 14-year-old girl with a crush on him who hangs around his band and is “his only fan”. Man-pain abounds and a ton of bad shit happens.

Simon teams up with the Clave at one point to help capture Camille. Magnus and Alec are called back from their European vacation so that Magnus can interrogate Camille. Alec, upon finding out about his boyfriend and Camille’s past *history*, starts to get super jealous and suspicious about Magnus’s history with everyone from his past that they encounter. And through all of this, Jocelyn and Luke are planning their wedding and even have their engagement party right when things REALLY start to go wrong!

My thoughts: Not gonna lie, I wasn’t going to read the last three books of The Mortal Instruments at all because some friends who’d read it advised against it. I’m glad I read the sneak peek that was included at the end of City of Glass (the one with Camille and her minions and Simon and vampire politics– I’m a huge sucker for vampire stories/lore, with the exception of Twilight), because it got me interested enough to give CoFA a shot. Because my expectations were so low, I wasn’t as bothered by some of the things that happened as I would have been otherwise. Simon’s dilly-dallying in regards to his future as a vampire and his romantic relationships with Izzy and Maia would have normally bugged the hell out of me, but instead, I was much more patient about it.

So, things I liked: Camille. Raphael. Vampire politics! Kyle and Jace’s bromance. Clary playing more of a supporting role in the first half of the book (don’t get me wrong– I like Clary, but having as the protagonist for a while was awesome). How Izzy and Maia handled their discovery of Simon’s two-timing. Izzy and Clary’s growing friendship. The awkward engagement party scene. The evil plot that gets revealed in the second half of the book.

Things I disliked: The characters’ inability to think about the end result at critical moments. Simon’s wishy-washiness. Maureen. And why the hell is Alec trusting Camille? What a horrible idea!

My rating: 4/5. Tbh, I didn’t like it as much as CoLS, but I also didn’t spend as much time groaning during slower parts as I did during CoLS, so I’m going to give them identical ratings. I also can’t remember what I originally rated this as, so this will have to do.

P. Pufferfish Plays Catch-up (a.k.a. Reviews City of Lost Souls)

Work has been busy and the job hunt continues at its sloth-like pace (I’m at a grand total of 3 applications). I’ve binge-watched Luke CageIron Fist (bleagh, don’t do it, guys– see this article for further dissuasion), and The Defenders, along with a whole season of Grimm (which I started back when the show first premiered, btw), and read four books, none of which I’ve reviewed. Damn, and I had so many thoughts on them, too. Anyways, here’s my attempt to get back into the game (how many times have I said that before?). cityoflostsouls

Today’s featured book: City of Lost Souls (Book #5 of The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare.

Format I consumed it in: E-book, from the library down the street from my house.

The premise: Yes, I am aware I have no review up for City of Fallen Angels, and I don’t know if I ever will, because quite frankly, I don’t really recall where it starts and ends. I’ll think hard about it after this review is done and upload it right away if I’m able to remember. SO, CITY OF LOST SOULS… the Clave/Council announces that they’re putting the search for Jace on the back burner ’cause let’s face it, more important shit is happening. For example, the wards over Moscow are being destroyed. Wards over other major cities are at risk. Alicante’s wards still need to be reinforced! Clary, predictably, doesn’t take this very well, so she makes up her mind to keep looking for Jace on her own. Fortunately for her, Izzy, Alec (and by default, Magnus), and Simon agree to continue searching. Clary makes the terrible decision of going to the Seelie queen, her most trustworthy and helpful highness, for assistance, and things really kick off from there.

MEANWHILE, Camille is still lying low around New York and trying to persuade Alec to help her with her nefarious plans by talking to him about Magnus’s past and offering him ways for him and Magnus to be together forever. Simon continues to deal with the negative consequences of being a vampire. Jordan and Maia try to enlist the Praetor’s help. And Mr. Creepy McCreeperson (a.k.a. Sebastien a.k.a. Jonathan Morgenstern) is being the absolute creepiest person ever for a YA novel villain. YEESH. You’ll see when you get to his part. My goodness me.

My thoughts: I truly believe my enjoyment of this “sequel trilogy”, as I’ve labeled it, has been greatly enhanced by my reading of The Infernal Devices. There are some TID easter eggs in this second set of Mortal Instruments books that got me way more excited than they should have, let me tell you that.

Things I liked about CoLS: Aline introducing Clary, Alec, and Izzy to her girlfriend Helen and thanking Alec for inspiring her to come out (awww)! Simon’s new status as voice of reason/comic relief in the group. Magnus’s apartment being turned into a halfway house/safehouse for shadowhunters and other non-humans who are on the move. Simon and Izzy! The more intimate glimpses into Magnus and Alec’s relationship. Jocelyn and Marys trying to be good moms/partners/shadowhunters/action-takers/role models.

Things I disliked about CoLS: All that time wasted describing Clary and robot-Jace’s dates in detail. Clary’s terrible, reckless choices. Okay, so she eventually redeems herself, but who the fuck thinks it’s a good idea to do what she did during that very crucial moment about 2/3 of the way through the book? Alec and Magnus’s lack of communication, although that didn’t bug me as much as it should have until THE VERY IMPORTANT, INFAMOUS MOMENT NEAR THE END WHEN IT TRULY MATTERED. The rehashing of the Lilith plot– good god, is this Supernatural? She needs to go. And finally, MAUREEN. I cannot stand her. Perhaps I’m biased against annoying 14-year-old girls; I don’t think so, considering I work with them quite often as a teen services-oriented library person. But the thing at the end with Camille? What the fuck? Did anyone else think that was a WTF moment? ‘Cause I most certainly do. I hope Cassandra Clare explains it in a way that makes sense in the last book so I don’t feel ripped off.

My rating: Overall, a 4/5. I quite enjoyed reading this book. Sure, I was creeped out and spent more time cringing and yelling “OH, COME ON!” at the characters than I would’ve liked, but it was still a pretty good book. Half a star off for the ending (the last 20 or so pages) and half a star off for Clary’s *MOMENT* that I mentioned earlier.

In which P. Pufferfish gushes about a series which she previously spurned.

cityofbonescover

The cover that almost stopped me from reading this book

I was going to talk about The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, or The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher, today, since I just finished them this week, but I have a talk/discussion on Tuesday with my library book club, so I’m going to wait till then to talk about The Sellout. In the meantime, I’m going to discuss a book trilogy that I read last month, but haven’t gotten around to talking about at all because of life and other distractions.

It’s… The Mortal Instruments (the first three books), by Cassandra Clare! Yes, groan and complain all you want– I know it’s been reviewed and talked about to death by every YA book blogger and booktuber, but after spending a day going down the rabbithole of booktube videos (prior to this week, I’d only ever watched one booktube video, but four days ago, I started watching one girl’s channel and then kept going), I’ve noticed that most of the reviews are about how amazing the books were and how everybody loves the dudes and the relationships, without really giving any details/reasons as to HOW they were amazing or why the dudes and the relationships are so great.

I’m going to backtrack a little: I’m new to YA. I only started reading YA novels last year, so I’ve read a grand total of about ten, give or take a few. I do remember one of my closest friends handing me City of Bones in a Barnes and Noble when we were about eighteen and gushing about how great it was, me standing there reading the first chapter or two, and then putting it back on the shelf and asking her, “Pandemonium? Really? And there’s a gleaming chest on the cover! What the hell?” I’d recently read the first few chapters of Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (I THINK that’s the title, anyway) a few months before that, and that book also started with the main character standing in line to get into a nightclub. I was equally unimpressed by that book, obviously, so the annoyingly familiar set-up convinced me City of Bones wasn’t worth my time. Plus, I was going through a phase where I read a lot of “finding yourself” novels like Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name (which is still one of my favorite books, btw). Clearly, this wasn’t going to cut it.

Fast-forward back to the present, and I’m stuck eating my words plain, no ketchup allowed, because lo and behold!– I devoured that gleaming chest-book, I am now a fan of The Mortal Instruments, I read Clockwork Angel and enjoyed that as well, and I just know I’m going to read my way through all the Shadowhunter-related books sooner or later. Oh, my. My friend who originally recommended the book to me has since lost her enthusiasm towards the series, and recently warned me not to read past the third book (in fact, she said I could get away with reading only the first two and not miss out on much, but I disagree with that, because who only reads 2/3 of a trilogy?!). “I read all six only for Magnus and Alec! They are the only saaving grace!” she said. My sister also refuses to read past City of Glass because she doesn’t want her “perfect ending” ruined. Unfortunately, I read the preview for City of Fallen Angels that was at the end of CoG and now I’m curious. What the hell’s up with that love triangle involving Simon, though? Just what I need– another love triangle in a YA series that already (arguably) had more than one.

That aside, I would recommend this trilogy (I’m going to refer to TMI‘s first three books as a trilogy) to fans of the supernatural and urban fantasy genres; it’s set in New York and revolves around a group of people called shadowhunters who hunt demons. Cassandra Clare’s world-building, while not extensive or anything, is developed and explained well enough that I found it totally believable for this secret, worldwide network of warriors to exist behind-the-scenes, fighting off demons and other threats using archaic weapons and runes drawn on their skin. Clary Frey, the protagonist and POV character, grew up in the “mundane” world (the ordinary human/muggle world that the rest of us are part of), but gets drawn into the politics and conflicts of the world of the shadowhunters because of her mother’s ties to it (which she isn’t aware of at the beginning of the series). In typical “book with a secret organization” style, we get to know the shadowhunters, their traditions, history, methods of operations, beliefs, narrow-mindedness, racism, etc. through her eyes. The shadowhunters, as another very important character notes, are a dying race, but as the story progresses, we realize, along with Clary, that they don’t have to be so long as they can adapt to the fast-changing times instead of stubbornly doing things the way they’ve always done. There’s definitely a generation gap thing going on with the young vs old characters (with a few exceptions); very relatable, imo, especially now that I’m older (but still young enough) and have found myself in similar situations quite frequently as of late.

So let’s talk a bit about the characters. I personally like Clary and didn’t find her annoying, which was a huge relief, because I find so many YA heroines to be unbearably annoying. There are moments, especially in the third book, where I wanted to join some of the other characters in yelling at her for being reckless and stupid, but hey, which protagonist doesn’t do at least one stupid thing in a series? I thought her accomplishments outweighed her transgressions, so I give her a B+ as a protagonist. The main dude, Jace Wayland, aka he who everyone swoons over in reviews, is my favorite character because he is HILARIOUS. I laughed out loud at some of his lines– I honestly didn’t expect for him to be that funny, because I’m used to the lead male in a YA series being more like Edward Cullen (UGH, don’t get me started) or the dude from Fault In Our Stars. Even while brooding and being angsty, Jace’s sense of humor doesn’t really waver, and I appreciate that about him so much. Another character with some funny lines is Simon, Clary’s mundane best friend who is (*dramatic gasp*) in love with her. Unfortunately, Simon is like Mal from the Grisha Trilogy (but funnier), so his existence and actions are almost entirely dependent on Clary. Then there are the Lightwood siblings (aka the only other young shadowhunters in the New York Institute), Alec and Izzy. I adore Izzy– I love how confident and bad-ass she is. She’s beautiful and aware of it, and nothing really gets to her; she just shakes it off and keeps going, the one truly stable character in a cast of sometimes irritatingly unpredictable and angsty people. Alec, as most of us know, is one half of Malec, the famous ship that compelled my friend to read three whole books that she didn’t want to read. I find him endearing, but also kind of annoying at the same time. He’s beautiful like Izzy, but shy, insecure, cautious, gay-but-closeted– very much a product of his upbringing. He takes a long time to warm up to Clary, he talks down to Simon, and I honestly didn’t get why Magnus was so enthralled by him in the first book (although I strongly suspect it was initially a purely physical thing), but good news: there is character development in the works here! He IS only eighteen, and considering when this book came out, his fear of being outed makes a lot of sense. I grew up in the dark ages, i.e. I’m the same age as Alec, if we stick to book timelines/dates, and I remember LGBTQ acquaintances in high school behaving the same way he did. There was this sense of uncertainty when it came to how people would react, and people like me, who supported them, would show that support by treating the subject of sexuality as if it were a non-subject (yikes), and kind of not talking about it to be polite/show that we were cool with it. It’s hard enough being an awkward teen without having to deal with that shit on top of everything. But yes, Alec is one of the few characters who does change as the series continues, so I was cool with him by the time I finished CoG. Which brings us to the other half of the Malec ship, Magnus Bane. Magnus isn’t really a part of the quintet, because he is Alec’s cool older “boyfriend”/more of a consultant figure that shows up from time to time, but he’s a scene stealer and can give Jace and Izzy a run for their money when it comes to standing out in a crowded room. He’s funny, sexy, and very intelligent. He’s also an immortal warlock, and this here’s my favorite thing– it’s not just mentioned once and then brushed off, it’s actually an essential part of his character. One of my biggest problems with immortal characters, particularly immortal love interests, is that they usually behave exactly like the other, actual young adults around them, but have the label of “200 years of age” or whatever attached to them, and then it’s all illogical and doesn’t make sense. Stefan from The Vampire Diaries TV show is like this (and I am a TVD fan), and so is Edward Cullen. They’re dudes who seem to have been hanging out, not doing much, biding their time for years upon years upon years until their love interests show up– it’s as if their lives have been in stagnation all this time. Not so with Magnus! This is a guy who’s been very busy for the past couple of centuries, sort of like Lestat from Interview With The Vampire. I swear, The Vampire Chronicles have ruined me for all other series featuring immortality– nobody has been able to capture the complicated nature of it quite like Anne Rice did. I think Cassandra Clare has managed to dig past the surface, but she’s still not there yet.

In terms of plot/writing/pace, City of Bones felt like a first novel– some of the dialogue and narration was a bit awkward and/or repetitive, especially Clary’s responses to things. The pacing worked, though, despite Cassandra Clare choosing to tell rather than show us a good chunk of the book. The characters were much more likeable in City of Ashes, thanks to the developments in CoB, and there were some classic humorous scenes, but I was so bothered/turned off by the borderline not-incest-incest that I didn’t enjoy it as much (it also took up like thirty pages or something throughout, so I couldn’t just ignore it). City of Glass is probably the best of the three– the villains are great, the way the book is split up (multiple narrators, parts, etc.) worked well, and all the characters play important parts in the way events unfold. I did think the final battle was a bit rushed, but things were resolved in such a logical way that I can’t really complain about it. Overall, I would give the trilogy combined 3.75/5 stars, because I liked it a lot (going by Goodreads’s ratings system), but it did have its problems, which make me hesitate to give it a full 4 stars.

P.S. I do not watch Shadowhunters, the show, because I tried watching one episode and couldn’t get past the bad special effects and the weird way the scenes are filmed/paced. It’s a pity, because it looks great from the gifsets I keep seeing on Tumblr. I’m also one of those annoying book purists, so it really bothers me that they made so many changes (like introducing technology to the institute WTF….).  The City of Bones movie’s pacing/line delivery is much better, but I prefer Katherine McNamara as Clary, Matthew Daddario as Alec, and Emeraude Tobia as Izzy, so it’s books and imagination only for meeee…