P. Pufferfish reviews The Black Witch, by Laurie Forest.

theblackwitchcoverToday’s featured book: The Black Witch (Book #1 of The Black Witch Chronicles), by Laurie Forest.

Format I consumed it in: Print, from the library where I work.

The premise: So as I may or may not have said before, I only found out about this book because of the whole controversy over it. I put it on hold ’cause I had to see what all the outrage was about. I also read/watched reviews of it from PoC bloggers and booktubers, many of whom had read it and thought it was good.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, basically, some prominent book blogger read the book and (I have no idea if she actually finished it or not) found it unbelievably, unforgivably, undeniably racist, homophobic, etc., so she wrote a post warning others against reading it, complete with examples of racist speech that appears in the book (if I recall correctly, most of the excerpts are from the first half), and the online YA community was pissed off and started actively rallying against it and calling out the author and giving the book 1-star ratings, even though many of them hadn’t read the book. Now, I work in a library, and when I work at the reference desk, I find myself making book recs to people, sometimes without having read the books first (*GASP* yes, based solely on word-of-mouth or reviews), so I’m not saying that you have to read a book cover-to-cover before deciding if it’s good or total crap or, in this case, dangerous, but even before I read The Black Witch, I felt that some of the anger was kind of misplaced. Here’s a summary of the plot, lifted from Goodreads:

A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.

Okay, so the protagonist is this 17-year-old Gardnerian girl who has been homeschooled all her life by her eccentric Uncle Edwin, who took in her and her two brothers, Rafe and Tristan, after their parents were killed during the Realm War, this huge world war where her grandmother, the legendary Black Witch Carnissa Gardner (the last name really tells you how impressive this family’s lineage is) also died pushing into enemy territory. They grow up in what sounds like a fictional version of the Alps, and eventually the two brothers go off to university in this big city. The younger brother, Tristan, turns out to have powerful magic (he’s a level-5 mage, which is a big deal), and is recruited into the military. Elloren, who looks exactly like her grandmother, has no magic at all, which is a huge disappointment and shock to the Gardnerians, especially her aunt Vivyan. Aunt Vivyan is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful mage who sits on the Council. She is also a racist, classist, prejudiced, manipulative bitch, and several of the excerpts I saw of the abusive language used in The Black Witch comes from her mouth. Elloren and her brothers were raised by Edwin, who seems much milder and more tolerant (most likely, this will be further explored in the sequel), so they’re very sheltered, but at the same time, a bit more open-minded.

Aunt Vivyan spends most of the book trying to coerce Elloren into wandfasting with (marrying) Lukas Grey, a level-5 mage from another influential family. Elloren and Lukas seem to hit it off (they go into another room and make out as soon as they meet), but she’s hesitant to marry someone she doesn’t really know, so she decides to keep him at arm’s length while she focuses on more important things, like her work-study in the university kitchens with creatures of other races who are just as prejudiced against her as she is towards them; her less-than-ideal rooming situation with 2 icarals (winged, mixed-race “demons) who aren’t disposed to cleanliness; her extremely demanding courseload; her increasing interest in her coworker, a Kelt boy; and rising political tensions. Oh yeah, and there’s also the matter of Fallon Bane, the most powerful level-5 mage and main contender to become the next Black Witch. Too bad she’s like a younger Aunt Vivyan and hates Elloren, who she sees as a romantic rival. Since this is a YA novel, the budding romantic relationships and tension are unavoidable.

My thoughts: Throughout this book, I kept going MAN, EVERYBODY’S racist! Because shit, most everybody is. The Gardnerians, who are the most politically powerful race at the moment, are obviously racist– most of them echo Aunt Vivyan and Fallon, but not so brazenly. There are some who are more in favor of integration, but they still harbor racist beliefs. The Elves are just as hoity-toity and judgmental as the Gardnerians (they walked out of a class because the new professor was an elf from a lower caste!), and none of the other races trust one another, and for good reason! Still, it was the reverse prejudice that shocked me the most, probably because I’m used to Hollywood showing me racism through a fuzzy-wuzzy lens. I usually see angry, unreasonable, horrible white people mistreating PoC, followed by a scene where the white protagonist ends up in a place with a bunch of PoC, and there’s initially some hostility, but there’s always a leader figure who steps up and speaks nicely to the protagonist and tells the others to back off. The protagonist then learns about the other side, becoming tolerant, so on, with the help of this PoC mentor-figure.

When Elloren arrives for her first shift in the kitchens, her non-Gardnerian coworkers bully her relentlessly and don’t hesitate to show their distrust and hate. The matriarch figure who I expected to step up and speak on her behalf doesn’t. In fact, the burden of reaching out, learning about other cultures, exploring history from another perspective, etc., rests primarily on Elloren’s shoulders. She spends the first half of the book hanging out with other Gardnerians only, mostly because the non-Gardnerians wouldn’t hang out with her even if she wanted them to. She makes several huge mistakes, including getting Lukas to help her deal with her problems at work (he handles the problem by threatening Elloren’s coworkers’ families) and in her dorm (he kills her roommate’s pet and hangs it up in a grotesque display), but the important thing is that she does eventually learn to question things, think independently, and become a true ally to her non-Gardnerian friends and classmates.

Is there a danger of her becoming a “white savior” figure? Ehhh, I didn’t see it that way. First of all, she’s Gardnerian, and some of the other races are arguably whiter than the Gardnerians are, but that aside…  it’s true that Elloren and her few Gardnerian friends/allies are the ones in positions of power, and if it weren’t for their assistance, nothing would have been accomplished (at least, not easily) but most of what they do by the end of the book is a team effort, with people from all races and backgrounds pitching in. I think it’s a bit early in the story (this is a planned trilogy, after all) to judge on this point.

My rating: 4/5. I was going to give it a 3.75, because it is very obviously an early work by a new author (in terms of pacing, character introductions– you’ll see what I mean), but I did like it a lot, and I want to cancel out some of the unfairly negative reviews.

In terms of cultural diversity? I give this book 10/10 points. I thought the different races’ views on who among them is actually most superior (the Gardnerians think they are, the Lupines think they are, etc.) was interesting. Not everyone was subservient to the party in power.

In terms of bad-ass female characters? I give this an 8/10. Elloren spent about 40% of the book crying, even when the situation didn’t warrant it, and I was kind of annoyed by that. Fallon Bane is the only female mage and she happens to be the most powerful, which is awesome, but she’s also a big bully who spends too much time waving around what she’s got. I really wanted Fallon and Elloren to be frenemies, and for Fallon to be a morally gray character, but nope, didn’t happen! Diana gets an A+ from me, though– great female character. Almost all of the victims in this book were women, which gets a thumbs-down from me, but it’s also an old-fashioned, sexist society where women aren’t treated equally, so got to keep that in mind.

LGBTQIA REPRESENTATION? I suppose I could give this a C- passing grade.The only character who is confirmed gay is Tristan, Elloren’s brother, but he is closeted and his homosexuality is a secret known only by Elloren and 2-3 others, because homosexuality is also a no-no in this horrible world! I wondered if Elloren’s female roommates had a thing with each other, but it’s hard to tell. So far, everyone’s strictly one gender or another and all the romances have been straight (but interracial! One thing at a time, I guess).

QUALITY PLATONIC FRIENDSHIPS? Yeah, considering that many of these interracial friendships were hard-earned and many of these characters are committing potential political/social/career suicide by being close friends with one another, I would say so. Elloren and the Gardnerian girls she befriends have a great female friendship going, and with the addition of Diana and Wynter, they have a veritable sisterhood. 10/10.

 

 

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P. Pufferfish’s heart is aching (a.k.a. P. Pufferfish Reviews Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare)

ladymidnightcoverToday’s featured book: Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1), by Cassandra Clare.

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

The premise: Another book that makes you go, “man, if only Clary hadn’t done that stupid thing she did 2/3 of the way through City of Lost Souls…”. This takes place 5 years after the end of City of Heavenly Fire, so the protagonist, Emma Carstairs, is now 17, along with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn. Emma has spent the past 5 years investigating her parents’ deaths, which she doesn’t believe were caused by Sebastien Morganstern, ’cause their bodies were found with weird dark magic type runes all over! With the Blackthorns away visiting relatives in England, Emma enlists the help of Cristina, an awesome foreign exchange student from the Mexico City Institute, to track down leads and– wait, hold on, Imma let Amazon summarize for you, ’cause I’m too lazy to type this up:

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering who killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her battle partner Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

BASICALLY: string of murders in LA area; bodies of mundanes, Faeries, etc., found with the same markings on their bodies as those found on Emma’s parents’ bodies (hey, could this have been done by the same serial killer?); creepy supernatural cult; secret agreements drawn up between the Blackthorns/the LA Institute and the Faeries of the Unseelie Court, who want to investigate the murders of their own kind and are willing to allow Mark Blackthorn to return home in exchange for the Shadowhunters’ aid; BETRAYAL; LAW-BREAKING (there’s a line about the Blackthorns having trouble with the law in the past that I completely sympathize with, especially today, ’cause I’m being forced to go to a mandatory meeting tomorrow because of what I deem unnecessary red tape and prying on the government’s part); COMPLICATED ROMANCE; PINING– SO MUCH PINING. Oh, and the strange, inexplicable ability to use technology. The Shadowhunters of LA regularly use the internet for research, are caught up on their pop culture references, and drive a lot ’cause it’s So-Cal (WOOOOO!) and nobody walks here.

My thoughts: [BIG SPOILERS] HOLY COW, this was hard to put down after about 40% of the way through, when Cristina walks in (out? She technically ran out of the Institute) on Mark and Kieran making out in the parking lot and the plot FINALLY begins to pick up after that. Before that, it was plotty enough that I kept reading to find out what would happen (plus, my sister read it first and told me I had to keep going ’cause of how good it gets), but I just couldn’t get into it the way I wanted to. Julian is just so EHHHH… Emma’s fine, but I had trouble sitting through pages and pages of mutual pining and teen angst. Yes, we get that you’re parabatai and it’s forbidden love and that sucks and all, but Julian was so grouchy and serious, and for a large chunk of the first half, he was nothing but a love interest with a lot of baggage; he didn’t really do much for the plot. A pair that I found way more compelling was Mark and Cristina. I shipped them up until we were hit in the face by Mark/Kieran (but I ain’t complaining about that– Kieran is very sexy and otherworldly), and then I was just confused, ’cause I still liked the idea of Mark and Cristina as a couple, but I also really wanted Mark/Kieran to work out. Then Perfect Diego appeared! Diego and Cristina are obviously soulmates/endgame, but there’s still *sexual tension* between Mark and Cristina, and even though Mark breaks up with Kieran at the end of the book, I still have hope that they’ll get back together. CAN’T WE JUST HAVE A LOVE SQUARE? A FOURSOME? They’d be the most beautiful foursome ever. Good god, if you’d told me half a year ago that I’d be shouting that by October’s end, I would’ve never believed you. Life is so unpredictable.

I wasn’t really big on Cassandra Clare creating so many Blackthorn siblings and having them all be named and appear in so many scenes that we’re all forced to learn their names. But I ate my words later on, ’cause they have very different personalities and I was able to tell them apart pretty quickly. I grew fond of them, especially Ty and Dru. I also liked that the key to the whole puzzle was in a children’s storybook and Tavvy, who’s like 7 years old, was the one who made the connection in the end. To be honest, I think Julian is my least favorite Blackthorn sibling. I understand it isn’t fair of me to keep rolling my eyes whenever he’s being his party pooper self ’cause he had no choice but to play the guardian role and be responsible for a bunch of children when he isn’t yet 18 himself (I admire him for being able to do what I never could have done), but I couldn’t help but cackle out loud when he ran to his studio and dramatically tried to paint a portrait of Emma, but couldn’t because he ran out of yellow paint or whatever. I also laughed when Kieran was eavesdropping on Mark and Cristina outside the window and crushed that acorn in a fit of rage. Oh geezus, Cassandra, couldn’t you have spared us the melodrama?

I will give props for the Malcolm thing, ’cause up until they mentioned belladonna and Cornwall, I had no clue it was coming, although I’m sad, ’cause I genuinely liked Malcolm and when he told Emma that he hated the Blackthorn kids the entire time he was helping babysit them and watching them grow up, I went “NOOOOOOOO!!!” It majorly sucked. Lady Midnight, more than the other Shadowhunter novels, reads like a “villain of the week” case, like a two-episode arc in Criminal Minds or Grimm or some other crime procedural. Plus a ton of teen angst revolving around romantic relationships. The Mortal Instruments books read like 2 massive volumes and The Infernal Devices is more like 1 big book, with the happenings all blending together. Not so with Lady Midnight. The ending was weird, though– I found that it didn’t fit in with the solemn tone of the rest of the book, having Julian distract ROBERT LIGHTWOOD by having him arrest Anselm Nightshade for using dark magic to sell pizza, WTF. That’s like a Kingsman-type ending (I just saw Kingsman: Golden Circle), not meant to be super realistic or even make perfect sense.

My rating: 4.5/5. I didn’t like this as much as Clockwork Princess, but liked it more than the individual books of The Mortal Instruments. It’s probably on par with City of Glass, quality-wise, but I liked City of Glass more.

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.

cityof

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.

 

 

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.

P. Pufferfish has mixed feelings about the ending of an otherwise fantastic trilogy.

clockworkprincesscoverToday’s featured book: Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare (Book #3 of The Infernal Devices trilogy)

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

The premise: The book opens with Tessa trying on her wedding dress, ’cause in case you forgot what happened in Clockwork Prince, she and Jem are about to get married! Of course, since they’re living in the London Institute, where all the action happens, they’re interrupted by Gabriel Lightwood running in to inform them that his father’s morphed into a giant, murderous worm. The gang immediately rushes off to help Gabriel reason with Benedict Lightwood (if still possible) or deal with him (if necessary). Without spoiling anything, the rest of the book continues in a similarly fast-paced fashion. There are countless automaton attacks, Jem’s supply of yin fen, which he is dependent upon to live, runs out unexpectedly early, Tessa finally learns the entire story behind who/what she is, Charlotte faces incredibly sexist and therefore unreasonable and frustrating challenges to her leadership from Consul Wayland, who had previously supported her, and that’s only in the first 60% of the book!

My thoughts: [Spoilers] I am inordinately pleased with this book. It was by far the best of the three Infernal Devices books, and I thought the other two were pretty good. Tessa is a damn good heroine/protagonist, and I get why Jem and Will both love her so much. I also get why she loves them and has trouble choosing between them, AND! I really see how much they love each other and am surprised they both ended up loving another person in addition to each other. I jumped ships not once, not twice, but THRICE over the course of this trilogy. At first, I shipped Will/Tessa. Then I shipped Jem/Tessa. Then I shipped Will/Jem. And finally, I decided it had to be a perfect triangular romance between the three of them. Will/Tessa/Jem. Will/Jem/Tessa. Jem/Will/Tessa. Whichever order would work. Normally, love triangles are more like love carets (this symbol: ^^^^). They meet in the middle but that last line that would make it a true triangle is non-existent. NOT SO HERE! There is even a line at the end about how half of Jem’s heart belongs to Will and the other half to Tessa, and half of Tessa’s heart belongs to Jem and the other half to Will or something like that, but I read it as Cassandra Clare canonically declaring that Will/Tessa/Jem is a thing, and YOU CANNOT CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE.

I was surprised by what happened to Jessamyne. I thought that she would be given a redemption arc, like the one that Gabriel Lightwood got, but guess not! Speaking of Gabriel, he is a treasure. Like a more awkward version of Will. He actually reminds me a lot of Alec (from The Mortal Instruments, who is his descendant). Izzy is more like Cecily, who is very, very free-spirited and independent for a girl from a proper “mundane” Victorian home; I kept remembering when Tessa first came to London and was more reserved and conservative– not so with Cecily, who is a force in and of herself. Gideon and Sophie’s romance was like romance novel fare, but so entertaining to read, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that they both survived to the end. CHARLOTTE AND HENRY– my god, Henry gave me such a heart attack during that big battle in Cadair Idris. I thought he was a goner for sure! And Charlotte! That woman is the queen of my heart! And pretty much the queen of the Institute and later on the Clave as well. There’s an actual line comparing the male Shadowhunters of the London Institute pledging loyalty to her the way Englishmen pledged loyalty to Queen Victoria. I also liked that Bridget, the cook who sings tragic songs about love, death, and murder all day, is an insanely talented fighter and almost singlehandedly kept them all from being overwhelmed and crushed by automatons during the final battle.

I thought the book should have ended with the Christmas party, where Jessamyne’s ghost makes amends with Will and pushes him to propose to Tessa. It was unnecessary to do an extended epilogue with Tessa dealing with Will’s death, but I wouldn’t have minded the book ending in a bittersweet way like that. The Jem ending, though? What the hell? I felt like Cassandra Clare started flip-flopping and being indecisive about Jem’s fate. He doesn’t want to be a Silent Brother ’cause it would mean no more music. He decides to become a Silent Brother because he doesn’t want to die and leave Will and Tessa behind. He is a Silent Brother, but apparently he gets to ignore the rules of Silent Brotherdom and even gets to come back as his young self (albeit as a mundane) to live with Tessa decades after Will’s death? He mentions the reason for all of this having something to do with Lightwoods, Herondales, and Fairchilds, but I don’t remember anything like that happening in the first three books of The Mortal Instruments, so it must have happened in books 4-6, which I haven’t read (don’t plan to read?). I guess it’s nice that Tessa gets to not be alone for another 60 or so years, and it would support the Will/Tessa/Jem thing, but ehhhh, I wasn’t a fan.

Rating: 4.75/5.

By the way, did anyone read the preview for The Last Hours? So THIS is the Downton Abbey-esque series that everyone was talking about. I ended up reading the entire preview, and it’s not really working for me. Magnus is great. I love Magnus. But this James kid…… ehhhhhhh…… and the whole Tatiana Blackthorn-in-her-crumbling-manor-with-her-beautiful-bitchy-ward thing just reminds me too much of Great Expectations, a book that I HATED. I don’t know if I could read a whole trilogy about James-Pip pursuing Grace-Estella but with supernatural stuff thrown in (if that’s the angle Cassandra Clare’s going for). I’d rather read the three remaining Mortal Instruments books I’ve been avoiding.

The return of P. Pufferfish

knifeofneverlettinggoI had the day off for the first time in a long time today, so I spent the past 2 hours watching booktube videos and reading book reviews, which reminded me that I haven’t been on here in a while. Now that I’m finally done with grad school, I don’t really have an excuse any longer, except for but Summer Reading (capitalized) is going on at the library and so I’ve been living at work and I’m so so busy! And but I still have projects and deadlines to meet and job applications are time-consuming and what about the actual reading of books?! I can come up with excuses for anything. So there’s nothing to do but shove them aside and just write. Type. Whatever.

Today’s featured bookThe Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (the guy who wrote that book that just got made into a movie… is getting made into a movie? I follow him on Twitter and he seems pretty cool)

Format I consumed it in: Audiobook. This is important, because apparently, in the print/e-book versions, there are misspellings everywhere to reflect the narrator’s lack of proper education. I didn’t know that until I was done, since I was only listening. I did get to hear it read in what, to me, sounded like a stereotypical country accent, though.

The premise: Todd Hewitt(? See, the problem with listening to a book is that you have no idea how characters’ names are spelled) is a 12-year-old boy living in Prentisstown, a small settlement on a different planet whose population consists of 100+ men. There are no women around because the women were wiped out during a plague that left all the men alive, but stuck with an affliction called the “Noise”, which makes all their thoughts visible/audible to those around them. There is no privacy, and yet there are still shady goings-on around town (the mayor, Prentiss, holds weird cult gatherings in his house). One day, Todd stumbles upon a swamp on the outskirts of town that throws him for a loop because it’s completely silent. Right after this discovery, he is attacked by Aaron, the town preacher, who reminds me of Father Knoth from Outlast 2. He heads home through the town, trying to suppress his thoughts about the Silence, but later on that day, the mayor’s son, Mr. Prentiss Jr. (*snort*), the town sheriff, pays Todd and his adoptive parents, Ben and Cillian, a visit. Then things REALLY go downhill.

My thoughts: I did not like this book. In fact, I hated it for the first 5 or so discs. I moaned and groaned my way through those 5+ hours and couldn’t stop hearing “Tooodd Heeewitt” and “bwoooyyy” in those drawn-out southern syllables when I was doing other things. Don’t get me wrong– I thought the reader did a good job. The accent was not the problem. I just couldn’t stand Todd as a character. At first, I told myself, He’s 12! Give him a break! But Lyra from The Golden Compass was 12, too, and she wasn’t an idiot like Todd is.

Later on, our “hero” [SPOILERS] runs into a girl named Viola, whose scouting ship has crash-landed on the planet. She informs him that the 13-month calendar Prentisstown has been using is “wrong” and, according to the real calendar, he’s actually already past 14. I was reading another book, The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams, at the same time, and the protagonist in there is also 14. He, like Todd, is obnoxious in that 14-year-old boy way, but he’s nowhere near as annoying as Todd. He listens and he learns. That was actually my main gripe with this character: I just couldn’t get over how he didn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I felt horrible for Viola, who is obviously the intelligent one out of the two of them– she had to deal with his idiocy for the entire journey! I managed to hate-read (hate-listen?) my way through disc 6, which is when [BIG SPOILER] Todd gets stabbed, after which he is suddenly noticeably (and probably intentionally, on the author’s part) less annoying! I don’t think I should have to wait for the protagonist to get stabbed 3/5 of the way through the book before I can finally stomach the story without wanting to throw the case out the window.

Does this mean I am not going to be reading the sequel? Unfortunately, book 1 ends [HUGE SPOILER] in a cliffhanger, with a character’s life hanging in the balance, and I have to know what happens to this particular character, so I *SIGHHHHHH* will be back. I’ll hate-read my way through the rest of the trilogy, but I will be finishing it.

Verdict: 2/5 stars. I forgot to mention that I watched a walkthrough for Outlast 2 about a week before I started The Knife of Never Letting Go, and seeing the same backwards small town religious fanaticism sexism butchery thing presented in the form of a children’s book (although at the library where I work, it’s in the Teen section) was a bit alarming. I also hate cults and generally don’t enjoy consuming media that features cults or cult-esque groups (even though they’re being portrayed in a negative light), SOOOOO… I might be biased (fyi, I didn’t think about this till now).

Until next time. Cheers.