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Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Series, Book One) by Cassandra Clare

in a sentence or so: Clary sees demons. Clary battles demons. Clary's reality is turned upside down and dumped out like a backpack with all of the secrets, lies, and half-truths spilling out for her to sort through AND save her mom at the same time.

Clary and her adorable bestie Simon are at a NY dance club when she sees something suspicious. inexplicably, she decides to follow a cluster of not-so-ordinary looking teens into a back room. she surprises them almost as much as they surprise her with her ability to even see them because they are typically unseen by us ordinary folk. they are shadowhunters, and for reasons they cannot explain, Clary can see them.

slowly, Clary begins to realize how closely her fate is tied in with the shadowhunters, and just how deeply ingrained her mother is with the hidden world. not that everything her mother told her was a lie, but pretty darn close. needless to say, Clary is a bit peeved at the whole "your life is a big fat lie" thing...but it's hard to hold on to resentment when the shadowhunters are her best bet at getting back her mother who vanished in a whirlwind of mystery, lies, and demon ichor.

despite the somewhat trite premise, i was totally drawn in to the world that Clare creates.  the whole youre-not-actually-ordinary-but-actually-special thing is a bit played out in my opinion. surely there are better ways to introduce a 'normal' person into the paranormal world than the same ol', same ol'. but alas, as i said i was drawn into the world of half-angels and shadowhunters and different alliances and warlocks and the whole deal.  there was enough familiarity with the lore to sustain me with the fresh twists and unknown bits of paranormal action.

let's not overlook the love-triangle. while cute and frustrating, it did seem pretty obvious - and again trite - that she was in that predicament. she has two choices: lifelong friend or shiny paranormal boy. i was honestly more intrigued by the rest of the supporting cast. Clare creates some brooding, some sassyness, some bitchiness, and some betrayal that i could really absorb and fall in love with.

i'm curious enough to see where this series heads, so i'll keep on reading. plus, the blogosphere seems to be pretty into the series as a whole so there must be some pretty exciting stuff down the line. i loved the plot, but still feeling salty about some of the cliches. i'm hopeful that Clary starts to work outside of the box, that she does things i wouldn't do or make bad decisions or do something to show some flaw to make her feel real.

fave quote: "'Every teenager in the world feels that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants. The difference in your case is that it's true. You are different. Maybe not better-but different. And it's no picnic being different...'" (Magnus to Clary, pg 173|351 nook version) i do value that the author took the time to highlight the cliche...

fix er up: Clary's personality on the whole was watery. sure she has hints of sassyness and determination and sketches and feelings for boys...but i felt like i never really knew her like i knew the other characters.  Clare develops the other characters through their emotional reactions and interactions, but Clary feels 2D. i wonder if it's so the reader can insert herself into the position, but it's frustrating to me that she falls into the "she doesn't know she's gorgeous and special' lead role.

title: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments Series: Book One)
author: Cassandra Clare
genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

outdo yourself reading challenge

i was JUST thinking today how bummed i was that i fell so short of my 100+ reading challenge, and thought it would be a great idea to scale it back a bit for 2011 and just try to outdo my 2010 total.

then, wouldn't you know it, The Book Vixen came along and made my morning!

she fell short of her goal to read 100, she wants to read more than 2010, and she turned it into a fun (and official) challenge. could this be more perfect for me? obvs not.

here be the deets, from her official challenge post found here.

  • Runs January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011(books read prior to 1/1/11 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime. You can sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.
  • The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2011 than you did in 2010See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone; you can change levels at any time during the challenge.
  • Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are fine.
  • You can list your books in advance or list them as you read them. It is not required that you review the books you read for this challenge but feel free to do so.
  • Post this reading challenge on your blog so you can keep a list of the books you’ve read for this challenge. Please include a link back to this post so readers can join the challenge too.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate. You can keep tabs on books you’ve read for this challenge on Goodreads or LibraryThing if you’d like (maybe make a shelf for “Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge”). If you are not on either of those sites then you can list the books you read for this challenge in the comments on my wrap-up post, which will be up at the end of 2011.

Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books

so you should TOTALLY join me. just saying.

peep my progress on the challenges page.  let's do this, 2011.


good thing it's "link a contest" thursday, hosted by Bookworming in the 21st Century.

thanks to one of my all time favorite memes, i was able to stumble upon a sweet contest hosted by DeRaps Reads!

check out the kickin' contest right here.

in other blog related news, i finished up City of Bones and shall be posting the review later today...or sometime this weekend. it's a snowy/slushy mess here in MN, so the odds are good i'll be posting it sooner rather than later.

gothic reading challenge

okay seriously, how am i supposed to resist a gothic reading challenge? i can't. so there.

join me at The Darkness Within, or find out more here.  so excited to have an excuse to read Flowers in the Attic >:)

switching it up

so after much head-scratching over whether reading Clockwork Angel before reading The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, i've dug around the trusty interwebs a bit and decided to take the author's advice. she suggest reading the books in publication order. can do, will do.

i must say, i was really digging Clockwork Angel after only 70 pages or so...for what that's worth to the blogosphere.

Review: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

in a sentence or so: well, the goblins are at it again. the little runts are busy in their underground lairs hatching a plan to kidnap cute little princess Irene to make her the newest goblin princess for prince Hairlip. little does the goblin royal family know that Irene has the help of Curdie (a very nice miner's son), her great-great-great-great-grandmother (who lives in a secret area of her attic) and Irene's own resolve to be a very good princess, indeed.

alternating between Irene's adventures and Curdie's expeditions, we find out about the goblins living in the mountain near their homes.  Irene is a princess, in the every sense of the word.  Curdie is a miner's son, a miner himself, and quite a thoughtful and caring young man really.  after Irene has an outing with Lootie, her personal nurse, that brings them much too close to a goblin grab, they meet the always helpful Curdie who saves them from the potential kidnapping and buds an intriguing relationship that will cross paths many times throughout the tale.

it becomes clear to Curdie, and to Lootie, that the goblins are after a new human princess.  since Irene's home sits right on the edge of the mountain where the goblins dwell, it's pretty obvious she's the one they're after.  the King orders his men to watch Irene and protect her, while Curdie acts on his own to find out what exactly the goblins are up to, and why.

Irene, who is blissfully unaware that she is the target of an underground snatching, stumbles upon a secret passage that leads her to a wonderful woman who identifies herself as Irene's great-great-great(etc) grandmother , and also her namesake.  Irene learns about how her grandmother sustains herself in this most bizarre area of her house, and is simply fascinated by her existence in general.  how can she be so old, yet so beautiful? how is it that no one else seems to know she lives here? why doesn't Lootie believe her when she attempts to share her discovery?

this was written as if it were being told like a story being told to a child at nighttime - which was pretty appealing and comforting, actually.  there are little interruptions and asides that are clearly for the advantage of the reader, which adds a quaint quality to the read that keeps it light and easy to connect with the characters and the narrator.

there's also a good chunk of goblin lore to sink your literary teeth into, which was quite fun to discover. for example, why those mountain-dwellers are always trying to kidnap humans as their brides, where their weaknesses are, and their aversion to human toes.

because of the intended audience being younger, there are very practical explanations for things that i truly enjoyed. like when someone behaves in a way that Irene doesn't understand (not believing her about attic-granny, for example), the characters in the story help her to discern why that is without making villains of them. the more i ponder that concept, the more i really appreciate the idea that we are able to believe certain things at certain times, and that's okay. it's not that we lose respect for those who can't share our ideas, but patiently wait for them to discover on their own, or just accept the fact that some will never share our ideas.

this was a story of courage, friendship, believing when it feels impossible, trust, and being true to yourself. i liked it a whole lot more than i thought i would, and think this is surely a classic that is a solid read for any reader.

fave quote: "The princess being fast asleep, and Curdie in a faint, she could misrepresent at her pleasure" (208). (sometimes narrator is sassy, and i adore sassy.)
fix er up: started off rather slow and trite, but it picks up and darkens and takes some interesting twists and turns to keep your interest.

title: The Princess and the Goblin
author: George MacDonald
genre: Fantasy

Review: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

in a sentence or so: Sophie, the eldest of three girls, is transformed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste. while out and about trying to figure out what to do about this predicament, she comes upon the wizard Howl's castle. he has a reputation for eating the souls of young girls, which isn't a big deal to her now that she's an old biddy. after moving in to the castle, however, Sophie finds her fate is more intertwined with the wizard's than she could have possibly known.

Sophie Hatter is the stereotypical oldest child - responsible, expert at breaking up fights between her two sisters, and the natural choice as the apprentice for the family hat business when her dad dies and leaves the business to her stepmother.  it turns out that Sophie has quite a knack for the hat business, and her responsibilities increase as the popularity of her unique hats increases.

Sophie has heard rumors of the Witch of the Waste roaming around her town, but wizards and witches aren't anything unusual for Sophie.  her sister was sent as a magical apprentice, and who hasn't heard the stories of the wizard Howl and his devouring of girl's souls? this knowledge, however, was not enough to prevent Sophie from getting quite a nasty spell placed on her after she unknowingly offended the witch. Sophie, in addition to being an old lady now, has a touch of cabin fever from the excessive hours in the hat shop and decides to stretch her geriatric limbs. it is on this stroll she forces her way into Howl's moving castle.

Sophie meets Michael, the apprentice of Howl, and he reluctantly lets her stay and warm herself by the fire and rest a bit. no ordinary fire greets Sophie, but rather a fire demon by the name of Calcipher. Calcipher is in an agreement with Howl that he immediately asks Sophie's help breaking so he can gain his freedom. she's not so sure about all this magical business, and she's especially not sure of Howl - who turns out to be an even greater handful than she anticipated. she talks her way into staying in the castle by cleaning and helping with some mending of clothes here and there.  Sophie soon finds her place in the castle, but also finds that her fate is tied into Howl and the Witch of the Waste.

this was just meh for me. the plot alternated between cleverly revealed and plopped in your lap. the mythology was obviously thought out, but the way it was translated to the reader was not consistent.  Sophie alternated between empowered and thoughtful with immature and annoying.  i liked the overall idea of the story, the world Jones created, and the idea of the characters...but it just fell flat for the most part. there were some twists or plot points that gave the read some significant bumps on the interest scale, but that definitely ebbed and flowed with clunky parts.

fave quote: "'Dead?' said Sophie. She had a silly impulse to add, But she was alive an hour ago! And she stopped herself, because death is like that; people are alive until they die." (pg 253)

fix er up: some consistency with Sophie's character and the plot would have made a HUGE difference.

title: Howl's Moving Castle
author: Diana Wynne Jones
genre: Fantasy

off the shelf reading challenge

can you see a theme with my latest challenges? e-book AND off the shelf? i'm trying to get through the books i have without adding to the piles! hopefully these challenges will help. you're welcome, hubby.

you should totally join me in reading those books you bought and just haven't gotten around to reading by joining the challenge hosted by Bookish Ardour right here. i'll be joining at the 'trying' level. bring it, 2011.

e-book reading challenge 2011 - let's do it.

i'm all about the reading challenges, these days!  i'll be joining in on this sweet challenge hosted by The Ladybug Reads at the "Obsessed Level". find out more, and join me, here. here's to getting more out of my Nook in 2011!

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

in a sentence or so: Sam is caught in a seemingly endless loop of the last day of her life. how will can she make all the right choices on her last day on earth, in order to undo the damage she caused and save herself?

Sam is a popular girl.  February 12th starts off pretty standard. coffee and bagels with the besties, ignoring the inferiors, shrugging off the affection of Kent, and generally being a bitch to those outside of her circle.  Sam's internal monologue is just as brash and cold as the things she says. this is not your secretly nice popular girl...this is your standard popular girl.  the only thing out of the ordinary is that February 12th =  Cupid Day - the day she is planning to go all the way with her hunky boyfriend Rob.

Sam's day involves several interactions that she will soon relive again and again. she sees a boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend. she treats her former childhood best friend, Kent, like the dork he is. she flirts unabashedly with her English teacher. she makes fun of Juliet, the school psycho. pretty standard, really. but that night, after a party where her best friend Lindsay drives them home, there is a swerve, a crash, and then she wakes up...on Cupid Day.

okay so the idea of this was a little meh for me.  however, the cover was pretty cute, and i had heard good things on the blog circuit, so i gave it a shot. SO glad i did.  Sam starts to pick and choose what to do with her interactions on her last day - some for better, some for worse.  she's convinced that if she finds the right combination, she'll be able to save herself.  if nothing else, save herself from this ridiculous time loop she's caught in.

the tricky part is, what does making things "right" look like? what things does she need to fix, and what things should stay the same?  and even though she has Cupid Day to fix again and again...there are years of regret that she can't take back.

eventually, what truly matters to Sam comes into focus and she grows to appreciate the important pieces of her life.  some of these were quite obvious, but i was truly surprised by some of the more non-traditional answers that surfaced. specifically, with her 3 best friends. i really like that she was only able to undo the damage of one day - and the magnitude of her actions for years began to weigh on her. but instead of spending her time trying to undo all her mistakes, she focuses on what she can and making a difference with that day she's been given to do it again.

with the exception of the very first day of doing it all again, i thought Oliver did a great job creating a forward momentum within a story that was on repeat.  i loved the slow revealing of the layers of Sam, and her friends, through different interactions and memories.  while the cover has zero to do with the book, it did draw me in...so i'm thankful for that. however, this was much better than i expected, and is one that i would definitely recommend to readers who enjoyed Elsewhere and Shattering Glass.

fave quote: "I'm angry at Elody for dragging me back here and at Ally for always being so clueless.  I'm angry at Rob for not caring how upset I am, and I'm angry at Kent for caring." (pg 74) something about the absolute angst in that statement made me smirk.

fix er up: i know it had to be this way, but i did get a little -__- with some of the repetition.  Oliver does a pretty good job attaching different responses or reactions to the same events that occur over and over, but there were paragraphs here and there i definitely skimmed.

title: Before I Fall
author: Lauren Oliver
genre: Death, Friendship

reading challenge

well, as it turns out i'm kind of fail at reading challenges. i still love them, and the idea of them, and this one was right up my nerdy alley.

Sab, over at YA Bliss, is hosting a reading challenge i just can't resist.  here's more information, from her blog (entire post here: http://www.yabliss.com/2010/11/ya-historical-fiction-challenge.html)
I'm hosting this challenge hoping readers will embrace this awesome genre within YA that is full of outstanding books and many upcoming releases. I will have exclusive giveaways for participants during the year. Lets see how it goes and I will post again with updates. Share the word! (feel free to grab the image as button)

Historical fiction: tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the principal characters tend to be fictional. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. (Wikipedia)

UPDATE! Some Lists:
- My Amazon YA Historical Fiction list
- New YA Historical Fiction 2011
- My Goodreads Historical Fiction shelf here! 
- Time Line with YA Historical titles post-Civil War 

Choose your level:

Level 1: 5 YA HF books in 2011
Level 2: 10 YA HF books in 2011
Level 3: 15 YA HF books in 2011

join me, won't you?