Becky’s One Hundred and Seventy-Second Book Review: “City of Heavenly Fire” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Heavenly Fire” by Cassandra Clare is the sixth and final book in the Mortal Instruments Series. I started this book a bit reluctantly as I didn’t want the series to end, while at the same time I needed to know what happened. I am happy to announce that there are more books by Cassandra Clare set in this world but with a different main character. They are already on my Christmas list.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES (UNLESS YOU DO NOT CARE ABOUT SPOILERS IN WHICH CASE ENJOY)

The sixth book in the Mortal Instruments series starts out a little differently from the others. The book opens on a young Shadowhunter in training, Emma. She is dropped off at the L.A. Institute to train and going about her day as normal until an alarm is sounded. Sebastian had broken into the institute and began turning as many Shadowhunters into Endarkened as possible. Among all this chaos, Emma is trying to get to safety with the other children that were training by jumping through a portal. Although she was terrified by everything that was happening, Emma remained levelheaded. I instantly liked her character.

“Heroes aren’t always the ones who win…They’re the ones who lose, sometimes. But they keep fighting, they keep coming back. They don’t give up. That’s what makes them heroes.” (City of Heavenly Fire, pg 95).

The last book ended with Clary severing the tie between Sebastian and Jace by stabbing Jace in the heart with the sword of Heavenly Fire. Instead of destroying him, the Heavenly Fire stayed inside Jace to the bafflement of the Silent Brothers and everyone in the Clave. This made for certain complications when it came to Clary and Jace doing anything from holding hands and kissing to other stuff. Their hormones aside, the Heavenly Fire was the only way they knew to stop Sebastian and since it was inside Jace they had no way to harness it. The L.A. Institute was not the only one that Sebastian attacked to create more Endarkened and no one in the Clave has any idea how to stop him.

“You think they are kind, that the Nephilim are kind, because they are good, but goodness is not kindness, and there is nothing crueler than virtue.” (City of Heavenly Fire, pg 173).

I don’t want to give too much away, which is challenging because there are so many things that happen in “City of Heavenly Fire” that I just want to talk about! But my whole goal with writing reviews is to encourage others to pick up the books I do and check them out, which doesn’t make sense to do if you already know the entire story. That being said, here is one quote that I really enjoyed, “All love is precious. It is why we do what we do. Why do we fight demons? Why are they not fit custodians of this world? What makes us better? It is because they do not build, but destroy. They do not love, but hate only. We are human and fallible, we Shadowhunters. But if we did not have the capacity to love, we could not guard humans; we must love them to guard them.” (City of Heavenly Fire, pg 235).

Cassandra Clare’s writing instantly pulls you into the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders and you won’t want to leave. Her writing has evolved with each new book in the Mortal Instruments series and reading these books was consistently a wonderfully addictive experience. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, I thought that “City of Heavenly Fire” was exciting and at the same time did a great job of tying up all the lose ends in the series. She ended things very satisfactorily. I am really excited by the fact that Cassandra Clare has written other books that are already out there and published, just waiting to be read.

Becky’s One Hundred and Seventy-First Book Review: “Mini Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

“Mini Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella is the sixth book in the Shopaholic series where Becky is facing her wildest challenge yet – a toddler. It definitely makes for an interesting read to observe Becky as a mother. In a lot of ways, Becky Brandon née Bloomwood has always been a bit childish herself and part of what makes her so charming is her innocence and imagination. For example, she frequently finds herself swept away by her own daydreams. But there are some things that she does that make you question how well Becky would do having a whole other person completely dependent on her to exist. That being said, Becky does her best at being a mom and it is really entertaining to see all the challenges she faces with Minnie. Watching Luke try to juggle two shopaholics is even more enjoyable.

The book opens on Becky out Christmas shopping with her two-year old daughter, Minnie. Like her mother, Minnie is determined to get what she wants, especially when it comes to shopping. While fighting with Minnie about buying a toy pony Becky finds herself with an unwanted audience. In order to save face in front of a judgmental parent, Becky quickly determines that Minnie can buy the pony if she uses her own pocket money. After explaining the whole concept of saving up money to buy things you want, Becky tells Minnie that she can buy the pony but that she’ll have used all her pocket money up. Then the sales woman tells Becky that the pony is one of a set and asks if she wants the other one. Of course the judgmental parent observes all of this and makes a comment about how it is too bad that Minnie already spent her pocket money. “…she says to Minnie with one of those tight, unfriendly smiles which proves she never has any fun or sex. You can always tell that about people, I find.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 14). I love how Becky reacts to such things. Instead of giving up on this, Becky explains to Minnie how overdrafts work and proceed to buy the pair of ponies based off this idea. Shopaholic in training.

In addition to dealing with the trials of raising a mini shopaholic, there is a financial crisis going on in England during “Mini Shopaholic” and because of this, everyone is being careful with their money. The entirety of the population of England is cutting back – including the Bloomwood family. It’s pretty funny reading about the challenges that everyone finds themselves in during “Mini Shopaholic”. At one point Becky’s mom, Janice, Becky, and Jess go shopping together at the pound shop and Becky finds herself in awe of her ever-thrifty sister, Jess. “I stare at her, gobsmacked. In fact, to be honest I feel a teeny bit affronted. Here we all are, feeling really virtuous because we’re shopping in the Pound Shop. And Jess has to trump everyone by not shopping at all, ever. That’s so typical of her. Next she’ll probably invent some form of anti-shopping. Like antimatter, or antigravity.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 151). Becky’s reaction is after Jess reveals that she has begun bartering for goods or services when she needs them instead of spending any money.

Without giving anything away, I will say that at one point in “Mini Shopaholic” Becky finds herself in a rather humiliating situation. “…I’ve never felt so humiliated in my whole entire life.
Actually, on second thought, maybe I have. But this is definitely equal with all those other times.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 297). I love this. Becky is really funny but also she speaks the truth. She constantly finds herself in embarrassing situations and always manages to save face somehow.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – this book was just as much fun if not more so than the earlier books in the series. Watching Becky Brandon née Bloomwood grow as a character first into a girlfriend, then into a fiancée, then into a wife, and then into an expectant mother, it’s been really entertaining. Becky is full of life and wherever she goes, hilarity ensues. Reading about her dealing with a two-year old version of herself is really hilarious. I love the series and I am eager to read the next book in the series “Shopaholic to the Stars”.

Becky’s One Hundred and Seventieth Book Review: “City of Lost Souls” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Lost Souls” by Cassandra Clare is the fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series. The series is so enjoyable and as always I find myself devouring the book. I dove into the fifth book as quickly as possible to find out what happens next after “City of Fallen Angels” ended with a cliffhanger.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES (UNLESS YOU DO NOT CARE ABOUT SPOILERS IN WHICH CASE READ ON)

The fourth book in the series ended with Sebastian being brought back to life by Jace while under Lilith’s control. Clary left Jace on the roof to guard Sebastian without thinking about the fact that the mark Lilith had been using to control Jace would heal itself after Clary had destroyed it. Clary goes up to the roof to find that Jace and Sebastian are both missing.

At the beginning of “City of Lost Souls” the search for Jace and Sebastian has been going on for several weeks. There has been no luck finding either and Clary is beside herself with worry. She hasn’t been allowed to be involved with the search teams and is going stir crazy from her inability to act. Then when it looks as if the council is deprioritizing the search for Jace, Clary determines to do something about it. She goes to the Seeley Queen and is told the payment the queen wants in order to grant any help is a pair of magical rings in the institute. Clary breaks into the library during a council meeting and goes after the rings. When she is about to retrieve them, she suddenly has company. After weeks of nothing, she sees Jace and Sebastian working together to steal something from the institute.

Shortly after this, Jace comes to Clary and tries to get her to leave with him. Clary realizes that Jace is no longer her Jace. He is connected to Sebastian in a way that allows Sebastian to have control over him. Their connection also means that any harm that comes to one of them affects both. Clary does not know how to get her Jace back, but she is determined to do anything.

Clary decides to keep the rings the queen wanted for her own use and goes after Jace alone – her only lifeline being the rings. Simon wears one and she wears the other and they can communicate through them. Of course Simon can’t help but use the rings for a casual question. “Her voice came through, tinged with alarm. What is it? What’s happened? Did my mom find out I’m gone?
Not yet, he thought back. Is Azazel the cat from The Smurfs?
There was a long pause. That’s Azrael, Simon. And no more using the magic rings for Smurf questions!” (City of Lost Souls, pg 207). I really do enjoy how Cassandra Clare inserts humor throughout the book. There are times when things get very dark in this series and I think that her humor helps keep a lighter tone to the books, which helps make them overall more appealing to a greater number of people.

I think that another great thing about Cassandra Clare’s writing is that she inserts a fair amount of wisdom into her characters. For example, at one point Maia is begging for help from the Praetor Lupis and makes a promise on behalf of another. “…his voice held a note of warning. “I hope you understand that when you make promises in other people’s names, it falls upon your head to make sure they follow through.”” (City of Lost Souls, pg 204). This is something that I see a lot of people do and it is interesting to have a character explain what it really means to make a promise like that.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I don’t think that you could possibly read the first four books in the series and not be dying to know what happens next. Cassandra Clare creates an amazing fantasy world that I can’t get enough of. As the series continues to evolve, so does Clare’s writing. This book was just as enjoyable as the first four books in the series.

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-Ninth Book Review: “Shopaholic & Baby” by Sophie Kinsella

SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS THE FIFTH BOOK IN THE SHOPAHOLIC SERIES AND THEREFORE THERE ARE DETAILS ABOUT THE EARLIER BOOKS THAT MAY BE REVEALED

“Shopaholic & Baby” by Sophie Kinsella is the fifth book in the Shopaholic series starring the endlessly entertaining Becky Brandon (neé Bloomwood). I really enjoy these books and I would even if the main character and I didn’t share a first name. There is something about Becky’s world that is so much fun to dive into and get lost in for a while. Reading these books is such a comfort – it’s almost like meeting up with an old friend that still has the uncanny ability to make you laugh. That’s what Becky Bloomwood is to me.

At the end of “Shopaholic & Sister” Becky and Luke find out that they are expecting a baby. When “Shopaholic & Baby” begins Luke and Becky are at the doctor finding out if everything is okay with the baby.
“I take a deep breath. “Actually, I did have one question, Dr. Braine.” I hesitate. “Now that the scan results are OK, would you say it’s safe to … you know…”
“Absolutely.” Dr. Braine nods understandingly. “A lot of couples abstain from intercourse in early pregnancy.”
“I didn’t mean sex!” I say in surprise. “I meant shopping.”
“Shopping?” Dr. Braine seems taken aback.
“I haven’t bought anything for the baby yet,” I explain. “I didn’t want to jinx it. But if everything looks OK, then I can start this afternoon!”
I can’t help sounding excited. I’ve been waiting and waiting to start shopping for the baby. And I’ve just read about this fabulous new baby shop on the King’s Road, called Bambino. I actually took a bona fide afternoon off, especially to go!
I feel Luke’s gaze on me and turn to see him regarding me with incredulity.
“Sweetheart, what do you mean, ‘start’?” he says.
“I haven’t bought anything for the baby yet!” I say, defensive. “You know I haven’t.”
“So…you haven’t bought a miniature Ralph Lauren dressing gown?” Luke counts off on his fingers. “Or a rocking horse? Or a pink fairy outfit with wings?”
“Those are for it to have when it’s a toddler,” I retort with dignity. “I haven’t bought anything for the baby.”
Honestly. Luke’s not going to be a very good dad if he doesn’t know the difference.” (Shopaholic & Baby, pg 13). I loved this quote. It really paints the picture of just how quirky Becky is and how Luke reacts to her oddities.

In addition to expecting a baby, Luke and Becky are house hunting. Their escapades during this, more specifically Becky’s, are quite amusing. At one point they find their dream house and are preparing to make an offer when they find out the owners have already accepted another offer. Becky however, refuses to accept that. ““Luke!” I lift a hand. “Stay there!” I feel like Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke Skywalker not to interfere because he doesn’t understand the strength of the Force.” (Shopaholic & Baby, pg 39). She’s ridiculous in the best way.

One thing that is a consistent in “Shopaholic & Baby” is Becky’s complete denial about her pregnancy and what it means. Of course, I do not have any frame of reference personally, but I think that her attitude towards the whole situation is pretty amusing. “I mean, obviously I don’t mind. I’m creating a beautiful new human being and all that. But still. If I were God, I’d make it OK for pregnant women to have cocktails. In fact, I’d make it healthy to have cocktails. And your arms wouldn’t swell up. And there wouldn’t be any morning sickness. And labor wouldn’t exist….
Thinking about it, I’d pretty much have a whole different system altogether.” (Shopaholic & Baby, pg 59). Then again she shares a similar thought process about thirty pages later. “…To be honest, I’m in denial about this whole birth business happening at all. I’m half hoping they’ll invent some new labor-substitute device by the time I reach my due date.” (Shopaholic & Baby, pg 89). Although I have yet to be pregnant myself, I am pretty sure that if they did somehow come up with another system where labor is moot, I might be on board with that. Especially considering my pain threshold is almost nothing.

In addition to all the pre-baby drama and house hunting drama that Becky is experiencing in her life, it’s nothing compared with the fact that she believes that Luke’s ex-girlfriend who happens to be their OB-GYN is after Luke. Much hilarity ensues because of this. There’s also the very real fear that when you’re expecting that your husband will lose interest. But that doesn’t slow down Becky. I really like the fact that although the book is largely comedic in style that there are still many real emotions and real situations that Becky has to deal with. She just has a funny way of doing that. I think that is part of what makes Becky so relatable. She is coping with real situations, however exaggerated they may be.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I am of the mindset that each Shopaholic novel is better than the next. But still, that doesn’t take away from the rest of the series. I love following Becky’s adventures and adding pregnancy and a potential extramarital affair just makes “Shopaholic & Baby” that much more exciting.

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Book Review: “Shopaholic & Sister” by Sophie Kinsella

SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS THE FOURTH BOOK IN THE SHOPAHOLIC SERIES AND THEREFORE THERE ARE DETAILS THAT MAY BE REVEALED ABOUT THE EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

“Shopaholic & Sister” by Sophie Kinsella is the fourth book in the Shopaholic series. This book once again follows Becky Brandon (neé Bloomwood) on her many adventures. The book picks up with Luke and Becky on the tenth month of their yearlong honeymoon. After ten months they are starting to feel a bit homesick and so they change their plans and come home earlier than planned. They make one more stop before returning home – Milan.

Once in the fashion capital of the world, Becky gets a little irritated at Luke for his comment to control herself while they are in Milan. In an effort to show her dedication to soak up the culture rather than go shopping, Becky tells Luke to take her purse to prove that she doesn’t need to go shopping. He actually takes it and leaves her in a rather challenging situation. “As the door closes I feel a tad disgruntled. Little does Luke know. Little does Luke know I was actually planning to buy him a present today. Years ago, when I first met him, Luke had this belt which he really loved, made of gorgeous Italian leather. But he left it in the bathroom one day and it got hot leg-wax on it.
Which was not entirely my fault. Like I told him, when you’re in total agony, you don’t think “What would be the most suitable implement to scrape burning wax off my shins?” You just grab the nearest thing.” (Shopaholic & Sister, pg 29). I thought this was pretty funny. Having dealt with hot wax before, I can completely understand her reaction. After Luke left, Becky decides to venture out with the small amount of cash she had on her. Of course she also had her emergency credit card glued to the inside of a compact mirror. She stops at a leather goods store to find the belt for Luke and meets a man that helps her out: Nathan Temple. He helps Becky acquire an angel bag – the must-have item that is impossible to get. Elated at her new bag, she doesn’t even consider the ramifications of owing a debt to someone she had never met before.

Luke and Becky head back to London after she gets her fabulous bag completely unaware that her exchange in Milan was the beginning of a bigger issue. Once they get back they happily head over to her parents’ house with big plans of a tearful reunion. Instead, Becky finds that her world has changed quite a bit. In her absence, a woman has surfaced and made contact with her parents – a sister. Becky also finds that things have changed with her best friend, Suze. Everything seems to have turned upside down in her world. Becky tries to cope with all of this and at the same time survive on a budget enforced by Luke and deal with the many, many purchases made during their honeymoon.

I really enjoyed reading about all these extra challenges that Becky has thrown at her. It’s interesting how much has changed in her life. She doesn’t have a full time job at this point, so Becky has to amuse herself (on a budget) while Luke is at work all the time. Then there is the issue of her family and friends becoming alienated from her when she was gone for such a long time. Becky is also coping with having a long-lost sister and is pretty ridiculous about the whole situation. Jess is the complete opposite of Becky. This becomes perfectly clear when she spells out that she hates shopping. Part of what I really enjoyed about the addition of Jess’s character in the Shopaholic series is that Becky is thrust into a situation that she cannot exactly talk herself out of. She has to work through her own selfish ways in order to make room for a relationship with a sister that she never knew she had. It’s nothing short of entertaining. Throughout all this mess, Becky also has the interaction in Milan come back and bite her in the ass. You can certainly count on Becky to bury her head in the sand and hide from all her problems.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think it was yet another fun read in the Shopaholic series. It brings a lot of interesting issues to light, the challenges that you would face coming back from almost a year long hiatus: trying to find where you fit in other people’s lives now, how you would react and deal with a newly discovered family member, and also the additional challenges of meeting a new relative and having nothing in common with them. Not to mention coming back to reality after being on honeymoon for so long. It was really fun reading about Becky and how she dealt with these new challenges. As hilarious as ever, the fourth book in the Shopaholic series is well worth reading. Look below for a funny excerpt.

“But that’s so…narrow-minded! Most people have probably got a criminal record these days!” I gesture widely with my arms. “I mean, who sitting round this table does not have some kind of criminal record?”
There’s a short silence.
“Well,” says Luke. “I don’t. Gary doesn’t. You don’t.”
I look at him, taken aback. I suppose he’s right. I don’t.
That’s quite a surprise, actually. I’d always thought of myself as living on the edge.” (Shopaholic & Sister, pg 166)