Becky’s Two Hundred and Fifty-Ninth Book Review: “Clockwork Prince” by Cassandra Clare

“Clockwork Prince” by Cassandra Clare is the second book in the Infernal Devices Series. The more I read Cassandra Clare, the more I admire what she has created. The Infernal Devices Series takes place in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments Series, but about one hundred and fifty years in the past. I was once again swept away by Cassandra Clare’s words.

 

SPOILER ALERT – There are some spoilers regarding the first book of this series “Clockwork Angel

 

Diving once again into the world of Shadowhunters and other magical forces, “Clockwork Prince” picks up shortly after the first book ended. We know that Nathan was the cause of Tessa’s initial capture and subsequent torture by the Dark Sisters. We know that Mortmain is the one with evil plans in the works, but his motivation and location is unknown. And as she continues to live at the institute, Tessa is working towards understanding who or what she is while helping out as much as possible.

Tessa is a great character. In the first book she discovers that she is not 100% human and has this gift that the Dark Sisters forced her to embrace. Then when she is saved from them and brought to the institute, Tessa tries her best to be helpful and use the gift for good. She goes above and beyond what anyone would ask of her and for entirely selfless reasons. Plus, she’s an avid reader and to me that makes her remarkably relatable.

There is a love triangle that comes to light between Tessa, Jem, and Will. Despite the attraction that Tessa feels towards Will, he has verbally attacked her so many times that she refuses to allow any fantasizing about him. Unbeknownst to her, Will is struggling with his feelings for her as well, not believing that he could love her without putting her in mortal danger. Then Tessa’s friendship with Jem slowly blossoms into more and Tessa is left wondering how it is that her (self-proclaimed) plain features could possibly attract the attentions of one man, let alone two. “She hated that Will had this effect on her. Hated it. She knew better. She knew what he thought of her. That she was nothing, worth nothing. And still a look from him could make her tremble with mingled hatred and longing. It was like a poison in her blood, to which Jem was the only antidote. Only with him did she feel on steady ground.” (Clockwork Prince, pg 35). On the one hand, I can’t help but want things to work out between Tessa and Will. The way that their relationship developed in the first book built up that expectation. But his behavior towards Tessa is too awful and she finds herself leaning towards Jem, who is a wonderful character that we know is doomed to die young. It is hard to cheer for a relationship that is pretty much guaranteed to have an unhappy ending. All the while, there are much bigger things going on in this magical world that Tessa has to prioritize. There were so many interesting things going on in this book; it was a real page-turner.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think this is a great series for anyone interested in fantasy young adult. Even if you don’t usually gravitate towards fantasy, this book is so entertaining that I think most people would find themselves swept away by Cassandra Clare’s words. I look forward to reading the next and final book in the series and I’m excited to devour whatever else Cassandra Clare writes next.

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Becky’s Two Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Book Review: “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth

“Allegiant” by Veronica Roth is the third and final book in the Divergent series. From the beginning I have really enjoyed how strong Tris is and how her strength comes from within. She doesn’t need to be saved; she is fully capable of taking care of herself. Even in the face of uncertainty, she finds her way.

SPOILER ALERT – Do not continue reading if you have not finished Divergent and Insurgent.

At the end of “Insurgent” we learn that the community has been created as a social experiment of sorts and that the purpose of their community was to surface a large amount of Divergents, and then send them out to help the rest of the world. The second book ends with complete chaos after this information was leaked. In the third book, there is a great debate going on as to whether or not the message is authentic and what should be done. In the meantime, the factions have been dissolved as ordered by Tobais’s mother Evelyn. Tris does not appreciate what is happening. “I don’t want the factions back. / But Evelyn hasn’t liberated us like she thinks – she’s just made us all factionless. She’s afraid of what we would choose, if we were given actual freedom. And that means that no matter what I believe about the factions, I’m relieved that someone, somewhere, is defying her.” (Allegiant, pg 20). I don’t want to give too much away, and the book definitely had some interesting plot twists.

I really like Tris as a character and I think that her strength continued to shine throughout the novels, even when she was facing the kind of challenges that she would never have imagined. The moment that she chose to become Dauntless, she proved that she was brave, and daring, and willing to take risks. As the series continued, she showed everyone that she wasn’t willing to stand by and take it, she wanted to work against a corrupt system, she wanted to do what was right, no matter the consequences. I think her strength is doubly present when she is disagreeing with Tobias. Instead of letting him convince her of what he thinks is the right course of action, Tris refuses to act before using her own brain and her own sense. “I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.” (Allegiant, pg 372). I loved this quote. It perfectly captures how real love is, and I can totally relate. That is part of what is so great about Tris in the Divergent series – she is a relatable character. Even though she leaps outside of her comfort zone, she still has the same feelings that you would imagine you would have in the same situation.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think this was a wonderful series and although the books went in quite a different direction from what I had expected, I was constantly entertained. I would definitely be interested in other works by Veronica Roth.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixth Book Review: “Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella

“Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella was so good. It’s her first young adult novel and I was a little apprehensive about it because of that, but I really enjoyed this book. So much so, that I was literally laughing aloud while reading it on the train on my way into work and I devoured it in one day. It was amusing and entertaining, but it also covered a much deeper issue and I think Sophie Kinsella did this well.

When we meet Audrey, she is suffering from an anxiety disorder that surfaced after an unpleasant incident at school. She had a complete breakdown and had to leave school and spend time in the hospital while she got over the worst of it. Now she is staying at home, working on her recovery, which is a very slow process. She cannot be around other people, and she wears dark glasses all the time. “Finding Audrey” is about her trying to pick herself back up again, and while she is doing that she is interacting for the most part only with her immediate family. I really enjoyed Audrey’s family. She has the overprotective mother that takes advice from the articles she reads in the newspaper a little too seriously, “She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the Imaginary Daily Mail Judge, who constantly watches her life and gives it marks out of ten.” (Finding Audrey, pg 19). Her older brother Frank is moody and always playing video games, and Felix, her 4-year-old brother is just hilarious. ““I will fight the chicken pops with my sword,” he says importantly. “I’m a very strong fighter.”” (Finding Audrey, pg 53). Audrey’s dad is great, he’s supportive and sweet, and frequently living in his own world removed from the conversation.

Besides her family, Audrey goes to see her doctor on a regular basis, which is the only time she ever leaves the house. Her doctor gives her some homework: she asks Audrey to get a video camera and make a movie. Audrey is instructed to be a fly-on-the-wall and just observe for a few days and then to try to work up to interviewing her family, and then try interviewing someone outside of her family. What I found really neat about this was that once she was given this assignment, the book was split up between a narrative and a screenplay, which was a lot of fun.

I liked that Sophie Kinsella had Audrey wearing dark glasses to guard herself from the outside world. Audrey gives a bit of an explanation about the dark glasses, “…if you ask me, most people underestimate eyes. For a start, they’re powerful. They have range. You focus on someone a hundred feet away, through a whole bunch of people, and they know you’re looking at them. What other bit of human anatomy can do that? It’s practically being psychic, is what it is.

But they’re like vortexes too. They’re infinite. You look someone straight in the eye and your whole soul can be sucked out in a nanosecond. That’s what it feels like. Other people’s eyes are limitless and that’s what scares me.” (Finding Audrey, pg 27). I thought this was a pretty powerful and insightful statement.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely – it is something that would be especially enjoyable to the female readers out there, but that doesn’t mean that guys wouldn’t like it too. I almost feel like it would be a good book to share with any parents that find themselves in a similar boat as Audrey’s parents. It’s fictional, sure, but reading about Audrey’s illness from her perspective could help some parents better understand why some things work and other things don’t, and how it is a slow process to get better. I think it is a great book to read for entertainment’s sake, but it could also be used almost as an educational tool for anyone in a situation similar to Audrey’s.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Third Book Review: “Fast-Pitch Love” by Clay Cormany

“Fast-Pitch Love” by Clay Cormany is a book that normally, I would never pick up. The author contacted me and offered a copy for review and, as a lover of books, of course said I would read it. I was sent an eBook version, and so I read the book in bits and pieces on my iPhone during my commute if I didn’t have a physical book with me. (Despite the craze and the convenience, I still prefer a physical book to an eBook any day). “Fast-Pitch Love” is a young adult novel that revolves around a 17-year-old named Jace who volunteers to help coach a softball team with his mother. He does this because he is under the impression that the other assistant coach is the girl he has been crushing on. His plan is to get close to Stephanie by working with her. However, his plan goes awry when it turns out the initials he saw did not belong to Stephanie, but to her sister Sylvia. At the request of his mom, and with the hope that Sylvia will be the key to getting Stephanie’s attention, Jace stays on to help coach softball.

There were several different things that struck me as I read “Fast-Pitch Love”. The first was the softball talk. I’m not a big sports person, so this probably is more about me than the book, but I found there to be a lot of technical language and more than once there was a play-by-play report of what was happening in the softball games. I found this to be a little dull. At the same time, I’m not sure if the author could really have cut much of it out because it was relevant to the story. It’s a toss-up. I’m pretty sure if I was a fan of softball and understood the game on a better level that I may have appreciated the play-by-play and been able to really see in my mind what was happening. As it was, I didn’t love that. One thing that I did really enjoy was how Cormany portrayed the sibling interactions between Jace and his younger sister. “He slumped in the chair by his desk and considered an age-old question: Where did little sisters belong on the list of extremely annoying things? Were they worse than tooth extractions, jock itch, and algebra tests? Absolutely. The misery they caused lasted so much longer.” (Fast-Pitch Love, loc 122). I thought this was amusing and I certainly can relate to the challenges of not being an only child.

What I also really enjoyed about this book was the way that Jace grew as a character. He starts out as a high school boy – focused on nothing greater than a girl he is crushing on. Throughout the book though, Jace comes up against various challenges and he rises up to them. He gains a better understanding of things beyond those that directly affect him. He learns that there is more to softball and more to love. “Each softball game was like a person’s life. It had a beginning and an end, highs and lows, as well as characteristics that set it apart from other softball games.” (Fast-Pitch Love, loc 2778). I really liked this quote and I think it portrays some of the wisdom that Jace develops further into the novel.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, not to everyone, but yes. I enjoyed it much more than I was anticipating. I’m glad that I pushed through the beginning where there was an awful lot of talk about softball. The language was a bit overly technical for me as a non-sports-fan, but there were a lot of other factors that drove the plot along and kept things interesting. Just when I felt like things were getting a little predictable, there was a change of pace or a surprising turn of event. I would pick up this author’s work again.

Becky’s One Hundred and Eighty-Ninth Book Review: “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson is an extremely powerful young adult novel. I read it back in high school and decided to revisit it again. Reading the book a second time around I found myself struck by just how accurately Laurie Halse Anderson is able to capture high school and how it feels to not fit in.

The first line that really struck me was on the fourth page. The main character, Melinda Sordino tells the reader: “I am Outcast” (Speak, pg 4). We know from the beginning of the book that Melinda has lost all her friends and the majority of the school hates her. We soon learn that she has gained this notoriety by calling the cops at an end-of-the-year party, which ended up getting a lot of kids in trouble. We do not know why she called the cops. It is obvious to the reader that Melinda is depressed and that something has happened to cause this depression, but we do not know what. One thing that is made clear to the reader is why the book is titled “Speak”. Melinda is told multiple times throughout the book that she needs to speak, talk, and share her thoughts and feelings. The Melinda the readers know has retreated into herself. And very early in the book Melinda goes into a rant about it. “It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.” (Speak, pg 9). I thought this was very powerful and also an interesting foreshadowing into the rest of the book.

Part of what makes “Speak” such an interesting read is learning how the other people in Melinda’s life react to her drastic change in personality. Although as the reader we meet the depressed, introverted, anti-social Melinda, it becomes clear that this is not how she has always been. More and more frequently it is hinted that the catalyst for her personality change happened at the end-of-the-year party. “I know my head isn’t screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them.” (Speak, pg 51). I thought this quote was quite potent.

As we get further into the school year, Melinda seems to find a kind of refuge in art. I liked that she was able to find something to tether her to the world. Art grounds her and frees her at the same time and I think that a large part of this has to do with her art teacher really encouraging her to take her time, experiment, and lose herself in the art. At one point he is explaining to her how art without emotion is like chocolate without sugar. He then goes on to say, “Think about love, or hate, or joy, or rage – whatever makes you feel something, makes your palms sweat or your toes curl. Focus on that feeling. When people don’t express themselves they die one piece at a time.” (Speak, pg 122). I really liked this quote and I agree with it. It is important for people to find an outlet in which they can express themselves. I believe that Melinda was able to find the strength she held within herself by discovering it first through her art.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think that “Speak” is a very powerful novel that would appeal to a wide audience. I really enjoyed the way that this book was written where Melinda was narrating and the only communication we see from anyone else is seen through her eyes. She observes how individuals behave while they are speaking to her and it makes for a refreshing read. I also think that Melinda’s strength grows throughout the novel and it is interesting to watch it develop. I think that this is an excellent read, one that would appeal to anyone that has ever felt like they were on the outside.

“Sometimes I think high school is one long hazing activity: if you are tough enough to survive this, they’ll let you become an adult. I hope it’s worth it.” (Speak, pg 191)

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-Sixth Book Review: “City of Fallen Angels” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Fallen Angels” by Cassandra Clare is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series. This is a series that I have very much enjoyed so far and it was no different going into the fourth book.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST THREE BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES. TO REITERATE – IF YOU HAVE NOT READ “CITY OF BONES”, “CITY OF ASHES”, AND “CITY OF GLASS” YOU SHOULD STOP READING THIS REVIEW UNLESS YOU DO NOT CARE ABOUT SPOILERS.

The last we left off with the series, Jace and Clary had discovered that Valentine had lied to them. They were not brother and sister after all. Therefore, the love and lust they felt for each other was not a terrible and forbidden thing. This was discovered shortly before the great battle that took place. In this battle, Jace killed Sebastian, Clary’s actual brother who was made part-demon and was pure evil. Also during this battle, Jace was sacrificed by Valentine when he stabbed Jace through the chest. This caused the angel to be summoned and grant one wish to the person that summoned him. Once Jace had been stabbed, Clary returned the favor to Valentine and killed him. This meant that once the angel arrived, Clary was able to have any wish granted that she wanted. All that Clary wanted was Jace, and so she asked for him to come back. That is how “City of Glass” ended. Little did she know, that one wish to have Jace returned to her caused a domino effect of terrible things to occur in Clary and Jace’s world. Another thing worth mentioning is that in “City of Glass”, Clary carved a rune onto Simon’s forehead – the mark of Cain – so that her closest friend could go into the battle and help without the fear of his coming to harm himself.

I liked the fact that in “City of Fallen Angels” that other characters were followed more thoroughly. Simon, Clary’s friend-turned-vampire-turned-daylighter, was followed almost as closely as Clary was in “City of Fallen Angels”. I have a soft spot for Simon – I think it is my affection for nerds/geeks in general. His character is so well defined and I enjoyed reading from his perspective. “On the one hand, he didn’t think Isabelle had ever referred to herself as his girlfriend before. On the other hand it was symptomatic of how strange his life has become that that was the thing that had startled him most tonight, rather than the fact that he had just been summoned to a meeting by the most powerful vampire in New York.” (City of Fallen Angels, pg 12).

A lot of “City of Fallen Angels” focuses on Simon and the adjustments that he is being forced to make as he transitions into his new life as a vampire. He runs into difficulties with feeding and he also discovers the true power of the mark of Cain that Clary carved into his forehead. Simon shortly finds himself in need of a new place to stay and ends up crashing with a new member of his band. Jace stops by Simon’s place and displays his cocky attitude immediately. ““I can see why you like it here,” he said, making a sweeping gesture that encompassed Kyle’s collection of movie posters and science fiction books. “There’s a thin layer of nerd all over everything.” (City of Fallen Angels, pg 120). This line actually made me laugh aloud. Sometimes Jace’s little quips can be very entertaining.

Here is another quote from Simon that I enjoyed, this one focusing on the fact that he’s newly a vampire and even more newly a daylighter. “Despite the fact that the sun didn’t harm him, he could feel the pull of the nights, the desire to be out under the dark sky and the glimmering stars. There was something in him that wanted to live in shadows, that felt the sunlight like a thin, knife-like pain – just like there was something in him that wanted blood.” (City of Fallen Angels, pg 273). As Simon tries to figure out his life, Clary is trying to figure out why Jace is pulling away from her.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, definitely. This series is highly addictive and such a quick, fun read. I think that it would appeal to a wide range of individuals. The only caution I would leave you with is do not start to read this book if you do not have the next books in the series. This one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger and I was happy to have the next book in my possession so I could dive right into it. This series is highly enjoyable. I cannot wait to finish it.