Year End Review

As 2013 comes to an end I wanted to look back on the books I’ve blogged about this (my first year of book blogging!) year. This was a year of great highs (The Silent Wife –  If you’re in the mood for something not YA this is the book to read. It’s amazing.) And some major lows (Beautiful Creatures) and some disappointments (*cough Allegiant cough*.) But all in all it was a great year of reading. Here’s to 2014 and the all the new literary gems to be discovered!

What was great

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell EleanorPark_thumb
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In my opinion, Eleanor & Park is one of the best YA novels of 2013. Perceptive, funny, sophisticated and touching, Rainbow Rowell’s charming misfit lovebirds melt your heart and make you yearn for the excitement and turmoil of first love.

Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The finale to Cassandra Clare’s prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, has been a bit polarizing amongst fans of the series. Personally I loved it. And that’s saying something because I wasn’t overly keen on the first two books. I didn’t mind them, I absolutely loved the steam punk elements and the Victorian England setting, but this last book had me finally falling in love with Tessa, Will and Jem. I truly loved the way Clare ended this story. I thought it was strikingly heartfelt and absolutely moving. Plus *spoiler alert* that whole thing with Tessa morphing into a giant angel was super cool.

World After, (Penryn and the End of Days #2), Susan Ee WorldAfter
Publisher: Skyscape

I have yet to finish my review of this book but I needed to put it on the list. Susan Ee is a bit of a phenomenon – having self published the first book in this series (Angelfall – awesome) only to see it become a massive success. This is her follow up and it lives up to the hype. Plus Penryn kind of puts to shame other major heroines (Katniss, Tris etc.) she doesn’t complain, she just gets on with it. Her sense of self preservation knows no bounds. Love it.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway adamstrand
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group)

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is one of those little gems you weren’t looking for but have the good fortune to simply happen upon. After reading a review from the A.V. Club I knew I had to read it. Existential is the best way to describe Galloway’s novel. Adam Strand is so frustrated with life, so overwhelmed with  boredom he kills himself. Over and over again. As his frustration grows at his inability to make death stick Adam takes us on a journey through the mind of an insightful, self-absorbed, too smart for his own good teenager. Macabre, witty and shrewd The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand has to be the most unsung YA novel of 2013.

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
Publisher: Knopf Books

Okay it wasn’t a new release but who cares? This book is amazing. Incidentally so is the movie – except for the ending. Don’t get me started on the ending. Regardless this is a book I highly recommend. Tharp’s Sutter Keely has to be the most likeable teenage-alcoholic-ne’er do well in literary history. The best part of The Spectacular Now? The ending. Which I won’t spoil, you should go read it. Like now.

Days-of-Blood-and-Starlight-HBDays of Blood and Starlight, (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy), Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown

I’m in love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. In Love. Like hardcore. Obsessed? Probably. But definitely in love. I couldn’t wait for this book and when it finally came out I devoured it – twice, back to back. Taylor’s poetic prose coupled with her knack for creating characters you can’t help but fall in love with (or hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns – I’m looking at you Thiago) makes this series more than worthwhile. Plus the blistering, heart-breaking and overwhelmingly quiet burning passion between main characters Karou and Akiva is kind of everything.

What was meh

Allegiant, Divergent Trilogy, Veronica Roth Allegiant2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Possibly the biggest disappointment of the year, the last book in Veronica Roth’s thrilling Divergent trilogy came in with a bang and left with an astounding fizzle. I don’t despise this last book. But I can’t deny feeling a little shafted. It’s not the choices Roth made that bother me, those I respect. It’s how bloated, convoluted and downright ridiculous aspects of the book were. There was just too much going on, story lines were stretched so thin there was no authenticity anywhere. And for the first time in the series I found myself not caring about Tris and Four. And really – there’s no way Tris would have left her gun behind. Never.

13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher ThirteenReasonsWhy
Publisher: Razor Bill

I know – I know, a lot of people really love this book. And I respect that. I really loved the overall concept, I found the way the touchy subject of suicide is discussed was done in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I also couldn’t help but feel 12 of Hannah Baker’s 13 reason’s for ending her life were a bit superficial. And quite frankly, there’s really no reason that’s truly acceptable.

Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Penguin

Ugh.

“Do you sometimes wish you could fast-forward a week? You know something bad’s coming up, and you know you’ll get through it, but the prospect just makes you feel sick?” Yes. This book.

To truly understand my complete and utter disdain for this book is nearly impossible unless you’ve read it yourself. Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries was never going to be one of the great literary feats of the 21 Century but when it began it was enjoyable entertainment. Sookie Stackhouse was a great, kooky, feisty and likeable heroine. Throw in some otherworldly-ness, smokin’ hot vampire love triangles and loads of shenanigans in small town Louisiana, this series was pleasantly thoughtless entertainment. But as the series progressed it became ridiculous and laborious. By the time the final instalment rolled around in the form of Dead Ever After I was reading the books out of sheer spite (and with some minor hope that they might redeem themselves in this final outing. Alas it was not to be so.)  Dead Ever After was the worst of the thirteen book series. THE WORST. And that’s saying something. Silly, boring, predictable and with the lamest copout ever it’s quite possible Harris herself had lost all interest in Sookie’s adventures in Bon Temps.

What I can’t wait for in 2014

Avalon, Mindee Arnett Avalon
Publisher: HarperCollins
On Sale: January 21, 2014

Science Fiction doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect it deserves. I’m hoping with the release of Mindee Arnett’s Avalon that might change. First described to me as Firefly but with teenagers this is the story of Jeth Seagrave and the group of teenage mercenaries he leads who travel the numerous star systems stealing metatech. Despite being a topnotch thief all Jeth cares about is earning enough money to buy back his family’s ship from his lethal boss and getting his younger sister Lizzie away from a life of crime.

Interstellar space travel, teenage mercenaries, criminal masterminds and mind control are just a few of the many elements that make up Avalon.

Dreams of Gods and MonstersLaini Taylor GodMonsters
Publisher: Little, Brown
On Sale: April 8, 2014

So we’re back to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This is the third and final instalment in the series and naturally as someone with an unhealthy obsession I’m obviously counting down the days (101!). Taylor’s Karou is one of the best female heroines out there, tough, witty, resourceful and vulnerable she’s a class act.

CityHeavenCity of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
On Sale: May 27, 2014

I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra Clare has created. It’s inventive and fresh, and really how could you not love a world where the fabulous Magnus Bane resides? This is yet another series finale, this time for Clary Fray and the shadowhunters of the New York Institute. With (dreamy) Jace filled (literally) with heavenly fire and the sociopathic demon-angel hybrid Sebastian on the loose creating evil nephilim this is bound to be one doozy of a closer.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: Harper Teen Forget About Me
On Sale: June 14, 2014

Okay truth be told I’ve already read this, but it’s on my list because I want others to know how good it is. Kate Kurys Quinn weaves an intriguing, spellbinding tale of two sisters with extraordinary powers living in an extraordinary town filled with secrets. This is a story that’s both haunting and magical, unexpected and refreshing. It’s also so tightly wound that unravelling the many secrets within the books pages is a truly thrilling experience.

Despite having read and blogged about all four of John Green’s books I’ve left them off this list because let’s face it if I put in one I’d have to put in all of them. Much like the rest of the world I’m a little in love with Green. The Fault in Our Stars has become one of my all time favourite books and there are times when I wonder how any of us every lived without the witticisms and philosophical insight of Augustus Waters.

Early in the new year expect reviews for World AfterUntil YouThe Rosie Project and Hemlock.

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Literary Love Triangles: The Good, The Bad and the WTF?

The love triangle – a common theme seen throughout literature, some of it good, some of it bad, some incredibly questionable…some so bad they’re good. So with this in mind I’ve made a list of just a few love triangles and taken it upon myself to rank them.

Ranking system:
The Good: All around swooning and mooneyes/Things get rough but love triumphs
The Bad: Things aren’t just rough, decisions are questionable, and loyalty means nothing
WTF: Self-explanatory

Will, Jem, Tessa
(The Infernal Devices, Cassandra Clare)

This triangle has caused a lot of strife for fans of Clare’s prequel series The Infernal Devices, with a clear divide between team Jessa and team Wessa (?). In one corner you have the sensitive, kind and dying James Carstairs in the other corner, the fiery, caustic, sensitive and misunderstood William Herondale. And in either corner you’ve got a guy whose calling in life is to slay demons of which you may be one. Oh and did I mention their best friends? Awkward.

*Spoiler*
In the end Clare cleverly works it out where Tessa gets her cake and eats it too. But she does so in a way that’s incredibly touching, thoughtful and respectful to those on either end of the opposing teams. I say kudos Ms. Clare, kudos indeed.

Rating: Good

Betty, Veronica, Archie
(Archie Comics)

Anyone who’s ever read any of the adventures of the Riverdale crew knows that there’s a heavy emphasis on the Betty vs. Veronica quandary poor Archie’s in the middle of. I mean who to choose? The lovely, sweet, kind, patient and fun Betty or the super rich but stuck up, vain and self-involved Veronica? Quite frankly I could never understand Archie’s dilemma. I mean wasn’t the right choice kind of crystal clear? Regardless Betty and Veronica, despite their BFF status were in a constant battle to win the affections of the world famous ginger.

I always found it rather apropos that despite having two hot chicks constantly fight over him in the end Archie’s always willing to dump both for the redheaded vixen Cheryl Blossom. Cheryl by the way was originally deemed too sexual for a children’s comic and removed for a two-year period. This is not surprising. Her name alone screams harlot. Blossom? BLOSSOM?! It’s so salacious. Think about it people. In the end Archie is your typical teenage guy, clearly Ms. Blossom is…a little freewheeling. YouKnowWhatIMean

Rating: Bad

Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine
(The X-Men, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby)

Theirs is a complicated love story. Jean is either married to or dating Cyclops (depending on which story you follow) but clearly has feelings for Wolverine, who we know for a fact is absolutely nuts about her. Cyclops and Wolverine despise each other. Not to mention they’re mutants. Oh and Jean Grey also happens to be one of the most powerful mutants (Omega level guys) around and has a crazy split personality called The Dark Phoenix. In retrospect it’s not really that complicated.

Welcome to the Friendzone, population: 1, Name: Wolverine

Welcome to the Friendzone
Population: 1
Name: Wolverine

Despite their mutual attraction and obvious chemistry Wolverine never really acts on his feelings for JG, nor she for his, despite the fact that Cyclops marries a JG clone and has a “psychic affaire” with Emma Frost. Not cool man. Not cool. Plus you don’t mess with a chick with infinite super powers.

Rating: WTF (based on all the crazy mutant-ness, death, resurrections, adamantium skeletons, a guy with laser eyes. Etc.)

Sidney Carton, Lucie Manette, Charles Darney
(A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)

Oh Sidney, try as you might the good in you never quite outweighed the bad everyone else saw.  His is a tale of unrequited love, regret and redemption. Making the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he would never have, I’ve often wondered if given the chance to do it over would he still think it was a “far, far better thing” to do?

Rating: Good

Tess, Alec, Angel
(Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy)

Ah Tess, you always believe the best in people and they always turn out to be, well, wankers. Poor Tess is used and abused by manipulative libertine Alec D’Urbervilles and placed on a pedestal only to be callously thrown away by the ironically named Angel Clare when he learns of her past. The story is wrought with angst and despair, love gained and love lost and in the end no one really wins. It’s all so tragic. (Yet terribly entertaining, an 19th century soap opera of sorts.)

Rating: Good (in terms of its iconic status, Hardy’s overall themes especially that of the sexual double standards of the times and the fact that Tess is a survivor.) Bad (Alec and Angel are kind of d-bags.)

Bill, Eric, Sookie
(The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Charlaine Harris)

This triumvirate of supernatural love was always one of my favourite parts of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels.  After years of being seen as the loveable but crazy Merlottes waitress this sassy telepath was able to find love with a handsome, southern gentleman. Albeit a dead one, but hey no one’s perfect. Fast track ahead a few books and things between Sookie and Vampire Bill come to a sad end and she eventually takes up with the super-hot Viking sheriff of Area 5 Eric Northman. But Bill was always in the background, consistently remaining a possibility.

There was always such great tension between Bill and Eric but their mutual love of Sookie time and again (and often begrudgingly) had them working together to keep her safe from harm. In the end it would seem that Harris couldn’t make a choice, and so instead she copped out and put Sookie with the one character she always refused to get with to begin with. I said it before and I’ll say it again, lame.

Rating: WTF

James, Lily, Snape
(Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

A well-kept secret this triangle was hinted at throughout the seven book series but never fully disclosed until the ghoulish and menacing Prof. Snape gives his memory’s to an embattled Harry just before he succumbs to the bite of He Who Shall Not Be Named’s pet snake Nagini. Though the full story lasted a single chapter the truth – that Snape was madly in love with Harry’s mother Lily and dedicated his life to protecting her son upon learning of her murder at the hands of Lord Voldemort was heartbreaking and beautiful. It also completely changed the way we looked at Severus Snape, an unsung hero who tried to do the right thing, all for love he would never have. *Swoon*

SnapeNew

Rating: Good

Edward, Bella, Jacob 
(Twilight, Stephenie Meyer)

I am not a Twilight hater, I truly believe like anything it has its place in the pantheon of teenage-supernatural love stories. Many a person has argued that the character of Bella is a bad role model for teenage girls, what with her whole willingness to give up her life for a guy, literally, but I’ve often felt people failed to recognize that death wishes aside Bella is the one who generally saves the day in this series, so she can’t be quite as meek and docile as people say.

Granted there’s also the argument that –ignoring the fact that Edward would very much like to eat his beloved, he’s also a bit of a creepster considering when he first falls in love with her she’s 17 and he’s about a billion (okay, okay he’s 107, but “frozen” physically at 17, regardless you get my point.)

And then there’s the fact that her other paramour Jacob turns into a massive, vampire killing wolf, and it just so happens that this particular form of wolfism is relatively sensitive and deeply tied to emotion so you know he could potentially wolf out on Ms. Swan if she doesn’t put her plate in the dishwasher the right way.

And don't forget the slobber factor.

And don’t forget the slobber factor.

Looking past these arguments, which are all debatable, the reason the Bella/Edward/Jacob threesome of all-enduring teenage angsty love gets the bad rating is due to the pestiferous (I’ve been waiting so long to use that word, which is just an obnoxious way of saying annoying) excuse used to put it to rest. Not to mention the overall extra creepiness of it. Bella chooses Edward, though she acknowledges if he’d never come into the picture she’d have stuck it out with Jacob. That’s gotta sting. Despite being her second choice Jacob leaves his pack to protect her and her unborn vampire-human hybrid baby only to then turn around and “imprint” on said vampire-human hybrid baby, thus breaking his apparently not undying love for Bella and instead making him willing to bide his time while he waits for the child of the girl he’s been in love with for a while now to grow old enough for him. Got it? Good. Now allow me to state the obvious: that is creepy. That’s beyond creepy. That’s not romantic. It’s not sweet. It’s weird and not cool and quite frankly I’d be telling him to stay the hell away from my hybrid baby.

imprinting

That’s right, I generated a meme for this exact purpose. That’s how much I disagree with imprinting.

Rating: WTF (not to mention gross, weird, unhealthy and icky)

Elena, Damon, Stephan
(The Vampire Diaries, L.J. Smith)

They’re brothers! Come on! Have a little decency, a little respect for brotherly love and affection. Plus don’t you find it a little suspect that both brothers happen to have fallen in love with you despite your uncanny resemblance to the vampire who initially came between them and oh made them vampires?

Rating: Bad

Elizabeth Bennett, Darcy, Wickham
(Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

I’ve always loved the strife and mayhem Wickham caused between Elizabeth and Darcy. Charming, clever, slimy and manipulative Wickham made for an enjoyable villain. Ingratiating himself to Elizabeth by telling tall-tales about the misunderstood Mr. Darcy, playing on her already affirmed prejudice towards him, the slippery Wickham worms his way into her affections whilst further enraging the man who’s kid sister he ran off to marry so he could get his hands on her wealth. The cad!

In the end the truth is revealed, Elizabeth and Darcy find their way to each other and Wickham gets his (in the form of the insanely insufferable Lydia Bennett). Huzzah!

Rating: Good

Book Review: Clockwork Princess

Image

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date Published: 19 March, 2013

Number of Pages: 438 (Hard Cover)

*Spoilers ahead, if you have not read Clockwork Princess but plan to, don’t read this review until you finish the book.*

Before I can lay critique to the final book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy I have to say going into Clockwork Princess I was not as big a fan of this series as I am of The Mortal Instruments. Though I enjoyed Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince they didn’t resonate with me the same way The Mortal Instruments has. However, Clockwork Princess has completely changed my mind on the series. This final chapter (that epilogue!) not only entertained me but moved me as well.

What’s it about?

Clockwork Princess picks up a little after the events in Clockwork Prince, Jem and Tessa are preparing for their upcoming wedding, Charlotte and Henry the arrival of their baby and Will is dealing with his kid sister Cecily and well, brooding over Tessa, and the Magister is still at large and his plan for Tessa yet to be revealed has everyone on edge.

Clare takes us fairly quickly into the action of the Shadowhunting world – moving the story along smoothly and efficiently. Gabriel Lightwood’s revelation about his father’s descent into madness and transformation into a giant worm (which is both gross but humorous) and the message of The Infernal Devices sets things in motion, ultimately leading to an attack on the institute by Mortmain’s steel army (and Mrs. Black!) where Tessa is kidnapped and of all people Jessamine (who only just returned, literally) reveals to Will the Magister’s whereabouts.

In between all the action the story plays out as both a Gothic Romance (Byronic hero and all) and a comedy of manners – which is a good thing, the love triangle between Jem, Tessa and Will is so heavy and intense that the bits of comedy scattered throughout provide a well needed cathartic release.

The letters between Consul Wayland and the Lightwood brothers and Gideon’s ever-blossoming love for Sophie play out along the lines of a Whycherly play in that it’s all affected politeness and scheming and manipulation but in an absolutely fun and enjoyable manner (that first letter to Consul Wayland – priceless). And the “Great Scone Debacle” was really, well, adorable.

The race to save Tessa as Jem wastes away and ultimately the final show down had all the elements of the Shadowhunter world that make Clare’s novels so enticing.

But of course (Mortmain and his Infernal Devices be damned) the real story is the triangle that is Jem, Tessa and Will. It’s exhausting and draining and exciting and suspenseful and completely sad all at once. It’s the stuff good love stories are made of.

Quite frankly I fear the brilliance of Clare’s story will be lost on a lot of people who will focus too much on the fantasy aspect of the world she’s created (which clearly is awesome). But really, if you were to take away all the ‘otherness’ of this story – the Shadowhunters, the demons, the magic, a crazy man creating crazy demon powered robots (yes I went there, I called them robots) – it’s really just an examination on love. And not just romantic love – Clare explores the love between siblings, caregiver and receiver and friends – as so epically written in the story of Will and Jem.

But it all boils down to the love triangle. Generally these types of story are so black and white – there’s the good one and the eternally flawed one, and the one in the middle must choose between what’s easy and what’s difficult, perfection or imperfection. But in the case of Jem,  Tessa and Will everything’s kind of laid out on the table from the get go. We know what Jem’s flaw is, we know why Will behaves as he does and we know Tessa is something other than just a girl – and somehow it makes the whole thing so much more intense. Neither Jem nor Will is perfect; the question is who’s perfect for Tessa.

From the beginning I was always team Will – Jem was nice and kind and patient and sweet and probably the safer choice in that he didn’t appear to be an emotional mess, but the guy was an addict marked for death. I mean really, I couldn’t help but feel how unbelievably selfish Jem was being in asking Tessa to marry him knowing he would be dead sooner rather than later.  I admit I was rooting for Will. Though about a quarter of my way through the book I actually started to think that maybe, just maybe no one would end up with Tessa. (My alternate ending being the death of Jem and Will joining the Silent Brothers which let’s be honest, would have really played into the Gothic theme and would have been devastating for fan girls and boys everywhere. But really who doesn’t love a good tragedy?) When it was revealed that Jem had in fact joined the Silent Brothers and he said his farewells to both Tessa and Will the sixteen-year-old girl in me swooned because I knew Tessa would now end up with Will. And I felt like Will deserved her. He gave up so much to protect those he loved, this was his reward, it was what he was owed – a lifetime of love and happiness. And though it was made clear that Tessa loved Jem as much as she loved Will – to me it always seemed like Will was the right fit. The one who would make her live, make her experience life in a way she may not have thought possible.

But then I got to thinking – the fact that Jem would so unselfishly renounce true love for the happiness of his friend, his Parabatai – told me two things: Jem was really as pure and kind as everyone believed and that theirs (Will and Jem) is the true love story, each willing to forsake their own happiness to spare the other heartache.

Which makes for a nice change. Often “brotherly love” is explored jokingly, all ‘bro code’ and no heart. Clare subverts that ideal and offers a truly tender examination of male friendship and love. And in doing so the reader understand perfectly how Tessa could fall in love with both men.

The Epic Epilogue

Going into the epilogue I was expecting a tie-in to Jace as the last of the Herondale’s, maybe meeting Tessa or having brother Zachariah (who we now know with certainty is Jem) tell him about the family he never knew. Instead Clare totally destroyed my heart with Tessa’s walk down memory lane of her life with Will, and more specifically his death.

I couldn’t help but be moved at the final image of Will’s life with Jem on one side and Tessa on the other. And I love the idea of Jem playing his feelings, his experiences – singular and shared – through his violin. Something about the way it’s described just kind of pulls you in, it becomes so visceral and tangible. The brief images that are invoked to describe Tessa and Will’s life together – and how despite the rules around the Silent Brothers Will consistently worked to incorporate Jem into their lives, were lovely and touching.

And only adding to the bittersweet reality of Tessa’s life, the fact that after so many years, so much patience and determination Jem managed to overcome what stood in his way and offer Tessa a second chance at the life she could have had with him kind of destroyed my heart. (Is it weird that part of me felt – I don’t know, fear maybe, that in going off with Jem it meant it negated Tessa’s love for Will? I don’t think for a minute that’s what Clare was suggesting; I guess I just really love Will…)

But Clare manages to please both team Jem and team Will while at the same time offering a beautiful, bittersweet ending that was really and truly quite unexpected and exceptionally moving. And one that stayed true to the story.

The whole steam punk/Gothic vibe, the allusions and subtle comparisons to A Tale of Two Cities (Will as Sidney Carton, pfffft not even), and all the love stories makes this third and final book in The Infernal Devices, in my humble opinion, the best of the bunch.

I highly recommend reading the entire series, the lead up to this final book is worth the suspense.