Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

clockwork angelClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Published August 31, 2010 by Simon & Schuster

479 Pages

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them….

My Thoughts

The prequel to the thrilling Mortal Instruments Series comes The Infernal Devices. I would recommend reading The Infernal Devices after the third book in TMI, City of Glass, and before reading the fourth book in TMI, City of Fallen Angels, for optimum understanding and entertainment.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in this electric series, centered around a mysterious shapeshifter girl named Tessa Gray, who was tricked into going to London from America after her brother. Here, she stumbles and falls into the dark world of demons and witches and shadowhunters, the fierce race of angelic humans who fight demons. She ends up at the London Institute for Shadowhunters after painfully discovering her wondrous powers to shift into any person, as long as she has an item particular to them.

She meets the shadowhunter ‘family’ that live there: The small but mighty Charlotte Fairchild, the head of the Institute; her ditzy inventor husband Henry; the imperious and beautiful Jessamine Lovelace; the scarred and loyal pretty servant girl Sophie; the frail and dying yet delicately handsome Jem Carstairs; and the fiery, magnetic, passionate, bold, alluring Will Herondale.

Throughout the book, Tessa tries to figure out what exactly she is, while becoming aware of the growing attraction between her and the stormy Herondale. They both love literature and poetry, but it is clear that Will is twisted, racked with hidden inner pain. Tessa immerses herself in trying to figure this haunted boy out. Meanwhile, his parabatai (sworn fighting partner), Jem, is racked with actual physical pain, dying of a disease that destroys him from the inside out.

It is a powerfully urban fantasy novel, as Tessa steeps into the supernatural world hidden in the city of London. Yet, there is someone who wishes her nothing but harm, who desperately wants to get his hands on her for reasons the Shadowhunters do not know. He is the evil human Mortmain, who plots the downfall of all shadowhunters. Somehow, Tessa is the key to that downfall.

For lovers of the shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments, this book is a must read! Meet the ancestors of the characters you love, and find out how the shadowhunters were centuries ago.

5 stars

Kele

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium, #2)

pandemonium

Title: Pandemonium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Published: February 28th, 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young-adult fiction, Romance novel, Utopian and Dystopian fiction

Read: July – August 2015

Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble

Where To Find It: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

My Thoughts

I read Delirium a couple years ago and really loved it. I picked up Pandemonium a while ago, started it, got bored of it, and dropped it. This summer, I decided to pick it up again and give it another shot.

What I Liked

Lena kicked ass! I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by her being a kick-ass heroine being able to fight for herself deftly. She used her brains adeptly as well with clever thinking to get herself out of tricky situations. She definitely developed a lot as a character, from being a naive product of her society to being fierce and independent.

I never thought I could see Lena with another guy after how cute she and Alex were together, but when Julian came into the picture, I really liked the idea of Lena getting together with him. I love star crossed lovers, and Lena + Julian was no exception. I loved how they started out as enemies, then grew to trust each other. I swooned when he shared things about himself and his childhood with her. I felt like their romance was really smooth and really rooted for them to fall for each other. I especially liked how Lena ended up saving him. They’re too cute together and I ship them so hard!

I found her dynamic with the leader of her “Wild” gang, Raven, to be pretty interesting. Raven is very hardened and fiercely independent, and she really influenced Lena to be “stronger”, yet they also brushed against each other the wrong way over their ideological differences over the revolution. I found that to be an intriguing relationship.

I lover Lauren Oliver’s writing style. Her descriptive language is impeccable and her at times poetic style is so beautiful. The narrative voice of Lena was pretty enthralling.

What I Didn’t Like

Lena’s attitude towards Julian at first. It was so unnecessarily rude and hostile to me. I didn’t get her animosity towards him. It kind of made me want to shake her a little and I found it really annoying.

Some parts of the book really dragged on and were quite uninteresting, particularly earlier on during the Then parts. It got better when the Then parts got shorter, though.

I sometimes didn’t like Raven because of how emotionless she seemed to be. I gradually got to understand why her character was so hardened though. She was a good leader, yet highly flawed. Her strength derived from stamping down feelings of care about others, which, although wise in their situation, I didn’t like.

The Twist

I did not see that coming. The revelation was really infuriating to me, yet somehow ingenious. It was actually a brilliant twist, no matter how maddening it was.

The Ending

Lauren Oliver really gave us readers the illusion of a happy ending. I felt so elated that Lena and Julian could be happy and free together. It was so intensely disrupted by the return of a very important person from Lena’s past, who she’d spent much of the book pining for. I’m kind of sad that Lena and Julian didn’t get much time together to be a blissful couple, but still ecstatic to read what happens next with Lena juggling two people she’s grown to care about dearly.

Favorite Quotes

“I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.”

“We have picked each other, and the rest of the world can go to hell.”

pandemonium quoe

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Admittedly, I read this classic for my English class, American Literature, my junior year. Yet, I felt the pressing need to talk about this riveting book as it completely captured my imagination. This holiday, I watched the modern remake of the movie based on the Great Gatsby, and it seems necessary to compare and contrast the two: The Book, and The Movie starring the striking Leonardo diCaprio.

THE BOOK

The narrator is an impressionable, analytical, judgmental young man who recently moved to the East to find glamor and adventure. He represents the young souls in all of us, eager for romance and excitement, yet judgmental of the people caught up in that lifestyle. He is the outsider, watching the lives of other people unfurl around him in New York City. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, is the voice of the readers themselves.

The main character of the story is actually the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, one of the nouveau-riche of West Egg, thrower of lavish parties and owner of a vast amount of wealth. No one could figure out where exactly the wealth came from, which intensified the mystery encompassing Gatsby. Nick Carraway is the next door neighbor who watches the parties from afar until he is invited by Gatsby himself. He is thrown into the prodigality of the Jazz Age: 1920’s America, where the only concern is having fun dancing and drinking.

On the other end is West Egg of the wealthy people of old money, inherited wealth. Here we are introduced by Nick to Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom is your typical Alpha male douchebag who peaked in high school/college, while Daisy can best be described as a delicate flower, ditzy and romantic.

The epic romance unfurls as Nick discovers that Daisy and Gatsby used to be lovers until they were tragically separated when Gatsby went off to war. Daisy, as a rich young and beautiful socialite, was pressured into marrying a wealthy man (Tom) by her mother. What really got me was how Gatsby had purposely gotten a mansion right opposite Daisy’s in order to be secretly near her. He threw all those parties just to get her attention, hoping that she would stop by sometime, but she never did. That was literally the cutest thing I had ever read.

So Gatsby gets Nick to invite Daisy over to HIS house for tea, so he, Gatsby, could kind of just ‘drop in’ and run into Daisy again. Gatsby was so nervous about it and wanted everything to be perfect for their run-in. On the day, Gatsby is a nervous wreck, and I just found it so adorable, how much he cared about Daisy and what she thought. When Daisy arrives, at first its awkward, but then they start talking to each other like old times, and my heart is literally bursting with joy for them and their young love renewed.

The really sad thing, however, is how Gatsby wants to repeat the past, before he went to war, and fix it by having Daisy tell him she never loved Tom, only him, and by marrying Daisy. It’s also romantic but so tragic because you can;t repeat the past, and it’s heart breaking to see Gatsby get his hopes up. Nick, like us, knows Gatsby can’t fix the past, and tells him so, but Gatsby stubbornly wants to believe that he can.

Gatsby and Daisy become clandestine lovers and Daisy so much as comes to one of Gatsby’s parties with Tom, and sneak off with Gatsby.

It all comes to a head when Gatsby goes over for tea or whatever at the Buchanans’ house, and Tom has already suspected him and Daisy of hating something. The air is steely and tense. Daisy can’t stand it (she can’t cope with difficult situations) and asks if they can go into the city. They go, and Gatsby and Tom start arguing, for goodness sake! Gatsby ends up telling Tom that Daisy never loved him, and only loved him, Gatsby. Daisy echoes Gatsby’s statement, but half-heartedly, which already rang warning bells in my mind. As the fight goes on, Daisy finally admits that she had loved Tom, once, but she loved Gatsby too, and tells Gatsby that he’s asking for too much from her. By this time, I was sick of snivelly, oh-I’m-too-fragile-for-this-I-can’t-handle-it Daisy.

The fight between Tom and Gatsby thickens as Tom reveals what he’s discovered about Gatsby. He’s a bootlegger! That was where he got all his money from! The moment Daisy realizes Gatsby’s not of her social standing, she shrinks away from him, even as he pleads with her and denies everything (lying). Daisy, so typically, practically runs back to Tom to take her away from this HORRIFYING experience and Tom revels in his victory.

To cut the long story short, Gatsby dies for Daisy, it’s all very tragically romantic, and when I was reading it I was literally so surprised because I wasn’t even sure if he was dead or not, but then he was, and it was SO sad. Daisy doesn’t so much as come to the phone when Nick tries to call her, and she doesn’t come for Gatsby’s funeral either.

So I guess the moral of this story is rich girls don’t marry poor guys, which is funny, because that is exactly what happened to the author, Scotty here. Or the moral is that Daisy was a heartbreaking bitch, Tom was an asshole, and Gatsby was a hopeless fool in love.

THE MOVIE

gatsby

I know a lot of people who read the book hated the 2013 adaptation of the movie, but I LOVED it. It blew me away and I was completely enchanted from start to finish.

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Tobey Maguire is Nick Carraway, and he was so brilliant at being the wallflower kind of guy, who saw everything but didn’t really do anything. He said direct quotes from the book, poignant observations from Nick in the book and their apt time in the movie. I was so thrilled!

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The effects made everything look larger than life, which is exactly how it was meant to be. It was incredible seeing the Buchanan’s house visually represented because I could see now just how lavishly wealthy they were, how huge and magnificent a house they had.The parties were over the top, so amazing, really reinforcing how brilliant they were in the book. They did a GREAT job at that; the ostentatious opulence.

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Joe Edgerton as Tom was perfect. He looked like an asshole, he talked like an asshole, he oozed hateability through every pore. Carey Mulligan as Daisy was flawless. She was just as I imagined her, all delicate and elegant, pale and doe-eyed, with a cute nub for a nose and classy, classic beauty. She was just the right amount of ditzy and shrewd. Gatsby took the cake. Leonardo diCaprio was Gatsby, and my fangirl heart melted. He was dapper, he was charming, he was arrestingly cute, and just pure Gatsby.

gatsby3the great gatsby

I was really happy how they basically followed the book, but with little variations here and there that didn’t take away from the surprise. Sure, it wasn’t always word-for-word like the older adaptation, but really, what did you expect in this modern day? The only thing that I didn’t like was how they didn’t show Daisy’s daughter. Apart from that, the movie was splendid.

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Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

paper towns

Title: Paper Towns

Author: John Green

Published: October 2008

Read: June – July 2015

Where to find it: Amazon Goodreads

Synopsis

Who is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew..

My Thoughts

Oh, the disenchantment of adolescence.

Paper Towns is a quintessential coming-of-age story that deals with romance, identity, and, above all, teenage angst. Our hero, Quentin Jacobs aka Q, is graduating from high school as a straight-laced student who loves routine and doesn’t find monotony boring, only to have the end of his senior year disrupted by his manic pixie dream girl, his next door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, and her elaborate hijinks.

I must confess: I didn’t really think much of Margo. Her character didn’t particularly interest me and I didn’t care for her when I was seeing her through Q’s adoring eyes. Was she worthy of Q’s adulation? Maybe. Did I care for her? No.

I did enjoy the sharp contrast between their characters during the first part of the book, when Margo had her night of vengeance to those who had wronged her. Q’s anxiety, worry, and need to “play by the rules” complemented Margo’s caprice, impetuousness, and desire to “throw caution to the wind”. Their character dynamic explored the nature between the head and the heart.

Something I found really compelling in the book was the difference between loving the idea of someone and actually getting to know said person. It really explored the way we tend to elevate certain people to god-like status and idealize them without really knowing them at all. It’s dangerous to put someone up on a pedestal because they can never actually live up to those expectations. Margo’s friends and classmates imprinted their ideas of the perfect, mysterious, popular girl onto Margo, and she struggled under the weight of that. Q, in particular, fell for the image he had of her as this fearless dream girl. The twist ending humanized her.

Q’s monologue at the end about really seeing a person who was once an idea was so profound to me. We see each other through out cracks in which we let the other person in and show them our vulnerabilities. He’d spent the whole book trying to picture the real Margo, but ultimately failed until he discovered the true reason she ran away. And then. the entire book made sense. She wasn’t just escaping a “paper town”, but she was escaping being a “paper girl”.

I like how John Green embeds literature into his books, like Imperial Affliction in TFIOS and now Leaves of Grass in Paper Towns. I find it interesting how the literature makes the reader connect more with the characters, like it’s a window into their souls or something.

Anyway, Paper Towns was great at the beginning, dragged on a bit in the middle, and had an excellent ending. I enjoyed having the mystery finally solved in a way that I least expected it. If you’re looking for a fun summer read that isn’t riddled with cliches, look no further than Paper Towns.

Favorite Quotes

“Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that she loved mysteries so much that she became one.”

“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”

“”Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”

“All that wild charisma and wanderlust.” (on Margo Roth Spiegelman)

“All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm.”

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

paper towns1 paper towns2 paper towns3 paper towns4 paper towns5 paper towns6

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

to all the boys I've loved beforeTo All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Jenny Han

Published April 2014

Read April 2015

Find it on: Amazon Goodreads Barnes and Noble Simon and Schuster

Synopsis

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

My Thoughts

Where, oh where do I begin with this book? I bought it as a sort of bubble gum-fluffy-cutesy-quick breeze through read, and I wasn’t disappointed on that front. But my problem with this book is, was it really about all the boys she loved before?

I picked up this book hoping to nostalgically reconnect with the sort of crushes my younger self used to have. Instead, I got a heaping of sisterhood. Sisterhood is great and all, and I’ve always enjoyed books on that topic, but I was not expecting that in this book. Han packaged this book to be about cute young crushes when it was really about the protagonist, Lara Jean’s relationship with her older sister and said sister’s unattainable perfection.

Margot, Lara Jean’s big sister, is one of those characters who are supposed to be perfect and meticulous and fastidious and do everything correctly. I only ever got to see her through Lara Jean’s eyes, and Lara Jean basically worshiped the ground she walked for most of the book, which got really boring really fast. Lara Jean obviously idolized Margot and measured herself up against her big sister’s perfection.

I didn’t particularly like Lara Jean or Margot, but I loved their little sister, Kitty. Kitty had an acerbic tongue, which I really enjoyed. She was sharp witted, a little sassy, and a breath of fresh air in a book filled with such stuffy characters.

The actual romance aspect of the book was pretty predictable. However, I did enjoy some really cute parts between Lara Jean and two of the boys she’d loved before. Those gave me what I’d been looking for: adorable, sweet, young teenage crushes. I also liked the way Han developed the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. I noticed how she basically recycled the camaraderie between Belly and her summer boys from her Summer Trilogy but basically switched the genders to end up with Josh and his Song girls. Somehow, it worked.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll just tell you that if you’re looking for a fluffy bunny romance alone, you’ll be looking for a diamond in the rough.

Rating: 3/5

Book Review: White Like Me (Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son) by Tim Wise

white like me

White Like Me

Tim Wise

Published 2005

Amazon

Synopsis

With a new preface and updated chapters, White Like Me is one-part memoir, one-part polemical essay collection. It is a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the daily lives of white Americans in every realm: employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and elsewhere.

Using stories from his own life, Tim Wise demonstrates the ways in which racism not only burdens people of color, but also benefits, in relative terms, those who are “white like him.” He discusses how racial privilege can harm whites in the long run and make progressive social change less likely. He explores the ways in which whites can challenge their unjust privileges, and explains in clear and convincing language why it is in the best interest of whites themselves to do so. Using anecdotes instead of stale statistics, Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and yet scholarly, analytical and yet accessible.

My Thoughts

What a gem White Like Me is! I have become very socially conscious on matters of Race in America since August last year, with the infamous Ferguson incident, so I was very interested in what Tim Wise had to say. I actually got the book from my Theory of Knowledge teacher, who was giving out an extra copy he had bought. (Shout out to Michael LoStracco!)

In case you didn’t already know, Tim Wise is a white American who is working to educate people on race relations and combat racism in America. The essence of what he was saying in his book, White Like Me: racism still exists in America, there is such a thing as white privilege, the micro-aggressions blacks face daily, were all things that I already knew prior to reading about them in his book. Yet, it was still refreshing to read a white person saying all that, especially when it comes to white privilege.

He is very honest and candid, which really impressed me when I was reading. Too many times have whites been to plagued by white guilt rather than facing the truth. Not Tim Wise. He wrote the hard truth, and it made me ecstatic. He wrote about privilege, belonging, resistance, and collaboration, and I could only marvel at the infinite wisdom, self-awareness, and empathy pouring out of a white man when writing about an issue that never affects him (at least not negatively, something he never has to worry about in his life: race.

I wish I could meet Mr. Wise in real life and thank him for writing such a candid book on our so-called “post-racial society”. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It’s important to be educated on such delicate social topics as race in today’s world. In fact, it is essential in combatting the ignorance that still befalls many in America today when it comes to race.

Favorite Quotes

“What whites have rarely had to think about—because being the dominant group, we are so used to having our will done, with a little effort at least—is that maybe the point is not victory, however much we all wish to see justice attained and injustice routed. Maybe our redemption comes from the struggle itself. Maybe it is in the effort, the striving for equality and freedom that we become human.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“So, in “Melting Pot” the children (about a third of whom were kids of color) sang the line, “America was the new world and Europe was the old,” in one stroke eradicating the narratives of indigenous persons for whom America was hardly new, and any nonwhite kids whose old worlds had been in Africa or Asia, not Europe.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“Hardly any aspect of my life, from where I had lived to my education to my employment history to my friendships, had been free from the taint of racial inequity, from racism, from whiteness. My racial identity had shaped me from the womb forward. I had not been in control of my own narrative. It wasn’t just race that was a social construct. So was I.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me

“And in “Elbow Room” the cast sings the glories of westward expansion in the United States, which involved the murder of native peoples and the violent conquest of half of Mexico. Among the lines in the song is one that intones, “There were plenty of fights / To win land right / But the West was meant to be / It was our Manifest Destiny?” Let it suffice to say that happily belting out a tune in which one merrily praises genocide is always easier for those whose ancestors weren’t on the receiving end of the deal.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book Cover
Book Cover

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson

Published 1999

YA Fiction

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Summary

Melinda is a friendless outcast at Merryweather High. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. It is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and who is still a threat to her. It will take another violent encounter with him to make Melinda fight back. This time she refuses to be silent.

My Thoughts

Speak was not an easy novel for me to get through. Laurie Halse Anderson’s language was viscerally powerful and her metaphors gave me pause countless times. The main character, Melinda Sordino, is a tragically sympathetic character. My heart almost-literally bled for her throughout the whole book. Anderson did a great job of tackling such a triggering subject matter as rape in a piercingly artistic fashion. I was literally seeing the world through Melinda’s eyes, and her story was emotionally tasking to read. I became emotionally invested in her character, and by the time I got to the end, I wept. I wept because Anderson had taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride with Melinda and I didn’t know how to feel when it ended.’

The ostracized Melinda let me in to her inner thoughts with an unceasingly witty internal commentary. She grappled with not speaking, something I could definitely relate with. She closed herself off from the world. Yet, she also grappled with her art project throughout the novel, and by the end, the reader could definitely feel fulfilled that Melinda had found her voice: both literally and artistically.

If there was one thing I took away from this book, it was this: If we don’t express ourselves, we kill ourselves little by little, slowly by slowly, everyday.

Favorite Quotes:

If people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. – Melinda

I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too? – Melinda

He says a million things without saying a word. I have never heard a more eloquent silence. – Melinda

It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow. – Melinda

download5 starsimagesKele