Clockwork Princess

Clockwork PrincessTitle: Clcokwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: Infernal Devices #3
Also in this series: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Steampunk, Young Adult
Pages: 593
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on 2013-09-05
ISBN: 978-1416975915
ASIN: B0088OTY20
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

My Review

Clockwork Princess is the final book in the Infernal Devices trilogy, the prequel series to the Mortal Instruments series.  It picked up right at the end of Clockwork Prince.  It was a beautiful end to a great series, with happy moments as well as sad.

The action was just as fierce in this book with some truly epic battle scenes.  Throughout this series, I found Mortmain’s creatures horrifying and they were even more so in this book.  The combination of steampunk elements and magic was fantastic, totally embodied in these creations.

The romance in this installment was at times beautiful and at other times heart wrenching.  The love between Jem and Tessa is beautiful, while Will’s heart is being broken.  But that love is not the only love in this book, either.  We see it growing between some of the other couples in ways that are just heart warming.

The characters are what make this series so wonderful for me, both the good guys and the bad.  Even those that we are supposed to hate were often surprising, showing just enough humanity to make the reader empathize with them.  It may not excuse their behavior, but it gave a whole other level to their characters.  The supporting characters are not just background props to the protagonists, but characters with their own stories to tell.  I love how their stories, while not always in the forefront, were woven into the whole.  Magnus remains one of my favorites in the series, as he was in the Mortal Instruments.  He’s so different as a person in this series, but in many ways, you can see the person he will become.  Jem, Tess, and Will… three distinct characters who in many ways are one.  In very real ways, they are who they are because of one another.  It’s a love triangle like none other, with no true jealously or hate.  Just love and loyalty and a deep selfless desire to see the others happy, even at the cost of their own.

One of the things I love most about these books is that we don’t always get what we want with the characters.  It isn’t all perfectly wrapped up HEAs, but instead reflect real life in that sometimes life just doesn’t work out as planned and that there are obstacles in life.  It is tragic and heart breaking, yes, but I like that the author doesn’t shy away from that.

My Recommendation

Fantastic series that adds so much to the story told in the Mortal Instruments!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.4

About Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

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Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaTitle: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 254
Published by Speak on 2006-12-28
ISBN: 978-0142402511
ASIN: B000YI1K0C
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

My Review

I initially picked this book to read for a literature class I am taking for a module on the censorship and banning of books for children and young adults.  Having absolutely loved The Fault in Our Stars, when I saw this John Green novel on the ALA’s list of most frequently banned books in the 21st century, I jumped at it.  The grounds for its censorship has been the presence of profanity, underage drinking and smoking, drug use, and sexual content.  It is true, there is all of that, but presented in a realistic, true-to-life way.  I am staunchly opposed to censorship and banning and this is a book that I not only don’t believe deserves to be banned, but it is one that I have made a “must read” for my own kids.

The novel takes place within the Culver Creek Preparatory High School near Birmingham, Alabama.  Miles “Pudge” Halter is the new student, obsessed with the last words of famous people.  He has transferred to Culver Creek in the hopes that he can find his own “Great Perhaps,” an idea that has come from the last words of François Rabelais, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”  At his last school, Miles was a bit socially awkward, more obsessed with reading biographies than with socializing with friends, and he wants to start fresh at Culver Creek.  The first person he meets is Chip “The Colonel” Martin, his new roommate who introduces Miles to his own best friends.  Takumi Hikohito is obsessed with hip hop and rapping and Alaska Young is a beautiful girl, although emotionally rather unstable, for whom Miles immediately falls.

In many ways, Alaska is the glue that holds the group of friends together.  She is beautiful and intelligent and fun to be with and very enigmatic.  Although we see different parts of her throughout the book, we, as readers, never really know her any more than her friends do.  Even at the end, there are questions that leave you angsty and emotional.  Her story is her own and threads of it run through the stories of all of her friends.  She is irrevocably a part of their own histories in a myriad of ways.

More than anything, it is a story of coming of age, with all of the pain and angst that goes along with it.  There are beautiful moments, funny moments heart wrenching moments, touching moments.  There are moments of laughter and moments of sadness.  It is an absolutely beautiful story.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was its structure.  It is created in two parts, “Before” and “After,” leading us to and from a pivotal point that I won’t describe.  The chapters underscored that concept, marking time like “forty-five days before.”  You know something is going to happen, but you have no idea what it is.

My Recommendation

I think that this is a beautiful book that touches on real situations in ways that are both touching and tragic.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About John Green

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. He has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers (youtube.com/vlogbrothers), one of the most popular online video projects in the world. You can join the millions who follow John on Twitter (@realjohngreen) and tumblr (fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com) or visit him online at johngreenbooks.com.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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The Forgetting

The ForgettingTitle: The Forgetting
Author: Nicole Maggi
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance, Mystery & Thrillers, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on 2015-02-03
ISBN: 978-1492603566
ASIN: B00ORXKT98
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Georgie's new heart saved her life...but now she's losing her mind.

Georgie Kendrick wakes up after a heart transplant, but the organ beating in her chest doesn't seem to be in tune with the rest of her body. Why does she have a sudden urge for strawberries when she's been allergic for years? Why can't she remember last Christmas?

Driven to find her donor, Georgie discovers her heart belonged to a girl her own age who fell out of the foster care system and into a rough life on the streets. Everyone thinks she committed suicide, but Georgie is compelled to find the truth-before she loses herself completely.

My Review

The Forgetting was not a fluffy young adult novel, but a novel that looks at the very real issue of sex trafficking.  It is dark and often disturbing, but it is also beautiful with its moments of love and change.  Georgie has just had a heart transplant and she can’t help but feel like something is a just a bit off with her new heart.  It is as if the new heart still belongs to someone else and, at first, she doesn’t know what to make of that or what to do about it.  But she follows it’s guide, feeling as if she needs to find out what it is trying to tell her in order to get her own life back.  But the path the heart takes her is one that is dark and dangerous and it irrevocably changes her.

As Georgie goes deeper and deeper into the underworld of Boston, she sees things that she never knew existed in her sheltered world.  No matter how dangerous it may be, she cannot let things rest, cannot turn away from what she has seen and what she has learned.  One of the things I like best is that Georgie, when she acts impulsively, has enough self-awareness to know it and admit it, rather than be portrayed as a foolish girl.  I also like that she doesn’t try to do everything herself and knows when she needs help.

There are so many elements to this book… love, loss, friendship, change, growth.  In the course of Georgie’s search for answers, she meets Nate.  He is inextricably involved with her search and he opens her eyes to the reality of these young girls.  As Georgie learns more, she loses parts of herself in ways and for reasons that she never expected.  Her friendships change as she changes and there is a bit of a message about how deeply life-altering events can affect all aspects of your life.

My Recommendation

The author does a great job of describing a world that most of us know exists, but tend not to see or consider.  These girls are forced into the sex trade, controlled and abused.  They are very young and they are used in unspeakable ways.  This is an eye-opening and thought-provoking book that I think is a must-read for girls and adults alike.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Nicole Maggi

Nicole was born in the suburban farm country of upstate New York, and began writing at a very early age. Of course, her early works consisted mainly of poems about rainbows and unicorns, although one of them was good enough to win honorable mention in a national poetry contest! (Perhaps one of the judges was a ten-year-old girl.) Throughout high school, her creative writing was always nurtured and encouraged.

Nicole attended Emerson College as an acting major, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Post-college, she worked as an actress in New York City for over a decade, focusing mainly on Shakespeare and the classics.

Now living in Los Angeles, Nicole balances writing full-time with motherhood.

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Down from the Mountain

Down from the MountainTitle: Down from the Mountain
Author: Elizabeth Fixmer
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 228
Published by Albert Whitman Teen on 20150301
ISBN: 978-0807583708
ASIN: B00S5OJTXC
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Eva just wants to be a good disciple of Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she’s among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekiel, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder—a purpose she’ll serve until she becomes one of Ezekiel’s wives. But a college student named Trevor and the other “heathens” she meets on her trips beyond the compound are far different from what she’s been led to believe. Now Eva doesn’t know which is more dangerous—the outside world, or Brother Ezekiel’s plans . . . 

My Review

Down from the Mountain was a book that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did.  I tend to avoid books that heavily involve religion, particularly those whose themes revolve around wrongdoings justified by religious beliefs.  But this was an extremely compelling and emotional novel.

The story takes place within a fundamentalist group in Colorado who call themselves the Righteous Path, living in an isolated compound high in the mountains.  With the exception of the leader and a couple of men and boys, the community is almost entirely composed of women.  The adult women become the sister wives of the leader, helping him to create a community of believers.  Most of these women came to him with children and those daughters are also groomed to be his wives as well.  It is a group in which complete obedience is required and their main tenet is that they are the chosen few that will ascend to heaven after the apocalypse.  Those outside the community are eschewed, except when necessary for trade and financial gain.

The protagonist of the novel is Eva, a 15yo girl being groomed to be the next wife to Ezekiel, the self-appointed leader and prophet of God.  She and her mother became a part of the group after her parents divorce.  Because of the complete obedience required by Ezekial, exclusive parent/child relationships are strictly prohibited.  Instead, all children belong to all women.  Despite this, Eva and her mother have maintained a secret relationship, hidden from the community.  It is because of that relationship that Eva’s eyes have been opened and she starts to question the world she lives in.

The conflict of the novel is entirely in the form of Ezekial and his complete control over every aspect of the lives of those in the Righteous Path community.  Whether he is delusional or just domineering is debatable, the end result is complete exploitation of the people within his hands.  Polygamous marriage is forced upon them under the guise of God’s word.  Many of the more recent marriages are to very young girls, girls younger than the legal age of consent.  Brain washing and isolation are a big part of his methodology, as is punishment.  The severity of the punishment ranges from public humiliation to actual physical abuse, depending upon the level of “sin” the person committed.  Other punishments can be the deprivation of food and education, especially the girls who don’t require education in the eyes of Ezekial.

Ezekial is a maniacal, misogynistic, abusive man, a detestable character in every way.  He commits his atrocities in the name of religion and expects his followers to accept them for the same reasons and without question.  Conflict arises when Eva begins to see him for what he is, due in large part to her recent interactions with the outside world.  It is through that that she realizes that perhaps the world isn’t what Ezekial has portrayed, that good exists outside the compound and that perhaps what is inside the compound isn’t as righteous as she has always been taught.  As detestable as Ezekial is, Eva is captivating.  Her change doesn’t come all at once, but over time and with thought and consideration.  She has spent most of her life being groomed, yet she has maintained the ability to think for herself and her character grows through that.

The writing of this book was engrossing and compelling, investing the reader into Eva’s plight, and that of the other women.  There was so much complexity and depth and that complexity carried into the conclusion.  I loved that the ending was realistic, showing the good and the bad, showing the differing feelings within the aftermath of a community such as Righteous Path.

My Recommendation

I loved this book, despite the themes of religious abuse.  I felt like the author portrayed a controversial subject realistically, without sugar coating it or glamorizing it.  It was dramatic and thought-provoking and I enjoyed it.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.8

About Elizabeth Fixmer

Elizabeth Fixmer probably loves creating and writing stories more than anything else. In her first book, Saint Training, she borrowed parts of her own childhood as well as the historical actions that impacted her emotional and spiritual development. Her second book, Down From The Mountain, reflects her interest and concern regarding religious cults that hurt people. Fixmer worked as a psychotherapist with a few persons who were still in cults, and more who were recovering from negative cult experiences. She is currently working on a book with the working title Mercy. This book is about a seventeen-year-old girl who’s pregnant and serving time in prison.
Fixmer loves many things involving stories: theater, books, movies, television and takes guilty pleasure in enjoying some reality TV, especially those involving other cultures and religions such as Hutterites, Leaving Amish, and Escaping Alaska. Any food show will catch her attention because she loves eating. She also loves animals, especially her pets Charles and Tenacity.

Elizabeth lives in a small town in Southeastern Wisconsin.

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The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the RyeTitle: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Genre(s): Young Adult
Pages: 277
Published by Little, Brown and Company on 19510701
ISBN: 978-0316769488
Format: Paperback
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

My Review

I picked up this book for the Eclectic Reader Challenge and it ended up doing double duty as a read for a module on censorship and banning in a lit class I am taking this semester.  It is one of those “Life List” books that I never read in high school but felt like I should.

The novel is a Holden Caulfield’s narrative of two days that he spends on his own in New York City.  He has been expelled from yet another prep school, failing every subject but one.  After a fight with his roommate, he leaves school a few days early and goes back to New York City.  However, he knows that his parents will be furious about what happened and he chooses to spend a few days alone in a hotel before presenting himself at home for the holidays.  His two-day rebellion is spent going to nightclubs and getting drunk or wandering the city, continually bemoaning the lack of intellectual companionship.  He has a date with Sally, a girl from his past, and alternately falls in love with her and hates her… all on the same date.  He is a boy who is clearly never satisfied with anyone or anything, continually in a state of discontent.  His short time of rebellion has brought him no answers and no relief.

I really wanted to love this book, or at least appreciate it, but I just couldn’t.  It wasn’t the dated language or ideas, but the complete lack of a character arc for Holden.  With most protagonists, there is a certain arc of growth that takes place as the character goes through different experiences and situations and becomes changed as a person by the story’s end.  This really didn’t happen with Holden and that lack of character growth is something that I came to realize I really appreciate in a novel and really missed in this one.  Holden is intelligent, but comes across as a bit arrogant, perhaps a little too obsessed with himself as a barometer of intellect.  For most of the book, Holden dismisses others as “phony” and casts aspersions on their worth if they don’t live up to the personal standards he expects, standards that generally seem not to apply to himself.  Instead of relating to Holden’s character, I found myself continually annoyed by him and his seemingly complete lack of self-awareness.  There was just no growth for Holden over the course of the novel, no change in behavior or thinking, no development.  Other than his little sister, Holden seems to struggle to truly connect with anyone on any level.  He spends most of the book whining about the fact that pretty much every person he meets is unintelligent and/or phony.  He sees himself as intellectually superior to most people, judging others as phony for their interest in things he sees as inconsequential.

There is also much about his burgeoning sexuality and how that manifests itself, but there is never any development or resolution to that theme either.  It seems as if he is not entirely comfortable with his own sexual awakening, often commenting about his myriad of chances to lose his virginity that are foiled by himself.  He often objectifies women, but it is also clear that there is little behind it, more of an effort to fit in with the other guys in his school, rather than an accurate representation of his true feelings.  This is seen in his almost obsessive anger towards his roommate when he finds out that Stradlater’s date is Jane, a girl from Holden’s past.  He cannot stand the idea that Stradlater, a guy with a somewhat sketchy sexual history with women, would be with Jane, whom Holden seems to see as some sort of “above it all” standard of perfection.  His thoughts on sexuality seem to be rather disjointed, one moment bemoaning his lack of experience and the next almost frightened by it.  He does not push the issue with his dates and even during an encounter with a prostitute, he rebuffs the idea of intimacy, instead wanting simply to talk.  In keeping with his rather disjointed ideas are his judgments on others’ sexuality, often seeing others “perverted.”  There are also many moments when he questions the sexual orientation of those around him, showing a certain discomfort with the entire topic of sexuality.

In some ways, though, iit was an interesting read.  The story is told as it flows from Holden’s mind, at times very much of a stream of consciousness feel to it.  The flow was often a bit disjointed and almost reminded me of the flow of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead book.  But it is through this perspective and style of writing that we become privvy to the inner workings of Holden’s mind.  Yet, as the story unfolded, I still liked it less and less.

My Recommendation

Classic literature or not, it just didn’t appeal to me.  But I also think that is a matter of “to each his own.”  From a analytical standpoint, it was an interesting read, but it just didnt touch me in any way.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 2

About J.D. Salinger

Jerome David Salinger was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980. Raised in Manhattan, Salinger began writing short stories while in secondary school, and published several stories in the early 1940s before serving in World War II. In 1948 he published the critically acclaimed story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” in The New Yorker magazine, which became home to much of his subsequent work. In 1951 Salinger released his novel The Catcher in the Rye, an immediate popular success. His depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence in the protagonist Holden Caulfield was influential, especially among adolescent readers. The novel remains widely read and controversial, selling around 250,000 copies a year.

The success of The Catcher in the Rye led to public attention and scrutiny: Salinger became reclusive, publishing new work less frequently. He followed Catcher with a short story collection, Nine Stories (1953), a collection of a novella and a short story, Franny and Zooey (1961), and a collection of two novellas, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963). His last published work, a novella entitled “Hapworth 16, 1924″, appeared in The New Yorker on June 19, 1965.

Afterward, Salinger struggled with unwanted attention, including a legal battle in the 1980s with biographer Ian Hamilton and the release in the late 1990s of memoirs written by two people close to him: Joyce Maynard, an ex-lover; and Margaret Salinger, his daughter. In 1996, a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to publish “Hapworth 16, 1924″ in book form, but amid the ensuing publicity, the release was indefinitely delayed. He made headlines around the globe in June 2009, after filing a lawsuit against another writer for copyright infringement resulting from that writer’s use of one of Salinger’s characters from The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger died of natural causes on January 27, 2010, at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

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