Book Review: City Of Glass by Cassandra Clare.

t h e  b o o k  -
City Of Glass
First published in 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.35)

e d i t i o n  i  r e a d  -
Hardcover, 541 pages
Published in 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry
My Rating: ★★★★★

t h e  p l o t  -
To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glss, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire that can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?
Clary and Jace have been through hell since this series started, but the conclusion to this novel brought peace to my mind. I went into this book knowing that it was originally planned to be the end of this series, so with this knowledge behind me, I went in prepared - and excited - to finally get some long overdue answers. Cassandra Clare managed to make everything feel worth it in the end - all the heartbreak and suffering, all the tears and laughter. Everything came together nicely and I'm excited to see what she comes up with next. I know it's going to be a bumpy ride, but I'm ready.

Clary's ability to give normal runes destructive power is something that's intrigued me ever since she blew up Valentine's boat. I always figured there was something special about her, but I couldn't have even begun to imagine what that something was. With the return of Jocelyn, we finally hear her side of the story, and the truth is even more brutal than I was expecting. What Valentine did to his children... I don't know of a single author that could have come up with that twist. Clare is a genius and I can't wait to discover what other twists she brings to the table.

With the introduction of Sebastian, I braced myself. Here it is, I thought, here's the dreaded love triangle. Despite the whole Simon, Clary, Jace fiasco, there has never been a serious love triangle in this series thus far. Fortunately, my fears were quelled pretty quickly. Sebastian was, for lack of a more eloquent word, creepy. He definitely had an ulterior motive, and I wasn't surprised in the least when this proved to be true. Though I couldn't figure out his endgame, or his reasoning, I had faith that Clare would come up with a spectacular plot twist. And boy, was it a doozy. I could have never imagined that ending, and I'm fully expecting to get more answers in the following books.

My feelings towards a couple of other characters have done a complete one-eighty since their introduction in City Of Bones. Isabelle is no longer an immature brat, and Alec has finally stopped whining. Both are fast becoming loved characters and I can't wait to see what happens in their storylines next. Simon, however, is definitely the character that has come the farthest. Despite still being a little awkward and geeky, vampirism suits him. He's a little less sensitive and really stepped up to the plate. His ability to walk in the sunlight finally got an explanation in this novel, and it brought various parts of the plot together wonderfully. Clare has absolutely outdone herself with Simon's development, and I can't wait to see where she takes him next.

Valentine as a villain still felt right to me throughout this book. It's clear that he has no limits, though he's definitely not evil. I genuinely believe that he loves his son in his own way, and he honestly thinks that what he's doing is the right thing. Summoning Raziel is no easy feat, however, and finding the final Mortal Instrument - the mirror - is giving him pause. Of course, Valentine will never be stymied for long, and when he discovers the location of the final piece of the puzzle, it's a race against time for everyone involved.

Tense, fast-paced, and filled to the brim with action, Cassandra Clare has created a world that you will fall in love with. Jace and Clary are fantastic main characters and your heart will break for them multiple times. Jace's vulnerability and Clary's unexpected ability to kick some ass are completely unlike them at the start of this series. Clare's character development is out of this world and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Despite this novel being a pretty definitive conclusion, I know Clare will come up with more marvelous ways of hooking her readers. This series is absolutely phenomenal and I will be continuing it with no hesitation. Absolutely stellar.

Reading this book contributed to the following challenges:

Discussion: How Fast Do You Read?

The other day, I was bored and scouting the Internet for fun little challenge-type things when I came across this reading speed test. I can't remember the site that I originally saw it on, but you can find it on the Staples website.

My results showed that I read at a speed of 438 wpm, which is 75% faster than the average American. Not as high as some of the scores I've seen, but I'm still pretty damn proud. If I had taken this test a couple of years ago, I could have beaten that score easily, but taking a hiatus from reading generally slows you down for a while.

According to this test, I could read:
  • The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in 18 hours 13 minutes.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte in 4 hours 6 minutes.
  • Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling in 2 hours 56 minutes ← That's about right. 

How fast do you read? Take the test and let me know. I'm curious to see where I average out amongst my fellow bloggers!

Discussion: Are ARCs All They're Cracked Up To Be?

Though most book bloggers don't start off their blog for the sole purpose of receiving free books (and if you did, shame on you!), it's a common goal for most of us. We work very hard to promote books, and while ARCs and review copies are a nice reward, they're also a cause of great stress for a lot of us. At the end of the day, these books come with strings attached - after all, nothing in life is truly free, right?

So, for those of you who don't know what an ARC is, let me try and explain: also known as an advanced review copy, ARCs are books that are printed well before the book's publication date and are given out to bloggers (amongst various other media outlets) as a way to promote the book ready to up those sales on release day. More often than not, ARCs are available by request only and as they cost the same to print as a final copy, there's usually a very limited amount of them - after all, giving them away for free means that the publishing company is actually counting on high release sales to reimburse the cost of printing those elusive ARCs. Because of the limited amount available, most publishers will expect a review unless you're very careful with your wording and they agree to send you one without the guarantee of a review. It's rare, but it does occasionally happen.

Personally, I don't - and probably never will - request ARCs. Finished copies are a different story, but that's a discussion for another day. I do have a few reasons behind my aversion to advanced copies, though:

1) I don't like feeling obligated to write a review. No matter how much I think I will enjoy a book, there's always a chance that I won't. Although negative reviews aren't necessarily a bad thing (see Negative Reviews - To Post Or Not To Post?), I don't want to think that I've taken away the chance of someone else reading and loving the book, thus gaining the ability to promote it in a much better manner.

2) I'm a major mood reader. ARCs come with a deadline - publication. Though it's not a tragedy if you can't read and review a book before publication, that is kind of the point of ARCs and I always feel so guilty if I can't make it happen.

3) Once you establish a relationship with a publisher, they will sometimes send you unsolicited ARCs - it's unusual, but it does happen if the novel in question is similar to previous books that you've requested. Again, this makes me feel incredibly guilty if I can't read and review it, despite having not asked for it.

Though ARCs are a good marketing tool, I, personally, don't think they're worth it, more often than not. How about you? Do you think ARCs are all they're cracked up to be? Ot do you feel, like me, that they come with too many strings attached?

Waiting On Wednesday: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking The Spine in which we can spotlight the books we're eagerly anticipating. My pick this week is Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.

t h e  b o o k  -
Crimson Bound
by Rosamund Hodge
This will be a standalone novel
Expected May 2015 from Balzer & Bray
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Avg. Rating:
★★★★ (3.93 before release)
400+ pages

o r d e r  i t  h e r e  -
Please note that the cover and/or format may vary.
Amazon UK | Amazon US

t h e  p l o t  -
When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good - apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless - straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand - the man she hates most - Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Tuesday Intros: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross.

First Chapter, First Paragraph - Tuesday Intros is a weekly feature hosted by Bibliophile By The Sea in which we can share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book we're currently reading or thinking about reading soon. My intro this week comes from Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross.

I read this book a few years ago and vaguely remember loving it, so I decided I'd rediscover the magic. The story behind this novel is so interesting and I love the way Cross has incorporated so many different fairytales, adding a modern twist that works. I definitely recommend picking this novel up if you like fairytales with a twist.

t h e  b o o k  -
Kill Me Softly
by Sarah Cross
Bk. #1 of Beau Rivage
Published in 2012 by EgmontUSA
336 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (3.74)

o r d e r  i t  h e r e  -
Please note that the cover may vary.
The Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

t h e  p l o t  -
Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday - and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems - the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairytales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairytales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairytale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairytale curses of their own... brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, like fairytales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.
Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clock struck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.
Curses bloomed.
Girls bit into sharp apples instead of birthday cake, choked on the ruby-and-white slivers, and collapsed into enchanted sleep. Unconscious beneath cobweb canopies, frozen in coffins of glass, they waited for their princes to come. Or they tricked ogres, traded their voices for love, danced until their glass slippers cracked.
A prince would awaken, roused by the promise of true love, and find he had a witch to destroy. A heart to steal. To tear from the rib cage, where it was cushioned by bloody velvet, and deliver it to the queen who demanded the princess's death.
Girls became victims and heroines.
Boys became lovers and murderers.
And sometimes... they became both.

Blog Tour: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder - Excerpt + Author Interview.

Today I have an interview with the lovely Maria V. Snyder to share with you, as well as an excerpt from the newest book in the Chronicles Of Ixia. But first, here's a little bit about the story.

t h e  p l o t  -
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands - and protect her relationship with Valek. Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job - and his life - are in danger.

As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?
Boredom! My first job after college was as a Meteorologist for an environmental consulting firm. The amount of work came in waves, and we were either extremely busy or bored. During the slow times, I started writing a short story. Ideas were always floating around in my mind, but that was when I began using them. I submitted my first short story for critique at a writing conference in Philadelphia, and when the workshop leader gave me 7 out of 10, I thought that was pretty good for a first effort and decided to stick with writing for a while. After my son was born and I only had about one hour a day to myself, I had to decide what was important enough to spend that precious time on. Most days writing won.

Who would you love to see play your characters in a movie adaptation?
I get this question quite a bit and it’s always hard as I don’t know the current crop of actors and actresses. However, I can give it my best effort as I do know a few. Here they are for my Study books: Summer Glau for Yelena, Ben Barnes for Valek, Chris Hemsworth for Ari, Edward Norton for Janco, and Cillian Murphy for the Commander.

Who/what would you say inspires you most to keep on writing?
My readers. Just knowing they’re enjoying the books and waiting for more stories is very inspiring!

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
I identify the most with Opal from my Glass series. She starts out very insecure with low self-esteem and that was me in high school. I had one friend and while I loved acting and dancing, I never thought I was good enough to pursue either of those as a career. I also loved storms and was good in math and science, which is why I earned a meteorology degree, but it took me a number of years to figure out what I was supposed to do and be comfortable with it.

If you could spend the day with any of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d like to spend the day with Kade from the Glass series – his Stormdancing powers are fascinating to me. I’d like to see what he does, do a little surfing, and hang out on the beach.

What is the most rewarding thing that's happened to you since being published?
I received an email from a teenager who told me reading Poison Study helped her overcome her desire to commit suicide. She said that by seeing Yelena go from a hopeless situation to a better one and to overcome such odds, she learned that no matter how bad her life seemed there was hope. After confirming that the email wasn’t a joke, we have been corresponding for years, and I’ve even spent an afternoon with her and her parents last summer. To know Yelena’s story kept a beautiful and intelligent girl alive is the best reward possible, and I’m very proud of that. No award will ever match the joy I feel every time she emails me!

What is your favourite scene in the book?
The scene where Janco gets trapped in a warehouse. The thugs who corner him call him Franco and he’s more annoyed they got his name wrong than about the fact he’s outnumbered. Then I love how he manages to escape. That was so much fun to write.

What made you decide to bring Yelena back?
My readers! They’ve been clamouring for more stories since Fire Study was published back in 2008 and I finally had an idea that I thought would be good enough for a novel. I also wanted to explore Valek’s past and Shadow Study gave me a great way to flashback to when he was young and learning how to be an assassin.

Which came first: your world or your characters?
That’s easy - my characters! I always focus on my characters and the world grows from them and their situation and conflicts. I think that’s why my readers love my characters so much - even the minor ones like Ari and Janco. To me, they are the most important aspect of any story and if a reader can’t connect to the character then they won’t keep reading the book.

Any tips for aspiring authors?
Yes - about a dozen or so! Persistence was the best advice I’d received. To keep sending my book out to agents and publishers until there was no place left to send it to. Also persistence in writing. Finishing a novel is difficult - that middle section is a cold hard slog and just getting the words out and finishing the book is a milestone! And if anyone is interested, I have free writing advice articles and tips on my website.

Anything you'd like to add?
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. If your readers would like more info about me and my books, I have the first chapter of all my books on my website as well as a number of free short stories (including ones with Yelena and Valek) they can read. My Facebook page is where I’m the most active with updates and news.

Without warning, a wave of heat slammed into me. I yanked the blankets off and jumped to my feet. Sweat poured, soaking my nightshirt as dizziness threatened to topple me. I sank to the ground. The heat disappeared as fast as it had arrived, but the cold returned, seeping into my skin, freezing the sweat into a layer of ice.
Before I could pull the blanket over me, another hot flash consumed me. Memories of going through the fire to enter the fire world rose unbidden. The searing pain of my flesh burning all too familiar. I batted at my arms even though I knew my skin hadn’t been set on fire.
Fear wormed through my chest. Maybe I hadn’t expelled all the poison.
Between gasps of breath, the ice extinguished the heat. My muscles tightened and cramped. My teeth chattered hard enough to cause a headache. I curled into a ball, afraid I’d shatter like an icicle hitting the ground.
When the fire blazed again, I straightened as steam rose from my skin. Then the cold reclaimed me. And it kept going back and forth, hot to cold and hot again. Like I had a superfast fever, which gave me no time to draw power to counter it.
I endured the waves. Each flip drained my strength. One of two things was bound to happen. I’d either pass out or the attack would stop. There was a third possibility, but I preferred to stay positive.
After hours... days... weeks... the seizures ceased. At first I braced for the next cycle. But as time progressed without an attack, I slowly relaxed. With no energy to stand, I groped for the edge of the blanket and pulled it down, covering me. At this point, even the hard floor couldn’t stop me from falling asleep.
* * *
Darkness greeted me when I woke. Every single muscle ached as if I’d run here from the Citadel. My dry throat burned and my stomach hurt. I needed water, food and a bath. But first, I needed to ensure that I didn’t have another attack. Had the poison run its course? Or was it still inside me? One way to find out.
I drew a deep breath and reached for the blanket of power. Nothing happened. Trying again, I concentrated on pulling a thread of magic.
Fear pushed up my throat. I swallowed it down determined not to panic.
I opened my mind to Kiki. What’s going on?
No response. Not even images.
Dead air surrounded me.
My magic was gone.

Don't forget to hop along to the other stops this week!

Book Review: City Of Ashes by Cassandra Clare.

t h e  b o o k   -
City Of Ashes
First published in 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.23)

e d i t i o n  i  p u r c h a s e d  -
Hardcover, 453 pages
Published in 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry
My Rating: ★★★★★

t h e   p l o t   -
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. 

But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go - especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil - and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings - and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
When it comes to character development, Cassandra Clare is a literary genius. She has absolutely no qualms about throwing giant hurdles in the way of her characters' happiness, and I found my heart breaking on multiple occasions. I didn't think it could get much worse than the feeling I had after we discovered that Clary and Jace are siblings, but I was wrong. The struggle that these characters have to deal with is soul destroying and I found myself completely invested in their story. I'm still holding out hope that Clare will somehow rectify this tragedy, but I guess I'll just have to dive into the third installment to see what she comes up with next.

Clary has done a major one-eighty from the naive "mundane" she was when we met her in City Of Bones, turning into a brave young woman who will do most anything for the people she loves, even if it means risking her own life. Unfortunately, I don't think Clary has a strong future as a Shadowhunter. She feels everything on a very personal level - something I, personally, can definitely relate to - she does let it cloud her judgment more often than not. With a little training, she'd kick ass, that's for sure, but until she can keep her emotions in check, she won't survive long in the Shadowhunter world. Despite loving her relationship with Jace, and getting emotionally invested in their struggles, there's a tiny little part of me that is glad they can't be together. In a lot of ways, Clary is no good for Jace. She's too fragile, and there's a part of me that still thinks Jace would get bored - after all, he's not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. After they visited the Seelie Queen, however, I started wondering whether that was true. The vulnerability we saw from Jace in this novel was unexpected and it made me question everything I thought I knew about him.

A force to be reckoned with, Jace Morgenstern is a prime example of the fantastic cast of characters Cassandra Clare has created for this series. Witty, sharp, and a total badass, Jace had me falling head over heels for him in City Of Bones. This novel, however, brought out such a vulnerable side of him that I found myself wanting nothing more than too see him get his happy ending. From the lies his father told him as a child, to finding out the girl he loves is his sister, Jace has not had an easy life. It's easy to see that he uses humor as a defense mechanism, but his walls definitely started crumbling in this book. Fingers crossed that he catches a break in the next book!

Cassandra Clare has a very unique style when it comes to the mythology she incorporates into her stories, taking bits and pieces from most every myth and adding her own twists. Angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, warlocks, fairies... there's something in these books that will appeal to most every fantasy fan. Clare's writing flows beautifully and I found myself completely hooked from start to finish.

Despite not liking Simon very much, I was gobsmacked and unbelievably happy that he had a bigger part in this novel. After his... experience, I started to understand a little more about him and realized that, while I still found him pretty annoying, he wasn't a bad character. I sense a lot of plot twists for this guy, the one at the end of this novel being the start of the snowball.

I found the story itself to be extremely interesting and I love Valentine as a villain. His blood connection to the main characters means that there's a deeper level of feelings when it comes to hating him. It's pretty devastating (and brilliantly thought out) how these characters are connected, but I definitely hope Jace and Clary are Valentine's downfall.

Overall, City Of Ashes is a fantastic second installment of this series, and I'm definitely going to get stuck into the third as soon as possible. I can't wait to see what happens next, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Cassandra Clare starts giving her characters an easier time of it. They definitely deserve it.

Reading this book contributed to the following challenges: