Supernaturally, sexy romance or dabbling in something unusual for me

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I love Kelley Armstrong, so I was pretty interested to read one of her earlier works. I liked it a lot. I will probably finish the series, although in that typical slow way that I read series. Having said that, I do think you can tell that it’s an early novel, because her later books are a bit more succinct and sharp, but the story carries itself along quickly, the characters are interesting and Elena is pretty likable.

I actually read this book ages ago, I’m having a hard time keeping up with my blog. I have one baby, and soon will have another and my reading and blogging time is pretty dear.

So I will say this – fun book. My favourite part is the relationship between Jeremy and Elena – I love non-sexual friendships that are central of stories. I also love the Pack dynamic. I find Elena and Clay to be quite troubling and abusive, so the sweetness of it makes me a little uncomfortable. We’ll see how it that unfolds.

Not for young readers though ’cause there’s lots and lots of sex.

Last movie I watched:

Thor. Not as good as I remembered it, but still very good.

Last TV show I watched:

Probably still Shadowhunters. Nothing new to report there.

You know what? Meh. That’s what.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Although I really did enjoy the first three books in what I think should have been stayed a trilogy, I’m not sure that I love the sequel series.

This book chronicles the story of Jace essentially turn to the dark side, thanks to a rune on his chest and Clary, Simon and the gang’s scramble to get him back, while protecting him from the Clave, who would try him for treason if they caught him. But mostly it’s relationship drama with a side of supernatural and demon fighting on the side.

That’s the problem with this book to me. Where the first one was a relatively generic Chosen One/Teen Love story, there was quite a bit of fun world building, interesting support characters and a story that added something to the book. But this trilogy I’m finding is a little thin on those elements. The world building is more of less done and not really being expanded on. The support characters are all just tangled up in their own somewhat manufactured relationship drama and the story is driven mostly by the manufactured relationship drama. And even that relationship drama feels a little disingenuous and under developed.

The Clary and Jace relationship, which realistically had never been exactly healthy and normal is further tortured by Jace being possessed by Sebastian, motivating Clary to risk her life and be generally crazy in her attempts to bring him back, ignore his reckless behavior and pursing their unstable relationship across Europe. Simon and Izzy continue to not quite admit their feelings and Maya and Jordan start a relationship despite the fact that during his transformation to a werewolf he was an abusive, controlling jerk who hurt her on purpose. So yup I’d describe this book as a collection of unhealthy relationships with an absurd amount of drama.

So, all in all, a real step down from the first book. I’ll finish up the series but I’m hoping the next book brings me a bit more plot and a little less drama.

Last movie I watched:

Incredible Hulk. I thought it was pretty good other than the way too long fight scenes.

Last TV show I watched:

Shadowhunters, as it turns out. I think the show really made some narrative improvements on the book, but was not particularly good at casting.

Heartbreaking, hopeful but also mostly gutting

We Are All That’s Left by Carrie Arcos

This book is really compelling, really heartbreaking and a good story about one of those things I didn’t know a lot about. I really value YA lit that widens my world view. The story is told in two perspectives. The first person narration is a diary entry of a typical American teenager – her strongest relationships are with her friends, she loves photography and she doesn’t get along with her old fashioned Mom. The second story is a third person narration account of her old fashioned mother as a teenager during the Bosnian genocide. Their lives are brought together when a fictional terrorist attack in the USA injures them both and brings them closer as part of their healing process.

Although the writing isn’t particularly outstanding, it’s a good story. It’s always startling to me to learn about history that I was alive during. Sure, I was a little kid at the time, and I was kind of aware of hearing about Bosnia, but I didn’t understand it at the time and as an adult it’s hard to reconcile that terrible things didn’t just happen in my grandparents time – the World Wars, the Depression, etc  but in my parents time and worst of all, in mine. I imagine my kids will have a similar moment when they realize I was a teenager during 9/11. As uncomfortable as it is, I’m glad this book made me look closely at how recently there’s been this kind of violence in the world and remind me how unkindly history looks on people who stay silent during times of great violence.

At it’s core, this story is about trauma and the healing process being about connection and faith. Nadja, the mother, survived the trauma of genocide, rape, outlived her family who were all killed and lived in a city under siege for years where she faced starvation and snipers. And yet she made it to the United States, met a man, got pregnant and found joy in her baby. But she was never able to talk to her children about their grandparents or her past and she remained closed off from the world. Zara saw nothing in her mother but her weird habits, obsessive behaviors and closed off nature. After the terrorist attack Nadja is able to see her daughter learning to cope with the same trauma she is experiencing and understand that keeping her terrifying past away from her children has held her back from them. Zara comes to understand that trauma and violence change a person in very profound way and that her mother is a product of a brutal life, scarred, just like she is now.

I’m an atheist and generally don’t read outright religious texts and maybe that’s why I wasn’t really prepared for the religious element in this book. Although the concept of God is quite loosely defined (Nadja is ethnically Muslim but celebrates both Christmas and Eid during the war and almost never attends mosque and Zara doesn’t have a clear sense of her own faith at the start of the book) through the introduction of Joseph,  a young man Zara meets at the hospital and his quest to at least temporarily practice all the major world religions, Zara moves towards having a relationship with God. In the abstract I didn’t connect with her because of my own bias but it’s probably a good thing for me to consider from time to time, where religion fits into other people’s lives.

The ending had me in tears and that’s all I can say safely, without spoilers. But it really did drive home this feeling the book carries that love is as strong as anything bad in the world.

Last movie I watched:

Moana. Love it!

Last TV show I watched:

The Dragon Prince. Although the animation isn’t great, the story and characters are great! Definitely committed to this show!

I am … okay

Lorien Legacy: The Power Of Six by Pittacus Lore

I suppose I should say, in defense of this series, I haven’t read the whole series. I saw the movie, and read one of the other books so maybe I’d enjoy this more if I’d done better with the series.

The second thing is that I listened to it, and I really didn’t like the readers. That can make or break an audiobook, and in this case, it broke for me. The reader for Four’s part wasn’t great but he was okay. The reader for Seven drove me nuts! I don’t know why she read all the parts of the Spanish characters with a terrible Spanish accent if all the characters, including the main character, are speaking Spanish?

Overall I felt this book wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great – the language wasn’t particularly compelling, and while the story moved along at a good pace, the characters lacked any real depth or characterization, the villains lacked complexity and the story was generally predictable. I liked it well enough, but I’m a snob and I guess I was looking for something a little bit more.

On a more positive note, I enjoyed seeing a love triangle with a boy in the center. If there had to be a love triangle, it was nice to see it wasn’t a girl. After all, boys have feelings too.

I’m sure I’d recommend this series to an older child or young adult – it’s a fast read, plot driven and fun. I’m sure I wouldn’t recommend it to adult snobs.

Last movie I watched:

The first half of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I loved the first one so much it could hardly live up to my expectations, but it’s not bad.

Last TV show I watched:

Legend of Korra. Love it!

Paranormal Love Triangles

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

This young adult novel follows a pretty familiar pattern – young girl who’s always felt a little, well different, starts public school for the first time, immediately forms a special connection with a cute boy and then starts to experience from pretty weird stuff  that will throw her into an epic battle between good and evil. Guiding her along the way? A cute fairy boy who she has a strong connection with and he tells her the truth – she was never a human at all but a fairy all along.

There’s a lot of good stuff here. Certainly the fairy lore is at least as well researched as most of the vampire/werewolf/angel/demon kind of mythology that constantly leaks into this genre. The story is pretty neat too, playing off the idea of changelings, which of course is part of fairy lore, but set in modern times when Laurel has to worry about science and doctors revealing her secret which is pretty interesting. The world ending premise (that the bad guys will take control of Laurel’s human parent’s family land) is also pretty neat.

But the characters lack the depth to really make them get up off the page and relate to. They’re good, fine, flat but for me, not looking for someone I need to project into, it was just a little disappointing.

I would still recommend it to younger teens who were looking for something to follow up the other paranormal love triangle books.

Last movie I watched:

Infinity Wars! I just can’t form words

Last TV I watched:

The Crown. So good.

Magical Science Fiction

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

I adore Kelley Armstrong. I think this was the first of her YA fiction that I’ve read and while I would say it was good, really good even, I guess there’s something about YA’s tropiness that makes it hard for even great writers to really shine. Having said that, I would very much recommend it and read the rest of the trilogy.

The story is about Maya, a pretty typical teenager who lives with her adopted parents in a community on an isolated park on Vancouver Island, founded entirely by a large medical company. The sudden death of her best friend, and a year later increasingly strange things happening to her sends her on a quest to understand who she really is and what this doctors who founded her town are really researching.

Like many YA titles it falls victim to a few standards – first loves, relationship drama, one ultimate mean girl, orphan with mysterious and unknown past, best friends confused with dating partners and a tension between the teens and the authority figures. Most of these are okay on their own, but as they stack up, it starts to feel a little stale.

But it’s also got some great points too. Maya is an indigenous character. Not being indigenous myself I can’t say if her close ties to the forest and the animals could be seen as reinforcing a stereotype or as a really cool, accessible magic power  or as a bit of a mix of both. It certainly adds a something to the story. Kelley Armstrong’s fast paced, narrative driven style makes it almost impossible to put down. It also deals with attempted date rape, which is also something I think we all benefit from talking about with teens. And it’s both written by a Canadian and set in Canada, so that’s just a great bonus.

I would recommend this  book for it’s intended audience – teens and do so happily! I will continue to love Kelley Armstrong.

Last movie I watched:

Infinity Wars! So good although kind of a kick in the teeth

Last TV show I watched:

The Crown. So good guys, so good!

Trilogy of six?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Still slowly working my way through the Cassandra Clare series. This one really isn’t the strongest. Although I enjoyed the love triangles that Simon was in, or is it a love square? Jace and Clary’s relationship is a little bit less interesting to me. It’s not that happy couples with contrived drama (secret evil possession I guess?) isn’t exciting but a stable couple with compelling plot drama is a little more interesting to me. But I will take it all because of the six minutes of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.

But I feel  like this series, which is marked as Book 4 really feels like the start of a second series with the same characters. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but something about this book is a little off. I got a weird sense that this was meant to be the first book in the series – lay the groundwork, introduce the characters and set up a long term plot.

Only, we already have that stuff, at least as long as you read the first three books. So there’s this weird kind of pacing to the first book, as it tries to lay the ground work for the future plot, establish new characters and keep the old characters interesting. It worked out fine, it’s a good, compelling story about characters the reader probably already knows and loves but I hope by the next book things settling a little and become  a little more plot or character driven.

Last movie I watched:

Apart of X-men Apocalypse. Not going to lie, it’s not that good.  Better than Last Stand but not good.

Last TV show I watched:

This Is Us. Sob.