The Dark Artifices Two: The Lord of Shadows is not my favorite Shadowhunter tale

Spoilers….

Well, that was a lot to take in, and that ending was certainly a killer. Literally.LoS

Cassandra Clare, you can’t just drop the Clary-is-going-to-die-soon bomb on us, and then not mention it again in the remaining near 700 pages. Because once that exploded in my face, I couldn’t be bothered to care about Emma and Julian and their relationship woes. All I could focus on was that a member of one of my all-time favorite YA couples had portended her death. Clary and Jace, a couple who overcame pure evil multiple times to get their HEA, aren’t going to get it now? And you just drop that little doozy, send them on an impossible and highly dangerous mission into Faerie, and then don’t mention it again? WTF, Cassandra Clare?

Since I have many months to ponder and wonder over that, I guess I might as well get on with this review. I didn’t love Lord of Shadows. In fact, of all the Shadowhunter books I have read (and that would be all of them) this is my least favorite. The day this book was released, I eagerly opened it up and began reading with an intensity that few authors can elicit from me, but Clare did…for about 450 pages, which was about the time that I realized my reading pace had become glacial. I was bored with it. There was simply too much relationship drama and not enough momentum with the overall storyline. There was too much Christina and all her potential suitors. And who can forget the endless, angst-ridden saga of the Emma/Julian forbidden love? Their relationship doesn’t hold my attention. I said this when I read Lady Midnight and the second Dark Artifices book only enforced my opinion: I do not like Julian. I find him completely untrustworthy. There isn’t anything he won’t do for his family. From anyone else, it seems like a cliché, but there really isn’t anything he won’t do to get what he wants, which is one big happy family and his Emma. He doesn’t care who else might get hurt in the process. Kieran says that Julian has a ruthless heart, and he’s right. In his desire to get what he wants, Julian has found a way to break his parabatai bond with Emma even if it means destroying every parabatai bond in the Shadowhunter world. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he goes through with it. Of course, with an ending like that, it might be a moot point.

I also didn’t care for all of the jumping about from one storyline to another. In most of Clare’s books, this method works well to move the story along and provide multiple points of view, but in Lord of Shadows, it happened so frequently that it bogged down the momentum. In some instances, the new viewpoint was so brief that it didn’t serve much of a purpose. I’d rather keep the story going than interrupt it.

And was it just me or was anyone else astounded that The Cohort didn’t elicit a single comparison to Valentine? Here is a hate group that is calling for a registry of Downworlders – think Hitler’s Germany – and thrives on their belief that Shadowhunters are better than faeries, vampires, werewolves, and warlocks, yet not a single character who fought Valentine or survived the Dark War brought on by Valentine’s son compares The Cohort to The Circle. Seriously? How does that not get a mention?

The ending, which was tragic and abrupt, seemed to come out of nowhere and wasted characters who had the potential to be amazing and instead were just fodder for shock value. The conclusion certainly leaves a lot of questions. What’s up with Cortana? Why are the universe’s oldest faeries afraid of it? Why can it destroy the Mortal Sword? Who is Mark eventually going to end up with? What is really wrong with Magnus? Will any of our beloved Shadowhunters and Downworlders ever get a happily ever after? We’re in for a long wait to find out. And despite not loving Lord of Shadows, I still can’t wait for the next Dark Artifices release….which according to Goodreads won’t be published until 2019. WTF, Cassandra Clare?!?!?!?!

 

The Chosen is the final nail in the BDB coffin

Holy nonexistent Scribe Virgin, this book sucked so hard I don’t even have the words for it. Ward is clearly just churning out the same old garbage in order to make money. She has no fresh ideas, and what she does waste ink on is so freaking ridiculous that, as I reader, I am gagging on all the mush she is trying to force down our throats.

She’s returned to the whole, I don’t have anywhere new to go, so I’ll just put an established couple on the rocks and spend a few chapters destroying their relationship. She did it with Butch and Marissa previously and to some extent Rhage and Mary, and now she has Mr. Oh So Much Gray Matter deciding to cheat on his wife, instead of just sitting down and having a conversation with Jane about their stagnant relationship. And she has turned Qhuinn into a raging asshole psychopath who shoots up a room with his children in it while trying to kill the mother of said children and subsequently destroying his relationship with Blay. The couple spends yet another book angry and fighting only to have a make-up scene at the end that comes out of nowhere and is utterly unbelievable. The resolution between Qhuinn, Layla, and Xcor is so Disney cartoonish that I had to wonder what the hell Ward was smoking when she wrote that shit.

Trez and that whole Therese thing? WTH was that? And, really, who cares?

If Ward had hashtagged one more stupid thing, I would have been forced to pour kerosene on the book and light it on fire.

I am done. I just can’t take another one of these shitty, half-assed books with their redundant story lines and their mushy, all-is-well, Kumbaya endings. The Brotherhood, after many near misses and a number of resuscitations, is finally dead to me. No defibrillator is going to bring this series back to life.

Letters may be Kemmerer’s best work yet

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I love the work of Brigid Kemmerer. Her characters have depth, intrigue, and angst without falling into lttlclichéd patterns that can seem repetitive and dull in a genre that has so many offerings. They also have something a little paranormal in them. The Merrick Brothers in The Elementals Series have their control of the elements. Thomas in Thicker Than Water has a secret ability that he wishes had stayed hidden.

So what does Letters to the Lost‘s Declan Murphy have?

Nothing.

No super powers, no spidey sense tingles, no witchcrafty spells, no fangs, no shifter problems.

Just a juvie record and some community service.

Wait. What? Brigid Kemmerer wrote a book that wasn’t a paranormal?

Huh? How do I feel about that? What will her characters be like without some kind of paranormal element?

I’ll tell you what they are like: BLOODY FREAKING FANTASTIC, that’s what!

Oh my God, these characters are amazing! Two teenagers who have suffered a tremendous loss and who are lost in a mix of guilt and grief and isolation, find each other through letters left in a cemetery and learn that maybe they aren’t as alone as they’d thought. As they exchange letters, their painful pasts unfold and lead them on a path that has the potential for either healing their hurt or revealing a truth more agonizing than either could have imagined.

The way Kemmerer writes Declan and Juliet’s pain is so real, so gripping, that the pain is its own character. It’s so sharp and so agonizing that it feels solid, like an object you could pick up and hold in your hand or throw against a wall. She takes fictional storylines and interweaves them with very real issues that young people face every day, such as bullying, something that has been addressed in the YA genre many times; however, Kemmerer brings a unique point about bullying to the surface in Letters to the Lost, and I think readers will walk away a little more aware of their preconceived notions about other people, and I love that Kemmerer is able to do that so subtly.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I am not going to say any more about the story other than READ IT. You will love Letters to the Lost. It just might be Brigid Kemmerer’s best book yet.

Oh, and Rev’s book is up next.

Let the anticipation begin!

Obmascik’s The Big Year is for the Birders

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik

I really hesitated to read this book. Though I have only recently become a birder myself, I have loved the film adaptation of this book for years. It is, for reasons I am not sure I can explain, in the top five of my all-time favorite films. So when I read a review that said the book is darker and not as lighthearted as the movie, I was afraid to read it in case it ruined one of my favorites.

I had nothing to worry about. The movie is so far removed from the book that one has no affect on the other, and I would hardly call it dark. Funny, entertaining, and informative certainly, but not dark.

Mark Obmascik begins with a brief story about how he got into birding after being urged to interview a professor who had a prodigious life list, which is birder speak for a list of every bird that a birder has seen during his/her lifetime. Why he starts with this, I really can’t say because he never comes back to his own interest in birding which just makes the end seem a bit incomplete, but since it’s not really the meat of the story, let’s get to the good stuff, the core of the book: three birders who decide in the same year that they are going to do A Big Year, i.e. a year in which they try to break the North American record for most birds seen by a birder in a one-year period beginning on January 1st at 12 am and ending on December 31st at 11:59 pm.

I wonder if there is some kind of footnote for leap years that denotes their extra day of birding? Hmm, I digress…

A Big Year only includes the continental United States (was anyone else shocked that Hawaii doesn’t count? I mean, think of the number of birds one could see there!), yet somehow does not exclude the Aleutian Islands and the bird mecca that is Attu, a destination closer to Russia than to the U.S., but that birders say must be visited in order to win A Big Year. It also includes pelagic cruises off either coast of the Unites States to catch those elusive land-dissing seabirds that simply have no use for shores or binocular-clad stalkers.

In 1998, three men from completely different geographic, financial, and career backgrounds set out to complete A Big Year only to find out that they have some very stiff, very avian-obsessed competition, which eventually dissolves into an orchestrated battle plan of one-up-manship and psychological warfare.

Obmascik could not have done a better job of describing Greg Miller, Sandy Komito, and Al Levantin, whose personalities, love of birds, and very different approaches to birding come alive in the pages of this book. From the brash and grating Komito to the self-doubting, underfunded Miller, they are simply a delight to read about. I can’t imagine flying 100,000+ miles in a single year or taking out a $9,000 loan from the Bank of Dad after maxing out six credit cards just to see some birds…and yet while reading this I could completely understand their drive. Go big or go home is the number one rule of A Big Year, and none of these men went home!

It was a nice feeling to not only be entertained by a well-told story, but to be learning about birds at the same time. Who knew (not including experienced birders) that the Chiricahua Mountains were an ideal place to see four different species of owl? I certainly wish I had known that when I was there. Or that our dimwitted government spent $750,000 to import Himalayan Snow Cocks for sport hunting only to have them be too difficult to actually hunt? Good on you, birds! Who’s the bird brain now, government?

So whether you are a hard-core birder, a person who watches birds through your windows from the comfort of a recliner, or just someone who occasionally notices that winged creatures are flitting about, you can find humor and enjoyment in this story. Even if you can’t understand birding, all humans understand competition. And A Big Year is a 365-day marathon of competition.

 

Blood Vow: A half-assed review of a half-assed story

imagesBlood Vow: Black Dagger Legacy #2 by J.R. Ward

I am going to put as much effort in reviewing this book as Ward seems to have put into writing it…which isn’t much, so here’s my list of thoughts:

The MCs aren’t bad, and they’re not original either. She’s a Glymera chick with an overprotective asshole dad, and he’s a badass fighter with loads of issues. Where have we seen this before? Oh right, in just about every freaking BDB book Ward has written.

Really Ward? An Iron Bowl is playing in the background and it’s the one damn bowl game where those war chickens managed to beat the Crimson Tide? There’s a lot of garbage in your books that makes me cuss a blue streak, but that bullshit ices the profanity cake. ROLL TIDE ROLL!

Oh, Manny went to Auburn? That explains why I have always hated him! Aside from the fact that he is a pointless, unnecessary character.

When did Rhage become such a bad fighter? He gets shot, stabbed, and almost-killed as often as most people inhale and exhale.

If Lessers are getting harder and harder to find and easier to kill because they are all new recruits, then why the hell are there so many of them in this book, and how do these so-called newbies come so close to almost killing a Brother and two BDB-trained fighters?

The brothers v. Lassister banter is still ridiculous and pointless.

Why is Boone the only trainee we know nothing about? It’s like Ward just occasionally throws his name in the mix just to remind us that there are six trainees.

Well, knock me over with a feather. Z not only had speaking lines, but an actual poignant scene in this book.

I miss the Brothers. You know, those badass fighters from the first six books. Where the hell are they?

I really don’t care about Bitty or the whole adoption story line at all.

And I still find Bitty creepy and off-putting.

I really want to nut-punch Rhage and tell him to man the fuck up now!

Not a single speaking line for Blay or Qhuinn. That makes me an angry reader!

Manny’s mobile operating/medical vehicle is ridiculous.

What is Peyton’s deal? He can’t be this effed up just from the whole Allishon thing (or however the hell her name is spelled).

Oh, so that’s who Saxton is going to end up with.

I guess anyone, ANYONE, can just move into the mansion and live with the King and the Brotherhood. Next thing you know, lessers will be living there.

And just how freaking big is this place? I know it’s called a mansion, but there must be 40 people living there now.

Okay, I just did a tally, and I came up with 33 people living in the mansion. And that only includes two doggen because who knows how many servants it takes to run that place.

I don’t know what half these fucking acronyms mean, and I am not wasting my time looking them up!

The next BDB book is about Xcor? Oh crap, I hate him and Layla, but their story will have to include Qhuinn and Blay, so I am going to have to read it. I see a lot of skimming in my future.

 

The least discussed topic in Dodge City is Dodge City

Dodge City by Tom Clavin

Reviewed for Netgalley

The blurb and title of this book are severely misleading. Claiming to be an account of the days when Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson came to Dodge to help friend Luke Short, it is instead a collection of stories of a variety of places, people, and occurrences in the Old West.

One hundred pages in, and the tale hasn’t reached Dodge yet. Instead, readers have gotten a history of the Earps, the Mastersons, the killing of the buffalo, brief accounts of forts in the location that would one day become Dodge City, and lots of Old West name dropping. The pace is glacial, and the author cannot stay on topic.

Having finally reached Part Two, I thought we might get a glimpse of the Dodge City that the legendary lawmen teamed up together to tame, but no. Instead, we get brief accounts of outlaws who passed through Dodge City at some point, but none of the incidents written about actually took place in Dodge. This is followed by Samuel Colt and his creation of the famous Walker Colt six-shooter and then we’re right back to buffalo hunting.

Finally, after a 122 pages, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson become lawmen in the lawless Dodge City. Unfortunately, the pace does not pick up at that point. Despite being quite a history buff, I found my interest lagging more and more. The writing is all over the place with very little focus and too many side stories that add nothing to the subject matter that was promised in the blurb. This book would be better marketed as a collection of short truths about the Old West and the characters who made it so infamous.

Lost Detroit is a heartbreaking account of the loss of architectural beauty that infects this nation

Author Dan Austin and photographer Sean Doerr capture Detroit’s abandoned architectural gems in Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins. Detroit was once a thriving metropolis, driven by the booming auto industry. As a result, it was rich in culture, architecture, and the arts. However, with Americans no longer buying American made cars, Detroit’s automotive industry has been on death’s doorstep and, as a result, the city and its once beautiful structures have fallen into ruin and decay.

Reading this book just makes me sick. Our society has no appreciation for architectural beauty. We build ugly, throw-away structures today that aren’t expected to last more than a few decades and can be torn down without any sense of loss, but even just a century ago, Americans built with pride and a sense of design and architectural achievement. Schools were built to be as beautiful as the young minds they educated. Theaters were decked out with marble columns, domed ceilings with gorgeous frescos, and chandeliers that sparkled like diamonds. They were as much a work of art as the movies that flickered across their screens. But with our lack of appreciation for beauty and history and with an economy that continually struggles, these buildings are being abandoned, left to rot until they are finally demolished.

I think what I am most shocked by is that even putting a building on the National Register of Historic Places cannot save it. I guess where there is no money, there is no hope, and a plaque noting a structure’s historical significance holds no weight with vandals and thieves set on destroying beauty and taking what is not theirs for their own gain. I will never understand the vandal mentality of pointless waste and intentional destruction.

Since this book was published in 2010, the Eastown Theater, with its gorgeous plasterwork and paint scheme, has been torn down. At the time of its demise, its stunning domed, fresco-adorned ceiling still looked as new as the day it was painted. The detail, design, and artistic integrity that went into the creation of The Eastown will never be recreated or replicated. We have lost something that we will never have again. Tearing down structures like this one is the same as pouring bleach on the Mona Lisa or spray painting The Sistine Chapel. The demolition of this theater is so much more than the loss of a building. It’s evidence of total disregard for our history, our creativity, and our community.

“If Detroit loses the Metropolitan Building, we will lose not only a very unique building, but we are saying we don’t care about Detroit’s heritage and we don’t care about America’s heritage.” – Architect Lucas McGrail.

Sadly, McGrail’s quote could be about any abandoned historic building in any American city.

If you take one thing away from reading this book, I guess it would be this: Look around you. Take in the old, forgotten structures of a once grand past. Look at Corinthian columns, wrought iron fencing, stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, art deco flooring, marble stairways, ceilings with rosettes and frescos, and ornate plasterwork. Look at them, study them, commit them to memory because once they are gone, and most of them will be in the not-so-distant future, we will never see their like again. In a disposable world, the architectural beauty of the past is unappreciated and will not be replicated in future construction.

A follow-up to the review…

And now that I’ve had some time to cool my anger over the loss and neglect of these places, I realize that I never really said what a fantastic job Austin and Doerr do in preserving the memories and beauty of these structures. Austin gives a wonderful history of each location and informs readers of what may lie in store for those that still survive. Doerr’s beautiful photographs capture the surviving details amid the decay. In a collapsing ruin, he showcases the artistry, talent, and love that went into building them and that still manage to shine despite years of neglect. If you enjoy the images from the book, you can see more of his fantastic work here: http://snweb.org/category/portfolios/