May 24

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen

False PrinceIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.
The False Prince is the first book in the trilogy and I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d think of when I started.  It was the right genre, but it was more literary than contemporary in feel. However, once I got past the first chapter Jennifer A. Nielsen held my attention. The story reminded me of Disney’s Aladdin and Prince and the Pauper. Trickery and wit allows the hero to survive the danger and save the day.
I must admit I suspected Sage’s true identity fairly early on, though I’m not sure if it was because the clues were obvious.  It could have simply been that I am older than the audience was intended for. But I still had a “What the…” reaction when I got to the reveal of that particular plot point and it wasn’t the good kind. I felt cheated and had hoped the story would go in a different direction. There were also times when Sage’s arrogance annoyed me, but considering his age and his history, his arrogance was realistic.
What didn’t seem realistic to me was how wily Sage was. He did things, anticipated things in a way that seemed almost prophetic. He thought pretty far into the future or made very good, very quick decisions on how to act, which is the case is not explained in any of the three books. But he’s at least consistent in those decisions.

RunawayKingJust weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
The sequel to the series, Runaway King, is decent. The story’s beginning caught my eye much faster than it’s older brother, but I also remember the particular story less than the other two. This one relies heavily on the whole “Prince in disguise” motif with some pirates thrown in.
His arrogance still exists in this book.  And he often sees those older than him as stupid and unwilling to see the truth. Again with his almost prophetic vision, he starts making plans for events that don’t even happen until book three. This book is truly a set-up for the third and final book, and while interesting, does suffer from that “middle book” syndrome trilogies often have in a second book.
Shadow ThroneWar has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.
His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

The finale kept my attention.  However, there were parts where I felt the storyline went on far too long.  Their was a lot of mourning without purpose and a lot of tracking down/chase scenes. The tension was tight though so I was never really bored with the book. His arrogance has dwindled down and he takes advice and help easier in this book.  But this book had the most problems of the three I think.  The motives for a few people weren’t clear until the end, and when the reason Mendenwal joined the war came out I wanted to yell, “That’s it?” King Humphrey went to war because of a lie Jaron’s father told and the fact Jaron challenged him to a sword fight when he was 10 for insulting his mother? The fact that “I promised him half of Carthya as his spoils of victory.” Felt thrown in as well.  Another issue I have: we never learn what happens to Mavis. He was a minor character, but I still wonder did he survive the war? Did Mavis and Jaron ever see each other again?
The three books are worth a read though none of them can be called flawless. And my favorite was the first, which really could have been a stand-alone. The series is male-dominated, but that doesn’t mean women don’t have a role. Imogen, and the princess both fight to protect the kingdom in different ways. Neither of them are trained to fight so a lot of it is with kitchen knives or risking their lives to ensure a plan works.  They both save Jaron at different times, in different ways. Their are also women in the story who prove ferocious, determined to protect their homes.
Have you read the Ascendance Trilogy? What did you think?

October 20

Jane-Emily Review

Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa, just a girl herself, must battle with all her heart, soul, and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent, helpless niece forever.

One of the most adored ghost stories of all time is available again after thirty years—to thrill and chill a new generation!

The story was good but slow and predictable. This is probably because it was written in 1969. Louisa is set up as the heroine in this story, and while she is observant, she doesn’t save the day.  I won’t say who does for those who may be interested in this book.

This book does do a good job of letting readers learn about Emily through second-source reports.  Clapp has Emily’s doctor, Emily’s mother and Emily’s best friend talk about Emily, share stories that paint a convincing picture of a selfish little girl. If you have problems conveying information about a character that NEVER makes a physical appearance but whose presence is felt throughout the novel, this one would be a good one to study.

For those who want more than a horror story, Louisa and another character do fall in love throughout the small book. Though the way she does in the story, does not put Louisa in a flattering light. She has a boyfriend at the beginning of the story and starts dating the new guy before any issues arrived between them.  Only after the romance begins does she have problems with her first beau and they never officially “break up.” Granted, I don’t believe Louisa intended to cheat on her boyfriend but being more open, and not just when she feels jealous at her boyfriend, would have put her in a better light.

This story has a love triangle in it. Louisa falls in love with the same person Emily proclaimed she’d marry before she died 12 years ago. Emily then decides the best way to break up Louisa’s relationship was to arrange Jane’s death.  Jane doesn’t die, but again, it wasn’t because of anything Louisa did to stop it. I am glad to report the boyfriend isn’t the one who stops it either.

If you don’t mind books with a slightly slower pace than we’ve grown accustomed to and a story that has become predictable, again probably because of a change in society, you may find this book worth the read.

August 23

Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan

Have you ever been haunted by the feeling that someone is spying on you, lurking around your house and yard, even entering your bedroom? Are your friends plotting against you when they say they’ve seen you do things you know you haven’t done? What’s going on — and does Laurie really want to find out?

Once I looked over the list of books Lois Duncan has written, I remembered having read one or two of her books and having watched a movie based on her book, Hotel For Dogs. Before that point, I hadn’t recognized her name.

Stranger with my Face was a slow read for me. It wasn’t boring, but it was one of those books where I could have put it down and never returned to it if need be.  If I read the book at 12 or 13 years old, however, my  opinion would probably be different. The book was predictable for me. In fact, when my grandmother saw me reading it, she asked about it. Based on the cover and the title alone, she figured out the entire story. No need to read it for her.

Their were things I liked in the book. I like the descriptions of life on an island and how that compares to the mainland. I liked the fact Laurie did research with books and friends. Despite the predictability of the book the story drew me in with the little details and the relationships between the characters, namely Laurie’s second boyfriend in the book. I liked the fact that the father, a SF writer, and the mother, an artist, did not believe Laurie’s paranormal “story”. Her sister, however, does. The exploration of Native Americans, though how accurate the information is, I’m not sure, was interesting. But the fact that Laurie is Navajo is a big bonus!

The predictability is obviously my biggest dislike about this book. But I must also say that I felt some of the characters were too cliche, caricatures. I wanted Laurie to break convention and figure out why her sister wanted her to learn how to astral project. With that new knowledge at hand, I wanted her to stop Lia in some other way than she was and I wanted Laura’s mother’s “feeling” about Lia to be wrong. I wanted Lia to have lead a miserable life, but be a good girl. Instead, we got the cliche “evil twin” thing.

The book is good for some light reading, and it may have been unpredictable when it was first published. I can’t be sure. Now it’s an outdated book with little to add on the subject.

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because Grammarly is Hungry For Words.

June 4

The Art Of Wishing By Lindsay Ribar Review

He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life. 

Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie’s ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn’t know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else’s hands?

But Oliver is more than just a genie — he’s also a sophomore at Margo’s high school, and he’s on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

So, since I’m trying to give my reviews a more even feel to them I thought I’d be extremely obvious about the positives and the negatives in this book.

The Positives.

Ribar seems to make a strong attempt at abandoning a lot of the tropes that are common in recent paranormal Young Adult novels.  Margo, our heroine, has hobbies. She loves theater and wants to become a song writer. She has friends and during the novel her best friend and her fight, not over a guy, but because her friend believes Margo…betrayed her. Margo isn’t defined by her relationship with Oliver– or her relationship with any guy. She’s had boyfriends before. Oliver is far from her first…interest.  Margo does not wait around to be rescued.  In fact, she rescues Oliver twice. Margo has realistic doubts about Oliver.  When she realizes that Oliver can transform himself to suit his mater’s wants, she questions how he really feels about her.  Is it all an act?  Something that’s against his will because of the master/slave genie thing?  Or is it genuine.  She also freaks out when he finds out how much of an age difference between them their truly is. Margo has issues with her parents, which are seen consistently throughout the book and not just in one or two throw-away scenes.

She’s snarky and witty.  So we get some interesting lines like:

(….) Oh god. I’m one of those girls.”
“What girls?” he asked, perplexed.
“Those girls. The ones in all those books and TV shows. Some dumb high school girl falls in love with some supernatural guy and he’s all, ‘Behold, I am five million years old!” and she’s all, “Oh my god, how can you ever love pathetic little me!” and he’s like ‘Because of destiny!’ or whatever. It’s just so…ew. You know?”
There was a pause. When I finally chanced a look up at him, he was biting his lip, like he was trying really hard not to laugh.
“What?” I said defensively.
“You’re in love with me?”
“Pffft. No. I’ve known you for like a week.” Another pause. “You’re a really good kisser, through.”

Ribar also has some passages in her book that poke fun of other books of various YA genres.

A minute or so passed by–not long but long enough to make me wonder whether Oliver was setting up mood lighting or hiding dead bodies. Or if someone was up there awaiting to stab me again. o r is someone was up there to hand me a crown and tell me I was the long-lost princess of Genovia. Or if I’d tumble into a pit of lava, only to get saved at the last second by a flying carpet.

The hero, Oliver, is not a certifiable jackass.  He is deeply into photography, waffles and getting a reaction out of Margo. He seems to be a genuine good guy and a role model for how boys should treat a girl and what a girl should expect from a boy.

 

The Negatives.

Although Oliver didn’t come across as flat to me, I felt his character, especially his past could have been deepened significantly in this book. We get the gist of his story but it’s obvious their could have and probably is a lot more.

Their were areas in the book that I wanted clarification on.  Genies can have genies for masters? How does that work?  And areas where I wasn’t sure of the time rush.  Why was Xavier in such a rush to get the ring? I mean, 3 wishes and he can have it again.  The only reason I can think of was that the book needed some tension and Xavier was convenient   Honestly, Xavier reminded me a lot of Akasha (in the book, not the movie) or even Yaksha who was after Sita, goal-wise anyways. I didn’t know the character quite well-enough to understand his deeper goal so he came across as cartoonish.

Although Margo and Oliver did not have “love at first sight”,  their was some “insta-love” in the book.  At first they were awkward, “Shit you’re a genie,” moments between them.  Then they became friends and then all of the sudden they’re kissing and in love.  I suppose considering how short the book is that’s the only way they could get to the “love” state.  But it seemed too sudden for a realistic relationship.

The ending….
Without ruining anything the ending was…well…a trope.

Can’t say anything else without ruining it.  But it ends in a place where it makes it obvious a sequel is on its way.  But if this had to be the last book you read…you’d be…okay with it.  Their was enough of a conclusion, a sense of what would happen to consider it a stand-alone.

Overall

I found the book entertaining.  I read it while in an airport or on a plane.  It’s a simple, light-hearted read. I have issues with aspects of it, but that’s expected with a debut novelist and, I’m hoping that those “issues” will be addressed in the sequel. I will be picking the sequel, The Fourth Wish, up when it comes out. It’s a cute book that takes a step in the right direction of where books needs to go.

May 12

A Podcast and A Surprise!

When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.

A new podcast has been released upon the world.  This time Ollie, Cyna, Kayla and I discuss The Host. We watched the movie, some of us have read the book. And, like usual, we don’t hold back our opinions. However, instead of posting the podcast at this blog, I thought I’d direct you to:

PAPERCUTS PODCAST

Yes. We now have an official website for all our podcasts. We’re quite proud of the site, though at the moment it is bare bones. You can see all our past podcasts, along with our plans for upcoming ones. We’d love to receive comments on the new site or even on our latest podcast. Don’t be shy.  Check it out. Mark it as a favorite site.

March 8

The Things They Carried Critical Review

 

The Great Descriptions They Carried

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carriedportrays the Vietnam war through numerous short vignettes. Some stories are fiction others non. In his short story, “Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong,”a story in which O’Brien admits he’s not sure if the story is real or not, Tim O’Brien reveals through internal and external description how war can rob a child robs of their innocence.
The story starts with Lt. Mark Fossie arranging to have his girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell, brought to Vietnam for a visit.  Medic Rat Kiley, who narrates the story to his companions, describes Mary Anne upon her arrival to the Song Tra Bong outpost as follows:

The cute blonde—just a kid, just barely out of high school—she shows up with a suitcase and one of those plastic cosmetic bags. (…)  She’s got on culottes.  White culottes and this sexy pink sweater. (90)

Kiley provides a pretty picture of Mary Anne Bell with three sentences, and readers see the words Kiley didn’t say: innocence, an innocent girl.  By using the term “kid” to describe Mary Anne, Kiley gets readers to immediately think of the innocence of childhood.  The mention of her being “barely out of high school” has connotations of her still growing up and having little or no experience out in the world.  The plastic cosmetic bag is an interesting detail.  By itself, the detail can attest to her vanity and naiveté.  Here she’s brought a non-essential item into a warzone, a place where people are too busy fighting for their lives to worry about their appearance or how someone else looks.

According to wisegeek.com, Culottes are “a form of split skirt. They are usually made full or calf length, and consist of a pair of loose, flowing trousers which strongly resemble a skirt until the wearer engages in vigorous physical activity.”  In other words, a fashion accessory that is like the cosmetic bag: useless in a warzone, pretty, but impractical. The fact they are white easily refers to purity, the untarnished innocence that white is often associated with.  The pink sweater returns readers to Kiley’s descriptor of “kid,” which is when the favorite color of girls is most often pink.
Mary Anne Bell’s innocence in reillustrated a few pages later when readers are given the history between Mary Anne and Mark Fossie:

Mary Ann Bell and Mark Fossie had been sweethearts since grammar school.  From the sixth grade on they had known for a fact that someday they would be married, and live in a fine gingerbread house near Lake Erie and have three healthy yellow-haired children and grow old together and no doubt die in each other’s arms and be buried in the same walnut casket. (94)

This description shows the idolized life Mary Anne sees for herself.  O’Brien chose his words carefully to convey that this was a fantasy she had, without actually saying it out right.  He mentions they were “sweethearts since grammar school.”  Grammar school refers to a time of innocence and a lack of expectations.  The fact she would get married “someday” instead of a specific date also indicates she’s thinking of a vague concept of time that can easily slip through her fingers.  There is no basis of reality to the assumption yet, no date set.  The “gingerbread house” is possibly the strongest evidence that this is a fantasy, as it refers to the “Hansel and Gretel” fairytale told to children, which links readers back to the “grammar school” reference.

O’Brien also shows Mary Anne’s loss of innocence with descriptors in the story.  Changes in Mary Anne start to show around the time she starts helping treat injured people and saving lives. She also learns how to use M-16s. Within weeks of arriving:

 

There was a new imprecision in the way Mary Anne expressed her thoughts on certain subjects.  Not necessarily three kids, she’d say.  Not necessarily a house on Lake Erie.  “Naturally we’ll still get married,” she’d tell him. “But it doesn’t have to be right away.  Maybe travel first.  Maybe live together.  Just test it out, you know?” (99)

The new imprecision shows her dreams and plans have changed.  She’s gone from the childish certainty that she will marry and have three kids, to a more adult attitude about maybe this wasn’t what she wanted; a realization that there is more out there than marriage and motherhood.  She could do other things with her life, like travel.  Mark Fossie noticed other differences about Mary Anne:

He couldn’t pin it down.  Her body seemed foreign somehow—too stiff in places, too firm where the softness used to be.  The bubbliness was gone.  The nervous giggling, too.  When she laughed now, which was rare, it was only when something struck her as truly funny.  Her voice seemed to reorganize itself at a lower pitch.  (99)

The description of Mary Anne being “stiff in places, too firm where the softness used to be,” is a metaphor.  The softness and flexibility of her childhood has faded, and became hard, adult, tarnished. The bubbliness, and the nervous giggling, are often associated with childhood as well, innocence.  The fact her voice reorganized itself at a lower pitch is another indication of her growing up, stripping the childish innocence she arrived with. All these changes occurred as she learned more about war, saw more of the war: learning how to shoot, how to live like a soldier, learning how to treat wounds.

The last time Kiley says he saw Mary Ann Bell was after she’d disappeared for weeks with the greenies, special force members, and Mark Fossie, after waiting a long time for Anne Mary to come out, goes into the special forces building:

It took a few seconds, Rat said, to appreciate the full change. In part it was her eyes: utterly flat and indifferent.  There was no emotion in her stare, no sense of the person behind it. But the grotesque part, he said, was her jewelry.  At the girl’s throat was a necklace of human tongues. Elongated and narrow, like pieces of blackened leather, the tongues were threaded along a length of copper wire, one overlapping the next, the tips curled upward as if caught in a final shrill syllable. (110-111)

The eyes are known as windows to the soul.  Those who are innocent, tend to have a playful spark in their eyes, a sense of life and wonderment. But in this description her eyes are perfectly flat and indifferent, no emotion in her stare, no sense of the person behind it, a sign that any innocence she once had has now been killed. She has been corrupted by the war and the person she once was has been murdered.  The jewelry she wears is also a sign of who she has become.  Instead of the jewelry being sexy, cute or pretty, it’s grotesque.  The tongue necklace shows she has nonchalance about the lives that have been taken, a lack of horror, and is a sort of badge of what she’s done and lost: her innocence.

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, possess a short story titled Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong. The story is narrated by Rat Kiley, and through O’Brien’s word choices and descriptions effectively show how Mary Anne Bell and how soldiers lost her innocence by going to Vietnam.

Works Cited

O’Brien, Tim. “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway, 1990. 89-116. Print.
Smith, S.E., and Bronwyn Harris. “What Are Culottes?” WiseGeek. Conjecture, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

December 4

Another book Podcast

The undead can really screw up your senior year … 

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancee. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war – and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

So my friends and I got back together and made another podcast.  This time we did a review on Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. Olivia, Cyna and I also decided to make the podcasts a regular thing. As such, we’ve come up with Papercuts Podcast.”  Stealing from Cyna because she described it so well, i”we’ll regularly discuss YA literature and entertainment. It won’t always be straight book reviews – we’ve also got plans for tropes discussions, trailer snark, book vs. movie chats, guest reviewers, and hopefully some interviews in the future, so we’re really looking forward to getting this off the ground, and we hope you guys are, too.”

Since we’re still new to this, we’re still trying to figure out how to make this all work.  Any suggestions on improvements or topics you want to see us discuss are welcomed.
October 10

Tenderness Critical Review

Almost any writer can tell you that the three act structure consists of Set up, Confrontation and Resolution.  However there are more ways to write a story then the three act structure.  A book could be written with three, four, five or even six acts. Robert Cormier provides a strong example of the four act structure in his novel Tenderness.

According to Larry Brooks the first act of the four act structure “introduces the hero in his everyday life, sets a hook to keep readers reading, establishes the hero’s stakes (what he cares about that will be endangered later), and foreshadows later events. It also introduces the changes in the hero’s life that propel him toward the First Plot Point.”

Readers see the first act in first 100 pages of Tenderness. Readers are in the first Act of the story. In this act we meet Lori, learn about her fixations and see how she gets rid of them with Thrash. Afterwards, while watching the news, readers see her develop another fixation on admitted killer, Eric Poole.  Unwilling to leave town before she gets rid of her fixation on him, Lori finds a temporary refuge at Harmony House.

Eric’s past is revealed through an interrogation by a police officer. He then foils the officer’s plans to keep him in prison. On one of his last days in prison, Eric develops his own fixation on a girl, Maria, who fits his victim profile.

In The Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote the following about act two, “Everything the hero cares about (and readers came to care about in Part 1) is in danger. The hero is usually just reacting to what happened at the First Plot Point—not being proactive. She might try to save the day, but if she does, it doesn’t work yet.”

From pages 100 to 140, readers are in act two. Eric stays at his Aunt Phoebe’s house. While waiting for the media to lose interest in him, Eric thinks about Maria and slowly grows tired of biding his time. He wants to kill Maria. Meanwhile, because Eric avoids the media watching his aunt’s house for him, Lori is unable to see Eric, much less remove her fixation.  She is stalled, non-active beyond keeping a vigil on Eric’s house in the hopes of him coming out.

Eric however has seen Lori through the back window of the house.  She looks familiar to him at first, but he eventually remembers that she was a potential witness to one of the murders he committed years ago and wonders if she might be a lose end he has to kill to maintain his freedom.

Concurrently, one of the girls at Harmony House is trying to get Lori in trouble and Lori recognizes she can’t stay there any longer. Giving up on removing her fixation on Eric, she leaves Harmony House to return home. Before she leaves, however, she swings by his house one final time to say a silent goodbye.

Act three, according to Larry Brooks, is when “the hero becomes proactive, and begins to seriously fight back against the antagonist. He also starts to fight against the inner demons that are holding him back.”

From pages 140 to 214, readers are in the third act structure.  In this act, Lori and Eric finally meet or are reunited as the case may be.  However Eric is suspicious of her and wonders if he needs to kill her. They spend some time together, during which Eric decides Lori isn’t a threat to him and Lori manages to get rid of fixation of him. By then she has grown to care for Eric though and realizing he has not been freed of his fixation on Maria, Lori encourages Eric to go after her. Maria is a trap however. Lori realizes this and stops Eric from hurting Maria, before he has done anything the police can arrest him on. The police threaten to arrest Lori for interfering and she runs into the woods to escape them.

In the Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote that in Act four “Everything in the previous three parts comes together in a final climax, in which the hero shows that she’s overcome her inner demons. After that, there’s a bit of time for tying up loose ends.”

From page 217 to 229 readers are in the fourth act. Once Lori and Eric find each other again, they decide to celebrate their near escape and rent a canoe in the park. They trust each other, are fond of each other and feel they may be together for a while.  However Lori falls out of the canoe and into the river.  Eric tries to save her. However Lori dies and Eric is sent to prison for her accidental death. In prison, Eric mourns for the loss of a living creature for the first time in his life, which ends the four act structure.

Cormier is a master storyteller, who uses the lesser known four act-structure to tell the story of a serial killer and his would-be accomplice.

Works Cited

Brooks, Larry. “The Four-Part Structure.” Squidoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. .Cormier, Robert. Tenderness: A Novel. New York: Delacorte, 1997. Print.
October 10

City of Bones: Critical Review

City of Bones opens at a dance club called Pandemonium. Inside, a demon searches for prey among the dancing humans. By slowing this scene down and choosing the correct words, Clare turns a simple walk across a crowded club into a sort of dance that also raises the tension in her novel.  This is seen in passages like:

His hand tightened on the blade he carried and he had begun to step out onto the dance floor when a girl broke away from the mass of dancers and began walking toward him. (…) She smiled, passing him, beckoning with her eyes.  He turned to follow her, tasting the phantom sizzle of her death on his lips. (3)

Despite the demon’s unsavory intentions, this passage has a clear flirtatious feel to it, at least from the girl who is later identified as Isabelle. She is acts almost predatorily with the way she moves around him, makes sure that he sees her and he watches.  We know she’s constantly moving but readers may not realize how much it’s mentioned because Clare wisely chose her words carefully. Instead of several “walks” and “moves,” readers instead encounter “step out,” “broke away,” “neared him” and “passing him.”  Keeping their constant movement from feeling repetitive as it would have if Clare had used the same set of words repetitively to tell the actions.

On the next page, the constant walking continues with the following passage but Clare’s choice of words only adds to the tension that the author has already started to build:

The girl was a pale ghost retreating through the colored smoke. She reached the wall and turned, bunching her skirt up in her hands, lifting it as she grinned at him. Under the skirt she was wearing thigh-high boots.
He sauntered up to her, his skin prickling with her nearness. (…)
A cool smiled curled his lips. She moved to the side and he could see that she was leaning against a closed door. No Admittance—Storage was scrawled across it in red paint.  She reached behind her for the knob, turned it, slid inside.  (…)
He slipped into the room after her, unaware that he was being followed. (4)

Here the words that Clare uses to show the girl’s movements up the tension in the same way that simply slowing the scene down does. The word “retreat” has connotations of fear and prey attached to it.  However the word sauntered is the opposite. Someone who saunters is confident, perhaps even a predator. And as readers are aware that the boy/demon wishes to make a meal of the girl, the tension is raised with those word choices.

In two pages, with the two above passages, Clare describes the boy and girl walking at least ten times and only actually uses the word walking once.  Instead Clare uses descriptions like “retreat,” “sauntered,” or “pass” to add more tension and keep redundancy at bay.

Works Cited
Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. Print.
October 1

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

I felt…wronged by this book. It started off with so much potential and then it backslid, reverting to already popular story lines to tell the rest of the story, namely Harry Potter and Star Wars. It made the book entirely too predictable for my taste. However, the way this first book is written, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the plot lines established in this book are reneged on later,  “Oh, yeah.  We told you that.  But it wasn’t true.  Surprise!”, which would suck and I really don’t like books that do that to you.

I did enjoy the banter found in the book. However everyone in the story seems to have been blessed with a repertoire of witty comebacks, which is a bit unrealistic but I was willing to let it pass. The action scenes had a lot of potential, but I don’t think they moved along fast enough or had enough tension to really keep my interest.

There were a lot of plot conveniences. Clary’s mother is kidnapped, kept unconscious but otherwise, from what readers are shown, left unharmed. In effect, Clary no longer has an adult she needs to worry about.  The information her mother could have provided her is  revealed until a more dramatic moment. There really weren’t any adults in the book.  One is stuck inside the Institute forever and the Brotherhood does basically nothing. Lupien…I mean Luke (that’s his real name. But he also has similarities to Skywalker and to Snape) “saves” the day after being absent for most of the book.

At one point, Jace takes Clary to a restaurant and they discuss the menu.  “That food is for werewolves, Kelpie, Zombies, vampires, Sirens.”  Honestly what was the point of that scene? As far as I could tell they were naming every mythological creature they could to show they were a part of the world Clare built but some of the creatures listed are so rare, I’m sure not everyone would know what they were talking about and there was no explanation for the creatures they named. So if you didn’t know what a Kelpie was, well, look it up.

A lot of Clare’s similes and metaphors are awful.

“Leaving the Institute was like climbing into a wet, hot canvas bag.”

Um.  How does one fit into a canvas bag, wet or otherwise?

“Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat.”

I think there would be a lot more vegetarians out there if raw meat stung upon contact.  I could be wrong, however.

Clary is whiny and, other than complaining and getting mad at other people, doesn’t seem to do much. She does manage to find the cup everyone is looking for but that doesn’t help her case much as it was a small thing. She does punch and hurt a few people, but considering they were all on her side can’t really be attributed to her doing something in the book. She got credit for killing a demon but a frightened two year-old could have done what she did. So apparently ravener demons aren’t that hard to kill.

Very few of my friends would find value in reading City of Bones. It’s very much an introductory novel that could have been significantly trimmed down and a little less Star Wars-esque. If I read any of the sequels to this book, it’ll be because I’m hoping the storyline gets better. However, if you don’t mind a do-nothing-female protagonist and a predictable storyline it may have some entertainment value.