New Read: City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels

March has seen me as busy as ever with college, my work placement, agency work, pantomime performance, puppets, dancing and drama workshops! In which case I reached again for the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments the City of Fallen Angels as an easy and comfort read.

City of Fallen Angels is the fourth instalment of The Mortal Instruments series. This post may contain spoilers for the previous instalments.

City of Fallen Angels continues to follow Clarissa Fray better known as Clary to her friends and family. Clary is beginning to come to terms with her powers as a shadowhunter after she helped secure victory in Alicante. On returning to New York Clary begins her shadowhunter training, looks forward to a settled relationship with Jace and preparations for her mother’s wedding. A life as a Shadow Hunter in the world of vampires, demons, fairies and werewolves could be okay. Then dead shadowhunters from Valentine’s circle start turning up in the different Down Worlder territories, Clary’s best friend Simon is being hunted by mysterious hooded figures and Jace is plagued by horrifying nightmares. Something is brewing in New York which will mean Shadow Hunters and Down Worlders joining forces again.

Clary the main protagonist of this series is a shy, petite, artistic and awkward teenager. This hasn’t changed much with the discovery that she is a powerful shadowhunter. Clary through out this book is continuing to try to come to terms with her power, the lifestyle that comes with it, her relationship with Jace and the danger that surrounds them. There a few more new character additions in City of Fallen Angels including fairies, vampires, werewolves and demons. Clary is however still joined by her friends Simon (vampire), Jace, Isabelle and Alec (shadowhunters), Luke and Maia (werewolves) and Magnus Bane (warlock) on this new dangerous adventure.

Cassandra Clare was a new author for me in 2013 City of Fallen Angels is now the fourth book of Clare’s I have read. Unlike my brother who has devoured both of Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Like the previous instalment City of Glass I found City of Fallen Angels to be well written, fast paced, and a real page turner once I got into the main action of the book.  I am pleased to say the changes and growth in the characters that turned them from two-dimensional characters to one’s I really like and believe in continues in this book. For these reasons I think I am continuing to enjoy this series more each book I read.

City of Fallen Angels is a fun and easy to read urban fantasy adventure. I recommend if you are a fan of young adult novels. I have City of Lost Souls the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments waiting for me on my bookshelf. I am looking forward to starting it.

Are you reading this series? Are you a fan of urban fantasy?

I’m counting City of Fallen Angels as Urban Fantasy for the Once Upon a Time VIII event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

Previous instalments of The Mortal Instruments series:
1. City of Bones
2. City of Ashes
3. City of Glass

New Read: City of Glass

City of Glass

January 2014 still sees me a very busy bee juggling my college work, work placement, first aid course, puppets, dancing, drama and my birthday! Phew with all that I reached for the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments the City of Glass as an easy and comfort read.

City of Glass is the third instalment of The Mortal Instruments series. This post may contain spoilers for the previous instalments.

City of Glass continues to follow Clarissa Fray better known as Clary to her friends and family. Clary’s world has been turned upside down not only has she had to come to terms with the fact that werewolves, vampires, fairies and demons are real and the fact she is a powerful Shadowhunter but now she needs to get them all to work together. Valentine has stolen two of the powerful mortal instruments and only needs one more to summon Raziel the Angel who created Shadowhunters. The Clave (Shadowhunter council) to counter this threat has called all Shadowhunter back to Alicante the glass capital city of Idris. This is the first time Clary has ever seen her homeland but it isn’t to be a peaceful visit as she not only has to face Valentine but seek a cure for her mother too.

Clary the main protagonist of this series is a shy, petite, artistic and awkward teenager. This hasn’t changed much with the discovery that she is a powerful Shadowhunter. Clary through out this book is trying to come to terms with her power, the lifestyle that comes with it and the danger that now surrounds her. There are many new character additions in City of Glass mainly Shadowhunters Clary meets in Alicante. She is however still joined by her friends Simon (vampire), Jace, Isabelle and Alec (shadowhunters), Luke and Maia (werewolves) and Magnus Bane (warlock) on this new dangerous adventure.

Cassandra Clare was a new author for me in 2013 City of Glass is the third book of Clare’s I have read. Unlike my brother who has devoured both of Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Like the previous instalment I found City of Glass to be well written, fast paced, and a real page turner once you got into the main action of the book.  I am pleased to say the changes and growth in the characters that turned them from two-dimensional characters to one’s I really like and believe in continues in this book. For that reason I enjoyed City of Glass.

City of Glass is a fun and easy to read urban fantasy adventure. I recommend if you are a fan of young adult novels. I have City of Fallen Angels the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments waiting for me on my bookshelf. I am looking forward to starting it.

Are you reading this series? Are you a fan of urban fantasy?

Previous instalments of The Mortal Instruments series:
1. City of Bones
2. City of Ashes

New Read: City of Ashes

City of Ashes

December has been an extremely busy time for me. What with college work and review dates, school play, carol service and end of term fun and of course getting ready for Christmas! When I have had time for reading I have wanted something easy to escape into. That is why I reached for City of Ashes the second instalment of The Mortal Instruments series which was lent to me by a family friend (who has already read the whole series).

City of Ashes is the second instalment of The Mortal Instruments series. This post may contain spoilers for the previous instalments.

City of Ashes continues to follow Clarissa Fray better known as Clary to her friends and family. Clary’s world has been turned upside down not only has she had to come to terms with the fact that werewolves, vampires, fairies and demons are real but also the fact she is descended from powerful Shadowhunters; a race created from the blood of angels to defend and keep the world in order from demons. Clary and her friends have barely started to heal from their last deadly battle when Clary’s estranged father Valentine returns with another hideous scheme to gain power and rid the world of Downworlders for good. If that wasn’t bad enough Jace has come to the notice of the Inquisitor who is convinced he is a spy for Valentine. So City of Ashes was another good magical adventure to get myself lost in.

Clary the main protagonist of this series is a shy, petite, artistic and awkward teenager. This hasn’t changed much with the discovery that she, her mother, father and brother are all powerful Shadowhunters. Clary through out this book is trying to come to terms with her power and some very awkward truths. Her best friend Simon is still madly in love with her (although she isn’t oblivious to it now at least). Simon has changes of his own to come to terms with though in this book. Then we still have the mysterious, brooding and drop dead gorgeous Jace a skilled Shadowhunter also with a lot to work out. There is still the love triangle in this book but since the shocking revelation at the  end of City of Bones this takes on a whole new element. I think all the characters in City of Ashes had quite a lot of changes and growing up to go through. This made me like them a whole lot more.

Cassandra Clare was a new author for me in 2013 City of Ashes is only the second book of Clare’s I have read. Unlike my brother who has devoured both of Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Like the previous instalment I found City of Ashes to be well written, fast paced, and a real page turner once you got into the main action of the book. I am pleased to say I saw a lot of changes and growth in the characters turning them from two-dimensional characters to one’s I really could like and believe in. For that reason I enjoyed City of Ashes much more than City of Bones.

City of Ashes is a fun and easy to read urban fantasy adventure. I recommend if you are a fan of young adult novels. I have City of Glass the third instalment of The Mortal Instruments waiting for me on my bookshelf. I am looking forward to starting it.

Are you reading this series? Are you a fan of urban fantasy?

Previous instalments of The Mortal Instruments series:
1. City of Bones

Guest Post: Retelling Fairytales

Guest Post

I’ve been retelling fairy tales in my writing for several years now, and I’ve also loved reading fairy tales retold by others for pretty much as long as I can remember!  I love seeing all the different ways people can take the same elements, and do something new with them.  There seems to be an endless selection of retold Cinderellas or Sleeping Beauties, but authors still keep coming up with different ideas.  I love that blend of familiar and new, and seeing what each new story decides to do.

I also believe that, for the fairy tales we know best, there’s a reason we know them best.  There’s something in the themes or the shape of the story that appeals on a deep level.  Stories don’t become as universally well-known as Cinderella without having something vital and essential at their heart.

I love novels or short stories that take those essential hearts of fairy tales, and then build a unique story around them—because when you really look at the stories in the original Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, they don’t make a bit of sense!  I like to begin the process of retelling a fairy tale by asking questions—why is the Good Fairy turning people into stone?  Why is the Evil Fairy so upset about being left off a guest list?  Why doesn’t Cinderella go find a job?  Why is it always the youngest son who succeeds at quests?  The answers become the basis for the resulting story.

In my own loose categorization of the subject, I see two types of retold fairy tales.  One is to fully retell the original plotline, more or less close to how Grimm or Perrault (or another source) told it.  The second is to take familiar tropes of fairy tales, like youngest sons always succeeding at quests, or all curses taking effect at age sixteen, and then weave them into a new plotline.

My novel, The Wanderers, is mostly the second kind of story.  The plot and the characters are original, but the characters have to deal with a lot of fairy tale tropes.  In one section, however, the novel becomes the first kind of story, directly retelling “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”  Although, of course, things don’t go exactly the way they did in Grimm!  That story is also the basis for the companion novel, The Storyteller and Her Sisters (due out next fall).The Wanderers

I also see two ways to handle the answers to those questions I asked about the original fairy tales.  One is to come up with an explanation, expanding on the original plot and characters.  For instance, why does the champion in “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” think it’s a good idea to sign up for a challenge that means having his head chopped off if he fails, or marrying a complete (and unwilling) stranger if he succeeds?  My wandering adventurer is forced into it by a curse from a Good Fairy—and as to why the Good Fairy wants to do that, well, that’s a longer tale!

The other option for handling fairy tale absurdities is to keep them absurd, and be self-aware about it.  One of my favorite sequences in The Wanderers involves a very inept youngest son pursuing a quest.  Everyone involved has to try very, very hard to help him succeed…because he’s the youngest son!  And that’s How Things Are Done!

One of my writing group friends likes to describe my writing as “subversive.”  And on almost any level, it’s really not.  But I do enjoy subverting traditional fairy tales—or reading the “subversive” tales other people have spun!

Cheryl Mahoney is a novelist and book blogger.  She blogs at Tales of the Marvelous, and can also be found on Goodreads (MarvelousTales) and Twitter (@MarvelousTales). 

Her first novel, The Wanderers, was published in November of 2013.  It’s a Young Adult Fantasy, loosely inspired by fairy tales.  The book tells the story of Jasper, a wandering adventurer; Tom, a talking cat; and Julie, a witch’s daughter.  They pursue quests and fight monsters, such as a sea serpent, an ogre, and a very dangerous Good Fairy.  There are a lot of elements from familiar fairy tales…but generally with a bit of a twist!

The Wanderers is available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon, and in other e-book formats through Smashwords.

Thank you Cheryl.

Here’s how to get your hands on a copy of Cheryl’s novel The Wanderers: Paperback Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. E-book Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords (Coupon Code: YC76V to get a discount on Smashwords until 20/12/13).

New Read: The Zombie Playground

The Zombie Playground

A lot of the novels I read in August were quite long and/or heavy so nearing the end of the month I was in the mood for something easier so I reached for The Zombie Playground by Brian Rowe, the second instalment in Rowe’s young adult series Grisly High. Sadly The Zombie Playground has languished for sometime on my Kindle as I actually read the first instalment The Vampire Underground last year.

The Zombie Playground is the second instalment in the Grisly High series. This post may contain spoilers for the previous instalment.

The Zombie Playground is again led by film buff teen Brin and her best friend Ash. Brin and only three of her film group lived to see another day after the vampire attack at Bodie Ghost Town. On returning to Grisly High the group will need to keep their story straight about knowing nothing, because lets face it who would believe them if they told the truth?! On top on that Brin has the task of passing off her new vampire friend Paul to her mother as a pasty German exchange student. With all this stress what could be better than a relaxing game on Grisly’s brand new Macabre Golf Course beautifully situated next to Grisly’s Cemetery. I think you can see where this is going… which I was a little disappointed by. One of the strong points of the previous book The Vampire Underground was that you weren’t entirely sure what was going to happen at Bodie Ghost Town. Even with that disappointment the adventure was still fun. Though all the golf references were wasted on me because it is not a sport I have any interest in.

Not all of the group that headed to Bodie Ghost Town survived into The Zombie Playground. Those from that classic mixed group that survived are Brin herself the alternative girl, Anaya the fat girl, Lavender the pretty popular girl, and Dylan the handsome homosexual. One issue I had from the previous book was character continuation and I found it was still a problem in this book. In particularly Anaya who switched so frequently between obnoxious bully and loyal friend that I started to wonder if she had Schizophrenia! Brin and Dylan were the two characters that I felt I could rely on. While Ash and Paul who came to the rescue in Bodie Ghost Town suddenly became rather wimpy in this book. Ash as a film geek human had an excuse but no such excuse for Paul. Come on he’s meant to be a vampire!

American author Brian Rowe is pretty well known to me now as I have read books both from his Happy Birthday to Me trilogy and Grisly High series. Rowe has a fun and easy style to his books but I’m afraid I think he lost his structure in The Zombie Playground. The balance between teen angst and horror adventure didn’t seem to work so well this time. There were many instances where something mysterious or horrifying happened and I’d think yes it’s all going to kick off now but instead the next scene would be another mundane school scene. It felt like the real action didn’t kick off until three-quarters into the novel. When it did come the adventure was fun, gory, and fast paced but it was just too long coming for me. Happy Birthday To Me was the first novel I read by Brian Rowe and I loved it. Sadly his later works still haven’t worked as well for me.

The Zombie Playground is a fun and easy read but I think it has its issues. I recommend the Grisly High series to those interested in young adult novels.

I received a copy of The Zombie Playground from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Are you reading this series?

Previous instalments of the Grisly High series:
1. The Vampire Underground

New Read: City of Bones

City of Bones

July has been a sunshine and fantasy series packed month for me. After finishing off Prince Caspian by C S Lewis and Wing by Tara Maya I was happy to carry my reading on with a similar theme. In steps a family friend who had not long finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first instalment in The Mortal Instruments series. Said friend offers to lend their copy of the book which I happily accepted, especially as the film adaptation is due for release later this year.

City of Bones introduces us to Clarissa Fray better known as Clary to her friends and family. Clary is small, awkward, and artistic; nothing out of the ordinary for your average teenager. One evening while out with her best friend Simon at a local night club in New York she is to have a chance encounter that is to start her seeing the world differently. When only a few days later Clary’s mother is attacked and kidnapped by a demon Clary realises the world she thought she knew has gone forever. If Clary wishes to see her mother ever again she will need to wise up to this new world fast. Out with demons, vampires, werewolves, faeries, and warlocks being fiction in with them being fact. I liked the premise for City of Bones. An underground world of magic and unusual creatures living in an invisible world within our own. It is not a completely originally idea but it is a trope which works well. Along side magical creatures we also have the Shadowhunters (a modern equivalent of Van Helsing) who are out to kill demons and other evil creatures. These are who Clary is going to have work with to free her mother and discover the secrets of her childhood.

Clarissa (Clary) Fray the main protagonist of City of Bones is a shy, petite, artistic and awkward teenager. Quite similar to a few other young adult heroines I can think of. Add into the mix attractive and caring best friend Simon who is madly in love with Clary (although she is oblivious to it). Plus the mysterious, brooding, and drop dead gorgeous Shadowhunter Jace; and I think you can see where this is going. My heart dropped a little when I saw the emergence of another love triangle in another young adult novel. The love triangle is of a standard quality which for me was only saved by the twist that comes at the end of the book. Jace is not the only Shadowhunter in the book there is also brother and sister Izzy and Alec who are gorgeous and pretty bad-ass too. There is also the villain of the book Valentine a Shadowhunter gone bad. None of these characters are anything new but I did think they all worked pretty well together.

I have never read anything by Cassandra Clare before but I have been meaning to for sometime. My younger brother has devoured both her The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series’s. Being a teenager himself these books have been good for him and I believe he has enjoyed them all. I found a City of Bones to be well written, fast paced, and a real page turner once you got into the main action of the book. I found the characters to be a little two-dimensional and weren’t that original as I said above. I could have also done without the love triangle. The twist that came at the end was pretty creepy but was not as shocking as it could have been. I think there were quite a few clues to be spotted earlier in the book. Taking this all into account I can say I did thoroughly enjoy City of Bones with the faults though I can’t say I loved it.

City of Bones is a fun and easy read urban fantasy adventure. I recommend if you are a fan of young adult novels. I think I might read the other books in The Mortal Instruments series if I were loaned them too.

Have you read City of Bones? Or other novels by Clare?

New Read: The Vampire Underground

The Vampire Underground is a 2012 young adult novel by American author Brian Rowe, and is the first instalment in Rowe’s new series Grisly High. I already know Rowe after having read his Happy Birthday to Me trilogy which had an enjoyable blend of normal teen life and the supernatural. I am hoping this new series will be similar. I reached for The Vampire Underground as Autumn arrived some weeks ago now and I was yet to read any horror. Autumn is not the same without a creepy tale and for me there is no better creepy tale than one that involves vampires.

The Vampire Underground is led by film buff teen Brin and her best friend Ash. Brin and Ash for once are eagerly anticipating the start of term at Grisly High because they have both signed up for the new film class. Expectations are high but for Brin they are to be shattered when she finds they are to study her least favourite genre, horror! To make matters worse they are not only going to watch them, they have to make their own horror film. Stuck in a group she neither knows or likes very much Brin finds herself being shipped out with them in a battered old van to the deserted Bodie Ghost Town to film. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse right? For Brin things are going to get a lot worse when they arrive at Bodie…Meanwhile back in Grisly only Ash seems to feel something is wrong and so embarks alone on a rescue mission to find his best friend.

The group that end up heading out to Bodie with Brin are a classic mix of characters. We have Brin herself the alternative girl, Anaya the fat girl, Chace the jock, Lavender the pretty popular girl, Sawyer the geek, and Dylan the handsome homosexual. A bit of a stereotypical start but as the story progresses the reader and the other characters do start to see there is more to each character. Opinions of each other drastically change as they have to band together to survive and people’s true colours are shown. For me some of these true colours didn’t ring true, character continuation wasn’t always smooth. Another important character is Ash, Brin’s best friend since they were small children. Ash is also an alternative lad with a passion for horror films. He is very loyal to Brin and it was a nice change from the group scenes to follow his personal journey to find her. My only quibble with Ash was the ongoing joke about his full name being Ashley. It appears in the US this is mainly a girl’s name, here in the UK however it can be both and in fact all the Ashley’s I know are boys. So I’m afraid  the point was wasted on me.

I loved the setting of Bodie Ghost Town a full-sized frontier town completely preserved and open to tourists in the summer months. Brin and her film class mates led by Anaya decide to sneak in during the winter months but it turns out they’re not the only visitors there. As the title The Vampire Underground suggests vampires are involved. So no big surprise but the transition from regular teen angst plot to horror was well done, and boy when the horror arrived it really did arrive. Not sure what I was expecting but what I got was thrills, spills, and a good dose of gore to boot. The vampires themselves are a mixture of traditional with a few modern elements thrown in. What I liked the most about them was the ‘underground’ element where some of the later action takes place, I won’t say anymore though incase you haven’t read this.

Overall The Vampire Underground wasn’t perfect but it was good. A fun and easy read for while I was ill, and it brought a bit of  horror to my reading which I feel Autumn wouldn’t be complete without. I have the second instalment of the Grisly High series, The Zombie Playground ready to go on my kindle. Rowe still hasn’t managed to surpass the excellence of his first novel Happy Birthday To Me for me yet though.

I received a free digital copy of The Vampire Underground from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books by Brian Rowe?