July 10th, 2013

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Clockwork Prince

Author: Cassandra Clare

Published: December 2011

Number of Pages: 528

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

In magical Victorian London, orphan Tessa found safety with the Shadowhunters, until traitors betray her to the Magister. He wants to marry her, but so do self-destructive Will and fiercely devoted Jem. Mage Magnus Bane returns to help them. Secrets to her parentage lie with the mist-shrouded Yorkshire Institute’s aged manager Alyosius Starkweather. [From Goodreads]

Quote:

“It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them.”

Review:

So… I was a little late to the game with this one. Sort of. I got the ARC ages ago, but life got in the way (don’t you hate it when that happens?), and I found, over a year later, that the only way this was going to be read was if I listened to it to and from school. I decided to do just that, and I am so glad that I did. Clockwork Prince sealed the deal: I enjoy The Infernal Devices trilogy even more than The Mortal Instruments. Why?

Clockwork Prince is not the most action-packed book ever. Instead, Clare spends time developing characters and atmosphere in order to create a book that I could feel. This was particularly exciting because this isn’t just any old book – it’s Victorian-Era steampunk. Who doesn’t want to become engrossed in that world, enveloped by the oxymoronic eeriness and charm of late 19th-Century London? Furthermore, snuggled within Clare’s Victorian London is the Shadowhunters’ London Institute, which houses some very endearing people.

You’re introduced to the cast of the trilogy in the first book, Clockwork Angel (review), naturally, but I didn’t feel like I got to know them until I was entrenched in Clockwork Prince. These characters became so dear to me that the inevitable Jem-Tessa-Will love triangle didn’t irritate me as much as most love triangles do. Instead, I sympathized. These three people love each other so much that the love keeps them kind. It keeps them devoted. There was no back-stabbing or deceit. Their love and its strength allowed me to respect them no matter what mistakes they made. I appreciate and admire them for never compromising their beliefs or dreams while keeping each others’ feelings in mind. This is how I wish all people behaved. A love triangle usually turns people against one another, but this one simply emphasized the integrity and nobility of these characters. (How cool is that? I’m still jazzed about it.)

Beyond those three, the secondary characters step up and become integral to the story. Quirky Henry, patient Charlotte, poor mislead Jessamine, wise Sophie, quiet Gideon, naive Gabriel – these are people the reader gets to meet and, even more importantly, gets to know in Clockwork Prince. Their varying levels of charm make them a very entertaining and (in most cases) lovable cast of characters.

As I said before, this is not the most action-packed of Cassandra Clare’s books, but it has its own merit. It tells a story of people, not things or events. It does a fantastic job of escalating the anticipation of the moment when the Shadowhunters will finally confront Mortmain, the “Hand of Death,” their enemy. The man with an odd fascination with Tessa. The man with the ability to make metal come to life. He’s certainly a gruesome character, and the second installment in this series only serves as further proof of this. The mysteriousness of Mortmain is only matched by the mysteriousness of Tessa herself. She continues to wonder what she is, where her strange powers have come from, and what her purpose is. And the reader aches under the pressure of curiosity, too. It’s just splendid. Clockwork Prince increases the suspense of the trilogy’s story-arc and plays the part of “the quiet before the storm.”

When I finished, I looked everywhere for an audiobook of the final book in the trilogy, Clockwork Princess. When I finally located it, I delved in. It’s the perfect conclusion to the series. Review coming soon!

July 1st, 2013

Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick

Published: June 2013

Number of Pages: 250

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need [From Goodreads]

Quote:

“Someday an opportunity will come. Think about Harry Potter. His life is terrible, but then a letter arrives, he gets on a train, and everything is different for him afterward. Better. Magical.”

“That’s just a story.”

“So are we- we’re stories too.”

Review:

As you would know if you were following my blog long ago when I posted a review of Sorta Like a Rockstar, I’m sorta like a Matthew Quick fan. I loved SLARS because it was inspiring and sweet and funny all at the same time. Those were the qualities I was hoping to find in Boy21, and each was represented in a quirky, highly unusual way.

I suppose that’s what stood out most about Boy21. It is a charmingly unusual book. I can honestly say that I have never read anything like it. It deals with issues that I see on TV but have never experienced through a novel, and it deals with them in a way that makes them accessible. Somehow, I found that I was able to understand Finley’s situation, though I’ve never experienced anything even remotely close to what he does. His environment and family are vastly different from mine, but Quick illustrates them in a simple but detailed way that allowed me to feel entirely immersed in Finley’s life.

And, as he did in SLARS, Matthew Quick has introduced readers to another set of wildly lovable characters. For me, there was a distinct sense that I was being introduced to these people, as opposed to a sense that they had been created to tell a story. This story belongs to them, not to the reader or the author. When I realize that, I know that a book is good. The characters have lives of their own, a presence, a realness to them that allows the reader to befriend them. I loved that little attributes of the characters took on more significance as the story was relayed – take Finley’s quietness, for instance.

In fact, that is one of the most remarkable features of the novel – seemingly innocuous things have hidden significance. I eventually realized that this book is a riddle to be puzzled out before it’s understood. As I neared the end, all the little details that had been clattering about in my head fit themselves together into a very complete and very beautiful story of the lives of two boys. It became undeniable that the story belongs to both of them and that it was absolutely essential that Finley and Russ became friends.

If there’s one way to make Madeleine happy, it’s to make friendship a key part of a novel, and that’s what Matthew Quick seems to have done with both SLARS and Boy21. It’s clear that friendship and family have a way of holding together lives that should be falling apart. I find that to be quite inspiring and true. So does Finley, in the end. And that’s why I loved Boy21.

June 21st, 2013

Reluctant Hiatus

by Madeleine Rex

Sadly, my reintegration with the blogosphere will have to take a brief break over the next week and a half while I am a counselor at a camp. However, I’ll be reading as much as possible and shall return to Wordbird to chat about books and books galore!

Happy Summer!