City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

To say I am terribly behind on my reading for my own Shadowhunters Countdown Reading Challenge would be an understatement. I’ve also been distracted by the Shadowhunters TV show on Freeform which I love but it’s quite different from the books which most fans did not expect and are not happy about. I kind of like that it’s different. I don’t know everything that’s going to happen before it happens.

Before I review City of Ashes, here is the book description:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

I loved parts of this book and hated parts of this book. It’s really hard to review it properly without giving away spoilers though. I will keep them as minor as possible.

The way the Shadowhunters deal with Valentine is just so different than in The Infernal Devices series. In The Infernal Devices, they were more about offense. Let’s get the bad guy before he gets us kind of outlook. It seems like the Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments are more laid back. They prefer to have a good defense and get the bad guy when he comes after them.

My biggest complaint about the book was Cassandra Clare kept the sibling attraction still going. Jace seemed pretty okay with getting it on with his sister. Can I just say ewwwww? I love a forbidden romance as much as anyone but I have my limits. Fortunately Clary was wise enough to say no even though she wanted to (which still had an ick factor). Although I can’t help but hope they really aren’t brother and sister and do end up together.

Unfortunately I read a spoiler about what happened to Simon before reading the book. (Hint: He’s not a mundane anymore!) I was really annoyed that Clary kept blaming herself for what happened. In all honesty, I’m annoyed by the Clary character in general. I just don’t find her likable but I can’t explain exactly why. Maybe it’s because she’s just so one dimensional. She wants to save her mom, but what else does she want in life? She wants Jace but can’t have him. So I guess maybe that’s two dimensions?

What keeps me reading is all the mysteries surrounding Jace and Clary origins…but do not, I repeat, do not Google anything! I just visited Shadowhunter’s Wiki and accidentally got some huge spoilers in the series. Although I admit the spoilers do make me want to read the rest of the books even more, these were things I would have rather found out as I read the series.

Another thing I disliked about the book is that Valentine summons one of the most powerful demons to do his work. How much more powerful could Valentine possibly get without unleashing the entire legions of hell? I wish they would just take him out already.

But I will keep reading because I want to know where Simon fits into Clary’s world now. I want to know if Clary and Jace’s mother wakes up and finds out she has someone in love with her. I want to see Magnus and Alec get together. The second book was written much better than the first so I expect the books to improve as I go on. I gave City of Ashes .

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

I heard that Nicholas Sparks’s new novel was a thriller. So when I saw this in the 7-day express section of my library I snatched it up. It kept me hooked until the end.

First the book description:

Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he’s determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success. With a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her hometown and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria’s lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface.

As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria’s life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they’ve begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?

Rich in emotion and fueled with suspense, SEE ME reminds us that love is sometimes forged in the crises that threaten to shatter us . . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always be the ones easiest to recognize. 

Geez, I don’t think that description was long enough.

I always worry a bit when an established author tries a new genre but Sparks did a great job here. Some of his fans aren’t too happy. If you are one who hates thrillers or crime dramas I can understand why you didn’t like this book. (Although it does seem he touched on the thriller genre in The Guardian as well where a stalker also kills a dog. Yes a dog gets killed in this book too.)

While it was a solid effort at a thriller it wasn’t perfect. The first 200 pages reads like a contemporary romance then suddenly switches to a thriller. Sparks doesn’t mesh the two styles together well.

Also there wasn’t enough build up of suspense. The scene where Maria’s home is trashed would have been better before the stalker confronts her not after. The story would have been better if Sparks had put small but subtle tension in the first 200 pages. Like Maria feeling she’s being watched or noticing her stuff moved around.

It was hard for me to believe Maria was in her thirties much less a lawyer. She seemed so immature to me in her speech and mannerisms. It kind of irritated me that she was so passive. Both Colin and her best friend seemed to always have to fight her battles for her. It was impossible for me to imagine her being tough enough to be an assistant DA.

However, I really liked Colin despite his horrible habit of saying okay to everything. I love underdog stories and a bad boy, bodybuilding, tattooed fighter is exactly my type. I especially liked how he turned his faults into strengths and it’s what helps him be the hero. Although I think he should change his major from teacher to criminal law because he showed he’d be an excellent detective.

The twist at the end of the book really pulled the whole story together. The mystery of who was stalking Maria kept me reading to the very end. My rating is .