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 .

The Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I enjoyed the story but didn’t like Jane much so I don’t know if I will finish the series.
First the book description:

Which is more unlikely? Meeting a single, straight, reasonably attractive, willing-to-commit man? Or discovering a secret cache of magic books? For good-girl Jane Madison, neither has a shot in hell of coming true — until the day she finds a hidden room!

Yep, that’s all of it from Goodreads. I’m so used to seeing three paragraph book descriptions that it’s strange to see a three sentence blurb.

Jane is a librarian at a historical library. She’s completely obsessed with one of her patrons who she refers to as her Imaginary Boyfriend. Even when they finally get involved she keeps calling him this. I’m pretty sure Klasky wrote Imaginary Boyfriend about a hundred times. Did I mention Jane is in her twenties? No one over the age of 14 should ever use the phrase Imaginary Boyfriend, especially a grown adult.

One day Jane finds out that her salary is getting cut. She freaks out to her boss that she can no longer afford her rent and her boss shares that there just happens to be a livable home behind the historical library that no one has been in for like a hundred years. But the electricity and all the plumbing still work. Uh huh.

Jane moves in and discovers a fully stocked room full of magical books and supplies that belonged to the previous owner. Instead of being excited like a normal person she completely freaks out. She’s completely terrified like there’s serial killer in the room. Finally after relaxing a bit, she reads a spell and awakens Neko, her familar, a gay man trapped in a cat statue who is part cat. I loved the character of Neko. Was it a little unbelievable that Jane would be cool with the insta live in gay best friend? Yeah but he’s a staple trope in chick lit, so…

The book was fun and funny for awhile as Jane does various spells and hijinks ensue. Jane is all “I don’t know if I want to be a witch and learn magic” which is frankly completely unbelievable. It’s not like she had to give up anything to do it. At one point it seemed like she was giving up because it was just too hard.

At the same time as all of this happens Jane learns that her mother really isn’t dead from her grandma. This aspect of the plot wasn’t bad, it just did not fit in with the I’m-suddenly-a-witch plot. I think if this part of the plot has been eliminated it would’ve made the book much better and not as long. It was absurd that this book was 426 pages!

What is even more absurd is Jane decides to invite her Imaginary Boyfriend to her family reunion after only two dates. No one in their right mind invites a man to meet their parents after two dates much less stay the entire weekend to meet the extended family. Since Jane barely knows her Imaginary Boyfriend she starts lying to everyone in her family about the details of his background. This plot trope has been done to death in sitcoms. To read about it in a paranormal chick lit was just unforgivable. Up until the lying I could tolerate Jane but I didn’t outright hate her.

In the end, Jane does mature some and sees the errors of her ways but you have to get through 400 pages before that happens. I would expect a far more mature character from an imprint of Harlequin. I suppose in all fairness I will give this series another chance and read the second book. However this book only gets . I will say I’ve been imagining some pretty great Neko meets Magnus Bane fanfiction in my head.