Cassandra Clare: City of Bones (2007) Mortal Instruments I Book and Movie

City of Bones

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie City of Bones and liked the imagery and the story so much, I had to pick up the book. The movie got dreadful reviews; it seems I’m the only one who really liked it. The book was said to be much better. It’s tricky to read a book after having watched a film with such stunning visuals. For the first 200 pages I didn’t really see the descriptions of the book but the movie images. After that I got a better feel for the book because it contained some major plot elements which had been left out in the film.

The story might be familiar to you by now. Clary and her best friend Simon live in New York City. One night they go to the Pandemonium Club and Clary witnesses a murder. Funny enough Simon can’t see anything. Neither the murder, nor the people who commit it. When Clary’s mum is abducted a little while later, and Clary is attacked by a demon, it dawns on her that the life she has been living might have been a lie.

Together with her friend Simon, Jace, one of the guys who committed the murder, and his friends, she embarks on a big adventure. Clary like Jace is no real human. She is a shadow hunter. Shadow hunters kill demons, but they co-exist with downworlders like werewolves and vampires. I’m not going to write much more about the plot as it’s one of those that is easily spoilt.

I thought the movie did a good job at tightening the plot. Maybe if I had read the book first, I would have missed the scenes and episodes that were cut but I thought they were not that gripping. Clary’s interior monologue in the book is often silly, like when she wonders why there are only good-looking vampires. I’m going to spare you her reasoning. It’s NOT clever. Interestingly though, the greatest appeal of the book are the dialogue sections. Jace, Clary and Simon and not only witty but very sarcastic, which made me chuckle quite a few times.

Overall I would say, book and movie both have their strengths, but I prefered the movie because I absolutely loved the imagery and the interiors they created – the club, Clary’s house, the church in which the shadowhunters live.  I also liked that they made the plot so much tighter. And I thought the cast was perfect.

What I didn’t like so much in both lies in the nature of this specific type of story. There are numerous ways to tell (urban/dark) fantasy stories. I tend to prefer those in which magic/fantasy are part of the world the characters live in, and their existence are known by everyone, or when the main character is part of the paranormal world. Normal humans who are thrown into a paranormal situation or who discover at the beginning of a book that they aren’t entirely human are just not as appealing to me. I find that these stories stretch believability too much. At the beginning of City of Bones, for example, Clary is a normal teenager and after only one day, she’s immersed in a paranormal world she never knew existed, her mother’s abducted, she’s attacked by demons, werewolves and vampires, but she accepts this without questioning it too much. This premise can work sometimes. Neil Gaiman made it work in Neverwhere, but often it feels unrealistic.

Anyway, it’s an entertaining book and I might even read part two, if only for the dialogue. If there is another movie, I’ll certainly watch it.

This is my first contribution to Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. Don’t miss the review site, which can be found here.

Simon R. Green: Ghost of a Chance (2010) A Ghostfinders Novel

Ghost of a Chance

Well, well. Or rather – not well at all. As  much as I enjoyed – in a guilty pleasure kind of way – the first of Simon R. Green’s Nightside novels (as you can read here), I can’t really find anything to like in this one, the first in a new series. I’d say he temporarily lost his writing mojo when he concocted this trashy, pulpy tale of five ghost hunters and their big adventure. Prologue and chapter 1 were promising enough but from there it went downhill rapidly. The characters are flat and clichéd, the story is pure humbug and the descriptions do a ton of telling instead of showing. There is something evil in the London underground system. It’s the most powerful and most unknown evil ever. What is it? Powerful, old and evil. Did I mention evil? And powerful? Ha! Now that’s descriptive. I can really see this old powerful evil thingy . . . In the end it gets a face but by that time it’s too late. The book has already been sacrificed on the altar of bad descriptions and abysmal storytelling. (I hate it when writers invent one coincidence after the other to save the plot and this happens on every page here.)

I had a look at the amazon reviews and there were many by die-hard Simon R. Green fans and with the exception of one or two everyone hated this novel big time.

Green is a prolific writer. He has a unique imagination, macabre, silly and naughty too. He displays this in this book as well, but other than that it was really bad.

It’s unfortunate that this sorry effort is my second contribution to Carl’s RIP VIII. I was debating whether or not I should write about it but I decided people deserved to be warned.

My verdict: there isn’t a ghost of a chance that anyone will like this.

I’m sure that the RIP review site will provide reviews of much more interesting books. Should you want to join the challenge here’s where you can sign up.

Jim Butcher: Strom Front (2000) Book One of the Dresden Files


I didn’t see this coming. A while back I reviewed Simon R. Green’s Something From the Nightside. A so-called Paranormal-Noir or Paranormal hard-boiled detective novel. I enjoyed Green’s book although I knew that his Nightside novels  were often compared to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and that most people thought Butcher’s series was superior. I was very keen on trying Storm Front, the first Book of the Dresden Files and see what I would think. I was convinced I would like the Dresden Files much better.  Well . . .  I didn’t. And that for a simple reason: I found it too silly. It’s not without merits, I can see the appeal because, even more than Green’s Nightside novels, this is classic hardboiled detective terrain. Only the detective is a wizard. Even that would be OK but the magic that is used in this book did just not work for me. Dresden often conjures up things, and casts spells, and to do so he uses some fake Latin which was really painful to read. Ventas! Fuego! Scorpis!  . . .  Most of it sounded like some kind of Esperanto. I can’t help it but I’ve had a classic upbringing, I had to learn Latin and some old Greek at school, sloppy fake Latin conjuring is just not going to do it for me. I see that part of it is meant as a parody (or at least I hope so) but that didn’t make it any better.

The story as such was interesting enough. Harry is called by the police to help in the investigation of a grisly double murder. Two people have literally been turned inside out and it is obvious that the perpetrator used powerful black magic. At the same time Harry is  hired to look into the disappearance of someone’s husband who has been dabbling in magic.

In typical hardboiled style, women are after Harry, he gets beaten up more than once, the mob takes an interest in him, the Council of the white mages suspects he is the killer and so on and so forth. Some of it is quite amusing. Harry has a ghostly assistant who resides in a skull and who likes to chase girls. Some of the repartee with clients, journalists, police is amusing too.

Some people complained that Green squeezed the same amount of story that takes up 350 pages in the Dresden Files into barely 200 pages. I must say, I liked the condensed  approach much better. After I finished Something From the Nightside, I felt compelled to read the next in the series. I don’t think I’m going to read Book Two of the Dresden Files.

Simon R. Green: Something From the Nightside (2003)

Something From the Nightside

The Nightside is really just like any other major city, only amplified, intensified, like the city streets we walk in dreams and nightmares.

If Chandler’s Marlowe had been investigating paranormal crime, he’d probably be a lot like John Taylor, the hard-boiled PI from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. While Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher’s PI, is currently the most famous psychic or occult detective, I decided to read Something From the Nightside before finally trying my first book of the Dresden Files. Both PI’s have their fan base but as long as I haven’t read anything else but a few short stories featuring Harry Dresden, I cannot compare. For the time being, I really like John Taylor.

One afternoon a beautiful woman knocks on John Taylor’s office door. Taylor is surprised. He is a luckless PI with fewer cases than a beginner, so he thinks that if anyone wants to hire him, there must be a catch. He is right. Joanna Barrett’s daughter went missing. But not in London. She went missing in the Nightside, the dark, mysterious, dangerous otherworldly heart of London. A place John Taylor has left and sworn to never return to. Why? Well, he has his reasons but he won’t tell. If he wasn’t in a precarious situation, he would never accept to help Joanna Barrett but he’s broke, so what can he do?

The story is a tale of paranormal crime, structured as portal/quest story which is very interesting. The Nightside can only be accessed through a portal hidden in the London underground tunnels.

It’s always night in the Nightside. It’s always three o’clock in the morning and the dawn never comes. People are always coming and going, drawn by needs that dare not speak their names, searching for pleasures and services, unforgivable in the sane daylight world. You can buy or sell anything in the Nightside, and no-one asks questions. No-one cares. There’s a nightclub where you can pay to see a fallen angel forever burning inside a pentacle drawn in baby’s blood. Or a decapitated goat’s head, that can tell the future in enigmatic verses of perfect iambic pentameter. There is a room where silence is caged, and colors are forbidden, and another where a dead nun will show you her stigmata, for the right price….

Crimes that are committed in the Nightside, are more gruesome than anywhere else in the world. People are crazy, addicted, deranged and evil. That’s why John Taylor left the place. That and because people want him dead which has something to do with his mother and what he inherited from her. Unfortunately John doesn’t know his mother and what she was.

Once in the Nightside, Joanna and John follow every lead they can find, interrogate people, fight monsters. They meet some extraordinary characters in the Nightside. Shotgun Suzie and Razor Eddie are just two of them. Both have their names for a reasons. They visit sleazy bars and derelict houses, travel into the future and back again.

Green’s imagination is quirky and amusing. The ideas he comes up with are a lot of fun. And I loved John Taylor’s voice, his sarcasm and macabre humour.

Maybe I will end up liking Harry Dresden more but for the time being, I really enjoyed the paranormal noir story Simon R. Green has concocted in Something from the Nightside. I may very well read the next volume as well.

Carrie Vaughn: Kitty and the Midnight Hour (2005)

kitty 1

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a weakness for urban fantasy and I like to start new series. Often I stop reading them after volume 2 or 3 but that doesn’t matter much.

I’ve read a lot of good things about Carrie Vaughn’s  Kitty Norville series and thought I give it a try and read the first book in the series Kitty and the Midnight Hour. I didn’t regret it, it’s a breezy, fun read with a lot of elements which are typical in urban fantasy or paranormal crime but also infused with a nice dose of originality.

Kitty has two important features. She’s a radio DJ and she is a werewolf. Usually she works the night or rather the midnight shift at the radio station. It isn’t the most popular show until she has the uncanny idea to transform it in a late-night advice show for supernatural beings. Who would have thought that there are so many vampires, werewolves, shape shifters and what not in Denver? And that they all are in need of advice?

Kitty is still a young werewolf and as such at the bottom of the pack. Her new show and subsequent success upset the pack dynamics considerably and soon she must fear for her life. Someone is after her and wants her dead. On top of that there is a killer on the loose. A rogue werewolf who kills randomly.

While I wouldn’t say this is as well written as Kelley Armstrong’s’ truly great series, it’s a fun read. Kitty is very smart and witty and a lot of cultural references will even appeal to the more sophisticated reader. I also liked that Kitty didn’t just fit in but actively fought pack dynamics which demand that she, as the youngest female member, has to please the alpha males whenever they like. Kitty is too intelligent, strong and determined, to just accept things the way they are and always used to be. If it means to break with tradition to fight for her rights, so be it.

The idea of the “Midnight Hour” was what made this series stand out as it’s truly funny.

I might pick up book two in the series as the combination of witty humour, a strong endearing heroine and a gripping crime made for a very entertaining read.

Not everyone’s cup of tea but lovers of werewolf novels, fans of paranormal crime and urban fantasy should give it a try. It’s one of the best of its kind. For those who like their series with different paranormal creatures, yes, there are vampires as well.

Karen Marie Moning: Darkfever ( 2006) Fever Series I

My philosophy is pretty simple: any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven’t had many good days lately.’ When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death – a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone – Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. 

What a romp. This was so much fun. If anyone has been looking for a Dark Fantasy version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, there is good news, Darkfever is exactly what you have been looking for. This is the first in the series of this urban fantasy goes crime of Karen Marie Moning who is better known as a romance writer. Don’t get alarmed, this is not a romance novel although there is a certain undercurrent in it, no, this is a real whodunit, spiced up by some nasty supernatural happenings. There are also some explicit sex scenes and judging from Book Rain’s review, the series is getting steamier from book to book. I’m grateful I read her review because now I know that not only the series ends, but that it is rather like a whole novel in five parts. Although part one has some sort of denouement, the end is a cliffhanger.

Mac (short for Mackayla) is a very naive character. She is also clumsy which is a common cliché in paranormal crime. And she was definitely into the Disney Princesses as a child and still loves pink more than anything else. But having a character like that encounter dark and malevolent beings makes for slapsticky fun.

Trying to overcome the grief over her sister’s murder and in attempt to urge the police to solve the crime, Mac decides to take things into her own hands and flies from the US to Dublin where her sister studied. Before her sister died she left a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone saying that she had been wrong about someone and something needed to be found. All this is very strange and as soon as Mac arrives in Dublin things get even more mysterious. Despite an intense aversion she befriends Barrons, the handsome but moody owner of a book shop.He agrees to help her find the murderer of her sister but only because Mac can help him find an old and very dangerous book.

Mac, as she soon finds out, is what is called a Sidhe-Seer, someone who can see faeries and other supernatural creatures. This helps her to avoid that some encounters end deadly but it also exposes her. The moment faeries know she can see them she is a threat to them and they hunt her. Additionally she can spot magic objects and since absolutely everyone in this novel seems to hunt for the same magical book Barrons is after, they are all threats to her.

This is a fast-paced novel in which a lot of the action takes place in unlit streets roamed by dark creatures. It’s a decent crime story too and there are a lot of other riddles to be solved and characters who have a hidden side which makes it well worth reading.

In any case, this was a true guilty pleasure and I will definitely read the next in the series.

Kelley Armstrong: Bitten (2001) A Werewolf Thriller

Elena, heroine of Kelley Armstrong’s impressive debut thriller Bitten, never planned that a casual sexual encounter would transform her into a werewolf. Neither did Clay, her lover and one of the leaders of the exclusive werewolf clique known as the Pack; women do not generally change or survive if they do. Elena’s considerable reservations about her new life come to a head and she walks out on the Pack to return to something like normality, finding herself a boyfriend who turns a blind eye to her occasional disappearances in the middle of the night. She may have done with the infighting of werewolves, but they have not done with her; her former family call her back when they find themselves under threat from those they have excluded and dominated. Kelley Armstrong is very good on the sheer exhilaration of shape-changing, of running on four feet through forests, suburban greenery and urban back alleys; if there is a weakness here, it is that Elena’s relationship with the taciturn, untrustworthy Clay is sometimes a little too conventionally romantic–but the dark poetry of the best of the book overcomes this entirely.

I must admit if it hadn’t been for Kailana I would never have read Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten but some of her reviews of the Women of the Otherworld series were so enthusiastic, I simply had to try it.  And to be honest “A werewolf thriller” sounded somewhat intriguing. I was not disappointed. Besides, my late grandmother being from Brittany, I grew up with werewolf tales and did belive them until my late teens. But this is not the reason why I liked it. I liked it because I could identify with the heroine. She is such a realistically drawn person. A strong woman who grew up in foster homes, looking for a family, a home, security but never seems to get it. The years alone have hardened her. But then she meets Clay. Beautiful, intelligent, mysterious Clay who offers her everything she never had. Who even goes to a lot of pain to offer her her first proper Christmas and who takes her to Stonehaven, the home of his family, Jeremy, Antony, Nick, Logan and the others. And then the unthinkable happens. He bites her. The only secret he has kept from her, that he is a werewolf, is a fatal one. Normally no one survives a werewolf bite. Only the strongest do. And there was never a female werewolf. Elena is the first.

At the beginning of the novel, Elena lives in Toronto with Philipp. She has left Stonehaven and the pack. She doesnt’ want to be an outsider of society, she wants to fit in, lead a normal live. One day however she gets a call from Jeremy, the Alpha male of the pack. Someone is threatening the pack, wants their territory and has started killing innocent people. She is reluctant to go back at first but finally  gives in. Once she is there she realises how much she missed them. Especially Clay. The novel is action packed and fast paced. There is not only one other werewolf who wants to harm them, there are many. And they eventuallly start to kill the men from the pack. If they want to survive, they have to stick together and fight as one.

Elena fights alongside her men. As said before, she is a strong person. I would wish her as a role model for young women. Powerful and determined. What really surprised me is the writing. Did you ever want to know what it would feel like to be a werewolf? The writing is so detailed, and descriptive that you might very well have the feeling you know what it is like to smell with the nose of a wolf, to tread and run with the paws of a wolf, to hunt and to race through the forest at night. The character development of Elena is interesting too. At times I totally forgot I was reading Fantasy. The core theme is “being true to yourself” and that is certainly a theme anyone can relate to.

As you see, it is very entertaining. A werewolf thriller with a touching love story and a strong heroine. Bitten is the first in the series of Women of the Otherworld. I am not very keen on series but I might read the next one sooner or later.

Any series you like or would suggest?