Chasing Before

by Lenore Applehans
First sentence: “I couldn’t help myself.”
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Review copy given to me by the author.
Others in the series: The Memory of After (aka Level 2)
Content: There’s some mild violence and a few mild swear words. But the main character is obsessed with having sex with her boyfriend, so there’s a lot of talk about sex. They actually do have sex, eventually, but that’s entirely off screen. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) at the bookstore but I’m thinking about moving it.

Having saved Level 2 from the evil, vindictive Morati, Felicia and her boyfriend, Neil decide to move on to Level 3, to see what that part of the afterlife entails. They expect it to be all sunshine and roses, but when they get there, they realize that the Morati has made it through to this level, and they are terrorizing those there, determined to get Their Way.

Felicia is determined to be happy, to be with Neil, but that isn’t what is in store for her. She ends up in the middle of a conspiracy, trying to root out the Morati spies, while discovering more about her past. Her decisions have the potential to affect everything around her, from the safety of her friends to her future with Neil.

The question becomes: can she handle this?

I wanted to like this one, but I just… didn’t. I think a lot of that is that it’s just not my sort of book. I like my romances to be more organic, for a lack of a better word. I think I like to read about falling in love more than I like to read about actual relationships. It didn’t help that Felicia spent the entire book obsessing about wanting to have sex with Neil. I want more out of my female characters. And Applehans tried to give me more: Felicia, at times, was quite capable of being an interesting person. But too often, she went back to her relationship with Neil, with wanting to take it “to the next level” (pun intended?). And too often, I was annoyed with her.

Again, I think there’s an audience for this book. And it’s not badly written. I just don’t think it’s my cup of tea.

City of Heavenly Fire

by Cassandra Clare
First sentence: “On the day Emma Carstairs’s parents were killed, the weather was perfect.”
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Others in the series: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls
Also helpful to read before picking up this one: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess
Content: There’s violence, some mild swearing, and some sexytimes. The sex is tasteful and protected (yay!), but it is depicted, to an extent. This entire series is in the Teen section (grades 9+).

I’m not even going to try and sum up what has happened up to this point, or even what happens in this book. Coming in at over 700 pages, to say a lot of stuff happens is a major understatement. But, everyone is here: Jace and Clary, Simon and Isabelle, Alec and Magnus, Jocelyn and Luke, as well as hangers on: Brother Zachariah (yay!) and Tessa each play a role, as do Maya and Raphael. And, of course, the big baddie, Sebastian.

It also introduces new characters in 12-year- old Emma Carstairs and her best friend Julian Blackthorn. They don’t really play a huge role in the story; mostly they just play small roles. But they — and their family — are involved enough that we get to know them. And — and this is a complaint I have — they serve as a linchpin for a start of a new series. At some point, one does have to wonder, I think, if Clare can write any stories in a different world. But then, why should she, when this one is so rich?

It was nice to hang out with Clary and crew again, to see how relationships have developed, and follow them as they try to thwart Sebastian’s evil plan. Like always, Magnus was the most interesting character, and I was thrilled to see the way he and Alec’s relationship went. There’s some heartbreaking moments, and Simon even gets to shine with his Dungeons & Dragons references.

It’s a good conclusion (of sorts) and a fun story, even for all its length.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters

by Laini Taylor
First sentence: “Nerve thrum and screaming blood, wild and churning and chasing and devouring and terrible and terrible and terrible –“
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight
Content: There’s a lot of violence, and some mild swearing. Nothing as dire as the previous book, but it’s still hard to take, emotionally. It’s in the teen section (grade 9+) at the bookstore, but I would give the series to an 8th grader.

I’m at a loss where to begin. I suppose it’s with you reading the other two books before this one. While Taylor refreshed my memory (very eloquently) about the other books, you are missing a ton by not starting at the beginning of this story.

Also, by saying that even though this is a 600 page book, not much is extra. (M disagrees with me: she thinks Taylor could have cut out a couple of the subplots and the Epilogue and it would have been better.) Taylor picks up immediately after the events of Blood & Starlight and gives us the Apocalypse via angels. We’re introduced to a new character, Eliza, a PhD student in biology, who is on earth while everything in Eretz is falling apart. There’s something about her — I won’t tell you what — and even though she’s new to the book, she fits right into this elaborate and crazy world that Taylor has created.

There’s so many threads going on in this book, I couldn’t even begin summing up. And Taylor manages them all mostly deftly. She does introduce a new conflict when there’s 100 pages left, and it’s much too tidily wrapped up (or at least dismissed), but other than that, there’s so much too love. Mik is fantastic (there was one point where I was laughing and cheering; he and Zuzana MAKE the book), and Karou is incredible. In fact, that was the one thing I truly came away from this book with: the women rock. Seriously. And in so many different ways. They’re villains and tough and tender and loving and hurt and compassionate and just so, so complex. It’s fantastic.

The whole series is. The only thing I can say that was truly bad about this is that it’s over.

Audio Book: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

by Laini Taylor
read by Khristine Hvam
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some talk about sex (though all the actual sex is off screen), a lot of violence, and some mild swearing. Is in the teen (grades 9 and up) section of the bookstore, though I didn’t have any problems with C (now 14) reading it.

I’ve been wanting to reread this (and Days of Blood & Starlight) in anticipation of Dreams of Gods & Monsters coming out. And so, when I saw that this one is out in audio, I snatched it up. (You should have seen me; I was fangirling all over the place. Kind of like when a customer came in to preorder Gods & Monsters. We were just gushing.) Anyway. I don’t have much to add about the story that I didn’t already say when I first read this. ┬áBut the audio was glorious. Hvam captured all the voices perfectly. To a spunky Zuzanna (love her best still) to Akiva and Karou, to the various chimera and seraphim that run throughout the book. (Brimstone is EXACTLY like I heard him in my head.) It was a joy to listen to. And one of those books that made you want to sit in the car, listening for hours on end.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience Taylor in all her awesomeness, you need to. And with the third coming out, take a weekend and splurge and read all three. You won’t regret it.