Friday, September 18, 2009

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Main character: teens Clary, Jace, and Simon
Location: the otherworldly home of the Shadowhunters
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural
Series: The Mortal Instruments #3

I have really enjoyed this series and the vivid world it depicts. We leave New York City behind to go to the City of Glass, the ancestral homeworld of the Shadowhunters and witness the final battle between Clary and her father, Valentine.

There are some things that struck me as I was reading this, and I am walking a fine line between vagueness and spoilers here so read at your own risk. All through the series, one of Clary's main motivations has been to find a cure for her mother, lying in a coma in a hospital. When she finally appears, I expected Clary to fly to her arms and have a touching reunion. Instead, Clary flies into a rage that took me (and her) totally by surprise. It took a few beats, but then I realized that though it has taken three years for all the books to come out, the story itself takes place over a very short time. (This might be a case where people who start the series now and read the books one after another will have a better feel for the time span than those of us who waited a year between each book.) Clary is still overwhelmed by everything she has learned, including the discovery that her mother has lied to her all her life and even has gone so far as to drug her to supress her powers. (I had actually forgotten that detail from the first book.)

One of the aspects that disturbed me from the beginning is the potentially incestuous relationship between Clary and Jace. When they meet in the first book, there is an immediate and powerful attraction between them but they then discover that they are brother and sister. Clary does not seem to be bothered by this, but Jace strives mightily to deny his feelings for her even though it makes him seem moody, distant, and (let's face it) a bit of a jerk. The situation is resolved, and that resolution felt to me a bit contrived, a bit too simple. But related to that resolution is the wonderful irony that Valentine, in trying to create an uber-Shadowhunter, actually created his own defeat.

And then there's Simon. Dear, wonderful Simon who stole my heart. I am finding that in these series with a romantic triangle, I always fall for the boy who gets left behind. In the Twilight series, I am firmly on Team Jacob; here I am on Team Simon. Now, I am not rooting for them to win the girl--Clary belongs with Jace just as Bella belongs with Edward--but Jacob and Simon are the ones I prefer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Hindenburg Murders by Max Allan Collins

The Hindenburg Murder by Max Allan Collins

Main character: Mystery writer Leslie Charteris
Location: In flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey
Time period: 1937
Genre: Fiction, Historical Mystery
Series: The Disaster Series #2

Some time ago, our library added downloadable eAudiobooks from NetLibrary to our collection. At that time, I had dial-up service and knew that attempts to download such good-sized files would be exercises in frustration. But now I have graduated to high-speed internet and have a little Sony Walkman MP3 player, so I have plunged into audiobooks with a vengeance. One of the first books I've listened to is The Hindenburg Murder by Max Allan Collins, part of his Disaster series which places famous writers at the scene of famous disasters--in this case, Leslie Charteris, author of The Saint series, on the final voyage of the doomed dirigible Hindenburg.

Leslie Charteris actually flew on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg, but Collins takes some literary license and puts him on this flight as well. Because he is traveling solo and space is limited, Charteris is assigned a cabin-mate, a personable young man who is (Charteris discovers) an SS officer seeking evidence of anti-Nazi sentiment among the passengers--and finding plenty of it. On the second morning of the flight, Charteris finds that his roommate has disappeared--and a small piece of an orange silk tie caught in a window indicates that he was tossed off the ship in mid-flight.

I enjoyed the story, which spends more time on the ambiance and characters than it does on investigating the murder. Collins has researched his subject well, and that research is obvious throughout. Who knew that the Hindenburg had a smoking room that could only be entered through an airlock in the bar? And of course there is always the knowledge in the back of the mind that disaster is looming and many of the characters we encounter will not survive the voyage.

Since I listened, rather than read, this book, I must mention the reader, Jeff Woodman. He has a very pleasant voice and did an excellent job with the many accents in the story--British, German, Texan, New York Jewish. I found it interesting that when his German characters were speaking in German, they spoke without an accent--which makes sense when you think about it.

I enjoyed this recording so much that I have downloaded the two others available--The Titanic Murders and The Pearl Harbor Murders. I am happy to note that Jeff Woodman narrates those as well. There are three other books in the series--set during the London Blitz, the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, and the final voyage of the Lusitania.