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Easy Tips for Customizing Your BookLikes Blog

Reblogged from Litchick's Hit List:

On the top of your homepage you’ll notice your navigation bar.




This will bring up your Settings page.



Now Scroll down a bit until you see this:




That’s going to bring up the template customization page. In the upper left hand corner, you’ll see this:



Once that is done, beneath the above posted menu you can scroll down. Do so until you find this:








Now comes the fun part, making that image static. Click on the Edit HTML button.



This is going to split your screen, with your blog showing below and the code window at the top. Don’t freak out. Scroll down through the code until you find these lines:



Now, where you see the green word ‘repeat’, replace that with ‘fixed’. It should now look like this:






Okay, so as you’ll notice in the screenshot above there’s a drop down menu with the word Blog selected. In order to assure that your background is fixed for all your pages you have to select that drop down and repeat the code change for each one listed:






Good luck, everyone. Hope this helps! 



Divergent - Veronica Roth review forthcoming

Cinders & Sapphires (at Somerton)

Cinders & Sapphires - Leila Rasheed This is a difficult book for me to rate because I tend to judge these kinds of books on different criteria than others I’ve read that are genuinely well-written and emotionally stirring. The prose and structure of Cinders & Sapphires were mediocre, but as pure entertainment, this book is A++. So I’ve decided to go with 3 stars to reconcile those two points.This book is pure teen soap and if you aren’t really that picky about the technicalities of writing—plot, structure, believability, character development—and are just seeking entertainment, then you will love this. The story jumps quickly into the sudsy action and moves along briskly, and as other reviewers have pointed out, reads like a less smarmy version of Gossip Girl in period clothing. To C&S’s credit, I don’t hate any of the characters, even the villains, nearly as much as I hate everyone in Gossip Girl (sorry, GG enthusiasts; I enjoyed the books for entertainment value but literally hated every single character). The book splits viewpoints between a variety of characters, although I feel the main protagonist of the story is probably Lady Ada, daughter of a British aristocrat returning to England from India at the story’s opening. Ada’s father, Lord Westlake, is marrying Lady Templeton, and the events that follow are—to quote Kristin Cavallari—dra-ma!Pretty much every possible scandal in turn-of-the-century Britain is somehow worked into the many subplots. Ada falls in luv, Stacey McGill-style, with Ravi, an Indian gentleman attending Oxford, but they can’t be together for obvious reasons. Ada’s sister, Georgiana, is infatuated with her stepbrother, Michael, who is himself infatuated with the family’s Indian nanny, Priya. Sebastian, son of Lady Templeton, is having an affair with his (male) valet, Oliver, while his former valet and ex, Simon, is blackmailing him. Then there’s Lord Fintan, employer of Simon, who establishes a platonic friendship with Ada but whom Ada’s jealous stepsister, Charlotte, has designs on. Rose, Ada’s lady-in-waiting and illegitimate daughter of Lord Westlake, also ends up pulled into the drama. Confused yet? I don’t blame you. If I hadn’t read the whole thing I’d probably need a chart to keep up with all that.The character development is, like the plot, teen drama by numbers. The good characters are wholly good; the bad characters are wholly evil. Ada is a textbook Mary Sue—the beautiful aristocratic young lady who is socially awkward, bookish, and chafes at society’s expectations of her (read: to marry well and be a proper lady). Ada dreams of going to Oxford, but her father frowns upon her aspirations. However, I did like that Ada didn’t possess the stereotypical “spitfire” personality that usually results in “too stupid to live” behavior; her actions are understandable if occasionally headdesk-inducing. Rose, the lady’s maid/musical prodigy (which no one knows about because she practices piano and composes music in secret) also suffers from Mary Sueitis by being entirely too sweet and pure-hearted to be believable. On the opposite extreme, we have Charlotte, the scheming wannabe-Blair Waldorf but without Blair’s ambiguity; and Lady Templeton, who exists mostly to be stuck-up and disapproving. Georgiana is the rebellious tomboy with a heart of gold; Sebastian is the rake with a heart of gold; Ravi is the Teen Dreamboat who really has no other defining characteristics; Lord Westlake is the well-meaning fool. I don’t think there’s anyone in this book who doesn’t fit neatly into some kind of archetype. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is eyeroll-inducing if you’re looking for any kind of nuance.As far as the history goes, I’m no expert on this era so I cannot speak for accuracy, at least on the minutiae of aristocratic English life. The author does throw in some neat little details that prove she did some cursory research. The story gives a concise if overly simplistic view of the British colonization of India, presenting both sides of the coin via Ada and Ravi’s correspondence. To the author’s credit, she does not fall into the trap of exoticizing the Indian characters; while she does tread close with Priya, I saw that more as the way the British characters see Priya, which makes sense given the context. It is also refreshing to see a PoC presented as a desirable male love interest, even if he’s about as exciting as paint drying. Ada and Ravi’s relationship, while falling into the Insta-luv™ cliché, is largely egalitarian; I’m glad to be spared of yet another jerk-hero/passive-heroine dynamic in YA fiction. But then, this isn’t paranormal romance. Maybe if Ravi had some kind of super power he’d be more of an asshole.So that’s about it, I guess. I can’t say much more without giving away spoilers. If you’ve got a couple hours to kill and are up for some costume-drama brain rot, pick up a copy. It isn’t great writing, but it does what it set out to do, and I can’t fault it for that. Just don’t expect realism or believability, but with a teen soap opera, does anyone?
Feed - Mira Grant Review forthcoming

The Selection

The Selection - Whenever I give a one-star rating, I try to write a review to explain it, since one star is way harsh, Tai. In this case, however, I think it’s warranted. To quote Harry S. Plinkett’s Phantom Menace review, it’s almost mind-boggling how complex the awfulness is. Each chapter was like peeling back a new layer of awful, and I was morbidly curious to see how deep the layers of awful would go. It was awful inception. I find it easiest to address these layers bulleted-list style, so here we go:-The world building.I try not to be too picky when it comes to YA dystopian. All I really ask is that the setting be fairly believable and maintain some semblance of internal logic and consistency. I fear The Selection is 0 for 2.The world building is an amalgam of anachronistic and disparate elements, with no rhyme or reason that I can discern aside from an attempt to simulate a medieval-based fairy tale in dystopian clothing. At some undetermined point in the future, the U.S. becomes the kingdom of Illéa, ruled by an absolute monarchy with a strict caste system. Nods are made to the poor and downtrodden in lower castes, and mentions are made of bands of barbaric rebels reminiscent of medieval brigands, but for the most part, the dystopian setting really doesn’t contribute to the story. Technology has a negligible role and seems to only surface for convenience. For example, the Capital Report is broadcast live and the characters can fly across the continental U.S. in half an hour, yet the Selected girls communicate with their families via letters (I guess e-mail no longer exists) and I recall only one incidence of mobile phone use throughout the entire novel (and it seems to be the only mobile phone in the palace).There’s also the incredibly throwback Victorian social mores of Illéa, which I will go with more detail later.Furthermore, I find it very telling that there are no characters of color or LGBT characters (at least that the text mentions). You seriously mean to tell me that out of 35 Selected girls, not a single one isn’t white? The U.S. is a very ethnically diverse country and I find it hard to believe that’s going to change significantly in the future. This is a minor point, but one negative reviews often stress--the names. Now, it makes sense to give characters in sci-fi or fantasy settings unusual names, as a reminder of how different their worlds are from ours. However, the names in The Selection are an odd mixture of contemporary American names (Anna, Janelle, Fiona, Amy, Kriss, Marlee) as well as silly-sounding name smushes or names that are just weird (Aspen, Maxon, Emmica, Tiny, Bariel, Amberley, Clarkson, and our heroine, America Singer). In fact, I think the names are a great metaphor for the worldbuilding as a whole: bizarre, anachronistic, and nonsensical.-The Victorian era called; they want their gender roles back.Illéa is a deeply misogynist society. Princesses are sold into marriage to solidify international relations, while princes choose from a lottery of potential brides at home. Premarital sex is against the law (good luck enforcing that one, guys!). Selected candidates must be virgins, yet America is advised not to turn the prince down should he elicit “more than kisses.” I think this makes it pretty clear that Illéan society places a great premium on female virginity, and not so much male.Now, I ain’t saying that a book with a misogynist society is necessarily misogynist itself. In George R.R. Martin’s oeuvre, for example, Westeros is a pretty shitty place for women, yet many of his female characters are complex and well-developed. They do the best they can in a world that isn’t kind to them. The problem with The Selection is that all of its women seem to buy wholeheartedly into their society’s misogynist ideals and support them--even America, who is supposed to be spunky and outspoken. She isn’t railing against Illéa’s gender roles because they’re misogynist—she’s railing against them because they inconvenience her.Her one goal, like the rest of the Selection’s women, revolves around marriage. Her primary goal and motivation is to marry a young man of a lower caste. She only enters the Selection due to pressure from him and from her social-climbing mother. When she is given the aforementioned advice about the prince, she is horrified not because women should enjoy the same level of sexual freedom as men, but because men aren’t subjected to the same oppressive standards as women. This position is further enforced by the fact that she finds it so difficult to wait when she is with Aspen, the young man she wants to marry. Finally, she frequently slut-shames the more sexually confident young women in the competition, who are also the text’s designated Mean Girls and have no redeeming qualities.The most positively portrayed women in this narrative are the Victorian ideal—kind, proper, modest, and nurturing. Strong women, like America, the queen, and the queen’s sister, campaign for the poor and downtrodden, but they also know their place. They don’t defy Illéa’s gender roles and stand by their men. Women who don’t—America’s overbearing mother, the Mean Girls—are vilified.-Technical difficulties.Ironically, the amateurish writing style was the least of my problems with this book. This is not to say it didn’t bother me; it just seemed to pale in comparison to the rest. That said, sometimes I seriously wondered if this book was actually edited. Cass seems very fond of bizarre descriptions that seem creative but actually make no sense, e.g. “he looked like summertime,” “He had his own smell, a mix of chemicals that burned out from him.” The dialogue is full of wonky paragraph breaks that make it confusing. In particular, Cass likes to describe the actions of one character followed by dialogue from another, all in the same paragraph.Finally, Cass seems to subscribe to the adage of “tell, don’t show.” We’re constantly given bare assertions without compelling textual evidence. America’s family is poor and starving, yet they seem to live in a comfortable middle-class home and have enough leftovers that America can give them to her boyfriend. Cass also pulls a classic Mary Sue move by having characters frequently compliment America on all these wonderful qualities and having her deny them profusely. Whenever a character goes on at length about how flawed they are while everyone else compliments them, it comes off disingenuous, like the literary equivalent of those girls on facebook who post pictures while complaining about how ugly they are and then wait for the compliments to roll in.-Conclusion:So I guess the biggest failing of this book, other than everything, is its attempt to pass itself off as dystopian. All of its efforts at a dystopian setting were laughable, and I honestly think if this book has to exist at all it’d be better as a medieval-based fairy tale. It would be easier to accept the anachronistic nature of its world and characters if they were placed in an era in which that sort of thing was remotely believable. Do I recommend this book? If you’re morbidly curious and/or an incorrigible terrible hunter, I say go for it. I fear my review only scratched the surface of how utterly bizarre this book is, so you’ll kind of have to read it to believe it. I would stay away if you’re a radical feminist, as it may send you into paroxysms of rage. As for enjoying it unironically, I’ma have to paraphrase Harry Plinkett again. You may like it… you know, if you’re stupid.
On the Island - Tracey Garvis-Graves There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this book, due to its subject matter. So naturally I wanted to check it out. Due to my general cynicism over much buzzed-about books these days, I went in with fairly low expectations. After reading this book, I found those expectations pleasantly exceeded.I don’t like to discuss the subject of the novel—a relationship between a barely-legal young man and a 30-something woman—as controversial because in my opinion, it really shouldn’t be. That anyone finds this controversial at all is pretty telling to me, given that we live in a society where May-December relationships like this are no big deal—provided the genders are reversed, of course. Much was made over Demi and Ashton when they first became a thing, but everyone seems to have blithely accepted the union between teenage Courtney Stodden and 52-year-old Doug Hutchison. And these relationships are real, not fictional.This novel is not a gender-reversed Lolita, as it’s being made out to be. T.J., the young man, is hardly an innocent. As a former leukemia patient now in remission, he’s done a lot of living, and it’s lent him an air of wisdom beyond his years. Anna, the older woman, is likewise hardly a female Humbert Humbert. She’s smart, practical, and exceedingly normal. When she first lays eyes on T.J., she’s not all “awww yeah fresh jailbait.” Rather, she simply sees him as her student, and it’s actually he who’s attracted to her. She never encourages him, but she does respect him as a person and as a friend. She never talks down to him or treats him like a kid. There are many moments during the text that I, the reader, nearly forgot about the age difference between them. Unlike Lolita, this is the point. The island is the Great Equalizer.Though the scandalous nature of the romance was the focus of most of the hype surrounding On the Island, I would argue that it isn’t really the focus of the novel. Anna and T.J.’s relationship is complex and well-drawn; they’re not The Blue Lagoon reheated. Its evolution is slow and the romance is a long time in the making; technically, they don’t become romantically involved until T.J. is nineteen and they’ve been on the island for a few years. Their focus until then is merely survival, although they grow closer in the meantime. Without giving away very many spoilers, the couple does eventually have to face the repercussions of this romance in the real world, off the island. And the text unflinchingly takes those realities on.The book is a quick read; I got through it in about three days, and it would probably have been quicker if I hadn’t been busy with work. The narrative is fast-paced, told in alternating first-person point of view between Anna and T.J. I find that sustaining a novel in first-person to be a difficult endeavor, and not without pitfalls. I think Garvis-Graves takes this on very competently, however. Anna and T.J. both have very distinct voices and are both well-developed characters. The reason I had to deduct a star is a rather minor point, but one that stuck with me—there are certain aspects of their survival on the island that are a bit of a stretch, as far as realism goes. I find it difficult to buy that they would be able to subsist for years on supplies packed for a summer in Maldives. But the lack of realism is no worse than say, an episode of Lost (barring the you know, smoke monster and time travel and whatnot) and it was fairly easy to get past it. In conclusion, would I recommend this book? If you’re into this sort of thing, absolutely. It really rises above what it’s made out to be, and would make a great beach read (yes, I’m aware of the pun). Definitely a nice palate cleanser after reading a book I rated with one star and will not name, haha.
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld A couple YA blogs I read kept raving about how great this book is, so I figured I'd check it out. I'm only about a quarter of the way in now, so no proper review yet, just first impressions. I was a little leery of the concept as I tend to dislike sci-fi that whacks you on the head with symbolism, and this one's about as subtle as Britney with an umbrella (people getting mandatory plastic surgery so they all look like real-life anime characters, and then living a life full of partying and bad fashion in "Pretty Town"--no really, it's actually called Pretty Town), but I'm reserving judgment till I get a little farther in. So far it's entertaining, the heroine is likeable, and the prose is decent, so it looks promising.

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer Bottom line: Check it out at your local library if you must; spend your $10 renting S1-3 of Buffy instead.I wrote an in-depth review at my livejournal here (warning: contains spoilers). The short version: underdeveloped characters; bloated, clunky prose; an excess of unnecessary description (especially in the early chapters); severe pacing issues. It doesn't even deserve the so-bad-it's-good label. I will grant, however, that I can see why it might appeal to someone other than myself. As a rather jaded aficionado of vampire fiction, I don't feel it brought anything new to the genre, but those unfamiliar with the genre might enjoy it.
Satan's Sisters: A Novel Work of Fiction - Star Jones Can't decide if this was amazing or horribleIn-depth review coming later
The Queen's Dollmaker - Christine Trent When I first picked up this book I was expecting a smutty, intrigue-filled historical drama à la Phillippa Gregory. What I got instead was a Cinderella story of an orphaned young girl who makes a name for herself as a dollmaker. However, I would like to stress here that my review is not influenced by the fact that the book wasn't what I was expecting. For what it was, it was pretty good.The story begins when teenage Claudette, the daughter of a renowned Parisian dollmaker, is orphaned in a fire. She travels to England where she and her friend--a young widow named Béatrice and her daughter, Marguerite--finds employment as servants in the home of a wealthy, social-climbing family. With the help of an enterprising young servant, Claudette sells her dolls until she saves enough money to leave the Ashbys and start her own doll shop with Béatrice. Eventually, Claudette's dolls receive such renown amongst the English aristocracy that word travels to France, where Marie Antoinette herself commissions some of Claudette's creations.One of the big selling points of this novel (at least if the blurb on the back is to be believed), was the backdrop of the French Revolution. I was expecting to see the historical events unfold as told through the eyes of a fictional character close enough to the historical figures to witness them. This book... wasn't that story at all. I would say it's mostly a story about Claudette making a name for herself as a dollmaker, and her subsequent struggle between the life she'd initially wanted in France and the life she made for herself in England. Much of this conflict plays out in her relationships with William Greycliffe, a young English aristocrat, and Jean-Phillippe, her French childhood sweetheart. But those relationships were both extremely chaste and rather clichéd so I didn't even get some good smutty fun, yo. When the events directly preceding the revolution do become relevant, it isn't until we're over halfway through the book, and Claudette is still too distant of a character for us to witness most of the events through her eyes. Rather, they are related to us in info-dump chapters that simply present the author's fictionalized account of history.What was of interest were the parts about dollmaking. It was clear a lot of research went into that and I give the author props. That was pretty much the only historical detail of the book that felt genuinely entwined with the main plotline. If the blurb on the back of the book hadn't assured me that Claudette would eventually become swept up in the events of the Revolution (and only in an extremely peripheral manner for most of the book), I probably would've been wondering why the hell the author insisted on wasting our time with these info-dump chapters.Which brings me to another one of my beefs with this book--the characters. I couldn't get into any of them. Claudette herself makes a rather bland heroine, and a bit of a Mary Sue at that (and I'm not using the term the way most of online fandom seems to use it, as synonymous with "I don't like this character." Because I do like Claudette--but she does possess some Sue-ish qualities). Her only real character flaw seems to be being too trusting (and kind of dumb, but I believe this was unintentional), and that's right up there with Bella Swan's klutziness in flaw-but-not-really territory. If a character's flaw is something that should be virtuous and/or endearing of not for the meen, meen people who take advantage of it, sorry guys, but that ain't a flaw. The supporting characters are not much better. Béatrice is ever the trusty sidekick and William is ever the dreamy, if bland, love interest, and Jean-Phillippe is just a tool. Seriously. I could not figure out why Claudette kept such a girl boner for this guy, because he was just that lame. He gets mildly more interesting when she dumps him during her visit to the Queen and he goes all Fatal Attraction on her, but even that plotline is too rushed and too late. You know you're a serious tool if you can't even make the Evil is Cool trope work for you. The only remotely interesting character turns out to be another villain, and meets an end so demeaning and depressing even I was disturbed by it, and I am a regular viewer of Criminal Minds.That said, I still gave this book 4 stars b/c it kept me entertained and I mean genuinely entertained and not that "oh-gooodddddd-why-do-I-torture-myself" compulsion that got me through as much of the Twilight series as I did. The dollmaking parts were genuinely interesting. I only docked one star because a lot of what I was complaining about might also be personal taste. I like intrigue. I like soap opera melodrama. I like smut. I like complex and deeply flawed characters, sometimes to the point of being difficult to sympathize with. This book contained none of the above. It was all very capable in a novel-writing 101 way, but nothing that would make me re-read it over and over, and I'll probably be taking my copy to the used bookstore in my whenever-my-shelves-get-too-full purge. But I get that those things are not everyone's cup of tea, so if you want an entertaining read with some interesting historical deets, you'll probably dig this.
A Killer Stitch - Maggie Sefton I stumbled upon this while looking at new books in the library and was like "knitting and murder, yeeahhh!" ... That sounded a lot less disturbing in my head.
The Awakening and The Struggle - L.J. Smith OK, so I cracked and bought this b/c it was originally written in '95, and everyone knows '90s YA pwns '00s YA. Actually, '90s anything pwns '00s anything, excepting possibly fashion, but I digress. I am really over cheesy vampire romances, but I wanted to relive the '90s goodness and hey, it's got to be better than Twilight.
Playing With the Boys - Liz Tigelaar There is a reason this book went directly to my finished list without passing through "to read" or "currently reading," and that reason is that I read the entire thing in two days. I had to go the Big Island this weekend and I was flying on Hawaiian, which has to go down in history as the most oft-delayed airline ever. Two delayed flights equals a lot of time sitting around in airports with nothing better to do than read YA fiction, so I went through this one pretty quickly. The novel begins when Lucy, the heroine, and her widower father move to L.A. from Ohio. The exceedingly trite descriptions of SoCal made me roll my eyes, and I wondered if all this author knew of SoCal came from Beach Boys songs and Disney's California Adventure. But then I read the little bio on the back and found out she was a writer for some pretty big TV shows and lives in Santa Monica. Oy. After boggling a bit at how an apparently seasoned TV writer could fail so utterly at decent description (of a place where she lives, no less!), I decided that I didn't care and moved on. I don't read these novels for realism, and I'm fairly sure no one else does, either. If I really wanted to pick on realism I'd have mentioned that the Ashlee Simpson lookalike on the cover is about as believable as a football player as Tara Reid is playing an academic. Oh wait. Anyway, Lucy resents her father for moving her out to Malibu away from all her friends in Toledo. But a bit of the sting is taken away when they arrive at their rental, which turns out to be a fatty house right on the beach in Malibu. I was wondering if I was in for an O.C.-type tale here—Summer Roberts tries out for the football team! (which I could actually picture, scarily enough). But the tone of this novel thus far doesn't fit the bitchy, salacious vibe of those kinds of stories (and as far as I know, Lucy wasn't wearing any designer clothing or toting Louis Vuitton luggage), and her apparent affluence gets virtually no mention after this.Lucy, an avid soccer player, tries out for the team at her new school at the urging of her teacher/soccer coach, who is young and hip and has her students call her by her first name, Martie. Edgy. Anyway, after enduring a week of tryouts and bonding with the soccer jockettes, Martie cuts Lucy's ass. What a bitch. But to soften the blow, Martie suggests that Lucy try out as kicker for the football team (the football team lost their first-string kicker during a recent game and are stuck with the next flunkie in line, some Justin Guarini lookalike named Benji).Lucy had actually met Benji in Martie's class, and he turns out to be a nice guy. Same goes for Lucy's crush and Designated Love Interest, Ryan. Other than being fond of 80s big hair bands and faux-hawks, he's pretty much about as exciting as watching paint dry. Oh, and he's also the football team's QB, which I'm sure none of us could've predicted.Lucy ends up making the team, kicking Benji back to his old role as the team flunkie (no pun intended). Poor old Benny earns the dubious honor of being the only boy Lucy is able to beat in a drill and in sprints. Man, what a guy. It's also apparent early on that he's taken a more than casual interest in her, but Lucy, like most YA heroines, is completely oblivious/too busy sniffing after Ryan.During the course of the novel Lucy struggles with the repercussions of her decision to join the football team—her father's disapproval, her teammates' cruelty, bitchy cheerleaders, the hit her budding friendship with Benji took seeing as she ousted him as kicker, and finding a way to make an unflattering jersey look cute. Not surprisingly, the climax of the novel revolves around the homecoming game and dance. Most of it's fairly predictable, although there was one little twist in the end that I actually wasn't expecting. Lucy was likeable enough, if a little bland, and the supporting players were all right, although they could've used more development. The villains of the piece were on the one-dimensional and stereotypical side (honestly... are there any fictional cheerleaders who aren't shallow bitches?). There were moments when the novel lapsed into sugar-coated afterschool-special territory, but we are talking about a former Dawson's Creek writer here, so it's to be expected. But all in all it was a fun, fluffy read, with some positive messages about perseverance and being yourself and all that good stuff.
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare I read this one while taking a break from school books and papers, and I needed some mindless but entertaining brain rot. Therein lies the appeal of this novel.If you've even dipped a pinkie toe in the online Harry Potter fandom, you've probably heard of the author (if not, just employ some google-fu and you find everything you need). The buzz generated by Clare's fandom notoriety probably was a great boon for this book, and I admit it's the only reason I read it. Although it's hard not to have preconceived notions if an author's reputation precedes them, I'm going to try as much as I can to remain unbiased as I do this review.The opening chapter reminds me of those horror movie teasers in which the first character we see gets offed, thus kicking off the action. In this case, our sacrificial lamb is a blue-haired emo teenager with a penchant for colored contacts and big foam... things. It all goes down at a teen dance club, where the heroine, Clary Fray, witnesses emo kid's murder. Blue-haired emo kid, we barely knew ye. But wait—it turns out that no one can see the killers but Clary! The killers are actually teenage demon hunters, and the blue-haired boy is actually a demon, disguised as a human (for the record, the foam thingy was a glamour to hide a weapon). These demon hunters call themselves shadowhunters, or nephilim (what, one name isn't good enough? They need another one?). Normal humans, whom they refer to as mundanes or "mundies", can't see them. Since Clary can, that must mean she's special. Wow, I'd have never seen that one coming.During the next chapter, we find out more about Clary. Her widowed mother is a hippie artist type with a close friend named Luke, whom Clary calls uncle, despite the fact that he is not a blood relative. Clary knows virtually nothing about her late father. Gee, I wonder if that will ever be a plot point? The mother's name is Jocelyn, which I find disconcertingly similar to the name of Buffy's mother (Joyce) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is a nitpick, I know, but it bugged me. Clary has a BFF named Simon, who struck me as an amalgam of Buffy's Xander and Oz (insofar as Simon's in a rock band and owns a van). There's also the flaky tarot card-reading neighbor named Dorothea, who reminds me of a cross between Buffy's Jenny Calendar and Angela from the Inheritance Trilogy—pardon me, Cycle. Soon afterward, Jocelyn is kidnapped and Clary is rescued by the shadowhunters, who whisk her off to their headquarters, excitingly named "The Institute." It turns out that all the shadowhunters' hangouts are hidden from mundanes by glamours. To mundies (I'm switching terms b/c MS word keeps auto-correcting "mundanes" and it's pissing me off), they appear as old condemned buildings or something. Hmmm... where have I read this plot device before? (Although to be fair, I'm sure HP isn't the only work of fiction to employ it). The Shadowhunters originate from a magical land called Narnia Idris, located in western Europe but hidden from Mundies by one helluva glamour. At the Institute, Clary meets the Wise Old Mentor Figure, Hodge (think Giles meets Dumbledore). Hodge also has an animal familiar, a raven named Hugo (which made me think of Lost's Hugo Reyes aka "Hurley," who is sadly a much more interesting character than anyone you will ever meet in City of Bones). Hey, at least it wasn't a Phoenix.What follows is your typical Campbell-ian fantasy plot. I'm not going to get specific, in case there's anyone unfamiliar enough with Star Wars that any of this comes as an actual surprise, but if you have even a passing acquaintance with those films, you should be able to call everything pretty accurately. We have the Shocking Betrayal, Surprise!Relativity (otherwise known as the "Luuuuuke, I am your father" syndrome), the Roguish Anti-hero, the Designated Love Interest (the former two are actually combined in one character), the Empire, and the Rebel Alliance. I was going to give Clare credit for a somewhat clever reversal of the whole Empire/Rebel dynamic, but then I realize that JK Rowling did it first, so so much for that. Context being that in City of Bones, we've got the Ministry of Magic Clave (the highly ordered ruling body of Shadowhunters) versus the Death Eaters Circle (an order of defectors dedicated to cleansing the world of demon/human hybrids known as Downworlders).More so than the derivative plot, however, I'd say City of Bones' biggest weakness lies in characterization. After all, I can forgive a lot if a story has great characters. Unfortunately, City of Bones does not deliver. Clary is likeable and sympathetic enough, but she's a bit on the bland side, and is often the one who ends up carrying the Idiot Ball when the plot calls for it. Clary is also one of those beautiful-but-doesn't-know-it girls, a YA trope that annoys me to no end. Not only is it completely unrealistic (seriously, if she's that much of a knockout, there is no way she wouldn't know it) but it's blatantly hypocritical, especially since the heroine is usually contrasted with the Stuck-Up Beautiful Girl (in this case, the beautiful but snobby Isabelle). So the point here is that beauty isn't everything, but apparently, we can't have a heroine who isn't beautiful! So we'll just make her unaware of her stunning beauty. Problem solved! Never mind the implication that you still need to be beautiful to get the guy, as long as you're nice, too! No mixed messages, not at all! Ahem, sorry about that. I get a bit impassioned about pet peeves. Anyway, the secondary characters are actually even less interesting. As you've probably gathered from my cursory descriptions so far, most of them are obviously inspired by characters from more famous fantasy/sci-fi works. Trouble is, Clare's characters lack the charisma and charm of their predecessors, making them little more than pale knockoffs. I've already mentioned Simon, the Quirky Sidekick. Then we have Jace, a shadowhunter and Designated Love Interest, who's like Han Solo, HP's Draco, and Buffy's Spike all mushed together. Alec and Isabelle, Jace's shadowhunter friends, are even more thinly characterized and even less interesting (and the names bother me because I keep thinking of Dark Angel and Roswell... the fact that Clare's Isabelle is very similar in personality and function to her counterpart in Roswell isn't helping matters). The only remotely interesting supporting character is Magnus Bane, but he barely gets any page time at all.So with all this negativity, you're probably wondering why this book still got a fairly high rating from me. Simply put, it was entertaining. Clare's prose is not as groanworthingly incompetent as Paolini's, nor as coma-inducing as Stephanie "let's describe every little thing in as verbose of a manner as possible" Meyer's, so it's easy to read. The plot is fast-paced and keeps you turning the page. The book fulfilled its function, which was fun and fluffy brain rot in the midst of term paper hell. As long as you don't take it too seriously and don't particularly care if it's derivative as heck (playing "spot the Buffy/HP reference" is a rather fun diversion, though), you should find it enjoyable.