Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) 
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: fantasy, angels, young adult, demons, supernatural
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (an imprint of Hachette), Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 432 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

My Review:

Karou, the girl with blue hair and mysterious tattoos, has grown up always knowing she was different. Her guardians are part human, part animal creatures anyone else would find scary but she just knows them as family. She’s a girl of two worlds but doesn’t quite fit in either one.

When her worlds collide, Karou finds there more to either of her lives that she ever expected.

The first thing I want to say about this book is how beautifully written I found it. The language is lovely. Reading it was an absolute pleasure. I love Laini Taylor’s style and whilst I could have devoured this book in a matter of hours I wanted to savour the words and make it last.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an original story. With a monster collecting teeth for possibly nefarious purposes, a stalker ex-boyfriend who larks around Prague pretending to be a vampire and a best friend who may be lacking in stature but a giant in soul. The fantasy world in which this book is set is remarkably detailed and beautifully described. I loved following Karou and finding out the secrets along with her.

The characters were fantastically interesting – from the humans Kaz and Zuzana to Brimstone and Issa. Even the mysterious and impossibly beautiful Akiva. These are characters I loved reading about and couldn’t wait to find out what came next for them. Karou is a someone with whom I have next to nothing in common and yet as I read on I found myself seeing myself in her – she’s strong with moments of weakness, scared and yet fearlessly brave. She has her secrets and finding out about her history and present was a fantastic journey.

In this novel, Laini Taylor has written a beautiful tale of fantasy and adventure. There’s romance, heartbreak and a plot that kept me enthralled long after reading the final page. The second book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlightwas released in November 2012 with the third book expected to be published sometime in 2014.

Many thanks to The Reading Room for providing me with a copy to review

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon / Book Depository


Top Ten Tuesday: Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week’s topic is:  Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

I’ve come across some awfully frustrating characters in books over the years. And for the most part they are the books that I tend/try to forget that I’ve ever read. But here are ten that first come to mind for this week’s top ten.

Bella Swan (The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer) – I think the reason that I didn’t enjoy this series is because of Bella. She frustrated me to no end. I could never understand her motivation behind her actions and it annoyed me like crazy. She was always the victim – always waiting on someone else to save her from herself and she only had one interest – Edward. Had she been a little more well-rounded, had more going on for her except how obsessed she is with her boyfriend and actually done something I may have liked her more. If she really hated Forks so much she could have gotten a scholarship somewhere and gone anywhere else. She could have gotten some interests and make a life for herself instead of being so down on everyone else for their life choices.

Ana Steele (Fifty Shades series by E.L. James) – because she was essentially Bella. Just slightly less annoying.

Harry Potter (circa. The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowing) – He was just. So. ANGRY! For most of that book I wanted to sit him down and tell him to grow up and realize that the whole world is at war. He might be the saviour but being emo and egocentric is not the way to beat Death Eaters. {Also from this book – Dolores Umbridge. That witch is just cruel!}

Hannah (Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher) – I felt like Hannah was very selfish by sending out those tapes. I found myself getting frustrated with her for blaming people for her decision and at the same time potentially ruining their lives in the process.

Abby – and to a lesser extent, Travis – (Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire) – One definition of stupidity is to do the same thing over and over, changing nothing, but expecting different results. That is what these characters kept doing! They kept going in circles with nothing different but wanting things to end up happily ever after. And somehow things did… but I’m still wondering how that all worked out…
Side note: I’m still trying to work out if Pigeon Pidge is a sexy/cute nickname or if he’s implying she’s a disease ridden rodent….

Katniss (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) – Sometimes she seemed intelligent and awesome but other times she was just so incredibly frustrating and dense. {Could also include Tris from Divergent by Veronica Roth in this category).

Romeo and Juliet (from the Shakespeare play) – I hated this play when I had to read it in high school because I didn’t like the main characters. I thought they were frustratingly impulsive and stupid. I still think that although my love of the minor characters has removed this play from my hated book list.

Becky (Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella) – One of my favourite chicklit series but one of my most frustrating characters. I’m generally rather thrifty. I’d rather go without than go into debt. I think this is why Becky irritated me so much. She’d spend spend spent and then when she got into mountains of debt and got depressed she’d spend some more. I love reading her adventures despite knowing she’ll never change but she’s another one of those characters who don’t change their behaviour but expect things to be different in the future.

Anyone who appeared in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Secret confession? This is one of those books I LOVE to hate. The characters are so vile! For the longest time I couldn’t work out why anyone could like this book but I’ve grown to love how fantastically detestable Catherine and Heathcliff are. They’re selfish and willing to ruin others for their own gain… They’re frustrating. And yet I can’t help but admire their commitment to their own personal agendas.

Luce (from the Fallen series by Lauren Kate) – Characters who personally do stupid things frustrate me. I don’t care if they’re blinded by love or whatever other reason you can give. If they jump into situations blindly when they’re the only person who can save the world – that’s absolutely ridiculous. Her and her team of fallen angels put her in danger all the time because no one was thinking. One of those series where in between the over the top romance and the unintentionally almost sacrificing the saviour every few chapters I just wanted to throw the book across the room.

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Title: Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: paranormal romance, vampires, urban fantasy, werewolves, magic
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 2010
Pages: 320 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

My Review:

Evie is a very interesting character – she’s confident about her job but at the same time she’s just naive teenager trying to make her way in the world. Having lived inside the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA) since she was a little girl, werewolves, vampires and fae are a part of her every day life. Her best friend is a mermaid and Evie is the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

Then one day everything changes. There’s a break in at the Agency and Evie comes face to face with a paranormal she’s never seen the likes of before. A shapeshifter who can take the form of any person or paranormal being. Good thing Evie can see though his shifts.

When paranromals are being murdered, a stranger mysterious shape changing boy infiltrating Evie’s thoughts and Evie’s abilities mutating – her life will never be the same. And to think – Evie thought the world was boring and would give anything to have a locker and go to Prom…

This book has a lot of promise. It’s a fun world where the fae are manipulative and somewhat sinister. Vampires are neither sophisticated nor do they sparkle. And werewolves are no more than the hired help who get furry once a month.

Evie is both jaded by the world she lives in and yet completely naive and excited by the mundane. I thought it was adorable that her favourite show was a Gossip Girl type teen drama. Who would have thought a girl could be so excited by school lockers and driver’s licenses! But whilst I adored the sweet side of Evie, I found her professional demeanour somewhat off-putting. With her trusty pink taser “Tasey” by her side, Evie felt way too immature and slightly irritating.

The shape shifting boy – Lend – was the stuff teenage dreams are made off. He was the prefect match for Evie. The other minor characters were interesting and I liked the small plot deviations they brought about. Vivian was vibrant and I can’t wait to see her in the future.

For a first book in a series – Paranormalcy does a great job at setting the scene. I loved the variety of creatures and how they interacted with each other – especially the Fae! I already have a copy of the second book, Supernaturally, and can’t wait to start reading.

 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon / Book Depository 

Read as part of the:

Eclectic Reader Challenge (urban fantasy)

2013 TBR Reading Challenge


Book Review: Hooked by Liz Fichera

Title: Hooked (Hooked #1)
Author: Liz Fichera
Genre: contemporary romance, sports, golf, Native American, realistic fiction
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Publication Date: Feburary 1 2013
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
When Native American Fredericka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.

But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred. But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…

My Review:

If there’s one thing Frederika “Fred” Oday is sure of, it’s golf. No matter what else is going on in her life – her alcoholic mother, her rebel-without-a-cause brother, not fitting in at her primarily white high school – she knows that when she’s on the golf course it’s just her and the ball. And her Native American ancestors who live among the stars looking down on her.

When the high school boy’s varsity golf coach recruits Fred for his team – it causes some drama. Rich boy Ryan Berenger isn’t happy when his best mate gets kicked off the team for some Indian girl. But as he gets to know the girl behind the falling apart plaid golf bag and rusted clubs, he sees there’s more to Fred than just her gender and the colour of her skin.

Fred has to face the prejudices and injustices of being an outsider in a rich man’s world. And in the process finds Ryan – who seemingly has it all together but might be just as out-of-place as she is.

I’m coming to realize that whilst I’m not a sporty person – I enjoy reading sports romances. This one is no exception. Fred is real. She has her problems but she doesn’t cut herself off from the world because of them. I found Ryan hard to like at the start (much like Fred found him I suppose) but as the story went on and we got to see his hidden depths, I found myself more inclined to see him as worthy of Fred.

The secondary cast are great. From the citizens who live on the Reservation to Ryan’s family and the other members of the golf team – they add the extra spice to the novel. Seth is one of those characters who show that villains don’t just exist in paranormal novels and Disney movies. I’m excited to see that there will be a novel with Sam Tracy and Ryan’s sister Riley (There’s a sample chapter at the end of my copy of Hooked and it looks like it should be a good read).

I enjoyed how Liz Fichera handled the theme of racial injustice throughout the novel – it wasn’t overpowering or in-your-face but managed nicely underline the story. Bullying, prejudice and the mistreatment of ethnic minorities are all things Fred and the other reservation kids had to deal with and it was nice to see how they coped.

There’s drama, action and a fair amount of golf in this book. It’s romantic at times and deals with family drama too – Hooked is a fun novel that shows that golf is for more than just country club folk!

 

Thanks to Harlequin Teen for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon / Book Depository 

Read as part of the:

Eclectic Reader Challenge (published in 2013)

2013 Debut Author Challenge (author’s debut into YA fiction)


Top Ten Tuesday: Settings I’d Like To See More Of (Or At All)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week’s topic is: Top Ten Settings I’d Like To See More Of (Or At All)

I love books set in far off places that I’ve never been to. Reading books set in places often makes me want to visit. After reading twenty something Dark hunter books (by Sherrilyn Kenyon) I had the strongest desire to go to New Orleans.

I’ve taken to understand this list as settings that I loved reading about so much that I can’t wait to read more books set in those locations.

New York City (City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1))
New Orleans [or just any where in Louisiana] (Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1), Immortals After Dark series)
Alaska (Naked Werewolf series)
Boston
Seattle (Georgina Kincaid series)…. the list of places in the US that I love to read about just goes on and on and on….

In fact I think I want to go to and read more about every single state. So I’ll just post this gorgeous map I found on Epic Reads

Paris, France (Anna and the French Kiss)

Prague, Czech Republic – I’m currently reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor and love the Eastern European setting. It’s gorgeous. I’d love to read more books set in this corner of the world.

Spain – After reading a memoir last year about a young woman who ran away to Spain to learn Flamenco dancing (Only in Spain: In Search of My Heart’s Desire 
by Nellie Bennett), I’d love to visit this country. And the next best thing to being there is reading more books set there.

Australia – I love books set in my home country. Most of what I read by Aussie authors is paranormal/fantasy set in a world different from here but I’d love to read more books set in my homeland. It’s a beautiful place.

United Kingdom – I’ve always loved books set here. From Jane Austen to Harry Potter, I love the setting and love to read books set in this beautiful corner of the world.

Fantasy worlds – I love the unique worlds that supernatural authors come up with. They’re all different and have their own quirks that set them apart. I know that I’m always going to want to read more books set in their own unique settings.

There is my list for this week. Perhaps less than ten (or more considering all the places in the US I want to read about) but given the chance I could go on all day so I think I’ll stop now 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Book Review: Advantage Erin by Kris Kreisman

Title: Advantage Erin
Author: Kris Kreisman
Genre: Contemporary, Sports, Time Travel
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: 22 August 2012
Pages: 140
Rating: 2.5 stars

Click here to read the first chapter of Advantage Erin.

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Erin’s mom is driving her crazy. Especially about tennis. Erin is good and enjoys the game. But it’s not her fault she’s not the megastar her mom claims to have been when she was Erin’s age. If only there was some way to get Mom to understand…

Spring break arrives, which means a visit to Grandma and Mom’s old hometown. Grandma is eccentric, but she’s also cool and understands Erin’s frustrations. And she can help. By taking Erin on a visit to Mom’s old high school. Not Mom’s school today. But Mom’s school as it was in 1970.

Erin experiences the trip of her lifetime. Back in time, where she struggles to fit in with a bunch of kids who never heard of the Internet or laptops or cell phones. Where she meets some very cool kids. And one not so cool kid named Catherine. Now known as Mom.

Talk turns to tennis, and inevitably the challenge is made and accepted. And they play the tennis match of the century. Erin had repeatedly heard how Mom was undefeated. Now was her time to do something about it. They battle hard until, in unexpected fashion, it’s over. But when she returns to the present Erin learns the truth about her Mom. And Mom learns some lessons as well.

Enjoy Erin’s thrill ride, her fun, her excitement, her anxiety. And discover how her trip to the past changed her present.

My Review:

More and more lately I’ve been thinking about what life must have been like for my parents back when they were my age. Through a magical computer and a crafty grandmother, Erin gets to go back to the sixties and meet the teenage version of her mother. Before children, before her tennis dreams were crushed and before life got complicated and “grown up”, Erin’s mother Catherine is like a different person. Erin realizes that maybe there’s more to her mother than she ever realized.

Conceptually I thought this book was great. Time travel, tennis and sixties fashion – I loved it all. However I had some problems with the pacing. Everything happens too quickly (Erin’s entire time travelling adventure occurs within an 10 hour or so window). I also thought that in terms of emotion and drama, Erin managed to deal with all that was happening without any trouble. I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle being dragged back in time five decades anywhere near as well as she did.

There were some surprises and fun quirks along the way that kept me reading up until the last page. Advantage Erin is a fun and quick novel about mothers, daughters and how sometimes the time and distance between them isn’t as large as you might first think.

Thank you to author Kris Kreisman for providing me with a review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple iBookstore
Smashwords

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week’s topic is: Top Ten 2013 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To

I’ve taken this to mean debut authors in the YA genre as some of these authors have published books in other genres prior to 2013.
TTT2013Debuts1

Hooked by Liz Fichera (released January 31) – When Native American Fredericka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done. 

But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.

But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (released March 12) – Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past —that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Taken by Erin Bowman (released April 16) – There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos (released March 3) – “I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.” 

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.

Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green (released May 14) – Some say the seaside town of Echo Bay is cursed. They may be right. When a game of truth or dare spins out of control, three beautiful teen girls start receiving mysterious dares containing hints to dark secrets long buried. For artsy outcast Sydney Morgan; perfect, popular Caitlin “Angel” Thomas; and queen bee Tenley Reed, the truth is not an option.

This is no party game—it’s do or die.

And it’s their turn to play.

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan (released May 14) – After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

Ink by Amanda Sun (released June 25) – On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

In the After by Demitria Lunetta (released June 25) – They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you’ve ever seen.
And They won’t stop chasing you…until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (released July 23) – When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again. 
But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic… and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a ton about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed. 
Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control, but this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down… and she might end up breaking her own heart.

Red by Alison Cherry (released October 8) – Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

 

Any here that you can’t wait to read? Any that I missed and you think I should add to my to-read list?