Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)

Author: Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 27, 2011

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

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I kept putting this book off for years. Years of my life that now feel wasted. This book was gorgeous. Everything about this book, the writing, the characters, the world, it all felt so vibrant and alive.  I almost feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me, I’m not sure how to handle this.

So it starts off with this girl named Karou, who is totally awesome. I seriously needed this after the last few books I read and their pathetic examples of “strong female characters”. She is bad ass and spiteful and mischievous and smart and loyal and she felt so real. She lives in Prague and runs errands for Brimstone, a demon Chimaera thing who is basically the only father figure she has, who pays for teeth with wishes. She knows nothing about who she is or where she came from, only that she loves her surrogate family of demon things. But what she doesn’t know is that there is a war going on, basically a war between angels and demons and she has something to do with it.

I don’t even know where to start. I loved the whole soul and body concept on the Chimaera’s side, and beauty of the beast and human bodies, and the way that the author wrote so I could see them in my mind, terrifying but beautiful. I loved the concept of wishes, how they worked and what Karou used them on. I loved both worlds and the mythology created for the two, though we saw more of the Chimaera one, and the differences between the two races. They knew so little about each other, but assumed that the other was horrible and monstrous and set about destroying each other. At the end, when a certain character was talking, (don’t want to give any spoilers) she whispered, “We dreamed together of the world remade.” My poor heart couldn’t handle it. When you get to this part in the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about and you will feel my pain. That once sentence is just filled with such hope and longing, with sadness and defeat. That’s basically all this book was. Those fours things bundled into a big ball of feels.

One of the things I loved most about Karou was that she wasn’t really anyone super special in this book. I mean, she was a mystery and had many mysteries surrounding her, but in the end, this wasn’t because she was some super important savior meant to save the world with her super special powers. It was because enough people had loved her and saved her. It was because she was strong enough to save herself.

I loved seeing the two different sides of Akiva. The vengeful angel of death, sent to destroy the Chimaera. His side when he meets Karou and stalks her, conflicted and confused and dark inside. Then the side was see when he was with the other woman, the one who regretted the lives he had taken, who hoped and dreamed for a new world, who loved so fiercely and passionately. Two completely contrasting sides, but they worked so well, adding depths and layers and life to him.

The love story was pretty good, I have to admit that when Akiva is crushing on Karou and noticing things that remind her of some other woman, I was really worried that we were going to find out the other woman was her mom or something upsetting like that and Karou was her secret love child. I’m not going to give anything away, but that, thankfully, was not the case. When Akiva and Karou are instantly drawn to each other and it’s kind of an insta-love scenario, I was concerned. But there was always an air of mystery surrounding why they were so drawn to each other and once the reason was revealed, it all made since and made me ship them even more.

The writing though, was what did it for me. It was all so rich and layered and beautiful, at times almost poetic. I really enjoyed the sense of darkness that this book gave me, but with little spots of light throughout. It was really just heavy and unforgettable. The world and storyline was so mesmerizing and intriguing, I literally read the whole book in one night, I couldn’t bear to put it down.

I’m totally gushing and I accept that. I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about this book. Except now that it’s over, I feel weirdly empty and the thought of waiting for the next one to get to my library makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

RATING:

 

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Review: Defy

Defy (Defy, #1)Title: Defy (Defy #1)

Author: Sara B. Larson

Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

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I was beyond disappointed with this book. Why are they allowed to just blatantly lie in the summary? “A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.” It says that right on Goodreads. Those dirty rotten lying scum. Lush? I don’t think I’ve read a book with such little word building in a long time. Literally, the only thing I can tell you about this world is that there is a jungle and people are at war. I can’t even remember the names of any of the places. Hell, the only reason I can remember the name of the main character is because they say it a million goddamn time through out the book. Seriously, if someone goes through and counts how many times they say “Alex” or “Alexa”, I will be forever in your debt. The two guys are constantly saying her name and I don’t even know why. It was beyond infuriating.

Anyways, gorgeously written… Gorgeously written, they say… Oh. My. God. I want to bash my face into this table repeatedly. This book had not even a single thing in it that I would consider gorgeously written. The whole book was just lacking character, details, spunk, originality, and dear god, the writing was so blah. I literally starting imagining everyone’s voices as robot voices, because there was just nothing there. No emotion, no depth, it was flat and blank almost to the point where it was uncomfortable to read. The author didn’t bother is describe anything or go into detail about anything over interest about this world. I can’t tell you what anything looks like besides the various hot manly bodies Alexa gawks at. It was almost like she had a rough outline of the actually plot, didn’t bother just build onto it, and instead filled everything in with face sucking, collar bone nibbling, and sickly sweet love declarations. The actually storyline was just quickly smushed in between all the sappy gooey gunk that I want to scrape into a bucket and drown the author in.

Action? Nope. All we know is that this main character is apparently super amazing special at fighting. Do we get to see any fight scenes? No… Or the few we do see are just quick and sloppy and badly written. But it’s okay because we are told a million freaking times that everyone is in awe of her skills and how she is just a true warrior. Intrigue? Not one tiny bit. I, at no point in time while reading this book, was remotely intrigued with anything. The so called “mystery” was predictable and not even remotely the main focus of this story… because that spot had already been taken by the love triangle.

Let me just take a moment to say that this book was nothing other than a straight up love story. And a sucky one at that. I mean, this woman couldn’t even write a good love triangle in a young adult book. That is just a new low in anyone’s life. Her idea of inner turmoil over choosing between two men was drooling over each of their naked, sweaty, defined man bodies, describing their eyes EVERY SINGLE TIME she came into contact with them, then clearly choosing one over the other, but it was still a love triangle because the other guy still madly loves her and it determined to be by her side always. And the so called love they were all feeling miraculously spawned out of nowhere and consumed them to the point where their lives were in danger and it was all they could focus on. Plus, I can’t even tell you why she loved either of them, unless it was because of their hot bodies or swirling eyes.

Not to mention, this girl was apparently an idiot because her whole big thing was that she was disguised as a boy, serving as part of the royal guard so she had to be super sneaky and kept complete control over her emotions. Too bad she was constantly blushing, or getting all flustered, or blatantly checking out other men. So it came as no surprise when apparently everyone in the whole goddamn kingdom knew her giant secret that she worked so hard to hide. She was just the worst. She was okay at first, then all she did was cry and whine and cry and demand to know everyone’s secrets, and had people randomly sacrificing themselves for her. Alexa whatever-her-last-name-is has just joined my list of heroines who I cannot stand and would punch in the face on sight. It hurts me to even use her name and the word heroine in the same sentence.

This book was 323 pages. Just look at that and think of all the amazing books you’ve ever read that were somewhere around that number. This book was 323 pages of sappy, pathetic love. The beginning of the book? Setting it up for the love triangle. Introducing the two men, their hot bodies, and the uncontrollable stirring Alexa felt in her loins every time she saw them. The middle of the book? Them all traveling through the jungle together, both men trying to win her affections and kissing her up in secluded places every chance they got. The end of the book? Her big sacrifice for love and ending the relationship with speeches involving, “I will always love you but until I can prove it to you, blah blah blah” so that we can still be biting our nails nervously to see if they get back together in the next book. Which I will not be reading.

RATING:

Review: Hemlock

Title: Hemlock (Hemlock #1)Hemlock (Hemlock, #1)

Author: Kathleen Peacock

Publication Date: May 8, 2012

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: Fans of Maggie Stiefvater and the hit television show True Blood will flock to this first book in the supernatural mystery series set in a town where werewolves live in plain sight.

Mackenzie Dobson’s life has been turned upside down since she vowed to hunt her best friend Amy’s killer: a white werewolf. Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country, and bloodlust is not easy to control. But it soon becomes clear that dangerous secrets are lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, Mac’s hometown—and she is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her in grave danger.

Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling debut novel provides readers with a mystery that Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder, calls “clever and frightening,” while Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of Firelight, raves: “Forget every werewolf book you’ve ever read. This one breaks the mold.”

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I try to really avoid bashing on books because I respect the fact that someone put a lot of time and effort into making it… So I apologize for the next few paragraphs.

The main thing that really just rubbed me the wrong way in this book, was of course, the heroine. I swear, it’s like the author slammed down her manual of “How to Make Your Heroine as Blah as Possible!” and copied it word for word, because she couldn’t even put enough effort into paraphrasing it. I’m sorry, but this girl is just bad. So her name is Mac and she is just everything you expect. She puts absolutely no effort into her clothing or making her hair look nice, because that would mean that she would be aware of her hotness that makes every boy in her love secretly fall in love with her. She, of course, can’t resist doing what’s right and being a helpful goodie two-shoes in the point that is just sickening. I literally felt nauseous at some points in this book. She is always getting into trouble and getting rescued by one of her two knights, but it’s okay that she nearly got them killed trying to save her, because she was just trying to help and do what was right. Excuse me while I go puke. I just really can’t think of a single redeeming quality that she has.

Now here’s the thing… I obviously enjoy young adult books, seeing as I read them and have a blog dedicated to them… But I had to draw the line here. I can forgive authors for unoriginal storylines or ideas or whatever, as long as they try to make it new or their own and have some good world building or character development. This book had none. In this book, Mac’s super amazing best friend is killed by a werewolf (who are now “out”, by the way) and decides to track down the killer werewolf, while two boys pant over her and evil ex-girlfriends try to kill her. Her town has been taken over by these Trackers who literally just assault anyone they think is a werewolf and burn down houses with people inside and various other nefarious activities, and everyone just turns a blind eye because they want a werewolf that’s killed like three people found.

And everything in this story is just so predictable and it’s one of those books where everything is just too convenient. Like, one of the hot guys has to leave the town but Mac conveniently finds a way that he has to stay. Or she is making out with one of the boys and the other one conveniently walks in on them at just the right time. Or she finds a clue that conveniently just falls in her lap. Oh look at this, the books over and the town is saved? No need for a sequel, right? But wait, the love interest has conveniently left town because he is too dangerous and self sacrificing, so they main characters have to go on a new quest to find him. Looks like we have book number two. Convenient, right?

The mystery was a joke. I don’t even think she did any sleuthing or deducing or anything. All of the pieces were just handed to her at the right time in the story. And oh, she of course didn’t tell anyone when she found out who the bad guy was because she had to make really REALLY sure by sneaking into his house alone and getting kidnapped. But it’s okay, because one of the good guys conveniently saw her get taken and ran to get the gang all together for a rescue mission.

I feel almost bad because I can’t really think of a single thing I really liked about this book. I guess I was almost amused by how bad and predictable it was, like watching some really bad movie late at night because you’re ashamed and don’t want anyone to know you’re watching it. It’s bad, but almost so bad that it’s fun. But less fun, in this case.

RATING:

Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)

Author: Leigh Barduco

Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

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I found this world to be one of my favorites I’ve read about in a while. The whole atmosphere of this land was just kind of bleak and dark and gritty and I really enjoyed that. The book starts off with this girl Alina, who is in an army with her childhood friend Mal, that she is now in love with, and they are marching towards some horrible dark place called The Fold where they are all expecting to be killed. By horrible flying monsters. Who live in total darkness. Because that’s what The Fold is. Spooky. Anyways so monsters are swooping down and eating everyone and she is about to die and suddenly she unleashes some magical burst of light that saves them all. She gets dragged away to some palace to train because she is now a Grisha and supposed to save the world and destroy The Fold. It’s a fairly basic set up for a fairly basic young adult book… right?

Except, I was pleasantly surprised with lots of aspects in this book. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still cheesy and cliché a good percent of the time, but I was able to deal with it because the other parts were so interesting. While the whole idea of the Grisha’s being basically benders from Avatar: The Last Airbender, was obviously nothing new, it was still cool to read about and I’m a sucker for super powers. I wanted to bad to be a water bender when I was a kid. But Alina’s power was actually kind of… lame. She can basically make light come out of her. Which is convenient when there is a giant mass of pure darkness waiting to swallow up your world. But not so cool in fights… Or really anything at all that doesn’t have to do with a giant mass of pure darkness trying to swallow up your world. That being said, I really wish we could have seen more of the other powers that Grisha’s had. And that’s probably actually my main complaint about this book, the fact that we just barely touched on so many interesting things that could have added some needed meat onto this book. If it was like, another hundred pages, all devoted to explaining the world a bit more, this book would get four stars.

The most intriguing thing about this whole story was actually The Darkling. Boy, did the author really throw us a curveball with this guy. I mean, he basically just throws swirling tentacles of darkness at people during battle and slices some guy in half on top of Alina within like the first 70 pages. Such a badass. I was expecting him to be the dark mysterious guy in the inevitable love triangle, with his tormented past and heavy burdens to bear. He was at first… His storyline basically went like… Hmmm, predictable, predictable, interesting, hmmm, sigh, predictable, interesting, predict- HOLY WHAT?! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?! And it was awesome. I love him even more now. He will be the sole reason I read the next book.

While The Darkling was clearly my favorite character, Alina was okay. She was basically the typical sassy, special, ordinary but not heroine we are all used to. I don’t know, I don’t really have much to say about her. Which means she didn’t leave much of an impression. I felt like her “road of trials” basically consisted of getting picked on by the cliché pretty girls and trying to fight when she is so scrawny. Yawn. How about you go fight some monsters now? Or do… something?

The love triangle has to be addressed. I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but there really isn’t much I can do here. So…

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

That curveball with The Darkling being evil… I didn’t see it coming. I don’t want to know what this says about me but wow, I like him a million times more now. Usually when the dark and mysterious love triangle boy does something questionable, it actually ends up being for some noble heroic reason and makes the heroine love him more. Yeah, not this guy. He is basically just like, “FWAH FWAH FWAH (evil laugh). I actually was using you and now I’m gonna use you some more and now I just killed a bunch of people, I’m so evil and it feels so good!” No apologies from this badass. And I am so horrible for saying this, but I am really rooting for him. I want Alina to end up with him and they can rule with world with an iron fist of fear and darkness. Mal is just so bleh. The grew up together, so what? That didn’t stop him from sleazing around with other ladies the whole time and not even noticing Alina. But the second she stops being sick and gets some curves and has another man all over her, NOW he loves her. Psssh. I don’t buy it and I don’t like him one bit.

END SPOILER.

Anyways, the world, The Darkling, the cliffhanger, it’s all making me itch for the next book. Sure, Alina was kinda lame and the book didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked, it still was a fairly solid first book in a series. Hopefully the next one still has plenty of time with The Darkling and we get to explore the world a little more.

RATING: