Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

smoke and boneTitle:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author:  Laini Taylor

Genre:  YA Fantasy

 

From Goodreads: 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 one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored 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?

 

What I thought:

Let me start out by saying how much I truly enjoyed this book.  The writing is fabulous and the story is captivating.  I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day!  Now, I happened to be recovering from bronchitis at the time and couldn’t move or even speak without coughing so I didn’t have much that I could do besides reading!

Karou lives in two worlds.  She is a 17 year old art student in Prague who entertains her friends and classmates with the magical world she captures in her art journals.  A world that is filled with fantastical creatures and magical stories of the WIshmonger and the wishes he trades in.  Except this world isn’t imagined at all but the world orphaned Karou grew up in with these fantastical creatures as her guardians and family.  Karou travels through magic doorways between the human world and the chimaera world until one day these doorways are all destroyed, cutting her off from her family.

I love Karou.  She is just fun!  She lives this magical life (blue hair that grows out of her head that way, wish beads that she wears around her neck, her drawings of another world) and has mastered the art of telling the truth without telling the truth!  It is fun to watch.  She is the perfect heroine for this story.  Independent.  Sarcastic.  I love her.

Akiva is wonderful as well.  He is a beautiful warrior angel who finds Karou in the streets outside one of the doorways into the chimaera world.

The one and only thing I struggled with in this book is the quick change in directions the author took in the developing relationship between Karou and Akiva.  One moment they are enemies and fighting in the streets of Prague with the intent of killing each other; the next they are in love.  I would have liked to see a bit more time taken to develop trust and a relationship.  I think one might need more time to trust a man that just stabbed you!  That said, it really didn’t detract from my love of the story.  I can’t wait to read more!

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Review: Adaptation

adaptationTitle:  Adaptation

Author:  Malinda Lo

Genre:  YA SciFi

Source:  Netgalley

 

From GoodReads:  Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

What I thought:

I don’t read a lot of Scifi.  What I have read has been hit or miss.  I either love it and can’t put it down or I struggle to suspend my logic while I try to find something I find believable.  (I know, this coming from a woman who enjoys books about vampires, werewolves, angels, and ghosts!)

Adaptation started out promising.  Mysterious happenings, cover ups and conspiracy theories are all things that get me excited about a book.

Reese, her dabate partner, David, and their coach Mr. Chapman, are waiting in an airport for their flight home to board, when suddenly flocks of birds begin to strike planes causing them to crash.  All flights are grounded.  The three decide to rent a car to return home.  While on route, chaos has struck the city and the trio is victim to an attempted carjacking that has their debate coach shot dead and Reese and David narrowly escaping.  Still trying to get home, Reese and David are in a serious car accident and wake up nearly a month later in a government hospital where they received newly developed medical treatment to save their lives.  Upon returning home, both start to realize that their treatment has left them somehow changed.

This is where the story loses me.  I find the characters’ passivity infuriating.  A teen is treated in a medical facility for almost a month and her mother has not been involved or even aware of anything related to her treatments.  She just passively accepts the “top secret” label and waits for her daughter to come home?  Huh?  I don’t think so!  They would have to put me behind bars, in chains and sedated to keep me away!  And this mother is a lawyer!  I found this book filled with situations just like this that had me wondering what in the world they were thinking!

I had a hard time finishing this book.  I just didn’t really care about the characters or the outcome.  As this is my first “review” book, I feel bad that it is a negative one.  I would hate to tell anyone to pass up on a book, but this one wasn’t for me.

Note:  I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review – The Raven Boys

the raven boysTitle:  The Raven Boys

Series:  The Raven Cycle #1

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre:  YA Paranormal

Source:  Library Digital Audiobook

 

From GoodReads:  “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before

What I thought:

I know we have been told not to judge a book by its cover.  However, when I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it.  Once I read the cover, it was done.  I struggled over wanting to buy the book because I was there to pick up a school book for one of my children and this one was not in the budget.  But after a search on my library’s digital website, I found an audiobook and immediately downloaded.

I love audiobooks but I find the narrator makes or breaks the book.  This narrator was perfect.  He had exactly the right voice and style to make listening to Maggie’s magical words a treat!

Maggie Stiefvater has written a very detailed novel with a complicated, layered storyline that is full of mystery.  Throw in a long list of characters and I often find myself lost and flipping back though previously read pages to figure out what I missed.  This is a task impossible with an audiobook.  However, I didn’t need it!  Somehow Maggie managed to not only write her story beautifully but also clearly.  I never felt lost or confused at who a character was.  Maggie’s characters are so unique and well developed that it was easy to keep them straight.

Blue Sargent comes from a family of women psychics.  She lives with her mother, Maura, and aunts, Persephone, Calla and Neeve.  While Blue herself isn’t psychic, she somehow acts as a magnifier for others’ psychic abilities and phenomenon and is often brought along for this reason.  Which is how she finds herself at a small church on the “corpse road” with Neeve on St. Marks’ Eve, waiting for the soon-to-be dead to walk by, and it is also how she, a non-seer, sees her first spirit, an Aglionby boy named Gansey, who falls to his knees in front of her.   Blue has been told her entire life that she is destined to kill her true love with a kiss, and she learns that the only reason she should be able to see a spirit on St. Mark’s even is that he is either her true love or she will somehow kill him.

Blue soon finds herself involved with Gansey and his fellow Raven Boys, as students of Aglionby Academy are known, as they follow an obsessive quest of Gansey’s involving ley lines and a long dead king.  Blue’s friendship with the four boys is sweet one.  Elegant, wealthy Gansey, Adam, the scholarship earner who is keenly aware of the affluence of his friends, dark mysterious Ronan, and quiet Noah, all invite Blue in and include her in their adventure.  The hint of romance takes a back seat as friendship and trust grows which I love as way too many YA books careen into a desperate love at first sight pace.

I completely enjoyed this book and upon finishing, immediately went and downloaded the sequel, The Dream Thieves, also on audiobook.  I’m interested in seeing where this story goes!

Review – Angel Burn

angel burnTitle:  Angel Burn (released in the UK as Angel)

Author:  L.A. Weatherly

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Pages:  449

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

They’re out for your soul.
And they don’t have heaven in mind…

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. she has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil.

What I thought:

Angel Burn turns the concept of benevolent heavenly beings upside down.  The angels in Angel Burn are far from the loving guardians or the heavenly warriors that we have come to expect in books where they are featured.  These angels are not here to further the wellbeing of human kind but rather to take from them for their own benefit.  Honestly, I have mixed feelings on the angel turned life energy sucking being feeding off the humans who worship them.  However, even though I like angels to be, well, more angelic, Weatherly did a good job of building a mythology that worked for her story.

Our heroine, Willow, is an independent, competent teen who has come to terms with the fact that she is different.  To start with she lives with her aunt and catatonic mother.  Also she is, and always has been, psychic.  This ability has helped her to earn money to help care for her mother.  While giving a reading to a classmate, Willow learns about the existence of real angels as well as their ‘relationship’ with humans.   And the angels learn about Willow.

Alex is a hired assassin, an angel killer.  Working alone, he receives a call alerting him to an angel that needs to be taken care of.  When he arrives at the given address, what he finds isn’t an angel, exactly.  But she isn’t exactly human either.

I liked this couple.  Rather than the love at first sight that is often a part of YA novels, Alex and Willow don’t hit it off immediately.  They are leery of each other but recognize that, at least at the moment, they need each other.  And I do mean they needed each other.  Willow is not a dependent, whiny girl who needs her guy to fight for her, nor is she a warrior in the body a teenage girl.   Willow and Alex’s relationship is allowed to grow as they learn to trust each other.

While the concept is certainly out of the box, the plot was fairly simple.  There was a number of scenes that contained page turning action, however, there wasn’t a whole lot of twists and turns or jaw dropping revelations that I didn’t see coming.  Still the story was engaging and enjoyable.

Overall, Angel Burn was an enjoyable read.  I liked it enough that I will be adding the second book in the series to my TBR list, although I am not running out immediately to find it.

Review – Pandemonium

pandemoniumTitle:  Pandemonium (Delirium Series #2)

Author:  Lauren Oliver

Genre:  Young Adult, Dystopian

*** This review contains spoilers if you haven’t yet read Delirium  ***

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

 

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

 

What I thought

 

Pandemonium switches back and forth between Lena’s story “THEN” and “NOW.”  “THEN” starts from where Delirium leaves off.  Lena has just escaped to the Wilds, while, sadly, Alex didn’t make it.  She is alone, scared and unprepared to live in the Wilds.  “NOW” is the new Lena.   She has survived the Wilds with the help of group of other ‘invalids’ and has become an active member of the resistance.     I listened to this book as an audio download and the switching back and forth at times could be confusing.  I have a feeling that if I had been reading the book instead of listening to it, these changes would have been easier to follow.  That said I really did liked the way Oliver used this back and forth technique to tell her story.   We were able to see a new confident Lena in her role as an operative for the resistance, while, at the same time, see the journey she took to get there.  We saw Lena grieve after losing Alex, falling into despair and then growing stronger and remaking herself into someone new, someone who could face her new reality.

I really liked the “new” Lena.  She is spunky, take charge and no nonsense, and I like that.  Her eyes have been opened to who the enemy really is and she is fully engaged in the resistance.  The new Lena doesn’t need a guy to protect her.  This new Lena can take care of business on her own and she does.

Serving as an operative for the resistance, Lena is living ‘under cover’ in New York and attending DFA (Deliria Free America) meetings and keeping an eye on the DFA Leader’s son, Julian Fineman.  Lena and Julian find themselves kidnapped and must work together to escape.  This is where the new Lena really comes into her own as the hero and takes charge of the situation for herself as well as Julian.   I like Julian, but he is no Alex.  He is broken, confused and scared after having been a kind of poster boy for the DFA for years.  He really doesn’t seem to be a match for this new Lena.

I won’t say anymore, because I don’t want to give anything away.  As always, Oliver’s writing is wonderful.  This book takes on twists and turns.  Although I will say there were some predictable bits as well that I wish weren’t as transparent as they were.  We will see where the final book in the trilogy, Requiem, ends up.

Review – The Glass Casket

Title:  The Glass Casket  glass casket

Author:  McCormick Templeman

Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages:  352

(From Goodreads)  Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

My thoughts:

I picked this book up at the library the other day for no other reason than I liked the cover and the description on the back of the book intrigued me.  It read:

“The funeral should have been the next day.  The town elders would have performed the rites, her body, pale as marble, covered in the funerary shroud.  She should have been laid up on Cairn Hill, stones carefully arranged atop her resting spot.

These were the thing that ought to have been done.  But sometimes things don’t go as planned.”

So with this to creepy introduction to go on, I started reading this novel without any real idea what it was about.  I wondered if it might be a retelling of Snow White, after all she had a glass casket.   Within a short time a number of deaths occurred seemingly by an animal and a young, raven-haired beauty in a red cloak arrived in the village.   Little Red Riding Hood?   While I didn’t know what to expect, the story that followed was certainly not it.  However, it did stay wonderfully true to the feel of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale.

The Glass Casket started out rather slow. Much of the first few chapters are spent meeting various villagers and setting up the superstitions, customs and beliefs that exist in the community.  Superstitions surrounding fairies, goblins and witches.  In these early chapters, five of the king’s men had been killed in the mountains outside of Nag’s End, Rowan’s peaceful village.  The villagers, with the exception of Rowan’s best friend, Tom, believe that an animal, maybe a wolf, was to blame for the gruesome deaths.

About a third of the way through the novel, the story really takes off.  One brutal murder follows another and no one seems safe; this author certainly doesn’t have a problem killing off endearing characters!  Suspicions and accusations begin to fly in the village and the plot twists keep coming.  I found this to be a creepy mystery, complete with magic, fantasy, suspense, family secrets, and a tragic love story.  The best part was that I didn’t see the end coming!  I love it when an author can weave enough elements through a story to keep me guessing until the very end.

Overall, The Glass Casket is a wonderfully creepy fairy tale that I completely enjoyed!

Review – Before I Fall

Title:  Before I Fall      before I fall

Author:  Lauren Oliver

Genre:  Young Adult

Pages:  470

(From Goodreads)  What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

What I thought:

I listened to this book as an audio download from my library.  I find that household chores aren’t as horrible if I’m listening to a good book.   I had read and loved Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and thought I would give this one a try.

Samantha (Sam) is a mean girl.  She and her friends were the type of girls I couldn’t stand when I was in high school.  Girls like this are the reason I am so glad to never have to go back to high school.  They are cruel, self-centered bullies.  “Before I fall” follows Sam on the last day of her life.  A day she is forced to relive over seven times.  During these seven days Sam sees into the lives of those that surround her, kids she has hurt and those who she has called friends, and her views are challenged.

Sam is not a likable character to say the least.  Even as Sam’s story progresses and we see her learning the depth of pain her behavior can cause, I never found myself liking her more.  At times I felt sorry for her, as she realized her own fears, but I never really liked her.  I suppose I had hoped for more of an Ebenezer Scrooge type of transformation.  I know not all characters have to be likable, but it has always been hard for me to connect to a story when I don’t like the main characters.  Most of the books I’ve never finished have been for this reason.

In spite of this I did find myself wanting to finish the book.  I needed to see how Sam’s story resolved.   I was curious to see if she ever really got it.  If she ever made amends or righted her wrongs.  Mostly, I wanted to see situations resolved for some of the surrounding characters, particularly Juliet Sykes, who was often the victim of Sam and her friends’ bullying.  While I may not have found the main characters relatable, I did find Juliet relatable.   She was the character I related to the most.  The one I rooted for the most.  In high school, I was often the bullied and could relate to the Juliet’s situation.  I’m sure my experience of high school isn’t much different than many others and I wonder if many of us find ourselves rooting for this underdog.

Just one more note:

This book is definitely for the older Young Adult reader.  My young teen daughter will not be reading this one.  Teenage alcohol abuse and promiscuity are a large part of the story, since one of the major settings is a drunken party.  That said it certainly tackles the subject of bullying head on in a very direct way.