Athletic and easy going Zac has grown accustomed to being the youngest on the cancer ward. When the feisty, angry and rebellious Mia moves into the room next to his to say he’s surprised would be an understatement. Unable to … Continue reading
Cole St. Clair – Rockstar, ex-addict, sinner…werewolf. A werewolf who’s only just stepped back into the limelight after two years of radio silence. Some thought he was dead, others in rehab. The truth is a story he can never reveal. … Continue reading
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 613
What’s It About?
After deceiving the rebel Chimaera army Karou has managed to seize control. After a shocking truce sees Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings align themselves with the remaining rebels the groups are forced to work together to stop the Seraphim emperor Jael procuring arms from Earth, not to mention preventing the apocalypse.
On the far side of Eretz the Queen of the reclusive Stelian clan sets out with a small group to find – and kill – the unknown magus stealing their power.
And on Earth as the invading angels shock and awe humanity a young scientist discovers a truth that has the ability to destroy not just the world but every and all universes.
Beginning with the reaction to Jael’s army of Seraphim on Earth interspersed with flashes to Eretz and the integration of Akiva’s Misbegotten brothers and sisters with Karou’s’ Chimaera rebels the tension is intense. Palpable. The story takes off at lightening speed moving between character viewpoints – some like Karou & Akiva who we’ve come to know so well and others we’ve been dying to hear from (Liraz she has a soul! Who knew?) Taylor also introduces a knew character in the form of doctorate student Eliza Jones. At first Eliza’s story seems disruptive – every time the story shifts from Eretz and back to Earth and the discovery of the bodies in the pit you find yourself cursing the lack of Karou and Akiva. Eliza’s story though becomes more and more riveting and mysterious, so in tune with the overall story you eventually find yourself desperate for more.
The action is acute and never missing for too long – in fact the story plays out almost like a film with the perfect balance of conflict, fighting, strategizing and romance (and not just from Akiva and Karou.)
This exemplary melding of themes, genres and stories comes down to one thing – Laini Taylor is a genius. Her ability to seamlessly weave a multitude of stories together in perfect harmony is something to fawn over. Her ability to ensure that each of those stories is told to its fullest, given its dues and serves a purpose is awe inspiring. Like J.K. Rowling, Taylor planted seeds to her story’s ending at the very beginning, and like J.K. Rowling she didn’t disappoint in allowing those seeds to grow and bloom into a nearly perfect ending. This final chapter in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy was well worth the wait. Stirring, dramatic, surprising and heartfelt Taylor managed to maintain the realities of the worlds she created while leaving readers happy and, interestingly enough, salivating for more. (Is it possible? Dare one hope?)
From the impending threat of apocalyptic doom spanning two worlds, to the revelation about the vile fallen angel Razgut’s previous life, to the uncloaking of the mysterious – and supremely powerful – Stelians, to the sweet romance of humans Mik and Zuzana and the epic, heartrending, soul searing love story of Karou and Akiva not to mention the life threatening deception Karou and Ziri are trying to pull off – each story plays a role, each story connects somehow, magnificently to another and another, spinning an ending that makes for a book you can’t possibly put down.
Let’s just take a minute to discuss the unbelievable beauty of Taylor’s prose – it is equal parts poetic, fluid and colourful without ever being over the top. It’s nearly impossible not to speed through her stories simply because her writing is so easy. Not easy in the sense that it’s “dumbed down” because it’s not (how can it be when you’re throwing out words like “cartilaginous”? Amirit?) Easy in that it flows, it’s melodic. It’s stunning.
Karou & Akiva’s Epic Love Story
I hate anyone who likens their story to Romeo and Juliet. Hate. Their story is uniquely their own. Sure they’ve got the whole star-crossed lovers deal but their strength, their determination to succeed, their inability to ever truly lose each other is something altogether different. Even when in Days of Blood & Starlight Karou’s anger blinded her (or attempted to) love for Akiva it was there, tangible, and weighing heavily on everything she did. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters Karou accepts this love, realizing that in denying it she’s weakening herself by denying her right to her own happiness. Which is incredibly profound and moving. But what truly solidifies this couple at the top echelon of YA romantic couples is that they are always willing to sacrifice their own happiness to save others and most importantly – they’re both acceptance of this fact in each other. Seriously how much more romantic can this be.
Shout Out to a Great Supporting Cast
No review of this final book would be complete without a nod to the colourful cast of characters littered throughout the series and this final chapter. Zuzana and Mik are a given as the best representations of what being colour blind really means – it’s presented simply in their easy acceptance of both the Chimaera and Seraphim, their desire to help both. Ziri and Liraz – opposites attracting so perfectly. The disfigured, ruthless Jael and the snivelling Razgut, both of whom you can’t help but love to despise and yet feel sorry for in the strangest way possible. And the even smaller players – The Shadows that Live, Virko, Nightingale et al. Each character, regardless how minute their part in the story is so wonderfully designed, so full and multi dimensional you want to know each and every one of their stories.
Dreams of Gods & Monsters the final book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is a grand and heroic ending – brimming with intellect, heart and romance, it offers the perfect closure to a riveting story while not fully closing the door on a world overflowing with possibility. 5/5
Author: Lauren Oliver
Date Published: March 4, 2014
Number of Pages: 408
What’s It About?
Each year in the dead-end town of Carp, NY, every student in the graduating class has the chance to enter Panic – a legendary, and dangerous game of luck and chance. Spurred by heartbreak and revenge Heather and Dodge enter the game. Every decision, every ounce of courage leads to new alliances, chances for romance and a shot in the dark at a way out of town.
My first introduction to Lauren Oliver came in the form of her Delirium trilogy, of which I only ever read (and only half of it) the first book in the series. To many the books are killer, to me they were just, well dull. I found the concept to be beyond reaching and I really couldn’t get down with lead character Lena who I felt was whiny and cowardly. Harsh I know. I’m saying all of this because I was really reluctant to pick up Oliver’s newest book Panic but I’m glad I did.
Panic is nothing at all like Delirium, a standalone book – the overall concept, a mysterious and dangerous game (with a big payout) held for the graduating high school class in small town New York builds to a crescendo in an intense and riveting manner.
Told from the dual perspectives of contestants Heather and Dodge, playing for their own independent reasons, the book is a surprisingly intense commentary on youth and the way in which desperation of all kinds can drive a person to do things they never thought themselves capable of.
The concept is enthralling – Oliver manages to capture your attention from the very beginning. As the game progresses and the stakes are raised you find yourself becoming more and more invested in the characters and desperate to know the outcome.
The dual narrative can at times come off a little gimmicky – for instance in Allegiant it was evident very early that the reason for the change in narrative style was because the end of the story couldn’t come from the character it had always come from. In Panic the dual narrative makes sense. It offers a great duality in reasoning for the various reasons these kids would put their lives in such danger for a cash prize. For many it’s seen as a way out of small town life for the story’s narrators it’s much more.
Heather is incredibly likeable. Suffering from heartbreak and a bad home life Panic is a way from her to step away from the stress of everyday life. It’s also a chance to provide a better life, away from her alcoholic/drug addicted mother, for her and her sister. As the story progresses Heather’s growth from wallflower to a confident, beautiful girl is striking yet organic.
At first Dodge comes off a little slimy – you kind of recoil at the thought of him, but his is a great example of character development and how wrong first impressions can be. Loyal to a fault Dodge is determined, pragmatic and clever. His relationships with his sister, Heather and Nat (Heather’s best friend) paint him as loving guy with a great deal of respect for the opposite sex.
The Minors (characters)
Nat – Heather’s best friend, Dodge’s love interest – I’m not going to lie here. I kind of hated her. She’s incredibly self-involved and without spoiling anything – um, I can’t actually finish that sentence without spoiling things. Needless to say the gif below best describes my feelings about her.
Heather’s other best friend, and the boy she’s obviously in love with but has yet to realize this fact (trust me I’m giving nothing away) is perfectly likeable but I will say his purpose in the story is fairly obvious – I have yet to determine if it was meant to be this way or if it’s just a weak link in the story. Whenever Bishop entered the scene I always found myself doing that twisty head thing that puppies do…:
Anne, Krista, Lily
All three women play a vital role in Heather’s life, Krista – her mother is a disappointment, forcing Heather to play the parent role. Lily, Heather’s little sister though very minor and not as developed as other characters gives Heather purpose. And Anne – well she’s really awesome. Best way to explain her.
There’s a reason people keep buying Oliver’s books, despite not being a fan of her earlier work there’s no denying she can write. In Panic she creates characters with meaning and reasoning. For every action there is a reaction, a reaction that continuously ups the ante. She also manages to create unique character voices. Both Heather and Dodge stand out so clearly as independent characters, yet when they’re brought together they mesh.
Oliver’s writing is also great for its intricacies. She adds in small details that provide so much for your imagination. The town of Carp is so beautifully illustrated by simple additives like Meth Row or as a friend pointed out Nat’s obvious OCD – which is never named but very evident.
The Elusive YA Standalone
What I think I particularly appreciate about Panic is that it’s a standalone – a concept that seems incredibly unique in the current world of YA overrun with dystopian trilogies. It’s nice to read a book and know that the end is really the end. There’s something to be said for an author who tells the story in one go, sometimes it just makes the story so much more rich.
The Final Judgement
Panic is a great story. It’s unique, engrossing and filled with interesting plot twists, strong and likeable characters. It’s the perfect concoction of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure. Throw in a little coming of age and a little revenge it kind of has a bit of something for everyone. If you’re looking for a tightly woven tale that builds to an ultimately explosive crescendo, you should probably pick up a copy. 4.5/5
There’s nothing like re-reading a well loved story. In fact there’s nothing better than re-reading a book period. Sometimes it solidifies your love for a story. Sometimes it solidifies your dislike (or epic hatred if we’re going the John Steinbeck route – long story. I’ll explain it another time.) Regardless I’m a big believer in the re-read.
In anticipation of Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in my serious author crush Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy I’ve re-read the previous two books. Having already done a Monthly Re-Read blog about DoS&B, it’s only fitting I write one for DoB&S.
TOP TEN REASONS TO RE-READ LAINI TAYLOR’S DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT
10. The Writing
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Laini Taylor’s writing is pure poetry. Her prose is seamlessly woven, it’s the perfect tapestry of words. Quite frankly Taylor is a brilliant storyteller.
I love the world Taylor’s created – she paints a picture of a vast, beautiful and daunting land with a history just as varied and bloodied as our own. Eretz is a land you can easily get lost in (blood thirsty angels and monsters withstanding.)
8. The Stelians
The mystery behind the renegade angels who politely refuse to engage in war with Joram, Emperor of the Seraphim (and Akiva’s father) by sending a basket of fruit is killing me! Who exactly are they? Is Akiva’s mother still alive and living with them? Just how magical are they? And, how – how could they willingly sit by and let the Seraphim and Chimaera tear each other apart for a thousand years?
7. Surprises that Come in Thuribles
Without giving anything away – lets just say with all the heartbreak this series doles out, sometimes happy surprises come in inappropriately labeled thuribles.
6. New Storylines
As much as I wanted nothing but 500 pages of Karou and Akiva there’s no denying their separation allowed for the introduction of new storylines – stories that only helped to better create for the reader the depths of misery, desperation and courage war can create. Plus it leads right to number five…
5. The Perfect Collection of Minor Characters
Zuzana & Mik, Ziri, Hazael and Liraz, even the creepy and possibly crazy Razor – Taylor has a knack for writing great characters. DoB&S is teeming with colourful, unique characters that shine brightly (whether it be for good, Haxaya, or evil, Ten.)
4. The Double Twist Ending
No spoilers don’t worry! But if you’ve read this book you know there’s a few shocks along the way but the end? I did not see that coming. Not. At. All.
3. The White Wolf
Okay I know anyone who’s read this book is sitting there thinking “what the hell?” but hear me out – a great adversary is key to uniting reader and hero. In hating Thiago and his evil, manipulative, conniving ways you can’t help but root that much more for Karou and Akiva – that they change their world and that they find their way back to each other, because screw Thiago!
2. Akiva’s Redemption
Talk about soul crushing love – not only did the man live in agony for nearly 18 years believing he lost forever the love of his life, but when he finds her alive, he still can’t have her. He then spends all of his time risking his life to help save her people. All for the sake of a woman who claims to despise him. Oh my goodness – just rip my heart from my chest as it continues to pump why don’t you?
She’s quite possibly the best YA heroine around. Beautiful, smart, kind, courageous, tough, fighter, lover, friend, salvation of the chimaera race – she’s kind of everything. But Taylor writes her so perfectly that every role she plays is believable, heartbreaking, uplifting and well, amazing. She’s either your fantasy best friend, or your fantasy girl-crush.
20 Days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!
What’s It About?
Imagine a machine that could virtually transport you anywhere in the world utilizing only the power of your mind. That’s Elusion. Now imagine your father is the genius creator behind the invention, that he dies unexpectedly in a plane crash. Imagine your best friend (who happens to be the heir to the tech company your father worked for) takes over the project. It becomes a smash. Only for every great thing about it there’s a rumour to counteract its success. But what if the rumours are true? What would you do? That’s the question Regan is faced with answering.
It’s only in the last few months that I’ve made the foray into Science Fiction – and the few books I’ve read I like to refer to as Science Fiction Light. Mindee Arnett’s Avalon was the first I tackled, it was definitely enjoyable, I really dug the whole space opera vibe. So I figured Elusion would suit me just fine. I was wrong.
It’s not that there’s fundamentally anything glaringly wrong with this book. It fits into several of the niche markets that make up YA literature – romance, mystery, dystopian (or kind of dystopian, it’s hard to pin point because despite constant reference to the world – or at least America – being in a poor environmental state there’s never any real explanation as to what caused it. One of many incongruities in the book.) It also comes equipped with a female lead, and a love triangle. These are all elements that usually land well in YA. But in the case of Elusion they all just, well, fall flat.
Let’s Break it Down
This book is long. It drags. It’s not until nearly three quarters in that the story picks up and really starts to focus on the actual mystery at hand. There’s so much filler and so much build-up, build-up that doesn’t even really set up anything. As I’ve already stated there is some illusion (no pun intended) to the world not being a very healthy place environmentally speaking. However nowhere in the 400 pages of this story does it ever explain why – why do people have to wear what basically amount to gas masks? Why is there seemingly no place on earth one could vacation without fear of death by air? An explanation would have been nice.
Not only is it lacking in explanation but it goes around and around and around. By books end you will feel like a very well exercised hamster. That is if you can manage to finish it.
Least Interesting Lead Characters…Ever
The story centers on teenager Regan – her recently deceased father is the creator of Elusion, her best friend Patrick now seemingly runs the operations of all things Elusion (which is amazing when you consider this guy’s meant to be like 18) and Josh – an ex military school apparent dream boat, loosely connected to Patrick through camp (or something, I don’t even remember.) Not one of these people is remotely interesting. I mean you’ve got a teenage whiz kid millionaire and he just comes off whiny, pathetic and a little crazy. Regan is a stick in the mud covered in a wet blanket. And Josh, good ol’ Josh is basically an excuse for strife and friction.
What’s the Story Morning Glory?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed the story is a love triangle. Patrick loves Regan, Regan has no idea, she’s also put Patrick so far in the friend zone he’s basically related to her, Josh has piqued Regan’s interest. Oh but wait, what about Patrick? Maybe she does like him? Oh no. No she doesn’t. But she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. But she doesn’t mind kind of stringing him along. Oh now she’s confused why he’s angry and jealous that she’d take more interest in a guy she barely knows and not give her best friend of many years even the slightest chance…you see where I’m going here. I didn’t think it was possible to make a love triangle lamer than Edward, Bella and Jacob but the proof is in the proverbial pudding kids.
The worst part is – this is just side story, the real story is that Elusion, though praised by many may also be killing its users. Specifically teenage users. And people are kind of getting addicted to it.
No wait the story is that Regan’s dad’s death is kind of shady and there may be more to it than anyone’s letting on to.
Sorry, the stories about how Josh’s sister’s gone missing.
There’s a lot of threads to this book. A multitude of stories, none of which are ever properly explored. Things just kind of happen for about 300 odd pages. It’s frustrating and disappointing.
But the real kicker with Elusion? The ending. I won’t give it away but let me just say if you choose to invest time slogging your way through 400 pages of clutter with a little bit of mystery thrown in you want answers. You want an ending. You want to know that you have not read in vain. Unfortunately when you make it to the end you soon learn that indeed it was all for naught. This book is not a standalone. And it’s important to know that going in.
I’m always weary of books with multiple authors. I find myself wondering how two people can create a cohesive story that makes sense and still demonstrates each of their strengths and talents. When I read Beautiful Creatures I felt vindicated in those feelings. Having powered through Elusion I can’t help but feel that I’m still very much right to wonder. Reader beware. 1/5
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – I’ve been meaning to take part in it for quite some time now and it would appear today is the day for my first foray into the lovely land of weekly lists.
Picking my all time favourite anything book-wise is pretty difficult, picking my favourite YA books? Well that’s kind of a “Sophie’s Choice” for me. So I’ve decided to go with the books I keep going back to, some are relatively new reads, some not so much. But the top three are without a doubt my all time favourites. So, without further ado…
10. Graceling, Kristin Cashore
The first in author Kristin Cashore’s sort of trilogy (more like a companion piece and a sequel) despite being first published in 2008 I first read, or rather heard it last month. (The audiobook – full cast! was my first and was awesome.) After finishing the audiobook I decided to buy a copy of the physical book and read it. Which basically solidified my love for this epic fantasy romance. Heroine Katsa is kind of everything I’d like to be.
9. The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway
Galloway’s Adam Strand is an unusual kid – plagued with the constant need to commit suicide, he is constantly killing himself, only to feel utter disappointment when he comes back to life, some 39 times. Perfectly dry, perfectly macabre The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is unlike anything else in the YA canon.
8. Hey Nostradamus, Douglas Coupland
Arguably Coupland’s best book, this is the story of a fictional school shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1988. Told from multiple first person narratives it is the perfect blend of themes like religion, sex, grief and adolescence.
7. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
Many know these books as the series about two kids who set out in essence to kill god – but it’s so much more. An in depth and intelligent commentary on life, organized religion, the afterlife and science, the books though controversial are, well, epic.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
You can mark this as one of the first books to break my heart. Chbosky’s Charlie is painstakingly tragic and poignant as the titular “wallflower”, this coming of age story should be read with tissues in hand. Perks also happens to be one of those rare books to make a seamless transition to film. The movie adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson is astounding, and totally worth watching.
5. The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
Ponyboy. Darry. Sodapop. Greasers. Socs. Friendship. Family. Rivalry. This book has it all. Even more amazing despite originally being published in 1967 the book still holds up 47 years later.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
There are so many life lessons in Mockingbird – but what makes it so good is that it never feels preachy. Each lesson serves a purpose, and really when Atticus Finch is teaching you morals it’s hard not to listen.
3. The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
I love this book. The story of loveable ne’er-do-well and teenage lush Sutter Keely pulls you in, takes you for a ride and blows your mind with its unconventional ending.
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
This series is my current obsession, and though I dearly love Days of Blood and Starlight (the second book in the trilogy) series opener DOSAB is a book I go back to time and time again. With a love story that spans not just lifetimes but worlds, the book unfolds so beautifully and yet so unexpectedly. It’s a real gem. (28 days until Dreams of Gods and Monsters!)
There’s no denying I am definitely a JG fangirl – I have often wondered where he was when I was in high school and in desperate need of characters like Margot Roth Spiegelman, Quentin Jacobson, Lindsay Lee Wells, Alaska Young, Miles Halter and most importantly Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Of his four books what makes TFIOS my favourite (and makes it top not only this list but the list of my favourite books) is the reality with which it is so deeply entrenched. Despite what some say, this is not an “issues” book, this is a love story. An honest, innocent, beautiful love story, one that doesn’t just draw you in but makes you invest in each character. Best of all you’ll laugh just as hard as you’ll cry.
That awkward moment when you realize buying a special edition copy of a book and then a hardcover box set that will include that book, minus the special edition part, knowing the box set won’t be available until October, and the special edition had to be ordered from the US crosses the boundaries of normal obsession into the realm of cray cray…and yet you feel no shame, rather just a perverse desire to pull a Superman and spin the world ahead eight months…
What’s It About?
Bargained away at birth by her father Nyx was promised to the evil ruler of her kingdom, The Gentle Lord, as is his future wife when she came of age. Raised to believe she is the only hope for the freedom of her people, Nyx knows that saving her kingdom means sacrificing herself. Despite this she resents her family – the father who sold her freedom, the little sister who is favoured, and an aunt engaged in a secret affair with her dead sisters husband.
On the day of her wedding Nyx leaves the only home she’s known to live with a man she’s never met, with the sole purpose to seduce and then destroy him. Only she soon discovers there’s more to The Dark Lord than she could have ever imagined. Desperate to free her people yet drawn to a man she’s supposed to despise Nyx must choose between her kingdom or her own happiness.
Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first book, is an adaptation of the classic Beauty and the Beast mixed with Greek mythology. Which sounds both intriguing and exciting. However it fails to hit the mark. Though an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast story it’s more inspired by the tale as opposed to a straight adaptation. Though there are elements reminiscent of the classic tale – a beautiful woman imprisoned by a “monster” who names her mistress of his home, an enchanted castle, a heroine who believes her jailer to also be imprisoning a handsome woeful prince. In Hodge’s version the monster is not covered in fur, in fact his description is reminiscent of the Disney film’s main antagonist Gaston. But likeable. Which is probably the saving grace for this book.
It’s not that Cruel Beauty is terrible, because it’s not. It’s a quick, easy read that is relatively entertaining, it just lacks substance. The characters are there but almost caricatures of what they could have been. Main character Nyx lacks all of the charm and, well seemingly inner beauty that Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle was overflowing with. Her father, sister and stepmother come off as nothing more than stock characters, with Nyx’s sister Astraia falling into the cliché of “not so innocent-innocent.”
Interestingly enough the most exciting character is the bad guy – Ignifex – who really doesn’t seem all that bad. He offers an in-depth explanation as to why he does what he does, proves that the bad that befalls those who make deals with him would’ve happened regardless of role in the matter yet despite this explanation Nyx still finds a way to condescend and judge him.
Ignifex is complex, showing a vulnerability that you wouldn’t expect in a books antagonist. He is by far the best developed character in the story – his back story was more interesting than the actual story at hand.
Further adding to the mediocrity of Cruel Beauty is Hodge’s writing which, at times, is reaching. She fluctuates between modern, every day language and an attempt to cast her characters in a medieval type setting by use of flowery, purple language, which isn’t always a bad thing but in this case, it definitely is. It’s jarring, and, well, a little lame. There’s also an attempt at achieving a certain poeticism in her prose. Rather than elevating the quality of the writing it only helps to further limit it.
The book is also excessively long. You get to a point that you think is the ending, but it turns out it most definitely is not. The false ending doesn’t work and the real ending is a let down because after everything there’s still no promise of a happy ending. It’s really unsatisfying. Some stories are not meant to have a happy ending but it feels like the story breaks with convention just to be different, not because it’s what’s right for the story.
Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first foray into YA fantasy though inspired by Beauty and the Beast fails to compete with the classic tale. 2/5