10 Great YA Trilogies

Young Adult and Trilogies goes together like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs…the sky and the sta- you get the point. There are way too many trilogies out there to list but that doesn’t matter! Who doesn’t enjoy a … Continue reading

Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 613
Series

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.

The Story

Gods Monsters

They’d left nothing behind but thoroughly empty dishes and – this would be on for the conspiracy theorists – several long blue hairs in the shower where an angel’s hand had stroked a devil’s head, locked in a long – and so very long-awaited – embrace.

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.

The Writing

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

 

Petals On The Wind

VC Andrews – the gift that keeps on giving. My obsession with Lifetime’s perverse need to bring to life the incest riddled, gothic crapfest that is the Dollanganger series brings me so much glee it could be considered unhealthy.

From our good friends at Entertainment Weekly comes the news that on May 26 for the first time ever Petals on the Wind the sequel to the titillating and yet terribly written Flowers in the Attic will be gracing our television screens. Oh the joy! This is great because come next Tuesday my  countdown to Dreams of Gods and Monsters (5 days y’all) will official be over and I can begin the countdown (52 days) to what’s bound to be the best weekend of my summer.

They’re even bringing Heather Graham back! I feel like this is the movie where she’ll really prove herself (heavy sarcasm folks. Heavy.)

I'm their mother FITA

Check out the article here: http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/03/27/petals-on-the-wind-photos/

Also on the book adaptation front (and from EW) DreamWorks has finagled the rights to Rainbow Rowell’s piece of YA perfection Eleanor & Park. Not too sure how to feel about this. Can such a beautifully simple story truly be adapted? Time will tell. On the plus side though it’s bound to have a kickass soundtrack – I mean they fall in love over their mutual love for The Smiths (among other things.) Aww, falling in love to the sweet, miserable yet dulcet tones of Morrissey – that just about sums up teenage love.

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/04/02/eleanor-park-dreamworks-picks-up-film-rights-to-rainbow-rowell-novel-exclusive/

EleanorPark_thumb

 

Book Review: Elusion

Author: Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam  
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)  Elusion
Date Published: March 18, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Series: Yes

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. 

The Review
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.

Writing why you so boring? YUNOGuyMemeFace
The overall writing is cumbersome. Too much. Too many words. Too much description of nothing. There’s not even any witty banter to assuage the readers outrageous boredom.

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 – Top Ten Favourite YA Books…at the moment

toptentuesday

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 

Graceling_cover

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

adamstrand

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

Heynostadamas

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

materials compass

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

perk1 perks

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

outsiders1

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 

mockingbird

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  

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”


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 

DaughterOfSmokeAndBone

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!)

1. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green The Fault in Our Stars

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.

Book Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin  Evolution
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: February 28, 2013
Number of Pages: 544
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, book #2

What’s It About?

Everyone around Mara Dyer thinks she’s crazy. But she knows better. She knows she can kill with her mind, that her boyfriend can heal with his and that the ex-boyfriend everyone else believes died in an accident that killed his sister and Mara’s bestfriend, is alive, well and looking for revenge. Afraid of a power she can’t control and desperate for answers Mara and Noah work together to figure out how Jude survived a building collapse and why he seems to know more about Mara’s power than anyone else.

The second book in the  Mara Dyer trilogy The Evolution of Mara Dyer picks up where the last book (the insatiably good The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer) leaves off – with Mara convinced she can kill with just her thoughts and fearing attack from the ex-boyfriend she knows is not dead. But as with the first book the big question throughout Evolution is whether or not any of what’s happening is real. Which is what makes this series so good.

This second book does several things that make it a great follow up – because in my humble opinion the second book in a trilogy can often get bogged down with too much set up in preparation for the final book – Evolution however amps up the intensity, the drama, the questions and excitement. From a foray into the occult and a dalliance with a priest of Santeria to attempted murder The Evolution of Mara Dyer pulls you even further into Mara’s complicated story.

Sharp Writing Goes A Looooong Way

Author Michelle Hodkin has a knack for sharp writing – Mara’s story is layered, well thought out and amazingly executed. It’s easy to zip through this book because Hodkin’s use of language is clever and concise. Plus she creates incredibly strong character voices – every exchange between Mara and Noah, whether it be playful or serious always evokes some sort of emotion. Also as Cassandra Clare so aptly points out on the cover the story is dreamlike – effortless – good writing will do that for a story.

The love story – Noah is swoon worthy

Par for the course with love stories is the usual boy/girl meets girl/boy, they fall in love, drama ensues, they’re ripped apart due to unforeseen circumstances or some other girl/boy comes between them. Not so much with Mara and Noah – there’s drama, of course there is, you can’t fall in love with a girl who, general consensus agrees, is nuts but who claims to be able to murder with her mind and not expect some ups and downs. But Noah is steadfast in his love (or is it obsession?) with Mara. He sticks with her despite Mara’s conviction that she will eventually hurt/kill him. Their relationship is definitely unconventional yet highly functional. It makes for a nice change of pace.

Some people suggest that Mara’s become too reliant on Noah. I tend to disagree with this line of thinking. Both Noah and Mara are equally as obsessed with the other – Noah’s obsession is obvious in how he inserts himself into any and all situations that involve Mara. He practically lives at her home, he is willing to indulge her every whim all for the sake of keeping her happy. These facts though are easy to look past because the reader is not provided with Noah’s stream of consciousness the way they are with Mara. We know more about her obsession/love for Noah because this is her story. It is her relaying the events to us and so her thoughts and feelings towards everything, Noah included, are more readily available.

But how anyone could fail to notice Noah’s dependence and infatuation with Mara is beyond me. Why is no one seemingly concerned that Noah inserts himself into any and all situations involving Mara? He willingly has himself committed in order to stay close to her. If that’s not slightly obsessive I don’t know what is.

Jude – Why you so cray?

I’m a big fan of antagonists. They’re often the best part of a story. I really think Jude is a great character/figment of Mara’s imagination/ghost/? – regardless whatever he is, he is great. As antagonists go he draws you in because though his motivations are clear there never seems to be any rhyme or reason to his intent. You’re never certain whether he only wants to hurt/torture Mara or if he really wants her dead. He’s horrible, and evil and any scene involving him is always full of tension and suspense.

*Spoiler*

Mara Dyer is teeming with unexpected twists – this is a book that loves to confuse its readers – is it all a set up? Is Mara sane and really capable of killing with just her mind? Or is she truly insane? Only adding to the confusion and frustration is learning that Dr. Kells (Mara’s therapist) knows Jude and is apparently in cahoots with him. Is in fact seemingly controlling this whole situation. This was a spin on the story I was not anticipating – are Mara, Noah, Jamie and the others just lab rats? Pawns in an even bigger game? Or is she really nuts? Unfortunately I can’t say because Hodkin continues to keep her readers in the dark. Which is exactly why we keep coming back for more.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer continues to entertain and confuse readers. This continuation has a little something for everyone – romance, suspense, fantasy (or is it crazy?) – and a mystery that leaves you desperate to know the truth. Hodkin’s truly worked to evolve not only the story but her characters while working to answer questions left unanswered all while adding more questions to the pot.  4/5 stars.

A Favourite Exc…

BLOOD-STARLIGHt

“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us killing ourselves by morning.”

– Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor

***66 days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!***

spongee

Harry and Hermione?!

Harry and Hermione?!

So J.K. Rowling’s apparently acknowledged what I’ve been saying for years – Harry and Hermione were the better match.  And yeah, yeah, yeah opposites attract and whatever. I’m sorry the chemistry was always better between Harry and Hermione. And now Ms. Rowling has finally validated my thoughts! VINDICATION!

I know I care way too much about this. But watch the scene below and then tell me I’m wrong.