Oh, friends. I’m trying so hard to gather my thoughts and compose myself (and my words) after finishing...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Oh, friends. I’m trying so hard to gather my thoughts and compose myself (and my words) after finishing Days of Blood and Starlight. What a beautiful, wonderful, incredible book by Laini Taylor. I’m going to try to be as spoiler-free for this book, but I will mention a few things from Daughter of Smoke and Bone because I just don’t see a way to properly write this review without doing so.
Laini’s writing is so different, so unique; though her story isn’t at all like Harry Potter, I do feel her character development and world building feels much like what we’ve read and loved by J.K. Rowling. For this very reason, when I first began reading Days of Blood and Starlight I realized I would need to go back and refresh my memory on the final details of book one in the series. I re-read approximately the last third of the book and I’m so glad I did. Here are a few refreshers for you if you need them:
SKIP THE BULLET POINTS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE!
+ Karou puts the pieces together and realizes she is the resurrected, human version of Madrigal. Madrigal was a Chimaera that fell in love with a Seraphim, Akiva. Seraphim and Chimaera are enemies and are at war with one another. Madrigal was publicly beheaded for her relations with Akiva. + Brimstone, the resurrectionist, gave Madrigal life in the human world as Karou. + Karou learns that Akiva is responsible for burning hand prints on portals and for killing Chimaera (we’re uncertain if this includes Brimstone, Issa, and Yasri at the end of book one). + Though Karou and Akiva were falling in love again, once she knows the truth about his mission, she leaves him in search of another portal.
There are a lot of unknowns going into Days of Blood and Starlight. We mostly see Akiva’s perspective in the beginning because he’s unsure of Karou’s whereabouts and if she’s even alive. He’s brokenhearted and helpless. The nature of this book is heavier and more melancholy because our lovers are separated and their world is in the midst of a devastating war. My hopeless romantic self had a hard time processing how Karou and Akiva’s relationship could ever be rekindled, if at all.
While most of book one took place in the human world, our setting fluctuates a lot between there and the Seraphim/Chimaera world. Laini blew my mind by continuing to develop the story further by so incredibly crafting the details of the war. While still told from third person, expect to fluctuate a lot between characters: Akiva, Ziri (a Chimaera who long ago crushed on Madrigal), Jael (the Seraphim Emperor’s cousin with a nasty face scar), Silverswords (guards that protect the Emporor), etc. Very minor characters are given their moment and the impact of this was great. I found myself reeling from the gamut of emotions because of some of these unexpected scenes. The changing point of view only added to the well-roundedness of the story and enhanced my reading experience.
For whatever reason, I was not able to read through Laini’s work at breakneck speed (though not for lack of wanting to). With both books, I felt the need to tread slowly and really take in all the details. This allowed me to wallow in some of the events so much so that I felt like if I walked outside, I might be stepping into their world.
It’s not often that I feel a middle book in a series is as fulfilling as (or even better than) the first book. Friends, I am here to declare that I feel even more dedicated to Laini and her beautiful story. Expect to have your heart broken a few times, to fall in love with characters that were only on the perimeter in the first book, to be in awe of Laini’s imagination, and to feel empowered by the time you read the final words of Days of Blood and Starlight.(less)
When I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, I identified. I felt connected to the main character and really felt like I could...more[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
When I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, I identified. I felt connected to the main character and really felt like I could tap into her emotions as she navigated her way through her life’s troubles. I thought I would feel much the same with Kody’s new book A Midsummer’s Nightmare, but I didn’t. I enjoyed the writing and the craziness of trying to figure out if Whitley would get together with her soon-to-be-stepbrother, Nathan, but overall I could not relate to Whitley in the way I expected to.
Whitley’s parents have been divorced for a long time. She lives with her bitter, self-absorbed mother, but she’s always wanted to live with her father. Since that’s not the case, she spends every summer with him. When she graduates, she is looking forward to her last summer with her dad before college – listening to good music, hanging out in the condo and at the beach, and drinking. That all changes when her dad pulls up to a new house where she’s introduced to the woman her dad is going to marry. The woman, Sylvia, is someone she’s never heard of or met before.
To make everything worse, Sylvia’s son, Nathan, is the boy Whitley randomly slept with at the graduation party she attended. How’s that for awkward?
There is a lot that happens in this story – Whitley deals with her issues by randomly hooking up with guys and drinking to extremes. She can’t talk to her parents – her mom is too focused on her own broken heart to see her daughter is struggling, and her dad is trying so desperately hard to make life appear perfect with his new family. Oh, and then there’s all the tension with Nathan. Should they just give into their feelings for one another even though they’re going to be step-siblings?
I felt at times that while the writing was good and Keplinger could tap into the emotions of an 18-year-old really well, it was lacking in some depth. There was a lot of build up and anticipation, but very few pages were dedicated to the story settling and all the aforementioned issues wrapping up. I don’t need for everything to wrap up in perfect little bows – my imagination can wander – but with so many big things, I just wanted more. Whitley’s feelings of invisibility didn’t really come full circle for me.
While I didn’t feel extremely connected to Whitley because of how she wanted to ruin herself to make her family notice her, I did enjoy Sylvia and Nathan’s characters very much. Sylvia was the antithesis of a terrible step-mother. She saw the destruction happening in Whitley’s life and wanted to step in. It was hard for her to navigate the boundary between caring for Whitley but not getting too overly involved. Though it is a little awkward that they were going to be step-siblings, I appreciated Nathan’s character. He was not one to hold back how he felt. While he had his moments of being a little too honest and come across as hurtful, I always felt his intentions were for the best.
I suppose my last observation is that I always knew what was coming next in A Midsummer’s Nightmare. I felt the overall plot points were fairly similar to The DUFF, and I sincerely hope that Keplinger’s books don’t become formulaic. Estelle went to a signing a few weeks ago in New York and told me about the new book Keplinger is working on. This one pertains to a very big issue, suicide, and I think Keplinger has the ability to really push the boundaries and go deep. I hope she does.(less)
Sid is a girl who has two good best friends but remains boyfriendless. On her junior class ski trip, sh...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Sid is a girl who has two good best friends but remains boyfriendless. On her junior class ski trip, she’s suffering from a case of beginner woes and hangs back at the bunny slopes while her friends move onto more dangerous adventures. She’s paired with a flirty, cute guy named Dax on a ski lift who makes her feel attractive. Though it’s against the rules, when he invites her to a party, she sneaks out to meet up with him. She goes alone because her friends don’t want to risk getting caught.
When she arrives to the “party,” she finds Dax, alone. This is the point where my stomach bottomed out and I knew bad things were about to happen. Time fast forwards and we don’t have a clear picture of what happened, but two things are sure: a) Sid is missing a lock of hair, and b) she’s been raped. When she returns to the ski resort, she’s in major trouble and her friends are infuriated with her.
Back at school, Sid is socially rejected (adios cheerleading squad) and her best friends block her out of their lives. Sid feels conflicted; she’s unsure of what to tell her friends so she disconnects from them by swapping out of classes they’re in. She meets a stoner boy, Corey, when she’s assigned to work on the Audio Visual (AV) team with him. Everyone has this idea of who Corey is and thinks he’s just a slacker, but while Sid is in isolation, she gets to know the truth about this mysterious boy.
Their relationship is very subtle and quiet. It begins with a lot of back and forth banter that proves what a strong and witty character Sid is. Corey reveals there is a lot more to him than what people think. Sid finds out that he works at a bakery. They begin having secret meet-ups there in the wee hours of the morning, where they talk while he works. Corey fills this role, this void, that’s left in Sid’s life because she has no other friends, no one else to talk to. Even though she distanced herself from everyone else, she realizes she needs this kind and respectful boy in her life.
Not all of What Happens Next is easy to digest or quite as enjoyable as Sid’s blossoming relationship. Clayton does an impeccable job of developing a very real depiction of what happens when a girl is victimized. Everything in Sid’s life has spiraled out of control: she has something ripped away from her without her consent, loses her best friends and her place on the squad, and finds herself very alone. She realizes the one thing she can control is what she eats and how she looks. She begins eating less and running more, with occasional binges thrown into the mix. Even though Sid is a smart girl who should have known to tell someone what happened to her, she didn’t know how. She feels like an idiot who fell for a big joke, like what happened was all her fault. Sid loses faith in herself and her anger manifests itself as an eating disorder. She used this to gain control back, but her decision-making skills were sometimes maddening (very true to form for a high schooler).
I had knots in my stomach while I waited for everyone to find out the truth. I waited patiently for the explosion. The anticipation was high, as was the emotional connection to the characters. Sometimes a smart girl doesn’t always make the best decisions, and we need a support group of people to put the pieces of our lives back together again. Sometimes that support group consists of the last boy you would have ever expected.
It’s not often that I compare books, but if you’re a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or Tammara Webber’s Easy, you should consider picking up What Happens Next. Clayton’s depiction of rape and victimization is difficult, but very well written and very much worth the read.(less)
A story that involves secrecy and conspiracy theories? Sign me up.
Adaptation takes us on a wild ride as we try to piece together what happened to Reese and David after they get in a car accident involving a bird with glowing eyes: Where were they taken? What procedures were done on them? What in the heck happened to them in that facility?
Adaptation drew me in because I wanted to know the truth. I needed answers. Bird attacks have taken down countless planes across the United States and the government seems to be trying to cover up something. Reese believes it’s no coincidence that her last memory before the accident was a bird flying into the headlights of the car she was driving. While I was completely entranced leading up to the accident, my focus was a bit lost after they returned home to San Francisco.
The first 100 pages of Adaptation were strong and fast-paced; I felt connected to Reese and understood the chaos and panic that was overtaking the U.S. It was after this point, when David and Reese are released to go home from the facility, that I felt the story navigated away from its original purpose and became something else. Reese was never a girl who was interested in having a serious relationship — due to her father’s playboy-ish ways, she’s decided to distance herself from dating. When she returns home, she collides (literally) with a girl named Amber on the streets and a relationship quickly blossoms.
This is where I felt the story changed direction. Reese is trying to figure out who she is and is a bit confused by her sudden attraction to a girl. At least a quarter (if not a little more) of the book was dedicated to Reese’s sexuality. While I did enjoy this part of the book, I felt like I was left hanging and very little was progressing with what drew me into the story: what happened to Reese and David. I would have liked to have seen these two stories collide and more of David thrown into the mix to make Reese’s later confused emotions make more sense. (David was a character I wish had been more developed overall; for an event that happened to two people, the focus was primarily on Reese, leaving David very one dimensional.) While later the stories blended together, I felt much more dedicated to the beginning and end of the story.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – I do understand Reese’s questioning of her sexuality and how a teenager can put everything else aside to chase after love. (Raise your hand if you’ve done this.) I am not discounting the impact or influence Lo will have; I believe it will speak volumes to those questioning or seeking to understand their sexuality and it will resonate with those who have been there. I simply hoped that Reese had been more driven to find out answers about what happened to her. Adaptation would have been more impactful if Lo had fused the sci-fi beginning and end with the very contemporary, explorative middle.
Despite my drawbacks, Lo successfully left me aching to know what happens to her characters. The blending of paranormal elements and conspiracy theories was incredibly intriguing. Pieces of the story felt so real to me that I couldn’t help but be wary of flocks of birds when I saw them. I have no idea what will happen next for Reese, but I am very anxious to see what Lo has in store for us.(less)