Once upon a time a blogger mysteriously received a book in the post. It ended really well.
That is a blanket thank you to the person at Hodder & Stroughton who sent me a copy of this book. I had bought it last autumn to read but in between moving houses it got stuck in a box, so this mysterious second copy gave me the motivation to start reading what I heard was the best YA book of last year. They weren’t wrong.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is rare feat—a mind-blowingly epic story at the top of the scale of grandness, which also manages to imbue each little moment with as much beauty and detail. Karou is a seemingly normal, blue-haired art student in Prague (and what a gorgeous city the author makes it out to be). She keeps a sketchbook full of drawings of mystical half-human, half-animal beings, who her classmates believe are figments of her imagination. Little do they know the creatures are real, and Karou’s guardians and family.
Raised by Brimstone, the wishmonger, and a group of lovable chimaeras (most notably Issa) Karou gets sent on errands around the world to purchase teeth in exchange for wishes. She travels through Brimstone’s little workshop through doors from around the world, which then open up again anywhere she wants to go. It’s these fantastical touches that make this book so special. From the mystery surrounding what teeth is used for, to wish currency (from throwaway scuppies to once in a lifetime, pull your own teeth out bruxis), to Karou receiving languages as gifts. Everything is so well-realised and wonderfully detailed that it feels so normal yet extraordinary at the same time. The way Karou’s worlds intertwine is simply flawless.
I previously mentioned the scale of this book and what starts off as a lovely insight into Karou’s double life becomes an epic otherworldly adventure on the arrival of Akiva and the mysterious black hand-prints that appear on all of the doorways into Brimstone’s workshop. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone that hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading it but you can look forward to a human marionette, a city domed by bars, warrior angels, diamond and teeth necklaces and a masked celebration.
The story was brought to life by Taylor’s simple but evocative writing, like a haunting fairy tale that one day you realised was reality. My heart was tugged in a million different directions because despite all the fantasy, at the core of the story were love and war and all the emotions they evoke. I urge you, if you haven’t read this wonderful book, please do. (less)
I really didn't want to press 'Finished' on this book, because to be honest, there just wasn't enough of it. It was spectacular. Really poignant, ofte...moreI really didn't want to press 'Finished' on this book, because to be honest, there just wasn't enough of it. It was spectacular. Really poignant, often funny, often sad. Loved each character and wanted to hug all of them. SO MANY FEELS. Full review to come when I'm more coherent!(less)
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I...more4.5 stars, originally published at Winged Reviews
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I wanted in a fantasy—a uniquely imagined world, fantastic characters, and great writing. After having the pleasure of re-reading the book recently (thanks to the lovely team at Indigo’s 2-in-1 mega ARC), I need to caps, bold and add an exclamation mark to my original assessment: I LOVED IT! I know it’s hard to imagine, but it was even better the second time around.
Shadow and Bone is the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who finds out she’s so much more. She is Grisha, a master of the Small Science and a very special one at that—someone gifted with the unique ability to stop the Shadow Fold, a dark wasteland that blocks the country’s only access to the True Sea.
I found the world of Ravka genuinely fascinating. It’s been said countless times but it is extremely rare to find a fantasy book set in a place that isn’t reminiscent of medieval England. This book brought tsar-punk into our lexicon, which is a magical mix of military fur, snow-covered forests, mysterious regal animals and smouldering men in black. Plus I really want one of those Grisha kefta robes to lounge around in.
Also, I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a charming cast of characters. Alina’s self-doubt combined with her low threshold for taking crap from others makes a really entertaining combination. I instantly rooted for her and her self-deprecating humour. The book also brought us The Darkling, the perfect anti-villain who oozed charisma and power. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t seduced by his dark charm. I also held a soft spot for Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend, whose friendliness and easy-going way made him instantly likable. And even with them all, my favourite character was gorgeous, confident Genya. I wanted to be her AND be her best friend. She’s like a silk dress boned with a corset of steel—beautiful and fierce. I really loved her friendship with Alina and her unique position in the palace.
The writing is wonderfully rich. Bardugo has a knack for immersing you completely in her world within seconds and keeping you glued to the page with her compelling story. The dialogue was simply delightful—from the sarcastic snark, to the declarations of love, to the world-changing proclamations—all infused with that twinkle of humour and passion that Bardugo has in spades. The book is so damn quotable that it is impossible for me to pick my favourite.
If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone yet, I hope this review has given you enough reasons to do so. If you still aren’t convinced, let me take you out for some kvas and let’s talk.(less)
This novella is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. In this version, the wolf and the grandma are the same, with Red discovering that her...more2.5 stars.
This novella is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. In this version, the wolf and the grandma are the same, with Red discovering that her grandma, who has taken care of her since her parents died, is a werewolf. After a bit of adjustment with this new revelation, they discover another new werewolf in the woods and team up to investigate who it is.
It was a short, easy read. The author tries to replicate the same writing style as a fairy tale, with succinct, almost childish language and characterisation. It works in one respect, giving the story an almost lyrical feel, however lessens the impact/relevance of the mature content. In this respect, I don't think the style matched.
That said, it was a fun read, ideal for those that like variations on their favourite fairy tales.(less)
I'm torn about what to rate this book. I didn't enjoy the plot, but OMG SO MANY FEELS! I also loved the love triangle, the characters and how it was a...moreI'm torn about what to rate this book. I didn't enjoy the plot, but OMG SO MANY FEELS! I also loved the love triangle, the characters and how it was all resolved. So many tears. Good times Cassie Clare, you redeemed yourself in the end. Even with the giant worm. Full review to come. (less)
It was ok. I think I'm too old for this book, which is tough for me to say because I always feel (wish) that I'm still 18. There was all too much angs...moreIt was ok. I think I'm too old for this book, which is tough for me to say because I always feel (wish) that I'm still 18. There was all too much angst, which I expected, but what I didn't expect was that I didn't really care about Rose. Full review to come.(less)
Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E...more3.5 stars, originally published at Winged Reviews
Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E.L. James (you may have heard of her). Crusher is a tight crime novel set in West London, which follows 17 year-old Finn Maguire as he tries to discover the reason behind his father's murder. I definitely enjoyed this debut more than I did the Fifty Shades books, although I'm not sure how reliable that benchmark is.
You can sense Leonard's screenwriting background throughout the book. The descriptions of the settings and people were really detailed and well-imagined, but there was a certain complexity lacking with the dialogue (and indeed the characters). Despite that I was utterly engrossed in it. The suspense just pulled me in—I was nervous for Finn and it kept me wanting to read more.
Finn is the reason I enjoyed the book. He's interesting—instead of the genius detective or well-connected journalist you usually get as a crime protagonist, he's a dyslexic teenage drop-out, living in squalor and working a dead-end job at a fast food restaurant. He has no natural talent for solving mysteries and barrels into situations without much thought. He's scrappy and determined to do what's right, even though the universe (i.e. the police) seem to be conspiring against him. He also seemed emotionally disconnected, but to me it was a self-preservation instinct, considering what his life has been like so far. I was drawn to Finn and cared about what happened to him, and when he did show emotion, it gave the book real heart.
Most of the other characters are like a checklist of crime fiction: mafia boss, bad girl, know-it-all detective, even evil henchmen. We didn’t really get into their heads, which again I think is a symptom of the screenwriting—they were easily digestible but lacked true depth. They mostly served a plot purpose, mainly as red herrings. In a weird way the book benefited from it because Finn, as the main character, was the only one I really connected with as a reader and I liked him.
The plot was a little thin in places, but I enjoyed the story and I'm pleasantly suprised by variety of issues Leonard tackles. I liked all the plot twists and was surprised by the ending, so as a crime novel it worked for me. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, then this is the book for you.
Thank you to Random House for providing a copy of the book for review.(less)
One day, I descended into the tube station and heard a beautiful, clear whistling. It came from a busker—a tall...moreOriginally published at Winged Reviews
One day, I descended into the tube station and heard a beautiful, clear whistling. It came from a busker—a tall blind man, who held his head high, and stood tall even with his walking stick. The sound was a sombre melancholy, but also full of hope. The emotion I felt when I heard it has stayed with me since, and describes exactly how I felt when reading this book. Through all its beautiful writing, Days of Blood and Starlight broke my heart into a million pieces, put it all together, and then broke it again. And I loved it.
Where is Karou? After learning that Akiva was responsible for the genocide of the chimaera and the deaths of her family, Karou made her way through the tear into Eretz. Her friend Zuzanna send email after email of worry, and Akiva searches every place he knows to no avail. As the first book, it’s best to go into it without knowing too much, but you can look forward to pee balloons, giant sandcastles, museum thievery, an actual blood bath and some grotesque smiles.
The tone is very different to the first book. While Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about magic, wonder and love, this book was about duty, graft, hatred and heartache. Still, everything I loved about the first book was still there, especially the way Taylor balances the epic story with beautiful little character-driven glimpses.
Wonderfully, it features a lot of Karou’s feisty friend Zuzanna and her lovable boyfriend Mik (possibly the only functional relationship in the whole book) and Akiva’s siblings Hazael and Liraz. Taylor also conjures up a whole host of other cool new characters (as a side note to the publishers, I would love to see Karou’s notebook brought to life). A definitely standout for me was the wonderful Ziri, someone I’m sure you will fall in love with, because I certainly have.
There were so many twists to this story I did not see coming, distracted as I was by the beauty of the lyrical prose. I have never read a book which constantly made my heart ache with each tough decision and impossible circumstance the characters faced. Taylor’s writing is truly evocative, and I was amazed by where she took the story in the end. It will be a tough year, waiting for Book 3.
This isn’t a book you can read as a standalone, so if you haven’t yet started Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I urge you to do so. For all those that are already fans of the first book, I can assure you this sequel won’t let you down. (less)
Even after the intense ending of Delirium, Lauren Oliver exceeded my expectations with this book...moreOriginally published at Winged Reviews
Even after the intense ending of Delirium, Lauren Oliver exceeded my expectations with this book and more. Word circulated that Pandemonium was a lot better than Delirium and I agree wholeheartedly. Not only is it filled with gritty action and true emotion, it also introduced a boy that I love a whole lot better.
Pandemonium starts a while after Delirium, but also immediately after. It’s told from Lena’s ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ point of views, the ‘Now’ being the current timeline and the ‘Then’ flashing right back to the events after Delirium and Lena’s start in the Wilds. Lena is now part of the resistance in New York City, with a fake identity as an active member of Deliria-Free America (DFA) in order to bring the organisation down from the inside and to keep an eye on its poster boy, Julian Fineman.
I fell in love with Oliver’s writing once again, especially when she describes Lena’s sorrow. The ‘Then’ point of view was so heart-breaking. Lena struggled with survival, fitting in, adjusting to life now that her whole world and beliefs had been cast aside. She was also wracked with guilt, believing that she was responsible for Alex’s death.
As much as I enjoyed the beauty in her sorrow though, it was the ‘Now’ timeline that I raced through the book for. From Lena attending her first DFA meeting and throughout Lena and Alex’s imprisonment and escape, everything that happened was heart-poundingly exciting. When the book built up to the amazing climax, it really was impossible to put down. My heartbeat was racing, my palms were sweaty and I certainly felt like I was up against my own clock. My mind was screaming at Lena, as I wanted her to pull of her greatest feat yet.
I really admired Lena throughout Pandemonium, as she really came full-circle. From someone who was shown and taught throughout the majority of the story thus far, she has turned from being saved to becoming a saviour. I love the parallels between what Alex did for Lena in Delirium and what Lena did for Julian. I respected her so much for sticking to her conviction, for pulling off some amazing escapes, and also (in the immortal words of Demi Lovato) for giving her heart a break. Her emotions were killing her and I was so glad to see her slowly forgiving herself.
My absolute favourite thing about the book though was Lena and Julian’s chemistry and slow acceptance of each other. Julian really surprised me a lot as a character. I genuinely thought that his imprisonment with Lena was some sort of ruse by the DFA to get one up on the resistance (boy was I wrong about whose ruse it turned out to be). His quiet determination and innocence was very attractive. It was great to see his character develop as everything he knew to be true fell apart. He struggled a lot with the idea of Lena, and I thought he showed great bravery accepting everything that was thrown his way. I was really happy when Lena finally gave in to Julian’s love.
Best of all, WHAT AN ENDING. Oliver is again the master of the cliffhanger and has killed me dead. All in all, I loved this book so much for two reasons: a more kick-ass Lena and a much better male protagonist in Julian. Bring on Requiem!(less)
4.5 Stars. Amazing as usual! Loved how the book was more personal, it only gets half a star less for being way too short. The series gets better and b...more4.5 Stars. Amazing as usual! Loved how the book was more personal, it only gets half a star less for being way too short. The series gets better and better. How am I going to last another year without my Ally Carter fix?(less)