KatSings’ #CBR5 Review #27-38: See List Within

Ok, so I am the worst and have fallen tremendously behind on my book reviews.  My professional life has altered greatly in the last few months, and it has changed my usual pattern of both reading and reviewing.  However – I’m happy to say I’m still well on track to make the cannon by year’s end.  I’m actually more than halfway through book 41 right now (books 39-41 are all from the same series, so I wanted to do them together).  The list of books included on my blog is below.  I’m numbering them for your ease, but only providing this one hyperlink: Kat’s Cannon

27 – 30: The MacKade Brothers series by Nora Roberts

31: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

32: Just for Now by Rosalind James

33 – 34: Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

35: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

36: Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making by Michael Caine

37: Just for Fun by Rosalind James

38: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 13-14: Daughter of Smoke and Bone + Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

laini taylorGoodreads summary of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”: 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 otherworldly 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?

I’m not going to summarize the plot at all for the second book, “Days of Blood and Starlight,” because that gets into spoiler territory, and this is one of those YA series where if you read the first book and like it, you’re probably going to read the whole series. So up there is the hook for “Smoke and Bone,” and I’ll just more generally opine on concepts and themes across the two for the rest of the review.

One of the first things I found myself quickly enjoying was the female friendship between Karou and Zuzana. There was an authenticity to it that struck me as somewhat unique for the genre. In my experience, a lot of the female protagonists from the ‘high-concept’ YA of late (I’m thinking about the various urban fantasy, dystopian, etc series that are ubiquitous now) are either lone-wolf types or their closest friend is a guy. And that shouldn’t be notable, except that it’s essentially a trope now that the closest-guy-friend is inevitably one of the points in the coming love triangle. Anyway, Karou is a would-be lone wolf: she literally leads a double-life, and since the hidden part of her life revolves around things of a supernatural nature, she isn’t exactly forthcoming to anyone, at first, with personal information. However, her strong-willed best friend Zuzana eventually becomes familiar with Karou’s secret life, and though Zuzana isn’t equipped to be an active participant in that world the way Karou is, she’s a great tether for Karou to the human world. These girls have a friendship based out of genuine mutual respect and fondness for each other, so their dialogue and banter seemed strikingly real and not always forced by a requirement to advance the plot.

As far as Karou herself: I like her, but I wouldn’t say she’s my new best friend. There’s no concrete reason for that, really. She’s got the qualities I like for a female protagonist in this genre: among other things, she’s capable, pragmatic, creative, thoughtful, brave, and a little sassy. It’s possible that how she develops as a character becomes a little too fantastical for me to relate to her, directly, but that’s fine. I don’t need to be drinking buddies with every heroine of every book.

Taylor’s writing is really descriptive and beautiful, so her world-building is pretty top notch. I liked that she used an unusual location like Prague as the backdrop for her story, as opposed to a more commonly selected city like London or New York. I’m definitely interested to check out other books of hers based on what I’ve read here. I think the weakest aspect of the story, for me, was actually the romance. It’s partly my bias as a reader, because I don’t always respond well to the star-crossed lovers narrative, and that’s what is happening here (with characters explicitly referencing “Romeo and Juliet” in case it wasn’t already obvious enough.) I like to read about love being built on something a little more than “He saw her across the square, and she was beautiful, and he was drawn to her in a cosmic way.” (That’s just me, not a quote from the book. Taylor did it better than that, I promise.) Even across two books, not much of a foundation for their One True Love is built, though at least in the second it’s arguable that they both influence the other’s actions for the better, so that’s something.

All together, this is another very fun YA urban fantasy series, and I’m looking forward to the next book/books. I have no idea how many books it’s going to be by the end, but it’s certainly not done at the end of Blood and Starlight. So overall this is recommended, especially if you are a high-concept YA lover like me.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #11: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughterofsmokeandboneI can’t believe I’ve never read this book. I mean, NOW I’ve read it, obviously. I’m not going to come here and review some book I’ve never read before, though that does sound kind of fun, to just puzzle pieces of books together from bits I’ve heard about them or movies that have been made. Like so: Twilight is about a sparkly vampire and a wereboy who fall in love with Bland. The vampire is allergic to emoting and showering. The wereboy is allergic to shirts. There are some fights and Michael Sheen is there for some reason. GET OUT OF THERE, MICHAEL SHEEN.

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WTF is happening here?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is fucking awesome and you should read it THE END.

Oh, right, I’m supposed to write more. So it wasn’t so long ago that I was complaining about how I was swearing off of YA fiction because of that book that broke me, and then I realized that I’d accidentally gotten some YA from the library (it just happens, you guys, I’m like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire) and so, begrudgingly, I sat down to read it one bright, Saturday morning, and, after not-so-very-long, I was telling my husband that I hoped he had plans for the day because I was going to be reading that damn book until I finished it, such was the power it held over me.

Can you believe I’ve made it this far without even really talking about the book? I CAN. I’m avoiding it because I don’t even know where to begin. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is about Karou, a young woman with peacock-blue hair who spends her days in art school and her nights in league with creatures known as chimaera, who grant wishes in exchange for teeth (human, animal, whatever). Then some angels show up and they are PISSED.

See, now, right now, you’re all, “wtf, this sounds ridiculously weird, why would I want to read this?” and just trust me, OK, you’re going to get to a certain point of this book and realize you can’t put it down, and you’re going to spend the entire day ignoring your husband and pets (and kids, if you have them) so you can finish it. TRUST ME. This book is weird and clever, bursting with originality, the heroine is flawed and strong and can fight like Buffy, and the author has pink hair. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?

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Alexis’s #CBR5 Review #1, The Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood and Starlight The Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to the bestselling Daughter of Smoke and Bone. If you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone don’t read this review. While it contains no spoilers for Days of Blood and Starlight it will ruin some of the fun of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Which is really fun and not something you want ruined.

Moving on.

Days of Blood and Starlight finds Akiva back with the Angels feeling wretched about his role in the total destruction of the chimaera. Karou is hiding out with the few remaining chimaera having formed a tentative truce with Thiago to resurect those chimaera whose souls have been saved, building them powerful and terrible monster bodies so they can wreak whatever revenge they can upon the Angels.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a delightful fantasy that unfolded in a delicate manner where the magic trickled into the story in a slow and satisfying way. Much of the dialogue was so quick and clever it would make you laugh while also feeling jealous in the knowledge that you would never be half so clever. The developing romance between Akiva and Karou felt tangible and also magical. It was light.

I can’t say that Days of Blood and Starlight is a bad book. It isn’t. It’s well written combining multiple compelling story-arcs across different worlds and characters. But all of the delightful magic and clever dialogue is gone. The first half of this book feels more like a dirge where the messages of “war is bad” and “violence doesn’t solve anything” just gets hammered repeatedly. It suffers from the classic middle book syndrome where little is happening through much of the story. Both protagonists are “stuck” in their current and unpleasant circumstances and neither are making any forward progress.

Until the last third where things pick up in a way that frankly salvages the dirge of the first two thirds. Mostly.

I hate to say anything negative about Laini Taylor. I love her, the pink hair, the fairies, the whole thing. I’ll be pre-ordering the final book in this series. If compared to many other authors I would rank this book a 4. But on the Laini Taylor scale of book quality it, sadly, is a 3.