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Friday, October 28, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Review

You know when you’ve been hearing all sorts of good things about a book for, like, ever and you’ve been dying to read it but then when you get it you start thinking, “There’s a very real possibility that this will suck and not live up to my very high expectations,” so you begin with apprehension? Well that happened to me.

When you guys voted for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was dying to read it. I was all, bring it on!

But then I realized how much hyped books can be a letdown. And I started to look at the book all suspiciously.

Well, I’m happy to report that all my eye squinting was for nothing. I really loved this book. Actually, halfway through I became such a Lani Taylor fangirl that I’m pretty sure I’d do this if I ever saw her:

Anyhow, the book, right? There were so many things I loved about this book, not the least of which was the beautiful writing. It gave the story a Grimm’s fairytale feel that really worked. Case in point: The book begins with this:
Once upon a time,
an angel fell in love. 
It did not end well.
And that, my friends, isn’t just the opener. It’s the whole book. Yes, Taylor is that brilliant that she can sum up the entire book, surprises and all, without ruining the story or the mystery.

The story is brilliant and unlike any other angel-demon book I’ve ever read. The third person narrative really works well here, and that’s saying something since I’m usually a fan of first since I can better identify with the characters. Plus, Taylor takes everything you think you know about angels and demons and flips it upside down. The line between good and evil is hazy at best, and Taylor excels in creating characters on both sides of the divide that are well-rounded and full of personality.

The most loveable, to me, was the demon Brimstone, who raised the main character, Karou, from infancy. He’s cold and harsh, evil and dangerous, but Taylor slowly peels away the layers and we see a rich, deep character.

Of course, there are other characters you can’t help but love: Karou, the tough girl with blue hair who doesn’t let Akiva, the hot angel love interest, define her. (Instead, she kicks some serious angel butt before she realizes he’s totally swoonworthy and maybe into her.) And when I say swoonworthy…

But she’s also confused and lonely and unsure of who she really is.
“She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.”
Her identity is a major mystery in the story: Why did the devil Brimstone raise a human girl? Where did she come from? And so on. Slowly her life changes and shifts, but even as becomes involved in the supernatural side of things we’re reminded of her humanity. Which brings me to the next character I absolutely love, Karou’s human friend Zuzana, who grounds Karou’s life in Prague and provides comic relief. The hands-down best? When Karou introduces Zuzana for Akiva for the first time, she takes one look at his angelic face and says to Karou:
“Oh, Hell. Must. Mate. Immediately.”
I can’t complete this review without mentioning two other things. First, the setting. The city of Prague, other cities around the world that Karou travels to, and the demons’ world all spring to life. And the pacing with which we experience these areas is just perfect: We get to know Karou in Prague where she lives as we get small glimpses of her otherworldly family. The further into the story we go, the more of these other worlds are reveals so that we’re neither overwhelmed with details nor underwhelmed with a lack of world building.

Second: love, because this is a love story. And despite the fact that Karou and Akiva start out wanting to kill one another, it’s the kind of epic love story you read about in fairy tales. Don’t believe me? How about this plea from Akiva to Karou:
“Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world. No matter what happens. I need you to remember that I love you.”
Through plot twists and turns (which I will not talk about because, HELLO SPOILERS) we see that it’s not just about romantic love, either. There’s familial love and unexpected love and, well, if I talk any more about this you’ll kill me for ruining the ending.  

I think what I meant to say is: Go. Read this. Now.

What did you think of Daughter of Smoke and Bone*? If you blogged about your thoughts on it, add your link below.

*I love this title, by the way. It fits perfectly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RTW: Best Book of October

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: What’s the best book you read this month?

I can’t tell you.

I mean, I could tell you, but then it’d mess up my plans for Friday and I like order so I really don’t feel like shuffling my blog posts around. Yanno?

So how about the second best book I read this month?

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild—the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket—a gifted inventor—steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Thank you, Goodreads. I’ll take it from here. Let’s start with a survey. Please answer yes or no for the following questions:
  1. Do you like YA contemporary novels?
  2. Did you like Anna and the French Kiss?
  3. Do you want to hang out with Anna and St. Claire some more?
  4. Are you a fan of romances?
  5. Do you want to pretend you’re in high school again and relive it with a super hot and adorable next-door neighbor named after an insect?
  6. Have you ever wanted to play dress up EVERY SINGLE DAY?
  7. Do you love well-written and perfectly paced novels?
  8. Have you ever had a crush on a super sweet boy only to later have your heart broken?
  9. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be in the most adorable relationship, like, ever?
  10. Do you want to remember what teenage longing and love really feels like?
  11. Would you enjoy smiling like a goof nonstop?
  12. Have you ever wanted a totally cute, sweet-as-cake boy to climb from his window into yours because you’re so incredibly wonderful?
  13. Do you love vivid settings that become a character in the story?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, read Lola. If you answered “no” to any of those questions … yeah, you still might want to read Lola.

Guys, the only teen romance that is more swoonworthy than Lola and Cricket’s is the one between Anna and Etienne.*

What books have you loved this month?

*Yes, I loved Lola, but Anna’s still tops for me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The E-Book Secret

Here’s the thing about e-books that no one tells you: They make you incapable of basic math.*


I’m pretty sure there’s something in e-readers that interferes with brain waves, thus causing a massive mathematical malfunction in humans. Because Tracey A.N. (after the Nook) doesn’t have the same mental capacity, at least when it comes to math, as Tracey B.N. (before the Nook).

As proof, I will humiliate myself by revealing what has become glaringly obvious to me over the past few months:

My brain believes $9.99 + $9.99 + $9.99 + $9.99 + $9.99 is less than $15.99.

For reals.

When I’m looking to buy a hardcover and see five books I reallywantneedtohave I weigh my options, ultimately picking the book I most want to read. I can’t pull the trigger on all five because, HELLO, $15.99 adds up!

But when I’m looking to buy an e-book I click away. Do you want to confirm this purchase for $9.99? HECK YES! And this one, for a book you only sort of want to read? Obviously! This goes on between Barnes & Nobel’s pop-up window and me until I’ve spend $80 without realizing it.

And THAT my friends is how e-books wipe the knowledge of basic math from your gray matter.

Anyone else experience this phenomenon?

P.S. We’ll be talking about Daughter of Smoke and Bone on Friday for the book club. If youre on the fence about reading it, I encourage you to try. I wont give away what I thought, but ... um ... you might want to try it.

*If your job depends on you using math, I highly suggest sticking with paper books. Dont say I didn't warn you...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nerd Alert: Awesome Literary-Inspired Goods

Sometimes I like to go into full-on nerd mode. It’s like me but better—or worse if you happen to hate nerds, in which case I’d like to remind you that a) they’re also a surprisingly delicious form of candy and b) most of them rule the world. The human nerds, that is. Not the candy ones.

Basically nerd mode involves talking about books or some other nerdy hobby while in a setting that demands complete and utter coolness. (Note: There is no “nerdiness not permitted” line on invitations. Knowing whether or not to let your freak flag fly is more about intuition than solid instructions, as helpful as they may be.)

Anyway, I found Out of Prints awesome literary-inspired bags, T-shirts, and iPhone and e-reader covers and was trying to decide: nerdy or totally hip? On the one hand, they’re definitely bookwormish. On the other … these are almost TOO COOL FOR WORDS.

Excuse me while I put on my glasses and a Great Gatsby shirt, and talk about teen fiction at a nightclub. Take that, cool kids.

So, um, who here is part of the nerd herd with me?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RTW: Reasons for Writing

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: Whats your numero-uno reason for writing?

Well, this is an easy question. I write because I love it. I mean really love it, the way most guys love football. If I could paint myself blue and run around in public with a foam finger to show my love for writing I would.

And I write because if I didn’t I think I’d burst from all of the stories I need to tell. I think my body would just self-combust, spilling stories all over the floor as I died.*

What’s the number one reason you write?

*What do you mean by “you’re being overly dramatic”?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RTW: The Writing Road Trip

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: What has your writing road trip looked like so far?

So I grew up in Massachusetts, and ever since I graduated college I’ve sort of migrated further and further south. (Incidentally, this usually happens in the winter. I’m not sure what that says about me and my connection to birds, but I’ll say one thing: I’m not blessed with the gift of flight.)

Anyhow, as you can probably imagine, a significant portion of my life has been spent on I-95 between Massachusetts and Philly, Maryland, and now Virginia. And most of that time is spent in Jersey. That’s for two reasons: a) New Jersey is the longest state between Virginia and Massachusetts, and b) even if that last statement isn’t factually correct, it’s the longest state when you count the amount of traffic you’re 100 percent guaranteed to get into.

The Jersey Turnpike is a little slice of hell where life slows to a grinding halt and somehow you have to pee directly after passing a rest stop, but you can’t turn around and the next exit is 7 miles away, which on the Jersey Turnpike is about two hours.

Well, for the longest time my fiction writing life was stuck on the Jersey Turnpike. I had started the trip fine, even making it through dreaded D.C. traffic. I was a professional writer, my dream, and so what if I also dreamed of writing a novel. Wasn’t being a full-time writer enough? So I sat there on the Turnpike, drinking Diet Coke and eating stale Oreos from the last rest stop, sitting in 500 different positions just to have something to do while the traffic inched along. All the while, this idea for a book nagged me and I told it, “Shush in there. Can’t you see I’m happily on my way? There’s no exit for miles. And it’s rush hour. What do you expect me to do?”

Then one day, when the idea wouldn’t let me go, I inched my way to the slow lane and exited. I had no idea where I was going or even if I was still headed north, but I was speeding along now, 55 in a 30. (Which, by the way, isn’t really that fast. I’m a strong believer that 30 miles per hour is a joke, because who on earth has the patience to go that slow when they’re obviously in a car to GET TO WHERE THEY’RE GOING?? Ahem. I might live in Virginia, but I’m a Masshole driver at heart.)

Right, so I’m currently taking the back roads to where I’m going. It’s taking longer than expected but at least I’m doing something other than memorizing the license plate of the car in front of me—for the twentieth time. I’ve stopped along the way to pick up hitchhikers—you lovely road trippers and other writer friends—so my journey isn’t in isolation. We tell each other stories and sing songs that are not “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

I know sometime in the near future I’ll be stopping at one of those Cracker Barrels that dot the land between the north and south East Coast, and there I’ll try to woo an agent into hopping into the passenger’s seat and taking the journey with me. And one day, we’ll go road tripping to find the perfect editor to travel cross country with.

So that’s where I am. Somewhere between here and there, maybe in an iHop or at a gas station, speeding my way to my goal.

What has your writing road trip been like?

Monday, October 10, 2011

And Our October Book Is...

Drumroll please!

We’ve picked a book.

And I think you’re going to like it.

It won by a long shot.

And the winner is…

I’ve been told by many people that this is a fantastic story gorgeously written. So if you’re on the fence, I’d say read it. If you don’t know what it’s about, here’s the description:
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 otherwordly 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?
We’ll be discussing the book on Friday, October 28. If you have a blog, post your thoughts on the book there then leave a link to your blog on my post. If you don’t have a blog, leave your thoughts in the comments here and on other members’ blogs, which you can easily get to by clicking the links on my post. 

Stay tuned, because I might post some questions to guide the discussion once I read the book. 

So, who’s in? Let me know if you’ll be joining this month’s book club in the comments.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vote for the October Book Club Pick

All right, everyone. It’s time to vote on the book we’ll read this month for the Fall Book Club. I’ve listed all of the votes in the poll below. I’ll let you know what you chose on Monday. Till then, have a super weekend!

What would you like to read for October's book club?
  • The Name of the Star
  • A Long, Long Sleep
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
  • Five Flavors of Dumb
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door
  • Possession
  • Beauty Queens

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RTW: The Sidekick Story

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: What supporting character from a YA book would you most like to see star in their own novel?

You mean, besides this guy?*

Well it just so happens I recently finished re-reading Saving Francesca. I wanted a refresher on that story before I read The Piper’s Son. There were two characters that I absolutely loved, and I would probably squeal like a Bieber fangirl to read their own stories.

The first, is Thomas MacKee, who Francesca views as disgusting in the typical boy way (you know, burping in public and judging girls by their chest size). But she also sees a sweeter side that I totally fell in love with. Thats why I’m glad Melina Marchetta had the brilliant idea of writing his story, which is The Piper’s Son. Way to read my mind, Melina. Fist bump of solidarity.

The other character I’d love to read a novel about is Jimmy Hailler, who everyone thinks is bad news but who we see as funny and super sweet. He melted my heart at least four times during the novel, which is saying something since, as of this moment, hearts are incapable of melting, regenerating, and re-melting.

And I’d be an idiot not to mention Maggie Stiefavater’s Shiver series. To be honest, my favorite side character (really, my favorite character in general) does get to tell his story a bit. But I’d dish out money to read an entire novel from Cole’s point of view. No offense to sweet Sam, but Cole’s way more interesting.

What side character—or sidekick—from a novel would you like to read a story about?

Also! Last call for suggestions for the October book club. If youre up for joining, click here to tell me what you want to read. Well vote on the book on Friday.

*That is, Ron Weasley not Rupert Grint, who I’d also read a book about.