Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

                                                            Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of the most hyped YA novels of 2011. Although curious, I was reluctant to read it because fantasy is not my preferred genre. After much encouragement by a publishing rep, I gave in and picked up the book.

Publishers Blurb:

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family.

Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

 MY REVIEW:

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”  This fantastic beginning gives a glimpse into the storyline and draws you in right from the start.  These opening lines are just one of my favourite quotes from this unique book. Indeed, Taylor’s writing is beyond imaginative and like nothing that I’ve ever read before. She succeeded in using mythology elements and rich imagery to create a dark and fascinating world. I loved being transported into a different world that some very interesting creatures (known as chimaera) call home. These creatures are half human, half animal, yet Karou considers them family. After all, they raised 17 year-old Karou before she moved into her own apartment in Prague to attend art school.  With tattoos and blue hair, the mysterious Karou lives a secret life from her friends, often disappearing from them to run strange errands for the chimaera, including the collection of teeth.  The secret of teeth, and many more unknowns are revealed slowly throughout the book.  However, I must warn you that some parts (character and world building) do move a little slow, and can be a bit confusing to grasp, but when you finally figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, it is amazing.

Although this book is catalogued as a Young Adult book, the writing is detailed enough to appeal to an older audience.  The historical and mythology aspects are so detailed that the reader must give their full attention and not be distracted in any way to absorb the story fully.  I found myself having to go back to re-read some parts, so I’m sure that if I read the book again, I would pick up on stuff I missed.  As I mentioned before, fantasy doesn’t usually appeal to me, but this book has a little bit of everything, including: fantasy, action, romance, and mythology. I truly hate to compare this book to Twilight (because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is SO much better) but I do feel that fans of Twilight would also love this book.  There is that aspect of a Romeo/Juliet romance, strange creatures, an ancient war, and folklore. 

Clearly, Karou’s story is not over because Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends with twists and surprises in the epilogue.  There are so many unanswered questions for both Karou and the reader. The ending is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.  In this book about love, peace, and the magic of hope, I leave you with my favourite quote:

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

 

More Praise for Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

“Author Taylor has created a variety of worlds, time frames, and creatures with such detail and craft that all are believable…Readers will look forward to the suggested sequel to this complex, exciting tale.” (Booklist )

“[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one’s true self” (The New York Times Book Review )

“Thrillingly fresh and new” (Entertainment Weekly )

 

Bookit Review: David by Mary Hoffman

I picked up this book because it kept catching my attention as I passed the new teen book display at my library. History and art were two of my favourite subjects in school, and discovering a YA novel that sought to tell the story of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David was immediately appealing.

From Goodreads:

Michelangelo’s statue, David, is famous around the world. Millions flock to Italy every year to admire the physical perfection of the young man captured within the marble. But the identity of the model has never been known . . . until now.

In this epic tale, acclaimed author Mary Hoffman imagines the story of Gabriele, a naive but incredibly handsome young man who is hired as Michelangelo’s model, only to find himself drawn into a world of spies, political treachery, and murder. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Florence in its most turbulent times, this rich, colorful, thrilling tale gives life to one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.

I would recommend this book for (15+) YA fans that want to be taken back to the time period of the Italian renaissance, who want to get to know the personality of Michelangelo and his feelings towards fellow artist and side character Leonardo da Vinci. David is written with a researched historical undertone, layered with an adventurous story line containing elements of friendship, vanity, sex, war, and personal growth and discovery. Thus, the reader does not have to have a previous knowledge of these artists work to enjoy Hoffman’s story of the sculpture David, but it may inspire them to learn more about this history period afterwards.

The story unwinds from the reflections of Gabrielle, now an elderly man, but once a beautiful young man (18 turning 19), who moved to Florence to discover more of the world than what he had as a rural stone cutter living a modest life attached to his teenage sweetheart girl friend. He is taken in by his milk brother* Angelo (aka Michelangelo) who is immediately inspired by his physique to use him as a model for his work.  Angelo is not the only one who appreciates his looks, and Gabrielle quickly becomes involved in sexual affairs (which are referred to but not described), and the inescapable political wars that ensue between those of the wealthy aristocratic Medici following and those fighting for the Republic.

I do not want to give too much away, so I will keep my likes and dislikes short and hopefully spoiler plot free. I really enjoyed the parts of the story where Gabrielle got to learn more about artwork, the passion and conviction in which those around him worked, as well as his own learning experience. I enjoyed how the storyline included famous artwork that we still appreciated today. Learning about history can be dry if it only contains dates, names, and events. Hoffman’s David, although fictional helped bring to life the stories hidden in lectures I remember sitting at and finding extremely confusing with all the different Italian regions, popes, art movements and so on.  David does contain its share of Italian character’s and terms, but there is an index to help keep readers on track. However, I must admit while I enjoyed the historical aspects, I found that at times it could cause the story to flounder and become slow because of these attributes. 

Gabrielle was a young man facing a large learning curve of life lessons, and he learned these lessons often through poor choices. Should he follow others, or make up his own mind? Should he be influenced by riches and beauty or something more? Despite the flaws in his character, he was also able to show redeemable qualities that made the story worthwhile.

I give it 3 out of 5

Bookit

Announcing Monthly Guest Posts by Bookit!

Hi followers!

I’ve been super busy lately—interviews, last week of work, and trip to Jamaica. Coming up– Christmas, moving to new city and apartment, and new job! ahh!  Although I try my best to update the blog frequently, sometimes I do fall behind. So I’ve invited my friend Bookit to write monthly book reviews to post here.  I’m really looking forward to her reviews!

Here is her own introduction:

Hello, my fellow Books in Transit followers!

I am big fan, friend, and librarian colleague to our lovely Books in Transit author and have been asked to share some of my own reviews on recent YA titles with you.

I love reading, and although I try to read within a variety of genres and age groups, my heart of heart reading lies with YA materials. The characters are bursting with emotions, and they are often encountering life altering experiences that make for fast paced page turners. I have a weakness for funny characters that make you laugh till you have tears (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson), supernatural powers I wish I had (Hermione is my hero), and oh yes, a little romance (one of favourite series is Julie Kagawa’s  Iron Fey)!

Look out for monthly posts,

Bookit

Book Review: Box of Shocks by Chris McMahen

From Goodreads:

Oliver has helicopter parents—they love him, but they seriously cramp his style. He decides to fill an old wooden box with souvenirs from some of his outrageous and daring exploits. That way, he’ll never forget the zombies, the killer dogs and the crazy cows, and his parents will never know that he once jumped from a bridge with the police in hot pursuit. But the biggest shock comes when Oliver realizes that the most terrifying things of all can’t be controlled or contained.

I received this book as an advanced reading copy (released October 2011) from a library supplier (thanks Helen!) and was surprised to find that not many reviews exist on this great book for juveniles! Time to get the word out!

In short, Box of Shocks is a quick, memorable read that would definitely capture the attention of young readers. Hooked right from the first chapter, readers are curious to learn what amazing things the rebellious Oliver will collect to shock his parents. Although the majority of the book is adventurous and fun, it does include some serious subject matter, including poverty. However, like Oliver, I’m not sure young readers will quite understand the seriousness of the situation, as it is never fully explained.  That being said, the book is best suited for readers aged 8-12, so I’m not sure how in depth it could have went without losing the fun, lightness of the storyline.

TEACHERS- Want a free Box of Shocks study guide? Just email the author and he will send you the attachment!http://www.chrismcmahen.blogspot.com/

 

Other reviews:
“The settings where daring young Oliver carries out his secret adventures and collects his shocks (souvenirs to remember the experience) are vivid…A memorable story, full of age-appropriate jokes and sayings, and a plot that moves along quickly enough to hook even the most reluctant reader. Highly Recommended.” (CM Magazine )

“Oliver’s effective first-person narration shifts from accounts of his adventures to a growing understanding about the complicated lives of others—lives that are, often times, more shocking than anything that can be contained in a box.” (Booklist )

Book Review: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”

From Goodreads:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers

Wow! This book has definitely caused a stir in the blogging realm! Some say that everyone goes through difficult things in their lives, and Hannah’s  13 reasons were not strong enough to justify suicide (not that suicide is ever justified…) Others say, who are we to judge? Everyone experiences life differently, and no one really knows what is going on in another person’s head. Honestly, I would have to agree with both sides. I reaaaally wanted to sympathize with Hannah, but I found it difficult. To me, she was whiny and constantly looking for excuses and people to blame. She could have prevented some of the 13 reasons herself.  I also didn’t like that Hannah referred to her planned suicide in a joking matter. Obviously someone planning suicide also has some sort of mental illness, but still.

On a positive note, I think this book does a great job at raising awareness about this important and sensitive topic. Just last week, I was reading the newspaper about another Canadian teen committing suicide as an escape from bullying.  Like Hannah, she experienced the ‘snowball effect’ of smaller problems adding up until she reached her breaking point. While I personally don’t think that Asher glorified suicide, I could understand how some readers thought so. In no way should suicide be used as an act of revenge against people who have hurt you.

 I think this book allowed readers to understand what goes on in a suicidal person’s head, that an individual’s actions can seriously affect others and how to recognize the signs in others around you (like how Clay notices Skye at the end of the book).  Therefore, I believe the powerful tale of 13 Reasons Why could be used to spark discussion in a non-preachy way about teen bullying and suicide.  Also, teens may be interested to know that it will soon have a movie tie in! Production companies have acquired rights to the book, starring Selena Gomez. I’m not sure how she will do in a more serious and dark role, but I’m willing to give her a chance.  

Overall, this book was a very quick read as you will want to journey along with Clay to find out more about Hannah’s story. I enjoyed the unique interchanging of listening to Hannah’s side, followed by Clay’s reaction and thoughts. You quickly get used of the interplay of different voices, and would make for a neat audiobook.

 
EXTRA—Want to further explore Hannah’s Map? There is an interactive version available at–
http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

 

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