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review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone


Daughter of Smoke and Bone
 (Smoke and Bone #1) -by- Laini Taylor
(Published by Little, Brown & Co) 

My grade: 5 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  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.

WOW

I had a hard time thinking of reading another book after finishing Daughter of Smoke and Bone. This is the most fantastic read of 2011 for me.

***
The writing is utterly beautiful. The chapters so smooth as if they just lined up effortlessly. The words just flowed from the pages through me and touched me.
I can’t explain it, and I think it is quite amazing how one work of fiction can evoke so many emotions, but I felt like I had been there before. Not like a trope that has been used time and time again or a set-up that felt old and familiar and completely unsurprising.
But somehow it felt like coming home, like I’d walked those winding streets of Prague along Karou before.

At a first glance, Karou may be someone to envy. She is young, beautiful and talented, she has a wonderful best friend and her own flat in Prague, decorated with artifacts and knick-knacks that she has picked up from her “trips” around the world.
But there is a sadness surrounding her and a part missing inside her.

She has to keep one of her realities unknown to the humans around her.
Karou was raised by the chimaera Brimstone in his workshop in Prague. But this workshop is also in many other cities in countries around the world. The front door can open to any of these cities and let Karou – who is not part human and part animal like the chimaera – out on a mission. What does Brimstone actually do with the stuff – most of it teeth – that Karou picks up for him? He pays for them with wishes, but no magic comes without suffering. Karou has seen some terrible things on her collection errands, and she tries to not dwell on them and comforts herself that things worked out well for those who had lost their teeth, unwillingly.

Where does the other door in Brimstone’s study – the one that Karou has never seen open – really lead?

As the book blurb states, black hand-prints start to appear on doorways around the world. On a trip to Marrakesh, where Karou meets with the only one of the human sellers of teeth that she has ever liked, (and who, by the way, is quite obsessed with the connection mustache =clever man: Nietzsche, Twain…), she becomes the target of the seraphim Akiva. He injures her and while she recuperates in the workshop – from which Brimstone is curiously absent – she gets a glimpse of another world before being unceremoniously turfed out by Brimstone and basically told she is not welcome again.

From here, the story shifts up to a faster pace and the plot thickens. It turns out that Akiva might just know who she is, but will she like what it is he has to tell her?

This book took hold of me and did not let go, still hasn’t. It is magical, it has loss and sorrow, friendship and impossible love. It is about the cost of war, about trust and betrayal and getting up and doing something about it.

Read it – you won’t regret i!

(read in October 2011)

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review: Angelfall

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) -by- Susan Ee
(Published by Ace) 

My grade: 5 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.
Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. 

ABSOLUTELY RIVETING READ, I lay awake until 03.15 in the morning to finish this one. It was worth it.

In northern California, Silicon Valley, we find Penryn and her family; her wheelchair bound younger sister and her schizophrenic mother, as they are leaving their flat where they have camped out following the attacks on earth by angels not long previously. Hardly any modern conveniences work – electricity and hot water are sporadic, cars are abandoned in big pile-ups on the streets; shops are looted, and gangs roam the neighbourhoods.  Penryn, who is basically the head of the family, has decided that they stand a better chance at surviving if they try and make it into  the forested hills. However, it is hard to be sneaky when your sister is in a wheelchair, and your mother is pulling a shopping trolley that she refuses to part with.

Why did the angels attack? We are not sure. A lot of the background details as well as Penryn’s personal history is revealed as the story unfolds. No infodumping here, it all feels natural in Penryn’s strong and clear voice. I have so much admiration for her, as she soldiers on during really tough circumstances. She doesn’t pretend that she is a hero, or that she wants to save the world. Her interest is keeping her family -such as it is- together and safe. She does not come across as bitter, but matter-of-factly states the things she has missed out on:

 “I am, of course, rooting for the humans. But I already have more responsibilities than I can handle. I just want be an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. My biggest concern in life should be what dress to wear to the prom, not how to escape a paramilitary camp to rescue my sister from cruel angels, and certainly not joining a resistance army to beat back an invasion to save humanity. I know my limits and that goes way beyond them.”

This book is not about sweet angels. They are as cruel and twisted and selfish and ambitious as us humans can be. There are also  some pretty gruesome scenes, they brought to my mind the sometimes extremely graphic details of the horrors that Kate Daniels comes face-to-face with in Ilona Andrews’s books. These scenes give the book a depth I often miss in YA where the challenges facing the main character are not believably difficult for me. There are no invincible warriors here (though the angels are certainly made of stern stuff and are able to heal much faster than a human) and no one – not even the angels – has the answers to everything.

So Penryn’s little sister has been kidnapped, and she keeps moving, determined to get to the angel head camp in San Francisco. On the way, she is detained with a group of people organizing a  resistance against the angel occupation. This book is filled with wry and sometimes dark humour and in this camp, she comes across a pair of twin brothers, who illustrate this:

I’m Tweedledee,” says one.
“I’m Tweedledum,” says the other. “Most people call us Dee-Dum for short since they can’t tell us apart.”
“Why would you call yourselves that?”
Dee shrugs. “New world, new names. We were going to be Gog and Magog”
“Those were our online names,” says Dum.
“But why go all doom and gloom?” asks Dee.
“Used to be fun being Gog and Magog when the world was Tiffany-twisted and suburban-simple,” says Dum. “But now…”
“Not so much,” says Dee.
“Death and destruction are so blasé.”

“So mainstream.”

This journey that she has undertaken, with her crazy mother hovering nearby (leaving clues to let Penryn know), is done in the company of the angel Raffe. Penryn realizes reluctantly that she needs to try and save him so that he can tell her how to get her sister back. Their attitude to each other is suspicious at first, but a mutual respect develops during the course of their travels.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, dark and sinister but yet funny and extremely entertaining “angel dystopia”, Angelfall is definitely for you. Sturdier than Divergent and funnier that The Hunger Games. It is one of my favourite reads of 2011.

(read in December 2011)

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(currently only available from Amazon and Kobo)

review: The Shadow Reader

The Shadow Reader (McKenzie Lewis #1) -by- Sandy Williams
(Published by Ace) 

My grade: 4 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.
A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden. 

THIS STORY COMMENCES with our heroine McKenzie having yet another exam ruined as she is summoned by the fae court in the middle of an English test. Turns out that the fae rebels have found out about her whereabouts. As a Shadow Reader (nalkin-shom) for the fae king Athroth, McKenzie is able to draw and pin-point the location to which rebels fae go when they disappear (fissure) from fights, thus enabling the court fae to catch up on them (and sometimes do not so nice things to them). The fae rebels are not so happy with that. The court fae, among them her 10-year-long crush – the King’s Sword Master Kyol – try to hurry her along to safety across the campus. In vain. McKenzie finds herself kidnapped by the fae rebel leader Aren.

Let’s pause here for a moment and think about what we know about Faery – or The Realm, as it is referred to a lot in this book.

In all the various fae books I have read, there is basically just one piece of land/country – Faery. In some books it is situated in pockets of magical otherland, remaining from the time when the world was born. In a large number of books it is on another plane/dimension.  But, there is always just one country. Sometimes it is divided, traditionally, between the dark and the light fae, but a lot of the time it is just one, single ruler. I just thought that was worth pondering about.

Anywho. The Shadow Reader’s Faery strikes me as a sort of more advanced medieval society. Probably because “tech” tends to screw up the magic of the Fae (or so the present king would like to have everyone believe). People go about their daily grind unaided by such things as washers and cappuccino makers. Not so sure about toilets. (See below). A human like McKenzie – though “gifted” with the ability to read shadows, needs to pass into the realm in the company of a fae, she must have an imprinted destination stone with her in order to not get lost in the “in between” (think: the world in ice as per “The Day After Tomorrow). But Fae can fissure back and forth between Faery and Earth, and do that quite a lot in the fighting sequences (in order to avoid arrows and lunges with swords from the opponents). Interesting to note is that a fae, deadly wounded, disappears like smoke “into the ether” when he/she finally passes on. No burial costs.

McKenzie is not very happy being held hostage with the rebels, who are camping out in the middle of a forest in Germany. And not all rebels are very happy to have her there either, and would rather Aren got rid of her once and for all. McKenzie tries to get away several times, and this in addition to the various fighting scenes and other situations requiring a hasty retreat, gets her in to the top list of very injured human heroines – right after Cassie Palmer in Karen Chance’s paranormal series. Luckily for McKenzie, Aren possesses the rare fae magic of being able to heal injuries.

Another little pause – let’s ponder the basic human needs – eat, sleep and potty breaks.
I am sorry to bring the latter up, but I feel I must.
I don’t have to or even want to read about how people in books sleep, eat, go to the toilet and shower all the time. It can certainly be too much – I got very tired reading about what Bella in Twilight was eating all the time.
But – in this story McKenzie talks about her lack of sleep or bad sleep, being locked up for several days in a room, I rather miss that information. We do not know what the rebels feed her most of the time and she never-ever has to go to the bathroom. A trip to the loo could provide her with yet another chance to escape, but she never thought about that. Obviously.

As the story unfolds, McKenzie finds herself examining – sometimes reluctantly –  whether everything she learnt, basically since the very impressionable age of 16, of the rebels and their intentions and actions is the whole truth. Aren arranges for her to learn the fae language – something the king did not think was necessary. According to the king – fae and humans should not mix more than necessary, but McKenzie is surprised to find that all fae do not share this view.

The love triangle….

McKenzie and Kyol go back a long time, but McKenzie has always known that there can never be a happy ending for them. Or can it?
Enter Aren, sexy and smoldering. McKenzie fights the attraction she feels for him, denying it even. . .

I thoroughly enjoyed the Shadow Reader and am very eager to read the sequel in this series!

(read in November 2011)

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review: The Restorer

The Restorer -by- Amanda Stevens

My grade: 5 stars

GoodReads Blurb: My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

IF IT IS a book that you cannot stop reading, it is a good book.
That’s how I see it.
From the moment I woke up to the moment I put my head on the pillow, I wanted to keep reading The Restorer.

I happen to not agree with the writer/narrative is saying about ghosts and why some people can see them and what to do. But, imo, it does not matter.

This is a fast-paced mystery-thriller-paranormal about Amelia – who knows that she is different, and that she has been, ever since she had her first ghost-sighting. She is a graveyard restorer and this story deals with what happens when corpses turn up in a graveyard that she is currently restoring.

What I really like about this book is that I felt that I saw what Amelia, saw, felt her emotions and worried about and feared the same things she did. The author put me right in her head and heart.

Also, I have never been in the south, but this book really made me want to read more about and visit Charleston. Fantastic narrative.

I do not want to go into any more details about the story, for fear of spoiling it for you guys. But this book is really, really good if you like your paranormal with a twist of ghosties, thriller and some hard-to-resist attraction.

Eagerly awaiting the sequel!

(read in May 2011)

The book will be available from AdLibris.se in February 2012

review: White Cat

White Cat (Curse Workers #1) -by- Holly Black
(Published by McElderry) 

My grade: 4 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family.

AT FIRST I was not sure that this was going to be my cup of tea. It starts with Cassel waking up, dressed in boxers only, on the roof of his school after a very vivid dream. Such a start pulled me in to the story, but then I felt it lagged for some 20 pages or so, until sucking me back in again and not letting me go. I even dreamed of being a curse worker (that’s what happens when you fall asleep with the Kobo on your tummy at 01.30 in the morning).

This is the third book I have read recently with a male POV, first person. The other two, Hold me closer necromancer and Anna dressed in blood, have become firm favourites – as has White Cat.

Cassel is not a happy young man, for many reasons. The main one is that he believes he did something absolutely awful a few years back. It was covered up by his family, but he obviously has a hard time letting it go – especially since he has no real recollection of the event. Another reason is his dysfunctional – there is no other word for it – family and the fact that he has always felt like a failure, being the only non-worker of them all. I have a hard time getting with his mum, I mean, how can you be sure you really love your brothers when on so many occasions these feelings were forced upon you by your mother working her emotional curse on you?

And those brothers… well, judge for yourself how lovable they are.

Cassel’s family is a worker family, this means that they are gifted with the ability to make something magical apply to whomever they touch. The most common ability is that of bringing luck, but some can work emotions (like Cassel’s mum) or kill someone (like Cassel’s grandad). The cursing always comes with a blowback – for instance, for the grandad, part of his body blackens and dies every time he kills someone. He is now retired and, curse work is sort of illegal, anyway. The setting for the book is around New Jersey, USA and everything else but the workers being part of society – with their own history and holocaust to boot – seems like present time.

Cassel is doing his best to fit in at school and being normal. He wants to have an ordinary life with none of the complications he is used to from home and looking at his childhood, I don’t blame him. But he feels like he is constantly acting, pretending to be someone he wants to be. He also has a hard time staying from the con; the one part of being a curse worker that he does really well. He runs a betting scheme at school despite being aware that it is really not in line with what he is trying to achieve. However, when he is forced to leave school for a while due to the roof top incident, the facade he has cultivated starts to crumble and I believe that in the end the truth actually does set him free.

I am not going to go in to how the story progresses after Cassel temporarily goes home to his family for a while. But I can tell you it is definitely worth your time and money. I have the sequel waiting for me now, and I am really going to take my time and enjoy it, because the third instalment is not yet out and waiting for the next part of a really good series is so jobbigt as we say in Swedish.

(read in September 2011)

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