Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor – A Musing

bloodandstarlightseries

 

These. Books.

Okay, I’m going to preface this by saying that I am not really a fan of angel/demon stories. A small part of this is because I’m religious, but mostly because… blech. Boring. I just don’t think there is much you can do with that approaching it via the conventional methods. Fallen angel. Misguided angel. Whatever.

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone books, on the other hand, is so richly imagined that I just want to wrap my mind inside it for hours at a time. Which of course is exactly what you want from a book. I devoured these books on audio. Which isn’t hard when you work graves, but that’s hardly the point. The point is: I loved them.

While this series is indeed about angels and demons, it is really about two fantastical nations that are ancient,  rich with history, and happen to have been at war with each other since time out of mind.

I can’t even really go into how the main characters fit into this without giving a lot away, but I can tell you that I am so, so impressed with this world. The descriptions are beautiful, the characterizations rich, and the monsters are, well, monstrous. What I love about it most, maybe, is that it is filled with shades of grey. There are good characters and bad characters, but they aren’t all on one side of the battle or the other. And they don’t always know what they’re fighting for.

And oh, Taylor has a knack for ripping your heart out. Which personally, is something I love in a good story. Just when you think that things are about to get better, they get so much bone-crushingly worse. On the flipside of the coin, though, just when your heart has been ripped through the shredder, something happens like a gift—a boon—something that tells you that after everything, Taylor is a merciful god, at least.

Also, the settings are superb and full of escapism/wanderlust fancy that made me want to quit my job and move to Europe. Ish.

If you haven’ read this yet, go out and get it. It is fabulous. You will not be sorry. Well, until you realize that the next installment doesn’t come out until 2014.

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By the by, this Thursday I’ll be starting a new weekly series involving literary nerdliness. Come back and check it out!

Warm Bodies Film Review

warmbodiesMost of the time I like to read the book before I see the movie, but I have to admit it, when Nicholas Hoult is involved… all bets are off.

Besides, zombie movie that I wanted to watch? I knew The Mr. would agree to that.

So here’s the basic premise of Warm Bodies (based on the book of the same name by Isaac Marion): R is a zombie. With a pension for vinyl and collecting  things. He goes by R because he can’t really remember his name. He can’t really communicate well, either.

He shambles around feeling very disconnected to people—until he sees Julie. He decides to save her rather than eat her, which starts a change that makes all of the zombies a little bit… warmer. More human. (And maybe just in time to stop Julie’s dad from trying to wipe out zombies entirely).

I was utterly enchanted with Warm Bodies. It was a little unconventional how R learned about Julie’s past, and a little odd how quickly she got over the how (can’t really explain that without giving a lot away) but I guess I can understand it in the fact that you don’t have a whole lot of time for storytelling in a two-hour movie.

This was a surprisingly sweet love story, and the idea that love could cure zombie-ism was fresh and fairytale-ish. Just exactly the type of zombie movie to make up for all of the depressing, there-is-no-hope scenarios out there (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead.)

The side-characters were great, too. John Malkovich was convincing as a man taking grief over his wife against unsuspecting zombies, and Rob Corddry was memorable as M, R’s best friend (who he shared growling sessions with).

My favorite moment was at the beginning of the movie, when R was wandering around the airport with other zombies, thinking about how wonderful things must have been before, when people could communicate with each other, and enjoy each other’s company. Meanwhile, in his fantasizing of this better world—every single “normal” person was on a cell phone, texting or playing, ignoring everyone around them. Symbolism? Loud and clear.

All in all, this is a movie I highly recommend. Fun, sweet, with just the right number of scares.

What have you seen lately?

The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover

11806837 First book review of the year goes to the wonderful Sapphire Flute (The Wolf Child Saga, #1) by Karen E. Hoover.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

It has been 3,000 years since a white mage has been seen upon Rasann. In the midst of a volcanic eruption miles outside of her village, Ember discovers she can see magic and change the appearance of things at will. Against her mother’s wishes, she leaves for the mage trials only to be kidnapped before arriving. In trying to escape, she discovers she has inherited her father’s secret-a secret that places her in direct conflict with her father’s greatest enemy. At the same time, Kayla is given guardianship of the sapphire flute and told not to play it. The evil mage C’Tan has been searching for it for decades and the sound alone is enough to call her. For the flute to be truly safe, Kayle must find its birthplace in the mountains high above Javak. The girls’ paths are set on a collision course…a course that C’Tan is determined to prevent at all costs.

I finished this book the last day of December, and it was such a nice book to finish the year with. I have to admit, it took me a little bit of time to get into this book for me, mainly because to begin with, the two main character girls are a little too similar for my liking. They sound a little too much alike and have too similar of temperaments at the beginning of the book, that I had to really remind myself which story I was in at the moment, as the story goes back and forth between the two.

That feeling evaporated as the story developed, though, and especially as I was simply consistently blown away with the pure imagination and originality of this book. I was so pleased by some of the elements that were implemented: specific kinds of magical tools, the description of the magic itself, and especially, especially the correlation between music and magic—because really, music is the closest thing we have to magic in our own world. Imagine if music conveyed with it images, spells, and power?

While Kayla and Ember may have similar personalities, they are both very strong female characters, and their journeys are so very different (and yet intrinsically connected!) that they do end up being distinctly individual in their stories.

The second book of the Wolf Child series (The Armor of Light) is available and I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing where this journey goes!

*****

A little background history, The Sapphire Flute was originally published by a publishing house, but that publishing house closed, so Hoover now self-publishes the ebooks, but it is still available in hardcover, if you’d rather read an actual book (the cover is a little different, though) Ebooks are available on Hoover’s blog. 🙂

Booking Through Thursday: Blogs

Yvonne asks:

What do you look for when reading a book blog? Does the blogger have to read the same genre? Do you like reviews? Personal posts? Memes? Giveaways? What attracts you to a book blog?

I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of book blogs. I think book blogs are great, but I have trouble keeping up with them, so I don’t usually follow book blogs the way I follow writing blogs. That said, I think book blogs are GREAT. The book blogs I run across without actually following them (and that’s a lot of them) keep me pretty well-informed about what’s happening in the publishing world. I do usually read YA-focused blogs, since it’s what I write, though.

What really brings me back to a blog are things like dissections of trends going on in the Young Adult publishing world, and posts that talk about the issues in books. Posts that try to be aware of not just how good a book is, but also the effect of popular books on teens, as well as on the genre and the publishing industry. I feel like book bloggers get such a great view of this—they’re not nearly as pinholed as I am in my reading usually, so they get a wider view of how the Young Adult genre is growing and maturing. I like the extra perspective.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Think unicorns are white and fluffy and gentle creatures? Well, think again. In Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant, unicorns are vicious killer monsters that can only be taken down by virginal maiden descendents of Alexander the Great. Mmmhmm.

This book is a lot of fun. Okay, killer unicorns sound a little ridiculous at first—okay, a lot ridiculous—but Peterfreund finds threads of legends throughout history and weaves them together with a lot of imagination and thoroughness and makes a formidable mythology that stands on its own.

The main character, Astrid, took some time getting there, but by the end of the book she was a seriously formidable character. And isn’t that what a coming-of-age story is all about, the journey?

Things I love about this book:

1) Phil. Astrid’s cousin is awesome from the very beginning. She knows what she wants and speaks up about it, even after something potentially soul-crushing happens to her.

2) Bonegrinder. Bonegrinder is a zhi (pronounced “g”), a little goat-like unicorn—she’s vicious of her own account, but she grows on you.

3) The Boy. He’s pitter-pat worthy. And I do mean worthy.

4) Astrid. It took me a while, like I said, but I honestly loved her by the end of the book and was cheering her every step of the way.

5) Cory. I love her development throughout the book.

What I didn’t like was that a couple of the other hunters were a little hard to distinguish from one another. They were introduced well, but got lost in the hussle. This was forgivable, however, in that overall they were seriously awesome.

All in all, though, I thought the book was wonderful. It really earned its ending and I’m looking forward to reading the second book, Ascendant.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I was looking forward to this book because of all the hype, and the fact that I think Beth Revis (whose blog/twitter/tumblr I followed before I was able to get my hands on the book itself) is completely kindred-spirit-worthy. I was drawn in immediately by Amy’s voice—so much so that I worried I wouldn’t like her as much when she was awake and interacting with the ship, but I was wrong on that one.

Elder’s voice wasn’t as enticing to me… I liked him better through Amy’s POV also. I have to say I knew who the killer was early on… there was a little too much foreshadowing done there, I think it could have been dealt with a lighter hand. Another red herring would have served better, I think. It would have been great if Amy really had been unsure about either Elder or Harley.

So, for me the reveal of the murderer wasn’t that shocking. THAT SAID, the twist after it certainly was.

Amy is a GREAT character. Smart and strong and not about to take crap from anybody, but still vulnerable and alone in a lot of ways. I’m hoping Elder steps up his game a bit in A Million Suns. And I’m looking forward to finding out more about the history of Godspeed. I have a feeling a lot more secrets are left to be uncovered.

If you’ve read the book, I have a more spoilery review on goodreads, here.

Awesome August Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Awesome August Blog Hop, where bloggers from all over the Internet have come together to throw a summertime party!

Every blog on this hop is offering a fun prize, and entering is quick and easy. Simply follow the instructions on each blog, leave a comment, and bop right along to the next blog. You can win multiple times, so be sure to check out all the participating blogs!

ON MY BLOG, you can win an ARC of the upcoming Dystopian novel Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

From Goodreads:

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.

Mason’s mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police–who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.

Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

I haven’t read this book yet, but I’m so excited to! It’s a scarier, harsher dystopian society than some that we’re used to, and much closer to our world than most of the dystopes on the market. This book will be available November 1st from Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, but you can win it and read it early!

To enter:

1. Subscribe to my blog.

2. Subscribe to Tales From the Hollow Tree, where Isabelle Santiago and I switch off offering free YA short stories every Friday.

3. Leave me a comment and tell me that you’ve done both things. If your e-mail isn’t available through your profile, I’ll need you to leave that, too – I can’t tell you if you’ve won if I can’t contact you!

This blog hop runs through Wednesday night at midnight, so be sure to enter before then! The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Now that you’ve entered my contest, come meet all my other blog friends and see what fun things they are offering!

Awesome August Blog Hop Participants

1. Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
2. Karen Hoover
3. Michael Young
4. Kristy Tate
5. cindy Hogan
6. Julie Bellon
7. Margot Hovley
8. Laurie Lewis
9. Mandi Slack
10. Melanie Jacobson
11. Joyce DiPastena
12. Renae Mackley
13. Debbi Weitzell
14. Donna Hatch
15. Carolyn Frank
16. Marsha Ward
17. Stacy Coles
18. Bonnie Harris
19. Danyelle Ferguson aka Queen of the Clan
20. Diony George
21. Lisa Asanuma
22. Susan Dayley
23. Christine Bryant @ Day Dreamer
24. Stephanie Humphreys
25. Ranee` Clark
26. Tamera Westhoff
27. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
28. Heather Justesen
29. Rebecca Talley
30. Jennifer Hurst
31. Aimee Brown
32. Cheryl Christensen
33. Rachelle Christensen
34. Imaginary Reads
35. Andrea Pearson

Learn more about Awesome August Blog Hop here.

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Here’s to You, Judy Blume.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

The book that did me in was Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume. Yes, I’m a Blume-r. I started a deep love of reading before I really could read—somewhere there is a VHS of me reciting the picture book Who’s a Pest? from memory when I was four years old, before I knew more than how to spell my name. I raced through book after book after book, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, it all had me enthralled. I gobbled up classics like The Secret Garden and Little Women and The Hobbit.

And then, when I was eleven years old, a friend made me read Just as Long as We’re Together. I’d read Judy Blume before, though I didn’t realize that what I was holding now was the same author as the Fudge books—which I loved for a totally different reason—but when I read Just as Long as We’re Together, I knew I’d found the thing I really and truly loved. Teen fiction. Young Adult fiction.

I was too young to even be considered a Young Adult, but Blume’s stories struck such a deep chord with me—maybe because I was on shaky footing with the friends I thought would last forever, maybe because I was an “early bloomer” puberty-wise and Blume dealt with those sensitive subjects so deftly. I couldn’t get attached to the Babysitters’ Club or Sweet Valley High books that friends were reading and loving so much. They seemed so paltry—Blume’s characters seemed real. Three-dimensional people with souls and pasts and lives of their own.

And I wanted to be able to create that. I wanted to write books that people could walk away from feeling like they had new friends, new loves, new people dear to their hearts. Stephanie Hirsh and Rachel Robinson (with her own book as a sequel) are still a part of me today. Insecure teenagers fighting to define themselves and their beliefs and motivations—that feeling, that fight, is what made me want to be a writer. What made me want to examine the struggles of the heart and the complications of loving people but needing to be true to yourself, no matter what.

I drank those books down, every Blume I could get. Deenie. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Then Again Maybe I Won’t. It’s Not the End of the World. And then I haunted the YA shelves in my local bookstores—you know, back when it really was just a couple of shelves, usually hidden in the kids’ section?—looking every single time for something more. I was starving for young adult books. And there were a few out there… but mostly I was running across things like Lurlene McDaniels‘ books—where somebody always dies and everybody else is left tortured and ruined for it—and that kind of melodrama was not what I was looking for.

I just wanted good characters. Great characters. Characters that I wanted to stay up late at night on the phone with. That’s what I found in Blume’s books, and it took me a long time to find characters as great in YA again—though it’s certainly not hard now. And maybe it’s not because there were other kids out there like me… who heard that voice in the vast wilderness of literature and finally recognized something that was their own.

My writing has taken a different turn than the contemporary Young Adult that I started making stories up for when I was ten or twelve, but the heart behind the writing has been the same—has strengthened, really. I’m trying my best to capture the kind of power that goes behind emotions when you’re a teenager, and I love the way that fantasy highlights that, and I enjoy putting (hopefully) believable people into impossible situations and see how they deal with them. What’s most important to me is the honesty of the emotion.

So here’s to you, Judy Blume. Thanks for giving me my spark. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Independence Day Flash Fiction Blogfest

The rules are deliciously simple. Sign up below, and on July 15th, post an original piece of flash fiction, 250 words or less along this theme (and, FYI, “independence day” can mean anything you’d like it to mean–don’t feel you have to be restricted to the July 4th holiday!):

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I snap my suitcase shut. It’s a classy vintage number—maybe I should have thought about how much space it’d take up in my dorm room when I saw it at the thrift shop, but I couldn’t help myself. It was so pretty.

I couldn’t be more excited about getting out of this town. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad town. It’s just suffocatingly small. And the only person who made living here worth it left three years ago. Not that Kyle Landry ever really saw me that way, anyhow. I got into a good college on the coast and other than holidays, I’ll never have to look back.

A knock comes at the door and my mom pokes her head in. “Just about ready? It’s a long drive, you know.”

An unexpected tear pricks my eyes, but it’s gone in a second. It’s just because Mom is trying so hard to be strong. If she was really so nonchalant, I would be too.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll be there in a sec.”

Most of the car is packed. Pillows, comforter, a box of books and another of knickknacks I didn’t think I could live without. The truth is, I’m not taking too much. This is little girl stuff, a lot of it. Time for something new. A whole new life, far away from here. Then again, my best friend Sheila is coming with me, so that takes up some space.

I lug my suitcase downstairs, and there’s a knock at the front door. Has to be Sheila.

I flick my messy strands of hair out of my face and throw the door open—and Kyle Landry is standing there, his eyes lighting up until he sees my suitcase. My suitcase drops. So does my heart.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Check out the other participants here:

“It’s Independence Day and something unexpected happens . . .”

This is a Blog Hop30 entries so far… you’re next!