QUICK REVIEW: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I don’t know about you, but I hear about Laini Taylor’s books all over the place. People tell me left, right and centre that I’ve never read anything like her works before. I like a good, unique story, so Daughter of Smoke and Bone went straight on my TBR, along with Strange the Dreamer. I’m pleased to say I now know that there’s nothing quite like a book by Laini Taylor.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone follows Karou, a talented art student most days, but somedays, she’s a messenger for the devil. Until one day, angels arrive to turn her world upside down (full blurb below).

By the time I finally found a beat-up paperback of Daughter of Smoke and Bone at the library, I’d had it on my TBR for ages. I was so delighted when I finally found a copy, I went home and started reading it straight away. Come the next day, I was done.

What I Liked

The World Building

Everyone always talks about Laini Taylor’s writing style, and it’s nice to finally understand the hype. Though there were moments when I felt it was a little overdone (more on that later), Taylor’s writing was quite exquisite, and it had an incredible impact on the way I enjoyed her world. Somehow, the snowy streets of Prague felt real to me, I had to grab another blanket to put on my bed while reading. No matter if it was realistic or fantastical the settings were so well painted, the book was entirely immersive.

The Premise

I loved the tension between the angels and the devils in this book, mostly because it turned the traditional tension on its head, making the devils not so bad, and the angels not so good (granted, the story is told from the devil’s side). In fact, there were a lot of classic tropes that were masterfully twisted in this novel, adding a very intriguing layer to it.  

What I Didn’t Like

Karou and Akiva’s Relationship

I understand that Karou and Akiva had history, but that’s not something I gathered in the beginning. Yes, Karou and Akiva had a special connection, but that something so common in books that I paid it no mind – usually a special connection is the universe telling two characters they’re destined for each other, but not the characters weirdly feeling that there might be more to their tale. Perhaps because I’m desensitized to this special connection trope, I felt that Akiva and Karou fell in love just a little too quickly – yes, the dreaded insta-love. Because of that, I really wasn’t on board with their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the book I was, and I love the characters individually, as well as their interactions with one another, but throughout most of the book, I just wished they’d slow down, get to know each other more, and let me see the chemistry there.

Sometimes too much description

Though I mentioned before that I did enjoy Laini Taylor’s writing style, I did find that there were moments when the world was so beautifully described that I had absolutely no idea what anything looked like. I have this weird reading thing, if a book is underdescribed, then in my head it exists as some strange dark void, like I’m in the character’s head and they’re walking through life with their eyes closed – oddly, moments in Daughter of Smoke and Bone that were exquisitely described had the same effect on me. This is likely just a personal quirk, but it did get a little frustrating in parts.

My Favourite Thing

It was hard to pick a favourite thing about this novel, because I loved so many aspects, but I think my favourite was the novel’s protagonist, Karou. Though there were some moments where she made some decisions I wished she hadn’t, I loved how well-rounded and quirky she was. Not only that, she was strong and stubborn – exactly the type that could lead a revolution, if that’s where the series is going.

Star Rating

I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone 4.75 out of 5 stars. Usually, I deduct half a star for insta-love, but because I know this wasn’t insta-love, but it still read a little like it, I’m only deducting a quarter (we round it up for Goodreads and the picture below).

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Blurb:

Around the world, black hand prints 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 grows 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?

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REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

How’d I come to read it?

Throwback to February of this year, I was feeling restless. I wanted to read something, something that would be the rollercoaster of emotions that I was already on the very edge of feeling. I asked my Instagram followers for recommendations, but seeing as though it was the middle of the day where I was, most of them were asleep so the replies were slow. I was left to fend for myself. I opened up my library’s eBook app and started scrolling through when I happened upon Eliza and Her Monsters. I’d heard this mentioned by a few booktubers before so I understood the basic premise of the story. I figured it’d be like Fangirl, and seeing as Fangirl is one of my favourite contemporaries, I loaned Eliza out and began.

What is it about?

Eliza is world famous web illustrator, but no one knows who she is in real life. On the internet, she may seem put together, like one of the coolest people on the planet, but her day to day life is a completely different story.

What was my reading experience & thoughts?

Although relatively large, coming in at around 400 pages long, I read Eliza in one sitting. I was, you could say, hooked. It was everything I wanted on that balmy February afternoon. I got the laughter, the tears and the enjoyment that I’d desired, and I was happy. Of course, a great deal of my enjoyment was from how I related to Eliza. It’s not common to find many negative reviews of this book around, but I’ve seen a few, and in them the common theme of annoyance is aimed at Eliza’s personality. But, as someone who struggles with a lot of issues that Eliza does (minus the internet fame, of course) I didn’t pick up on the flat notes of Eliza’s personality that they discuss, instead, I found them relatable. The flat note of the novel for me was the love interest, Wallace. I struggled to feel connected to him. Unlike with Fangirl’s Levi, who I connected to despite not usually liking his personality type, there was nothing in Wallace that hooked me even a little bit, which was disappointing.
Having said that, Wallace’s character was only a raindrop in the ocean for me, and the flatness of that one aspect couldn’t change my entire feelings for the book. I devoured this one, and I absolutely loved it. Overall, the shining star for me was the mental health representation. I’m comparing Eliza to Fangirl a lot because they do share similar aspects, but the anxiety that Eliza experiences are definitely a lot less subtle than Cath’s. This could easily be polarising to some readers, but if you’re eager to read a YA contemporary narrated by a character with anxiety and depression, I would definitely recommend Eliza and Her Monsters.

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How Many Stars?

Overall, I gave Eliza and her Monsters 4.75 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Eliza and her Monsters? What did you think? Let me know you’re favourite books with mental health representation?

Review: I Have More Souls Than One by Fernando Pessoa

I’ve had my eye on a bunch of little Penguin Moderns since they first came out and I saw their beautiful, pale green covers on Instagram. Even more so when I read their list of titles, featuring so many authors I’d been wanting to read for ages. One thing I love about these little books (same goes for the little black classics), is that they’re a cheap, small taste of an author’s style, which is a great way to see if you and that author are a match.

REVIEW: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

The sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses took me by surprise, even when I was already expecting something better than the original, I wasn’t expecting anything to hit quite so close to home.  I read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series after they were recommended to me by a friend at university. She spent a decent half hour before lab class gushing over the second in the series, assuring me of something I’d never found to be true – that the sequel was better than the original. Of course, I had to read them. If you haven’t read my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, head on over and give it a read.

About

Following the events of A Court of Thorns and Roses, Feyre has been impacted in a severe mental, and emotional way – and Tamlin is no help at all. Locked in the Spring Court manor house for her own safety, Feyre needs out, but when that escape comes, she’s in for a ride of surprises.

Review

If I thought I devoured A Court of Thorns and Roses quickly, I had another think coming. Weighing in at a hefty 626 pages, A Court of Mist and Fury is no small book, but I couldn’t put it down – I had it read in a day. And in the end, my heart was reduced to mush.

Flaws

You all know that I like to start my reviews off with the flaws, in the structure of things it means the flaws are sandwiched in the middle and the review ends on a high note, not a low one. Having said that, there aren’t many flaws for me to discuss in this book – but of course, I found a few.

Lack of Diversity

As with my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, it must be noted that some members of marginalised communities have objected to the portrayal of (and lack of) LGBTQ+ and people of colour in these books. Although the problematic representation is not unique to this series it’s important to be aware of these issues. As I’m not a POC or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t personally speak on this issue, but there are many great discussion on this topic throughout the bookish community.

Erotica

I’m not the worlds biggest fan of erotica. To be honest, I prefer if books don’t have it. I understand that relationships are integral to the plot of A Court of Mist and Fury, but I personally prefer a leave-it-to-your-imagination fade-to-black kind of scene. Having said this, including erotica by no means makes the book bad, it’s just a personal preference.

Problematic Aspects of Relationships

This is something that’s brought up a lot in the discussion of A Court of Thorns and Roses as a whole. There are, without a doubt, problematic relationships (hello, Tamlin – more on that later), and some relationships do have problematic aspects. There are events that take place in A Court of Thorns and Roses between Rhysand and Feyre that are totally not healthy and not okay. In A Court of Mist and Fury, these events are explored and explained, and I personally can understand the reasons for some character actions, but some readers may have difficulty.

Highlights

A Court of Mist and Fury has a tremendous amount of highlights for me, so, for the sake of this reveiw, I’m going to choose my top three highlights from the book, and my overall favourite thing.

The Treatment of Tamlin

Readers who adored Tamlin in the first book may be in for a nasty shock during A Court of Mist and Fury, but I was in for a surprise delight. I never liked Tamlin. I thought he was controlling, domineering, and wildly insecure. As I said in my A Court of Thorns and Roses review:

Tamlin’s controlling tendencies were disguised as legitimate concerns for human Feyre’s safety in a world of stronger, magical Fae. I would have rather seen Tamlin encourage Feyre to grow and to equip her with knowledge, instead of locking her in his charming mansion and hoping she’ll be okay with it.

Tamlin reminded me of so many YA love interests whose behaviour is rarely ever called out in the book for being so controlling and domineering. Maas plays on this so well in A Court of Mist and Fury having easily drawn you to Tamlin in the first book, knowing you’re desensitised to this behaviour, and fully aware you’ll accept Tamlin and Feyre together, then in the sequel, she slowly begins to show exactly what is wrong with Tamlin’s actions and treatment of Feyre. Though I pity Tamlin, somewhat, I was thrilled to see this turn of events.

Characters

A Court of Mist and Fury is filled with brand new characters, and the banter between friends is by far some of the most realistic dialogue I’ve come across in books recently. There’s something about the way that Maas writes these characters, despite being physically perfect and evidently too good to be true, they feel real. They are complex, flawed and always striving to see past their dark pasts and forge a future filled with hope. They each have their flaws, and they know it – this makes them far more loveable, and relatable.

Pacing

Where A Court of Thorns and Roses was predominantly character driven, A Court of Mist and Fury manages to find a perfect balance of plot and person. I couldn’t find a single dull moment during the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the speed at which events unfolded and progressed, yet I didn’t feel as though the character’s individual arcs were in any way dwarfed or cast aside by the plot. I was very impressed.

Overall favourite thing – PTSD Representation

This was likely the most surprising aspect of A Court of Mist and Fury, one I never knew I needed until it was there. If you don’t know (which you probably don’t), I live with PTSD. I won’t go into the details, because this is a book review and I don’t owe anyone my story,  but I can tell you this, Sarah J Maas does a fantastic job at PTSD representation. Of course, everybody’s PTSD manifests in different ways, and Feyre’s is very different to mine, but one thing I appreciated incredibly was that Feyre’s PTSD didn’t go away, it didn’t heal itself, and it always reared its head when she needed it least. There is no magical cure. It lingers. Even if it’s potency is decreased by time, it comes back. Maas described the lonelinesses, the suffocation and the fear of the condition so well, I was blown away. It’s not something I ever expected to find in a romance/fantasy novel.
When my friend told me that A Court of Mist and Fury would blow my socks off, I didn’t believe her, but now I know I should have. I thoroughly enjoyed the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Overall Rating

I gave A Court of Mist and Fury a full five stars. It was hands down my favourite read of 2016.


Official Blurb:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

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REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

It’s hard to spend a decent period of time on YA bookstagram and avoid encountering A Court of Thorns and Roses or any one of its sequels – A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight. I read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series before I discovered bookstagram, after they were recommended to me by a friend at university. She spent a decent half hour before lab class gushing over the second in the series, assuring me of something I’d never found to be true – that the sequel was better than the original. Of course, I had to read them.

About

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, following Feyre, the daughter of a merchant who has fallen on tough times. After accidentally hunting and killing a shape-shifting Fae male she is whisked away to the Spring Court, where she learns of a dangerous enemy threatening the Fae.

Review

I first read A Court of Thorns and Roses before the third in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin was released. After borrowing the first two novels from the library, I sat down one night and devoured them, like I hadn’t devoured anything since The Hunger Games in high school (I read all the Hunger Games books in one night while I was reduced to lying on my bed trying to ignore the awful stinging of a bull ant that lasted all night). While A Court of Thorns and Roses was an entertaining and relatively quick read, I intentionally sped through it to the sequel, because I was promised to be in awe.

Flaws

A Court of Thorns and Roses has peculiar pacing. It’s relatively character driven for the first two-thirds of the novel, which can often feel like it’s moving at a slow pace. Though marketed as a young adult fantasy, A Court of Thorns and Roses is heavy on the romance, which I didn’t mind, even though I’m not particularly fond of romance, but it’s something I make a point to avoid, so in a way it was almost refreshing, and definitely a novelty.
I did have some issues with the romance, however – the main love interest, Tamlin, exhibited some problematic behaviour that’s all too familiar in the YA world. Tamlin’s controlling tendencies were disguised as legitimate concerns for human Feyre’s safety in a world of stronger, magical Fae. I would have rather seen Tamlin encourage Feyre to grow and to equip her with knowledge, instead of locking her in his charming mansion and hoping she’ll be okay with it.
Also, it must be noted that some members of marginalised communities have objected to the portrayal of (and lack of) LGBTQ+ and people of colour in these books. Although the problematic representation is not unique to A Court of Thorns and Roses it’s important to be aware of these issues. As I’m not a POC or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t personally speak on this issue, but there are many great discussion on this topic throughout the bookish community.

Highlights

A major highlight of A Court of Thorns and Roses was the purely entertaining nature of the book. I think this is one of my favourite things about fantasy novels, especially when they’re well done, though they might provide commentary on the world, and have moral and ethical worth, they are, at their core, fantastical, entertaining stories. I found it easy to get lost in the world of Fae, and the few Beauty and the Beast elements that popped their head out here and there were refreshing and enchanting. Mass writes villains in a decadent and enthralling way, they’re dangerous, witty, and awful – best of all, they know it.
Throughout A Court of Thorns and Roses I spied a few things that I hope will be explored in the rest of the series, some characters I once thought ill of seem to be more morally grey than I first assumed, and I feel like there’s a whole, deep backstory that’s itching to weave its way into the narrative. Overall, I felt that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a solid beginning, laying an intriguing foundation for a promising series.

Overall Rating

I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses 3.75 out of 5 stars.
3.5 stars


Official Blurb:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

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Mikaela | The Riverside Library