DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1): Review

8490112Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 27, 2011
Genres: young adult, paranormal romance, fantasy
Pages: 422
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★


Mm. Hmm.

I’m chewing my lip at what to say here, folks. It’s been almost a year since I read this book, and I don’t feel much toward it. Except disappointment.

This book has been on my radar for years. Almost all my favorite reviewers love it and Laini Taylor. They praise the vivid world-building, the complex love story, the enchanting way Taylor weaves her words. About 25% through the book, I almost found myself agreeing with them.

But then the romance happened, and my reaction to the rest of the book can be described in just one word: Huh?

Taylor gives us a lush, atmospheric setting for her novel: Prague. We learn about Karou, the unusual girl with the blue hair; her friend, Zuzana; Karou’s work collecting teeth for her chimera father figure, Brimstone, and his cohorts, the family Karou never had. And, on top of it all, there’s an angel named Akiva in Prague, looking for Brimstone and Karou–an angel who may know more about Karou than she knows about herself.

All in all, it’s a captivating, unique story, and it drew me right in, because I’ve never quite read anything like it. The setting, the writing, the mythology–all of it was unique and engaging, and I wanted more.

But that’s where my praises for this book end. Because then the romance takes center stage, and this book goes from fascinating paranormal story to a book about star-crossed lovers who, you guessed it, were star-crossed in a previous life, as well, causing a rift between their two worlds.

Maybe I could get behind this if it was something that’s not incredibly overdone in YA paranormal literature. But Karou and Akiva’s first romance wasn’t even very interesting, because there wasn’t anything to base it off of. Karou saves Akiva during a battle between his kind and hers, and all of the sudden, he’s in love? I don’t know. The progression seemed too hasty for me, and, seeing as the majority of this book’s appeal rests on your ability to engage in the romance from about 30% on, such a progression resulted in my growing disinterest with the story.

Then, some other drama gets thrown into the book (no spoilers here) which threatens the existence of Karou and Akiva’s relationship. Again, this is normal. This is okay. Maybe it might peeve me a little bit, but it wouldn’t bother me too much if we hadn’t spent so much time building up this romance instead of focusing on the other aspects of the story. Why are the doors closing? Exactly what does Brimstone do? I want to know more about him and the chimera and their relationship with Karou. I wanted to see more of Prague and all its magic. I wanted Karou to show us more of her abilities. As far as I was concerned, the romance, while initially intriguing, can take a hike. As soon as the “star-crossed lovers” slant is given to it, their relationship becomes incredibly generic. And tiresome, because we’ve seen this type of relationship before.

In short: With creative mythology, spell-binding prose, and interesting characters, this book had great potential to be an engaging, fresh look at angels and demons in a modern-day/fantasy setting. However, by focusing more on a cliched, overwhelmingly star-crossed romance, this book inadvertently hides the qualities that make it so unique for a story element not impressive enough to take the place of those qualities. I’m disappointed in this decision, and probably won’t be continuing the series.

RONIT & JAMIL: Review

30317423Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on February 21, 2017
Genres: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary romance, poetry, retellings
Pages: 192
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating:


This rating is not what you think.

Or maybe it’s not what I would think it to be; usually, for me, one-star reviews mean that the reviewer didn’t just dislike the book they’re reviewing–they hated it.

But I didn’t hate this book. I was just underwhelmed by it.

Ronit & Jamil is pitched as a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in the midst of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Not only is this conflict a current issue–it’s divisive, and it’s affecting both ethnic relations between Arabs and Jews and U.S. foreign policy. So divisive, current, and important–but not widely covered. Not in YA literature, at least. I’m also part Syrian, and my heritage has partially influenced my cultural interactions with others whose families are involved in this conflict.

So I was really looking forward to this story, both as a unique approach to Shakespearean retellings and as a provoker of discussion. This story promised to address the question posed in its first pages: Whose land is it, really? And is there ever hope for peace in a two-state solution?

This story doesn’t answer those questions. There are mentions of peace and conflict and bombs (although, some of this might be metaphorical; kind of difficult to tell when the book is written verse [I’ll come back to that]). There are moments where Ronit and Jamil question why coexistence is so impossible, and why enmity between the two nations has become so prevalent and potent, it’s practically its own family tradition. But these questions are not developed more–they are touched on briefly, and then left to dissolve in to the backs of readers’ minds.

It seems what I’m trying to say is that this story’s priorities were focused more on the romance than on an important contemporary socio-political issue. But what I’m trying to say is that…actually, I don’t know. I’m really not sure where this story’s priorities were, and I think that’s one of its major faults.

Am I supposed to focus on the romance? It’s barely developed. Ronit and Jamil go from acknowledging the others’ existence to having the hots for each other and running away together. Their connection is so brief and underdeveloped that I have no idea why they fell for each other, or why either loves the other so much they would run away from their former lives and their family. I also had difficulty telling the two of them apart; despite their different ethnicities and the variations that result (different ways of addressing their parents/talking about food, etc.), their voices were almost identical. What makes it even more confusing is that Ronit is the girl here, and Jamil is the boy; I thought at least I could rely on the beginning letters of their names to distinguish who was who (R=Romeo, J=Juliet), but here, it’s swapped, I think. Even now, I don’t know. I barely remember the characters themselves.

Am I supposed to focus on the conflict between Israel and Palestine? This book acknowledges that conflict exists, but more words are wasted describing food, running errands, and kissing than on covering this conflict. If you’re going to include an issue like this as a springboard for discussion, please use it for something. Conflict is conflict–it is meant for causing change. Conflict is a force, not a setting. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be mitigated to a backdrop for two lovers if you’re not going to address the nuances that make this conflict so messy. You could set this book anywhere else, and very little would need to be changed to tell the same story.

Ronit & Jamil‘s failure to develop both its characters and its conflict as real, engaging, and relatable renders this story ineffective–as commentary, as a retelling, and even as a book of good poetry; nothing about the prose in this book grabbed my attention. It’s a very quick read (I finished it in about two hours), but it’s forgettable–the last thing a book featuring such an important issue should be.

Catching Up!

Hello, again! Guess who’s still alive?

Yeah, I’m back. Between tons of homework, a phone that’s deleted all its info and still refuses to go back to factory settings so I can finally fix it (-_-), and some health issues, it’s been a wild few months, and I’ve dropped the ball on a lot of things. Unfortunately, running this blog was one of them.

This post is meant to be a hybrid of several different posts, to make up for my inactivity:

  • a Mood and Music Monday update
  • a March/April wrap-up
  • a May TBR

Without further ado, let’s get started.


Song(s) of the week:

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for Corpse Bride a lot over the past two days–it’s so haunting and atmospheric, and I love the movie so much. (Morbidly enough, I can relate to several of the characters–sometimes rather depressingly so.) The main titles, in particular, have been on repeat, but I’ve been listening to the rest of the soundtrack, too.


March/April Wrap-Up

Here are the books I finished during my hiatus:

Here are the books I DNF’d:

  • Ignite Me (and all the extra novellas in the Shatter Me series) by Tahereh Mafi: Unravel Me was disappointingly dull, and I figured that I didn’t want to force myself to keep reading a series I wasn’t enjoying just so I could say I’d finished it. Too many books, too little time.
  • Gilded Cage by Vic James: I wanted to like this one, but I could barely get through the first two pages before growing bored. So I put it down. (On another note: Someone should write a cool fantasy novel based on Gilded Age America. How cool would that be? I mean, I know English history is kind of cool, but American history is so underused as a setting/inspiration for fantasy/paranormal novels. I’d love to see more of that. [Maybe I’ll write it?])
  • Frostblood by Elly Blake: My interest with this book waned, especially after seeing how similar it is to other titles *cough*Red Queen*cough* in the YA fantasy market right now. (And Red Queen was already a knock-off, so would this be…a knock-off of a knock-off? [A knock-off-off??])

May TBR

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of this. My phone basically erased all the pictures I had left for the April book challenge I was participating in, and won’t let me take more pictures, so there might not be book pictures for some time. 😦 But here’s a list of all the books I’m attempting to read:

20658347Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Found this at the library, and I’m ready to continue the series! Supposedly, this is where things start to go down, so I’m looking forward to this. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

30037861Silver Stars (Front Lines, #2) by Michael Grant

I love WWII, and I enjoyed Front Lines, so I’m excited to have this in my hands. It’s time for some more female soldier action!

 

 

 

 

 

29772863Wires and Nerve, Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer

I’ve already read the rest of the series, so why not? It’ll be exciting to read a graphic novel; I’ve never picked one up before. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

22892448The Color Project by Sierra Abrams

I received an ARC of this darling book in the mail the other day, and I’m so excited to start it! Sierra is a dear, and this book promises to make my heart very happy, so, of course, I can’t wait to read it. 😀

 

 

 

 


Four books to read this month. It’s definitely less ambitious than I’ve attempted in previous months, and hopefully(?) I’ll have less homework, so I can read all of these this month. I’m eager to get back into the swing of things again!

What about you?

  • How many books will you be reading this month?
  • Which of those books are you most looking forward to reading?

A CROWN OF WISHES (The Star-Touched Queen, #2): Review (ARC)


29939047A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)
by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on March 28, 2017
Genres: young adult, romance, fantasy, mythology
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★¼


Hmm.

I enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen, although I had my grievances with it. It was tastefully-written and a lovely gateway into an enchanting world. I admired Gauri, and so when I heard she was getting her own book, I got super excited. (Also, a tournament of wishes? Sounds cool, right?)

I liked A Crown of Wishes, but I didn’t love it. Just like its predecessor, something seems missing in this book, and here, that missing X factor is time. We just don’t get enough time with these characters. I wanted more funny banter between Gauri and Vikram, more page time with that vanara (who really could have been a cool, humorous sidekick, if he’d been present for more of the story), more external conflict in the Tournament once Vikram and Gauri arrived.  I finished this book, and I still don’t feel I know the characters as well as I could have.

That being said, I enjoyed both Vikram and Gauri. Both are driven, distinct characters with good heads on their shoulders. Gauri is a warrior, but she’s not heartless. Vikram can’t wield weapons, but he’s cunning. It was a cool balance to read, and a nice twist on the stereotypical fantasy gender roles without being overbearing. I just wanted more on-screen bonding time between our two leads so I could root for their romance more enthusiastically. I’ve always been a slow-burner gal, so maybe that’s part of it, but I did feel like the romance moved too quickly.

The plot in this story is easier to follow than The Star-Touched Queen‘s: Gauri and Vikram compete in certain challenges to win one wish each. Maybe it’s because I hear “tournament” and think “Hunger Games,” but I felt the tournament wasn’t as present in the story as it was set up to be in the blurb. Yes, there are competitors and challenges, but we don’t really see much of the other competitors, and, while there are challenges, most are symbolic. Which is fine, just not filled with much action. Again, fine, but not what I expected.

This review makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, but I did. I enjoyed the characters, and the writing is just as beautiful as always (a memo for anyone who might have been turned off by the writing in TSTQ: the prose is more tempered here). This novel is a story about magic and stories themselves–and about how we hold power over both. And, as both a reader and a storyteller, I found that delightful.

In short: This book was magical, vibrant, and clever–much like a folk tale. It just wasn’t quite a home run for me.

Much thanks to St. Martin’s for the ARC. No compensation of any kind was exchanged for this review.

 

 

 

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN (The Star-Touched Queen, #1): Review

25203675The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: young adult, romance, fantasy, mythology
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★½ 


I had a hard time making up my mind as to whether or not I would read this book. When I first saw the cover, I thought the answer would be yes. Then I read the blurb and wasn’t sure if it would be my thing.

The answer changed to a probable no when I read a few negative reviews on Goodreads. One trusted reviewer was not a fan of the (in their opinion) overly-flowery prose, which they claimed did not make up for the lack of plot. The quotes this reviewer included in their review sounded more stilted than flowery, so I decided on yeah, no thanks.

But then I saw this book at the library, and my answer changed to just try it.

So, with so much going back and forth on this book, what is my final verdict of The Star-Touched Queen? Well, for one thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the writing style. Roshani Chokshi uses very vivid imagery with vibrant, well-chosen words; you can see the sunsets she’s describing; you can taste the food the characters are eating; you can see the magic of this world unravel around you in spools. As a result, I loved the atmosphere of this book.

However, the writing style might not be for everyone, so I’d recommend checking out a sample on Amazon (or another online retail site)  to see if the prose is something you’d enjoy. I liked it, but that doesn’t mean everyone will.

As a result of such vivid prose, you get a lovely little glimpse of Bharata. It genuinely felt like  a real place to me, like maybe, if I traveled far away and hoped hard enough, maybe I’d find it. I enjoyed the whimsical feel; it gave this story a very fairy-tale-like atmosphere.

However, I couldn’t help but wish there were more side characters in the story after Maya leaves for Akaran. Amar is intriguing and mysterious and sweet (and I wanted wayyyy more of him than we got), but part of his mysterious identity means he’s absent in many parts of the story.

This leaves readers to accompany Maya in her explorations of her kingdom, which, while interesting in that it offers a few more clues to exactly what kind of kingdom Maya has inherited through her marriage, is not enough to make the plot move forward on its own. In most of these scenes, Maya is alone, and, while she’s a sensitive and compassionate girl I could easily sympathize with and root for, her musings alone are not enough to keep this plot going. The book loses momentum in its middle, and something else—perhaps another, more present side character—might have prevented my interest from meandering. Anything would have worked to keep me invested in the story.

This wandering about means the twist seemingly comes out of nowhere—and, don’t get me wrong, I was ripping through pages to get to the end because I was so concerned about Amar–which made the conclusion a little unsatisfying. I wanted more–about Amar, about Akaran, about Maya and her past. But, when I finished the book, it didn’t seem like I had very many answers to those questions.

Fantastical world-building, luscious prose, intriguing mythology, and an alluring love interest–this book has them all. But, in many ways, while The Star-Touched Queen enticed me with promises of a sweet, delectable fruit of a story, my desires were not fully satiated.

 

Mood & Music Monday: 3/20/17

Hello, friends! I’m back! Welcome this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? I love Daughter, and I love Youth’s guitar, so I went on a search for the backing track and found this. It’s proof that every part of this song is beautiful. (See also: the backing track for “Run.”)

What are you reading? Finished Scarlet. Still reading A Crown of Wishes, and planning on starting Cress tomorrow.

What are you drinking? Kombucha and lots of water. 😛

Any goals for this week? Posting reviews! And getting caught up on beta reading.

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

Mood & Music Monday: 3/13/17

Hello, friends! I’m back! Welcome this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? I’m listening to the movie score for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is really enchanting (and pleasing to the ears without being run-of-the-mill). “Only the Beginning of the Adventure” is my favorite so far.

What are you reading? Finished Unravel Me, and I’ve started Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Still reading A Crown of Wishes, and we’re getting to a good place; I’m eager to read on. 🙂

What are you drinking? Kombuchaaaaaa.

Any goals for this week? Actually posting here. Goodness gracious.

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?