Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone # 1
Publisher: Hachette
Number of pages: 420
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked

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.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored 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?

* * *

It’s hard to turn your back on a book when people everywhere seem to be raving about it. I’ve been hearing lots of really good stuff about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor from practically all the blogs I’ve been following, so I put the book on my radar with full intention of just borrowing and not buying. But the lure of books is stronger when more people rave about it, so when I saw a lone hardcover copy in Fully Booked, I knew I had to leave the store with it. And start it immediately as soon as I finished my last read.

Karou is an eccentric girl by normal people’s standards, but in a city like Prague, they don’t really mind. Her art student friends dismiss her blue hair, her random disappearances to run errands and her knowledge of many language to see her sketchbooks and stories of monsters that are supposedly real. No one knows who Karou really is, even herself. All she knows is that her only family are the chimaera who lives in Brimstone’s shop, who collect teeth in exchange for wishes. Karou cannot escape the emptiness she feels, until she meets Akiva, a stranger with fire-colored eyes, who almost just about killed her…until he didn’t. What follows is a gradual unveiling of Karou’s hidden past, one that that bears repercussions and choices that could result to her losing everything she has ever known.

I’ve read lots of praises for Laini Taylor’s writing, and I saw just what they meant in this book. What beautiful writing. I remember reading the first page of the book the day I bought it and not wanting to stop (but I had to, because if I don’t, I would never have finished Breathe). I lost count at how many times I wanted to dive into her prose and wish to write the way she does — lyrical and flowery but never veering towards purple. Very vivid, too, because I never had a hard time imagining the things she was describing. Passages like this broke a bit of my heart:

With the infinite patience of one who has learned to live broken, he awaited her return.

But there were also parts like these that made me chuckle:

“Hey! My body may be small, but my soul is large. It’s why I wear platforms. So I can reach the top of my soul.”

And:

“I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.’

‘Inessential penises?’ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’

‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.”

And there were some that just made me sigh:

Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.

It was because of this writing that I forgave and even liked the paranormal romance aspect. I’m not a fan of anything insta-love, so I was kind of wary, but the writing! It’s just too beautiful for me to pass up. It’s not that the romance was the typical ones that have been ravaging the bookstore shelves lately — in fact, it actually has a very good story to it. It may be a bit dramatic for some, but it’s still a very good read, and it’s not the I-would-die-without-you-my-life-is-incomplete-without-you romance.

And again, the writing. I mean, more, read this:

…and for that moment, her hand in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.

I can’t remember the last time I read the word “starlight” used as a figure of speech without making it sound cheesy. Can you?

One of the other things I really, really liked about this book was the setting. Days after I was back from my Europe trip, I was talking to one of my friends who was still there and she was up to ears with excitement about their trip to Prague. I have heard of Prague before, but just like Geneva, it wasn’t really up high in my bucket list. Their pictures, however, made me want to bump it up my bucket list — what a beautiful place it seemed to be! Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone made me want to go there even more. The other places that Karou visited were also described vividly (I felt a little thrill when she started talking about the metro in Paris), but I think Prague was the perfect stage for the first part of the story (the second part was in an entirely another world, described just as vividly as the one in the real world). As it was described:

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Match that description with these photos like these and who would not want to go to Prague?1

Yep. I’m making sure to go to Prague next time I get to go to Europe.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a must-read book for this year, whether you like paranormal romance or not. :) I’d read every book Laini Taylor writes if only to soak in her gorgeous, gorgeous writing. Sigh.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
The Girl Who Read
The Book Smugglers
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Ficsation

  1. Photos from my friend, Ate Sheh, taken last September :) []

There You’ll Find Me

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. JonesThere You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 320
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

In a small cottage house in rural Ireland, Finley discovers she can no longer outrun the past.

When Finley travels to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from the God who took her brother away and seems to have left her high and dry.

But from the moment she boards the plane and sits by Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to Finley’s plan.

When she gets too close to Beckett, a classmate goes on a mission to make sure Finley packs her bags, departs Ireland-and leaves Beckett alone.

Finley feels the pressure all around. As things start to fall apart, she begins to rely on a not-so-healthy method of taking control of her life.

Finley tries to balance it all-disasters on the set of Beckett’s new movie, the demands of school, and her growing romance with one actor who is not what he seems. Yet Finley is also not who she portrays to Beckett and her friends.

For the first time in her life, Finley must get honest with herself to get right with God.

* * *

When I was younger, I used to write stories about a group of friends who lived in Ireland. It was just a random country I picked out in the world atlas, and I thought I liked the sound of Ireland as a setting. Of course, I really knew nothing of the country then, and it wasn’t until later on that I read and watched some stuff about Ireland on TV that I realized none of what I wrote was even the least bit realistic. But my recent trip to Europe got me to meet a YFC mission volunteer from Ireland, and meeting him reminded me of those days when I’d write those stories.

That’s what made me pick up There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones from my trip readings. Here we meet Finley Sinclair, Save the Date‘s Alex Sinclair’s younger sister. After they had confirmed that Will, Finley’s other brother, had died in an terrorist attack in a mission trip, she was devastated. Her life spun out of control as she tried to cope with her loss. After a year of therapy, she proved herself stable enough to go on an exchange student program to Abbeyglen, Ireland, one of the places that Will had gone to. Finley hopes to find herself and get answers from God who had seemed distant from her ever since she lost Will. But a movie star, the school’s queen bee, a cranky and sick old lady puts a wrench on Finley’s plans. As the pressure all around her builds, Finley starts dealing with things in the only way she knows how, even if it meant harming herself in the process. Can Finley find a way to get it right with God?

I liked Jenny B. Jones’ other novel, Save the Date, a lot, so I was thrilled to find out that There You’ll Find Me was a spin-off novel to that. I always like seeing how other characters I liked from a previous novel were doing in another novel that is not a sequel. There You’ll Find Me is more YA this time around. Finley is such a strong-minded character, sometimes a bit stubborn, but we can also see that she has a big heart, especially with her friendship with her host sister, Erin and her concern for Cathleen Sweeney, the old woman she was assigned to visit for class. I liked Finley’s voice, and I could definitely feel and relate with her need to control things. I liked that she wasn’t portrayed as too depressed or too angry — just very lost. And it made me want to wrap her up in a big, big hug, and tell her that God has not forgotten her.

St. Ciaran’s Monastery — I think this was one of the places Finley and Beckett visited. Image from saintsandstones.net

And speaking of God. The spiritual aspect of this book is not preachy, and I think Jenny B. Jones excels at that. Well, compared to Save the Date, there were more mentions of God, but Finley was in a spiritual journey, so what do you expect? I liked the Finley’s power verse, too, and I admit to shedding some tears at the moment when Finley found what she was looking for. The actual Irish journey was a treat to read, too, and I wished I was actually in Ireland to see the things that Finley was seeing. I wanted to spend a night at a pub enjoying good food, music and company. I want to look at the Celtic crosses that Finley was also looking for. Ireland sounds like a beautiful, beautiful place from the way it was described, and I have already written that place in my bucket list after I was done reading this. :D

There just seemed to be a little too many issues that Finley was trying to get over with in the book: grief, control issues, school stuff, Cathleen Sweeney, a possible eating disorder. Add romance to that and I’m surprised that Finley took that long before she had a melt down. I assume that it portrays real life, but it was just kind of hard to follow and it made the resolutions a little too quickly wrapped up.

And speaking of the romance. Unfortunately, I don’t think there wasn’t anything exciting about the romance, even if it was kind of sweet. I hope I’m not being cynical. I liked Beckett and I thought he was a nice guy, but I felt that the movie star + normal girl pairing has been done a few too many times. Plus points, though, on the development of their friendship to romance, which was fun to read.

There You’ll Find Me is a good follow up from Jenny B. Jones. A little bit paler in comparison to Save the Date, but nonetheless a good one. If you’re looking for a clean contemporary novel that will tickle your romantic and traveling fancies, then I think you’ll like this one. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Nightly Reading
Book that Thing!
One Page at a Time

Revolution

Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  472
My copy: hardbound, Christmas gift from KD

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

* * *

I read and loved Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light earlier this year, and I looked forward to reading her second (?) YA novel, Revolution after I got a taste of her writing prowess. There were only two things that stopped me from reading it: (1) I still shy away from historicals and (2) the book looked so daunting with its size and length. I didn’t think I would be able to read it for Required Reading last month as I’m jet-setting all around, but I’m really, really glad I found a way to read it!

Andi Alpers is an angry girl. After her brother’s death, everything in her family fell apart and all Andi could think of is thoughts of suicide. When her school calls her dad with a threat of expulsion, he brings her to Paris for her winter break to work on her senior thesis. Living with her dad’s friends, Andi finds a diary hidden in the guitar case given to her. There she meets Alexandrine Paradis, an girl who lived two centuries ago who dreams of being a popular actress but whose life is forever changed when she meets a young (and doomed) prince of France. Andi finds comfort in Alex’s diary, until a night at the catacombs of Paris brings her face to face to what just Alex was going through.

Like I said earlier, Revolution looked daunting because of its length — the table of contents lists 80+ chapters! I was kind of worried that I didn’t have much in me to invest in something this long. However, I found that the book was extremely readable. I was never bored with any chapter, and it was really more contemporary than historical. Andi’s anger and grief radiates through the pages, and I felt really, really sad for her. I think out of all the books I’ve read with grief, this book had the rawest and angriest form, and the first time I read about someone willingly self-destruct because she couldn’t find the strength to face the days living with the grief.

Despite that, I found Andi’s anger and her going around a little too tedious, and it took a long time before Alexandrine was introduced. When she was, however, I found myself stuck further to the pages. I found myself engrossed in Alex’s diary just as much as Andi was, and even if I knew how it would probably end, I felt the same fear and longing for the story to end differently, for the Alex to make it through.

I think a reason why I loved this book more than I thought I would was because I was actually in Europe while I was reading this. The moment I got to Paris, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and the familiar names that I was just reading in the book. Bastille, Palais-Royal, River Seine, Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur. The book definitely came alive to me because I was at the setting, and I could imagine Andi running through the streets of Paris in the cold, playing in the park. I can imagine Alex in Palais-Royal performing some songs for money with her guitar (I think she’d be awesome on piano, too, pounding away on piano benches) It was such an awesome thrill to see the places I only read about with my very eyes. It was just too bad I had no time to visit the catacombs. :D

The ending, while it was wrapped up nicely, was just a tad too unbelievable, especially with the seemingly time-space-warp thing that happened. Still, I think Revolution is another solid book from Jennifer Donnelly. It’s intense and gripping and wonderfully colorful despite its bleak atmosphere. Music lovers and historical fiction fans should definitely pick up this book, but if you’re neither and you like contemporary YA novels, then you may enjoy this one very much, just like I did.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Guardian
Love YA Lit
Steph Su Reads

Libros, Livres, Bücher

One of the many things I was looking forward to with my big trip a week ago is visiting bookstores in other countries. I got the idea from Janice, who took lots of awesome book-related vacation photos from her cruise early this year. Then I got the idea from Chachic to get a foreign edition of some of my favorite books like she did on her trip to Bangkok (more about this in a later post).

Unfortunately, almost all days of my trip had a full schedule, so I had very limited time to visit book stores until the end of my trip. That, and apparently I was the only one who was totally crazy about books in our group. Oh well. I was still able to go to some bookstores, but just not in all countries that I went to. I still managed to take a ton of photos though and behold, I share them below! (Warning, photo dump!)

I decided to bring my Kindle to my trip instead of other books so I won’t have to lug extra stuff in my suitcase (and have room in case I decide to buy books overseas :D). I started reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly on the 12-hour plane ride from Manila to Amsterdam. I just had to highlight that line. :D

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly – on my Kindle

This was the first bookstore I saw in the Amsterdam Schiphol airport:

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

I didn’t have time to go to it, though, since we only have an hour layover before our flight to Madrid, and we still had to look for our gate.

On our first day in Madrid, after the WYD Day 1, I spotted this sign along Gran Via:

Along Gran Via in Madrid, Spain

I’m pretty sure that means “Bookstore.” :)

Like I said, I wasn’t able to visit bookstores much until the last day because of all our activities and other non-book-related shopping (clothes, shoes, souvenirs, buy step stools), so there’s not too many photos of it while we were at the height of our trip. Oh, but I spotted this independent bookstore near our host home one night as we were on our way home after dinner:

Libreria!

Sorry for the blurry image, but the glowing sign there says Libreria, which, incidentally, is also the name of the bookstore in Cubao X where we Filipino Book Bloggers love to hang out. I was supposed to drop by here on my last day of Madrid, but alas, I arrived during siesta time, so it was closed. And I had no time to go back. :(

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Hola! Bonjour! Hallo!

Hello friends! I’m back! :)

Europe was amazing. I do not have enough words to describe it, but I will try. Most of my trip recollection will be on my personal blog, but I do have some book-related updates for this blog. :D

So, allow me to recover my wits and all that because I owe this blog not only a post for my Europe trip, Required Reading for September, a whole lot of reviews among other things. :) I’ll do my best to catch up.

For now, though, I leave you with a little teaser photo:

Can you guess where this photo was taken? :)