Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Book Reviews

Book Breakdown: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I haven’t done one of these in awhile, mainly because I’m now an “official” reviewer for Fresh Fiction (bomb diggity!).

What that means for you is you’ll have to go there for my more timely reviews. I’ll see if I can keep this up (I’m working two and a half jobs, so cut me a little slack).

Onward!

I’m a quick reader. I average about 250-300 words per minute. This is not speed reading. I read and process every word on the page. Look at it this way: If you talk the 10,000 hour rule of expertise that was laid out in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, I am an expert reader twice over. At least.

But, I digress.

Every once in awhile I come across a book that makes me want to read slower. It’s like good chocolate. You want let it rest on your tongue, melt down, let all the rich flavor come out in order for you to savor just how good it is.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is good chocolate.

Book Breakdown

(like it’s so good, it’s bad for you)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

This is one of my top books of 2011. I should put a summary here. I just don’t think it will really do it justice. Let me try a cut and paste for Laini Taylor‘s website.

“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?”

While it seems that angel/human/devil has been a trend in YA literature (minor-trend? subtrend?), this does not fall into that category. Taylor constructs a parallel world where these creatures are actual species and tribes, unconcerned with acquiring human souls. Instead, they are locked in a war. One race fights for freedom, the other fights for vengeance. Karou was raised by a chimaera, Brimstone, who spends his days collecting teeth for mysterious reasons.

Karou is his errand girl, a human girl collecting teeth. For her troubles, she is granted scuppies and shings, a currency that can be traded in for wishes.

There is something about this book that is carnal and violent, while still being subtle and beautiful. The ending has a winding quality as memories unravel, circling back upon themselves to reveal the new and the known.

The world is complex. The voice is liquid. I’m going to defer to the ladies at Coffee Talk for this one.

This book is like buttah.

First Ten:

In the first 10 pages, Karou’s ex-boyfriend ambushes her on the street, revealing that Karou is impossible to scare. Immediately after, he shows up in her art class as a model. You know. In the traditional sense.

There is no better way to show how narcissistic (and possibly sadistic) someone is.

The way Karou handles the situation is quite satisfying.

Unfortunately for you, I borrowed the book. If not, I would have had some sort of giveaway, but, alas, it is not mine to give. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.


Aside

Book Breakdown: Little Brother

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you?

I’m talking about something more frightening than lolcats (not that lolcats aren’t terrifying)…

Anyway, thanks to Cory Doctorow, I’ve spent the last two days in a state of look-over-the-shoulder paranoia.

In the best possible way.

Time for a

Book Breakdown

(like they’re watching you. [Right now.])

Little Brother

It seems that quite a bit of dystopian sci-fi these days aren’t really plausible or even possible. In Little Brother, Doctorow builds a world that’s real enough to cause paranoia before you turn the lights out at night.

Cory Doctorow takes us inside a world of high school hackers. After a terrorist attack, San Francisco is under martial law. Everyone is monitored, everyone is watched, the Department of Homeland Security is off its leash.

Marcus Yallow uses all the technology at his disposal to mess with the government. When Big Brother is watching, who watches back? Little Brother. A wonderful, appropriate homage to George Orwell’s 1984.

While the political message is there, Doctorow tries to focus on the technological side of Yallow’s revolution, sometimes in long, meandering passages of techno-speak.

Some chapters got off point a time or two, and a few moments seemed out of character.

Little Brother is solid, disturbing, and deep. Not a light read, by any means, in the best possible way.


Aside

Book Breakdown: Mistwood

Libraries. You can’t live without them.

No, seriously. The success of cultures and societies can be directly linked to the flow of information. What made Rome so awesome? Roads.

You know, and maybe some other stuff, but it was mostly the roads.

I’ve been hunting the shelves for the past couple months. I’m actually very impressed by my local library’s YA collection. A whole room dedicated to the genre.

I picked up this little number on one of my expeditions. Without further ado, I give you:

Book Breakdown:

(like you’re lost in the stacks)

Mistwood

I started this book, got to a chapter break, went online and started following Leah Cypess immediately. 

For centuries, the kings of Samorna have depended upon the immortal Shifter for protection. When the Crown Prince Rokan ventures into the Mistwood to find the Shifter, she allows herself to be caught and brought back to the castle to begin her servitude. She becomes known as Lady Isabel at court to hide her true identity as the prince’s all powerful bodyguard.

The Shifter cannot remember anything of her previous dealings at court. Her memories begin to return, and her allegiance is torn.

This isn’t a werewolf thing, let me be clear on that. The Shifter can shift into anything, or part of anything. Say the hall’s too dark: she can shift just her eyes to a cat’s. This breaks away from the werewolf/shapeshifter idea from the beginning.

For some reason, I love incredibly powerful characters that are suddenly made helpless or ineffective against the dangers they must face.

Or, maybe I’m a sucker for memory loss. The reason for the memory loss is heartbreaking.

Either way, this book was a great fantasy piece in a well-developed world. I wish there were more.

First Ten:

In the first ten pages, you are thrust into a broken mind. You are stalked and hunted , injured, and trapped.

None of this is confusing. A great accomplishment, considering you enter without any information.

While some stories have a difficult time building empathy by starting with an action scene, this was brilliant. Confusion, terror, submission.

Wonderful.

You should check it out.


Aside

Book Breakdown: Throat

I’m not afraid to admit it.

I’m a sucker for vampires (haha, bad pun), but seriously…

You really, really, really, really have to screw with the vampire myth to make me stop reading. Your vampires go out in sunlight? I’m cool with that. Your vampires are fat? I’m cool with that. Your vampires actually suck ink from books rather than blood from veins? Yep, I’m down with that. Hand it over.

Here’s a vampire book I picked up at the library, so, just a day after you thought I dropped out of the blogosphere forever, I bring you:

Book Breakdown:

(I vant to suck your blood)

Throat

Not going to lie, (LaVar Burton would be disappointed) I chose this book because of its cover. I mean, look at that. I am a fan of raw and that looks RAW. Exposed. Vulnerable.

Now, I’m not a shallow person. Good writing is good writing is good writing. I would read a good book no matter what image was plastered on the front of it, but this sings to you from the shelves in a sort of visceral way that’s a little uncomfortable if you think about it too much.

And, then there’s the title, when matched with the cover, makes you a little queasy. Like you’re getting punched in the stomach.

The thing is: the significance of the throat comes up in the narrative. And, it’s awesome. Also, creepy.

R.A. Nelson spins the story of Emma. She’s 17 years old and is attacked by a vampire one evening. However, during the attack, she has a Grand Mal seizure, disrupting her attacker. While she has some sensitivity to sunlight, she gains all the strengths and none of the weaknesses.

In order to save her family, Emma runs away from home and takes up residence in an abandoned section of a NASA base and prepares to confront her attacker in order to return home without fear of him finding her and killing her family.

The book is lyrical, and smooth from start to finish. The romance is honest. While Emma starts out a bit unsympathetic, the reader quickly settles into the character’s mindset and discovers why she is what she is.

While Nelson brought in some great worldbuilding, there were new concepts being introduced late in the game that were unimportant to the story (unless there are plans on sequel, series, etc.). Whether red herring or makings of a series, some of the details were distracting in their lack of significance to the plot. You can usually weed out what can be ignored.

First Ten:

The first ten pages of Throat were like reading a poem. There was something in the rhythm, the imagery, and the vocabulary that swept me along to a point where I didn’t realize I was past ten pages until I was on twenty-five.

I’ve been gone so long, I forgot how to end these things so, um, here’s a bat.


Aside

Book Breakdown (and a free something!)

I’m going to do it! I’m going to give something away on my blog! It’s a copy of Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore. Why? Because you should read it.

And, filing this in the “easier to ask forgiveness” category, it will be signed.

By the author.

Not by me.

Sound good? Okay, I think the best way for you to do this is either:

A.) Impress me.

B.) Submit a comment and I’ll draw it out of a hat.

C.) Cast names on the floor and see which one my cat chooses.

Probably B. Let’s go with option B. My cat’s not a very nice person.

Book Breakdown

(let you get something for nothing)

Texas Gothic

Everybody has that normal one in the family. You know the one. She sort of holds everything together when your crazy aunt is off making potions and magic organic household products, shampoos, soaps, and hand sanitizers, and your genius sister is popping fuses every time she tries to test her latest invention.

She’s the responsible one. The one who answers the phone every time; the one with the normal future that doesn’t involve getting swept up in mystery; the one who does it because she loves you no matter how weird things get in the nuthouse.

That’s Amy Goodnight. She’s ranch-sitting for her aunt (and baby-sitting her brilliant but intellectually distracted sister). Until construction on a bridge unearths a body and a ghost won’t leave Amy alone. She struggles maintain her aura of normalcy in front of the neighbor cowboy, Ben *cat-growl* as well as the Anthropology crew that shows up to take care of the body.

Make that “bodies”. As the body count grows higher, Amy’s might be the next one to be buried if she can’t get the whole ghost thing under control.

First Ten:

Goats.

Climbing trees.

There are goats climbing trees.

Leave a comment. How excited are you to get this book?


Aside

Book Breakdown: Oh. My. Gods.

In preparation for Memorial Day Weekend, I went to that wondrous place where dreams come true.

The library.

(We kindly request that the audience hold all nerd jokes until the conclusion of the performance)

I sort of got carried away. Twelve books later, I decided that maybe, perhaps, I could get rid of two.

So, one down, nine to go.

Book Breakdown:

(when you can’t choose what to read next)

Oh. My. Gods.

Tera Lynn Childs takes us inside the head of Phoebe, a high school cross country runner. Everyone has a hobby, a thing that makes them lose track of time, space, and the universe moves in perfect harmonious glory. For Phoebe, that’s running.

We get it. We understand. We lose ourselves with her as feet crunch gravel, sand, and track.

Phoebe is uprooted from her hometown in California when her mother gets remarried to a Greek, headmaster of a prestigious private school on an island. On the boat trip over, she discovers that everyone attending the school is a descendant of a Greek god including her stepfather and evil stepsister.

Phoebe’s only hope is to get a B average and a spot on the cross country team in order to get a scholarship to USC and move back home. How do you compete with demigods?

First Ten:

Voice, voice, voice. Let me be honest: this wouldn’t have made it to my library stack without voice. In the first ten pages, we are dropped at the end of a race, a moment of euphoria, and the best place to understand what is happening in Phoebe’s head.

Not really a runner? Doesn’t matter. You get it.

First person, present tense (I’ve been reading a lot of those, lately), Phoebe is a normal teen. She gets flustered, tongue-tied, but can be stunningly insightful and confident.

There’s a hint of mystery, a twist, competition, hot guys (descendants of gods, right?), cliques based on the Greek gods.

No actual gods in the book, though, so if you’re hoping for a Zeus/Poseidon/Hades throwdown, perhaps look elsewhere. 


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