Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small lemon 0.5small out of 5 lemons

An angel fell in love with a devil.
Tragedy, war, and – O! Godstars – what a match they were.

Note: All books are reviewed in this blog post, so this is NOT spoiler-free.

Book 1: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

One of the reasons I fell in love from the beginning: the writing style. Taylor is beautifully enchanting as she wordsmiths. The author strings along syllables and letters with fervor that capture the power and emotion of a scene.

Sample quote: “Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

As for the content of the scenes, the plot was slow-moving, predictable at times, but this was highly off-set by the unique type of characters and world-building, as I’ve never read a story about chimera. I slowly warmed to the relationship (not a fan of insta!love), so I’m curious to see how Karou and Akiva’s story turns out. Karou’s character was mysterious and interesting, and her backstory as Madrigal was surprising, captivating in its splendor of unknown worlds and romance, but horrifying in its resolution. A reader truly gets swept into the new fantasy setting and host of characters, like little Ziri and cruel Thiago. It’s because of the shocking ending that I moved onto the next book, and I felt like a lamb to the slaughter…

Book 2: Days of Blood and Starlight

Can we talk about depressing?

The author, Laini Taylor, did everything possible – every evil thing possible – to make Karou suffer in this story. Following the first book in the series (which was a mix of fun, disaster, action, and mystery), this book is a complete downer. Read with a box of tissues and don’t be afraid to stop and scream into a pillow. This was a frustrating and terribly sad read for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved this book! The next installment picks up where the first book left off (that terribly awesome cliffhanger). Your questions are answered. The author slowly brings the readers back into the world of humans, chimera, and angels. The intense battle continues as Karou is supporting the chimera and finding out where she belongs in this war. Akiva exists on the other side of the war and is tormented by the thought of lost love and lingering hope. While I wanted more interaction between the two, I was interested in seeing the kinship between Ziri and Karou unfold. This is one of the highlights, if you’re interested in character development.

Taylor is a brilliant story-teller with her poetic prose, beautiful imagery, and pained plot. I’m very excited to read the next installment, as I yearn for a conclusion that can ease Karou’s torment. At least she is given some hope. I’m holding on.

Sample quote: “Daughter of my heart,’ was the message Brimstone sent just for Karou. She wanted to cry again right here in the court, thinking of it. ‘Twice-daughter, my joy. Your dream is my dream, and your name is true. You are all of our hope.”

Book 3: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Taylor gave me a satisfying and electric conclusion to this amazing trilogy. While I wanted more Karou and Akiva together (as sexual tension was killing me as I read this), the plot came together in a brilliant way. Pieces of the mystery, resolution to character problems, and a beautiful set-up for another series created a satisfying ending for me. And of course, the ending was perfect. After the disasters from book two, I needed my heartache to be soothed and heartbreak to be repaired.

Sample quote: “It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won—some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it—but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies. Food, weapons, happiness.” 

While I think the book was brilliant, I did find some of the fantasy confusing. Terminology was thrown at me left-and-right-and-up-and-down – terms that were not evident in the first two books, and it took away from my experience a bit. New characters were added, which I liked, but I found it strange that they just suddenly appeared during the conclusion of the trilogy. Honestly, this book concludes the story of the first two books and sets-up for new adventures – adventures I would like to continue reading.

This story had it all for me – lovely narrative, compelling characters, intense romance and action, thrilling fantasy, touches of comedy, and a satisfying ending.

Recommended for older teens who enjoy fantasy, angels, chimera, dramatic plot, and love enchantment.

Amazing fanart on deviantart.com:

Noggin

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small lemon 0.5out of 5 lemons

Outstanding, witty, and sarcastic story – one to lose your head over!

Summary: Travis Coates should have died. Instead, he signed up for a chance to live again, by removing his head from his body, freezing his consciousness, and transplanting himself (via head) to another. He missed five years of his life, and wakes up as if it was only a quick nap. Things have changed, but he hasn’t. He’ll do what he must to earn back his friends, girlfriend, and previously normal life in his new body.

Travis makes this book! Whaley captures the character’s voice brilliantly, and it was a compelling choice to make Travis the first-person narrator, who can tell his own story. He’s charming, hilarious, and heart-breaking all at the same time, flawed in his decision-making and perfectly adolescent. (Though, let’s hope that not all teenage boys stalk and harass their ex-girlfriends. There is such a thing as limits.) This book is an easy read, due to how relatable this character is. I always wanted to know what happened next, and Travis never failed me.

Okay, he may have disappointed me a bit, but never failed me. Travis is human, he makes mistakes, he experiences denial, and eventually he learns the devastation of having to move on (#sorrynotsorry for the spoiler alert, kinda). He’s powerful and intense. There is a raw energy about this book, and you’d have to be inhuman not to connect. Strong character growth, funny dialogue, and an excellent supporting cast. The only issue I have is the slightly open ending. I wanted a bit more resolution, but it’s fine. I got what I wanted.

Recommended for older teenage boys. Someone once described this book to me as a “dude” book, and that is probably the best way to describe the book overall.

If you liked this book, you might try Fat Boy Vs the Cheerleaders.

The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1)

Score: lemon_1smalllemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4smallout of 5 lemons

A magical journey if Harry Potter was underground, adopted a sarcastic and pessimistic personality, and decided to fight against his destiny.

Callum Hu20578940nt is determined to fail. Growing up, Call has always been told by his father that magic is corrupt. In order to stay away from magic, he needs to fail The Iron Trial and avoid being admitted to the magical school Magisterium. Call is admitted to the school despite his best efforts to fail. While at Magisterium, Call learns more about himself, his magical abilities, and the secrets his father has been keeping from him.

The formula is there. Young boy with one male and one female companion, check. Mysterious magical school hidden away from the world, check. An evil villain hiding in the shadows, check. Even the plot follows a similar path: young boy who has faced death as an infant is transported to a magical school where he will develop his magical abilities with the assistance of element Masters in order to stop the evil Enemy. Throw in a unique world, sinister atmosphere, and a collaboration between two authors, and you’ve got the Magisterium series (a five book series).

While I see the formula and how much it’s like Harry Potter, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I read this in two sittings. I would have read it in one had I not fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning. I was completely hooked. It was an enchanting read, and I wanted to know more about the characters and story. The plot twists surprised me, and I loved every minute of this, regardless of it possibly being a rip-off of another successful series.

Smoky Night

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small out of 5 lemons

Smoky Night challenges readers to think about themselves. In the story, a young African American boy, his cat Jasmine, and his mother watch the riots unfolding in the streets of Los Angeles, as the reckless public steal a TV, clothes, and even groceries from Mrs. Kim’s Korean grocery store. The boy and his mother go to sleep in their day clothes, when a fire ignites within their apartment building, and they are forced to flee to a shelter with their neighbors. Two missing cats help to mend the discord in people’s hearts.

“They probably didn’t know each other before,” says the young boy, about the two cats who were reunited after the fire.

Smoky Night is a thought-provoking, serious picture book with themes of racism, violence, tolerance, and acceptance. At first, the two cats do not like each other, but enduring a difficult situation together brings them closer, and gives them the opportunity to understand one another. Likewise, the community follows suit, starting with the boy’s mother and Mrs. Kim by extending and accepting an invitation to learn more about each other. This picture book has a beautiful message amiss the violence. Published in 1994, Smoky Night is a remarkable social commentary about its time.

The powerful illustrations are just as beautiful. The picture book mixes various mediums, such as acrylic paintings, hand-lettered techniques, and relevant, carefully composed real-life backgrounds arranged and photographed by David Diaz. The unique style shows that it is every bit deserving of its Caldecott medal through its use of texture, themes, and provoking story. My only criticism is that a young child (and even adults) may not be able to interpret some content in the photographed backgrounds due to its abstract nature.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this story, particularly for classroom lessons and discussion for children. This offers the chance and challenge for children to engage in their ideas about community, racism, cooperation, and differences. Parents may also want to share this story at home to help children navigate these subjects.

Fangirl

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small out of 5 lemons

Just stamp “Rowell fan” on my forehead, and be done with it! I devoured this book. If only I didn’t have those pesky adult responsibilities, I would have read this in one sitting! The quirky tone of this book, charismatic and realistic characters, and marvelous fanfiction scripts made this book for me. Halfway through, I was inspired (more like, compelled) to Google if Rowell would consider writing and publishing the Simon novels separate from this story (even for its Harry Potter likeness). One can hope! Readers like me would be first line!

Background Blurb: From when I was 14 years old, I was obsessed with fanfiction. Literally, obsessed. This was around the time I discovered the video game franchise, Kingdom Hearts, due to the release of the first game and my love for anime began to truly blossom. As a young girl, I watched Toonami and Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, and on, but it wasn’t until Inuyasha that I wanted to explore these animated worlds more creatively as a writer and reader. Then, I moved onto Harry Potter fanfiction, and slash. There is something about the tension between the hero and dark rival that inspires other sorts of tension *cough* sexual *cough*. Drarry will forever be in my adolescent heart, and it has carried on into adulthood. There are some wonderful writers out there who started with fanfiction, and no, I’m not talking about Stephanie Meyer. (Side note: The Lemon Librarian does NOT refer to fanfiction lemons.)

 
That was a big piece of the book I enjoyed – the fanfiction and excerpts from the original books and stories Magicath wrote with her sister. Admittedly, I was gushing. It was interesting how they would sometimes apply to the main character’s journey. I wish there was a bit more of it, considering the book is titled “Fangirl”. That’s what brilliant writers do – they leave you wanting more! I almost felt like Cath in the book, who could do get enough of the characters. She felt so immersed in her characters and writing that she neglected her real life responsibilities. But sometimes, that’s how we feel – like we want to escape. Life can be hard sometimes.

Not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, but I can reiterate that if you enjoy realistic fiction, fanfiction, romance, college stories, and fictional characters struggling with family baggage and mental disorders – all flavored with Rowell’s charming and eccentric style – then you should read this one. It’s a keeper! Purchase for your library and personal bookshelves.

Though, I did deduct a star for its slow start and unclear direction of the story. Plus, I would have enjoyed hearing a bit more about the main character’s coursework, since I felt much of the book stressed the importance of a personal assignment, but never got around to discussing it as much as her fanfiction. I wanted more of that – personal preference.

Overall, well done with 4 out of 5 lemons! I’m onto Rowell’s other books. Look for those reviews to come!

Unearthly (Unearthly #1)

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4smallout of 5 lemons

Reading this book after the paranormal romance Shiver (and frankly that past read being a disappointment), I was a bit anxious. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a few years, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Finally, I found some time, and I wish I would have read it sooner!

Unearthly follows your atypical teenage girl slash half-angel, Clara, who is coming into her own… angel wings. Clara begins having visions about her destiny and a boy standing in a forest fire. After the visions start and clues begin to surface, Clara and her family move to an unknown snowy country town. Determined to make sense of her angelic purpose, she befriends mysterious and handsome, Christian while dodging the encounters with the rugged Tucker. Pulled between duty and love, Clara resolves to make a choice.

This is the angel story I chose to read over any of the other contenders. Let’s chat about character development, which this story oozes! As the main protagonist, readers are welcomed into the mind of Clara, as she agonizes over what she is meant to do and what she wants. Clara’s thoughts are narrated throughout the story as she stumbles through her understanding with the aid of her new friends. She makes errors, learns, and recovers. She balances angelic perfection with human error. Her character is flawed and likable, as she navigates first love, friendship, and responsibility she is unable to turn away from.

While the other characters don’t develop as much, the reader is given insight into their feelings, thoughts, and motives. The theme of family largely embodies this work, as Clara’s angelic strong mother. Her mother has reasons for her unyielding treatment of Clara, as she coaches her daughter through trials without revealing her unknown secrets. Her relationship with her brother is typical sibling, as they help each other out when necessary, such as with flying, but frequently bicker when it comes to sports tryouts, laying low, and poor decisions.

What had me was the story. Sure, you may think you can predict this read – go ahead and try – but Cynthia Hand will turn it around and keep you guessing. The romance and love story is pure enjoyment. I was pulled into the birthday dates, fishing, and sweet adventures. The romance is slowly developed with great care, which is most-appreciated! Insta!love is a thing I despise! While teenage love is intense and inspiring, Hand knows how to masterfully progress relationships. And those witty plot twists at the end – thank you! Keep them coming!

However, that boring conclusion was unnecessary. The author could have removed the last couple of pages, left readers on a shocking cliffhanger, and it would have been more exciting. The story did not need a dry narrative about Clara taking a shower and reminiscing on the turn of events. Don’t slowly end the drama with this trivial nonsense. End on a tortuous cliffhanger and open book two with this drivel.

Now a fan, I’m eager to read book two and uncover more about the nature of angels, the consequences of Clara’s choices, and further courtship between characters. SO! Four out of five lemons, but this is a true winner in the angel/paranormal romance genre for young adults.