Honest and lively YA book reviews
Cats!! Cats everywhere!!
I made the rookie mistake of allowing my cats to have complete freedom in my house. Now they do whatever the fuck they like with no regard for anyone's safety or personal space. They peed on my ex-flat mate's bed so many times that in the time she was living with us she had to buy seven new duvets. That was a little embarrassing.
They walk on the kitchen counters and sit right behind the stove while I'm cooking so that the minute my back is turned to get something out of the fridge their little heads are dipping into the pans, tasting and licking everything. I left a pot of soup out on the counter to cool and they walked in it. They walked in my soup. Every time a cupboard opens they're in it. My giant ginger cat is the worst for this. He has managed to get himself shut in the closet, the pan cupboard and the fridge amongst others. My siamese cat is like a dustbin. He eats anything and everything. He ate a packet of yogurt covered raisins last week. That's not even approaching resembling cat food. My husband says the pets are worse than having a baby. He says at least a baby doesn't move for a while. But the cats are into everything. They'll try and get into the shower with you for god's sake!!
They've smashed all my favourite mugs, made inroads into destroying most of my vast house plant collection and shredded an entire armchair. The giant cat has somehow (we haven't figured it all out yet) managed to work out how to get on top of the kitchen cabinets and waits up there until I go through to switch the kettle on in the morning before doing a dive-bomb sneak attack from above. That's a whole lotta cat to be coming at you from a height, believe me. And the crazy thing? We're adding another one to the mix. My husband has reserved an oriental kitten for me for Christmas. It's not a surprise, he had to let me know as she's not ready until next month. He didn't want me thinking I was getting nothing. So we've got a three-cat-tornado to look forward to - a force so destructive, so powerful the house will be reduced to ashes in it's wake.
I sound like I hate them. I don't. I adore them. They're incredibly loving, sweet and affectionate. They are literally the best cats I've ever met. But they don't come without their quirks, and none of my knit wear is safe.
I feel the same way about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I both loved it and despaired of it.
"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.”
The writing is beautiful. It's lyrical and flowing, and it wraps you up in a warm, all-enveloping hug. The prose has a wonderful romantic, airy feel to it with an undertone of something darker and dangerous. The balance of description and dialog is perfect. And the setting is fantastic. Laini Taylor makes Prague sound incredible:
"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 Motzart 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.”
I need to go there NOW!! Although ..... I've been disappointed by real city vs fictional city before. My husband and I visited Amsterdam last year, believing it to be a magical place of freedom and entertainment, rich history and party time. When we arrived it was nothing but a mass of driving rain, wild bicycles and far too many opportunities to get completely wasted. I might have had a better time under different circumstances, but as it stands I can't actually remember most of the trip and have a feeling I spent the majority of it either staggering around losing most of my possessions, or sleeping off a hangover on the floor of our hotel room. But that's all another story.
Karou is an enigma. A girl raised by creatures, forced to live between two worlds with no memory of where she came from or who she is. But things are changing and as the angels descend and the portals to her home are sealed, Karou must figure out the true nature of her existence in order to return to her family.
The first half of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is wonderful. I adore Karou. She is an artist. She is thoughtful and observant. She's independent, brave and sassy. She's ditched her boyfriend for being a dick (I think. I'm a bit muddled by this debacle) and has an amazing apartment, a brilliant friend in the form of the smart and entertaining Zuzana and lives this fast life in the city of Prague. In short, I kinda want to be her. Her relationship with Brimstone and the gang is pretty awesome. She collects teeth for the resurrectionist which requires her to travel the world through the use of the portals, to what end? Well ..... we're not quite sure yet. Karou has been shielded from the true nature of her quests by her chimera family.
Unfortunately, the book somewhat descends into a kinda generic YA love story when Akiva rocks up. You know the one? Where girl falls for the enemy - a badass hot boy, with totes amazeballs eye balls and a deep dark secret? Yeah, that one.
Akiva is a very confusing character, and he's such a fucking moaner. We are kept in the dark about his true nature and intent for quite a while. Initially all was well, as Karou was equally as confused as I was. However ..... Of course she's attracted to him. He's hawt!! His eyes have fire in them!! Why, oh why does every heroine in YA fiction have to fall to pieces when a good looking guy shows up? I feel like Karou was very mixed up about what is love and what is lust.
"The butterflies, the pounding heart, the blushing? The part where you enter each other's magnetic fields for the first time, and it's like invisble lines of energy are drawing you together."
“And they were quiet but their blood and nerves and butterflies were not—they were rampantly alive, rushing and thrumming in a wild and perfect melody, matched note for note.”
Heads up Karou!! Those butterflies? This ain't love, this is physical attraction!! This is your goddam lust-o-meter working overtime!! You don't see some guy and then fall instantly in love. No. Karou is mistaken. She doesn't know Avika. All she knows is on their first meeting he tried to kill her. Despite this incredible social blunder on his part (I mean, here's a tip for you guys - attempted murder is not a good way to impress a lady) Karou is willing, inexplicably to give him a chance. And then all of a sudden she's in love with him?! Oh-kay. It's just awkward and clunky and slows the pace to the speed of a snail with a head injury, carrying a badly packed rucksack.
I was in fact willing to overlook this cray-cray insta-love situation because I was drawn into the magic of the story and the beautiful prose really had me snagged, until we started getting bogged down in the whole past lives debacle.
I really enjoyed the premise behind this plot point - It is original, and interesting and wonderfully imagined. But while the idea is great, the execution is beyond lame and super disappointing. The story begins to switch between time periods and we're suddenly with this chick, Madrigal. Now, at this point I really couldn't give a crap about fucking goddam Madrigal!! I wanted to know what was going on with Karou. But instead I'm forced to read endless, infinitely dull description of Madrigal's dress, and her buddies and her walking around and something about hummingbirds and blah, blah, blah ..... Zzzzzz. It really is deadly boring. There are some interesting insights into Brimstone, and his work but it's so diluted by Madrigal wondering this and staring at that, that it seems to lose importance and almost blends in with the background. The war between the Chimera and Seraph is not at all well explained and doesn't fit properly, and sadly the book seems to suffer a particularly nasty case of info-dumping-itis. That flashback is looming, a great hulking mass squatting over the second half of the book and if there's one thing I can't stand it's a story told in the medium of flashback. It feels false, contrived and sucks the life out of what's happening in the present. I was already emotionally invested in Karou. I like her. I wanted to hear more about her shenanigans, not get lumped with Madrigal for 200 pages. I wish Laini Taylor had spread the flashback sequences evenly throughout the story rather than foisting it on us for all that time at the end. I think in this sense it's a pretty poorly balanced novel.
But the twist!! Points for the goddam twist!! It was pretty damn epic. Just somewhat poorly executed. I'm sad that this book couldn't maintain the pace which was developed in the first half, otherwise I'd be giving it five starts as I genuinely thought it could do no wrong until it crashed and burned in the middle. It's like my with my cats - they're all soft and warm, and they're purring and sweet and then they go and throw themselves at the living room blind, ripping the whole damn thing off the window. No-one's perfect I guess.
See y'all after!!