31 January 2012

The actual review for Daughter of Smoke and Bone

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Little Brown

Ok, so yesterday’s post was kinda mean.  Well, not mean, but it wasn’t really a review as much as it was a demanding rant.
Sorry about that.
But The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best books I’ve read in a while.  Holy crap it’s good.  It’s so good that when it ended, I didn’t pick up another book for three days because I couldn’t imagine reading anything else.  And in my world, not picking up a book for three days is a big deal.  HUGE.  My guy was a little worried when I was reading magazines and…gasp…talking to him instead of ignoring him (in my defense, he likes to read as well and is rarely offended when I ignore him).
Every time I give the premise of Daughter, people look at me like I’m nuts.  It’s so involved and so intricate it can be a little confusing.  So stick with me for a minute mmkay?
17 year old Karou lives a double life in Prague.  On the one hand she’s an extremely talented art student who doesn’t have a family and is a little mysterious. On the other hand she’s an errand girl for the chimaera (mythical beings made up of different animals and human parts) who raised her.  However, because they are part animal, part human, the chimaera do not venture out into the human world.  Karou must access them through a one-way portal: she knocks on a door and it is opened to her.  If she tries to open the door from the outside, she cannot enter.  Brimstone, the head chimaera, is a Wishmonger – if you bring him things he wants, he pays in wishes.  And usually what he wants are teeth.  Karou is usually sent out to collect teeth from all kinds of people, both normal and…well…unsavory.  Upon returning from an errand, Karou notices a handprint has been seared into the door of the portal. About a week later, she is attacked by a seraph – a super hot angel dude.  Shortly thereafter, all the portals burn down and Karou is left alone in the human world.  As she tries desperately to find a way back to the only family she’s ever known, the seraph – Akiva – reappears in her life, and Karou is drawn to him for completely inexplicable reasons.
And that? Is only about a third of the actual plot.  The plot is amazing – twists and turns and creativity I never would have imagined. The world Taylor creates is mystical and fantastic and so completely believable you will get lost in it.  And not lost as in “ohmygoodness where am I”, lost as in “I have animals to feed and a job to do? Pah.  I shall read and nothing else”.
And on the last page, you will simultaneously want to hug and curse Taylor.  Hug her because she has created this amazing work of fiction that is romance, action, fantasy wrapped together with a little comedy, and curse her because the sequel Days of Blood and Starlight  (the title was just announced Friday on Taylor’s blog) isn’t due out until this fall.  Oh, the horror.  I seriously don’t know if I can wait that long.  I’ve already contacted Taylor and begged for an advanced copy.
And yes, I will be sending her a link to this review in the hopes that she finds me witty and charming and sends me an advanced copy.
If not, you can bet your knickers I WILL NOT work immediately following the release of Days of Blood and Starlight. I will be reading and neglecting the rest of my life for at least 24 hours.
I also just noticed on her blog that Universal already owns the film rights.  There are only 52 days left until Hunger Games the movie is released.  And you all know how excited I am about that right?  NO LIE: I’d trade Hunger for Daughter.  THAT’S HOW AWESOME IT IS.
So go read it. Now.

30 January 2012

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor
Little Brown

There are about a thousand ways I could/can start this review. But I feel like this one sums it up the best:
Stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go check out Daughter of Smoke and Bone and read it.
Why, dear friend are you still reading this review?!?! Were the capital letters not urgent enough?  Did I not make myself clear?
I swear, you’ll love this book and be completely annoyed that the sequel isn’t due out for another six months.
Now go.

Updated:  I felt bad about this review, so here's the for realsies review 

17 January 2012

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Zombies vs. Unicorns
Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Obviously, with a title like Zombies vs. Unicorns I had to read it.  It did not disappoint, though it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be either.  Of course, I went off of the assumption that it would be a scholarly debate based in fact and research (ahem).  It isn’t.  It’s actually a collection of stories by various YA authors who are either “Team Unicorn” or “Team Zombie”.  The banter between editors Black and Larbalestier at the beginning of each story was the only debate throughout the book, and it’s snort-out-loud funny.
The book started because of a twitter war between Black and Larbalestier about which was better: zombies or unicorns.  Larbalestier is Team Zombie and Black is Team Unicorn.  When I first heard about the book, my I’m-too-much-of-a-wussie-to-watch-scary-movies side immediately agreed with Black that unicorns kick undead hiney.  But when I saw the authors’ that made up Team Zombie, I decided I’d have to give the walking dead a chance.  After finishing the book, the debate still has not been settled: there were excellent zombie and unicorn stories, but there were also crappy/weird stories from both teams as well.  Here’s my favs and my least favs.

Scores for Team Unicorn:
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund – in a world where unicorns are actually savage beasts, a girl saves a baby unicorn from certain death at the hands of a creeptastic  carnie and raises it in spite of putting herself directly in the path of danger.  And razor sharp unicorn teeth.
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot – I swear I didn’t like this book just because of the author.  It’s Liz’s birthday and her aunt sends her the most interesting present ever: a for realsies unicorn.  Little does she realize that unicorns aren’t actually my pretty ponies, and Liz must learn how to take care of Princess Prettypants while also trying to win back her friends, all of whom she ticked off on her birthday.

Scores for Team Zombie:
Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare – Adele and James are a young couple in love in the town Lychgate, aka Zombietown.  But when James dies in a car accident, everyone assumes they will not live happily ever after, since Luke will probably come back as a zombie.  Did I mention Luke was supposed to be the Duke of Lychgate?  Yeah, Adele is out to prove that he was murdered.  It’s an awesome story.
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan – the island of little CuraƧao is a safe haven against zombie – mudo – infestation, and Iza’s father runs the island with an iron fist.  Iza feels stifled and isn’t sure that the way her father runs things will actually keep them safe.  Then one day a mysterious stranger appears on the dock.  Iza should report him, but for some reason she doesn’t, and…well…all hell breaks loose.

Strikeouts in general, regardless of team:
A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan – princess makes it with a unicorn, gets preggers, goes downhill from there.  Way too weird for me, and I can handle weird.
Inoculata by Scott Westerfield – this kills me to say because I heart Scott Westerfield.  I was so excited to read his story and it totally left me feeling meh. In a zombie infested world, there is a group of people living in isolation beyond a fence.  One kid figures out how to get zombie-fied w/o going crazy and then all the kids want to.

This is definitely a book for anyone who likes short stories and stories that present interesting twists on old topics. Even though there were a few misses within the collection, in general, it was a very fun read, and if you find yourself bored with the stories, spend a few minutes looking at the book cover - it depicts an all out battle between zombies and unicorns and is, well, hilarious.

In the end, I’m totally team Unicorn: I’ll take rainbow farts over rotting flesh any day of the week.

13 January 2012

I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

I'm Not Her
Janet Gurtler

I read a review or two of this book, put it on hold and waited for about two months to get it.  Usually, that's a sign of a really good book.  By the time I got the book, I'd completely forgotten about it.  When I read the description, I almost turned it back in without reading it.  I couldn't remember why people had said it was soooo great.  And now that I've read it, even I can't necessarily put my finger on why it's soooo great.  But it is.
Maybe I love the book so much because I feel like Tess is me and her perfect, athletic sister is my sister Nikki.  Tess likes herself just the way she is, and though Kristina is pretty content lets her be herself, she also encourages Tess to be a bit more social.  I think that's how things were (and probably still are) with Nikki and I.  Granted, my sister never had to encourage me to be social.  But I was (and still am) awkward, especially when you put me next to my tall, stunning sister.  I might not be shy, but when Nikki walks into a room, you can't help but notice her (I just make people notice me by being loud and often somewhat obnoxious.  I prefer the term charming, but whatever).
The twist of the book comes when Kristina is diagnosed with bone cancer.  All of a sudden her popularity weaves its way into Tess' life, and Tess likes it and hates it.  Tess has always been somewhat invisible in her sister’s shadow, and not just to Kristina’s friends, but also to her parents.  Suddenly, Kristina’s friends – who couldn’t be bothered to notice Tess before – are constantly around wondering why Kristina won’t return their calls, and her parents expect Tess to “be strong” even when they refuse to deal with the situation themselves.  Throughout the book Tess is completely torn between being angry that her sister’s situation has upended her life and dealing with the horror and the sadness she feels about her sister having such a devastating form of cancer.
I love that Gurtler made the parents fallible but not self-absorbed.  The parents have faults, and up until their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, they were able to cover those faults with style or academia.  When faced with the dilemma of their daughter’s illness, they don’t know how to cope with the reality of the situation or the emotions that come along with knowing their lives aren’t perfect and their perfect athlete daughter might end up an amputee.  I also love that Tess was not only mature and level headed, able to step in and be the adult when her parents were unable/unwilling, but also a girly teenager, completely controlled by her hormones.  Tess struggles to balance school – she really wants to be one of the freshmen chosen for National Honor Society, her friend(s) – including her former best friend and the multiple boys who now notice she exists and her parents – whose habit of turning a blind eye and acting like all is normal are not only affecting their relationship, but Tess’ grades and Krisina’s recovery.
In the end I know that my life and my relationship with my sister (and my entire family) is very different from Tess’, though I probably felt a lot like she did when I was a freshman in high school. The bond that Tess felt with her sister and the way it grew and evolved throughout the book was pretty close to the relationship I had with my sister:  we were different and we frustrated the heck out of each other, but it was in high school that we learned to talk to each other, confide in each other and value each other for our differences.

12 January 2012

The Power of a Good Book

For Christmas this year, my dear friend Kami gave me this necklace.  To most people, it would just be a pretty necklace.  But for me, it's one of the most amazing gifts ever.
As soon as I saw the necklace, I said "Ohmygosh, this reminds me of Revolution!"  Kami hadn't read the book, so I - of course - had to give her a rundown of what happens and why it's so amazing.
Yes, I'll admit that most people have not achieved my unbelievable level of book-freakishness, but I know I'm not alone in relating certain things in life to the books I've read.  I make obscure book references often.  I try to keep those references in my head unless I’m fairly certain those around me will catch on to the reference.  I don’t want everyone to know the true level of my book-weirdness.  But I digress…
When we read a book that moves us, it sticks with us, and even though we may not think about that book or character for a while, it only takes a little push, a little reminder, to shoot us back into that world.  This morning, as I was putting this necklace on, I remembered Andi’s voice: her bitterness, her pain, and her absolute obsession with a secret diary that made her feel crazy and, ultimately, helped save her.  I know that I have read books that make me feel crazy while I’m reading them – whether it’s because of the pictures I create in my head (Coraline by Neil Gaiman took my fear of rats and crazy mothers to a whole new level) or because of the emotions they stir up in me (please, please read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness if you like to be moved by literature.  Or read Revolution! Both will rock your socks, I promise).
Regardless of why and how the book moves you, the important thing is that you are moved.  As a librarian, that movement is one of the many things we strive for.  Even though the library isn't just about books anymore, and sometimes in a school library, we spend more time focusing on technology, 21st Century Skills and research, we still love to see students absolutely engrossed in books, we love it when they come in raving about a great book, and we really love it when they connect a great book they've read to something as obscure as...a necklace.  Even though we do so much more than just book talks, we still want every patron to find books that make them feel, or forget the world around them for a little while.  And that, my friends, is the power of a good book.

Happy Reading!