Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor
Book 1 of Daughter of Smoke and Bone

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Side Note (2/25/2018):  This review has been slightly edited from the original that was posted at Goodreads over five years ago.  It was my intention to fix the repetitive, nonsensical rambling that appeared as words during my brainstorming of this review.  I'm not sure I really accomplished that...
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?

I started writing down thoughts when I was halfway through the book.  There were a lot of details; and then the new plot-arc that had my mind reeling.  I wanted to be able to have my thoughts down while I could still remember them.  And I wanted to be able to word them properly since my feelings about Daughter of Smoke and Bone was all I really had.  But after a few sentences, an entire review manifested almost immediately.

So for now, excuse the rambling that ensues starting from here on out.

Once again, I’m conflicted about this book.  On the one hand, it’s written very well with great prose and style, excellent dialogue, and an undertone of dry humor that I love.  The ideas are creative, the world is unique; there’s an almost mythical legendary feel to the storytelling.  And I really, really like it.

Karou makes for an awesome, kickass, strong heroine amidst a dangerous world hidden in modern society.  A paranormal or fantastical world hidden within the modern world with our heroine harboring a big secret and living a double life--this is the type of world creation I adore.  The rest of the world is created in such detail that I can actually see a different adventure unfolding with different main characters if given the chance.  The progression of the story is very smooth and paced in a way that I can accept without fault.  In fact, I really DO love the way that the entire book was written, the way the characters were introduced, the subtle humor and witty dialogue... I even enjoy the underlying main conflict of the war between seraphs and chimaera--it’s pretty epic, actually.

In all honesty, I enjoyed all of that.

But then there’s that SOMETHING that I barely put my finger on that makes Daughter of Smoke and Bone not work for me.  I don’t know if it has to do with the Angel and Demon motifs or maybe it’s the “Fated to Be” true love device.  Was it the over-emphasis of a lot of things that we, as the readers, already knew to be true?  Was it even the slight tangent into the past that I didn’t really care to read about over four (?) chapters that could have just as easily been a short two chapter flashback?

I’ve never been one to dismiss paranormal just because of a particular theme I don’t care for (vampires, werewolves, demons... the like).  And I DO like slight detours into the history of our characters if it means I understand their lives a little better.  So maybe it’s the whole “Fated to Be” true love device that’s getting to me.  Oh yes, and also the continued, pounding into our heads of certain facts: Akiva and Karou are beautiful beings, Akiva and Karou were meant to be lovers, Akiva and Karou are mortal enemies, Akiva and Karou are meant for no other.

Is it too harsh of me to say, in a very exasperated tone that: Yea, I get it already, so stop mentioning it every other chapter.

As for the grand romance: I get the scenario and it’s written beautifully; however, I just can’t seem to get behind the idea.  And maybe this is just a case of “It’s not you, it’s me” when it comes to this book.  Because the story itself isn’t bad, the writing is excellent, and I love the characters from Karou, to Brimstone, to Zuzana.  They’re great.

I’m even not too repulsed by Akiva despite the many, many, many, many references to his beauty, which... I get it, he’s an angel and he’s molded as perfection and he’s beautiful.  And Karou is beautiful and, in spite of all of her scars, she is also akin to perfection.  There’s no need to pound that into my brain; once or twice is enough, and thank GOD Akiva doesn’t sparkle.  Or does he?  In his own angelic way?

Aside from his perfection, there’s also something about Akiva that doesn’t sit right with me.  Basically, he's a stalker-ish pretty boy, which is almost akin to another sparkly stalker-ish pretty boy I'd rather not mention.  But it's okay, because he's pretty and he's made of perfection, so we don't see a stalker-ish pretty boy, but big romantic gestures...

Or something like that, right?  Oh look, I found something to dislike about this book!

All of the conflicting emotions coming in a “‘Fated to Be’ so I can’t kill you and am instead just going to stalk you” scenario bugs me.  That is definitely why I don’t like Akiva.  It is also why I didn't like the romance.

Okay, maybe I was a little repulsed by Akiva.  Maybe a little.

On top of that, I started losing track of how many times Karou and Akiva spend time questioning why they're drawn to each other like some supernatural force--it's pretty much YA speak for, "the author wants readers to know that the two are supposed to be a couple, for no other reason than 'just because that's how it was planned in the outline.'"  I mean, it could be that they're just physically attracted to each other as typically happens in real life, but due to reasons (chimaera vs. seraphs, yo) they can't be together.  But like most confused teenagers, they can't figure out their feelings and have already decided that love is in the air, and so cue the angst.

The insta-lust attraction is the most obvious explanation since I had yet to see either of the two bond over anything other than a compulsory physical attraction.

A fact that, much like Karou and Akiva being perfection embodied, is repeated over and over again, like I didn't already figure it out.

Story-wise, I pretty much had the "BIG SECRET" about Karou figured out way earlier in the game than Akiva did.  The scenario and direction of this particular telling was just plain obvious... which then falls back into why the two were so drawn to each other... which really didn't make the big romance any better, to be honest.  I would have rather preferred the insta-lust scenario more, because at least there's potential for attraction to become love if the two were ever given book time enough to bond rather than angst about how pretty each other is.

Because, when and where do we cross the wrong lines in a lifetime where a grand love is anchored on this type of basis?  I'm still conflicted about it, and I definitely don't like it.  It probably works for a lot of other people, such a grand scale romance based on Fate or the like.  But I just don't see it.

Fortunately, the book itself is written well and the heroine is pretty badass.  And I loved Zuzana because she’s wicked funny and a little crazy (but in a good way). The chimaera are interesting creatures and I can’t wait to see more of them.  The lore and the world created in Daughter of Smoke and Bone is nothing short of excellent; I can’t stop loving every time I come across a book that has such a complete world that I can, as I mentioned above, imagine other characters taking on an adventure all their own.

To the point (and I reinforce that I am a HUGE hopeless romantic), I found myself enjoying parts of the book that had nothing to do with the grand romance.  In fact, I absolutely loved the first half of this book up until the point where Akiva officially comes into the picture and meets Karou, face-to-face.


It’s a good read and I enjoyed it.

I had let it sit for a while to let the feeling of obligatory reading fade, but I was almost reluctant to pick it up again.  But when I DID pick it up again, at least the writing kept me grounded enough to finish the book.  There's still that sense of "need" that I had to move on from one chapter to the next because the story was unfolding some sense of excitement in me.  But there was also that need to just finish the darn book and be over it.

As you can tell, I was and am still extremely conflicted about this book.

I mean, I really DID enjoy it and have an itching to pick out the next book.  But I’m not sure if I’ll be in much of an awful hurry to read the rest of the series or not.  If that even makes any sense... It’s written extremely well, and that, at least has me hopeful that maybe I’ll enjoy the rest of it now that the initial “Meet Cute” of our lovers is out of the way.  Had it been a different kind of story with a different type of emphasis (not the “eternal fated romance between unearthly beautiful beings” persuasion), I might have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

For all it’s worth (at the risk of being repetitive... like this book’s romance), I really DID like the book a lot up until the fated official meeting where Akiva and Karou choose to defy all instinctual “you’re my enemy” logic and hang together, while at the same time keeping their “you’re my enemy” logic hanging like a giant elephant in the room as a verbal barrier... and then they make eyes at each other and flirt like lovers.

But who am I to judge two people in love, right?  The concept takes all forms even IF it escalates rather quickly from physical attraction.

For what it’s worth, I totally loved all the side characters from Zuzana to Brimstone... and maybe even Kaz for his predictable comic of assholery.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in July 2013.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Very Brief Series Review: St. Helens

St. Helens

by Jayne Castle (a.k.a. Jayne Ann Krentz)
Book #1:  Amaryllis | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #2:  Zinnia | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #3:  Orchid | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

Series Average Rating:  3.0 Stars

The truth is that I can't really remember anything about these books outside of the fact that they were entertaining enough for me to finish reading.  The characters were good, even if the romances were fairly dated, with virginal heroines, and pushy, irrational alpha heroes.

The suspense was fun.  There were no dust bunnies to make the experience more interesting...

And really, that was all.  Because in the end, all three books felt like they were pretty much the same story.  I'm giving it an average rating, mainly because it's Jayne Castle, and I like Jayne Castle.

Amaryllis Lark is undeniably beautiful.  She's also one of the best psychic detectives on St. Helen's, the earth colony recently cut off from the mother planet, yet not very different from home--a place where love still defies the most incredible odds.  Lucas Trent, the rugged head of Lodestar Exploration, isn't keen on the prim and proper type - and, from her neatly buttoned up business suit to her cool evaluation of his request to bust a corporate thief, Amaryllis is EXCRUCIATINGLY proper!

Amaryllis may have psychic powers, but she can't read minds--least of all her own.  When a bold hunch leads them from a wild murder investigation to a red-hot love affair, Amaryllis is shocked, Lucas is delighted, - and no power on heaven, earth, or St. Helen's can keep them apart!

She's called the 'Scarlet Lady'--but only Zinnia Spring would rise above her shocking nickname by dressing defiantly in red.  Ever since a false tabloid story ruined her reputation and her interior design business, this headstrong lady has made a living using her psychic abilities--a highly prized skill that sets her apart on the space colony of St. Helen's.  But when she's hired by casino owner Nick Chastain, their meeting of the minds--and hearts--has her seeing stars....

Nick Chastain craves what he doesn't have--respectability.  He calls on Zinnia's powers to help find his father's journal, and to dig up answers to his own mysterious past.  Zinnia doesn't have to be psychic to know what else Nick wants; together they're an explosive combination that may just blow St. Helen's sky-high with intrigue, danger, and a passion that's anything but predictable.  But when a ruthless killer crosses their search, Zinnia must risk everything she's got - in a love affair where the winner takes all.

A top psychic for exclusive Psynergy Inc., Orchid Adams doesn't expect even the best marriage agencies on the space colony of St. Helen's to find her a husband who measures up to her dreams.  It's just as well, because she's got her hands full with a baffling murder.  One thing is certain: her new client, Rafe Stonebraker, is definitely not marriage material.  But Rafe--primitive, elemental, powerful, perhaps dangerous--is perfect for an affair....

An unlicensed private eye with an edgy reputation and a psychic talent so awesome he hides its true power, Rafe has some serious secrets.  Not only is he trying to solve a strange theft, he is about to replace his grandfather as CEO of Stonebraker Shipping and is fighting to ward off a hostile takeover.  He needs a wife--and fast--to salvage his credibility.  Orchid Adams doesn't fit the profile he had in mind, but she fits in his arms.  Will their mind/body merger spark a rollicking and rocky partnership, just as his latest case threatens to end their world?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- April and May 2018

I thought I was developing a new average for me, to have read six books in the month of April.  And yes, considering my normal monthly "books read" average is usually around 10 to 15 books--at least in the past couple years it has been--this is considered a slow month for me.  But then May drew around and I ended up only finishing one book.  Yes--only one book.

In the meantime, I had barely posted anything on this blog.

It's been THAT kind of feeling, both abandoning my reading and my blog.  So I will just wallow in my own rain and feel bad.

And thus, we are getting a combined April and May Monthly Reading Wrap Up.

Although, to be honest, I'm not entirely complaining, or really that sad about not having  blogged anything throughout the entire month of May.  I've been giving my attention to other forms of entertainment, which also makes me extremely happy.  And isn't that all that matters?

In terms of blogging and socializing, I feel like I'm batting zero for zero here, though.  I think I spent, maybe all of two seconds on Booklikes the past few weeks, and that was just to check on a blog post I'd written a long time ago.

Anyway, this wouldn't be the first time I've gone on hiatus with a blog of mine; however, this would be the first time I've felt really bad about it since I truly DO love reading and blogging about books.  In the past, I'd done blogs for anime and manga and even live drama of the Asian variety... but I don't think I ever really got into those, and let them fall to the wayside without any qualms.

But as we can see... I'm still hanging on.

Which, I think, is why I'm allowing myself a chance to take a break from blogging and reading as vigorously as I'd been doing the past couple years.  I think this will be good for me, in that I will probably be less social online for a while, but will still try to post something, sometimes, whenever I'm feeling the mood.  I don't know how long this hiatus will last, but I'm hoping to jump back in sometime, at least before the end of the year.

I love writing reviews, and I love discussing books, but because I always end up subconsciously putting myself on a schedule, I think I wear myself out.  Try as I might to take the blogging scene in a leisurely fashion, I will always eventually start stressing about my own self-dictated deadlines and whatnot.  And while I had that kind of drive last year, the year before, and even the year before that, I think it's time for a little vacation.

To anyone still paying attention:  I'm still here.  But for now, I'm probably going to be pretty sporadic and scarce in my postings.

April Reads

May Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

Yes, I know.  Despite the fact that my reading mood has been low lately, I sure have started a lot of books already since the month of May...  Then I went ahead and started Mistress of Mellyn as June rolled around; of course, this was a book I had intended to start reading in May.

And yes, I'm still working on All I Want by Jill Shalvis.  I intend to finish it, because I only have so much of the audio book left, and it's the last book in the series published thus far.  It seems way too much of a shame to quit now.

April Reading Stats

Total works read:  6
  • 6 print/e-book novels

Average rating: 3.08 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  Blood Surfer by Debra Jess // 3.5 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  5 books // 3.0 Stars
    • All the rest of the books--I'm not listing them.

Series I started reading:
  • Thunder City by Debra Jess
Series I completed:
  • Whispering Springs by Jayne Ann Krentz
  • St. Helens by Jayne Castle
Series I have made progress on:
  • I-Team by Pamela Clare

Favorite reads:  The truth is, this was a slow enough month that I really didn't have a favorite of all the books I read in April.  I always enjoy Jayne Ann Krentz, and I always enjoy Pamela Clare... but no dice this month.  Even the one, highest rated book of the month, Blood Surfer was really not all that great, as you can see by the average 3.5 star rating.

Disappointing reads:  In disappointments, however, I'm sad to say that I HAD hoped that Pamela Clare's newest I-Team installment would bring back all my Rom-Suspense feels that I had when I first discovered her.  But either I was just not in the right mood, or the book didn't work for me.  So, yes, slightly disappointment there.

May Reading Stats

Total works read:  1
  • 1 print/e-book novel

Average rating: 3.0 Stars -- Lady Beneath the Veil by Sarah Mallory

Series:  Did not start, make progress on, or finish any series.

Favorite reads:  I read one book for May... and the truth is, I didn't really like it.

Disappointing reads:  See above.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • Did Not Meme This Month!

Other Posts

Coming Up In June

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

I honestly don't know what I want to read or what I want to blog about in May.  I'm actually 75% finished with my Author Love Challenge, having read nine Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle books, out of the proposed goal of twelve.  So I only need to finish three more and I'll have accomplished my task.

Meanwhile, I suppose I need to start thinking about the second half of the Reading Assignment Challenge, coming up with a new list of books--I'm definitely sticking with one book a month for the rest of the year.  I'll probably be able to propose a new list sometime soon, scheduled to post by the end of the June--brainstorming is already in progress.

I'm still keeping to a really light reading and blogging activity, and while I'm posting very rarely and sporadically, I will still try to post.  Reviews, however, may or may not be written since I've been really lazy and just not in the mood.  There are a few reviews I've already written that will probably see the light of day within the next couple weeks after I've given them a final edit.

Then... I might work on some review transfers from stuff I've posted on either Goodreads or BookLikes prior to this blog's creation.

2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

(updated as year progresses by month)
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Packaged Thoughts June 2018: All the Books I Will Not Review Individually

Here we are with another year of Packaged Thoughts!  And it's the middle of the year, and Happy Birthday to me!

Or well, it would have been if I'd gotten around to posting in on the right day.  But we're only a day off, so it doesn't matter.

And just as well, I didn't have much to include in this package anyway.  I'm not even sure I can really call a two-book review a package, but whatever...

So we might just call this a personal news update as well...  =D

In that particular personal news, my family and I have just recently returned from a short vacay in Dallas, Texas--mainly to visit with my eldest brother, and just because we haven't truly had a full family vacation in a very, very long time.  We've had a lot of mini family vacations where at least one or two immediate family members were not present, and I can recall that the last time all six of us were together on a vacation was probably before I started college.... which would have been over ten years ago!

That's life for you, I guess.  But really, visiting my eldest brother in Texas just doesn't feel completely like a family vacation since he lives there now.  Maybe one of these days we can all find time to go somewhere else, like the east coast or the west coast... or a cruise of some sort.

Meanwhile, here are all the (two) books I decided would not get their own individual reviews, for one reason or another.  I usually plan this post out a couple months in advance, so even though I only collected two books that I wanted to include in this package, I decided to just run with it and get it published.

Thanks for reading!

Blood Surfer (Thunder City #1)
by Debra Jess
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I... don't remember anything about this book.  It's a new adult paranormal, urban romance, I think.  And it has an interesting concept.  Characters with super powers versus characters that are normal human beings.  It's kind of like an X-Men thing, but the humans with superpowers have more of a presence.

Unfortunately, a lot of the story felt extremely juvenile, even when some of the content could have been quite mature and dark.

I enjoyed it, but I can't say that I would come back to this series if it continued.

Deadly Intent (I-Team #8)
by Pamela Clare
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I'm loathe to give a Pamela Clare book a less than average rating because, for the most part, her romantic suspense books have always been intriguing to me.  I've loved all of them, and enjoy all the characters in each new installment.

So even while I didn't quite enjoy Deadly Intent, I still found it encompassed the typical heart that you find in a Pamela Clare romance.  The characters are great.  But Pam really DOES paste on the schmaltz in this one, which is disappointing after the previous two I-Team installments were so amazing, with a controlled schmaltz factor.

And also... the truth is, Joaquin was never really a favorite side character for me.  I was never as excited for a book where he's the main character, because the man always came out too intense and overly dramatic.  I could do without.  And the new addition to the series, leading lady, Mia Starr... didn't really stand out.  When I read that she was ex-military, I was really hoping for some more Holly-like badassery and action... but really didn't get much of that.

There was a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to happen, which didn't give this particular installment as much excitement as I would have liked.

On a final note, Holly is excellent and I'm glad she showed up for a few scenes:

"You have the most beautiful skin, gorgeous eyes, and lips and cheekbones that make me jealous."  Holly gently dabbed concealer on Mia's bruised cheek.  "You don't need much makeup.  In your case, less is definitely more--unless a bad guy has recently punched you in the face, and then more is more."