IMM #8

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. This is the eighth episode of HOARDERS, Books Edition.
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WON


Signed copies of:
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Matched by Ally Condie
and an ARC of Crossed by Ally Condie
The above books were from Read for Relief auction benefitting the victims of hurricane Irene.
Ashfall by Mike Mullin (unsigned)
A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegan
Blood by KJ Wignall
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
My Beating Teenage Heart by CK Kelly Martin
Snowdrops by AD Miller
Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Dirty Blood by Heather Hildebrand
Descended by Blood by Angeline Kace
Deep Blue Society by Christie Anderson
Angel’s Fury by Bryony Pearce
Juliet Spell by Douglass Rees
If I Die by Rachel Vincent
What’s in your mailbox?

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Publication Date: September 29th, 2011
Dutton Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 338 pages

Goodreads Summary

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. 

When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.


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MY TAKE: 5/5 STARS 

Sigh.


 Lola, much like its predecessor, Anna, was romantic, funny and heartfelt. There is a certain depth to the character building in these two books that is unheard of to most of the novels that fall under this genre – based on my experience, that is. It’s also another one of those, once-you-start-you-can’t-stop reads.


I’ve been hearing a lot about the words character-driven plot being thrown in reviews lately and I guess up to this point, I didn’t exactly know what it means. Well, Lola and the Boy Next Door is definitely that. I’ve never been more absorbed about a character in a book than I have with Lola. Don’t get me wrong, the story held the same quixotic fervor and well-formed plot as Anna and the French Kiss, but I found myself in awe of how refreshingly unique this book is.

I’ve never understood how some reviewers opted not to rate the books they just read than I did now; because it really isn’t fair. I want to go back and reduce my rating of Anna and the French Kiss to four stars and give this book an extra star. That’s how much I loved this book.

First of all, Lola’s family is definitely the most unique that I’ve read so far in…ever. Her parents are both fathers – with one of them her biological uncle. Her mother is around – but only when she’s too drunk to go anywhere else or when she gets evicted from her apartment for the millionth time. But in spite of it all, or perhaps because of it all, she still grew up well-loved and adjusted. The key word here is, her family is present – supporting all of Lola’s idiosyncrasies and plight to find her identity.

I loved how Perkins makes something as inconsequential as rubber bands on a boy’s wrist, romantic. Don’t ask me why, but it was just one of the many Cricket quirks that made him even more loveable. I love how he uses his skin as a post-it note. He writes on himself to remind him of the things he was supposed to do. I love how he was constantly comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Lola’s and Cricket’s story was just as charming as Anna’s and Etienne’s. It was awkward in the most adorable way, sweet in a none saccharine way and utterly realistic. 

If you ask me which literary character I’d most like to meet in person, then I’ll tell you point blank that this girl is it. She’s quite possibly the quirkiest, spunkiest, most original character I’ve ever read.

This book is one of the most highly anticipated books of 2011 and I’m one of the throngs of readers who eagerly waited for its release. I’m irrevocably in love with the writing, the well-rounded characters, and engrossing plot that Stephanie Perkins continually delivers. I’m positively impatient to read her next project.

October New Releases

So October is here! I can almost smell the pumpkin pies and hear the ghouls moaning…oooooo…anyway. This is where I usually have my shopping list but I thought I’d change it up a bit and just give you guys a heads up on what fab books are headed our way. Though I’m positive you’re keeping a list of your own!
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Angel Fire by L.A. Weatherly (October 1st)
Bleeding Hearts by Alyxandra Harvey (October 3rd)
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (October 4th – Australian release)

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Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick (October 4th)
Eve by Anna Carey (October 4th)
Past Perfect by Leila Sales (October 4th)

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Radiant Desire by Inara Scott (October 4th)
The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry (October 4th)
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones (October 4th)

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Variant by Robison Wells (October 4th)
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (October 4th)
Concealed by Sang Kromah (October 10th)

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Ashfall by Mike Mullin (October 11th)
Without Tess by Marcella Pixley (October 11th)
The Death Cure by James Dashner (October 11th)

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Frost by Wendy Delsol (October 11th)
Awake at Dawn by C.C. Hunter (October 11th)
Unforsaken by Sophie Littlefield (October 11th)

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The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas (October 11th)
Tris & Izzie Mette Ivie Harrison (October 11th)
Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe (October 13th)

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Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral (October 13th)
Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler (October 13th)
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (October 18th)

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Crave by Melissa Darnell (October 18th)
Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout (October 18th)
Swear by Nina Malkin (October 18th)

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Beautiful Chaos by K Garcia & M Stohl (October 18th)
Hush, Hush – Graphic Novel by B Fitzpatrick & J Roseo (October 18th)
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (October 18th)

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Seizure by Kathy Reichs (October 18th)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (October 18th)
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (October 18th)

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On the Fringe by Courtney King Walker (October 19th)
Amplified by Tara Kelly (October 25th)
Between the Sea and Sky (October 25th)

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Scored by Lauren McLaughlin (October 25th)
Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry (October 25th)
Muse by Rebecca Lim (October 27th)

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! Who knows? maybe there’s a gift waiting there for you IF you’re the right commenter! I’m thinking of a number…if that’s you then you win TWO choices from October! 😉 I’m evil, I know. I don’t care where you’re from…so long as Amazon ships in your area. Also, please don’t be mad if your books get damaged or lost while in transit. Way out of my hands…and I won’t be held responsible. This contest is not advertised and I won’t broadcast it, so if you’re the only one who left a comment, then you’re the winner! This giveaway will end on October 2nd, 12 noon CST.

September Rewind

Well, another month has gone by, fellow readers. September wasn’t as busy for me as August was, unfortunately. So here’s a fast recap.

I read books.
I reviewed said books.
I gave away books.

Yep. That pretty much sums it up. Here’s a detailed recap.

READ & REVIEWED BOOKS IN SEPTEMBER
Sept 3 – Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Sept 4 – Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
Sept 4 – Loving Lies by Lora Leigh
Sept 7 – Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Sept 9 – Days Like This by Alison Stewart
Sept 11 – Fateful by Claudia Gray
Sept 11 – All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Sept 16 – Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Sept 17 – Sixteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
Sept 18 – The “What If” Guy by Brooke Moss
Sept 20 – The Forest of Adventures by Katie M. John
Sept 20 – Nocturne by Syrie James
Sept 23 – This is Shyness by Leanne Hall
Sept 25 – Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Sept 27 – Crave by Melissa Darnell
Sept 27 – As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott
Sept 28 – Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Average rating for the month of September: 3.64 stars

CONTESTS WINNERS
Zoe won herself a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door for correctly guessing the book I would read first amongst the pile of my September Shopping List.
JustJahnvi won copies of Anna Dressed in Blood and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer this month.
Huh. This is kind of sad. I promise to do a better job in October. I can’t believe I only held two contests in September. 
SPECIAL MENTION
Alison Stewart, author of Days Like This posted a link of my review on her blog and personally thanked me via email for reading and reviewing her book. I don’t know about you, but I admire authors who actually takes the time to express their gratitude for reading their work.  

As well, this month, I’ve participated in an auction benefitting the victims of hurricane Irene. I won myself signed copies of Ashfall by Mike Mullin, Matched by Ally Condie and an ARC of Crossed. Mr. Mullin, whose  generosity knows no bounds, decided that it would be cool to name a bit part character in my namesake on his upcoming book, ASHEN WINTER. How awesome is this?!
LOOKING FORWARD
I have a feeling October will be a busy month…or I’ll make sure it will be anyway. I have my very first author interview lined up, which I’m very excited about! There will also be a giveaway as offered by Entangled Publishing with this post, so stay tuned!
I finally grew a pair and sent some not-so-embarrassing letters to publishers for ARCs. I’m happy to say that I got my first nod. YAY ME!
I’m also excited about the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour that’s happening – well, tomorrow, actually. Kelley Armstrong, Beth Revis, Melissa Marr, Margaret Stohl, Jennifer Lynn Barnes & Sara Zarr will be in attendance. I can’t wait!

Also, please check out We Fancy Book’s Follower Appreciation Giveaway! They have some awesome prices in store for the winners!

So that’s it for the month of September. October is upon us and there’s a whole slew of awesome releases for the month!
What was your September like?


Why I Fancy Books


When did my love affair with books start? Growing up in a country where the libraries only stock reference books and the like on the shelves, reading fiction was a luxury a lot of us couldn’t afford. I remember actually be-friending my friends’ older sisters just so I could borrow their books. It came to a point where I was practically visiting them everyday on the pretense that I was there for my friend but in reality, I was actually there to borrow more books.

My country would have power outages, frequently at that. But imagine a young girl reading in her bedroom with the flickering candle light. It doesn’t matter how little sleep I got…I just have to finish that book because my friend’s sister would only allow me to borrow one book and for only one day.

When my family moved to Canada, my love for reading intensified. Life became ultimately better especially when I found out that books can be bought at a thrift store – where they were priced for as little as twenty five cents. I thought I died and gone to heaven.

But being in a new country where everything was so fresh and different, it’s sad to say that my love of reading eventually petered out – for years, I neglected reading. I got married, had kids…pretended to be an adult. It’s only been the last four years that I’ve found my passion for books again.

Honestly? I owe it all to Stephenie Meyer. It’s those damn Twilight books of hers! Edward Cullen owned my soul for about two years until Jace Wayland ripped it from him. Sad to say, it didn’t take long before Jace took a backseat. The boys from the various books I’ve read stole my heart, piece by piece until Jonah Griggs decided enough is enough. My heart only belongs to him now.

I’m a bit of a neurotic when it comes to books. I seem to be in constant panic-buying mode. I just had to have them, no matter how bad the book is *coughsHadescoughs*. Anyway, reading books has a way of taking me to places that I could only dream of…meeting characters that are larger than life itself. It’s a means of an escape without having to leave my bedroom. And you know what else? I’m learning about LIFE as I go along. I mean, who knew that some vampires can’t be killed by a stake to the heart nowadays? Or that werewolves can change even without the full moon? Lol. I read somewhere that books are the cheapest way to go on a vacation. Judging by my choices in reading materials, I’ve visited a lot of desolate places where people are being eaten by zombies! 🙂

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Publication Date:  September 5, 2011
Poppy
Format: Hardcover, 273 pages

Goodreads Summary

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it’s a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy’s car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend’s attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players’ girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won’t get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don’t count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Inspired by Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance, rivalry and sexuality.

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MY TAKE: 3/5 STARS

I definitely had different reactions on certain parts of this book. The early pages made me cringe. I even debated whether or not I should flounce on the book. I’m not really that interested in having a peek at these kids’ mundane high school life (I’m an old woman, bear with me). Maybe I’m just bitter or jealous – for not having the full experience. But in any case, I really didn’t want to read about a bunch of girls having Kumbaya sessions at sleepovers.

I can pin point the exact moment Shut Out grabbed my attention. It was the part where Lissa caught Randy having a tongue-fence duel with a sophomore. Oh happy me. Randy was not really that bad of a character; he loved spending time with her family and he seemed to genuinely care about her. He just has his moments of idiocy, like all men do. But dude, the aforementioned scene won him the douche award. Just read the book to find out what else he did.

Cash Stirling wins the most perfect book boyfriend award. {Gratuitous sigh}
He’s handsome, athletic, all-around nice guy, though a bit oblivious. Oh well, you can’t have them all.

Lissa is a bit of a neurotic spazz – a trait that I found endearing.
Anyway, this book oozes sex – not in a very descriptive way wherein the kids are getting it on left and right, but how both genders use it as a weapon. It also touches on the age-old debate about the double standards in our society, where a girl who sleeps around gets called a ‘slut’, and a boy who does the same thing is fondly called, a ‘player’. But let me tell you, these darn kids in the book are having lots of them – sex, that is.

I absolutely loved Keplinger’s DUFF. She has this ability to make her characters so unbelievably real and is not afraid to tell you how it is. Some may cringe at the amount of sex the kids in her books are having but I thought that it was a real enough representation of what’s going on these days. I’ve read a lot of realistic YA fiction and I’ve got to say, no one has come close to even a speck of reality that Keplinger delivered. I’m slowly becoming a fan of this pull-no-punches author and I look forward to reading more of her future work.

Review: Crave by Melissa Darnell

Publication Date: October 15, 2011
Harlequin Teen
Paperback, 416 pages
Goodreads Summary

Savannah Colbert has been shunned all her life by the kids of the Clann. And when she undergoes some drastic changes after a strange illness, Savannah learns secrets about the group and about herself—dangerous secrets. For the Clann are powerful magic users, and Savannah herself is half Clann and half vampire—a forbidden, unheard of combination. Falling for Clann golden boy Tristan Coleman isn’t just a bad idea—it could be deadly if anyone finds out. But her attraction to Tristan—and his to her—isn’t something either of them can resist for long.

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MY TAKE: 2/5 STARS

This book is a single serving of everything on the YA menu. You’ve got witches, vampires, and star crossed loves, combined with the clichéd cliques of high school. It’s a buffet…with a side order of cheese – a lot of cheese.

I liked the better part of the beginning of the book – and when I say the better part, we’re talking the first three pages or so. I thought the first page that gave me a glimpse of Savannah’s and Tristan’s natural reactions toward each other were a good preamble to this story. And when I turned the page to the Prologue, I was already salivating for more.

Sadly, this book started out pretty strong but let up with its intensity in the middle. You’d think that the story would take off even more after Savannah found out she was a half-vampire, half-witch. But it didn’t. It got even slower, if that was even possible. There were so many parts of this story that probably should’ve been left out of the finished product, perhaps those parts where Savannah kept agonizing about the Brat Twins or when she decided to be the manager of the Charmers(resisting the eye roll here) or when Tristan became a quasi-manager himself (say, what?!). Tristan was supposed to be a studly football player but opted to follow around a dance team as an escort/manager. I’m sorry, but now you just sound like a wimp to me. I probably skimmed through most of the parts where they were either preparing for a game or at a game. They were pointless.

*head desk*

There are a lot of things that bothered me with this book. Bullying is very rampant. The character doesn’t do anything about the ‘accidental’ pushing, shoving, and verbal abuse she got from the members of the Clann. I just can’t like a book that justified these acts okay. And the character did just that, by thinking that if she ignored them, they’d go away. I’m sorry…just no.

Crave is very unoriginal from this genre’s standpoint. But that’s really okay – only if it was executed very well. As it was, I thought that when Savannah was finally told she was a half-vampire, half-witch, her reaction was a little blah. She accepted her parents’ decisions quite easily with very little questions.

When she finally went through the change, I waited for the bloodlust and got none. What kind of vampire (half or not) does not thirst for blood? Instead, you’ll read about Savannah prancing around school being chased by hormonal boys who suddenly noticed she grew a full cup size over a week’s time. I understand she’s part witch too, but come on! There’s got to be a part of her that yearns for blood, no? The whole Tristan-Savannah romance thing was painful to watch. It was a cheese-fest of epic proportions.

Over all, Crave is a cookie-cutter YA paranormal read. No plot twists await for you here.

On another note, I think I’m a minority on this one, so please – my opinion about this book is just that…MY OPINION.

Arc provided by Net Galley and Harlequin for an honest review.

Review: As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott

 
Publication Date:  September 15, 2011
Dutton Juvenile
Format:  Hardback, 224 pages
 
 
Ava is welcomed home from the hospital by a doting mother, lively friends, and a crush finally beginning to show interest. There’s only one problem: Ava can’t remember any of them – and can’t shake the eerie feeling that she’s not who they say she is.

Ava struggles to break through her amnesiac haze as she goes through the motions of high-school life, but the memories that surface take place in a very different world, where Ava and familiar-faced friends are under constant scrutiny and no one can be trusted. Ava doesn’t know what to make of these visions, or of the boy who is at the center of them all, until he reappears in her life and offers answers . . . but only in exchange for her trust.

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MY TAKE 2/5 STARS
 
Let me see if I can give you a breakdown of what this book is about.

…hold on…

…still thinking…

…Nope. Sorry. I got nothing.

Even if I try to put into words how I perceived this book, I think I’ll just confuse you even more.
I’d like to give this book five stars for originality; because no one, I MEAN no one, can probably duplicate the story line that Elizabeth Scott created. We’re talking alternate universe where one or more of the same person can exist but not in the same space. Where the government was free to vanish criminals – innocent or guilty – into a dystopian world where food was scarce that you would need stamps or tickets to avail of your basic needs; where no one is trusted and you are being watched, listened, and stalked, day in and day out. But there was also a parallel universe where life was normal, where kids go to school and they worry about cliques or if their crushes will finally talk to them.

I think the premise is simple enough to follow. But when the characters’ worlds collide, that’s when I ran into a mountain of problems.

The story focuses on Ava, a girl who woke up not knowing who she was. Little by little, tidbits of her memory unearth a million of questions that I still felt were unanswered. I’d like to give props to Ms. Scott for successfully inciting this reader’s empathy with Ava’s character. I was as confused as Ava was…and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

For a book of 224 pages, I thought that there were too many things going on that it could’ve probably used a hundred more. Everything was vague and muddled. I’d like to have a one-on-one talk with Ms. Scott just so she could explain this book to me.

I have so many questions.

What happened to the world that the government suspected everyone?

How did Ava know what the chemical composition is of an explosive?

How did those kids end up in a dark place where they are trained to be some sort of government spies?

Plot-wise, I felt like Elizabeth Scott threw me in a vast ocean without a life jacket; not necessarily to drown but to find my way to the shore. You have to find your way to the end of the story – a story which I found difficult to follow. Some of the dialogues were stilted, which at some point annoyed me. Even so, I thought that the dark undertones made the writing strange and beautiful.

I have read reviews of this book, and I am probably missing the whole point. If you like solving puzzles or being thrown in a world full of mysteries, then this book is for you.

In the end, I was just happy to finish this book. Reading this was not a pleasant experience.

Confessions of an Addict (6): In Which I Decided to Fly Solo.

My Sunday is a lazy day. I usually spend it in my bedroom – donning my pyjamas, and only leaving the premises to find something to eat. Even then, the hubby is like a butler who comes in from time to time bearing gifts of junk food and caramel iced coffee. I read, eat, tweet, watch football – all in the comfort of my perpetually unmade bed.

Yesterday, Rachel Caine tweeted about Smart Chicks Kick It Tour schedule and I realized that the only one possibility that I could attend these kind of book signings is if I will be willing to spend the money to actually fly over wherever it’s being held. I live in the middle-of-nowhere, Canada, so our bookstores rarely  host events like these.

My dear Mr. B booked me a day trip to Vancouver for their stop on October 1st! I’m so freaking excited I barely slept last night! I’m scared too because I’ve never flown without my husband anywhere.

I can’t wait to meet the authors in attendance! Oooooo and the autographs! swags! Hmmm…I wonder if Beth Revis will have some ARCs of A Million Suns…Lol. I’m just hoping I don’t get lost. Vancouver is such a hugely populous city compared to ours.

‘Don’t worry about it, honey,’ said my husband. ‘Airport, bookstore then back to the airport for you. There’s no chance you’ll get lost.’

Hah! Doesn’t he know me at all? I get lost as soon as I walk out of my front door.

…Oh! and stay tuned. There might be a SIGNED BOOK giveaway in the horizon!

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 420 pages
Little, Brown & Company

Goodreads Summary

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?


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MY TAKE: 5/5 STARS

As I sit here and ponder on the magnificence of what I’d just read, I can truly, honestly say that I will probably fail to write a review that will give this novel its due justice.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone lived up to the hype – and more. It delivered in spades and didn’t – not once – disappoint. Even the ending, which would have normally driven me to rant for days, couldn’t damper my irrevocable love for this exquisite masterpiece. Laini Taylor created a complex world with equally complex characters. The history, the legends of angels were molded and twisted into something unbelievably multifaceted and unique.

I often found myself stopping just to savor the words. The prose was as beautiful as the heartbreaking story of reincarnated love itself. 


I fell in love with Karou’s blue hair, her grotesque but beautiful art and her wry humour. The anonymity of her past added to the sublime beauty of her character. Her’s and Akiva’s love story were one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful story I’ve read in a while. I have the deepest hope that the second book to this series will bring some happiness to these two. But since there will be three books, I am not holding my breath.

We’ve been bombarded with a lot of angel books lately or an impossible romance between two mortal enemies. But trust me when I say, Laini Taylor wrote this book with the absence of clichéd plot lines in mind. This book is highly imaginative, dark, deceptively funny and deliciously sensual.

The only problem I have with this book is that I’d have to wait for a long time for the second book and with how this book ended, the wait will be extra, extra painful.