Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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?

Hardcover, US, 418 pages

Published September 27th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I’m not one to throw around the term Mary Sue, but… Mary Sue.  Mary Sue Mary Sue Mary Sue.  MARY SUE LIKE WOAH.  Fo’ rizzle.  What makes her a Mary Sue, you might ask?  Per Wiktionary, it is defined as a fictional character, usually female and especially in fanfic, whose implausible talents and likeableness weaken the story.  Karou fits this bill, minus the bit about fanfiction.  She is graceful, beautiful, smart, physically strong and tough, idealized by her classmates as an artist in an art school, and a bunch of other positive traits.  However, you can have a “flawless” character and still make it work.  For example, June in Legend by Marie Lu is a prodigy, but cocky and impulsive.  Another example is Clara from Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, where in the book it is a problem how she is too perfect.  I read almost half of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and not one issue arose from how perfect Karou was.  Seriously, Karou is not a real person, there is no confusion over that.  The issue for me was that she couldn't be a real person.  Because perfect people spontaneously combust in real life -- everyone knows that.

For me, her perfection weakened the story.  I couldn’t connect to her.  I like characters to have problems other than external ones; some inner conflict is much loved.  Maybe it developed later in the story, and I really went back and forth with finishing the book.  It boiled down to me thinking that the promise of better was not worth it.  A book should be able to hold my attention and make me care within two hundred pages.  Since it didn’t, I decided it wasn’t worth my time.  There are too many books to read, and no time to waste on a book that I may have to struggle the rest of the way through.

I do love the use of chimeras, though.  Chimeras are not everywhere in YA lit so far (but who knows, maybe they’re the next mermaids), and I wanted to like this book based on that fact alone.  But even the underused mythological creatures combined with the mystery forming around them in the story were not enough to pull me in.  Even sitting here thinking of the premise, I’m like, “Why don’t you like it?  I mean, read that synopsis again.  There’s something wrong with you, Momo.”  Because I do often talk to myself using third person.  Aloud.  Anyway, I think Karou’s lack of imperfections repelled me from the book.  And it is just so sad.

This book is much loved, but it isn’t for everyone.  Maybe it’s for everyone except me, and that’s fine.  But here’s my opinion, internet.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 sparkly perfect toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Notes From My Desk: Death to the Nook

There have been many times in my Nook's life that I have been ready to throw it against the wall.  I don't know if mine is just glitchy, or if it is simply faulty software.  I have had way more difficulty than I should with getting books on my Nook (unless they were bought straight from Barnes and Noble through the Nook).  This should not be complicated.  THIS SHOULD NOT BE COMPLICATED.  But alas, it is.  At least for me.  I don't go to NetGalley and request books often, but every time I do, I have a problem.  If you have a Kindle, using NetGalley is really simple and they can send the title straight to your Kindle.  If you don't (like me), you have to download it and then use the appropriate program to send it to the Nook or whatever device you're using.  Doesn't sound like a big deal, right?


I put up with books being chopped up and sentences spliced and half the page missing and a ton of other things for the sake of reading books on a device I paid a bit of money for.  But this last book I was approved for from NetGalley, which I was pretty excited to read... well.  I attempted to transfer it from Adobe's reading program (which is what you're supposed to do), but it didn't quite go over.  The icon for the book was there, but the book wasn't.  And neither were any other books I'd transferred over from Adobe. 


Books gone.  All of the books.

I've had a lot of issues with the Nook, such as not being able to clean up my library in any sense, but this was the final straw.  Granted, it could be Adobe that is the issue, but I need to use Adobe for the Nook.  The Nook does not have software of it's own to get books onto the hardware from an outside source (like NetGalley). 

Final Thought: I'm getting a Kindle

P.S: Barnes and Noble announced that it will not be selling more Nooks starting... I don't know, I don't care enough to look it up.  But I think that says something.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?

Paperback, 350 pages
Expected publication: July 8th 2013 by Flux

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

Some Quiet Place held one of the top spots on my most anticipated of 2013 list.  The concept had me hooked: a girl who feels no emotions but can see them as people.  I was very interested in seeing how this idea could be turned into a full novel and make an interesting character.  However, while I did think that the mystery behind Elizabeth (our blank emoticon) was well done, the character it was centered around completely fell flat.  If it weren't for how intriguing the book was, I probably would not have finished it.

It is a supreme challenge to create a character that lacks emotions and still can move the reader.  I felt like there were situations added to create sympathy for Elizabeth, but it didn't work for me as I did not care about her to begin with.  Elizabeth may be void of emotions, but I don't think she necessarily had to lack a personality.  As is pointed out in the book, she does experience minor emotions.  There would have been absolutely no story without them; she experiences curiosity which causes her to delve into her past and the reason behind her "condition."  I know for a fact that curiosity is an emotion because it is on every one of those "I feel..." charts where you select what you're feeling for the day.  And if you didn't know, yes those are the difinitive resource for determining what is an emotion.  The way it was written gave the reader that same sense of emptiness, but I thought there could have been more inner conflict.  Or maybe there couldn't, but I definately wanted more.  Her inner thoughts about emptiness could have been more complex and witty.  Based solely on how she's written, Elizabeth was a shallow character.  But again, maybe that was the idea, to which I have to point out does not make for a very interesting read.

The secondary characters were little more than plot devices.  Fear (a personified emotion) was there to push the story along as Elizabeth does not care enough to do so on her own.  Her friend Maggie was there to induce emotion.  The human boy love interest was there to create romantic conflict.  And the list goes on.  The character I was most disappointed with was the mean girl stereotype who was nothing more than just the mean girl stereotype.  Throwing petty insults and being mean with very little motive just seemed... I hate to say it, pathetic.  There could have been so much more going on with there relationship to warrent such anger from mean girl stereotype.  With a story about a girl with no emotions, it would have to be heavily reliant on the reactions and emotions of the secondary characters.  With Some Quiet Place, none of the secondary characters managed to come even close to making up for what Elizabeth was lacking.

The character issues are doubly important as this is a mostly character driven book.  There is the issue of her visions and dreams, but what moves Elizabeth along her path is the secondary characters, not the events themselves.  The external conflict also didn't feel as fleshed out as it could have, with the ending reveal not being a grand display of fireworks for my brain but rather a fire that burned bright for a minute and fizzled unexpectedly to a simmer till the end.  Nevertheless, it was the intrigue of both the external conflict and the internal conflict that keeps this book readable, though I have to add that Some Quiet Place did struggle to hold my interest at times.

While I did not entirely enjoy Some Quiet Place, I do see room for growth in the author and a potential for great new ideas.  This story did have many interesting concepts, but it seemed that the author was not quite ready to write such a story.  The writing was choppy at points, could have used some more varied and complicated sentences, but wasn't entirely bad.  The dialogue was convincing and the pacing was even, two very important elements in a novel.  Even though Some Quiet Place suffers from shallow characters, it does have an intriguing plot and great ideas.  I am not turned off to this author completely, and do look forward to seeing more great ideas that will be played out better.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads