Friday, December 7, 2012

Review of Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Little Brown Books for
Young Readers
The Days of Blood & Starlight (Bk. 2 Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
By Laini Taylor
5 Scribbles

No one builds worlds as well as Laini Taylor—well not since Tolkien anyway. And now that Karou knows who she truly is, she is plunged headfirst into the broken world of her people, the chimaera. Filled with vengeance and righteous anger, Karou chooses to join her people in the fight against the angels—and against Akiva—in a crucial role.  But is her choice to turn her back on love worth it?

The characters in this novel are even more lifelike and vivid than in the first. It is easy to become immersed in the world of Elsewhere while reading about wolves, Naja, Kirin and winged creatures designed by Karou’s artistic hand. From Thiago’s glossy white fur and menacing eyes, to Ziri’s lithe, antelope-human body, to Akiva’s special beauty and glowing red wings, the reader is treated to a kaleidoscope of images that become virtual candy for the imagination.  And if the descriptions of the creatures and the world of Elsewhere don’t captivate the reader, then the bloody conflict certainly will. Karou and Akiva, soul mates and lovers in book one, find themselves as sworn enemies in this second installment. For Karou, this means filling Brimstone’s shoes as the new Resurrectionist and trusting Thiago, the wolf she still hates with all her being, but must follow to avenge the deaths of her people. It is a strange situation that places Karou as a sort of voluntary prisoner and amplifies the fact that the need for vengeance now controls her. Akiva, on the other hand, is ready to make amends to Karou, and to cease his killing ways, because “a drop of mercy dilutes a lake of hate.” And while there is truth in this, Karou has not had the benefit of years to heal that brought Akiva to this conclusion—thus, she has sworn to hate him.  How much will Karou be willing to endure, and how many angels will she have to kill in order to find any semblance of peace? And if both sides can come to some peace, will the physical marks of Hamas and tattoo marks of the slain on the angels’ hands, be too much of a reminder of atrocities past for the opposing sides to accept one another?

While the conflicts are heavy, bloody, and battles constant, some comic relief is thankfully present via Karou’s BFF Zuzana, now hooked up with Mic from book one. The two provide welcome foils to the newly-sworn-enemies-once-lovers Akiva and Karou. Zuzana and Mic also show an ironic tolerance for the strange creatures and help illustrate the power of music and kindness on the human (and not so human) soul. Perhaps most importantly, these two characters keep the story grounded, and add a human element to the second book which hints at the idea that humans may play a critical role in book three which I am anxiously awaiting…

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review of The Dead and the Buried by Kim Harrington

The Dead and the Buried
by Kim Harrington
4 Scribbles
To be released January 1, 2013

Jade never dreamed she’d live in a big house in an upscale neighborhood, and she’s overjoyed when her dad and stepmom move the family, even if she knows it’s really so her baby brother, Colby can have a better education than she did. But then Jade discovers the things that go bump in the night. Turns out, there is a reason the house was such a good deal. Local “it” girl Kayla Sloane was pushed down the stairs to her death in the house just the year before. Now, Kayla’s ghost is threatening to kill her baby brother unless Jade finds Kayla’s murderer.

Realistic characters and spine-chilling events make for a truly creeptastic read!  Jade feels like an outsider in her family now that her father has remarried, a situation many teens can relate to.  Jade misses her mother, who taught her the metaphysical powers of gemstones. Without her beloved mother, who died of cancer, Jade has no idea who to trust with her stories of Ouija boards and threatening specters, and she’s pretty sure her stepmother will think she’s crazy. Add to this the fact that her dad is always traveling for work and Jade feels alone and helpless. But Jade loves her brother, Colby and is willing to risk anything to save him. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Jade is that she picks friends based on integrity and not popularity, even though she is tempted to choose poorly in order to “fit in” to her new school. Secondary characters, like Kayla’s brooding ex, Donovan (who makes for a tantalizing love interest), and Jade’s quirky, anti-social friend Alexa add a feeling of diversity and realism to her new school, and also create doubts about who Kayla’s true killer might be. I also liked that Kayla was such a hateful girl and didn’t change after death; sometimes people are just rotten, and dying does not change that, no matter how much people pretend it does.  This mystery is incredibly solid, with clues gleaned from Kayla’s cryptic diary and frequent episodes of haunting and possession that chill the marrow.  Readers who grove on shows like Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State will love this book!