Monthly Reading Wrap up: January 2015

January was a great month for reading. I read nine books and am currently reading two. Many of them were highly enjoyable. Two were classics, six were young adult, and one was nonfiction. Books are in the order I finished reading them with the earliest completed appearing first.

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiShort Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Kestrel accidentally buys a slave at auction she learns the price she paid for a human being was higher than she could have imagined.

Thoughts: I started The Winner’s Curse at the end of 2014, and it became my first book finished in 2015. While I enjoyed it and plan to read the sequel I don’t think I liked it quite as much as most readers seem to. This has to do with the fact that I had difficulty believing any slave would be openly rebellious like Arin after years of servitude.

Rating:3.5 blue jays

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini TaylorDays of Blood & Starlight by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Short Synopsis“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”– Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Thoughts: See my series review (spoiler free except where there are warnings) for my full thoughts, but overall I loved these.

Series Rating: five blue jaysThe Fire in Fiction by Donald MaassShort Synopsis: A nonfiction book to help fiction writers with the structural and characterization elements of their works.

Thoughts: I haven’t read many writing-craft books yet though I intend to read more, but it seems like many of them are about the marketing aspect of fiction. I liked that this book focused on the writing itself rather than publication. I didn’t like all of the brief exerts from other works and skipped many of them, but recognize these exerts may have been necessary to further the author’s points.

Rating: I haven’t read enough writing help books to feel confident rating them.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Short Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” — Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

Thoughts: I know so many people who love this book I felt I had to read it. While I liked it, and feel I can understand why it’s a classic it was unfortunately not a life-changing read for me. Romance just isn’t my genre.

Rating: I haven’t read widely enough in novels from this time period to judge.

Firefight by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: Teen kills/tries to kill people with superpowers, but in the process uncovers that the solution to fighting the people he fights is nothing like he imagined.

Thoughts: I need to read more Brandon Sanderson books, that is my conclusion. Firefight is book two in the Reckoners Series that began with Steelheart. I’m loving this series so far, and think Brandon Sanderson has a great understanding of plot construction and world-building.

Rating:five blue jays

Charm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnShort Synopsis: Teenage boy deals with his complicated past and the fact that the “beast” inside might finally come out.

Thoughts: I’ve been looking for a book with a plot like this. In June I finished the second draft of a manuscript I’ve been working on with a similar plot (but more supernatural elements, less psychology). I’m not anywhere near querying it, but had no I idea how to market it if I ever got to that point. My other concern was that some agents like comparative titles in their queries and I couldn’t think of any. Now I have one. Unfortunately for this book, I guessed the plot within the first fifty pages. Once the reader knows exactly what’s going to happen the book isn’t nearly as exciting. Note that the only reason I found it predictable was that I wrote a story with a similar plot. This book is not predictable.

Rating: 3 blue jays

 

Oedipus Rex by SophoclesShort Synopsis: Classic Greek tragedy about King Oedipus.

Thoughts: Most dysfunctional family in literary history. If you thought all of the orphan characters in fiction had it bad wait until you read this! This play is extremely short, but the poetic language makes it difficult to get into.

Rating: I haven’t read enough Greek tragedy to judge.

 

Currently Reading:

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To see a full review of anything I’ve read this month but haven’t reviewed please comment below with a request.

Jacqueline--Name with a Bluejay

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor

8490112
1281255013618440Titles: 
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Author: Laini Taylor

Publication dates: 2011-2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”– Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Karou is a rather unusual art student from Prague. She never talks about her family or past, and answers all personal questions with an outrageous story about traveling around the world hunting for teeth. She mysteriously disappears often, and once returned to school having contracted malaria. The truth is, Karou can’t answer the questions about her past because they are as big a mystery to Karou as everyone else, but she’s about to find out the truth.

Lives will be lost. Wars will be fought. A forbidden love between an angel and a monster unearthed.

Review: The writing and pacing in this series is just amazing. I read the entire trilogy over the course of about a week, and there are so many great quotes to be taken from the writing.

I had some minor issues with the first book, especially the second half which consisted mainly of flashbacks, and felt there was an element of insta-love to the romance although it didn’t bother me as much as it does in most works because after the novel’s primary relationship was formed the characters’ reacted to learning hard to accept truths about one another in a relatively realistic way not normally seen in young adult fiction.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone feels much more typical in terms of young adult fiction than the next two books. The first book feels like urban fantasy as most of the novel takes place on modern Earth. In the next two books the fantasy elements take over and the story feels much more like high fantasy than urban.

One of my favorite elements in this series was the symbolism particularly that of the wishbone.

I appreciated the author’s portrayal of “angels” and “monsters.” I feel the message Laini Taylor was trying to get across involves questioning everything and not jumping to conclusions. Just because someone looks like an angel doesn’t make them trustworthy, and just because someone looks like a demon does not make them a demon.

Favorite quotes: “It is a condition that monsters do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.” –Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“Imagine if [Juliet] woke up and he was still alive, but…” She swallowed, waiting out a tremor in her voice. “But [Romeo] had killed her whole family. And burned her city. And killed and enslaved her people.” –Laini Taylor, Days of Blood and Starlight

“Karou wasn’t a prize to win; that wasn’t why he was here. She was a woman and would choose her own life. He was here to do what he could, whatever he could, that she might have a life to choose, one day. Whoever and whatever that included was her own affair.” –Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

What Readers Should Know: This series contains cursing intermixed with casual conversations in the way many teenagers speak. Sex is mentioned with some frequency, although no detailed sex scenes ever occur. There are also some fairly gruesome scenes in book two due to the main characters becoming involved in a major conflict. *minor spoiler* In Days of Blood and Starlight a character is almost raped, but the “r” word is never mentioned. While younger readers may mistake this scene for an act of mere aggression it will be immediately clear to everyone else what was narrowly avoided. Personally, I thought this scene captured the fear and horror of the girl involved.

Rating: The first book was a 4.5/5 for me, but the rest of the series was a 5. It’s rare to find a series in which I preferred the sequels to the first installment, but that was the case here. I recommend this for people willing to overlook a little insta-love who enjoy fantasy.

five blue jays