laini taylor

Top Ten Tuesday | New-to-Me Authors of 2015

top ten tuesday

Hello everyone! It’s that time of the week again! Top Ten Tuesday is a book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Basically, you get a different bookish topic every Tuesday, and you comprise a list of ten (or however many you’re able to list) relating to said topic.

Today’s topic is ‘Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2015.’ I read tons of great books and great authors this year, so this is a great opportunity to tell you about some of the authors I read!

These aren’t in any specific order. I was strongly tempted to put Maggie Stiefvater and Patrick Ness in this list since I’d only read one book by each in 2014, and even that one in late December. But I managed to restrain myself! xD

Cinda Williams Chima

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Cinda Williams Chima is a brilliant author, and even though I’m uber glad I have read her books, I wish I had read them sooner. She takes young adult fantasy to a whole new level. Her world-building, her characters, her writing- it’s all a pleasure to read. I have only read three books by her, and I am reading the fourth, but she has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I’m sure that I’ll be reading her books for a long time.

Sarah J. Maas

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Now, I have some problems with the decisions Maas makes in her books, and I’m not the biggest fan of how she changes the course of her story halfway through the series, but I cannot deny that she’s a brilliant author. Her first two books in the Throne of Glass series are triumphs, especially the second one. She created one of my favorite male characters of all-time (cough Chaol cough). A Court of Thorns & Roses was also brilliant and made its way into my top books of 2015. So even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, I appreciate Maas for what I did love.

Cassandra Clare

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You might be surprised but I read all of Cassandra Clare’s currently-out books this year. Personally, I didn’t think I was going to like her books when I went into them, but they’re so addicting! Her writing flows with ease, her characters are fun, her stories are fast-paced. While the Infernal Devices means more to me than her the Mortal Instruments series, I still enjoyed the latter. I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for me!

Laini Taylor

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I love Laini Taylor’s writing. Her writing is so whimsical and interesting. She paints vivid paintings with her words but she never overdoes it. I take a lot of inspiration from her writing. I read the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series this year, and I grew to love her characters, her story and the way she weaves her magical, beautiful words. Another auto-buy author for me!

Renèe Ahdieh

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Renèe released her debut, the Wrath and the Dawn earlier this year, and as soon as I turned the first page, I knew I would love that book. And I did. Ahdieh is another author who has such tremendous command over her language. Her world-building, her characters, her story – everything is so well-done. So much so that I almost couldn’t believe I was reading an author’s debut! I can’t wait for what else Ahdieh puts out.

Mary E. Pearson

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I’ve only read two books by Pearson even though she has more out, but I really enjoyed everything I’ve read by her. I think she’s very smart when it comes to making decisions about her series and her characters. She doesn’t let her fans guide her writing which is something a lot of authors tend to do, at least in my opinion. Her writing is simple and humble, but it’s effective. I wouldn’t say she’s an auto-buy author yet, but she’s definitely someone I’ll have my eye on.

Jenny Han

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Slight aside: isn’t she the cutest? xD Again, I’ve only read two books by Jenny Han. The first one was one I really, really enjoyed and I don’t usually love contemporaries all that much. I wasn’t stoked on some of the decisions she made in her second book, but I still love her writing and characters enough to give the rest of her books a chance!

V.E. Schwab

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I’ve only read one book by Schwab even though she has more out, but the one that I read was brilliant. Her characters in Vicious were interesting and on-point, and I loved how she centered an entire novel around anti-heroes. I’m interested in her other novels; I just haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet.

Gillian Flynn

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Again, I’ve only read Gone Girl but it was absolutely magnificent! Her twisted characters and their crazy relationships, the darkness of her heroines, her writing and the density and intelligence of it! I want to read her other books as soon as possible!

Andrew Smith

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The first guy! I didn’t do this on purpose. I just love the writerly ladies! Now, Andrew Smith is a complicated one for me. I think he’s a brilliant, brilliant author. His books are intelligent, thought-provoking and completely realistic. I loved Winger, but I wasn’t a big fan of the second book I read by him, 100 Sideways Miles. I think his books are a little too weird for me, but I’ll still give his future books a go just because he’s such a skilled, talented writer.

Book Review | Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

dgamTitle: Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone)

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance

Synopsis: Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

Final Rating:

3.5 yellow

Check out my review for:

~ Book 1: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (4 stars)

~ Book 2: Days of Blood and Starlight (4 stars)

Check out this book’s Goodreads page!

Aimal's Review yellow

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is unlike anything I have ever read before. Demons and angels falling in love and things not ending well seems like something that you would just be immune to by now, but I’ve never read anything revolving around this plotline before. This was my first series about demons and angels, and I’m so glad that it was.

I really enjoyed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and Days of Blood & Starlight was a solid, solid sequel (even though I know a ton of people disagree). I went into Dreams of Gods & Monsters expecting an epic finale where everything ties up with a bang. I was expecting to feel all the feels and leave this series as I went into it: completely satisfied.

And while this final installment was good, it just wasn’t what I usually expect from a finale.

The Good:

  • The writing, as per usual, was stunningly, achingly, whimisically beautiful. I don’t know how Laini Taylor takes everyday words that we’re all exposed to and twist them to make them seem like magic. Her writing expression, the fluidity with which she makes her readers imagine what she’s describing so vividly, the effortlessness of her figurative language. It’s stunning.

“Something was lost in her. Karou saw it and mourned. War does that, nothing for it. Reality lays siege. Your framed portrait of life is smashed, and a new one thrust upon you. It’s ugly, and you don’t even want to look at it let alone hang it on the wall, but you have no choice, once you know. Once you really know.”

  • The characters undergo so much development in this one. One of the best things about this series is Taylor’s employment of a fairly large cast but you don’t feel bogged down with all the different characters. Because they are all brilliantly developed. I love Karou and Akiva and Mik and Zuzana, of course. But we got to see multiple layers of the characters that were introduced or expanded upon in the sequel. I was completely invested in Ziri (or Thiago) in this one, and I grew very fond of Liraz.
  • The relationships feel so freaking real! Akiva and Karou are one of my most-cared for OTPs. Their story is so unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and even though it’s angsty and full of longing, it somehow works for me. Maybe it’s because they’re so well-developed as individuals, maybe it’s because the romance is a part of them but doesn’t define them. Whatever it is, it works. The other relationships in this, – romantic or not – like Zuzana and Mik, Zuzana and Karou, Liraz and Akiva are also so brilliantly done. I really like how Taylor gives just as much attention to platonic relationships as she does to the romantic ones. It’s just real.

“He was as fixed on her as she was on him, and there was hunger where their eyes met. It wasn’t passion, simply, or desire, but something bigger that contained those things and many others. It was hunger and satiety at once – ‘wanting’ and ‘having’ meeting, and neither extinguishing the other.”

  • I’m a big fan of civil war plot-lines, and this entire thing of demons vs angels, but there are good demons and bad angels and vice versa, and that demons and angels need to form an alliance to fight the Big Bad. That was such a delight to read. I love it when two adversaries join forces; I enjoy seeing how they maneuver around their mutual discomfort to unite for ‘the greater good.’

The Bad (or rather, the okay-ish)

  • For one, it was way too long. And I don’t mind long books; I mean, come on, I’ve read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. But there was so much in this book that could’ve been left out. The entire Eliza plot-line was unnecessary so late into the series. It seemed like there was too much going on for one book; either it should’ve been divided into two separate books, or it should’ve been condensed in a way that the new plot-lines and characters should’ve been left out.
  • The Big Bad did nothing for me. Jael was a shit villain, to be frank. I could not – for the life of me – take him seriously. He wasn’t ominous like a Big Bad should be. He wasn’t intelligent, he wasn’t cold, and I wasn’t invested in him whatsoever. Since villains are some of my favorite characters, this was a huge let-down.
  • The civil war plot-line was too neatly wrapped up, but the ending as a whole felt too open to be of significance. Personally, I’m confused. I legit have no clue what happened at the end…
  • The pacing felt off. I think this ties back to the ‘too much going on’ point. Because there was so much happening, Taylor would cut off the storylines I was interested in to make room for the storylines that I was not. That broke the flow for me, and it was perhaps why it took me almost 20 days to finish this. Pacing is important – if pacing breaks off, I lose interest and stop reading.

So, in conclusion, while this series was beautiful and unique and enjoyable, the ending left something to be desired. I would still recommend this to anyone who digs lyrical prose and smoldering relationships and themes of civil war, and I’ll definitely keep my eye out for anything else Laini Taylor puts forth.

Review | Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

dbsTitle: Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy

Synopsis: Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it. Now, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope. But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Final Rating: ★★★★☆

Check out my review for the first book in this trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Check out this book’s Goodreads page.

Interested? Buy it now on the Book Depository & get free worldwide shipping!

Aimal’s Review:

For some strange reason, I was hesitant in picking this up, maybe because I just wan’t in the mood for dramatic romance. The first book in this trilogy was beautiful, and I really liked it, but it’s also true that it was dominated by romance. I thought the second installment was going to be the same, but I was wrong. The romance takes a back-seat as Taylor focuses all her creativity and energy in focusing on the fantasy world, the complex war going on in this world, and how the several different characters are managing what they’ve been given.

If you were hesitant about the first book and aren’t sure if you want to carry on with the series, I would definitely recommend picking this second book up. It’s not an easy read because the world-building is kicked up a notch and Taylor doesn’t just hand out information to her readers; you are forced to absorb what she’s writing and figure out much of the picture on your own. This might confuse a lot of people, while it may offer others a completely immersive experience. I was one of the latter, and I delighted in the pleasant confusion I encountered while reading this.

The war between the angels and the chimaera has been rebooted, and both sides are fighting dirty. Karou and Akiva – destined, passionate lovers – find themselves on the polar ends of the war. Karou, out of a sense of grief and loyalty, finds herself on the chimaera’s side as she does her best to rebuild their ranks after the events of the last book. Akiva, out of a sense of desperation and a need for salvation, finds himself doing strange things while fighting under the banner of the angels. It was very interesting to see how these two characters integrate their pasts with where they are now. Both of them are forced to make very difficult decisions as they find themselves in the midst of the war. Karou finds herself surrounded by a myriad of people who hate her, who do not trust her, but she feels obliged to be with them anyway. Akiva finds himself among blood-thirsty soldiers, and he is forced to hide his empathy for the chimaera from his ‘family.’ The difficult positions Taylor puts her characters in do wonders for development, and I loved it.

There are multiple perspectives in this – not just from Karou and Akiva, but other unlikely characters too. These perspectives contributed a lot to world-building since the readers were aware of what was going on with the chimaera, with the angels, with the common citizens etc. I also loved how Taylor portrayed the brutalities and realities of war; no one side is the clear winner or the clear ‘good’ side. Both sides have soldiers who want peace, both have soldiers who want war, both sides are tired and exhausted of the centuries-old conflict going on. Both sides have suffered losses, and Taylor manages to get this feeling of desperation across perfectly.

We get a little more insight into Hazael and Liraz’s characters, which I was very happy about. I grew very fond of both of them in this installment.

Overall, this book was gripping and beautiful, and I can’t wait to read the final book in the trilogy.

“I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things someday and I will be free.”

Review | Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor

dsb

Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy > Paranormal | Romance
Synopsis: 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 grows 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?
Would I recommend? To people who enjoy strange settings and strange characters and elaborate writing.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
Interested? Buy it now on the Book Depository and get free worldwide shipping!

Aimal’s Review:

Any person who has been in the book blogging community for even a little while now knows about this book. A ton of my favorite bloggers and my favorite booktubers have included this series among their favorite books of all time, and it’s safe to say that I was feeling left out.

I had heard this series is weird, and that it takes some time getting used to it. The thing is: I like strange books- they’re the best kind. But it didn’t take me any time getting into this book at all. In fact, I was hooked from the beginning. The writing drew me in, the characters were entertaining and the backdrop was a ton of fun to read about.

However, I did have some very problems that I found very hard to overlook.

Plot:

The world of this book is fantastic. It has been a long time since I have read something so strong when it comes to world-building. There’s a certain cloudiness over the history of the wars between the chimaera and the angels, which is speculated over throughout the book. It’s fascinating, and Taylor doesn’t give too much away.

The balance between the contemporary world and the fantasy world was well done. I enjoyed how it switched back and forth between something completely fantastical to more normal things like ex-boyfriends and friendships. I think Taylor’s work is ambitious; there are several stories going on in one book, and sometimes, it can seem gimicky, but Taylor pulls it off by creating such a nice balance.

I enjoyed the interactions between Karou and Akiva. I enjoyed the entire premise of the teeth and the wishes. I thought the plot twist was very original, very interesting and it completely changed the outlook of the entire series. I enjoyed the weirdness, and I’m definitely looking forward to the other books in the series.

But my main problem with this book lay in the romance. I thought it was a little too heavy-handed, a little too insta-lovey. Now, to people who have read the book, I realize why this instant love may be important to the plot, but I was still slightly bothered by it. I found myself rolling my eyes towards the beginning of the novel, and I usually don’t appreciate books that make me want to roll my eyes. 🙁

Characters:

I think the characters are very strong in this book. I immediately liked Karou and she’s a believable character. I really appreciated that Taylor didn’t conform to the typical “oh-I’m-so-plain-and-ugly” protagonist we see so much of in YA; instead, Karou is anything but plain, and she knows it. She actually thinks she’s pretty, and I can’t express how much I appreciate this because it’s something we see so less that it was profoundly refreshing.

Akiva is a wonderful character. I think he’s so complex and nuanced that you’re often conflicted about your own feelings for him. We don’t know too much about him towards the beginning, but we’re still drawn to him, which is perhaps how Karou feels too. So Taylor does a wonderful job of making her readers feel empathy for her characters.

I appreciate that Taylor gave a fair amount of time to secondary characters as well. Even though the romance was a little heavy-handed, it was balanced out with secondary characters who I have grown to appreciate and love. I look forward to reading more about these characters in the future.

Writing Style:

Laini Taylor has a very unique writing style. It has a whimsical, lyrical quality to it, and she incorporates intriguing metaphors and devices to draw the readers into her writing. It didn’t feel forced, and it felt like an extension of herself. I usually dislike embellishment in writing; I’m more for brevity, but this was a rare exception. If the plot doesn’t sound interesting to you, the writing may be enough to give it a try!

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