Author: Laini Taylor

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017

Hello and here I am with another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read four books.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that I’ve shared my reading goal for 2017 – I’ve challenged myself to read 80 books this year.  So far, so good.  Anyway, onto the books.  

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Format: ARC
Pages: 544 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The first book I’d like to mention is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.  Hachette was kind enough to send me a Netgalley for this March 28th release – thank you so much!  I anticipate publishing a full review of this book nearer the date, so I won’t say too much here.  In summary though, I’ll say that Taylor’s worldbuilding and lyrical prose are both gorgeous.  As an aside, isn’t that an absolutely stunning cover?  Wonderful.  Additionally, I’ll say that it’s been a while since I connected so quickly and so strongly with a protagonist.  The more I read about him the more I felt we were really on the same wavelength.  I loved his story and am excited to read the continuation.

I gave Strange the Dreamer four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Format: eBook
Pages: 294 pages
Genres: Self Help
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Self help is not a genre of books I read very often, but I made an exception for David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  One of my goals for 2017 was to become better organised and more productive.  I first learned about the GTD methodology through Carl Pullein’s YouTube channel that I follow.  I’ve been working on this for around six weeks now, so it’s too early to tell, but I’m happy with what I’ve learned.  Again, I plan a full review on this book, so I won’t say too much.  In essence, GTD is based on the assumption that the brain is pretty poor at holding information, and that a much better solution is to input the information into a trusted and maintained task and reference management system.  I’m planning a full review on GTD, so won’t say too much more here.

I gave Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 435 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

One book I did very much enjoy recently was Renee Andieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn.  This is a young adult fantasy inspired by The Arabian Nights and tells the story of Shazi, a young woman seeking revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend.  Even knowing that the Caliph routinely murders his wives on the morning after their wedding, she agrees to marry him.  As in the original, she uses the Caliph’s love of stories to extend her life.

The setting was beautifully evocative of the Arabian Nights world and I loved that there seems to be hidden layers to the story that have not yet been revealed.  I liked Shazi and Khalid as characters, although their romance did seem a little Instalovey.  That’s probably unavoidable given the scenario.  The pacing was excellent and kept me turning the pages.  I have not yet picked up book two, but I certainly plan to in the near future. 

I gave The Wrath and the Dawn four and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve the Mark #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The last book I want to talk about today is Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark.  This is a new duology from the creator of the Divergent trilogy and centres around a world in which the Force like current is all-pervasive and grants special powers, or currentgifts, to the inhabitants.  These gifts can be both a blessing and a curse.  Our protagonists are Akos and Cyra, on opposite sides of a civil conflict, and their paths collide. 

On the positive side, the worldbuilding is excellent.  Each of the cultures we meet is clearly defined with its own beliefs, values and systems, and the current and currentgifts add a fascinating aspect to it.  The world has a wonderful realness to it.  It was also interesting to deal with a protagonist who has to deal with chronic pain – Roth has said that that was one of her inspirations for the story.

On the not-so-good side, once again Roth has gone for dual points of view, a technique which didn’t work so well in Allegiant, and has its issues here.  It’s still unclear to me why Cyra’s chapters are in first person and Akos’s in third.  My biggest issue with the novel is that neither of our protagonists seem to have very clear goals.  It’s much harder to root for someone to achieve something when it’s not clear what they want to achieve and why. For me, the pacing was also not fast enough to keep my interest.  

For these reasons, it’s unlikely that I will pick up the sequel.

I gave Carve the Mark three stars out of five.

Upcoming releases in February

There are four books being published in the month of February about which I am excited.  Here they are. 

First up, we have King’s Cage, the third instalment in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series.  This is a young adult fantasy series which is somewhat trope filled. I’ll admit this is  not my most anticipated read of the month, but I’ve followed the series through Red Queen and Glass Sword, so I may as well continue on.  King’s Cage is released on February 7th.

Also on February 7th we have Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life, a contemporary novel about a young woman whose perfect Instagram feed hides the chaos in her life.  I adore Kinsella’s work – her Finding Audrey was so beautifully and sensitively written – and so I didn’t hesitate to preorder this one.  I’m very much looking forward to it!  This is one I’ll pick up in audiobook format – Kinsella’s writing is perfect for that medium, and it’s being narrated by Fiona Hardingham, who narrated the awesome The Summer Before the War.

Yet another book to be released on February 7th is Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods.  I don’t know too much about this except that it’s narrated by Gaiman himself and tells the story of Norse mythology, woven into a novelistic arc.  I’ve been enjoying Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, so I’m looking forward to this very much.

Finally, on February 21st we have the release of A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, This is the third book in the Shades of Magic series which tells of four parallel Londons and of Kell, who has the ability to travel between them.  I love the world Schwab has created and the characters who inhabit it.  I’m excited to read the conclusion to the story.  This is another one I’ll pick up in audiobook format given that it’s narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer.

It looks like I’ll be doing a lot of listening in February!

What books are you looking forward to in February?  Let me know in the comments.

four-stars

Reading roundup – July 6th 2015

Reading roundup – July 6th 2015Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
Also in this series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 15 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

First of all, may I just say isn’t this the most gorgeous cover art?  I’m not certain who created them, but all three covers (four if you include the novella) in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series are simply stunning.

Days of Blood and Starlight is the second in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy which is a contemporary fantasy based on the themes of Romeo and Juliet.  We have the star-crossed lovers from different and opposing sides, faked death, boyfriend goes off the rails.  This second instalment is based on the premise of “what if Juliet woke up from her fake death and found, not that Romeo had taken his own life, but that he’d killed all her family and friends?”  

What I liked

The world.  The world that Taylor has created is wonderfully rich and detailed.  I loved reading about the chimaera and seraphim.  We learn more about their world in this book.  

The themes.  The idea of star-crossed lovers is a timeless one.  There is a reason that Romeo and Juliet is a classic, and Taylor has done a great job of interpreting that into modern fantasy.  Add into this the theme of war and peace and you have a wonderful framework for a story.

The characters.  It is very easy to become invested in Karou and Akiva and root for them.  They are likeable, engaging and you feel for their plight.  The supporting characters are also great.  Zuzana and Mik add some much-needed levity to the story.

The writing style.  Taylor’s writing style is poetic and lyrical and is beautiful to read.  Go check it out.

The audio narration.  Once again, Khristine Hvam did a wonderful job – I particularly enjoyed her interpretation of Zuze and Mik.  I really should check out the Zuzana/Mik short story Night of Cake and Puppets also narrated by Hvam.

What I didn’t like

It has to be said, I didn’t enjoy Days of Blood and Starlight as much as Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  I found it a little too… depressing.  After the events of Daughter of Smoke and Bone neither of our protagonists are in a good place emotionally and when you add to that the escalation of the war between the chimaera and the seraphim it doesn’t make fun reading.  Thank goodness for Zuze and Mik!

Because of this, I gave Days of Blood and Starlight three and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – July 6th 2015Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs tells the story of 16 year old Jacob Portman and his fascination for his grandfather’s stories of the Home for Peculiar Children in which he grew up.  This institute is home to children who have special abilities and the novel explores what happens when Jacob goes looking for this place after a family tragedy.

What I liked

The concept.  I understand the author, Ransom Riggs, has had for many years a hobby of collecting unusual – read creepy – photos and he developed the novel around a selection of them.  Riggs has done an amazing job of connecting a set of unrelated photos and weaving a darned good narrative out of them.  It should be noted, for those of you thinking of picking up the Audible audiobook, that a PDF is provided with the photos in the book.

The characters.  I liked Jacob, his grandfather and the other characters they meet, especially the Peculiars.  

What I didn’t like

The creep factor.  Some of the photos are downright creepy and the Hollowgast with their tentacles for mouths – ew.  These registered just a little too highly on my creeped out factor.

The audio narration.  I really did not enjoy the audio narration.  Much of the book is set in my country of origin, the UK, and the narrator’s attempt at a British/Welsh accent was, to be kind, all over the place.  This really threw me out of the story on multiple occasions.

Although I will check out the sequel, Hollow City, at some point, I gave Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children three and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – July 6th 2015Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
Series: Night Angel #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 8 hrs
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

This week I dipped into the Graphic Audio production of Brent Weeks’ Way of Shadows.  Graphic Audio’s tagline is “A Move in Your Mind” and I can see why they call it that.  Their productions are enhanced audiobooks in that they include music, sound effects and a full voice cast.  It should be noted that the text isn’t quite a faithful reproduction of the original as a normal audiobook; for example where the narrator would say “it was a dark and stormy night…” instead of the text you’d hear sound effects for thunder and lightning.  

Graphic Audio productions are also a little more expensive than audiobooks, especially if you use Audible credits.  I can appreciate though that the production costs are likely higher.

For me, personally, I found the sound effects and music almost too overwhelming.  I’m a text purist and I like to hear the author’s words as written.  Having said that, I did enjoy the Graphic Audio experience and will probably pick up the rest of the Night Angel series in this format. 

That’s all I have for today.  Have a good week!

three-half-stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Review

daughter_smoke_bone
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – ReviewDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor tells the story of Karou, a young woman with a double life.  By day she is a student in modern day Prague, but at night she runs errands for her chimaera foster father, usually involving collecting teeth.  It also tells of her love for an angel, Akiva, and of the war between angels and chimaera.  

What I liked

Romeo and Juliet.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone borrows a lot from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  We have the star-crossed lovers on either side of opposing factions, betrayal, discovery, faked death and its fallout.  Hey, I don’t mind – there’s a reason why Shakespeare and his themes have lasted so long – the idea of star-crossed lovers torn apart by war and death still resonates.

Multiple threads woven together.  We see the story from multiple points of view.  At first, I found this confusing – who is Madrigal and why am I hearing from her when I want to hear from Karou? However as the book went on, these multiple points of view came together beautifully to create a wonderful story.

The humour.  Karou and her friend Zuzanna are just so funny together and had me snickering to myself on a regular basis.  Khristine Hvam’s wonderful narration really brought that out and that was one of the highlights of the book for me.  I also really enjoyed Karou’s and Zusanna’s solid friendship.  I look forward to reading more of it in Days of Blood and Starlight.  I’m very glad Akiva only becomes a more prominent character later in the book – initially he comes across as very cold and unsympathetic and I would have struggled to keep reading the book if he’s been a main protagonist from the beginning.  By the time we learn more about him and his backstory – and why he is the way he is – Karou had already drawn me into the story.

The worldbuilding.  Often in fantasy, the main character is someone initially unfamiliar with the society (think the Pevensie children, Rand al Thor or Harry Potter) so that the reader can more easily identify and engage with him/her and also so that the reader can learn about the world at the same time as the character.  This is not the case with Karou.  When we first meet her, she is fully immersed in the world of the chimaera having grown up there.  Certainly, she has a lot of secrets to uncover, but the fantastical universe is familiar to her.  With Karou’s double life as a student in Prague it’s easy to engage with her, Taylor does an excellent job of familiarising the reader with the world while avoiding info dumping.

Narration.  As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed Khristine Hvam’s narration.  Her Zuzanna voice is wonderful!

Here’s a sample

[audio http://samples.audible.com/bk/hach/000710/bk_hach_000710_sample.mp3]

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t like about Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  It is a great read and I would certainly recommend it.  The sequel has been added to my wishlist for after I’ve got through my current TBR pile.

I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone four and a half stars out of five

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Audible

four-half-stars
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