Snapshot From a Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Snapshot From a Book is a feature that I started sometime last year and so far, I only have three posts for it (Interim Goddess of Love trilogy by Mina V. Esguerra, The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand). I did mention that I wouldn’t be sure how often I’d be able to do this since it’s rare for me to visit places that are used as settings in the books that I read. Also, I think it’s pretty cool that I’ve managed to use lomography pictures in all my posts so far. In keeping with that theme, today I’m featuring snippets and pictures for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (my review). I visited Prague a few months ago and I believe Laini Taylor did a magnificent job in describing this gorgeous city. I’m sharing pictures taken using my Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim film camera with no edits. Films used were Fuji Sensia, Fuji Velvia, Lomochrome Purple and Revolog Kolor.

“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Above it all loomed the castle on the hill, its silhouette as sharp as thorns. By night it was floodlit, bathed in eerie light, and this evening the sky hung low, full-bellied with snow, making gauzy halos around the street lamps.”

Prague lomo 1Prague lomo 2Prague lomo castle

“Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travelers deep into forests until they’re lost beyond hope.”

Prague lomo astronomical clockPrague lomo old town

The medieval Cesky Krumlov was very briefly mentioned in the book as well, so I thought it would be nice to include some shots of that lovely place too:

“Zuzana was Czech, from a long line of marionette artisans in Cesky Krumlov, the little jewel box of a city in southern Bohemia.”

Cesky Krumlov lomoCesky Krumlov lomo 2

Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I read and loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone the year it came out. I can’t believe it’s been four years since then! I don’t know why I put off reading its sequels, I think I wanted to wait until the trilogy is finished so I can read all three books together. I was in the mood to read about Prague and also to immerse myself in a good fantasy world so I picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone to reread and dove right into the second and third books. There are unavoidable spoilers for the first book in this combined review.

Days of Blood and Starlight
Days of Blood and StarlightVastly different from the first book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight is all about the cycle of violence and vengeance involved in the never-ending war between the seraph and chimaera. Karou and Akiva are on opposite sides of the war and both are struggling to make the most out of their current situation, to find a way to atone for everything that they’ve done previously. The peace and tranquility of Karou’s human life in Prague gives a nice contrast to the war-torn world of Eretz. If Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about an epic love, its sequel is about soul-crushing heartbreak. Heartbreak not just for Karou and Akiva but also for all their people, for everyone who has only ever known war. I can’t say that I loved twists and turns that the story took but I have to admit that it’s a compelling read. Laini Taylor has a beautiful writing style. I wanted to keep reading but also didn’t want to continue because I didn’t want the characters to go through more pain. While it’s not easy to read, I did appreciate the empathy that this kind of story invokes in the reader. I really just want things to get better for everyone (well not the villains, of course). I started the third book right after finishing this one because I couldn’t wait to find out what’s going to happen.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Dreams of Gods and MonstersYou know how some series just keep getting better as it progresses? For me, this series was the opposite of that. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone and thought it was a beautiful story. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the second book but I still found it an absorbing read. With Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I kept thinking more along the lines of, “What? What is going on here?” While Karou and Akiva’s storyline continues, other threads featuring new characters (Eliza and Scarab) are introduced. I wasn’t really invested in Eliza’s story and even skimmed some of the sections that were devoted to her. Scarab was more interesting but it might have been better if there was more than a hint about her people in the earlier books. At the end of the book, the varying threads of the story are pulled together but it didn’t feel seamless to me. I got the feeling that Laini Taylor was trying to tie loose ends and create an epic mythology encompassing Eretz and Earth but it felt a bit all over the place for me. From the start, the trilogy was focused on Karou, Akiva and the war between their people. The new elements in this last installment made the main focus of the trilogy feel smaller and less significant. I think there really was just one thing that I liked in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, which was the sweet secondary romance. Aside from that, I kept reading only because I wanted to see how the story would end. And even that wasn’t as satisfying as I would like. The end felt more like the beginning of the end – raising more questions than settling answers. It really makes me sad that I didn’t love the whole trilogy since it started really strong for me.

Favorite Literary Couples III

Image from We Heart It

Listing down my favorite fictional couples has become a yearly tradition that I do it every Valentine’s Day. You can see my choices in 2010 and 2011 by clicking on the links. I highlight five favorite couples from books that I’ve read starting mid-February of last year until today. It’s always hard to narrow down my choices because I’m a big fan of romances when they’re done well.

Harper and Jake from Saving June by Hannah Harrington – Harper and Jake’s love story is the most swoon-worthy out of all the contemporary YA novels that I read last year. It’s the perfect kind of slow burn romance that develops through a road trip, both of them trying to handle the pain of losing a loved one.

Grace and Vaughn from Unsticky by Sarra Manning – From contemporary YA, we shift to contemporary adult with these two broken individuals. A relationship based on convenience between two people riddled with imperfections could go wrong in so many ways and yet it works for Grace and Vaughn.

Sean and Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Sean Kendrick is a quiet young man but when he chooses to speak his mind? Oh how he slays you with those perfect lines. Sean and Puck’s relationship starts with a friendship based on mutual interests and subtly develops the more time they spend together.

Karou and Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Karou and Akiva’s romance might seem like instant love at first glance but as you go through this lyrical novel, it becomes obvious that there’s so much more to it than initial attraction. It was the back story that I loved, finding out more about their past and what made them who they are when they meet again. I cannot wait to read more about them in Days of Blood and Starlight.

Kate and Curran from Magic Slays and Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews – I may be cheating a bit here because I already listed Kate and Curran as a favorite couple last year but I can’t help it. I love how their relationship develops and it’s not the least bit boring even though they’re an established couple. Both of them still have issues that they need to work out and they go through all of that together.

I love that these couples are from books that fall under different genres (contemporary YA, contemporary adult, YA fantasy, adult urban fantasy). Yay for varied reading choices! I also listed down five runners-up in the previous years so I’d do the same here:

Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Claire and Venturo from Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews
Julie and Finn from Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Willa and Colin, Paxton and Sebastian from The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Carly and Ryan from Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Who are some of your favorite fictional couples from the novels that you’ve read the past year? Any recent romantic reads?

Shoot That Book: Laini Taylor Hardcovers

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

Since I reviewed Silksinger this week, I thought it would be a good idea to feature my Laini Taylor hardcovers in today’s post. Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year and it makes me happy that I have all of her books in hardcover format:

Aren’t they pretty? And they all have illustrations inside (well, only that feather for Daughter of Smoke and Bone):

I used to have a thing about having matching editions when it comes to my books, especially if they’re part of a series, but now I don’t really mind. Although I do feel like getting hardcovers whenever I fall in love with a book because that makes me feel like the copy would last longer. Sigh, I would love to have hardcovers of all the books by Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, Ilona Andrews and Melina Marchetta but they’re not readily available (in Ilona Andrews’ case, her books are published only in paperback editions). What about you guys, are you particular when it comes to matching editions? Do you have hardcovers of all the books of certain authors?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I already pre-ordered Daughter of Smoke and Bone but jumped at the chance to read the ARC when Hachette Philippines gave us copies for the Filipino ReaderCon. I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I fell in love with Laini Taylor’s writing in Lips Touch. I finished this book last week and I’ve been wanting to write a review ever since, to convince the rest of you to pick this up.

Here’s the summary from Laini Taylor’s website:

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 otherworldly 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.

Believe me when I tell you that I was really excited to read this book. It’s one of my most anticipated releases this year. I had high expectations because I wanted more of the author’s lyrical way with words and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure under what genre or category Daughter of Smoke and Bone will fall under but I’m guessing it’s either YA urban fantasy or YA paranormal romance and while I usually shy away from those kinds of books, I didn’t have to worry about not liking this one. I was torn between wanting to read the book slowly so I can savor the words and devouring the whole thing in one big gulp.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Karou, her upbringing and the chimaera who brought her up. Chimaera are creatures from another world, with various animal and human features mixed together. Others may call them monsters or demons but they’re more whimsical than scary. The novel is partially set in this world, in Prague, where Karou is based, as well as all the other places that she goes to for her errands. The other setting is in a world different from our own, where chimaera have been fighting a war against another kind of supernatural being for as long as anyone can remember. Look at me being vague to avoid spoilers. The worldbuilding in this book is something that I fell in love with – from the everyday descriptions of Karou’s life in Prague to the back story of the chimaera and their world. The atmospheric setting made me eager to go to Prague and see for myself if it’s really as lovely as the book described. It’s the kind of worldbuilding (and prose) that will suck you in and won’t let go until you reach the very end. And when you get to that part? It will leave you wanting more.

The romance was totally swoon-worthy. For me, what made the love story work were all the details and intricacies involved. There’s a lot of history tied up with the romance and there were valid reasons that made it as complicated as it was. I ate up the last few chapters of this book like they were pieces of chocolate, they were that scrumptious. I kept adding favorite quotes from the book on Goodreads and since I love Laini Taylor’s beautiful prose so much, I thought it would be a good idea to give a sample:

“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and… cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”

Even before I got my grubby little hands on a copy, I predicted that Daughter of Smoke and Bone will make it to my best of 2011 list and I was right. I truly cannot wait for the sequel to be finished. I have to wait a whole year before it will be released! I need to get my hands on those Faeries of Dreamdark books to tide me over while waiting. If I haven’t managed to convince you to read this book by now, I don’t know what else I could say. Enthusiastically recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who like the YA variety. I’m predicting that this one will become a hit.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Good Books and Good Wine
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I has it! I has it, my precious.

Look at what I got today – an ARC of one of my most anticipated titles this year, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Note that the cover for the ARC isn’t the final design. I read and loved Lips Touch by the same author a few months ago and I’ve been looking forward to reading her latest ever since. I’ve been hearing such good things about it from fellow book bloggers and I’m jealous of everyone who’s read it so far. And now I’ll be able to do it a few weeks early. *beams* Thank you to Isa of Hachette Philippines for my copy.

Doesn’t that make you more curious? I can’t wait to finish the book that I’m currently in the middle of so I can start on this already.

Want Books: Anticipated Releases

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

Okay, so I normally don’t feature books that haven’t been released in my Want Books posts but I can’t help it with these two: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. It’s probably because I’ve seen other bloggers get review copies of these and I’m really, really jealous. If someone decides to send me ARCs of these books, I will be eternally grateful. Anna and the French Kiss was one of my favorite reads last year and I’ve heard that Lola is just as good. I recently bought a copy of Lips Touch, read the first two short stories in it and promptly fell in lovely with Laini Taylor’s lyrical prose. It doesn’t hurt that the hardcover comes with beautiful illustrations. I’ll post a review when I’m done reading the whole thing. I hear the last story is the best in that book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, release date: September 27, 2011. Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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 otherworldly 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?

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, release date: September 29, 2011. Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket – a gifted inventor – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

What about the rest of you, what books are in your wishlists?