Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou is a blue-haired art student in Prague who lives a double life.  She has her small flat where she sleeps under the spread of a pair of huge wings she created.  She attends class, tangles with her ex-boyfriend, and hangs out with her best friend.  Her sketchbooks are filled with strange creatures, so she is known to have a great imagination.  No one knows that these are not creatures she has made up, but rather some of her closest family.  Because she also has her secret life where she runs errands for Brimstone who is a wishmaker.  Her errands take her across the world through magical doorways and what sounds amazing actually results in hauling elephant tusks on Paris subways or bargaining for the teeth of the dead in Morocco.  Brimstone needs teeth to do his job, and it’s Karou’s job to bring them to him.   Her life is complicated and busy, but filled with questions that are never answered.  Karou has always felt something is missing, she’s just not sure what it could be.

Taylor has created a stunning novel here.  Her heroine is complicated, vibrant, amazing and conflicted.  She is strong, vulnerable, beautiful, and mesmerizing.   She is also tough as nails when pushed, raised by monsters, and at the same time big-hearted and kind.  She is a study in contrasts that really works, each piece making sense and creating a believable whole.

The writing is equally spectacular.  Taylor’s descriptions of places is filled with beauty.  She describes Prague as “a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies.”  Contrast that with Marrakesh “a mad, teeming carnival of humanity: snake charmers and dancers, dusty barefoot boys, pickpockets, hapless tourists, and food stalls selling everything from orange juice to roasted sheep’s heads.”

The entire book is filled with richness.  Her descriptions are deep and meaningful.  The relationships between characters are strong and true.  And when she writes a love story, you’d better be ready for your own stomach butterflies to awaken and flutter.  It is honey-sweet, hot and shining.  She has created a world that you will not want to ever leave.

This is one ravishing read that breaks away from the paranormal romance label that could have bound it.  Whether you are a paranormal romance fan or not, this is a book worth reading.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown and Company.

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Review: Zoozical by Judy Sierra

zoozical

Zoozical by Judy Sierra, illustrations by Marc Brown

This sequel to Wild About Books continues with the same vivacious spirit of the first.  It is winter and the visitors to the zoo start to stay home.  All of the animals had the winter blues too.  But just when the blues seemed to be inescapable, a very small hippo and young kangaroo started to hop.  Soon everyone was dancing along with them and then everyone started to sing.  The dancing and singing turned into their own stage show complete with sets and costumes.  Once again, the zoo was the place to be despite the snowy weather.

Told in rhyming verse, there is a bubbly, bouncing feel to the book.  The verse also reads aloud tremendously well thanks to the rhymes and the natural rhythm that Sierra has created in each line.  The thrill and creativity of the theatre are captured in the jaunty text as is the slow, winter dullness. 

Brown’s art is boisterous, big and bright.  The colors change from the blues and grays of winter into an almost tropical feel when the animals are feeling themselves again.  Greens, oranges, yellows and reds pop and glow on the page.  There is always plenty to keep your eye on in the illustrations as well, giving children a reason to read this one again and again.

A standing ovation to Sierra and Brown for this bright, bubbly, boisterous book.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.