marineko: (bookish)
"Home. The word might still have air quotes around it, but half of Karou’s life had been chopped off, and the other half — the normal half — was in Prague. Her tiny flat with its rows and rows of sketchbooks; Zuzana and marionettes; school, easels, naked old men with feather boas; Poison Kitchen, statues in gas masks, bowls of goulash steaming on coffin lids; even her jackass of an ex-boyfriend lurking around corners dressed like a vampire."
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

I've heard nothing but good things about Laini Taylor's Silksinger and Blackbringer. I never really picked up the books because I wasn't too keen on the covers - I'm the sort of reader who wouldn't buy a book, however good it is, if I didn't like the cover. I even stopped reading Westerfeld's steampunk books because the Behemoth cover didn't match my Leviathan hardcover. Back to Laini Taylor - by the time I finally decided to get over the cover thing and get the books anyway, one of them had gone out of print. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the books on Kinokuniya (KL)'s Christmas list, and one of the ones I wanted the most. Amanda ended up getting me a copy for Christmas (we exchanged presents early).

I liked this book a lot - in fact for the first part of the book I hated having to put it down, and can't seem to shut up about it. Karou is an interesting protagonist, and I liked her from the get-go. She's definitely a change from the typical Twilighty female characters in a lot of the paranormal YA fiction now. The mystery of her also hooked me - she doesn't reveal anything about herself, letting the reader see bits and pieces, like little flashes from a surreal dream, every now and then. She has an ex-boyfriend who stalks her. She has a best friend who seems like an awesome person to know. She's an art student, who fills up her sketchbooks with what others think are fantasy drawings, except that they're not. Because she was raised by chimaera, human-animal hybrids from another world - creatures that we would probably call monsters.

This novel is dark, and the premise is interesting. The introduction to Karou's life takes up the first 80 pages or so, and it hooked me. I wouldn't have minded if the story was just about her, and Brimstone the wish-monger (who raised her), and the workshop. I wouldn't have minded if the story went deeper into her childhood, and what it was like being raised by the chimaera. But at the heart of it, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a teen paranormal romance, and that's where it temporarily lost me.

I'm not really a genre snob - at least, I try not to be. I actually like romance novels, and have even read and enjoyed the Twilight saga, despite being seriously disturbed about the whole stalker/pedophilia thing. But I'm oh so tired of stories about "true love" and "soul mates", okay. And this is exactly that kind of romance novel. Enter Akiva, who besides being an Angel and Karou's "one true love", I don't really find at all fascinating. He's a typical dark, broody hero type, and here's the catch - the Angels and the chimaera (demons) are at war. They always had been. Which pretty much makes Karou the enemy. Still, because of reasons unknown, he can't seem to kill her, and then she can't seem to kill him, and... yeah. Maybe it's not exactly Bella/Edward, but I definitely see a Buffy/Angel thing going on here.

Still, I loved this book. I liked Karou that much - that I continued reading through it even after Akiva makes an appearance. And she's still an awesome heroine, to me. And I actually liked the way Laini Taylor dealt with the Angel/Demon mythology, very much. It made me almost forgive the whole "soulmate" thing; almost, because the fact that the love story takes up so much of the plot meant that I can't recommend it to everyone. Just the ones who wouldn't mind. ^^;

It still is one of my favourite reads of the year, probably, because it's an interesting dark fantasy, it's beautifully written, it's got a heroine I absolutely love, it's got excellent world-building, and it's really very hard to put down. BUT I really wish that impossibly beautiful characters would just stop falling in love at first sight (and maybe, uhm, not be impossibly beautiful? I mean I get that Akiva's an angel, but...) and it'd be nice if the ending's not such a cliffhanger, or if the second book is already coming out.

I gave this 4 stars out of 5 on GoodReads (^_^)

NOTE: Cross-posted in my blogspot, and the Kinokuniya KL Blog. Really I wanted to start writing in my blogspot again, which is why I wrote this, but I also didn't want to end up abandoning LJ (as I tend to do once I start on blogspot), so I'm cross-posting. And the Kino blog crosspost is because I haven't been updating it ever since we started the Kino Tumblr, so I figured, why not. ^^;

marineko: (bookish)
"I never told anyone about this nightly habit. I was sure my parents would send me to a shrink if they knew, and the shrink would institutionalize me or drug me or give me shock therapy or at least make me visit him five days a week. They wouldn't understand. I didn't want to die. I just found death soothing to think about." - How To Say Goodbye in Robot, Natalie Standiford

I have a long, long list of good YA books in my TBR pile and was overwhelmed when it came to making a decision of which to read first. I settled on How To Say Goodbye in Robot not because it was the one I wanted to read the most, but because I wanted to save Will Grayson, Will Grayson for when I really need it, and I know starting on any of the David Levithans I have would make me want to read nothing but more David Levithans, and the same goes for Rachel Cohn. I've never read Natalie Standiford, and I only got How To Say Goodbye in Robot because of the quirky title and interesting synopsis, and to tell the truth it was mostly out of impulse. So I thought it'd be a good place to start - I would be able to immediately jump into the next book after I'm done.

Instead, this book turned out to be one of the most important reads I've had in a long time. I'm not saying it'll be the same for everyone, because it's one of those books that touched me very personally, like Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, John Green's Looking for Alaska, Daniel Clowe's Ghost World and Rachel Cohn & David Levithan's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Because of how much this book affected me, though, I'm not sure if I can be coherent enough to even write about it. But I have to try.

The story is about Beatrice (nicknamed "Robot Girl" on her favourite radio talk show), whose family moved a lot because of her dad's job, and the strange friendship she had struck with Jonah ("Ghost Boy"), a boy in her new school. They were definitely more than friends, but the relationship wasn't a romantic one. I really don't want to write more of the story than this, because I think this is one of those books that is best to read without knowing too much about it. (Well, that's how I prefer most of my non-fantasy YA, anyway.)

Having described myself as a "Ghost Girl" for the longest time, having experienced a similar friendship (that even ended up in almost the same way as Bea & Jonas's did), and having been to six schools in twelve years, I related to both Beatrice and Jonah. But I won't get into that in this post; instead, I'll write about other things I like about this book. I liked the radio show that Bea & Jonas listen to at night - the idea that a group of people could communicate and relate to each other, and become sort of like a family, over the radio, really appealed to me. I liked that the other kids at Bea & Jonah's school weren't portrayed as bad, exactly. They just didn't see things the same way Bea & Jonah did. I liked that it's about a platonic relationship, and how that could be just as complicated and intense (maybe even more complicated and intense) as a romantic one. I like Bea's mother. I like the slow way the characters change throughout the novel - both Bea and her mother end up as completely different people from who they were at the beginning of the book. I like the quirkiness of this novel - the idea that there are people from the future living in our time thread, the idea of people who are from different backgrounds connecting through a radio show, the idea of dressing up in costumes and taking photographs of yourselves. And the whole thing about disappearing, becoming a ghost person, that really got to me too, because it was something that I've carried with me all through high school and college.

It's one of the most endearing and heart-breaking books I've read in a long time. I don't think that everyone will feel the same way about it (after all, my reaction to it is mostly personal) but it won't stop me from recommending it!

Favourite Quotes:

"Is there or isn't there what? How do you define a boyfriend? If a boyfriend is the first person you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last face you see before you fall asleep, then I was in love with Jonah. But if a boyfriend had to involve physical chemistry and kissing and sex and stuff, then, no, he wasn't that."

"People think It's A Wonderful Life is a sappy movie, but they're wrong. It's sad. George Bailer is no saint. He's angry. He hates his family. He wants to travel the world and have adventures, but his family keeps stopping him. He even says to his wife, 'Why do we have to have all these kids?' People tell themselves George doesn't mean that, he's just upset at that moment. But he does mean it. Sure, he loves his wife and kids, in that helpless way people love their families. He's stuck with them, so he makes the best of a bad situation. He's a hero because he makes something good out of a life he doesn't want. I'd like to be able to do that. I hope it's something you can learn."
marineko: (bookish)
"If my antiquarian tastes caused me difficulties, another of my inclinations did worse. I, too, like Nobuko Yoshiya, have a natural disposition toward being an S. From kindergarten to grammar school, and up through junior high and high school, my schools were all co-ed, but I have not once felt a thing for the male sex. I was only ever interested in the fairer sex. Mine. But, alas, even when the same sex was stunning by all outward appearances, I never ceased to be disappointed when they started talking. I hadn't yet met the kind of person with whom I could have an S relationship - overflowing with the kind of gorgeous, evanescent romanticism you find in Yoshiya's novels. And physically, I couldn't stand boys. I mean, they were so foul! No matter how androgynous their look, once you peeled back a layer, you realized they were all coarse and crude and disgusting." - Missin' by Novala Takemoto

Oh wow. I really don't know what to say about these two books. Like Kamikaze Girls, it completely hooked me. It was like reading Francesca Lia Block for the first time. It was like turning back time and being me in high school again.

These books has really been like a rollercoaster ride, leaving me breathless and feeling a little bit out of place by the time I was done. The first book, Missin', is actually two stories in one. The first, "Little Shop Called the End of the World", is a love story between a shop keeper and a young girl who frequents his shop every day. The second, "Missin'", is a story about a teenager whose live changed after discovering a band called Cid Vicious, and fell in love with the vocalist. Both are stories about obsession, really, and how it could ruin you. They're both a lot darker than Kamikaze Girls, and reminded me a bit of Francesca Lia Block's The Hanged Man. The sequel, Missin' 2, is just as dark, but ends in a more positive note reminiscent of Kamikaze Girls. It continues with the story of Kasako, the narrator of the second story in the first book. I've got to get this in Japanese! (I've already read Missin' in the original, but for some reason Kino doesn't carry Missin' 2.)

I think one of the reasons I love these books so much was that it understood that almost crazy kind of obsession teen girls get into (that I have to admit, I sometimes still get into) - with fashion brands, with music, with finding a kindred and holding on no matter what. The synopsis on the back had this line that I like - "His characters struggle with being born in the wrong place, in the wrong time, and with the wrong feelings." Which was exactly how I felt in high school, and exactly why I could relate so easily to his characters.

[I'm sorry that this came out mostly as an aimless ramble. I never could be coherent with Novala Takemoto's work - my Kamikaze Girls review was the same.]
marineko: (bookish)
"Don't go for normal. Go for happy. Go for what you want it to be instead of settling for what is." - Are We There Yet? by David Levithan

Elijah is 16. Danny is 23. Elijah is mellow and dreamy. He always says please and thank you, he makes friends easily and has long conversations with strangers. Danny is serious and hardworking. He works non-stop (he's in advertising) and he spends more time with his co-workers than his friends and family. Elijah thinks that Danny is a sell-out. Danny thinks that Elijah is a slacker. Danny and Elijah are brothers, and they do not get along. In order to get the brothers to recapture a little of the affection they used to share as children, Danny and Elijah's parents send them on a trip to Italy. In Italy, they spend their time together rather awkwardly, until Elijah meets Julia and starts to spend more time with her. Separated from each other, both Danny and Elijah learns more about themselves and that they have both been isolating themselves from the people in their lives.

I enjoyed this novel more than Boy Meets Boy, although perhaps not as much as some of the stories in How They Met and Other Stories or Levithan's collaborations with Rachel Cohn (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List). I love Danny and Elijah, and could relate to both of them, which is kind of weird when you think of how different they are from each other. Unlike the other works by Levithan I've read, this was written in the third person and reads a lot like poetry at times. It mentions the difference between brothers and sisters several times, but Danny and Elijah's relationship does make me think of my own with my sister.

David Levithan is one of my favourite authors, so of course I think everyone should read this. However, if you're reading him for the first time, it's probably best to start either with Boy Meets Boy or Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Or not. It doesn't matter, because everything I've read by him is amazing.

Sample quotes:

"Elijah rearranges his pillows and fits himself within the sheets. And as he does, he wonders. He wonders about goldfish asleep with their eyes open. He wonders about Italy, about his parents, about whether the stars will be brighter in Venice. He hears voices at a distance, the lively sound of voices from the common room. Like the spots of color whenever he closes his eyes. He closes his eyes. He thinks about what a wonderful friend Cal is. How lucky he is to have such friends, all of his friends. He is happy. He is almost empty with happiness."

"Elijah loves the conversation. Whatever conversation. The tentative first steps. The shyness. Wondering whether it's going to happen and where it will go. He hates surface talk. He wants to dive right through it. Because anyone he talks to seems to have something worthwhile to say."

"Sisters dress up to rehearse for what will really happen to them. But brothers, Elijah realises, are never rehearsing that way. They rehearse their own illusions. until reality takes a turn and they are asked to rehearse for other things. You go to school. You graduate. You sell snack cakes. You hang up your cape and put on a suit."

"Elijah feels giddiness and delight -- although he is now in Venice, he is still high on the anticipation of Venice. The trip has not settled yet. It hasn't officially begun."
marineko: (bookish)
The problem exactly is that she dumped me. That I'm alone. Oh my God, I'm alone again. And not only that, but I'm a total failure in case you haven't noticed. I'm washed up. I'm former. Formerly the boyfriend of Katherine XIX. Formerly a prodigy. Formerly full of potential. Currently full of shit. - John Green, "An Abundance of Katherines"

Colin Singleton used to be a child prodigy, but worries that he would never be known as a genius. He is on a neverending search to understand (& memorise) everything, and his favourite thing to do is anagramming. He also has a thing for Katherines - he has dated and been dumped by nineteen Katherines at the beginning of the novel. To cheer him up, his best friend Hassan decides that the two of them should go on a road trip. Hassan is looking for adventure, and Colin is trying to complete his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability (which he hopes he would win a Nobel Peace Prize for), but things do not go as planned.The two of them ends up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet Lindsey Lee and Hollis (Lindsey's mother) and ends up staying with them.

My favourite thing about An Abundance of Katherines, and John's Green story in the Let It Snow anthology, is the characters. If these stories are anything to go by, John Green excels at writing smart, believable teens. I wasn't a child prodigy, even though I started reading at the same age as Colin. So I don't know about being a prodigy. But I do know about being very different from the other kids at school and trying to find connections in everything and finding everything so very interesting and being told by other people, "Not interesting." And I related to Hassan, because I think I'm a non-doer myself, which is probably one of the reasons I'm so addicted to books. I especially appreciated Hassan's character because for the first time, I get to read about a Muslim character that I can actually relate to. Amal in Does My Head Look Big In This? (by Randa Abdel-Fattah) was just too good for me to believe, and Pash in Whip It (by Shauna Cross) doesn't seem to hold to any Islamic values at all. Hassan, on the other hand, seems more believable to me. There's this quote from him that I wanted to include but I can't seem to find it now. And I love the way he introduced himself as "not a terrorist." Haha.

The second thing I love about this book is the math. I love math. I sometimes say that I hate math, but I love it really. I just happen to be very bad at it, so sometimes it annoys me. I love how John Green includes math in the novel in a way that makes it interesting, beautiful, and still pretty easy to understand (the appendix is very helpful). I also love the anagrams and the useless trivia that Colin shares, which are not math, but are equally interesting.

This is the second work of John Green I've read (the first was a novella in Let It Snow, which is also really good) and I definitely will be getting more. I've already ordered a copy of Looking for Alaska (Kino doesn't have the version I want), and will be getting a copy of Paper Towns as soon as my budget says it's okay. (I have a LOT of books on reserve already, so I can't add more at the moment)

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

"Eventually, he found the bed too comfortable for his state of mind, so he lay down on his back, his legs sprawled across the carpet. He anagrammed "yrs forever" until he found one he liked: sorry fever. And then he lay there in his fever of sorry and repeated the now memorized note in his head and wanted do cry, but instead he only felt this aching behind his solar plexus. Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something. He kept thinking about one word - forever - and felt the burning ache just beneath his rib cage.
    It hurt like the worst ass-kicking he'd ever gotten. And he'd gotten plenty."

"Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back."

"What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?"

"Colin did not laugh. Instead he thought, Tampons have strings? Why? Of all the major human mysteries - God, the nature of the universe, etc. - he knew the least about tampons. To Colin, tampons were a little bit like grizzly bears: he was aware of their existence, but he'd never seen one in the wild, and didn't really care to."

EDIT: I just realised that really, the first John Green work I've read is the short story Freak the Geek from the anthology Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. I loved it, which was why I borrowed [ profile] ashkarya's copy of Let It Snow in the first place.

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