Review: Walking in Beauty by Phoenix LaFae

Walking in Beauty: Using the Magick of the Pentacle to Bring Harmony in Your Life by Phoenix LaFae

Published: July 8, 2020 by Llewellyn Publications

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Using the pentacle and its five points as a magickal framework, this inspiring book presents techniques and exercises that help you manifest joy, discover your inner and outer beauty, recognize blessings, and bring balance to your life. Phoenix LeFae presents a revolutionary approach based on the five points of the pentacle–Beauty, Devotion, Desire, Creativity, and Expression.

Walking in Beauty awakens you to the magnificence of the world; it is both a meditation tool and a key to greater awareness. Through exercises, rituals, affirmations, and beauty acts you can take out into the world, this marvelous guide shows you how to run the energy of the pentacle through your body and clear any blocks that keep you from living a fully engaged and beautiful life. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Llewellyn!***

The concept of this book was really appealing to me. One of the first ideas that you learn in paganism and witchcraft is that the points of the pentacle symbolize the five elements and the circle represents all of those elements working together in harmony, toward a greater goal. LaFae takes this concept and applies it to the concept of beauty. Beauty of the self, beauty of the soul, beauty of the world. Our society is severely lacking in an appreciation of the small things and that is what this book is about. Everyone gets too busy to notice small, beautiful things in the world but this is ultimately detrimental to your magick and to your soul.

I loved the layout of this book. It has sections where it asks you to journal all of your feelings or revelations about the portion that you previously read. Some of the assignments are to find a beautiful thing and add it to your beauty notebook. This book is definitely going to be added to my personal collection. Reading it for the purpose of a review, I didn’t get a chance to work through some of the assignments but I want to. So I will be going through this more thoroughly later.

The rituals were also pretty good. They are not beginner rituals (as the books points out it is not a beginner’s guide to magick) in that it doesn’t cover the basics like grounding, casting a circle, releasing a circle, setting up an altar, that kind of thing. The rituals are beautiful in their own way and I can’t wait to try them out.

The ultimate goal of the beauty pentacle is to use the newly positive view that you develop and spread that beauty outward. To use small acts in your community to spread the power of the pentacle ever wider. I love that idea. If everyone did that the world would be a much more positive place.

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825._SY475_The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Published: January 2, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Readers

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Rating: 5 star

Review: I admit that the only reason I picked up this book was because I keep seeing the cover for the upcoming third book in the series, and it is absolutely gorgeous. But I didn’t want to start with the third book in a series, so I started from the beginning. And it was glorious!

For the first half of this book it was a pretty typical YA book. A human girl who was spirited away to Faerie as a young child. She desperately wants to fit in and make it her new home, but gets relentlessly bullied by the other faerie kids because she’s human. She strives to be more than “just a human” but isn’t sure exactly how to do that. So far all of this is pretty typical and it was good. I enjoyed reading about Jude and the book was well written. I also loved that the world of Faerie was depicted in such a dark and cruel way, it was refreshing from how most faeries are portrayed in YA books.

Then, around the halfway point of the story, things took a drastic turn for the darkness. I was shocked. My jaw hung open and I proceeded to read the final half of the book in one sitting because I HAD TO KNOW! The deceit and deception got so much deeper and darker the longer I read. It was fantastic.

Just when I thought I had Jude’s plan all figured out, things took another turn that I did not see coming. I loved every second of this plot. I love that it lulled me into a false sense of security that this would be just like all the other YA books I’ve read and then yanked that dream away from me in a split second, and with no remorse.

Also, Taryn is possibly the worst person in the entire book. I knew I didn’t like her much from the beginning but she is just downright awful. At one point I just kept thinking “that #&U%(#, Jude stab her!” I know I would have.

This book was fabulous. I will be picking up the second book just as soon as I can, because I have to know what happens now.

Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

46158562._SY475_The Deep by Alma Katsu

Published on March 10, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .

Rating: 5 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons!***

I loved this book. I really, really loved this book. Anyone can tell you that I am a sucker for a story about the Titanic. I am one of those people that went and saw the movie fifteen times and cried just as much the last time as the first time, who still cries at the thought of the movie. And I have read pretty much every book written on the topic and watched every documentary I can get my hands on. Titanic holds a very dear place to my heart. That is what drew me to this book in the first place and I was not disappointed.

Annie was a very good character. She was charming, humble, smart, if a bit naive. I felt like I was seeing the Titanic from a fresh view, one that hasn’t been explored often. Her character also did a lot of changing and growing over the course of the book. She went from being a naive girl running away from home to a woman set on discovering the truth of her past trauma and confronting it without blinking. That was a wonderful transformation.

The story is told from Annie’s viewpoint in both 1912 and 1916, from both the Titanic and Britannic, in alternating chapters. The two storylines were seamless next to one another. You covered the journey of the two ships almost simultaneously. Annie boards Titanic in one chapter, Britannic in the next. Disaster strikes in one chapter and then again in the next. I liked that method of telling the story. For someone like me who already knows the fate of both ships intimately it left me on the edge of my seat. I knew what was coming, but I also knew the story would be different since we were adding the paranormal aspect.

The horror part of this book was creepy without being too scary. It didn’t really have any traditional jump scares. It was much more psychological. Your brain starts putting the pieces together and you delve deeper into horror and dread. And I loved speculating on what was going on. Was it something in the sea, like mermaids or sirens? Was it a ghost? Was it someone on the ship who was possessed? I enjoyed watching the pieces fall into place with ever greater dread as we went deeper into the mystery.

I am trying really hard to avoid spoilers, so I should probably leave it at this before I sink into a spoiler-laden fangirling over this book. Read it. It’s fabulous!

Review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

44218347._SY475_Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Published on January 14, 2020 by Feiwel & Friends

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

Rating: 5 star

Review: I believe this book earns the distinction of my first 5-star book of 2020. It was phenomenal. I have not read a book by this author before, but if this is any indication then I am going to have to read some of their other offerings. I honestly don’t have enough good things to say about it.

The contrasting stories were so expertly woven that when the two were merged in the final chapters I just sat in wonderment at the dichotomy and similarity of the two narratives. I found both of them enchanting. The world presented by the 1500’s France era of suspicion and fear at things the people did not understand and, as a result, were more than willing to blame the “other” people for. And the present day world of Emil and Rosella in which strange happenings are accepted as part of the culture but that the “other” group of people is still to be considered with suspicion for other reasons.

And through all of it you have two women, Lala and Rosella. Both of them struggling with the roles assigned to them by the society they inhabit. And there was also a lesson in these pages, but not quite the one the author explained in her Author’s Note. Personally, I found that a bit annoying. I don’t like being told by anyone what the point of the story is supposed to be. Their bottom line may not be my bottom line. And, to me, it treads dangerously close to telling me how to “properly” read the story. But since it was at the end of the book, I could only get mildly annoyed because I had already formed my own opinion about the book by that point.

Anyway, back to the message that I took from the story. This is a story about women. The roles that are assigned to them by the various people in their life; family, lovers, friends, and society as a whole. All women are told by the world who they ought to be. But the message of the story is that you can either accept that role or craft a new one. That it is within your power to take all the things that people tell you that you are and embrace them to a new end like Lala, or spit in the face of them and use their power to fuel your own like Rosella.

Frankly, this is a book that I would pass on to my daughter when she’s older as an example of the power she inherently has as a woman and the ways she can use that power to whatever end she desires. I loved it.

Night Owls by Lauren M Roy

night owlsNight Owls by Lauren M. Roy

Published February 25th 2014 by Ace

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

Night Owls book store is the one spot on campus open late enough to help out even the most practiced slacker. The employees’ penchant for fighting the evil creatures of the night is just a perk.…

Valerie McTeague’s business model is simple: provide the students of Edgewood College with a late-night study haven and stay as far away from the underworld conflicts of her vampire brethren as possible. She’s lived that life, and the price she paid was far too high to ever want to return.

Elly Garrett hasn’t known any life except that of fighting the supernatural werewolf-like beings known as Creeps or Jackals. But she always had her mentor and foster father by her side—until he gave his life protecting a book that the Creeps desperately want to get their hands on.

When the book gets stashed at Night Owls for safe keeping, those Val holds nearest and dearest are put in mortal peril. Now Val and Elly will have to team up, along with a mismatched crew of humans, vampires, and lesbian succubi, to stop the Jackals from getting their claws on the book and unleashing unnamed horrors.

 

Rating: 5 star

 

Review:

I loved this book so much, it was a no brainer for it to be 5 stars for me. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the plot, I loved he bad guys, I loved the side characters, I loved everything! Yes, I literally mean everything. This is a series I will definitely be following. But let me break down for you just what made this so great.

Charaters: These characters were all so different and interesting that I had a different relationship with every one of them. Elly was a survivor who wanted so desperately to do everything right but got completely left in the dark with the death of her mentor. Val is a vampire who wants nothing to do with the life she left behind, she just wants to live in peace with her Renfield and run her all night bookstore. Chaz feels honored to be Val’s Renfield but is secretly in love with her. Cavale is the adopted brother of sorts of Elly who walked away from the hunter lifestyle but still does some of the work to pay the bills. Sunny and Lia are succubi and also lovers, and did I mention they are kick ass fighters too?

Oh and let me take a moment to say how much I fangirled that vampire’s assistants are called Renfields in this book. It was a lot.

Plot: This was multi faceted and yet everything fit together perfectly. That is a delicate balance to maintain but this book pulled it off. First we have the fact that Elly is hiding a book from the Creeps (aka Jackals, aka bad guys) and they want it more than anything. It gets hidden at Val’s bookstore and that’s where all hell breaks loose. But at the same time we have some of Val’s past coming back to haunt her. That part was not touched on quite as much but I still liked it and hope that it plays a bigger role in the future. Oh and that twist thrown in there with the Creeps and their hostages….bravo, I didn’t see it coming.

Bad Guys: My God, how creepy were the Creeps! They made my skin crawl. And every time we saw them I felt my stomach drop into my knees. And as their methods started to change and become more sinister it only added to the scariness that they brought to the story. I want to see more of them in the future books.

Random Fangirl:  Sunny and Lia were amazing! My favorite characters for sure. They were funny, sweet, loving, generous, and kick ass demons at the same time. I was very glad that romance did not play too big a factor in this book. Yes Chaz is all swoony for Val but it didn’t get in the way of the story, even though I kind of hope she falls for him at some point. The story moved too fast to spend time on a sappy love story, so I was pleased that it wasn’t a big deal.

Oh, I finally thought of something I didn’t like! The final battle scene at the bookstore. It hurt my heart. All those books, destroyed! I cringed every time the book mentioned the paperly carnage. It was an awesome battle scene to be sure but….the books!

 

Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck and Harriet Parke

agenda 21Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck and Harriet Parke

Published November 20th, 2012 by Threshold Editions

Buy this book at: Amazon / Books A Million / Book Depository / B&N

 

Synopsis:

“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.” Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.

There are only the Authorities.

Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.

Until the day they come for her mother.

“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”

Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic—but is she already too late?

 

Rating: 5 star

 

Review:

I can see this kind of thing coming already so let’s get this out of the way. If your reaction to my rating or reading of this book is any of the following, please take note:

“But Stefani, It’s Glenn Beck! OMG, like how could you possibly rate something with that’s bastard’s name on it that high?! What’s wrong with you?!”   – Okay, seriously, just go away. It’s a good book, take a sharpie to his name if it annoys you so badly.

He didn’t even write it, he’s just slapping his name on it to make money!” – True, but it says so in the Afterword that Harriet Parke conceived of and wrote this novel. So if you want to bitch about this, stop buying James Patterson since it’s exactly the same thing. And if you do buy James Patterson yet bitch about this, just go away.

“This is all just the mindless ravings of a lunatic and it’s just so disgusting!”  – Go away please. If you are so narrow-minded that you can’t enjoy a good story because of whose name is on the cover then there is just no hope for you.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, this book was fantastic. I couldn’t stop reading it, I have kept thinking about it after I stopped reading it, I want to know what happens after the last page, I have to know what happens! This is not a difficult book, it doesn’t use big words and it isn’t overly complex but it really doesn’t need to be. It’s dark, sinister and disturbing all on its own. I stayed up half the night on a week day when I had to work just to read this. Seriously go read it, now. Don’t even finish this review, just go!

Emmeline is a sweet character and I couldn’t help but want to protect her. She has been raised in this community for most of her life and knows of no other way of life, yet she hears stories from her mother about how things used to be. Never very curious about why it all happened, she just listens to the stories and walks her energy board every day like a good Citizen should. She is paired with an older man and has a daughter, who is taken by the community Authorities to be raised in the Children’s Village. That is when things begin to change for Emmeline. Shortly after her mother is taken away because she is no longer being productive and she is re-paired with another man. It is only then that she starts to question the status quo and worry that her opportunity to learn the truth might have passed.

I really liked the way the plot of this book played out. It doesn’t really seem all that bad at first, everything is provided for you and all you have to do is your assigned job to produce for the community and produce new citizens. Seems great. But it’s not. It is confining and restricting. Unfortunately for the younger citizens, how do you yearn for freedom when you have never known it? For Emmeline it is when her daughter is taken from her, which was a heartbreaking moment. The true horrors of this community are never fully explained but alluded to. I liked that since it added to the horror of it but isn’t explicit. Everything was so bleak and dark, even the colors of everything in this world.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I don’t dare say too much about it since it might give too much away. All I will say is that this is so far poised to be my Book of the Year for 2013.

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

genesisGenesis by Bernard Beckett

Published December 31st, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Cover image and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Books A Million / B&N / Amazon

 

Synopsis:

Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.

 

Rating: 5 star

 

Review:

After finishing this book well over a month ago, I am still tempted to make my review only a few words.  Wow, fucking amazing!  That’s really every single emotion I have about this book all wrapped up into a succinct package.  Also, by talking about the plot too much I will probably give things away and I don’t want to do that.  Being spoiled on this book would seriously ruin its impact.  This was recommended to me in a Goodreads book club. My “Secret Book Santa”, who was not so secret, looked over my to read list and my read list and thought this was something I’d enjoy.  I went into it with no expectations other than that the synopsis grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go.  I thought about that synopsis for a few days and knew, I needed to give this recommendation a try.  And all I can say is, holy fucking shit!  Rarely am I rendered speechless or blindsided by a plot.

Here are the things I feel safe saying, so as not to spoil anything:

Anax is taking an Exam to enter into the Academy, which is the ruling body that maintains order in the world.  She was asked to choose a topic and prepare a thesis of sorts.  She will go before the Examiners for a grueling exam and explain her thesis subject.

Yeah, that’s about it. Anything else is just too much. I will say that initially I was only mildly intrigued with Anax’s thesis and presentation. It was interesting but I struggled to figure out what the point was.  All of that changed in the end. About 30 pages from the end I started to get a bad feeling that something was happening here that I hadn’t seen yet and hadn’t expected.  I was so beyond right and it was fantastic.  I have no doubt this book will be one of my favorites for 2013.

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

0-545-17094-XStolen by Lucy Christopher

Published May 4th, 2009 by Chicken House

Cover photo and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon / B&N

Synopsis:

A girl: Gemma, 16, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.

A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.

She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what’s happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him.

Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, STOLEN is Gemma’s desperate story of survival; of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare–or die trying to fight it.

 

Rating: 5 star

 

Review:

This book was one that came to me with very high expectations.  I heard so many rave reviews about it from people that I trust and whose opinion I highly respect.  I was skeptical, surely it couldn’t be this unequivocally great.  I had a hard time finding bad reviews for it at all.  I was hopeful but skeptical after hearing so many wonderful things.  Usually in cases like this, it ends in disappointment.  This time I have to agree with the rave reviews, there is only one word for this book: Wow!

This book starts out simply enough.  Gemma is waiting out a layover in a Bangkok airport with her parents and decides to step away to get a coffee.  She meets a charming and handsome young man who offers to buy her coffee when she doesn’t have the right currency.  She allows him to do so and diverts her attention long enough for him to do the unthinkable, drug the drink and whisk her away before she is aware that anything is wrong.  The next thing Gemma knows, she is being held captive in the middle of a desert in Australia with someone who believes that he saved her from her life.

I spent much of my time during this book disturbed.  No one could possibly deny that something is very wrong with Ty.  He stalked and kidnapped a 16 year old girl and convinced himself that she would thank him for it and they would live happily ever after.  Deluded to say the least.  But I was also surprised that Ty was…well, a complete gentlemen for a kidnapper.  He never took advantage of Gemma or invaded her privacy, which shocked me.  It was my first hint that Ty was going to be a much more complex character than I had first imagined.  Before long I found myself with tears in my eyes as we heard more about him and from him.  Pity is not a common feeling for one to have for someone who kidnaps a teenage girl.  I was stunned by these feelings but still there would be moments where I felt uncomfortable at the same time.  I can’t say anything more or else I’ll spoil something, and I wouldn’t spoil this book for the world.

The method used to write this book is one that I have never seen before but I think it contributed to the overall quality and emotionality of the book.  It is written as a letter from Gemma to her kidnapper, Ty.  We read about her feelings and experiences and experience them right along with her.  I think this helps us to see her and Ty from a variety of perspectives that weren’t expected.  And the ending.  Oh my God, the ending.  I won’t say much but let’s just say that for about the last 40 pages or so I was sobbing very loudly, embarrassingly, and in public.  I just wanted to crawl in my bed, pull my knees to my chest, and sob until I had no more tears left.  I can’t remember the last time a book elicited such fierce emotions in me.

Following Gemma on this journey was a beautiful thing that will stay with me for a long time.  Even writing this review, as vague on details as it is, made me feel teary eyed again almost a week after I finished the book.  It was such a rollercoaster of emotions that I can’t even begin to describe it in a way that does justice to the story.  I think this book gave me Stockholm syndrome.  Everyone needs to read this book, it is just that good.

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Published: October 23rd, 2012 by Harlequin Teen

Cover photo and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis:

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

I first heard of this book through Goodreads.  Several people whose reviews I trust posted how excited and thrilled they were to read this book and I was intrigued.  Obviously I had heard of Julie Kagawa, but to see several people I trusted so excited about it, then it had to be something special.  I admit to being rather skeptical over whether I would like it or not since it is a spin-off of Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, which I have not read (that will be rectified now!).  But I was not only pleasantly surprised, I was pleasantly blown away.

This is a YA book, without being a typical YA book.  Ethan is the “bad boy” who really isn’t a bad boy he just wants everyone to leave him alone so that he doesn’t bring any more trouble on himself so he acts the role of a tough guy.  That was nice, to see a hero in a YA book that was smart, brave, kind, considerate, polite, gentlemanly, and funny.  I loved Ethan!  Although I admit that there were several moments where I wanted to shake him for being a moron, but he redeemed himself by the end.  Kenzie was also so very different from most YA heroines.  She is smart, funny, loving, generous, selfless when it’s necessary, and self-confident.  That last one made me so happy I almost cried!  A YA heroine with self-esteem and confidence in herself!  It’s like…the holy grail!

Then you have the story, this was really well done.  Half-breed fey and exiled fey are disappearing, and Ethan unwittingly gets pulled into it.  But once he’s into the situation he is determined to figure out what is going on and save one of his school companions who disappeared.  Kenzie gets pulled along just because she was stubbornly following Ethan around and became a target by accident.  They visit Ethan’s sister, the Iron Fey Queen, to tell her what is going on and asking for help about what to do.  When this reunion does not go the way Ethan expected, he strikes out on his own to solve the mystery himself.  I was intrigued with this story, so much that I was cursing at everyone who dared to interrupt my reading time.  I was staying up late to read some more, I was ending my lunch breaks at work later and later just to get in a few more pages.  I got addicted to this book in a bad way.
There was a nice simple romance in this book, which I greatly appreciated.  There was no looking into each other’s eyes and falling instantly in love.  There was no unnecessary third wheel who really doesn’t belong in the story at all.  It was just a simple boy and girl who start out quite snarky and irritable with each other who end up as friends before it develops into more.  I loved that.  I loved watching their relationship develop and grow into something more than just friends and allies.  I ahhhhh’d with joy and love when they finally confirmed their feelings for each other.  This is one of the better romances I’ve read in a while.

There were a few moments where I didn’t quite understand what was going on or who someone was, and I assume this is because I haven’t read the Iron Fey series.  But these minor instances were not crucial to the plot and so I was able to bypass them easily without any effect on my enjoyment of the story.  By the time I got to the end of this book all I could do was sigh in contentment and close the cover on my Nook gently, sad that it was over but thrilled that I loved it so much.

 
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.  No other compensation or promises were provided.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Published September 27th, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis and Cover photo from Goodreads book page

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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 grown 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 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?

Rating (out of 5):

Review: I really want to try to review this without sounding like one of those Twihard fans who think they might have spotted Robert Pattinson in a crowd.  Alas, I don’t think I can do that, because I just loved this book so much.  I was entranced by it.  I found myself sitting at the table for a half hour after I finished eating because I just couldn’t stop reading.  When I didn’t have the book in my hands I was thinking about the book, wishing I had brought it with me wherever I was.  I had to force myself to put the book down when I needed to go to sleep.

 
The thing that first attracted me to this book was the cover.  It is spectacular and gorgeous.  I saw this cover from the aisle in the bookstore and it drew me to the book immediately.  Then when I read the blurb I thought to myself, well this sounds interesting and unique.  But I had no idea how unique and entrancing it would be.

 
When I first started the book I wondered if I had made a mistake.  I was having a hard time connecting to the characters and to the writing.  I was interested in the story but the writing was throwing me off and I grew concerned that I may not like the book after all.  But after about 50 pages I was drawn into it and started breezing through the pages at a rapid pace.  Parts of the story were familiar to me, like the hamsa tattoos.  But the way they were used in the story was new and different and very creative.  I really connected with Karou for a lot of reasons.  She was a strong, smart, self sufficient, kick ass heroine (which we don’t see often in YA).  But she also felt like she didn’t fit.  She didn’t completely fit in the world of Brimstone but didn’t completely fit in the normal world as well.  She was stuck in between and didn’t know which way to go.

The romance in this book was refreshing and real.  You could call it insta-love but it doesn’t feel that way.  I mean, let’s face it, they start the book by trying to kill each other.  That’s not really the mark of an insta-love relationship.  Now, once they started exploring their attraction to one another everything moved quickly after that.  But it felt natural to me.  They had real reasons to fall in love!  That was so nice to read.

I am frothing at the mouth for the sequel, it cannot get to my house fast enough so I can devour that one too.  This was by far one of the most creative and unique books I have ever read.  It was one of my favorite books of the year, and I think Ms. Taylor has a hugely successful career ahead of her.