Winged Reviews A UK young adult book blog for those a little bit older.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods and Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: April 2014
613 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

It was always going to be hard to end a series like this, whose first two instalments Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight, were so incredible I struggled to find words to describe how much. Worry not, as Laini Taylor did an exceptional job with Dreams of Gods and Monsters which has more incredibly written prose and a beautiful ending (although I’m still sad it had to end—I could read this series forever).

After the Jael and his ‘angels’ landed in St. Peter’s Square, the world is left wondering and in wonder. Karou is trying to broker peace between the Misbegotten and Chimaera, while Akiva and Liraz are still reeling from the bloody events in the throne room. As always, I don’t want to say much about the story, but you can look forward to stolen wishes, a devil on television, speaking in tongues, healing pools, and Zuze and Mik making the best entrance ever.

Reading it was bittersweet. I didn’t want this series to end, and each word just made me love all the characters and the divinely crafted worlds all the more. I loved how past intertwined with present, Taylor expertly weaving the story threads together to a very fitting end. I found all the beauty of the first two books here—the love and wonder of the first, mixed with the heartache and graft of the second.

While I enjoyed the new directions the story took, I almost resented parts of it because I wanted more precious page time with the original characters I’ve come to love. The introduction of a couple of new players, notably Eliza, distracted me, although I understand why the author did it. What I most liked though, was how the book presented the ambiguity of right or wrong. Revenge is a huge theme and I was nicely surprised by how it affected certain characters in the book.

I am being deliberately vague but I wholeheartedly don’t want to spoil anything. If you haven’t started or finished this series, then I assure you it’s definitely worth it. I will definitely be reading anything and everything Laini Taylor writes in the future.

Why you should read it:

  • Have I mentioned how beautiful the prose is?
  • Ziri has possibly the sweetest soul I’ve ever read. Impossible not to love him.
  • Every single location in this book is incredible. It will give you a serious case of wanderlust (and have you wishing for magic portals).

Other things:

  • Prague is definitely my next holiday destination.
  • I really wish there was a way to get engaged like that.
  • You will need cake when reading this book.

4.5 Stars

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Bookish Firsts: Tommy Wallach

Bookish Firsts: Tommy Wallach

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I’m very pleased to feature debut author Tommy Wallach to Bookish Firsts as part of the blog tour for his contemporary novel We All Looked Up. It sounds very much like The Breakfast Club for a new generation, with a bit of the end of the world thrown in. Basically, it sounds cool, just like the author!

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Bookish Firsts

With author Tommy Wallach

What is the first book you ever read/remember reading?
tommy001Hmm. Well, I suppose the first one I remember is The Ghost-Eye Tree, but that was as much read to me as read by me. The first books I really remember picking up myself were probably The Boxcar Children. I think the appeal was in how many there were, and in how you basically had to collect them all (it was Pokemon and reading at the same time!).

What is the first book your wrote (can be published or unpublished)?
My first book was written during my last year of high school and my first year of college. It was called The Beauties, and the whole thing took place on a gigantic spaceship (known to connoisseurs of sci-fi as a colony ship, which you should imagine as roughly the size of a small city). The ship was sending all the ugly people from a certain planet away to another planet, along with all the criminals. But because of what turns out to be a planned malfunction, the criminals all wake up, and they have to try to turn the ship around. The book was meant to be the first book of a trilogy, and it would turn out that the tommy002ugly people were only being sent away so they could start a kind of utopia without beautiful people around to ruin everything with their narcissism…but I never got that far. The book was very much inspired by Douglas Adams, and there are parts of it that still make me laugh out loud. Let me know if you know anybody who wants to publish it.

What is the first book character you loved?
I love the chance to answer this in the nerdiest possible way. I don’t know if he was the first, but one of my very early fictional loves was Drizzt Do’Urden, created in the Icewind Dale Trilogy (Forgotten Realms 4-eva!) by fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore. He was just the coolest, with his strict moral code and his moodiness. Oh, plus he had two swords, which remains pretty damn cool.

 
 

About We All Looked Up

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.
 
 

About Tommy Wallach

Tommy Wallach is a Brooklyn-based writer and musician. His first novel, We All Looked Up, will be published by Simon and Schuster in April 2015. His work has appeared in many nice magazines, such as McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Wired. He has released an EP with Decca Records, and will be independently putting out an LP in Spring 2014. He also makes music videos, including one that was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum. You should buy him dinner.

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Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Asylum by Madeleine RouxAsylum
Author: Madeleine Roux
Series: Asylum #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date: August 2014
336 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
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Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

This book has the look and feel of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but do not be fooled, that is where is the similarity ends. The book jacket and photos have the look for a really creepy story that will haunt your dreams but that doesn’t happen.

The story starts out shaky when the main character, Dan Crawford, attends an 8-week summer school program. Since there is a rooming issue that forces everyone to stay in an asylum for the length of the program, that is when creepy and unusual things start happening to Dan. Well, it is intended to be creepy but comes across as just odd. Mysterious photos appear in Dan’s room and strange dreams occur yet Dan is not really rattled by any of this. Dan seems to have some strange connection to the asylum and knows the stories before anyone tells them to him. Dan does make friends, Abby and Jordan, and convinces them to check the asylum out with him. They start to explore the office where they find more creepy old photos, hospital records and bloody hand-prints. As the story goes on, they explore farther and farther into the off-limits wing and discover more hidden secrets.

All of these characters have great potential but seem to fall short. They started out a little bit flat but I expected them to flesh out or mature throughout the story. Instead I was left feeling like their actions were forced and their motivations weren’t believable. The plot was well written and some twits and turns were thrown in, but it seemed a bit predictable. I did not feel that sense of suspense or surprise while reading this story. I felt I knew how the story was going to end halfway through the book.

I do not feel as if I really attached or connected with the characters, I was not very motivated to devour this book. I felt there was a lot of promise for this book and there was potential, but it did not meet my expectations.

2 Stars

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The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda SalisburyThe Sin Eater's Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater's Daughter #1
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: February 2015
336 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
Genres: Fantasy
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Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

The premise of this story was something that piqued my interest, as I have never read about a character who’s touch can kill. I was eager to get stuck in and discover how Twylla became the court’s very own executioner. Was this by choice? how did she feel about her position?

As someone who holds a general interest in history and culture, one of the biggest attractions of a fantasy novel is the world building. The Kingdom of Lormere is packed full of traditions, whimsical tales, and political intrigue. I loved learning about the tradition of Sin Eating, including what the Eater must consume in order to rid the deceased of their sins – a concept which is so incredibly fascinating and unique. I also enjoyed the legend of the Sleeping Prince; the story of Daunen Embodied and the secrets that lay behind the monarchy. The world was so easy to fall into, yet so complex.

Although we discover quite a lot about the royals and religious traditions, I am intrigued to know more about the lands and why the Queen’s authority and cruelty went unquestioned by society.

Whilst we’re on the subject of the Queen, could she be any more disturbing?! Feeding her thirst for power, she went to new extremes to ensure the Kingdom stayed under her authority. There was no end to her schemes – I honestly couldn’t figure out her motives; were her actions for the good of the Kingdom or for herself? She is certainly a character you LOVE to hate.

It’s brilliant to have spirited, feisty female protagonists but that’s not always the case, and for me, that’s okay! It’s not realistic for every female to be headstrong, and have the ability to control the situations they’re thrown into. Twylla believes in destiny and she has never had a real mother figure – both her biological mother and ‘adoptive’ mother were never concerned with her well being. Therefore, Twylla is vulnerable and open to the threat of those who wish to manipulate her. She isn’t weak, she just wants happiness, and this made her so undeniably relatable. What was important for me, was her development.

As for the romance, in my opinion, it worked. I think it would have happened with anyone who broke down those boundaries and who appeared to be out of the loop. She was so isolated; she needed companionship and someone on her side. Though I was intrigued by Merek and the parallels between himself and Twylla, I was always looking for an ulterior motive.

The deliciously wicked twists left no room for guesses, as the plot continued to turn the way I least expected. Those surprises kept me glued to the story and eager to read on.

Overall, The Sin Eater’s Daughter is a well written, suspenseful first novel which made for an enchanting read! I can’t wait to see what unfolds in the second installment – I’m already developing my theories!

I’d like to say a big thank you to Daphne for sending me a signed ARC of this book for reviewing purposes. I’m extremely grateful and excited to have had the chance to read this fabulous story.

4 Stars

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Event Report: Fairest book tour with Marissa Meyer

Event Report: Fairest book tour with Marissa Meyer

Event Report

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Marissa Meyer just wrapped up her Fairest book tour with a stop at Barnes and Noble in The Woodlands, TX. I arrived an hour before the event was scheduled to begin and every seat was already taken. One would have thought Super Bowl Sunday would have kept people away but that was not the case. Luck was smiling up one me as I was the last person permitted to stand in the main event speaking area with a clear view of Marissa. That did not stop faithful readers from lining the adjacent book rows hoping to be able to overhear everything that was said. The wait time passed very quickly as everyone was giddy with excitement at seeing, hearing and spending with with the famed author.

When the time finally came for Marissa to start, she ran up to the front to the sound of thunderous applause and cheers. Marissa jumped right into thanking everyone for taking time out of their day to spend time with her while she promoted her new book, Fairest. She have a quick history of the book, about how it is set 17 years before the start of the story in Cinder and how it gives the history of Luna.

Marissa then chose to do a reading, not from Fairest but from the upcoming final book of the Lunar Chronicles, Winter. The chapter focused on Winter and Jason, and an interaction they had in the palace. It was amazing to hear Marissa read her own words and it made me wish the book was out now to read.

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Next Marissa opened the floor for an open Q&A session:

1) Where did the name Kai come from? Was it a reference to the story, the Snow Queen?
Marissa: No, I just really liked the name Kai. I toyed around with a lot of names but Kai stood out the most.

2) Since you are a huge Manga fan, would you like to see these books turned into a graphic novel?
Marissa: YES! I am currently in talks with a publisher about turning these into graphic novels. I would love to see this happen. If it does happen, I will be very involved with the entire process.

3) Has the design process for the cover of Winter started?
Marissa: Yes, I have seen early concepts and it is amazing. It is with the illustrators right now.

4) Are there any more novellas coming out?

Marissa: Yes, one more short story that will feature Winter and Jason.

5) Did Cinder go to school?
Marissa: No, she did not. Since she was rebuilt with a computer, she is always connected to the Net. This means she can learn anything she wants, when she wants.

6) Can you see these books being turned into a movie?

Marissa: Actually, the rights have been sold to a studio but don’t know if anything will happen. If there is a movie, that means action figures and I really want action figures!

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7) The fairy tales you chose all have not so strong main female characters. Did you intentionally turn them into powerful lead characters?
Marissa: Yes and No. I love the fairy tales I pulled from but I am not interested in writing about push-over female characters.

8) What is your next trilogy?
Marissa: My next book is a stand alone book called Heartless. After that is a trilogy about superheroes that I have totally made up.

9) Which character from your books do you most relate to?
Marissa: I relate the most to Cress and how she is shy & awkward. I like how she sees everything through rose-colored glasses and has a great imagination.

10) How do you start writing a idea?
Marissa: I am an outline type of writer. I love outlines. Once I have an idea, I will usually let it grow for years and then finally start to build an outline from there.

11) Do you write daily?
Marissa: I work on my book almost daily. I may not actually write, but I could be doing research, editing, etc. it is hard to do actual writing but I am always doing book stuff daily.

12) Who are your favorite authors?
Marissa: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. J. K. Rowling is who I admire. I have many favorite authors so it is hard to pick one.

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Marissa thanked everyone for taking time out of their weekend to spend time with her and hoped she would see us all again for the Winter tour. As the signing lines started to form, there must have been over 100 people waiting in aisles to meet Marissa and get their books signed. Marissa was very happy to meet every single person, take pictures, chat with everyone one-on-one and sign every book. She was the definition of a grateful author who appreciates her fans.

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