Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor.

103051561804866518001518I read this series a month or two ago, and don’t want to do the books an injustice by giving a lesser review because they aren’t totally fresh in my mind – but at the same time, I feel that I need to mention how great the series is!

I tried to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone a year or so ago and couldn’t finish it. I’m not sure why exactly – the premise was intriguing and I did enjoy the first fifty or so pages. Anyway, one day I was perusing my bookshelf and it seemed like exactly the thing I should be reading – do you ever feel that way? Also, with the third and final book coming out,  it was a good time to give it another go.

Having now read all three books, I think that this is an incredible series. It is of a much higher caliber than any other ‘angel’ series that I have read. But angels aren’t the half of it – there are also the chimeara (read the books to discover more about them). It’s just so rich, you know? It’s overflowing with amazing ideas and characters. I want to give a proper description of the story but it’s hard because I don’t want to spoil the first book for anyone.

It’s a romance, for sure, but it’s so much more. There is literally a whole other world of more!

For anyone who has looked at this series and just wasn’t sure – I implore you to give it a go. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a little bit hard for me to get through – there’s a lot of world building and history to get through. But stick with it, because Days of Blood and Starlight is great, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters is even better again. I was constantly amazed at where the story was taken, and how things progressed. There’re multiple points of view from a dazzling amount of characters, and more imaginative ideas than you can poke a stick at!

The only series I can compare it to is the Chaos Walking series by Partirck Ness (another incredible series that you simply must read). But that’s only in essence, not particularly in plot. The way both series progressed is a little similar, I guess, but not really. It’s hard to describe, but I just thought about the Chaos Walking series a little while I was reading Laini Taylor’s trilogy.

If you like big, sprawling books that are full of mythical creatures and great characters (come on, the main character is a blue haired girl who helps a mysterious beast collect teeth – how does that not intrigue you?), then I think you will enjoy the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

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Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

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Book Three in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series

338 pages

First Published January 25th 2005 by Delacorte Press

The sisterhood is back, along with their magical travelling pants. This summer is the eve of the rest of their lives. High school is over, and college awaits.

Carmen picks up a job working as a sort of companion for Valia – Lena’s recently widowed grandmother. Unbeknownst to her, Valia is miserable and crabby and a downright nightmare to be around. Lena’s father dragged Valia to the states after her husband died, but she wants nothing more than to go back to Greece. On one of their trips to the hospital, Carmen meets Win – a cute guy who volunteers there. Unfortunately, he keeps ‘catching’ Carmen in moments of random acts of kindness. But if she lets him see the real her – the quick-tempered, feisty version of herself – will he still be interested?

Lena is all set to go to art school in the fall, but when her conservative father walks into her drawing class and sees the live model – that is, the nude, live model – he freaks out and tells Lena that he will no longer be paying for her to go to an art school. Under the wing of her art teacher, Lena sets out to create an amazing portfolio that will score her a scholarship to the school of her dreams.

Tibby is uncomfortable with all the change that is going on. Brian further complicates things when he asks Tibby to be his date to the senior dance. Suddenly they are no longer just friends, but something much more. The problem is that Tibby isn’t really sure what she wants or if she even likes this new development.

Bridget is going to be coaching at a soccer camp much like the one she attended two summers ago. She knows her old pal Diana is going to be there and expects the summer to be a total blast. What she doesn’t know (but would if she read any of the information they sent her) is that Eric will also be there. Bee decides that this is okay, she is different now and vows not to lose herself again. She can handle this – the two of them will be friends – nothing more. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants…

 

Out of the first three books, I think that Girls in Pants is my favourite. I love that Bee gets a second chance to do the right thing with Eric, and that Carmen finally gets to have a cute little romance. On that note, it’s nice that Brian and Tibby finally get somewhere, as well! And on a kind of opposite note, I really liked that Lena wasn’t plagued so much by her feelings for Kostos. It’s touched on a little bit, but her main focus is on her future.

I feel that I should mention Ann Brashares writing again. The books are all written in third person, which really works. Somehow you seem to be closer to each girl than if it were written in first person. I think that if it were written that way, it would feel too disjointed and confusing because the story does jump around from each girl quite quickly. The chapters don’t have numbers and the characters seem to get a couple of pages each before it moves onto the next person. I like the way that this is done. In multiple POV books where characters get a whole chapter each, there’re often little cliffhangers and so I spend the first part of the next chapter begrudging the fact that I have to read about the second character when I just want to know what’s going on with that first person. Then, of course, I’ll get into that chapter and want to know about the second character while I’m next reading about the first. I kind of hate/love that feeling (but mainly hate). I guess it makes you want to read more, but I like the style in the Sisterhood books better.

There’s a lot of hope and happiness in this novel. Growth and second chances and future-induced trepidation. There doesn’t feel like a lot of drama, which is nice after the second book (which seemed to have a lot of it!). I can almost feel the sunshine emanating from the pages.

Girls in Pants is a lovely edition to the series. Highly recommended.

My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.80/5

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

9781740519021 (1)Book Two in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series.

373 pages

Published April 22nd 2003 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

For their second summer in possession of the pants, things are a little different. Lena, Carmen and Bridget all plan to stay in Bethesda and earn money. Meanwhile, Tibby is heading off to a filmmaking course in Virginia.

But just as the summer is beginning, Bee discovers letters from her grandmother. Letters she’s never seen before. She decides to leave for Alabama to visit her grandmother and maybe find a way to be closer to her mother. Once there, she hides behind her new appearance and pretends to be someone else so that she learn things without being too close.

Lena is trying to get over her lost love. She works at a clothing store and tortures herself for the decisions she made regarding Kostos. As the summer progresses, Lena learns that her own mother could have a lot of helpful insight, if she would only share it with her daughter. And is it possible that Lena could get another shot at love?

Carmen is having mother troubles. There’s a new boyfriend on the scene, and as far as she is concerned, her mother is acting completely inappropriately for a woman her age. Carmen can’t focus properly on her own love life – namely, several dates with the fetching Porter – because she’s putting all her energy into being disgusted with her mum’s relationship.

Tibby makes some new friends in Virginia. But they are the kind of people she would have been impressed with pre-Bailey. Are they really worthy of her time and attention? She’s aware of what Bailey would think, but she hides from that knowledge.

All the while, the pants circulate and work their magic, helping the girls to learn lessons in heartbreak, grace, second chances, grief and acceptance of change.

 

This summer, all the girls go through a kind of crisis or sea change. They each need to grow to move forward. There’s more conflict than in the first book. At times, the bad choices they make are hard to read through. But despite the lows, there is ultimately hope.

Once again, random moments and feelings from your own experiences seem to be reflected on the page. It’s probably why I feel so attached to these books.

The ending is tragic but the final pages are beautiful, I think, in that way that you want to cry but you’re not exactly sure why.

The writing is great, as are the characters. They stay true to their roots. Also, they probably act even more like real teenagers. With the hormones and emotions and reactions to things and all that stuff!

There’s a lot more to do with family relationships in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood – mostly mother/daughter. There’s the whole thing with Carmen’s mother falling in love, as well as a pretty important role that Lena’s mother plays, and of course, we learn some more tragic truths about Bridget’s mother.

This is a worthy follow up to the original.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.74/5

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares.


0553494791.01._PA20,10,10,10_BO20,255,255,255_SCLZZZZZZZ_SL280_Book One in
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series.

294 pages

First Published September 11, 2001

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants is about four best friends who discover a magical pair of pants (which isn’t as stupid as it sounds, I promise) just as they are about to spend their first summer apart.

Carmen is half Puerto Rican, and will be spending the summer with her dad – the most time they will have spent together since her parents divorced. She thinks it will just be the two of them, but he has a surprise for her – a live-in fiancé complete with two teenage kids.

Bee is going to Mexico for a soccer camp. There, she meets Eric, a gorgeous coach – older and completely off limits.

Beautiful Lena is visiting her grandparents in Greece with her sister Effie. Lena’s scheming grandmother hopes that she will get together with Kostos, a future Oxford student who is home to help out his ailing grandfather. But of course, Lena has no such plans.

And Tibby. Sarcastic, clever Tibby is staying home. Her summer alone stretches out in front of her, with just a job at Wallman’s to keep her occupied. She’s into filming, and plans to work on a documentary as well. When she meets Bailey, a sassy twelve year old with leukaemia, she finds a sort of kindred spirit in her, and her summer turns into something completely different.

 

The first book in one of my all time favourite series. It’s hard to say whether I love this book because it’s simply a great book or because there’s a lot of nostalgia involved. Probably a bit of both. I was about fourteen when I first read it, and I suppose that’s long enough ago to form an evocative attachment to something. The thing is, there are moments that resonate so deeply within me. Like I have felt that exact same way and the words describe moments from my life so perfectly. Perhaps it’s just a really good story about what being and feeling like a girl is all about?

I love the way that the whole ‘magic’ thing is never contested or even discussed. Yes, these pants somehow fit us all perfectly. Are we going to deliberate over this and question our entire existence because of it? No. They just accept it.

The book is slightly different to the movie; mainly with Lena and the way her relationship with Kostos was shown. But there are other little differences too. My point being that if you have only seen the movie than you should read this. Likewise, if you’ve only read the book and maybe don’t like movies that are verbatim in plot and dialogue, than you should watch it.

Ann Brashares writing is lovely. It’s matter of fact, and honest, and sometimes flowery – but not in an unapproachable way. She just has a way of looking at things that are real and beautiful. A similar author would be Melina Marchetta – although I would say she is even more brutally honest than Ann Brashares (something about her writing cuts right to the bone, you know what I mean?).

I’ve read some people’s views on the stuff these young girls get up to. I mean, they’re not quite sixteen and they are off in different countries, doing amazing things. On the way back from Greece (possible spoiler, but I’ll keep it vague), Lena jets off to a different country altogether on her own. Carmen also does a bit of running around. On the one hand, I can see where these people are coming from. But on the other, I’m thinking that fifteen/sixteen year olds can pretty much do whatever they set their minds to – especially in this day and age. My own sister lived overseas with a host family for a year when she fifteen/sixteen, and that was before this book had even been released. So, I guess I would have to disagree with the notion that their experiences are unrealistic (albeit slightly irresponsible, in that sometimes they do these things without letting their parents know – but hey, they’re fifteen!).

I adore all of the characters. Sometimes they are selfish, occasionally they may even act like little brats, but that’s what humans do. Plus, they always redeem themselves afterwards. And of course, I already mentioned how relatable they are.

To me, this book (and it’s sequels) are like chicken soup, or hot chocolate, or whatever it is you have when you want to feel safe or calmed, or just better. They are my literary comfort food. I’ve just got to come back for more every couple of years!

This is a marvellous story about friendship and family and love and loss. Highly recommended.

 

Batman Graphic Novels (ahem, comics) & the Nightmare of DC Continuity.

Unknown-2Unknown-3I’ve been a bit busy with other things over the past seven or so months, and have totally neglected my little blog. I hope to slowly remedy this…

One of the ‘things’ that has kept me distracted in the last month or two is Batman. I owned a few of his story arcs and thought I’d have a bit of a reread between novels. Well, that was probably a mistake. I’ve become completely hooked again. But it’s worse than when I first got into the graphic medium, because now I seem to have more disposable money that I can put into sizeable weekly orders from the Book Depository. Plus, every book I buy seems to pave the way for three or four more books that I simply must have!

The problem, I think, is DC. I’d heard that the DC Universe is more complicated and confusing than Marvel and I believe it! I know so much more now than two years ago – about the Justice League and other regularly recurring characters – but it seems the more I learn, the more I realise that I don’t know much at all. There’s so much history and it’s hard to know where to start. But I love it!

 

Unknown-4Batman is my favourite, obviously. I love reading his trade paperbacks the best. When I reread Earth One, I was so impressed. I forgot how good it was. It’s basically a re-imagining of Batman’s beginnings. He’s inexperienced and rash. Alfred is an ex-marine (or something like that). Gordon is this beaten down cop who lets the criminals of Gotham have their way. Harvey Bullock is there as a transfer from LA. Harvey Dent makes a small appearance, too. For a short book, it really packs in a lot. It’s one of my favourites.

 

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The Dark Knight Rises is a classic for a reason. I really enjoy it. It’s got some great moments between Bruce and Alfred (their relationship is one of the best aspects of Batman, in my opinion – I like it when the writers have fun with it and slide in a bit of droll humour from the Englishman). The panels are all sort of packed in and there’s a kind of messy look to the whole book – the total opposite to the style of comics that come later – but it just works.  If you don’t know the story, Batman has been retired for ten years, but he decides to get back into the business because Gotham crime is horrendous. There’s these mutant guys running around slicing and dicing people, and who knows what else going on. So he’s older and really has to push himself to the limits.

Unknown-7Currently, I’m working my way through Grant Morrison’s run. They are great, really. In one of the introductions it mentioned how he looked at the entire seventy years of Batman as one man’s experiences (condensed into a fifteen year career, I think). So he includes a lot of history and references – a lot of which I don’t get. But I suppose the good thing about living in this age is that I can just look up the things I don’t understand. Also, the more I read, the more that clicks into place.

Some events are just so cool, they deserve to be mentioned specifically. I am talking, of course, about when Batman fought a shark in Venom. So cool. I love sharks, I love Batman – it was a good day for me!

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I do enjoy reading the stuff that includes all of the DC characters – mainly the Crisis books. But seriously, they open up a whole other world (infinite worlds … see what I did there?). Just when I think I’ve got the characters locked down, heroes like Blue Beetle are brought in. Maybe my ignorance is showing, but I had never heard of that guy before. And that was just the tip of characters that were completely new to me. Not to mention, the characters are often doing whatever they were doing in their current comics, which I usually don’t know anything about, so it takes a bit to catch up.

In a perfect world, I would read all this stuff in order. But it’s just too hard. I’d need like a personal trainer of comics – someone who knew absolutely everything there was to know, and would just hand over whatever book was next. I have to research this stuff extensively, and there doesn’t seem to be one site that lists everything. I’ve got to jump around a lot. The thing is, I’m also getting into other characters – specifically Green Lantern and Superman (also Daredevil, but I don’t even want to think about Marvel right now!) – but my Batman readings have already let loose a lot of spoilers for these characters. Which is fine, I’ll still get to discover the how of these events. The point is, DC’s continuity is a big sprawling mess. It’s like a bowl of spaghetti, and I’m just trying to unravel it strand by strand. And you know what? It’s actually a lot of fun.

Additional: You know what? Turns out I’ve been putting too many words into my searches. Less is more, people. Less is more. I’ve found a rather awesome and very comprehensive list of Batman/sidekick/allies chronology here – result!