Thursday, 30 April 2015

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

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 grows 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 hairactually 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?

When I decided to start Daughter of Smoke and Bone (hereby referred to as DOSAB), I was terrified. Not in the sense that I was scared of the book, more of my own expectations. I've seen countless reviews of DOSAB everywhere, all of which were overflowing with praise. I couldn't escape the hype. In all honesty, that's probably the only reason I bought the book. More often than not the whole angel demon thing isn't for me.

I found the book slow to start, but I like my fantasy to get straight into the nitty gritty. Karou was almost too mysterious, meaning I found it hard to get inside of her head and truly understand how she was feeling. I obviously knew how she was feeling from the writing, but it felt like I was just reading it rather than actually experiencing it, if you can understand what I mean! However, as soon as Zuzana was introduced I really started to get into it. She's a tiny, Czechoslovakian me! I definitely connected with her more than Karou. 

I found the whole concept of the Brimstone, Karou's Chimaera caregiver, collecting teeth in exchange for wishes totally intriguing. Although Karou felt excluded and even slightly used by Brimstone as she got older, due to being used for transactions between humans who supply the teeth and Brimstone who supplies the wishes, the bond between her and the chimaera who raised her was clearly very close and loving. Even though the chimaera are definitely not humans, I still found it easy to understand Karou's bond with them. Seeing her go on her quest's to find teeth is a little heartbreaking, as you know it pushes away her human friends whilst making her feel used by the chimaera, though that's definitely not what they were doing.

Not a lot can be said from that point in the book onwards without giving spoilers. You're definitely introduced to some more interesting characters and find out a hell of a lot more backstory to everything. Finding out more about the Chimaera and where they come from, as well as Karou's origin, is satisfying if only briefly. As soon as you get an answer, another question is raised. But this is what made the book so hard to put down.

Laini's writing style is whimsical, making it effortless to visualise the world you're in. Although it took a little while for me to get to grips with the characters, once I did you begin to feel as if you know them, even if only a little. I loved that it was written in third person, it made it so much easier to get everyone's perspective and really dig deeper into all the elements of the story.

All I can say about the end is that there was a plot twist I definitely didn't anticipate. By the end I was feeling all kinds of feels towards this book and just needed more. Like, right now! As I said earlier the whole angel demon thing is getting overdone in the YA genre now, however this put a good twist on it, saving it from falling in with all the other clich├ęs. Although I was expecting crazy epicness from this book due to the hype surrounding it, and I didn't feel like that's entirely what I got, I still really enjoyed it. I'll for sure be carrying on with the rest of the series. A solid 4/5 stars!

What do you think about the angel demon theme becoming increasingly used in YA fiction? Do you think if there's hype surrounding a book it can make it less satisfying when you actually read it? Have you read DOSAB yet? If so, how did you find it?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Top Ten Books With Characters Who Are Affected By Mental Illness

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted at The Broke and The Bookish. Every Tuesday a topic is supplied, which you the make a top ten list out of.

Hi everyone! For this Top Ten Tuesdays post, and my first, I thought I'd make a list about something that I'm quite passionate about. So today I'm writing about books with characters affected by mental illness. It's a topic that's becoming increasingly popular in young adult fiction at the moment, which is definitely needed, as when done well can provide much needed awareness about the conditions that affect so many people. These are some of the books I've read that I feel portray a variety of mental illnesses in a way that's faithful to the nature of the conditions. On to the books!

1.  Mara from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - Although more than just Mara suffers from mental illness in this book, she's definitely the one we get to delve the deepest into due to the book being wrote from her perspective. I know that as you get further through the series all is not as it seems, but despite this she is still affected by depressive symptoms which I think still qualify's her for this list. She might not have the best experience with this and doesn't necessarily deal with it in the best way, I think it really shows how debilitating depression can become.

2.  Zelah from Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis -  This is a lesser known book in blogging community from what I've seen, but is really worth a read. Zelah suffers from OCD, along with having a stepmother which isn't nearly as supportive as she could be. So she ends up at a live in facility for kids like her, miles away from her home. There are also other characters in this book who suffer from anorexia, self-harm, and being mute. I definitely found this book provided an insight into the world of a teenager having to deal with OCD whilst being in not the best home environment.

3.  Laura from Sick by Tom Leveen - Laura is actually a smaller character in this book in terms of how frequently she appears, but I still found her to be one of the most interesting. Laura has sever panic attacks and is on medication for this. She was actually left by the main character for this. Seeing how she deals with being in a zombie apocalypse whilst having this problem is intriguing to say the least.

4.   Adam from Where She Went by Gayle Forman - Whilst Adam is the calm and collected character in the first book of this duology, If I Stay, the tables are turned here where we find him suffering with depression and struggling to cope with his new life without Mia. Gayle really managed to convey how depression can rip apart a life from the inside out, even whilst others might view what you have as perfect.

5.  Charlie from The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbotsky - So this is one that just about everybody has read, though not without good reason. I can't think of one person I know that has read this book and finished it feeling unaffected. If you haven't read it I'm not sure how to talk about it without spoiling you. Just read it and you'll understand what I mean.

6.  Mary from Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian - This book is unconventional in the fact that the worst of Mary's depression was in the past, with the story being told about her dealing with the aftermath. Mary was bullied severely by a boy she thought was her friend and eventually tried to hang herself. Watching her deal with being in the same school as the boy who tormented her to try and take her life again is hard, but really shows how affected someone can be by what another may consider just a joke.

7.  Hannah from Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - Hannah's story is similar to Mary's except that Hannah is successful in taking her life. Before taking the handful of pills which kill her she leaves a set of 7 cassette tapes with a list instructing them to be passed through classmates at her school. The tapes contain the reasons she ended her life. This is again a story of how bullying can really affect someone, to the point of not wanting to live anymore. It's a unique was to read about this topic, with it effectively being told backwards.

8.  Craig from It's Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizinni - I liked this book because we got to know a bit about Craig before he started to experience depression, which really emphasized how it changed him. This also has multiple characters with a variety of mental illness as the majority of the book was set in a mental ward in a hospital. It was nice getting to see him through the whole journey, from developing depression through to beginning to recover. Unlike the other books featuring depression, Craig developed it from pressure relating to school and friends, highlighting how tough life can be for teens.

9.  Lia from Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson - Lia has anorexia and was locked in a toxic relationship with Cassie, competing to beat each other in weighing the least, until Cassie overdosed in a dingy motel. Whilst still fighting her anorexia Lia also has to cope with her friends death and the guilt that comes with it. Although this book appears to just be about anorexia it also deals with issues such as guilt, grief and recovering from a life consuming deadly disorder.

10.  Alaska from Looking For Alaska by John Green - Although Alaska definitely suffers from mental health issues, it's never stated exactly what disorder she may have. I actually think this is a good thing, as there are a lot of teens out there who suffer with mental health problems but never receive help as they aren't supported or educated about what signs to look out for. Now I love John Green as much as the next person, but I will say that although the way mental illness is described in this book is accurate, I don't agree with the way it was also romanticised. This book may have helped a lot of people, but it also made some teenage girls think that behaving in an unstable way such as Alaska did was attractive, which could definitely be damaging.

Phew, that was a rather intense post, I promise they won't all be like this! I hope you enjoyed it anyway though. Have you read any books which portrayed mental illness in a positive way? Or maybe some that haven't? What do you think about the new trend of mental illness appearing in YA?