Monday, 31 March 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor
Published April 8, 2014 by Hachette AU
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: 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 theatre 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?

Well, where do I start? Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor, the final instalment in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, is epic. It covers a lot of ground: multiple worlds (ours and Eretz), multiple timelines, and introduces new characters, too.

The story picks up right where Days of Blood and Starlight left us, Jael and his Dominion army have invaded Earth, currently they are residing in Rome and awaiting offers of weapons from humans. Karou and Akiva have convinced the remaining chimarera and the Misbegotten to join forces against Jael, though this plan is not without problems. And we’re also introduced to Eliza Jones, a twenty-four year old doctoral student. She’s tried to escape her past but has been haunted by a dream, a dream involving beasts, and now fate has drawn her into the events about to unfold.

Laini Taylor is a master at weaving multiple plot lines and character perspectives in a seamless way. Yes, the story largely revolves around Karou and Akiva, and I love any time we get to spend with them, but I was never bored by the alternative perspectives because they make the story whole. Eliza was particularly intriguing; as were the Stelians, lead by Queen Scarab. The Stelians are hunting whoever is causing the sky to bruise.

There is a lot of character growth in this book, just like in the previous two. The characters are never static, nor are they flat. This time it is Akiva, not Karou, who is feeling guilt at being alive when so many are dead. He’s finding more use for his magic, but also finding it hard to control. Liraz’s growth was the most heart-warming to me, that girl made me teary on multiple occasions and so proud… and that’s all I say about that! Zuze and Mik are also featured a lot and almost steal the show! Mik in particular really shines during this book and I'm really happy with how they've been used in this series.

Speaking of being proud, I felt it so often during this story. Proud of two warring races coming together, despite years of hatred. Proud of characters overcoming their fears, of them putting others first. There were so many sad, sorrowful moments in this book, but they were perfectly balanced by the sweet, hopeful moments. I got quite teary and cried a lot towards the end.

I spent most of the book on edge, but the last hundred pages or so were quite torturous. Mind you, I was never worried that Laini Taylor couldn't pull off an epic ending, she clearly has an imagination that Anne Shirley would be proud of, I was just worried about who might get sacrificed along the way. I was so happy with the conclusion and the way everything was woven together. It’s a world that is trying to rebuild and is now filled with hope, but that felt realistic.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters really is the perfect end to what is a brilliant series. I guarantee your heart, like Karou’s, will be pulled to pieces by the end of it, but it will be totally worth it.

Thank you to the fantastic people at Hachette for my review copy via Netgalley.

Seeing as I've done nails to match Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight, I figured I should round things out and do nails to match this final book!

I decided to do a layered manicure to mimic the depth of the birds in the sky and the flared circles. I started with 2 coats of Ulta3 Soft Hydrangea and then sponged a bit of Ulta3 Blue Marlin onto the tips.

I used acrylic paint for the birds and for the circles. With the circles, I dotted on some watered down paint, waited a minute, then sucked up the excess water using paper towel, leaving behind a circle or a ring depending on the result.

Now comes the layering! I took a spare bottle of clear top coat and added about 30 drops of Ulta3 Blue Marlin to create a very sheer blue polish. I gave it a good shake to combine and then painted 1 coat over each nail. Once this dried I painted on more birds, did more cirlcles, then followed that with another layer of my sheer blue polish. Once dry I added top coat.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Stacking the Shelves (7)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews - it's a way for us to share the books we received during the week

The video cuts out just at the end, my camera battery kept running out and I didn't want to record for a third time ;)

For review via Netgalley:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Tease by Amanda Maciel
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mylnowski
The Geography of Me and You by Jennifer E. Smith
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Friday, 28 March 2014

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books
Source: a gift from Maggie
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and what a sequel it is. It doesn’t suffer from typical middle book syndrome as there is so much progression both in the story and the characters.

The story picks up right after the events of the previous book. Karou has travelled to Eretz but is now based in Morocco with the chimaera, including Thiago. I forgot to mention in my review of DoSAB that I was thrilled there was no love triangle and that continues in this book. It would have been so easy for Taylor to allow one to develop, but it didn’t and that is so impressive to me.

Karou’s growth throughout this book is so painful yet realistic. She feels so much guilt over what has occurred and her pain was understandable. But, with the help of her friends she is able to start seeing things in a different light.

Speaking of her friends, Zuzana is an amazing character. In this story she and Mik take on main character status, first as they continue to live in Prague and wonder what has become of Karou, and secondly when they find their way to her. Their relationship is so, so sweet, and Zuzana in particular flies off the page, her personality is so strong and I find her hilarious. It’s great to see a story where the friends of a paranormal creature aren’t relegated to the side lines with no knowledge of what their friend is dealing with.

Again the story is clever and so detailed, how Taylor came up with this world I do not know, I only know that it feels absolutely real. There is death, heartbreak, and brutality, but there is also love, friendship, and most of all, hope.

If you loved DoSaB but have not read this, please do! If you are yet to start this series, now is the perfect time – part of me regrets not reading these books sooner, but with book three due out soon, I’m happy I waited until now to experience this series.

Normally with a series I tend to prefer one set of covers over the other, but I like both sets when it comes to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, though so far mine do not match. I own the UK paperback of the first book but I was lucky to receive a gorgeous signed hardback of DoBaS.

I started with a coat of China Glaze White Out. On every nail excluding my middle nail, I painted Orly Liquid Vinyl onto the lower half. 

I sponged grey acrylic paint onto the white areas of each nail. Once dry I sponged on SpaRitual Hunk of Burnin' Love.

Once dry I used a fine brush and acrylic paint to do the scalloped lines and the eye.

I wanted to give up on this manicure at every stage, first it took me a while to come up with a design, then I didn't like how it was looking, but I really hate to waste time so I just kept going. I don't love the finished result, it doesn't really look like the cover, but it's growing on me!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

This post contains a review, a bookish manicure, and a giveaway.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published March 26, 2014 by Penguin AU
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend Harvey, who's loved her forever, to help with compiling a crazy just-dying-to-do bucket list, that's as much about revenge as it is about redemption. But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now she must face the consequences of all she's said and done and discover just what happens when we say our 'final' words, only to find that life isn't through with us yet.

Side Effects May Vary is Julie Murphy’s debut novel set in a fictional town called Hughley. The story revolves around teenager Alice Richardson who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Alice comes up with a list of things to do before she dies and ropes in long-time friend, Harvey, to help her out. When she goes into remission she realises she now has to deal with the mess she’s made.

I was keen for this book as soon as I’d heard about it. The fact that it was another YA book featuring a main character with cancer did not deter me, especially as it took a look at a patient who goes into remission. Alice may not be an easy character to like, but her story is still captivating.

Alice was already a mean girl before she was diagnosed and I liked that we got to see who she truly was and that having cancer didn't change her, she was still mean, manipulative, and out for revenge. Despite her being a user of people, I didn't dislike her, especially when she changed her mind about outing someone at school - I like that she didn't cross that line.

The story is told from two perspectives and covers two time lines: then (about a year ago when Alice was diagnosed), and now (after she’s been told she’s in remission). The dual POV worked really well as the two main characters are so distinct. Harvey is the other perspective and he was really sweet. He’s been in love with Alice for years and he’s so happy to spend time with her that he ignores the fact that she’s using him. There were moments where I wanted Harvey to get over Alice so I was really pleased to see his growth over the story.

I was expecting an actual list of items that Alice was going to complete and that we’d see her check them off but instead we’re kept in the dark, just like Harvey. Although, there was one item I just knew would be featured. The timeline also surprised me, sometimes it would skip back to then and then forward to now but it was never one after the other, sometimes we’d spend a few chapters in the now and then skip back in time. While I found the two voices easy to distinguish between, I sometimes had to stop and think about what had been happening in each timeline.

Side Effects May Vary is very different to other YA books involving cancer (eg. The Fault in Our Stars, Everything Left Unsaid, Before I Die) in that it doesn't focus on the cancer, or how the parents/family react, it focuses on what happens when you get told you’re going to live. I could totally understand Alice’s anger at having her plans change. I could understand the fear of wanting to hope, of wanting to plan for the future. Her story felt realistic and the ending, while open-ended, felt hopeful.

Thank you to the lovely people at Penguin for my review copy.

I really like this cover, the colourful font and graphics look great against the black. 

I used 2 coats of Orly Liquid Vinyl as the base

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the check box, ballet slippers, pill bottle, and Ferris wheel.

Once dry I used Orly Matte Top to mimic the matte finish of the cover.

I'm giving away my copy of this book and it's open internationally - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 24 March 2014

Nymph by Tonya Alexandra

This post contains a review, a guest post, and a giveaway!

Nymph (Love Oracles #1) by Tonya Alexandra
Published February 1, 2014 by Walker Books
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: An idyllic Greek island. Obsessed demigods. A fallen nymph. A mortal boy. Merope, a beautiful but faded star nymph, is banished to Earth for displeasing the gods. She tries to fit in, go to school and live a normal “human” life. And then she meets Lukas … but relationships between men and goddesses are forbidden. Will their love grow? Or will Merope and Lukas feel the wrath of the gods?
Nymph by Tonya Alexandra is the story of Merope, a star nymph. She and her sisters are consorts to the Gods, but when she refuses to be with Orion, Zeus sends her and Uncle Prometheus to live on a Greek island. It is forbidden for female immortals to love humans, but Merope meets a local boy, Lukas, and they feel an instant connection.

The idea behind Nymph was unique to me as I don’t read much YA involving mythology. Because the story is set here on Earth in the modern day, there wasn’t an excessive amount of mythology included in the story, though the names of Gods, demigods, and nymphs were constantly mentioned or referenced by Merope.

Told in third person I never connected to the characters strongly, but I could understand their situations. There is insta-love between Merope and Lukas, but I didn’t find it to be too unbelievable as she’s an extremely attractive nymph so it was easy to believe Lukas would fall for her. Her love for him was a little harder to believe as Gods and nymphs find humans to be quite ugly and imperfect, but there is something about Lukas that Merope cannot resist.

Mereope starts attending high school and her days are filled with making friends and trying to avoid Lukas, yet also wanting to be with him. There was a lot of fretting about how wrong it was yet they always found themselves together. It felt as though all the events were occurring on consecutive days but occasionally Merope would mention that weeks or months had gone by, yet to me it felt as if no time has passed.

I did like that for once the story centred on a female paranormal creature and a human boy, it made a nice change from all the books that feature the opposite situation. I also liked that not everyone in the story was described as being perfectly good looking; the Gods were, but the humans were not. But, the story did remind me of a few other books (Hush, Hush, Fallen, and Halo) due to the dislike/judgement of humans and the way Merope and her friends had to come to Earth and live amongst humans.

I think this is a book that younger teens will enjoy, especially if they’re fans of romance.

Thank you to the fantastic people at Walker Books for my review copy.

Guest post from author Tonya Alexandra

Hi book lovers,
I have a couple of questions for you -

What if you had lived for millenniums tending tirelessly to the needs of selfish, spoilt gods?
What if you had no power over your destiny, you were fated to serve others for the rest of your life?
What if you were ordered to love someone you despised?

My book, Nymph, is the story of Merope, a star nymph who rejected Orion (a demigod who had stalked her for centuries) and was banished to Earth as punishment.
Although she landed on a beautiful Greek island, Earth was an impossible place. She found mortals to be strange with their odd customs and technology; they looked at life in an entirely different way. Their lives were short but intense; their friendships stronger, their love stronger. Merope was enchanted by it all. But love between a mortal and a celestial was forbidden.
So I ask you, what if she met a boy?  An especially scrumptious one with devilish dark hair and sea green eyes?
What should she do? 
Would you risk the wrath of the gods to experience what might be your only chance of happiness in your long, long, existence?

Let me know!! 

I hope you enjoy Nymph and the two remaining books in the Love Oracles series. It has been very cool bringing Greek mythology characters to life in modern day. It brought about some funny situations like imagining how a goddess would feel about computers or how a character like Heracles would go shopping. So yes, Nymph is not all *sigh* romance, it has humour and adventure too – especially book two and three. Just wait to you see what they get up to in Olympus and Hades.

So my challenge for you (and Amanda!) – read Nymph and send me a photo of an artwork you’ve created inspired by it. Yes – it could be as cool as nail art, or maybe a sketch or painting. It could be – stars/hearts/bow & arrow/mythology characters – anything. 

Enjoy! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
All the best, Tonya Alexandra
Twitter: @tonya_alexandra
FaceBook: /LoveOracles

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Stacking the Shelves (6)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews - it's a way for us to share the books we borrowed/bought/received during the week

For review:


Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen #1) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Off Season (Dairy Queen #2) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Friday, 21 March 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor
Published 2011 by Hachette
Source: purchased
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

I’ve had Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor sitting on my bookshelf for two years. I don’t know what made me wait, I suppose other books kept getting in the way, but now I know that Akiva had to wait two years to see Madrigal again, it seems meant to be.

Seventeen year old Karou is now one of my favourite characters. She has two lives: by day she is an art student, attending the Art lyceum of Bohemia in Prague with her best friend, Zuzana. The rest of the time she runs errands for Brimstone, a chimaera who raised her from childhood. She enjoys her art, and loves to spend time with Brimstone, Issa, Yasri, and Twiga, though she feels guilty about the teeth she delivers and the lost lives they represent. She’s strong, intelligent, and yearning to be loved – an excellent female protagonist.

Akiva’s story is also a big part of this novel and I adored him, too. Akiva provides Karou with the love she desires and helps her discover her true identity. The tension between them was so intense, sexy, and palpable. I could feel the pull of their history, knowing that despite feeling an almost instant attraction to each other, there was a good reason for it.

The setting was gorgeous; I’ve never been to Prague but I now feel as though I have. The descriptions were perfect and I could imagine the beautiful, gothic city easily. The world created is perfectly vivid - there was sufficient information about the history of the war, the chimaera and the seraphs, but it was never overdone. I found the story clever, mature and well planned.

If you enjoyed Shadows by Paula Weston, you'll definitely like this book, and vice versa. I'm usually put off by the idea of angels in YA, but both these series know just how to get the theme right.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone held me captivated from the very beginning; it was intriguing, sexy, thrilling, and I am so glad I have book two on my shelf – I definitely won’t be waiting two years before I read it.

I like all the cover variations for this series but I am partial to the feathered cover that I have. I started with 2 coats of Orly Liquid Vinyl.

To mimic the sheen of the feathers I used some holographic polishes: China Glaze Get Outta My Space, Cosmic Dust, and Unpredictable. I used a fine brush and layered these over each other.

For the rachis of each feather I used black acrylic paint and a fine brush.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tigerfish by David Metzenthen and Quincy Jordan by Jen Storer

This post contains two mini reviews

Tigerfish by David Metzenthen
Published January 29, 2014 by Penguin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: Better in here, they think. Safe and sound. No shocks and no surprises. Twenty-one degrees Celsius all year round.
Ryan Lanyon lives in the shadows of a shopping centre on the far side of the city. His brother is a bouncer. His best mate owns weapons. Ariel works in a surf-shop and has never seen the sea. And the tragedies of the past will poison the future – unless someone has the guts to cross the line.

Tigerfish by David Metzetthen is set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Templeton. Ryan Lanyon lives with his family, goes to school with his best mate Evan, and hangs out at their local mall, Sky Point (otherwise known as Knifepoint). It’s there he meets Ariel, a girl new to the suburb and one Ryan feels drawn to.

Tigerfish is a character driven novel, told in first person via Ryan’s narration. What I always love about David’s books are his strong male characters and Ryan is a great example of this. I immediately felt like I was in his head, sharing his thoughts, his voice so clear to me. He’s a good guy, the best. He knows he doesn’t live in a great suburb, he knows there are bad things happening, and his concerns are always for his family, friends, and for his dog, Dee Dee. Speaking of Dee Dee, I spent the whole book terrified that something awful was going to happen to her.

The world felt futuristic and bleak, the suburb, the park, the mall were all so vivid. The story was suspenseful but never hurried, I felt edgy and nervous the entire time, finally breathing a sigh of relief once I was done reading.

Tigerfish is a unique look at the life of a teenager, one that’s gritty, sometimes dark, but with a bright future ahead and plenty of heart.

Thank you to the lovely people at Penguin for my review copy.

Quincy Jordan (Crystal Bay Girls #1) by Jen Storer
Published January 29, 2014 by Penguin AU
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: Quincy Jordan doesn't want to meet her hippie cousins and go to school in Crystal Bay. Her life in Sydney is perfect. She's going to save her parents' marriage, score perfect marks at school and become a surgeon. Her only regret is that she'll never be a fashion designer. But sacrifices must be made!
There's no way that Quincy is going to be 'Crystallised' – that is until her cousin Esme, the school musical and a cute boy called Harris change everything . . .

Quincy Jordan by Jen Storer is set in the fictional beachside town of Crystal Bay. Quincy and her mother move there after her father leaves them. They move in with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. Quincy is determined to get back to Sydney as soon as possible but things don’t go as she planned.

I love beachside settings and really enjoyed this sweet little novel. Before the separation, Quincy was under a lot of pressure from her parents and herself to be the perfect daughter and student. She was set on becoming a surgeon just like her father and had to hide the fact that she really adored fashion. Moving to Crystal Bay allowed Quincy to realise her true passion rather than doing what she felt was expected. She was quite bratty at first but I liked that she was quite self-aware, she knew her behaviour was terrible and eventually she changed her attitude.

This is a great book for teens, it has romance, friend and family issues and is a lot of fun to read.

Thank you to the lovely people at Penguin for my review copy.