Okay, so I know it's been a while since I updated my blog, but that's only because I haven't really felt passionately about a book since Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but then this little beauty galloped into my life, and I just had to share my feelings about it with the world. I was up until 1:30 last night reading this book (which, if you know me, is pretty unheard of, unless there's a Harry Potter midnight premiere going on). Now that I've finished this book, I can't stop thinking about it. I can't get it out of my head! It's really quite distracting. You know how with some books, you finish it, and you think, "Well that was a jolly good read. Pip pip cheerio" (I don't know why, but you're British in this hypothetical scenario), and then you kind of forget about it within the next twenty-four hours? This book is the total opposite. The more I think about it, the better it is. And I've been thinking about it a lot. This book is like a beautiful stallion: stunning and graceful from afar, but you don't know how much power it's got until you're riding it. But The Scorpio Races isn't just for horse lovers! Nay! (Pun intended.) In fact, I generally don't read horse books at all, but this one changed my mind. It's got a little bit of a Hunger Games vibe to it, with the incredibly dangerous races at the center of things, which both protagonists (dual narrators Kate "Puck" Connolly and Sean Kendrick) participate in. The romance is secondary (or maybe even tertiary) to the action, and both Puck and Sean are likable lead characters. Have I mentioned lately how much I love female protagonists who are strong and independent and preferably a little sassy? Puck totally fits the bill. (For example, when a disgruntled fellow rider condescendingly asks if she needs any help, she responds, "What I need is for your mother to have thought a little harder nine months before your birthday.") On the male side of the narration, Sean is all you could ask for in a dark and mysterious Irishman. Awesome supporting characters include an adorable younger brother, an amusingly candid American businessman who befriends Sean, and, of course, the horses. Basically, this book has wooed me. I never thought I would use the word "woo" in reference to a book (who am I kidding, yes I did), but this one really did it for me. You too should be wooed, so do yourself a favor and read this outstanding book. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go research how much it would cost to buy a pony and a small farmhouse in Ireland.
Some stories are told from the heart, with more focus on feeling than form and mechanics. Some stories are told from the head, with an almost analytical precision. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is neither of these. While it has the emotional charge of a tale rooted in passion, as well as the finely-tuned construction of a cerebral story, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a story told from the gut. It comes from somewhere deep-down, and seems to unfold with an instinctive certainty, carrying the reader with it. At times it almost feels like the story has a mind of its own, as if it came into the author's consciousness fully formed, just waiting to be born onto the page.
It is a testament to Laini Taylor's writing that the story seems to almost tell itself. And it's not an easy story to tell, by any means. Daughter of Smoke & Bone reveals a fantasy world unlike any other I've read of in the vast field of YA fantasy. The titular daughter, Karou, had a very unique upbringing. As a human girl raised by demons (they prefer to call themselves chimaera), smoke and bone could easily represent the two worlds that Karou belongs to: human and demon. When an unknown force threatens the demon half of her life, Karou must uncover more about the mysteries that her demon foster father kept from her, while at the same time trying to understand her connection to the warrior angel who brought on this danger.
Karou is a strong, clever, self-assured character with a wry wit that makes her point of view delightful to read. She's the driving force of the story, although there are a few passages told from a different perspective, which help to give the reader a fuller understanding of the complexities of the story. All the characters are richly drawn, particularly the paternal figure of Brimstone the Wishmonger. Even Karou's narcissistic ex-boyfriend is a multidimensional lowlife. None of the characters are purely good or evil, and the line between heroes and villains is practically indiscernible. The story shows two sides of a war, but deems neither side right or wrong.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a firework that ignites on the page. It's a vibrant, colorful, and wonderfully original story, featuring exotic settings, captivating and complex characters, and an intoxicating mix of myth, folklore, and fantasy. It's everything I want a book to be: dynamic, heartfelt, exhilarating, funny, well-crafted, and unique. Although it is a story about wishes, the theme of Daughter of Smoke & Bone is that hope is stronger than wishing, and hope is exactly what this book inspires. I was left hoping for more stories like this one, and wishing for the sequel to be published soon.
The moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. The three central characters have been cast for the Hunger Games movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in March 2012. The news came just over two weeks after the announcement that Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence would be dyeing her golden locks dark to play the lead role of Katniss in the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling YA series. Josh Hutcherson, who played the teenage son in The Kids Are All Right (also an Oscar-nominated film, though Hutcherson himself did not get a nomination), will take on the role of Peeta Mellark, the lovestruck "tribute" from District 12 forced to fight to the death alongside teen heroine Katniss. The role of Gale, Katniss' hunting partner and her other love interest, will be played by Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song). Fans might be surprised by these casting choices considering that neither actor (nor Lawrence) fits the physical description of the characters in the book. The character of Peeta is supposed to be blonde, while Josh Hutcherson is a brunette. Gale is described as having olive skin and dark hair and eyes, though none of those apply to Liam Hemsworth. That being said, hair dye and contacts can solve most of those incongruencies. The real question is, can they act? Lawrence demonstrated her acting ability in last year's Winter's Bone (for which she earned her Oscar nomination), and Hutcherson gave a notably impressive performance in The Kids Are All Right. Hopefully these actors, along with director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit), will do justice to Collins' fantastic story and make the Hunger Games movie into the blockbuster it deserves to be.
The Internet is buzzing with rumors about who will and who should be cast in the upcoming movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling YA novel The Hunger Games (the first in a trilogy). Hundreds of names have been thrown into the ring for various roles, including up-and-coming actors like Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and established actors like Robert Downey Jr. (whom many are championing for the role of Haymitch). Here are my top picks for the cast of The Hunger Games (my favorites are in all caps), alongside some of the more popular choices...
Excuse me while I go back in time and high-five my sixteen-year-old self. As a teen, I loved Avalon High (written by Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series), and now it's finally getting the mediocre, tween-oriented, made-for-TV movie it deserves. The film stars Britt Robertson (from the CW's underrated Life Unexpected) and Gregg Sulkin (Wizards of Waverly Place) and premieres on the Disney Channel this November. (The 12th, to be exact, not that I've marked it on my calendar or anything...) With a cast that also includes Molly Quinn, who plays Nathan Fillion's charming daughter on Castle, I can't help but hope that this adaptation might actually be good. (Well, as good as "good" can mean when we're talking about the Disney Channel.) Is it wrong that as an almost-college-graduate, Disney is still making my dreams come true? I have to say, a part of me is saddened that they waited until I was no longer of the age at which it is acceptable to get excited over a Disney Channel Original Movie adaptation of a teen novel, but a larger part of me is exhibiting my usual disregard for age limits (they're more like guidelines, really) and still can't wait to see the book brought to life on the small screen.
If you're interested, you can watch the cheese-tastic trailer here.
Let's be honest, The Hunger Games series are the kind of books that have everything you didn't know you wanted in a book, and more. Action, drama, romance, humor (albeit not necessarily of the sidesplitting nature), romance, political relevance, advanced gadgetry, genetically manufactured hybrid animals, and even creepy nursery rhymes! The Hunger Games trilogy has it all. The latest and final installment of Suzanne Collins' young adult series, Mockingjay, is the culmination of the war against the corrupt government of the dystopian nation of Panem, lead by Katniss Everdeen, the seventeen-year-old tough-as-nails protagonist.
I finished this book in 36 hours. (And let's remember that I'm actually an incredibly slow reader, under normal circumstances.) I was completely engrossed by the non-stop action, even if its aftermath left me occasionally devastated. In fact, the high death toll and the resulting tally of survivors at the end reminded me somewhat of the final Harry Potter book. At the end, the ones who really needed to live did (with a few possible exceptions). And while each death was more gut-wrenching than the last, in the end, I was glad to see whose hearts were still beating.
As a huge fan of the first two books, I was very satisfied with this conclusion to the trilogy, although it was not my favorite book of the series. The one thing that was left wanting, in my opinion, was Peeta. We didn't get to see much of the real Peeta in this installment, and, frankly, that ridiculously-named stud is my favorite character (though Katniss is certainly a close second). Between being held captive by an evil dictator and being brain-washed beyond recognition, there was nothing but a glimmer here and there of the Peeta we know and love from the first two books. All-in-all, though, I was pleased with his fate, as well as that of Panem. Regarding the fate of the series, however, I am a little more dubious.
I am both thrilled and terrified by the comparisons being drawn between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series. (The Hunger Games is headed for the big screen, too.) As much as I'd like to see "Team Peeta vs. Team Gale" replace "Team Edward vs. Team Jacob" as the most popular battle-of-the-broody-boys among tweens, I'm faced with the selfish desire to preserve the sacredness of my beloved series. I'm not sure I want to share this obsession with the world.