It’s been ages since I’ve posted – sorry about that! I’d like to say that I have some illustrious story about why I haven’t written a word for about a month, but honestly, all I’ve been doing is tweeting to CW stars and crying over books. Most recently (as in, over the past few days), I’ve read three books (or most of them, anyway) and they are as follows – “White Oleander” by Janet Fitch, “Defiance” by CJ Redwine, and “Dreams of Gods and Monsters” by Laini Taylor. And here’s a brief run-down slash mini review of each.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
To be fair, this time around was actually a reread – the first time I read White Oleander was a year or so ago, and I absolutely fell in love with Janet Fitch’s beautiful writing. I don’t think there was ever a time where I was bored in reading that book; every paragraph is written lyrically.
White Oleander follows Astrid Magnussen, the daughter of a beautiful, savage, and frankly rather sociopathic poet, Ingrid, who falls in love with a man who essentially isn’t even in her league. When said man spurns her, Ingrid basically loses it, poisons him, and gets sent to jail for it. The book follows Astrid’s experiences as she is sent from one foster home to another.
I honestly don’t know what else to say other than that this book is absolutely beautiful, but I’m just going to say now that there are a lot of pretty dark / explicit things happening in the book that may be triggering or disturbing to some people (dubious suicide / drug overdose, sex between a 13 / 14 year old and 40-something year old man, body horror, etc.) so if you’re looking for a light, fluffy read where no one is unhappy, White Oleander is not the book for you. If you’re made of sterner stuff, I definitely recommend that you give this book a try.
Defiance by CJ Redwine
My friend rec’d this one to me, singing its praises, and honestly, I am so disappointed. To be fair, I should have known what I was getting into – I read the description on the inside of the book and it already sounded pretty lame, but I’ve read lots of books with descriptions that fail to adequately sum up how good the actual book is. So I read it, and about 100 pages in, I caved, threw the book aside, and started watching Frozen (which was significantly less painful to get through).
“Defiance” takes place in a dystopian type setting, where women are essentially caged in at every opportunity, to the point where the main male character, Logan’s mother was executed for going out in public without her male “Protector.” Let me just point out how problematic that is that (1) Redwine basically just killed off the guy’s mom to further his man pain, as her death did nothing significant plot-wise; and (2) although I am a staunch feminist, I know that a lot of dystopian settings are strongly misogynistic and I can understand the author’s motives for placing their stories in such settings, but Redwine’s world-building is so shoddy that there is literally no reason for it whatsoever. Furthermore, Logan is supposed to be the main female character, Rachel’s love interest – I don’t really know what Redwine was trying to achieve, but Logan’s POV shows how blatant of an internalized misogynist he is and how controlling and disrespectful of Rachel he is, and that is frankly disgusting to me as he is supposed to be her love interest and thereby respect her to some degree.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe Redwine pulls out some crazy, amazing world-building, gives Logan a personality that isn’t revolting and Rachel an actual personality; but I wouldn’t be able to tell, as I couldn’t even get through the entire book. Maybe it’s just me, but this book was such a disappointment – definitely wouldn’t recommend.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
I’m just gonna say that I usually don’t buy books; but when I do, they’re generally books I’ve rented from the library about 20 times and aggressively read until 3 in the morning. “Dreams” (as I’m going to abbreviate, for the sake of promptness) is the last of a trilogy I’m absolutely in love with, and I bought it online the day it came out without so much as reading the description. That is how much faith I have in Queen Taylor’s phenomenal writing.
The book is young adult, technically, but it’s so beautifully written and the things that the characters – who are all wonderful and fleshed out and complex and flawed – learn and go through that I will honestly hit anyone in the head who dares discredit “Dreams” or any of the other books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy because of its genre. (And as each book is 500+ pages and hardcover, it would probably hurt, too.) Of course, I recommend that you read the first two books, otherwise you will be hopelessly lost – which I kind of like; that Taylor doesn’t waste time extensively recapping the previous book and just jumps into the good stuff.
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy follows Karou, who is a blue-haired art student (although we find out later that she’s got more of a history to her) raised by “monsters.” I know what you’re thinking! Blue-haired, seriously? But there are credible reasons as to why she has blue hair, and it’s not one of those “quirky” things that are obsessed over, which is a nice change. I can’t adequately sum up the series, but here’s a quick laundry list of things that I love about the series.
- a competent, tough, selfless, down-to-earth heroine – even if she is “conventionally attractive,” Taylor doesn’t make that her main trait and aside from briefly – and beautifully – describing Karou’s conventional attractiveness, pretty much never brings it up again as there are evidently more important things to reflect on
- no time-wasting love triangle!!!!!!!!!!
- no pointless tragedies!!!!!!!!!
- morally gray, corrupt, war-mongering angels and a motley crew of diverse, fierce, loyal chimaera and the conflict between the two groups that is reminiscent to European imperialism and the ideological mindset that anyone who isn’t attractive and Aryan is inferior
- an intense, tragic, beautiful romance that doesn’t take away from the plot of the series – and a romance that you can get behind, that doesn’t feel contrived
- two individuals from said romance, who aren’t defined by their relationship but are their own people, and have their own distinct personalities
- friendships and other platonic relationships that aren’t cast aside or abandoned for the sake of the main romance
- POC and (minor spoilers for the last book) non-heterosexual characters!!!!!!!
- absolutely phenomenal, detailed, realistic (inasmuch as an evidently fictional / fantasy series this is) world-building – probably the best I have ever experienced in a series, to be honest
- “Dreams”-wise, a perfectly paced ending that, while it may be unrealistic, suits the characters perfectly and leaves room for a spin-off series – and any fallacies in the ending are sort of rendered moot
So I went on a bit of a tangent, but if that doesn’t convince you to check out the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, there is no hope for you. (Haha, hope, get it?) (You won’t get it unless you read the books. Which you should.)