Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal / Romance

Ages: 14 and up


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 grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly 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 hair actually 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 one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored 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?

My Thoughts:

This book is one of the darkest, most peculiar, most beautiful stories I have ever read. It is also one of those books that just gets better and better the more times you read it. The first time I opened it up, I enjoyed it and admired the creativity it took to write it. The second time, I was enthralled from beginning to end. The third time, I reveled in every word, delighting in tiny details I didn't notice before.

Karou is a fascinating, mysterious character. She is artistic, Bohemian, with her blue hair and many tattoos. She is a loyal friend, yet she keeps many secrets. Her secrets are almost the whole point of the story; the gradual revelations both to the reader and to Karou herself. The lure of the secrets is seductive, beginning with little hints of magic, drawing the reader in until you can't stop without learning them all. By then, Karou's world has closed around you, and there is no escaping even if you wished to.

Oh, the weird and wonderful world of chimeras and angels, where teeth can be traded for wishes in a dark corner of Prague. With so many YA fantasy novels floating around, it can be difficult to find on that is truly original, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one such book. I can't compare Karou's world to other fantasy realms, because there aren't any that are similar. It's a dark and dangerous world, filled with sharp claws and bright feathers, beautiful and terrifying to behold.

Speaking of beautiful and terrifying; Akiva. He's an avenging angel, fierce and golden, but empty. Until he tries to kill a girl with blue hair. Oh, Akiva. It was easy to fall for him, to want to weep for him, or rage at him. He has become on of my favorite heroes, in part because he is not particularly heroic. He makes mistakes, terrible, awful mistakes, and yet I still want to see him happy in the end.

This book is a fantastical escape to a world of forbidden love, tragedy, second chances and twisted, mesmerizing magic. You should really read it. Right now.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence 
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it a 3.10 for mild to mid-level swearing.

I give it a 5.10 for references, a couple of fade-aways, and a very vaguely descriptive scene.

I rate it a 6.10 for murder, war, and torture, which is not described in overly graphic detail.

                                        Lieder Madchen

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview with Natasha Preston, Author of The Cellar

Today I am very excited to have Natasha Preston visiting Songs & Stories to talk about her new book, The Cellar. Please, join in the conversation! You can check out my review of The Cellar here

Ms. Preston, welcome to Songs & Stories! I do believe you are the first author of a psychological thriller to visit and I am very much looking forward to picking your brain. Would you care for a cup of tea? Coffee?

 Hi! Thanks for having me. Oh I love coffee, too much probably! Thanks.

When reading The Cellar I was particularly struck by the characters; they were all very realistic and interesting in their different ways. Which POV did you enjoy writing the most? 

I enjoyed writing Clover/Colin the most. He’s so complex and so different to any other characters I’ve written before. It was a little too easy to write actually! But there were times when I couldn’t, it was quite emotionally draining having to think the way he does and I wasn’t always in the mood to do it. The challenge was great though.

How much research was required to write The Cellar

Most of the research was things like missing person cases, how easy is it to get hold of body bags and how long it takes a body to decompose under water – Summer had to be missing for a certain time before the search was launched, stupidly easy and quicker than I thought. All things that look very suspicious if my internet history is ever searched!

The Cellar managed to send shivers down my spine several times; what are some of your favorite shivery stories? 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I think I felt just about every emotion possible while reading that and had plenty of shivery moments! And Gone Girl. I literally don’t know what to say about that book other than it’s phenomenal and I wish I’d written it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I try for a bit of both. Before I start writing I have to know I’ve got a story there so I usually plan what’s going to happen. Planning is very simple one line bullet point notes though because I know I’ll change things throughout. I have two thick notebooks full of story ideas that’ll keep me busy well into 2018.

Have you thought about writing a sequel? I loved the way The Cellar ended, but I am very curious about what happens to the characters next. If you’re not writing a sequel, what are your future writing plans? 

I’ve written a sequel but I did it way too soon (when I still wanted them all to just go away) so it’s not right. I’m more interested in a prequel about Clover after the death of his mother through to kidnapping Summer, and Rose running away from home, living on the street/in hostels and being kidnapped. I love Rose and Clover’s characters because there’s so much more to them than just what you see in The Cellar.

If you could cast any actor to play Clover, who would it be? 

Physically I picture him as Anthony Perkins with that groomed, normal guy appearance but he passed away in 1992. I honestly don’t know who I would cast as Clover, sorry!

Thank you so much for stopping by and answering my questions! I'm looking forward to whatever you write next. :)

                      Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blog Tour Book Review + Guest Post + Giveaway! A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

A Death-Struck Year
by Makiia Lucier

Genre: Young Adult / Historical

Ages: 14 and up

I received a copy of this book through RockStar Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?

My Thoughts:

This book grabbed my from the first page and has not yet let me go, long after the last. I blame Cleo. Her voice was so real and so very likable. The first few chapters have a lovely, light humor as they introduce Cleo and her family, her life before the Spanish influenza hits Portland. This contrast, from their happiness to the horrors of the pandemic, give the story that much more impact.

The writing was perfect; the story builds up, reaching its peak at just the right moment, then quiets for a beautiful ending. The descriptions of the disease are powerful, but without so much detail as to disturb those with tender stomachs. The focus is more on the people, their thoughts and emotions, than it is on a graphic portrayal of the Spanish influenza. I had tears in my eyes more than once.

Cleo's character arc was simply lovely to watch; from a teenager looking for her place in the world to a woman of quiet strength. The secondary characters were all well done as well, each with their own stories. My favorites were probably Hannah and Edmund, with Kate, Jack, and Lucy close behind.

Looking at A Death-Struck Year from a historical fiction standpoint, I learned some things I didn't know before, which is always a plus, and it interested me enough in the subject that I will go looking for more information, which is even better.

I loved this book, even more than I thought I would, and I can foresee recommending it to a great many people in the future.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence 
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it a 1.10 for one or two very mild exclamations.

I give it a 2.10 for some references to methods of contraception and very mild, brief hints.

I rate it a 4.10 for disease-related blood and references to a stabbing and an accident that ended in death.


I am very happy to have Makiia Lucier here today with a guest post telling us about how she became an author. Check it out and be sure to say hi in the comments. :)

By Makiia Lucier

It took six months to finish the first draft of A Death-Struck Year (then titled A Beautiful and Death-Struck Year). I sent it off to literary agents who specialized in young adult literature. I thought the manuscript was beautiful. I thought it would sell immediately. Then reality set in.

The no thank yous and not for mes poured into my inbox with depressing regularity. I was glad then that I had told no one besides my husband and best friend that I was writing a book. Very, very glad, because if I was going to fail, I wanted to do it as quietly as possible.

But one day, another e-mail appeared. Suzie Townsend was a relatively new agent who thought the manuscript showed great promise. She wasn’t ready to offer representation, but if I’d read her editorial notes and revise, she would love to take another look. Would I consider it? I said yes. Yes yes yes! Several months later, I officially had an agent.

If you’d like to see what Suzie thought about my original query letter, you can read about it here.

Even with an agent, straightforward historical fiction wasn’t an easy sell. Dystopian lit was getting all the attention, as well as the traditional vampires, angels, fairies, and mind benders. How could a seventeen-year-old girl living in 1918 Oregon compete? Cleo couldn’t read minds; she didn’t have ninja reflexes or anything.

Many months later, I was with my family on the Oregon Coast for the Thanksgiving holiday, feeling glum and wondering if I should maybe add zombies or boy wizards to sweeten the plot. Then Suzie called. Two excellent publishing houses were interested in purchasing the manuscript. I had a choice. And so I chose Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

And it was the best Thanksgiving ever.

About Makiia Lucier

Makiia Lucier grew up on the Pacific island of Guam. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a master's in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She's had plenty of jobs, mostly in libraries, and currently lives in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho.

You can find A Death-Struck Year at these places: 


This is a tour-wide giveaway for a SIGNED COPY of A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR to one winner – US ONLY.
Giveaway ends on March 17th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Good luck!

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