One of the good things about all this rain is that it means there’s even more reason to go to the cinema – you can go out but still stay snug and dry! So I’ve been freaking myself out with Prometheus this week and loving Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. And interestingly, my new book obsession also has a distinctly cinematic feel to it.
This week I’ve been reading: Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, by Laini Taylor (£7.99, Hodder)
Seventeen-year-old Karou has a life of two halves. She goes to art college in Prague, hangs out with her friend Zuzana and lives in a small flat. But every week she gets sent on errands. By her foster-dad, Brimstone, part man, part dragon, part lion, part ram – a chimaera – who lives in another world, to collect teeth from his clients in exchange for wishes. Brought up by Brimstone and three other chimaera, she knows nothing of her parentage and is still full of questions about her past, the chimaera and why he needs all those teeth – all questions that Brimstone won’t answer. The other world is mysteriously named Elsewhere, and is entered via portals from the human world. But whichever world she is in, Karou feels a sense of ‘otherness’, of neither belonging to one or the other. But then one day, the portals are burned away by the seraphims, angels who are the chimaeras’ sworn enemies, and Karou is left trying to work out who she is – and how to get back to her family in Elsewhere.
This book is the first in a trilogy by American writer Laini Taylor, and it’s written in a vivid, dramatic style, with each chapter feeling like a different scene. It’s no surprise, then, that Universal Pictures has snapped up the rights to the book. Characters are described in bright, interesting detail, and each has standout features – Karou and her dazzling blue hair, Brimstone and his tufty tail, Akiva the seraphim and his stop-and-stare beauty. So you’re transported into their worlds, where we learn, in fact, nothing is as it seems.
The story has echoes of both Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy – both of which I loved. And it’s all the better for it. I was completely immersed in Karou’s parallel worlds and even after I’d stopped reading and got off my train in the morning, I found myself thinking about the story and what was going to happen. Frustratingly, the second instalment of the trilogy isn’t due to be published till November, but I want to know what happens now! But while we wait, get your hands on this book and enjoy – you can’t help but be sucked in!
I’ve also been reading: Her Giant Octopus Moment, by Kay Langdale (£7.99, Hodder)
Sitting on the sofa one day, Joanie Simpson is bored and wants some attention – so she decides to volunteer as a surrogate. She agrees to carry a baby for a young couple, Ned and Elisabetta Beacham, after being inseminated with Ned’s sperm, when Elisabetta finds out she can’t have children. Just a few weeks later she tells them that she has sadly miscarried the baby. The story begins almost 11 years later when we meet Joanie and her daughter Scout. Joanie has a big secret: she didn’t miscarry the baby. No one, not even Scout, knows the truth about her daughter’s conception. But then someone recognises Joanie and puts two and two together. After receiving a letter from social services, Joanie makes Scout up and leave her home, school and friends to go on the run from the truth. But she can’t keep running forever.
The central themes of the book are family, and a sense of belonging (themes that are also integral to Daughter Of Smoke And Bone), and while it’s easy to like Scout and be drawn in by her child-like yet grown-up thoughts, the book’s other central character, Joanie, is less easy to identify with – or even like. It seems that after feeling she couldn’t part with her unborn surrogate child, she is not a very good mum to Scout – she leaves her on her own while she goes out on dates with big, burly men, and leaves her to home-school herself while they’re on the run. But gradually, we see that despite everything else, Joanie loves her daughter. In fact, it’s this maternal love that wins out in the end – and helps you empathise with Joanie and her situation.
This is a sharply written, warm novel, whose success is built on the author’s ability to get under her characters’ skin and make them real and human.
What did you think about these books? Let me know what you’ve been reading – tweet me @FabFrosty.