Blog Tour: Lailah by Nikki Kelly

Rating: 3.5 stars
Pub Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: young adult paranormal (vampires & angels) romance
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: Book 1 of the Styclar Saga

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of Lailah in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.

On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely Allie – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel.

In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?

Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.

There has been a LOT of buzz about Lailah in the book world, and I really have to give Nikki and the entire Feiwel & Friends team for creating a book that has gotten people talking. I also really like the inventiveness of a story that combines angels and vampires, both of which really hit the peak of their respective popularity, but like Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden series, which set vampires in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, the combination keeps it fresh. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Gabriel teaches Lailah about Styclar and the introduction of both the Angels and the Vampires on earth. It's a really cool and unique origin story, and its telling is extremely cinematic.

I also really enjoyed the vividness of Nikki's imagery. The writing is very sensory, hitting not just what you can see and hear but also touch, taste, and smell (although apparently Gabriel smells of sandalwood, and even though I love him, sandalwood smells gross). The words really pop off the page, you know? I don't ever feel like I'm in a book. There's a part of me that's always disconnected and knows I'm just reading a story, but I felt like I could see it and hear it. Actually, the way Lailah watches some of her memories with Gabriel is a good comparison.

If you read Lailah, I would encourage you to keep on keepin' on in the beginning. I was actually reminded a lot of The Host (I bet you thought I was going to say another of Stephenie Meyer's books, didn't you? :P) and Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone because even though there's some action both in the prologue and then again when Lailah first meets Jonah, the story doesn't really pick up for a while. Lailah is trying to figure out who and what she is in the beginning as well as if she can trust Gabriel and the Vampires. Although I wanted the pace to pick up sooner, I do like that Lailah holds back in this book. I've read some critiques that she's too passive or weak. Um, yeah. I don't think that's fair considering she's a little lost surrounded by all these physically intimidating characters and she has some serious memory and identity issues. This is one of those lose-lose scenarios readers box authors into. If a female protagonist is badass from the beginning, she's too strong. If she is more hesitant, like Lailah, she's weak. I'm okay with Lailah starting out where she does because it gives her room to grow over the course of the series. I think it says more about readers than the characters when we are so quick to judge the female mc's in terms of strength and weakness.

For me, the primary detractors for Lailah were occasionally word choice, which is big for me, a little too much similarity with other stories despite the kickass origin story, and a certain incident between Lailah and Jonah. First, word choice. I try to be so particular about the words that I use, from here on the blog to what I say in real life, and I am really sensitive to both the denotation and connotation of words, and sometimes while reading Lailah, certain words and phrases really distracted me from the story because they didn't fit. For example, very early on, Michael is staring at Lailah "quizzically," but then he speaks to her through gritted teeth. To be quizzical is a little curious and a little comical, but speaking through gritted teeth implies anger and frustration. The emotions of those actions are fairly disparate, and even though it might be a little thing to some other readers, to me it was distracting.

Also, I almost turned Lailah into a drinking game because Nikki has, well, a fondness for, well, using the word, well, well a lot, and this is something that isn't necessarily Nikki's fault, but it's something one of the copy-editors should have noticed and fixed. Also I don't feel the comma before well gives enough pause. Usually when someone says "well," they either pause for a significant beat before or after ie "...well," or "well...". Elipses are good. Elipses are your friend when pausing! One time it happend twice in a paragraph and I didn't know whether to laugh or punch a pillow. I don't want to go too much into the similarities with other stories because I think readers will understand, but I think it's something that can be fixed as Nikki continues on with the rest of the series. Characters will be further developed and the story strengthened.

As for the incident between Jonah and Lailah....many people have already touched on this in reviews. For those of you who don't know, Lailah has an injury on her back, and Jonah asks to see it. Lailah tells him no. Jonah ignores Lailah then proceeds to take off her cardigan and jacket. Then he rips her shirt and presses her up against the wall in a fairly violent manner, considering he is a Vampire and she is (supposedly) a human. She keeps telling him "NO" and fighting back, but he doesn't stop. Now, I don't think Nikki intended this scene to be as...abrasive as it comes off. However, given current events in society, consent is a huge issue. I'm not saying Jonah is a bad guy, but that scene turned my stomach, and as such, I became entirely Team Gabriel. Yeah. I'm declaring it now. But I digress. I think it's important for authors to be sensitive to such actions and try to perpetuate a culture of consent even in books and situations that may not be implicitly about sex.

Overall, Lailah is a solid first book in a new series. There's strong storytelling and strong writing, and as the series progresses, I definitely think readers will fall more and more in love with Lailah and the two boys who love her. Also, just so you don't forget: Team Gabriel, baby!

Hiding behind it was a new memory.

Again it was the two of us, our attention drawn over the heavy wooden board underneath an ancient oak tree. Autumn leaves cascaded down, forming a messy pile covering the grass next to my feet. We sat opposite each other, contemplating our next move. I watched and many minutes seemed to roll by before I finally picked a white knight and moved it carefully to a new spot. Gabriel wore a cheeky smile as he instantly took it with a bishop and presented me with my impounded piece. I tossed my head up to the sky with a disgruntled sigh; Gabriel placed the knight back on the board and reshuffled his bishop to where it had been. He seemed to be trying to show me where I had gone wrong and where I should have placed my piece

It was odd; all my visions tended to be in silence, except for the occasional sharp noise. I never heard the voices. I had learned now to interpret body language and movement.

Watching memories was gripping, but being overcome by the strong emotions that they brought with them still felt unusual. All I felt watching the memory was pure rapture, and I couldn't recall knowing such happiness in my current life.

I stretched my arms out in front of me and the tips of my fingers tingled as the air swelled around them. I was on the outside looking in. I had time to take in th memory for a few more moments but Gabriel couldn't resist any longer; he had jumped into the tunnel, tuning in to my private channel, and watching once again. As he joined, my memory broke apart into tiny segments, and as if blowing gently through a plastic tube, he manipulated the image, creating a series of tiny bubbles all reflecting the story that had disappeared somewhere inside me once upon a time. The bubbles drifted and vanished from sight.

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About the Author:
I was born and raised only minutes away from the chocolately scent of Cadbury World in Birmingham, England. So it will probably come as no surprise that when I'm not dreaming in Vampires & Angels, I dream in chocolate! For the past ten years I have lived in West London with my hubby and two dogs, Alfie - the Pug & Goose - the Chihuahua.

Lailah is my debut novel, and first launched in serial form to wattpad, a readers & writers community. Within just six months, Lailah had over a million reads and thousands of comments and votes.

Since then, The Styclar Saga has gone on to pick up a traditional deal with Feiwel & Friends, and Lailah, the first book in the series is due for release on October 7th 2014.

These days I spend my time balancing my amazing job of writing fantasy fiction, with my other, very important role of Chocolate Connoisseur. I like to multitask and do the two together. It makes me happy.
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Here's the coolest thing about this blog tour: EVERY BLOG is hosting a giveaway for a hardcover of Lailah! That means you have TWENTY FOUR chances to win a copy of Lailah! Giveaway is US only.

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1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I have been reading SO much about this book. It has gotten great visibility. It has made me want to read it. Honestly though, until your review I didn't really know anything about the book. So now I do and I still want to read it, but now I actually know what I'm going to read about haha!