Strange the Dreamer | Book Review

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 528
Format: Hardcover

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

You know, I started reading this book what feels like forever ago, and I put it down not because I was bored with it or anything – quite the opposite! – but because I was in a reading slump of sorts. Now that I picked it back up and finished it over the last two or three days, I’m SO glad I did because WOW, was this a great book.

Laini Taylor never ceases to amaze me with her works. She is one of my favorite authors, and this book definitely showed me why. The writing, of course, was elegant and poetic in many different ways. She has a way of describing feeling and the human emotion in such depth that it makes you feel like you’re experiencing what that character experiences, rather than just sitting back and watching it happen.

Among those well-written words are the characters and the plot of the story, both of which I feel are both dynamic as they are complex. The story unfolds in a fantasy world (though it feels a lot like Earth), with gods who lived among the people, great creatures that could tear a person apart, and many mysteries that have yet to be revealed. The world itself felt very large, but also very small, given most of it is told from Lazlo’s point of view (as well as several others).

Besides that, the characters themselves had such varying histories behind them that I felt drawn to learn more about each one. Lazlo, an orphan made librarian, seemed like such a dreamer that he felt very naive and new to much of the world. I loved his love for stories and how he would often describe the world around him as something very poetic and beautiful.

Sarai felt so troubled, so tired, and I felt like I could feel how tired she was. She was holding onto old anger that she no longer held in her heart, but a curiosity that was sparked in kind thanks to Lazlo and his dreams.

The other godspawn, as they’re called – Minya, Ruby, Feral, and Sparrow – had all such distinct characteristics and personalities, and powers. They each felt real and had their own share of problems, worries, etc.

Among other characters, such as Eril-Fane and Azareen, who share horrible pasts due to the gods, there was one that stood out a lot that I felt frustrated with but also very intrigued by: Thyon Nero. He’s the son of a king and queen who were losing their kingdom, until one day, Thyon managed to turn things into gold. But he has a lot of secrets, and a bad personality, but I can’t say that I don’t want to see more of what he’s capable of.

The story to save Weep – the town whose name was stolen – is one of adventure and many questions and uncertainties. I could feel the sorrow of the city even in the small bits and glimmers we got through the other characters.

Honestly, this book was so wonderfully done. If you’re looking for a book with fantastical elements, deep emotions explored, dark pasts, and hopeful futures, then you’d enjoy this novel.

★★★★★

POPSUGAR 2020 Reading Challenge

Image source: POPSUGAR Photography

Hey! So I wanted to make a list of books I hope to read this year that can fit the categories for the POPSUGAR reading challenge. I don’t have all of the prompts filled as I might find other books to fit the prompts, plus I’m giving myself options since my goal is to read 25 books this year, not 52. (But if I do all of these challenges, then yay for me!)

I won’t necessarily be reading these in the order listed, either, since I’m such a mood reader. I also picked as many books as I could already on my shelves, on my kindle, or on audible that I already own.

So anyway, here’s the official list with my choices for books, and here’s where you can find their pretty printable list on their site!

2020 Challenge – Regular prompts

1. A book that’s published in 2020Remembrance by Rita Woods
2. A book by a trans or nonbinary authorThe Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar
3. A book with a great first lineAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
4. A book about a book clubThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
5. A book set in a city that has hosted the OlympicsThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
6. A bildungsromanThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
7. The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closedAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (I had my husband pick with his eyes closed)
8. A book with an upside-down image on the coverGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
9. A book with a mapThe City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
10. A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book clubThe Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
11. An anthologyThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
12. A book that passes the Bechdel testJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
13. A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to itRenegades by Marissa Meyer
14. A book by an author with flora or fauna in their nameThe Wicked King by Holly Black
15. A book about or involving social mediaTweet Cute by Emma Lord
16. A book that has a book on the coverPersuasion by Jane Austen
17. A medical thrillerThe Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
18. A book with a made-up languageWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
19. A book set in a country beginning with “C”Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
20. A book you picked because the title caught your attentionThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
21. A book published the month of your birthdayThe Color Project by Sierra Abrams
22. A book about or by a woman in STEMHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
23. A book that won an award in 2019Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
24. A book on a subject you know nothing aboutThe Morrigan: Celtic Goddess of Magick and Might by Courtney Weber
25. A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphicsA Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
26. A book with a pun in the titleDying to Please by Linda Howard
27. A book featuring one of the seven deadly sinsPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
28. A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI characterWires and Nerves vol 1 by Marissa Meyer
29. A book with a bird on the coverThis Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
30. A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leaderBecoming by Michelle Obama
31. A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the titleThe Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons
32. A book by a WOCThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
33. A book with at least a four-star rating on GoodreadsThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
34. A book you meant to read in 2019Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
35. A book with a three-word titleWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
36. A book with a pink coverThe Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
37. A WesternVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
38. A book by or about a journalistNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
39. Read a banned book during Banned Books WeekThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – 2017: Involving a mythical creature – A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

2020 Challenge – Advanced prompts

1. A book written by an author in their 20sSorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
2. A book with “20” or “twenty” in the titleTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
3. A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision)All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
4. A book set in the 1920sMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
5. A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 OlympicsPachinko by Min Jin Lee
6. A book by an author who has written more than 20 booksVision in White by Nora Roberts
7. A book with more than 20 letters in its titleThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
8. A book published in the 20th centuryNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
9. A book from a series with more than 20 booksNoragami vol 21 by Adachitoka
10. A book with a main character in their 20sMagic Slays by Ilona Andrews

And that’s it! Those are the 50 books I hope to read in 2020, but my overall reading goal is to read 25 books, so if I read half of this list, I’ll consider that a win.

Let’s chat!

What are some of your reading goals for 2020? What book would you read that takes place in Japan? Or what about a book about or by a woman in STEM? Let me know!

The Way of Kings | Book Review

Title: The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: August 31, 2010
Genre: Epic, High Fantasy
Pages: 1007
Format: Audiobook (45 hours 37 minutes long)

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the 10 consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where 10 armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

Where do I even begin with this epic high fantasy? Well, I guess I start off by saying that I absolutely loved it, and that it’s now one of my favorites of all time.

This book was rich in setting. The world that Sanderson wrote was complex, immersive, and dimensional. The descriptions often transported me to the locations described as though I were watching a movie in my head. From the high storms to the chulls to the arrows, stormlight, and more, I felt that this world was highly immersive and well thought out.

As for the characters, there were so many to follow, but each had their own thread to add to this overarching story. From a soldier turned slave, a young woman who steals from a princess to help her family, to a war general with many mysteries in his past, as well as his present, to many more, these characters felt alive and human. The farther the story went on, the more I wanted to know about them.

I hope to see a lot more character growth in all of the characters because this world and the story surrounding them is so vast that it’s hard to imagine what they might end up going through at some point. There’s still so many questions to have answered, and I’m sure even more questions will come as the series continues on.

One thing I definitely loved was how Sanderson had many mini-arcs that each character was placed in, then a grander arc that they were all in, and then an even bigger arc that encompassed everything they were all going through, how the events that were taking place would affect them and the world, and how the possibly to stop it might come into play. It was so complex, but I found myself loving the threads to follow to see where they would lead.

As far as the audiobook itself goes, the narrators – Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – did an amazing job giving emotion to these characters and world, including doing different voices for each of the characters. The quality was really good, and I’m glad to see they’re continuing to be the narrators for the series.

As an epic high fantasy, I definitely recommend this book. It was long, yes, but there was just so much depth and many times where I laughed, cheered, yelled, gasped, and more that I would do it again to see if there was anything I might have missed. If you’re looking to get into a large fantasy series, this might be the one for you.

★★★★★

An Enchantment of Ravens | Book Review

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Kindle eBook

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This standalone fantasy novel was one that instantly took me into its pages, with its faerie premise, forbidden romance, and dangers in unexpected places, this book was a fast, fun read.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this because I actually didn’t know what it was about. I had read the synopsis a long time ago and had forgotten it, and so going into it completely blind was a fun experience for me. I found that the faerie aspect – the fair folk aspect – was done very well in the sense that Rogerson really captured the essence of the fae and their ethereal beauty and lack of human emotion or compassion, while also showing that each had a flaw somewhere in their glamour. It really tied in with what I hope for in faerie stories: showcasing the fae in such a way that they are “other” or “apart” from humans. It felt believable and real for the world it was written for.

The romance was a “slow burn” in the sense that the time that elapsed in the story was over months of time. Though the plot and story of the book itself was fast, the romance didn’t feel rushed or didn’t feel like it was instant. There was mutual attraction from the beginning, or something of the like, and it felt organic in the way that it grew.

I felt as though the plot was very centered around the romance, but it was also centered around the ego and how passion can turn something beautiful and dangerous. I did, however, find myself slightly upset when the plot didn’t go the way I was hoping – which isn’t a bad thing! I had hoped to see one part of the world it was set it, but we got a different part of the world, which was interesting to see how some of the fair folk lived and acted. But I also felt that some threads of the plot were off or thrown by the change and didn’t necessarily make sense or were very convenient. But again, there’s nothing wrong with this because it worked for the story.

I found myself enjoying Isobel’s character, while also finding her a bit too… mature for her age? I’m not sure if that’s the right word I’m looking for, but I was kind of hoping she would be in her twenties and be a prodigy painter and falling in love, but reading about a seventeen year old prodigy falling in love was still sweet. I’ve seen some amazing works teens can produce, so it’s not out of the realm of reality by any means. She was smart, careful, caring, and felt real.

Rook, as well, felt real and I enjoyed seeing how Rogerson portrayed him as having some sort of human emotion in him locked away. He was definitely powerful as a fae prince, and I really liked the aspect of how faerie magic could work in this world by using blood, and how the amount could affect how strong the effect was. He was a kind of stoic and broody character at times, but there were moments of tenderness, ferocity, and bravery that were great to see.

There were other characters along with the main two that really captured what deals with faeries could be like, and how just being around them could make a person more cautious. Gadfly, a patron of Isobel’s who has strong magic and a desire for art; March and May, Isobel’s sisters who were actually goats before being turned into humans; Lark, an excitable young fair folk who had never met a human before, and others who brought the story more depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! There were a few things that I found myself questioning, but I also found myself just enjoying the story for what it was, the rich world that was created, the monsters, the fae, the characters. It was an overall fun read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a standalone fantasy romance.

★★★★☆

Do I Have That Book? | Challenge

Oh hi, so, I haven’t done a challenge on my blog in a millennia, and since I haven’t decided if I want to rejoin the Booktube community (because I’m lazy and don’t know if I want to make videos), I decided I’m going to do the challenge and post my results here!

The challenge was originally created by Keeping Tabs on YouTube.

So it’s a 20 questions challenge to see just how well you know your books. Now, I’m not going to race against the clock, but I’m going to do my best to find the books on my shelves! So this post will be a bit image heavy.

Here we go!

1. Do you have a book with deckled edges?

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

2. Do you have a book with three or more people on the cover?

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

3. Do you have a book based on another fictional story?

The Splintered series by A.G. Howard

4. Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?

Persuasion by Jane Austen

5. Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

6. Do you have a mass market paperback book?

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

7. Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

The Mortal Instruments series & other works by Cassandra Clare (real name Judith Rumelt)

8. Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

9. Do you have a book with two maps in it?

An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

10. Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith

11. Do you have a book written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (celebrity/athlete/politician/etc)

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Daniel Howell and Phil Lester (YouTubers before writing this book)

12. Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

A Silent Voice, vol 1, by Yoshitoki Oima (there’s a clock behind the LE in Silent)

13. Do you have a poetry book?

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

14. Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

15. Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

The Widening Gyre by Robert Parker (RP initials, also thanks to my husband for finding this one on his shelves to help with the challenge lol)

16. Do you have a book of short stories?

The Band Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, & Maureen Johnson

17. Do you have a book that is between 500-510 pages long?

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is 505 pages long (and this was by far the hardest prompt to find a book for)

18. Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

19. Do you have a graphic novel?

Wires and Nerve series by Marissa Meyer

20. Do you have a book written by two or more authors?

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

And that’s everything! This was a fun challenge, and some of these prompts were actually a lot harder to find things that I thought they were going to be. I tried really hard not to use repeats, so I’m pretty proud of myself!

If you want to do this tag, please feel free to do so! It’s fun to explore your shelves and get acquainted with your books every once in a while, you know?

Let’s Chat!

Do you have any books by an author with the same initials as you? Or how about a book that starts and ends with the same letter?