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.


Dreams of Gods & Monsters Book Review

dreamsofgodsandmonstersTitle: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: April 17, 2014
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 613
Format: Purchased Paperback

What power can bruise the sky?
Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.
When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited–not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.
But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?
The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as–from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond–humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

I feel as though I’ve become an emotional wreck on the inside. My heart is filled with happiness after reading the third and final installment to this trilogy.

This book picks up right around where the last one let off and it was filled with nothing short of action, heartbreak, vengeance, mystery, love, and so much more.

The plot of this book encompassed so much and introduced us to a few important characters, namely Eliza, and the Stelians. Each were crucial to the story, and though I didn’t figure out why until the end, I thought that their parts in it played important roles and that they were much needed and added not only to the story itself, but to the lore of the world that Laini Taylor created.

I’m not sure that I can fully do justice by explaining the plot without giving away too many spoilers, as this is the third book, so just know that there is a lot of tension between the chimaera and angels, and that Jael wants to have complete control over Eretz by not only using what powers he may have available to him there, but also from Earth. It’s a crazy, twist and turn story that weaves itself in ways I wasn’t expecting, telling the story from many points of view. Each part of it, though, I felt like progressed the story and didn’t hinder from it.

There was a heavy focus on the romance aspect at times, but from the first book – where it was introduced and we learn of the manner of Karou and Akiva’s relationship – to the second book where there was virtually no romance, it was kind of understandable why it was there as much as it was. And trust me, I’m not complaining, because there were a few scenes in particular that made me squeal in excitement for what was going on – and it wasn’t between our two main heroes.

So let’s talk about the characters.

Karou really bounced back from the grieving, anger driven girl in the second book to a strong individual in this book. She has her moments where she is lost or down, as there’s a lot of war and death and destruction going on around her, so it’s understandable. I thought that she came a long way from where she first started not knowing anything about who she is or where she came from, to accepting her fate, to making it her own and realizing the dream she wanted to see come true when she formed it with Akiva so long ago. I thought that her persona was true to who she was and that she was really a huge driving force in this book.

Akiva seemed a bit more lovesick than anything in this book, but he also had a lot going on in terms of learning about himself and his people, and his powers and the consequence of using his powers. We still got to see a warrior side of him, but I think that it was more of the strategic side than the fighting side. He, too, has come a long way, but like I said, the romance was a large driving force between him and Karou in this book – and again, I can understand why. I think that their love and relationship is beautiful and strong, and even though they may desire after one another, it’s not in itself a bad thing; it’s a very powerful motivator for them. I do love how their relationship is often described as two magnets either being pulled together or pushed apart, because it’s true.

We got to see more chapters from Liraz’s point of view, and oh. My. God. I love her. She’s become one of my new favorites, especially toward the end. When we first meet her she seems like this cold, mean person, but it’s the way she’s brought up and how she has to stifle that part of herself that makes her that way. But as she warms up to others and slowly gets to understand them and care for them, the ice in her heart cracks and she shows that she is capable of having emotions and feelings. She’s strong, though – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and I love that about her. My favorite quote that I read about her was, “She was no mere weapon as she was trained to be, but a woman in full command of her power, unbowed and unbroken, and that was a dangerous thing.” Like, seriously Liraz, SLAY.

We got a lot from Ziri, too, as he was performing in secret as someone for a while, and though he tried his best to be like the one he had to portray, some of himself continued to shine through, and that was tough on him. I really enjoyed his chapters because I felt myself growing more and more attached to this kind soul. He has a sense of innocence about him that draws you in, but he’s still an incredibly capable warrior and just, wow. I’m amazed at what he can do.

Also, for the record, I SO ship Liraz and Ziri. Read the book to find out why because I was giggling like a freaking schoolgirl, and omg I can’t even.

Eliza was a new character introduced, and at first I was confused as to who she was and why she was important to the story to have her own perspective and chapters thrown in. As the story of her and who she was unfolded around her, though, and the circumstances for which she was put into, I realized that she is incredibly important. I just didn’t know how much so until the end. I found her character to be useful, and slightly filler, but not really? I liked her, though, and I think that she’s a very bright woman.

Zuzana and Mik, ah, one of my OTPs, never fail to make me smile. They go through a lot in this book with Karou and everyone else, but they always try to stay true to who they are and how they react to situations and everything. I love the dynamic that these two throw into the mix because they a) provide much needed comic relief sometimes, b) they’re adorable together, and c) they each have distinct personalities that really help to show the story in a different perspective. I think that they really helped to progress the story, as well, and am so glad as to where they were at the end.

P.S. Morgan Toth is a jerk and I hope he enjoys his punishment delivered to him.
P.P.S. Razgut is also kind of manic and crazy, but he does provide us a lot of insight into who he is and what happened when he was, you know, not a crippled Fallen.
P.P.P.S. I don’t like Ester. She got her just desserts.

As for the rest of the novel, well… there is honestly so much I could cover, but that would be an extremely long and spoilery post, and since this is the third book I’d rather you all read it and then see how much I loved this book and why this trilogy has become one of my favorites of all time. The writing is still exquisitely beautiful in this book with many phrases that caught my eye, and the story was all encompassing and I felt a sense of completion when I finished. I didn’t think that there was any kind of cliffhanger or anything like that.

I still want more, though.

Overall, I think that this was an extremely solid final book to the trilogy. Not only was the plot large and encompassing and complete, but it allowed the characters to reach out and reach their final destinations – their potential destinations – whatever they might be. It’s filled with heartbreak, romance, friendship, betrayal, second chances, lore, truths, discovery, and so much more.

I rated this 5/5 stars and highly recommend it.

My overall series rating: 5/5 stars

Night of Cake & Puppets Novella Review

nightofcakeandpuppetsTitle: Night of Cake & Puppets
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2.5
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: November 26, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance, Novella
Pages: 80
Format: Purchased eBook

In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike. Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

This novella was everything I wanted between Zuzana and Mik and I’m so glad that it exists in this world.

Zuzana and Mik are two of my absolute favorite side characters ever. They’re both so three dimensional, just like the rest of Taylor’s characters, and I felt like I got to know a lot more about them in this short novella.

Zuzana is best described as she’s described in the novella: a rabid fairy. She’s fiery and sarcastic and witty, but she also has feelings and insecurities and I just. Love. Her. Anytime I read her sections and saw something witty or something, I’d be smiling like an idiot and laughing out loud. I never laugh out loud when I’m reading! This was big.

I felt that I got to really know her and her thought processes, because even though we do get her POV in the main series, I thought that this really helped to not only show her rabid fairy personality, but it also allowed us to know more about her inner thoughts and her world (family, friends, lifestyle) in such a short span of pages.

And then there was Mik and oh my God, I love him. He’s such a gentleman – even if his other guy side pops out every now and then; it’s still entertaining – and he really likes Zuzana! He doesn’t even really question or doubt that the “treasure hunt” to find her was anything but genuine, and I love that. Even he has some insecurities about the whole things, of whether or not Zuzana might actually like him, and I think that that fact is key and important because neither one was too cocky about that aspect of who they are. They don’t even deny that they don’t really know anything about the other except for a few simple (and sometimes biased) facts.

Even his parts were full of witty banter, but not as much as Zuzana’s. But he still had several parts that made me smile like an idiot and laugh out loud. Best couple award goes to them because they are too adorable for words. I can’t even.

I also enjoyed the fact that there was interaction with Karou in here and that we got to see more of their friendship – and even a time when they had just recently became friends at the beginning. I find that friendships are important, and healthy female relationships and friendships are so important because oftentimes it’s not enough for them to just be there or cause drama. These two stick together and love each other unconditionally as sisters and soul mates and they make my heart happy.

If you’ve read the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy (at least the first two books) then definitely check out this novella because it will make you feel things, and most of these things will be swooning.

I rate this novella 5/5 stars and absolutely recommend it!

Days of Blood & Starlight Book Review

daysofbloodandstarlightTitle: Days of Blood & Starlight
Series: Book 2 in Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publication Date: November 6, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 513
Format: Purchased Paperback

As this is the sequel, there will be spoilers in this review.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

This sequel held many aspects I wasn’t expecting, and it was just as beautiful, if not more intense, than the first.

I found this sequel to be a little slow at the beginning, but I don’t know if that was because I was in a reading slump at the time. But once I got more into the story and saw a lot more happening than what I first thought, I was hooked.

The storyline picked up right where it left off, or just a short time after, and it was interesting to see just how different the characters were for one reason or another: Karou knew the truth of her past; Akiva had his own guilts to deal with; many things had happened in the time between what happened in the last book until now and it was just mind blowing to see just what was going on.

I thought that this book was a bit more intense and serious than the last. It focused more on the war aspect, and a lot more on resurrection and plots and vengeance than I was expecting. It did have a few light-hearted moments, but this book was mostly one in which dealt with a lot of different action sequences from one to the next and the next.

This book followed a lot more perspectives than the last, too, where it included not on Karou’s and Akiva’s points of view, but also a seriph soldier, the White Wolf, a new/old friend, and several others. I thought that the way Laini Taylor placed those new voices into the story truly benefitted it rather than hindered it as it was good to see what was happening in both worlds and in completely different places in those worlds.

As for the characters, I thought that Karou was being a bit too rash when it came to some things, though I could understand where her anger was coming from. She tried to do her best with what she had to do, but I also just think that she could have tried to be stronger or acted more on certain things. Though she was broken emotionally and tried to be strong in front of others for her own safety, when she was around friends and finally had some glimmers of hope, I think that’s where she really shined.

I really enjoyed getting to see more of her knowing that she’s chimera, as well. Though she struggles in her environment, and with her memories, I think that by having her memories unlocked she was able to deal with a lot more than if she hadn’t had those memories back in the first place. And a few times I wanted to smack her because I thought she was just trying too hard to be mad at Akiva. Or maybe that was just me wishing for some more romance. Who knows?

At first I thought Akiva was just being too… emotionless? Reckless? I’m not sure what the word is that I’m looking for, but I thought that he was just kind of floating there for a while. But I did love that he was extremely brave and tried to save as many chimera as possible before the seriph slaughtered them. I think those moments really showed his character and how much he changed from before and after he met Karou/Madrigal.

As time progressed in the story, I thought that Akiva was holding a lot more secrets than he originally let on, but I also think that he, himself, doesn’t know what those secrets are. The fact that he was able to experience certain things was interesting and I really want to see it come into play in the next book.

We also got to see parts of the story from Thiago, whom I dislike greatly; Ziri, who is an awesome friend for Karou and just a gentle soul for sure; Zuzana, whom I love because of her fiery spirit and her willingness to just chill with some monsters; and others. It was definitely a treat to be able to read parts of the story from these other perspectives because it showed multiple events happening at once, but in different places and in different worlds. Plus there was some extra backstory in a few places, which is always nice to have.

I think that the next book is going to be an epic one. There’s going to be a lot more battling and war, and probably more loss occurring, but I also have hope for Karou and Akiva, and all the others, and I really am excited to see what happens next.

Overall, I thought this was a strong sequel. It didn’t falter from the original storyline, but added to it, and I think that we definitely got to know the characters better and that we got to see more of who they are and just what they’re fighting for. And as always, Laini Taylor’s writing is beautiful and strong.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it if you’ve read the first book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book Review


Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Book #1 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Genres: Young Adult – Urban Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 418
Format: Purchased Paperback

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor is the first book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It’s a story about a girl named Karou living in Prague, going to art school and doing just fine. Kind of. Her boyfriend cheated on her and she is just having a really rough time, but there’s something about her natural blue hair and super fantasy-esque drawings that make her stand out from the crowd.

Maybe it’s the fact that she lives a secret otherworldly life on the side. Yeah, that could be it.

Karou was raised with chimera, a type of mythical being who is forged of many different types of creatures (human head/torso but with the legs and body of a horse, like a centaur). So that world isn’t really that surprising to her given that she was raised in it. So she’s often given tasks by one of the chimaera, Brimstone, and carries out these “tasks” to get teeth – all varieties – when one day she goes to Morocco and is discovered by an angel. An angel who wants to kill her.

This story, man. This story. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I thought it was going to be a poorly written, all over the place, insta-love type of thing, when really, it wasn’t. There was so much more going on in the background that was woven in and throughout the novel that it just took my breath away.

Literally, I’m feeling ALL the feels.

Karou, herself, is a strong female character with a stubborn streak, but also a quirky attitude that seems to get her in trouble from time to time. She grew up without knowing much about herself or how she got tattoos on her hands (hamsas) and she always wondered why she’d feel lonely at times or just how she didn’t feel like she was her true self in the world she was living in. I thought she was relatable because I know a lot of teens and young adults feel “out of place” in the world and want to find who they are and where they fit in all of this. Karou is like that throughout most of the book and she doesn’t really change much in personality, which is great.

Akiva is the angel who attacks Karou in Morocco and he is described as dead-eyed in the beginning, his features too perfect to be human with short cropped dark hair, a widow’s peak, and burning angel wings that he can glamour into invisibility – but only on his back, not on his shadow. He’s at first merciless and cruel, but something in him clicks when he attacks Karou that makes him pause and he tries to figure out just what that is by following her around (yes, like a creep). Though the two do spar later on, he doesn’t want to hurt her and he later figures out why he is so drawn to her and why he can’t hurt her.

And possibly why she’d want to hurt him.

Brimstone is a chimera who is a Wishmonger that makes different types of beads that grant different levels of wishes. He’s stonefaced and not very warm to others, only showing his approval through grunts on occasion. We do learn a little bit more about him toward the end of the book and I think he’s pretty wise, though that may be due to his age.

Those were really the main characters of the book while everyone else that followed was secondary. I did enjoy Zuzana’s personality a lot (she’s human), and Issa was kind of cool (she’s a chimera).

The plot of the story definitely pulled me in. It was one in which Karou was trying to find who she was while trying to uncover secrets as to why portal doors have mysterious hand print burn marks on them and why they suddenly go up in flames, taking away any chances she had of returning to that place in between. It also is a great mystery into the chimera and seraphim (angel) world. I really enjoyed it and I can definitely see the potential for the sequels from this book.

The romance in this book, at first, I thought would be insta-love the way it was playing out. It kind of turned me off, but as it continued and it was explained further in the story I finally understood why they acted the way they did toward each other. It was hot and steamy and ooooohhh the angst, but it was great to read and definitely satisfied my romantic craving.

And I hope to God there isn’t a triangle.

My biggest “complaint,” which is really a critique is that I wish that the back stories that we find out later about Karou’s past were woven into the story more as memory snippets. It happened only once or twice before that, but I think that it could have happened a little bit more rather than it all coming in one giant chunk toward the end.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to continue on reading the trilogy. I gave this 5/5 stars.