“There comes a certain point with a hope or a dream, when you either give it up or give up everything else.” // Review of “The Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

Title: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Audio book narrator: Steve West
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Upper YA
Date Read: 21/02/19– 22/02/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book gave me a lot of feelings. Laini Taylor is a stunning world-builder and wordsmith, but I did find myself getting frustrated throughout portions of the book. I may have banged my hands against the steering wheel on more than one occasion when I was listening while driving.

Muse of Nightmares picks up exactly where Strange the Dreamer left off, though we are very quickly introduced to two new characters, Kora and Nova, whom we learn more about as the story goes. Their stories eventually converge with the others in a tumultuous finale.

The world that Laini Taylor created in Strange the Dreamer is exapnded upon ten-fold here. To explain how would be a spoiler, but it did do my head in just how much scope there is.

The writing is once again beautiful, and I can’t really complain about it at all, except to once again observe that is very dense in its descriptions at times. My main issue with this one was the pacing. Two centuries could be covered in a chapter, followed by a twenty minute fight scene that spanned several chapters. And the characters were all very powerless throughout those, which made it more frustrating.

But despite those frustrations, when I reached the end, I felt fully satisfied and found that I was smiling to  myself.  The book ends with “The end… or is it?”, which made me both laugh and moan. The way the story wraps up completes the main story of Lazlo and Sarai and Minya and Eril Fane and the city of Weep, but it leaves us with other stories still left to tell. And despite those niggles and frustrations I had with this book, I’m pretty sure I would read anything set in this world that Laini Taylor decided to write.


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“Do you still think I’m a singularly un-terrible demon?” “No,” he said smiling. “I think you’re a fairytale.” // Review of “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Title: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Audio book narrator: Steve West
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Upper YA
Date Read: 16/12/18 – 21/01/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This is such a huge book and it took me so long to get through the audio version, all 18 hours of it! I was going to return the audio book and get the ebook instead, but then I ended up powering through the last third. I have a feeling that had I read it at my own pace, it may have even been a five star read. That is not to say that the audio book was bad, far from it, but it did stretch the story out more than perhaps it should have been (not that there would have been any way to pare it back other than abridge it and … yeahno).

This is a dense, slow-burn, character-driven fantasy, filled with beautiful language. Its about dreams in all senses: one’s hopes for the future and the visions we see when we’re asleep. Some might find the writing too flowery, but I found it fell just on the right side of that fine line. It is jam-packed with details, though, and sometimes I wondered whether it was a little too much. I think this is partially because I was reading the audio book and couldn’t make the decision to skim over a few things that  I might have were I reading the print version.

For a book with such  a large cast of characters, Taylor does a wonderful job of giving them all individual personalities. Even the mythology is delicately crafted, and I could imagine the past events described by many of the citizens of the city of Weep. And of course, as a librarian, I particularly loved that the hero in an epic fantasy was a dorky librarian whose nose was broken by a book of fairytales.

Needless to say, I was very keen to begin the second book as soon as I reached the end of the first. This was my first foray into Laini Taylor’s work but it certainly won’t be the last.


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“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.” // Review of “All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Audio book narrator: Jessica Almasy
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/10/18 – 11/11/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Time travel books can be really tricky, but I think this book pulled it off quite well. It stuck to its own rules and never made things too complicated. But it told a good story, which is the main thing. I did predict a few things before they happened, but that doesn’t necessarily make a book bad.

It was really interesting reading a book where you saw both the past and future selves of various characters. Terrill was very  successful in showing the progression from one version to the other, particularly in light  of a “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” scenario.

The book does throw you in at the deep end a bit, and it doesn’t always explain things up-front. In particular, the identity of “documents” that the main characters are imprisoned over doesn’t get explained until right towards the end. Even the characters’ connections  to one another are obscured for a while, though I was abe to figure some of them out before they were explained.

I thought Jessica Almasay did quite a good job of subtly  differentiating between the narrations from Em’s perspective and those from Marina’s. I wonder if the two voices would feel as different if one was reading the print book.

This is another one of those books where I only  realised how attached I’d become to the characters when I found myself getting teary at the end. While I had predicted some of the broader parts of the climax and resolution, the little things got me. This is a tightly written debut novel, and I’m going to check out what the author has published since this one.


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“She cried for the girl who had never belonged” // Review of “Fairest” by Marissa Meyer

Title: Fairest (Lunar Chronicles 3.5)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA/SFF/villain backstory
Date Read: 07/12/2016 – 08/12/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I honestly can’t decide where I sit with this book. Was it supposed to make my sympathise with Queen Levana, the evil queen terrorising the Earthen Commonwealth in the Lunar Chronicles? Or was it meant to show how dark and twisted she was and nothing else? Because I couldn’t work out what the book wanted me to feel, I ended up feeling quite unsettled by the end.

I also have to apologise, because there will probably be spoilers in this review. It was too hard to talk about some of the things I had issue without going into detail.

Levana has grown up unloved and unwanted, the younger, unappreciated princess of Luna. When a palace guard shows her some kindness, she latches onto him and uses her powerful manipulation ability to convince him that he loves her as much as she thinks she loves him. This is just the beginning of the downward spiral that leads to her becoming the feared and despised ruler that Cinder and her friends take down.

Levana is incredibly messed up. And you can see how she would justify her actions to herself. As with Heartless, which I reviewed on Monday, the progression of the main character into darkness is so gradual you almost don’t register it happening. And at first, I really did sympathise with Levana and her plight. However, the story reached a point where her actions were just too problematic (mind-controlling someone into marrying and having sex with you is rape, even if you’re making them think they’re willing), before the point where I felt Marissa Meyer wanted us stopping sympathising.

Given the subject material, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the whole tone of the book just felt so much darker than the rest of the Lunar Chronicles. I felt like I wanted to go back and read all my favourite Cress/Thorne scenes just to remind myself what I enjoyed most about the series. Maybe this was Meyer’s intention. Like I said, I was never sure!

While it was interesting to see the whole progression of Levana’s evilness, it didn’t really add a huge amount to the story, and I can see why some people are fairly “eh” about this particularly installment. We saw a lot of familiar characters, and it was interesting seeing exactly how Levana carried out her plans to have Cinder killed and things like that, and also get a bit more of a glimpse into the world of Luna, but I don’t think you’re missing much if you’ve skipped it.


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Book Review: Alternate (Omnibus Edition) by Ernie Luis

Title: Alternate (Omnibus Edition)
Author: Ernie Luis
Genre: Sci-fi
Date Read: 05/01/2016 – 06/01/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

alternatecoverThanks to the author and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

I have to admit, I wasn’t 100% how I’d like Alternate, as time travel always has the potential to do one’s head in if not done right. Fortunately, though, this one hit the mark!

In 2020, Greyson Tolbert’s eight-year-old daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Ten years later, he is working for the Watchtower as a time travelling assassin, with the promise that after a set number of years’ service, he will be able to save his daughter. But when a colleague goes rogue and he is sent to apprehend her, everything he knows about the Watchtower begins to unravel.

For something with as much time travel as this book has (and it has a lot), the plot is extremely well-structured, and never really got confusing. Potential paradoxes are dealt with quite well, and it was always clear what time period we were in. Greyson’s POV is in third person, while the several other POV characters were all in third person, and this worked quite well. The narrative unfolds at a really good pace. There were lots of twists, but they never felt like they were there for shock value.

The reason it only gets four stars from me is because I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters. I definitely wanted to see how the story panned out, but I wasn’t going to be hugely bothered by who made it out and who didn’t. Which isn’t to say that the characters weren’t well-drawn, because they were, I think being as hardened as they were thanks to their various pasts made it difficult for me to get inside their heads.