Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer
Publication Date:  March 28th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Find This Book: Strange the Dreamer
Rating: 5/5

I was really put off by how horrendous the American cover is but I can’t believe I waited this long to read Strange the Dreamer! I really enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing style but this was even better than Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Laini just has this way of creating awe and wonder like no other. She really captures the saying “It’s the journey not the destination”.

The prologue opens with a beautiful and sad scene that one doesn’t quote care about because it’s out of context, that the reader slowly starts to care about as the book goes on. And again, while some plot points might be predictable/foreshadowed it is the journey that matters and boy is the journey unexpected. I’ve been reading some contemporary recently and I’ve been thinking about how that has been refreshing in the face of my go-to fantasy genre, but this book brings refreshing takes to my beloved fantasy genre and its tropes.

Unfortunately, I really can’t say much without spoiling it, but Lazlo Strange and Sarai were fascinatingly intricate characters and I loved them. Even the side characters were incredibly developed and Laini Taylor’s use of language is dazzling (just like her developed world and the story she tells). Lazlo Strange is a rugged librarian who dreams of far off places, and surprise surprise he gets to go! This didn't happen the way I expected though, as with most plot points in the book. Lazlo wishes to discover the Unseen City that lost it's name, currently referred to as 'Weep', and I thought he'd just pack up his things and search for it like the Lost City of Atlantis or something- but he travels to Weep in a totally different scenario! Sarai is a goddess with a dark power which she uses to terrorize the people below who slaughtered her family. There’s a delicate balance of hurt between the ‘gods’ and the humans that it’s hard not to sympathizes with both sides. It felt very much like Greek Tragedy where there is no clear ‘right/good’ side, everyone has committed wrongs. Laini plays with the word monster in particular. All stories should be beautiful and contain monsters as her characters say, but I’m not sure if any character within the book could be considered monsters. They all have very real, complex, and understandable motivations, and labels don’t just perfectly fit people.

Seriously if you haven’t gotten around to this book already what are you waiting for??? If you love libraries, distant lands, dreams, and magic with a tragic backstory this book is for YOU.

“Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice.”   -Strange the Dreamer

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Short Life Update

Sorry that I haven't posted in awhile! If you follow me on Instagram you know that I'm still active, I just haven't had time to read non-academic stuff lately. I've just finished my finals for the semester and am back into reading for fun, so be prepared for some new reviews soon!

xoxo Nikki

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

The Glass Spare
by Lauren DeStefano
Publication Date: October 24th 2017
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Find This Book: The Glass Spare
Rating: 4/5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn’t quite sure where this book was going to go and was pleasantly surprised. The world-building is an interesting mix of industrial-revolution, mythology, alchemy, and “marvelers” aka magicians. The main character, Wilhelmina or “Wil” for short is everything I want in an MC; she’s feisty, strong, smart, and very skilled. Is she magically all of these things? No. She’s had years of training being the 4th in line to the throne (or the spare child). As Wil had trained to by the King’s spy her whole life, these skills come to great use on her journey.

Wil has an interesting dynamic with her parents and siblings, which only becomes more complicated when she discovers that an adrenaline spike will allow her to turn anything she touches into gemstones. I’m really excited to see how that continues! Viewing all of her options through the perspective of having a curse and how she might affect other people was really impactful. Here is a young girl in an unfortunate situation, and while she might think of herself and her power as a monster, her kind actions tell the reader otherwise. Maybe I’ve just read too many villain origin stories recently, but having such a noble character not cave to the treacherous world around her was really inspiring.

What knocks this down one star for me was the occasional switching of the POV. It happened only a couple times and wasn’t consistent. It felt like “oh the reader needs to know this but Wil doesn’t, what do I do?” sort of situation and it always felt a bit off when I was out in a different character’s shoes. The world building as I mentioned above was an interesting mix. The industrial-revolution wasn’t super impactful in this book as Wil’s father is pretty apposed to new machines, but I’d be into the weird plants and potions and then all of a sudden peanut butter was mentioned and I’d be briefly taken out of the scene wondering “wow they have peanut butter in this world?” All minor stuff but it did stop me from being fully immersed in the story.

Story-wise, there are a couple plot twists along the way, but what I really enjoyed was that the ending was a bunch of slow reveals. I wasn’t thrown for a loop or cliffhanger and I was still effectively steered into wanting reading book two which was a nice change of pace. I grew really attached to Wil and her companions Loom and Zay and will definitely be reading the next book!

Monday, December 11, 2017

This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

This Darkness Mine
by Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Find This Book: This Darkness Mine
Rating: */5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I can give a star rating to this book. I’m not even really sure what to think of it. This book was an experience. I’ve never read a Mindy McGinnis book before but I will definitely be checking out her other works. There was some really creative prose full of double meanings within conversations between Shanna and Sasha that were extremely impressive.

This book was weird as hell. Sasha has basically no memories whenever Shanna (the sister she absorbed in the womb) takes over her body. I’m still not sure if it’s an alternate reality where possession is an actual thing and the sister was real, or if Sasha has Multiple Personality Disorder. Sasha is a well-put together terrible person (she gets called abitch multiple times) and she’s the GOOD twin. By well put together I mean she is so smart and so sure of herself that as the POV it’s hard for the reader and for the characters around her to discern what’s the truth and what is Sasha’s delusion.

The book is dark, it has its graphically violent moments, and it’s a lot to take in. Handle this book with caution, but if you’re up for an effed up adventure- go for it. Don’t be hanging on to the edge of your seat for a resolution though- while things get tied up there are some intentional loose threads that personally bother the heck out of me.

This book is absolutely perfect for what it is: a psychological thriller. Whether that genre is up your alley is completely a personal preference, however; I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Top Ten
by Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Find This Book: Top Ten
Rating: 5/5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

So not even getting to the actual plot, I love how the story is told. It’s got a really cool nonlinear narrative and like the back of the book says- this narrative is compelling. I can’t imagine the novel being told in chronological order- it is perfect the way it is. That being said I can get how non-linear timelines are not for everyone. For those who want to read a creative experience pulled-off well- this book is for you! Instead of a start and an end, the reader gets taken through the 10 most important parts of Gabby and Ryan’s friendship. It starts with their senior year graduation and then goes back and skips around their high school career, their ups and downs, their best memories and their major fights.

The story is about the complicated relationship of Gabby and Ryan. Honestly, who hasn’t had that weird relationship where you don’t know how you became friends with the person? Gabby is a bisexual photographer (woot woot thanks for the rep) and additionally struggles with social anxiety (which I don’t have personal experience with but it seemed pretty realistic?). This book is not about discovering Gabby’s sexuality, or coming out to her family, or societal acceptance- she simply is bi which was nice to read about. Ryan on the other hand is a party-hard hockey player who the author does a great job of not stereotyping. He’s not a ‘dumb sports jock’ and his character is three-dimensional.
These characters are from two different worlds and their two beings somehow clicked and I feel like everyone has this bizarre experience at some point? Very relatable. The book is told from both POV’s so you really get a feel for both characters equally. How they met and continue their relationship made for quite the entertaining read (this book also got shelved with my tear-jerkers: books that made me emotional to the point where I almost cried). 

 This was the perfect stand alone book!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass
by S.A. Chakraborty
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Find This Book: The City of Brass
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given an eARC of this book by HarperCollins.

The hype for this book was so real that I somehow managed to get through this even though I can’t normally focus on ebooks. I loved how much cultural information was packed into this book and all of the political details between the daeva tribes and their magic system. I didn’t find much of the ending predictable in the slightest which was really refreshing but honestly most of it is hard to talk about and discuss unless you’ve already read it!

I must say I only vaguely new about Djinn, Ifriti, Marid etc. from my Bartimaeus days (I love those books and I love Jonathan Stroud) and that being said it really felt like I was getting thrown in the deep end with the MC Nahri who was also being introduced to everything around her. A paperback/ hard copy is definitely the way to go with this book because there are a lot of mythological/cultural terms that were a pain in the ass to flip back to the glossary of the ebook every time, but I did feel like I learned a bit which is always something I enjoy when reading. There where plenty of terms I didn’t know and just went along with not really knowing and getting context clues to work things out which was weird, but something I can appreciate. So many books are written by white women about white women for white women and I think this book had an all non-white cast with a minor side plot of lgbt diversity. A breath of fresh air, honestly.

What could have added to the experience for me might have been doing something similar to the beginning of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns where the author gives readers the pronunciations of the character’s names. I do understand this is a bit of a double edged sword though. On one hand, it’s ridiculous that names like Julia and Margot aren’t expected to have pronunciations accompanied with them while names like Darayavahoush are, but at the same time as a reader I want to completely respect the character’s name and the culture behind the story by not butchering their name. It’s certainly an interesting debate to say the least and I would love to hear other opinions on the subject, but I suppose this is a bit of a tangent in regards to my purpose being to review the book!

Another quick side note, there's a bit more swearing (the f word) and a bit more sexual content than I was expecting from a YA book. Not anything explicit, just more than expected i.e. insinuating sexual rumors, calling character whores etc. though that again could be a result of a more conservative culture being the background of the novel. 

Like I said, the last 100-200 pages (again this was on ebook I read on my phone screen so real page numbers are a mystery) were a wild ride with a lot happening at once and a lot of the stuff happening at once was really unexpected. Everything felt like it was really wrapping up into a stand alone book and I was wondering where the story was going to go since I had heard this was to be a trilogy. It only made me realize that what I thought was the big picture wasn’t actually the big picture! I will definitely be reading the next book but the hype won’t be as intense for me as I don’t think my favorite character will be receiving a lot of screen time especially considering how book twos are primarily just less interesting set-ups for the end of a trilogy. However, I seem to be in for an amazing book three and I anxiously await a conclusion (and my fav character better be stellar in it or I will fight someone)!