Reviews

Review: Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2) by Laini Taylor

38525180SYNOPSIS:

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

This book holds more wonder and beauty than most places in the world. It’s as if the universe decided that it was tired of being so immense, so it compressed all of its complexity and splendor into a smaller form just so it could make everyone around it feel like they were a part of the stars.

This whole experience already feels so far away—like something out of a dream—and the whole of my being is wrapped around so much fondness and aching love for this series. I genuinely wish I could find some way to hook myself to this world, and never leave.

Once upon a time there was a silence that dreamed of becoming a song, and then I found you, and now everything is music.

So, what’s this book about?

After the citadel’s lurch from the sky has tipped everyone into grief and chaos, Sarai’s a ghost now, held in Minya’s thrall and all they would ever be able to do about it is what they’d ever been able to do about it: nothing. And Lazlo—once a faranji dreamer and a war orphan of Zosma—is now confronted with the truth of him being the half-human son of a god, blessed with the same power that had been Weep’s curse for fifteen years.

Now the scales have a heavy weight on them: Minya’s anger like a canker at the center of everything, dancing them around a chessboard, and Sarai and Lazlo’s hearts are things edged with the fear of it, every sweet moment spent together not really theirs, but just borrowed for a little while. And even though their lives had been so long a thing of hideous dread that for the length of a few pages, they’d forgotten to be alarmed by the horror of Minya being the only hook Sarai could tie the tethers of her soul to, there is a part of them—and of the reader—spinning and wondering, that wants to know how long Minya’s calm and patience would stand, how long until it fell or crumbled beneath the hate and fear that weren’t a legacy left by their slayed kindred, but new and bright and all her own.

How long before Minya came to chase them out of whatever corner they’ve carved for themselves? Could they defuse the hate that had woven itself into her veins, as much as her power had roots under her skin? What will befall Weep if Minya’s will for vengeance made its way to it? Who is the mysterious Nova, looking for the Mesarthim who had taken her sister and left her not even scraps of memory to try and catch her with?

And what happens when all the secrets so long kept close to the chests of those who held them spill out and prove deadlier than even Minya’s wrath?

I would have chosen you, if they had let me choose.

There’s something quite indescriptible about Laini Taylor’s storytelling. The fortitude of her bright mind ceaselessly surprises me; I know what to expect, and yet I am still thrown off by her ingenuity. Lush, reverential language and her gift to infuse every page with magic and heady emotions remain a hallmark of her work. It’s that rare kind of book that you want to read slowly, deliciously, relishing every exquisite sentence. But Laini Taylor doesn’t only draw you in with sensuous passages, she leaves you reeling with a fantastical tale at the thresholds of love and family and identity, and there, a wish flickers in your heart to become part of the story.

I’m also so impressed by how she deftly dances across genres, careening between fantasy and science-fiction. Even more inspiring is how she sprawls out from her story’s already expansive beginning to an even broader canvas of magic and war and divinity, brilliantly tying the myriad threads of her story together by the end.

I was honestly split between sorrow and elation after finishing this book, the two states seemingly inimical but right then, they were sharing the same shadow. I genuinely love this book so much. And oh my God, the characters.

I adore absolutely every single character of this book; my heart is a big cherry pie, enough for everyone! Laini Taylor imbues every character no matter how minor with heart and soul. Their development is so beautifully rendered that they all eventually settle into themselves like an impression in the sand, and only growing stronger from there.

✨ LAZLO STRANGE

I love Lazlo Strange so much. He holds his eyes wide and sees everything, really sees, and seems to love it, all of it, life and the world and everyone in it. He’s a gardener and people are his roses. His love is so concentrated. He literally has the sun inside of his soul and it’s like…how can one person have so much vitality and kindness? He’s the kind of person to whom you would willingly give so much of your heart. I was half-afraid that the torrents of the collective horror that had been building in this book would wear away at the edges of his soft-heartedness, but he is still the same gentle dreamer whose nose has been broken by fairytales and whose kindness still radiated from him, and made you find faith in humanity again. Anyway, nothing makes me sadder than the fact that Lazlo Strange will never think about me as much as I think about him.

✨ SARAI

Sarai, the transcendental goddess of my heart. I wish she would send her mind and senses and moths winging down to my room and spin whatever dreams she wants to torment me.

I loved how she thought she wasn’t strong enough to do so many things until they were over, and she had done them. How she was far from helpless, and when in positions of impotency, how quick she was to address the issue and attempt to take control in whatever way she can. She had passed through a long dark time and had come out of it—if not alive—so much stronger.

✨ SARAI AND LAZLO

I obviously only ship things that are guaranteed to cause me immense pain but I haven’t experienced this much joy since Lazlo & Sarai have been in close proximity of each other so there’s that. I love them. I love how they clung to whatever fleeting, small, precious joy they were allowed, how they were a constant reminder that happiness do not cease to exist in the shadow of something large and ominous, that surrounding yourself with your loved ones can make you feel human again, a person beyond whatever troubles you. Everything about them is so soft and heart-shaped and I just [clutches fist] love them.

✨ MINYA

Minya has spent so long sustaining herself on all the anger she had brewed since that day when the Godslayer slew babies so humans could live. She had honed her rage as a razor blade and planned a thousand parries to blows that may never come. The Carnage mangled her emotions, poisoned her faculties for love and trust until they were so tangled with hate. And still, she protected Sarai and the others, she sheltered them, she kept them from the winds that would batter them into the earth. They were her family and she was theirs—bound not by something as coincidental as blood but by shared trauma and survival and choice—and that is a bond that could take a great deal of strain before it snapped.

This book might have started out as an Us from which Minya was excluded but every acidic confrontation that followed was less about the moment Minya held Sarai’s soul as a bargaining ship and more about the vast sweep of their past, the warp and weft of old resentments. It was more about loving the people you care about like you would love the moon—not only when it’s full and bright, and being there for them not only when the sun is shining, but also when a thunderstorm is brewing inside of them.

I’m still so incredibly emotional over Minya. This kid needs to sit on some soft grass, or a foam mattress in the sun to give her cold shadow a soft place to rest. She’s always on that pavement, that cement, in her mind, it’s not good for her.

✨ ERIL-FANE

Since book one, I have felt every stab of the remorse I knew Eril-Fane was inflicting on himself. The regrets, the resentments and all the things that pressed into him, and made his heart feel as though it might give and break like a bone. The apologies that were too heavy for his tongue and the almost-palpable memories of a war where he’d experienced terrible acts of violence, and perpetrated many of his own. It honestly pained me that he had so many secrets, so many fears and places he did not let anyone—not his wife, not his mother—bring light into.

But the pain was quickly sucked away in the wake of his incredible character development: Eril-Fane realizes that a good portion of healing is in simply allowing sensations to arise, just sitting with them and feeling them instead of bottling them up. He realizes that sometimes, in order to survive, you must see the good in your past. There will always be things that he wishes had never happened, things he wishes he could rewrite. There will always be bad memories and things that he regrets. But they are part of who he is—all he can do is accept that they have happened and celebrate the person they’ve allowed him to become.

✨ THYON NERO

Reading this book comes with this weird onslaught of affection for Thyon Nero that you never expected, but just grows the more you read.

In the first book, and even at the start of this one, he’s arrogant, self-centered and insufferable. By the end, he still kind of is but with an overlaying sense of responsibility and maturity to quell the worst bits. His character development isn’t a complete overhaul, but he does end up so much better than when he started. He tries to earn everyone’s respect and friendship rather than assuming he deserved it because of his privilege. And there is a humility that comes with that understanding. It was a good look for him, knocking the hauteur away and leaving a remarkably pleasing vulnerability in its place. I genuinely thought I have been wrung out of every last ounce of the sincere affection that might have bloomed in my heart for Thyon, but he proved me wrong.

On a VERY important note, my queer heart has always suspected that Thyon was one of us AND I WAS RIGHT. I would lay down both of my kidneys for a spin-off series featuring him getting called out on his haughtiness by a certain someone. Also I would give up forty years of paycheck for my favorite lesbian girlfriends Calixte and Tzara, I love them so much I’m so glad we got to see more of them. I’m even gladder for Calixte and Thyon’s friendship, they’re the epitome of mlm and wlw solidarity. ICONIC.

She had more than she had ever dared dream, and yet, new dreams sprout up when old ones come true, like seedlings in a forest: a new generation of wishes.

Lastly, if you haven’t found your way to this wonderful series, please do so now. Trust me: you need these characters in your life.

Book Tags

Book blogger confession tag!

My first ever book tag!

First ever” for many reasons: chief of which is the fact that I am actually two stacked sacks of potatoes wearing a trench coat and procrastinating as a performance art, and least of which is that every ounce of said procrastination has been jolted out by the fact that my first blog anniversary is in roughly three months (I think) and there was just no way for my mind to accept the possibility of not contributing at least one book tag.

This one seemed very agreeable and super fun so here we go! Continue reading “Book blogger confession tag!”

Reviews

Review: Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant

34523174SYNOPSIS:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

I would like to preface my review by stating outright: I fucking loved this book. Continue reading “Review: Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant”

Reviews

Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

36896898SYNOPSIS:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

I am officially giving up on having a career to sit on warm patches of moss in the moors and recite bad poetry about how amazing this book is.
Continue reading “Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”

Reviews

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

35068705SYNOPSIS:

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

A really good book has a beginning, a middle, and then it absolutely ends you. The Poppy War is a really good book. Continue reading “Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang”

Reviews

Review: The Wicker King (The Wicker King #1) by K. Ancrum

33158541SYNOPSIS:

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

There is a unique sort of agony to this book that I can’t exactly describe. My heart feels both hollowed out and so heavy my chest could not hold it. The Wicker King beckoned me closer with delicate claws then sank its fangs into my heart and I think a part of me will never fully escape it.

See, there are books you like and then there are books you end up thinking about in the middle of the night with a cosmic ache in your chest, feeling like what still existed of you has been wrung out with all the things you want to say but can’t really articulate.

This book is one of them.

So, what’s this book about?

Jack and August’s lives should have shot out in different directions—Jack, the golden-haired varsity rugby player with the seemingly perfect life, and August, the poor kid who runs drugs in their high school to make extra money. Instead, they’ve emerged from the other side of their differences with the kind of relationship that is blinding, deafening, maddening—August pushing exactly as hard against Jack as he did against him, so that everything they had built would stay standing and if either let up or gave it more of his weight, it would fall and crumble.

When Jack’s hallucinations begin, as sharp as they are unknowable to anyone else, Jack settles into the unwavering conviction that he sees into a parallel world in need of rescuing. Helpless, August starts sustaining himself on the misplaced hope that if he humored Jack and helped him cope, Jack would lose the truth of himself a little more slowly.

But neither of them is a soft place the other could fall. Both victims of emotionally and physically neglectful parenting, Jack and August are all edges, trying to fill the empty spaces inside with each other. They have driven more miles than a lot of people do in a lifetime, and no matter how much August wanted to carry Jack’s luggage, the truth was that he could barely manage his own. They have spent so long building up their shared fortress and learning to tend it all by themselves, but what happens when those ramparts start resembling prison walls, high and barbed and near-impossible to cross? What happens when the demons they’ve barely kept barricaded away by an unhealthy codependency surface? When the dam they’ve built is no longer enough and the floodgates break open on a toy factory they set on fire?

The Wicker King is a brilliantly written and plotted novel, a miasma of wretchedness and pain, a book that I devoured but deeply, utterly abhorred.

Over the course of the story, the pages darken which I think effectively communicated the characters’ interior turmoil, heightening it to near-grotesque levels. I was literally holding my hand to my chest like it would keep my heart from breaking out of me. The plot is gripping, and the characters are powerfully drawn, but it’s the raw and unpolished look at mental illness, the repercussions of an indifferent, dismissive and neglectful parenting and the dynamics of a deeply unhealthy relationship that makes this a novel that will be hard for readers to forget.

This is a story that will bear so much aching familiarity to many of us—who are digging through the barren and rocky soil of life with the hollow echoing of an instinct we can no longer lean against, who harbor many vacant spaces inside without knowing what it is that carved out the absence, who can’t find a way to tell people closed to us the truth and make them understand it, who quickly find out that returning to a mental place you once knew as well as your own shadow isn’t the same as never leaving at all.

If you’re reading this, I hope you find the strength to get through whatever it is that’s causing you so much trouble or pain at the moment. I hope you know that your heart is built for something other than sorrow and that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And I hope you feel safe and warm and content, like being wrapped up in a blanket by the fire while it storms outside.

“If you drop the weight you are carrying, it is okay. You can build yourself back up out of the pieces.”

CONTENT WARNING FOR: violence, parental neglect, abuse, mental-illness (degenerative hallucinatory disorder), codependency, anxiety, panic attacks.

Reviews

Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

16074758SYNOPSIS:

Elise is dead.
And someone must pay.

Anna, her boyfriend Tate, best friend Elise and a group of close friends set off on a debaucherous Spring Break trip to Aruba. But paradise soon turns into a living nightmare when Elise is brutally murdered.

Soon Anna finds herself trapped in a foreign country and fighting for her freedom. As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone is questioning her innocence. To the rest of the world, Anna isn’t just guilty, but dangerous. As the court case unfolds the truth is about to come out, and it’s more shocking than you could ever imagine…


RATING: ☆★☆★

I’ve regretted every display of emotion I had throughout this book about two minutes after it was over, because I had barely taken into myself the knowledge that I’ve reached the last page before I realized that this book had a knife so deep in my side I didn’t feel it until it twisted. Continue reading “Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas”

Reviews

Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826SYNOPSIS:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.


Anna-Marie Mclemore’s books are vulnerable, hauntingly beautiful patchwork quilt of thoughts and emotions that leave your heart held tight and wishing you could transcend into their level of beauty and tenderness and be rid of all your feelings except for your love for them.

When The Moon Was Ours was no exception.

So what’s this book about?

When The Moon Was Ours sweeps you into a treacherous and romantic world that takes center stage in this story of Miel, a petaled girl spilled out from a water tower who grew roses out of her wrist and Samir, who painted a hundred bright moons and hung them anywhere he could get away with. Miel and Sam housed entire armies of information about each other – Miel knew how Sam would never feel like himself inside the name he was given at birth and how he wanted nothing more than to be a boy who grew into a man, and Sam knew how much the roses woven into her veins weighted on Miel and the truth about her guardian, Aracely, who pulled lovesickness from weary hearts.

But there were many secrets neither of them was ready to give up just yet – secrets the gorgeous haughty Bonner sisters, who’ve always seemed less like siblings and more like a force, gathered enough of to compel Miel into obediance, because they believed that the roses coming through her skin had the strength the rumors said: the power to earn them the love of any boy and any heart they failed in winning.


Anna-Marie Mclemore’s writing sings—each sentence, each paragraph marvelously wrought, and the plush, sensuous prose unspools the story with delicious languor. Add in the author’s ability to always breathe into existence fully-realized characters that you’ll want to live with long after you turn the last page and you’ve got a story very few writers could conjure in their wildest imaginings and only McLemore could make into something so wondrously, palpably real.

Miel and Samir’s story is an elegantly crafted paean to the cleansing power of living your truth and the indiscriminate power of love. A story that will carry a dizzying sense of familiarity for a lot of us—made palpable in Sam and his complicated longing to settle an argument that waged deep inside himself, Sam who’s always exuded an aura of calm yet his insides resemble quicksand, Sam who wanted to carve a space for him in the world but felt like the world was a heavy backpack and he was carrying it through space, Sam who was caught in the thorn bush of who he was and was so sure that settling into his truth would be painful that he doubted any path that didn’t come with agony.

“It was his. All of it was his. His body, refusing to match his life. His heart, bitter and worn. His love for Miel, even if it had nowhere to go, even if he didn’t know how to love a girl who kept herself as distant from him as an unnamed constellation.”

Miel who never gave herself enough credit for overcoming things and getting better or celebrated her strength, Miel who’s convinced herself that loving her isn’t easy because of her sharp edges and missing parts, whose problem was never the lack of love but the inability to understand why anyone in their right mind would want to love her.

Miel and Sam who have always known the tide and undertow of each other’s feelings, their hurts, both small and large, both voiced and unvoiced, for most of their lives, yet being the object of so much tenderness and devotion loomed like a scary specter because they didn’t think they deserved it. But they do. They do. And seeing them eventually embrace it with open arms and let it all wash over them was so beautiful. I honestly love both of them so much – they’re so radiant that they probably give goosebumps to the earth’s surface with every light angelic step they take.

“When they both realized they were heartbroken enough to want the love torn from their rib cages, they touched each other with their hands and their mouths, and they forgot they wanted to be cured.” 

Lastly, no review of McLemore’s books would be complete without discussing diversity and representation. This is a beautiful love story between a Latina girl and an Italian-Pakistani trans boy woven with an authenticity that stems from the author’s own first-love-turned-marriage with a trans man. And here the author not only infuses her Latinx culture into every nook and cranny of this book (such as including the legend of La Llorona – The Weeping Woman) but she also delves deep into the Pakistani tradition of Bacha Posh a fascinating practice where fathers and mothers dress their daughters as boys until they grow up to be women. This isn’t surface-level diversity. It’s not just the inclusion of Spanish words and Afghani customs. It’s a way of interpreting the world, of making choices, of navigating life. So not only does it make for a culturally vibrant story, but an eye-opening and educational experience as well.

This isn’t surface-level, checking-off-items-on-a-list diversity. It’s not just the inclusion of Spanish words and Afghani customs. It’s a way of interpreting the world, of making choices, of navigating life. So not only does it make for a culturally vibrant story, but an eye-opening and educational experience as well.


Highly recommended!

Reviews

Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

31351689SYNOPSIS:

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend and best friend since childhood, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

Continue reading “Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake”