review-ish-thingy: strange the dreamer by laini taylor

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I have never read a book quite like this one.

I also probably couldn’t explain it if I tried. It is so full of fantastical elements that to fully explain one would leave all the others out. Or if I explained everything, you would be unable to see how all the elements fit together, because they all seem so different from one another–but rather than throw a bunch of weird concepts into a world just to make the story sound cool, Laini Taylor actually crafts a world where these things fit in and make sense (while also maintaining an air of mystery!). Really, the only way to comprehend it all is to read it, which I highly suggest that you do.

First, the characters. They’re all very intriguing and have depths to them that later get explored–every single one is distinguished from the rest, even minor characters. But I might say the most curious bunch of characters are Sarai, Lazlo, the Godslayer, and Minya–all of them have some good and bad in them, all of them are beautifully written, and all of them demand your sympathy and attention.

Sarai has cinammon hair and skin as blue as cornflowers and dragonfly wings. She screams moths that dissipate in daylight.

Lazlo is a librarian/dreamer who spends his days thinking one thing: a mysterious city that has been forgotten by everyone else, and the name of which has been stolen from him.

The Godslayer is a hero to his city, but his shame and guilt for what he’s done runs through him as truly as his blood and spirit.

And Minya is the blue-skinned savior of four, a witness of bloodshed and carnage from too early an age, trapped at six-years-old and running everything by the strength of her will alone. (She’s so creepy. I love her.)

All of these concepts are written with descriptions and language that set it apart from other stories; I would say it’s written like a fairy-tale, but fairytales aren’t usually as elaborate as this–it’s more like a legend, or a myth, which makes sense because those are what the story is full of.

The settings themselves are very clearly established, each unique and coated in the feelings each character associates with them. The language that Laini uses to express what these places are like make you see it so clearly around you and it builds up a yearning for these places, especially the ones that the characters themselves yearn for.

There’s a grand library where Lazlo lives, which he’s fond of for saving him from the drab life of working and keeping his interests secret, and for being a place where he can read stories and learn about the mysterious city he someday wants to find.

Then there’s Weep, the city that can’t see the sky, haunted by blue-metal structures that cannot be removed but which serve as constant reminders of the trauma the city has faced for two-hundred years.

And then there’s dream-Weep, which is bright and full of laughter and the kind of place where a blue-skinned girl can eat cakes while she wears the moon on her wrist.

Things like this give the whole story its own unique character, with gorgeous prose and complicated characters and settings that seem worlds apart from one another with their own separate wonders. The simplest way to describe the story is, in fact, a description said by the characters: above all things, it’s a story that is “beautiful and full of monsters.”

Never is there a page you don’t want to quote descriptions out of or a concept in the story–including ones I haven’t even begun to describe–that doesn’t sound both impossible and real. There is never something good without its inverse, both in the characters and in the world, and that, of course, makes for the best kind of story.

So give this book a go–it feels like a legend, and it feels like it’s real, and it is full of strange things, and it is written like a dream.

quotes!:

  • “He dreamed of deserts and great empty cities and imagined he could feel the minutes and hours of his life running through him, as though he were nothing but an hourglass of flesh and bone.”
  • “’If you’re afraid of your own dreams, you’re welcome here in mine.’”
  • “Sometimes a moment is so remarkable that it carves out a space in time and spins there, while the world rushes on around it.”

MAGIC WORD OF THE DAY/WEEK/MONTH/WHATEVER:

Ruderal, which means thriving on broken ground.

-THE END-

review-ish-thingy: and i darken by kiersten white

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stabbing things and flowers is very much what this book is about, if you think of radu as a flower

This is–wait for it–a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler historical retelling. It’s filled with politics and conquest, and yet it’s very character-focused. It’s written with depth and with secrets, and it manages not only its characters very well, but also the setting (the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s) and the complex, twist-filled plot.

Lada’s character is developed around the concept of ownership. She’s raised to believe that she can own everything–once her nurse even tells her own son that “if she wants to eat your leg, she is allowed.” Lada believes that her family has a powerful city and her nurse never denies her from taking anything, so that she might grow to be someone who is fierce and powerful unlike her parents. When Lada is thrown into a world where she isn’t actually in control, she dedicates herself to getting back to Wallachia, where she can be.

Lada, Radu, and Mehmed’s friendship is odd, complicated, and cute; they’re dependent on each other and understand each other more than anyone else (sometimes better than they understand themselves) but they also miss some really obvious things that end up tearing them apart, which is, of course, realistic and true to many relationships.

The world is also fascinating and well-researched. Being taken back to the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century has sparked my own interest and I plan to research it on my own as well. There are snippets of religion and other things from that time that make it very vivid, and the atmosphere throughout is set up very well.

Plus Lada just has a really well-written personality okay. A big part of the story is her struggle with fighting gender expectations and reconciling those expectations with her want to own things rather than be owned.

But I’ve rambled so much about her and said nothing about Radu and Mehmed! Radu is a sweet innocent child who starts off feeling constantly alienated from his sister Lada. He cries a lot, and he’s not weak; he proves his bravery and strength quite often throughout the book, in both little and big things. His relationship with his sister has many ups and downs given its mercurial nature, but in the end they’re always there to protect one another.

Mehmed . . . is someone I’m not sure what to think of. He’s sweet sometimes, sure, but he’s also the center of a whole lot of conflict and never quite seems to make up for what he does. His friendship is good for both Lada and Radu, but only to a certain extent, because things tend to fall apart because of him. I’ve lost trust in him during the book a few times, but maybe I’m just being too hard on him–in any case, it’ll be interesting to see what changes in the second book.

And I can’t end this without mentioning Nicolae, who is a very good friend to Lada and banters a lot (because banter in books is a must). Their interactions are just really amusing and nice to read.

For example:

  • “‘And then I would steal your horse lover, to spite you.'”

And some other wonderful quotes:

  • “She plucked a rose and held it to her face. She hated the way roses smelled, their sweetness too fragile. She wanted a garden of evergreens. A garden of stones. A garden of swords.”
  • “‘Nothing like cuddling a corpse to give you sweet dreams.’”
  • “‘Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.'”

-THE END-

pictures of a defaced book

One of my rewards during NaNo was to deface a book of my choice, and so of course I chose my favorite book, Of Enemies and Endings, to deface with one of the best scenes and quotes inside.

The quote reads, “I want this WORLD to be transformed by RORY LANDON. I want you to LIVE,” and right underneath it says “Rapunzel,” the character who said the quote. On the side by the spine, it says faintly, “The Tale of Rory Landon.”

Defacing books is really fun and I recommend it!

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-THE END-

five fantastic opening sentences

Okay, so I just really like posts about the first sentences in books (plus it’s a great way to get more people to join me in my obsessions) so here are a few of my favorites in no particular order! BUT remember this list is by no means complete. It’s just five out of MANY MANY great first sentences, but five’s enough for now. Plus, I wouldn’t want to go on forever, so yeah. Here they are!

On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.

-Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

As they ascended, retreating farther from the winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form: silent, ancient, mysterious.

Deadly.

-Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

The Narrows remind me of August nights in the South.

They remind me of old rocks and places where the light can’t reach.

They remind me of smoke—the stale, settled kind—and of storms and damp earth.

Most of all, Da, they remind me of you.

-The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Kell wore a very peculiar coat.

It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.

-A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl.

The girl was Russian, and although her hair and eyes and fingernails were dark all the time, she was stormy only when she thought it absolutely necessary. Which was fairly often.

Her name was Feodora.

-The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

AREN’T THEY GREAT? NOW GO READ EVERY ONE OF THOSE BOOKS. IMMEDIATELY. I ORDER YOU TO.

unrelatedly i just realized that there are only three different authors on that list. ignore that.

Since there are a lot more great first sentences from books that I haven’t quite finished yet, I’ll probably have another post like this up soon! Or not-so-soon. It depends on when I get through them all.

-THE END-

me, blathering about my stories

I’ve been requested to write a post about my novels, so here it is! I’ve added a writing page recently, which has really bad summaries of two of my projects, but I’ll go more in depth here.

I’ll talk about Color it Right, first, since I thought of that story before the other one. The title is based off a quote I found: “Emotions are the colors of the soul.” Actually the title came before the story idea but I just use that quote so that the title makes sense.

The story is about three kids in Phrex, which is a country in a different version of Earth where everyone is a cyborg. And they’re not cyborgs for practical purposes–it’s just for fashion/nationalism. Maybe. Probably. I can’t tell you. Anyway, there’s one girl in the group who . . . is new to Phrex. And she doesn’t understand why everyone is a cyborg, among other things. She begins questioning how things are run and with her help, the other two discover some secrets about the country.

BUT IT IS NOT A STEREOTYPICAL OVERTHROW-THE-GOVERNMENT THING. THERE’S A BOY WHO SEES GHOSTS AND A GIRL WHO’S JUST CONFUSED ALL THE TIME AND THE SELF-PROCLAIMED QUEEN OF SARCASM AND HAIR BOWS. Also, parasites. And lies. And friendships and (spoiler) and crying. And stupid decisions and . . . well, you shall seeee!

One of the main characters is Clev Irking, who installs and probably also repairs cybernetic parts. He sees ghosts and lies sometimes. He’s quiet and mocked and doesn’t fully understand what trust and loyalty are, and in one version of the story he nearly decided to set fire to another character’s hair in order to wake her up. But I restarted after that version. Be grateful.

His best friend is Kesslyn Howard, who I’ve been using in the Character Studies posts. She’s the confused one who longs to be important, has a temper, doesn’t waste words, and . . . well, just read the Character Studies. They’ll give you the gist of her personality.

And the previously mentioned self-proclaimed queen of sarcasm and hair bows is Melainie Rhea Merker, who prefers to go by Mela. She calls Kesslyn Kessie, and Clev Clever King. She might be slightly dramatic, is intelligent, and likes formal language. She has a cute-but-annoying little sister named Patricia, but she calls her Patri (it should be obvious by now that she likes nicknames). She has an unemployed dad and a mom who does some government thing, but SHE WILL NEVER SEE ANY OF THEM AGAIN. >:D Her family, I mean. She’s stuck with Clev and Kesslyn.

My other project is Snapshots of the Lifeless One. I don’t have as much to say about that one, since it’s newer and not as developed yet, but it’s about an eleven-year-old girl. And magic rain, and a dead brother, and photos that store their consciousness. The summary on the writing page will tell you all you need to know even though it’s superrr short. I’m pretty sure the main character’s older sister will be the antagonist, and . . . yeah, I can’t really ramble about this one yet, so this is all I’ll say. I might go more in depth for this project some time in the future.

-THE END-