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: vicious by v. e. schwab

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This book is an utterly fascinating take on superheroes. The concepts are so well-developed and believable that I’d be surprised if things didn’t actually work that way. It’s basically a character study involving trauma, super powers, and questionable morals. No side is made out to be the good side or the bad side–they’re both terrible, it’s just difficult to decide which one is worse.

And oh, it is so good.

Every character is given the attention they deserve from the narrative, but it leaves enough open to interpretation. I found myself drawing on elements from the story and expanding them in my head, coming up with ideas that weren’t explicitly mentioned but were definitely implied just subtly enough. The characters were made out to be distant, almost inhuman, but the characteristics they showed even when lacking any sense of empathy or fear still helped me to relate to them and see how yes, this could be me.

Reading about their super powers was enjoyable and exciting, and the non-linear storytelling did well in keeping some secrets but not being too vague. At first it was a one-sided story with little explanation of the true motives of the other side, but at the halfway point it delved straight into the other side and why they did what they did.

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The hours drawing towards the climax increased in intensity and the climax itself was no disappointment. I feel like that was the moment when the superhero inspiration it drew from comics and movies showed through, because I can easily picture it on a big screen.

All in all, the characterization, plot, and concept were all very well delivered and the blurred line between good and evil was intriguing and perfect for the story. This book is very worthy of your time and money, and I recommend it heartily as well as all of V. E. Schwab’s other books, of course.

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

Cathexis, which means a concentration of mental energy into one specific thing.

-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-

review-ish-thingy: flawed by cecelia ahern

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it’s gorgeous AND it came with a tattoo!

This is a dystopian novel, a genre I haven’t really delved into for years since all dystopias were turning into the same overused tropes/archetypes/cliches. And the summary for Flawed seems to be following the same mold I’ve seen people use so many times before: a “perfect” society where anyone imperfect is exiled. Only it’s not exactly exile in this book–it’s markings that separate you from society and subject you to public humiliation, among a lot of other horrid things.

I had high hopes (mainly because of that cover, I admit), but I felt the beginning falling into stereotype territory. Art Crevan has a lot of potential to be an interesting, nuanced character, but his role is mostly tied to his relationship with the main character, Celestine. Some development of his personality is there, but it isn’t carried out completely, so I hope to see him reach his potential in the next book.

Carrick, also, falls into some cliches with his seemingly dark + brooding personality. Fortunately, other sides of him are also shown, and there are some really bittersweet moments with or about him, which I did enjoy.

Celestine herself is done quite well; her arc is about losing a black-and-white perception of the world, which I’ve said before is a concept I absolutely love and is also a concept I wrote a paper on in school. She has some really clever lines and insightful thoughts at times, and other times–when she’s desperately trying to go back to how she used to see things–she can seem ignorant and oblivious. Overall, she’s very well-written, grows realistically, and honestly just needs a hug.

So there’s a lot of secrecy and personal gain involved in the plot. There are also some horrible things that happen to Celestine, which all leads to it becoming a story about justice, defeating the odds, and making choices. It’s also about authority figures abusing their power, and that part is the most terrifying of all–which is great. It needs to be terrifying. It has to stick with us.

I enjoyed seeing the people around Celestine start to change with her as well as seeing the stakes grow. The further I read, the more engrossed I was in the story, and in the end it met all my expectations. So while the beginning could have been better, I very much recommend this book if you’re looking to give dystopia a chance.

-THE END-

review-ish-thingy: six of crows by leigh bardugo

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if nothing else, get it for the BLACK-EDGED PAGES

I went to see Leigh Bardugo a few weeks ago at a panel she had with a few other authors, and it was really great!

[a few highlights:
billy taylor: i wanna be the mastermind.

leigh bardugo: maggie stiefvater’s driving the getaway car.

random girl: *asks all authors what the biggest plot twist they’ve ever written is*
all authors on panel: spoilers!
ally carter: everyone dies.
leigh bardugo: everyone dies and the rest is a poem. about border collie puppies.]

And afterwards, I bought Six of Crows, even though I didn’t get it signed since Bardugo had the longest line out of everyone. But I still got the book! And I absolutely do not regret it at all. It is fantastic and complex and all around VERY well-written. There’s a lot to love about it.

INEJ GHAFA, for instance. She’s an incredible character; she has to work so hard and pull off impossible tasks for the rest of the crew, but after that’s all done, she knows exactly what she deserves and won’t settle for anything else! She also reminds me of Lila Bard from the Shades of Magic series (because of all her knives and a spoilery thing), which is a very good thing because Lila is splendiferous.

Another aspect of the book that I love is its diversity. The characters all come from really different backgrounds in different fictional countries (something I’ll talk about in a moment), and these differences are fleshed out enough that it causes conflict between them. More than that, their thought processes and arguments makes sense with their backgrounds. None of these characters are cardboard cutouts, whether it’s in their appearances, personalities, or backgrounds. And with six main characters? That’s really impressive!

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And I can’t not mention the worldbuilding. The author doesn’t just flesh out one setting and leave the rest undeveloped–she develops a whole world and then has characters from all over it so you can see that development. There’s Ketterdam, which is a huge center for international trade filled with gangs, and is also where the story starts out. Then there’s Fjerda, a really icy country with the most impenetrable compound ever, where everyone ends up going to pull off a huge heist. There is so much more to everything than that, but I’m not going to spoil it because the fun is in learning it. But basically it’s a super cool world that you get to see different parts of throughout the book–and did I mention the MAGICAL PEOPLE? Because they’re very important too! But I’ve rambled on long enough and so it’s time to move on.

To the PLOT.

It’s about a heist–a heist that they have to pull off in the absolute most secure building in their world. And yes, everyone questions why they agreed to it multiple times throughout the book. Their adventure is twisty and complex and intriguing and I feel like the best way to really describe it is that everyone is two step ahead of each other. People have plans, back-up plans, partially-revealed-and-partially-hidden plans, failed plans, triumphant plans, completely-secret plans . . . just lots and lots of plans! So don’t read it if you don’t like plans. It would be nightmarish. But who doesn’t like plans? I dunno. I hope all of you like plans.

Here are some wonderful quotes:

  • “There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.” (this sums up Kaz’s entire character and I didn’t even get to him in this review but he is incredible and you’d better love him)
  • “When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
  • “Kaz leaned back. ‘What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?’
    ‘Knife to the throat?’ asked Inej.
    ‘Gun to the back?’ said Jesper.
    ‘Poison in his cup?’ suggested Nina.
    ‘You’re all horrible,’ said Matthias.” (honestly this one could so easily be a Shades of Magic quote!)

-THE END-