Book Review: Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor 

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor 

Oh Laini, why must you do this to me again? Last time it was the amazing Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and now this, and the next (and final) book isn’t out till next year.

Laini Taylor is a masterful writer, and her world building is exquisite. Her characters make you fall for them effortlessly and then, then, those final words and you close the book and maybe I’m a little hormonal, but I wanted to cry. Partly because the ending was tinged with tragedy and hopelessness (dammit Laini! I don’t have any tissues) and partly because it was so good I was upset it was finished.

Lazlo Strange is a nobody librarian, an orphan raised by monks, a man with no past, and the most wonderful dreams. He believes deeply in magic and is fascinated by the Lost City, now known as Weep for its tragic past.

When an envoy from Weep arrives to find the best and brightest, the men and women who might aid the city, Lazlo joins them as secretary to the Godslayer himself, a man haunted by his past. As they cross the continent to the city Lazlo has often dreamed of, he finds there are more secrets in Weep than he ever could have imagined.

Lazlo finds family, love, magic, mystery and heartbreak in the city whose name was eaten by a god, where the people live in fear and are traumatised by their pasts.

Ok, that was a terrible description. But the book is so much better than I can make it sound without spoilers, and I don’t do spoilers.

If you love epic, brilliant fantasy, with great writing and compelling characters, read this (also read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy – a favourite of mine) and then come and commiserate with me about the long wait till the sequel appears….

 

Book review: He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly 

Book review: He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly 

I do like a good psychological thriller and this is a cracker. 
Erin Kelly has written a heck of a book, and the twists keep on coming. 

Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of Laura, with some chapters by her partner Kit. Both are witnesses to a crime that brings them into contact with Beth, who might be dangerous or is she? 

Eyewitness testimony is a rather complex subject (I live with an expert on it) but it’s the fallout of the case Laura and Kit testify at that drives the drama in the narrative. Eventually Laura is living her life in ongoing terror and spiralling anxiety, something I can relate to  (though thankfully not in the same circumstances). 

I did not expect the clever twist at the end, which flips the plot on its head – no spoilers here. 

I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read it asap. 

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

If you haven’t read the prequel, Six of Crows, go do so and come back. 


Has Kez Brekker gone too far this time? After being double crossed at the end of Six of Crows he and his gang are after revenge.  

An elaborate scheme to get what they’re owed and then some, but with enemies piling up and short on resources, can Kez and Co pull it off? 

This is a read it in one sitting book, rip roaring alone at some pace and peopled with the characters I loved in the first book. Nina the Grisha Heartrender and her stoic Fjerdan love Matthew, fast on the draw Jesper and clever but illiterate Wylan.

This definitely needs to be read after Six of Crows, so much of the plot depends on knowing the first book. 

I don’t want to say too much or spoil the book so I’ll post this very short almost a review. 

If you love fantasy and thrillers, read Six of Crows and then read Crooked Kingdom. 

Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I got this in my last Illumicrate and for some reason put off reading it till now. I think I just wasn’t sure about it. Foolish me. This book is a right cracker. 

Mia Corvere was once a pampered daughter of a wealthy and important man, now she is a creature of death and shadows.  

She wants vengeance for the deaths of her family and will train in the ways of the Red Church to get there, if it doesn’t kill her. 

The writing is strong and the characters are fun, from a horse called Bastard to the shadow-cat only Mia can see, they’re richly drawn and as the plot thickens and gathers tempo I found it harder and harder to put it down. 

The first in a planned trilogy Nevernight is set in an alternate world, with three suns in the sky and warring gods whose squabbles are echoed by their believers. 

Book Review: Unbecoming-Jenny Downham 

Book Review: Unbecoming-Jenny Downham 

Katie, the heroine of Jenny Downham’s book is 17 and fed up. Her whole life seems to be falling apart, her parents have split up, her brother has learning disabilities, her mum is taking over her life and now her gran, a woman she doesn’t know, has arrived in her life and needs her help. 
I seem to be reading a lot of family sagas recently and this is one of the better ones. Flicking between Katie’s present and her grandmother Mary’s past, family secrets are coming to life and changing things – perhaps for the better. 

I really liked the writing, the plot’s involving but doesn’t bash you over the head with cleverness or shout “look at me, I’m a plot twist!” like some things I’ve read recently, nor is it overly predictable. 

Katie’s personal story does at times feel a little unnecessary and awkward, I’m also a bit puzzled at times as to when the ‘modern’ part is set as some very old-fashioned opinions seem quite present, or maybe that’s just me. 

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

I don’t believe in ghosts, in things that go bump in the night, I grew up in a house that’s the best part of 200 years old and felt perfectly happy, I wandered around Hampton Court Palace and didn’t notice a single cold spot or headless Ann Boleyn.

I think ghost hunters and stories work best if you’re susceptible to them, and that’s certainly what happens when Eleanor is invited to spend a summer in the supposedly sinister Hill House by Dr Montague.

There are strange noises, cold spots, singing coming from empty rooms and blood dripping down the walls. As Eleanor, Theodora, Luke and the Doctor spend their nights trapped in Hill House, they all start to go a bit odd.

They become suspicious of one another, listening at doors and watching each other. Their paranoia knows no bounds. When Dr Montague’s wife and her ‘friend’ arrive to test the house’s manifestations, the whole thing begins to boil over.

The claustrophobia of the house, combined with the sinister layout and the apparent religious fervour of its builder, create a heady atmosphere for people, like Eleanor and Theodora (picked by the Dr for their supposed psychic sensitivity), and drives things to a tragic conclusion.

Jackson is a wonderful writer, her work is atmospheric and sinister, I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which played out like an extended locked room mystery with its cast of characters self-imposed prisoners in one big, slightly creepy house, and here she presents another.

I wasn’t scared, but intrigued by the premise, is the house sinister because the Dr has told them it is, or is there truly something there? You decide.

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Book Review; Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Review; Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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One of my favourite forms of story telling is the re-imagining of fairy tales and myths, I wrote part of my MA dissertation on this form of literature and whenever I find an old story in new words I am really excited to read it. Naomi Novik doesn’t disappoint.

Set in what might just be Poland, near the Russian border in a village plagued by an evil Wood, there’s a wizard called Dragon and a heroine called Agnieszka (after a Polish fairy tale), a legendary witch called Baba Jaga, and a tragedy that started it all.

It is absolutely beautifully written, totally captivating from the brilliant opening

line;

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”

to the fairytale ending where the heroes, having overcome terrible odds, live happily once more.

One of the things that interested me most was the changes made to the story of Baba Jaga (or Yaga) – a witch I was genuinely terrified of as a child having read about her. She lived in a house on chicken legs that could walk and when in one place it was surrounded by a fence made of human bones and she ate people. Oh and she travelled in a giant pestle and mortar. I was absolutely convinced she was real and going to come and get me.

Here, however, she is recast as a historic figure, her spells those of ordinary folk not educated wizards, her power rooted in the earth. I think I would have been less terrified if she had been presented a little more sympathetically than in my book of fairy tales as a child.

This is one of the things I find more intriguing than anything in these retellings, the subtle changes made to the stories, so that while still familiar, they are also wholly new and fresh every time.

Have you read Uprooted? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.