Review: Strange the Dreamer

To celebrate the release of the Strange the Dreamer paperback, I’m sharing my review of the book!

Strange the Dreamer is a masterpiece through and through. It’s beautifully constructed and the setting and characters are so vivid and intoxicating. It’s the story of Sarai and Laslo. She is a magical being who resides in the lost city of Weep, and he is a librarian on an expedition to rediscover Weep.

The whole book is a slow-burn, gradually introducing you to this new world. But it has all the familiar Lani Taylor traits you’ve come to love if you’ve read her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. There’s magic, mystery, and fairytales. But rather than being super plot driven, it’s a character study. The story of a blossoming relationship between these two unlikelies. The scenes when Sarai and Laslo are connected are so atmospheric and heart-warming, I wanted to stay with them forever. Additionally, as much as I loved the primary characters, the secondary ones are also something special. You feel connected to all of them, and I would read a companion novel about every single one!

But, there’s a twist. An excruciating one that had me reeling for the next book, like, right now. (Luckily, we’ve not long to wait, as Muse of Nightmares comes out 2nd October.) Strange the Dreamer has to be one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels, and I really can’t wait to be immersed in this world once again.

Buy on Amazon |Pre-order Muse of Nightmares
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Review: The Fandom by Anna Day

The Fandom was a strange mix of dystopian satire, Inkheart, and a convention book. While I was relieved to find that the characters get transported into the world of their favourite book within the first 50 pages, I knew from the very beginning that this wasn’t going to be for me.

The premise sounded amazing. I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. But the opening chapter featured Violet reciting the plot of ‘The Gallow’s Dance’ to her English class as a presentation on plots. First of all, I had to suspend my disbelief that this class would actually happen and I was surprised no one in the audience shouted SPOILERS! This should have been a dead giveaway that the world building wasn’t going to work how I expected.

But nothing quite compares to how deeply I despised the quote-unquote friendship between Violet and Alice. For one, Violet and Katie are straight up bitchy towards her. They literally laugh when someone makes fun of her all ‘she deserved it, about time someone shot her down!’ and that kind of rivalry and competition between friends is not what I’m about. This kind of behaviour does not warrant the term ‘friendship.’ They break friends and make up so many times in this book, I couldn’t keep track.

While they were transported into the world of ‘the book’ there was an awful lot of movie references. Violet kept referring to a script, which made me wonder why it wasn’t just a film franchise to begin with. I really liked the moments where the script format was used – it was very cleverly done – and I wish there had been a bit more like it too.

I also wished that the book had leant more into the dystopian satire aspect, as all the characters were self-aware in the fictional world that the love interest had a silly name, and there was always a rebel group fighting against the government. It could’ve done something really interesting with setting up expectations, but the plot ended up being a pretty conventional for urban fantasy/dystopian fiction.

There’s not great consistency when it comes to the dramatic irony. Basically, Violet has to live out the life of the main female character in ‘The Gallow’s Dance’ so she knows exactly what she has to do, but there’s not really any sense of foreboding. (Apart from the whole ‘I will hang in four days’ line, which I swear was repeated OVER and OVER again to NO effect.) The whole magic system was underdeveloped too. And I had a lot of questions. Not only in the fictional world turned reality, but about how they ended up in the fictional world to begin with.

As for the writing, it was very repetitive. Day kept stressing that even though Nate was 14 he was more like a 5 year old, and I couldn’t help thinking, why not just make him five years old then?? It was supposed to add emotional impact, but I just kept getting annoyed that Violet was infantilising her brother.

The ending was far too twee, and I’m not sure whether to expect a sequel. I’m not sure how the stakes would change, but I feel like there’s still more of the fictional world to explore. Since we the reader were told the plot of the book in the very first chapter, nothing really came as a surprise…I’m disappointed that I wasn’t more impressed with this book, as it seemed like an absolute dream.

Review: Unblemished and Unraveling by Sara Ella

*Note: We received these books from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

UNBLEMISHED

I knew before going into Sara Ella’s series that it was going to give me ‘Once Upon a Time’ vibes. I’d heard Sara talk about ‘Unblemished’ on her YouTube channel (where she’s done an excellent series about getting it published!) and so had some idea of what to expect.

A girl called Eliyana wakes up one day to find that the world isn’t what it seemed. With her mother’s death looming over her, suddenly everyone in her life has a different role in another world on the other side of the Reflection. This world is like a fairy tale, with queens, kings, magic and villains that are out to get Eliyana because of the large birthmark on her face.

I don’t feel like I can explain the plot more than that because from 20% into the story, you’re constantly introduced to new characters and concepts, all with the own names like the Kiss of Accord and Callings and…well, there are too many to list. The world building is intense and so is the backstory. The queen was having an affair, the king has an evil brother, Eliyana might be related to one of her love interests, she’s claimed for good, she’s claimed for evil…it was all very classic if you’re used to fairy tale worlds, but it was a lot to take on board, nevertheless. I found it difficult to find my feet with this story because every time I thought I grasped something, there’d be a new thing to learn.

There’s a love triangle – not between prince and guard, but guard and guard, which was kind of cool. Both boys felt a little one dimensional for me, and their love for Eliyana was too many words and not enough actions. For the first book, that is. The love triangle only gets more intense with the marriage proposal at the end…

UNRAVELING

And (a week later) having read the second book, I can confirm that the love triangle 100% ramps up as El has to decide which of the boys she likes best, while they fight to gain her affections. Oh, and one becomes evil. No big deal. It’s definitely an interesting dynamic and one that will bring the biggest resolve to the final book. As for who’s side I’m on, I’m not sure. Both guys have proved themselves. Ky is more stand-offish and Joshua is The Sweet One but who knows how the tables will turn.

With another quest, pirates and fairy tales, Unraveling is again a lot to take in but there’s always something go on to make you want to read just one more chapter. It’s also neat that the chapter titles are lyrics from ‘I See The Light’ from Tangled. (And the book title is the opposite of Tangled…mind blown.)

If you like fairy tales, love battles and adventures to different lands that seems way more familiar than you think, this series is definitely worth checking out!

Review: Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power by Mariko Tamaki

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This review is going to be short and sweet, just like this book. Lumberjanes, if you don’t know already, is a graphic novel series created by a bunch of awesome ladies about a group of awesome girls who spend their summers earning badges for doing outrageously fun things. For example, finding unicorns, or deep sea diving with mermaids. There are already five+ graphic novels in the series, and Unicorn Power is the first middle grade novel to be added to the series that takes the essence of the artwork and puts it in prose form.

The great thing about this book was how authentic it was to the already established Lumberjanes brand. The girls all act exactly how they would, and we even learn more about them in different situations because full prose allows for me background info than a graphic novel would.

As the cover suggests, April is definitely the central character of the story, so if she’s your fave, this one’s for you – but each girl gets a moment to shine.

There are also small illustrations that accompany the text and chapter headings, as well as the classic badge descriptions at the beginning of each part. Just like a GN, there are four different badges to focus on.

My favourite part of the story, though, was the introduction of Barney, who identifies with ‘they/them’ pronouns and only just became a Lumberjane after being part of the male equivalent group. This representation is so important, especially in a middle grade novel, and I hope Barney is more prominent in the next books.

Overall, this is perfect for Lumberjanes fans looking for a fun and quick read, but also does wonders to introduce an established world to new audiences. Hurrah for hard-core lady types!

Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Now I Rise was one of my most anticipated sequels of the year. I absolutely loved And I Darker, though I thought the series had room to grow and, boy, did it ever!

FINALLY. Lada, murderess extraordinaire, has ARRIVED.

The first book is so beautiful with the character’s childhoods and world building being super rich, detailed and well researched. And I had the same sort of enchantment with the writing in this book. Book two definitely has more of a focus on war, with Radu being sent of to put some feelers out in Constantinople, like, we’re on the edge of a big siege. Now, this would normally put me off, but it was still resolutely based in the characters more than anything.

While I really enjoyed Lada being present and ruthless, it was Radu’s sections that I was most engaged with. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell you what Lada was getting up to other than sticking her middle finger at anyone with biased gender expectations.

Radu was going through an emotional journey and I was here for it. BUT first of all, let’s take a moment to appreciate Nadzira aka. the unsung hero of this entire series. I would read an eight book series all about her, to be honest. Even though I hate Throne of Glass, I would compare her to Nehemia, in the way she’s got her finger on the pulse of scandal and knows so much more about the social and political situations that she’s got this air of regality that no one can overlook. Nadzira and Fatima are ultimate cuties, too.

Anyway, back to Radu, who, in book one, could be summed up with the phrase ‘Mehmed please love me’ but now he’s left to deal with his previous emotions, and do some serious re-evaluation. Does he want to be a pawn? Not really, but he’s still loyal to Mehmed. He wants to know what Lada’s up to, but he’s pretty sure she thinks he’s betrayed her, so… things are tricky. I won’t go into the plot of the actual book but you can tell that he’s between a rock and a hard place, so watching him grow in this restricted situation was wonderful. Also, there’s a potential new love interest for him, and I am really looking forward to seeing Radu happier in the future, so I can’t wait to see this slow burn!

Still, I’m really intrigued with where this story is going to go because now I feel like Radu has come to some sort of resolution, but Lada’s still got a lot to happen to her, so the next book will probably be a reversal of focus.

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Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

After hearing so much hype about Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath & The Dawn duology on booktube (plus, I’m obsessed with the new UK covers!) I decided it was about time that I read something by her! Flame in the Mist is her latest release which Goodreads calls ‘Mulan meets Throne of Glass.’ I’ve also heard a few people say that it’s a mash-up retelling of Mulan and 47 Ronin, and on both occasions, ‘Mulan’ is the only thing I’m interested in, so I was looking forward to some cross-dressing shenanigans. However, as you’ll already noticed by my star-rating, I found myself a little disappointed. I think this was mostly because I’d read another ‘Mulan’ mash-up retelling recently – though this time it’s ‘Mulan meets Pitch Perfect’ – in Riley Redgate’s Noteworthywhich was A++

Continue reading “Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh”

(Spoiler) Review: Aurabel by Laura Dockrill

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I first heard that there was going to be a sequel to one of my favourite books, Lorali, at an event that Laura Dockrill did in the spring. Since then, Aurabel has been one of my most anticipated releases, as the first book left me on quite the cliffhanger. In order to discuss everything, I’ll have to spoil some of the events, but don’t worry, asterisks will warn you!  Continue reading “(Spoiler) Review: Aurabel by Laura Dockrill”

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

33393824Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Titan
Pages: 508
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

So, I buddy read this with my girl Lea, and I would highly recommend reading her review because she picks apart issues with consent, and being German she has A+ critique on the use of language. I will also mention now that had I not been reading his with her then I would’ve DNF around page 70. Her sass was literally the only thing keeping me going. (Example: one of the best things Lea said in our discussion was that this is more ‘Fifty Shades of Goblin’ than a Labyrinth retelling. (Go an commend her on that pun because I died.))

Continue reading “Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones”

Review: The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon

32467656The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 400
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★.5
Series: Take Back The Skies (#1) | The Almost King (#2)

First of all, let’s just take a moment to die over how beautiful this cover is. THE COLOURS. This is the third book in the Tellus series, and probably my favourite of the books so far. Each story centres on a different main character in a different country of the fantastical world, and The City Bleeds Gold follows Noah, the future queen’s almost-finance, who moonlights as Daniel, who searches for truth and justice in the lower areas of the city to bring down the big bad.

Continue reading “Review: The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon”

Review: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

31671570A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
Genre:
Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 666
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) | A Gathering of Shadows (#2)
Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

I have been in love with this series for a year, and the time has finally come: the release of A Conjuring of Light. I also don’t want this to be a spoiler review and that’s going to be hard so I’m just going to do what we always do on Heart Full of Books when it’s a book we really liked and make a list. I’m going to do this slightly differently and work through some of my thoughts whilst I was reading, let’s go!  Continue reading “Review: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab”