Reverential for Strange the Dreamer

strange the dreamerThis book was everything I hoped it would be. From the exquisite and striking opening to the excruciating ending, I was absolutely absorbed in this. As I have come to expect from Taylor, the writing was so quotable and the world building beautifully distinct.

“We are all children in the dark, here in Weep.”

I don’t know what there is to say about Lazlo Strange, the main character, other than I *loved* him. Everything from his name to his looks to his personality was perfectly drawn. I was rooting for him from the second he was introduced. I don’t want to go into spoilers, but his ridiculous drive to help even his enemies made him one of the most adorably selfless characters I’ve ever come across and I think I will always, always rate him as a favourite now.

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming.” 

And ugh I was definitely against his nemesis Thyon. While Taylor expertly showed us where he was coming from and made his motivations understandable, all I wanted to do was hit him over the head with a giant book. He was the worst kind of villain, because he didn’t just steal tangible objects… he stole dreams. His cruelty reminded me of the pain of plagiarism and I saw this as a clever allegory for intellectual property theft.

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around”

Miraculously, I was as invested in Sarai’s story. As the Muse of Nightmares (another great title), her powers were so imaginative and really added another dimension to the storytelling.

“If you’re afraid of your own dreams, you’re welcome here in mine.”

The romance in this really worked for me, especially as it was a slow burn. I squealed so loudly when they finally got together.

“I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite. And I hope you’ll let me be in your story.” 

Of course, the mysteries and stories of Weep really worked for me as well. While I did see one of the plot twists coming a mile off, I did not know what would happen and would have never pictured that finale. It was an agonising torment to see where it went- and I really can’t wait for book 2!

5/5 bananas

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This is why Laini Taylor is one of my favourite authors! I’ve never deducted a single banana from her books… so forgive me for the very biased review 😉

Anyway- have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

And you can check out my thoughts on the sequel Muse of Nightmares here

Obsidio was OUT OF THIS WORLD!

obsidioI don’t get that many new books- but I simply *had to* have this one. I mean, you guys know how much I adored Illuminae and Gemina (although I know a fair number of you are new here- in which case welcome! And just to get you up to date at the speed of light: hi, I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I *love* these books!). I mean what’s not to love about a space adventure told in a “found files” kind of way?

I will admit that every time I start one of these books, I do have some trouble getting into the format. Don’t get me wrong- I think it’s phenomenally unique and different- only that sort of thing is always a double edged sword for me, because it takes a while to get used to. That said, each book has been inventive in its own way and I always end up completely immersed in the experience.

More importantly, as a conclusion this was devastatingly emotional. Unlike the first two, there wasn’t the entire universe on the line, but in a way that made it more poignant. Instead of floating around in the vast hypothetical territory of the previous books, this was more grounded and focused on individuals. While it was action packed and explosive like its predecessors, what gave me goosebumps was feeling closer to the people whose lives were on the line.

All the characters felt so real to me- I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat terrified of what might happen to them. The cast was expanded here, which meant we had less time to spend with some of the favourites we’d met in the last two books. But never fear- everyone still got space to breathe and the finale they deserved! Plus, I found the new characters added to the plot in a significant way and were a sympathetic link to the drama going down.

And boy was there drama! The *evil corporation* was upto no good and there was mischief a-foot closer to home as well. Speaking of which, spoilers for the first two books, who knew a murderous AI could be so hysterical?

Overall, this was an entertaining and gripping series- and the only reason it’s not getting a full feast of bananas is cos I’m nitpicky about how long it took to get into it and one grammatical question mark.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The Upside of A Man Called Ove

a man called oveIn many ways, this felt reminiscent of Up- minus the balloons of course. The crotchety old man at the core, the surprise friendships and the life purpose to pursue… though admittedly this is a far less jaunty goal and deals with some adult themes.

Still, even as this lurches into bleak territory, Backman’s light touch kept me steady and I ultimately found it an uplifting story. Not that it didn’t have its tearful moments- I went on quite the journey of emotions here: from chuckles to getting all watery-eyed to squee’ing with glee by the end (what can I say, I’m a big softie at heart 😉 )

I will admit to being a bit on edge after my experience with Beartown, expecting another political sneak attack- fortunately however the villainous Authorities were mercifully unrooted in political ideology- which only served to make them more chilling (frankly, who isn’t bothered by faceless government agencies stomping on an individual’s freedom?). Fortunately, this ended up being a definite success and more than delivered on the promise of being a charming, heart-warming tale.

Above all, I adored the characters, especially Parvanah (I love how her name means “butterfly” and how much that both clashes with her personality and emphasises her brightness). And I do love how every single character was fleshed out- even the cat!

It was beautifully written. I especially thought the brief and effective use of ALL CAPS was brilliant- since that’s rarely done well. I did appreciate the blend of flashbacks as well. The one criticism I did have was that for such a short book, it took forever. While I did love it, the pacing was v e r y  s l o w.

Don’t let that put you off though! Maybe just read it when you’re more in the mood for something with a luxuriant pace.

4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comment!

Watch Out For My Sweet Friend! #BlogTour @HALeuschel @shanannigans81

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*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review!*

*Also this is my first ever blog tour post- so I’m PSYCHED- thanks a million to Reads and Reels for the opportunity*

My Sweet Friend High Res Cover

Well, Leuschel has done it again. After her intense debut, Manipulated Lives, I just knew I had to explore more of her realistic and chilling character study pieces.

And that’s what she does best here. The characterisation is delivered subtly, building up slowly over the course of the story, as you get to know the manipulator at a deliciously steady pace.

From the opening, I was drawn into a stiflingly realistic world and was naturally impressed with the execution. The writing was crisp, clear and coloured the scenes with an air of mystery effectively.

One of the things that worked so well in this novella was the interlocking of past and present- transitioning seamlessly from memories to thoughts. Thanks to this, there was plenty of intrigue. Wound up in the hints of where the story was going, I had a delectable sense of foreboding, keeping me wired right to the end.

When everything did come to a head it was gratifying, that’s for sure. The only additional thing I would have liked in this story was perhaps a little extra space for the drama in the conclusion- which basically can be summed up as the same problem I have with most novellas- especially when I’m enjoying them so much: MORE PLEASE. Because I really didn’t want this one to end- it was such an intoxicating read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Release Date: 6th December, 2017

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives

A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?

Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.

But is Alexa all she claims to be?

As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?

In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

Excerpt

Later that evening, as I sat down for dinner, I noticed my mobile flashing with an incoming notification. I tapped on the screen and read a text from a yet unknown number.

Thanks so much for making me feel welcome. Have a nice evening. Alexa.

That’s nice, I thought. People usually loved moaning instead of complimenting.

It was a pleasure. I look forward to working with you, I typed back, ending the message with a smiley emoji.

I finished my meal then walked over to the table where I’d left the day’s post, heaped up in a neat pile, but I froze at the sight of yet another dreaded envelope which pulled me straight out of my previous good mood.

It was another bill I’d have to somehow find the funds to cover. I knew of their regular arrival, yet I was still startled by the level of anxiety that rose in my chest when they were in my hands, making them tremble. Oh, Maman, I miss you so much.

Pain, guilt and anger built up each time I pictured my mother – the pain piercing through my stomach whenever I worriedly woke up at night, the guilt enveloping me when, like today, I’d laughed and worked without a single thought for her, and the anger, constantly there, because I didn’t know how to cope.

Goodreads | Purchase

Enter for your chance to win a digital copy (Format of Choice) of My Sweet Friend 

Rafflecopter Giveaway (hosted by the author)

About the Author

HA LeuschelHelene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches yoga.

Helene Leuschel | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Organised by:

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R&R Book Tours

My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel

Blog Tour Schedule

Feb. 19th

Reads & Reels (Feature Promo) http://www.readsandreels.com

Brizzle Lass Books (Excerpt) https://brizzlelassbooks.com

The Repeat Mom (Review) http://Thethreepeatmom.blogspot.com

Sinfully Wicked Reviews (Review) https://sinfullywickedbookreviews.wordpress.com

Nesie’s Place (Review) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Jill’s Book Blog (Review) https://jilljemmett.com

Feb. 20th

Books and Belle (Excerpt) https://booksandbelleblog.wordpress.com

Beware the Reader (Excerpt) http://bewareofthereader.com

Jenacidebybibliophile (Review) https://jenacidebybibliophile.com

Darque Dreamer Reads (Review) https://darquedreamerreads.wordpress.com

Cover to Cover (Excerpt) http://www.liisthinks.wordpress.com

Feb. 21st

Girl Masked (Review) http://girlmasked.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Excerpt) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Book Reviews by Shalini (Excerpt) www.bookreviewsbyshalini.wordpress.com

The Starving Book Worm (Review) http://thestarvingbookworm.wordpress.com

Tranquil Dreams (Review) http://klling.wordpress.com

Feb. 22nd

Splashes Into Books (Review) http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com

Kristin’s Novel Café (Review) https://knovelcafe.wordpress.com

The Bookworm Chronicles (Excerpt) https://www.muretbookworm.wordpress.com

Feb. 23rd

The Orangutan Librarian (Review) https://theorangutanlibrarian.wordpress.com

On the Shelf Book Reviews (Excerpt) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

Love Books Group (Review) http://lovebooksgroup.blog

Just 4 My Books (Review) https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com

Having Fun with Rulers and Mages!

*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review!*

rulers and magesI’m excited for today’s review! Rulers and Mages, the second in the Order of the Twelve Tribes series (first book reviewed here), picked up right where the last one left off and built on all its previous success!

From a strong, tense opening, the story entertained me straight away, reintroducing the villain and incorporating wonderfully descriptive world building. The writing was crisp, clear and instantly absorbing. As with the first instalment, I felt the song lyrics fit cleverly with each chapter. And while it was a little slow to start, it certainly picked up the pace and ended, well, magically.

One thing that Daley has definitely got down to a T is the exquisite way she blends the real world and the fey realms. I especially liked all her geeky references, many of which had me grinning. The myths are blended subtly into the plot and certainly give it a distinct flavour. What’s even better is how oblivious most humans are to the goings on of real-life mythological creatures.

What made this great as a sequel was how well the relationships were able to develop across the span of two books. With such a large cast, I did find I focused more on specific characters. I did feel like Emma’s mystery added to her characterisation and shifted my attention to her over others. However, the best development, I felt was for Avery and Madison.

Through these two characters, the author integrated aspects of what it’s like to be on the spectrum in a non-intrusive way and actually gave me a “huh I think I learned something!” moment (which may be a weird way to put it, but trust me, I rarely think that with fiction). You guys know how much I hate it when I think something’s forced- and this wasn’t like that at all. Especially since it became so plot relevant with one of the characters (no spoilers!) And I do think that this is something a lot of us could benefit from learning more about. This also ultimately served to add a layer of maturity to the book and that was much appreciated.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Have you checked out this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Revisiting the Phantom Tollbooth

phantom tollboothWhat a wonderfully eccentric, mad little book. I really could leave this review there, couldn’t I? Because who needs an introduction to the sheer magic that is the Phantom Tollbooth. I can still recall the first time this book took me on its wild trip into the Lands Beyond and I’m sure many of you can too.

Well, recently, feeling rather nostalgic, I’ve been having a bit of a children’s books binge- so of course, being an absolute classic, I had to pick this up. And WOW. It’s even better than I remembered.

On one level, it is an adventure story, pure and simple. Yet it doesn’t take long to delve beneath the surface and see the play on words- both figuratively and literally (visually toying with them on the page)- and find that at its heart this book offers so much more than a regular children’s story.

Language in the world of the Phantom Tollbooth is more than just a tool: it is a window into the wacky absurdity of the universe. Folded up within the pages of the book, the weird and wonderful glory of the world is revealed. Through the eyes of one bored boy, the reader is led on a journey to enlightenment. Thus Phantom Tollbooth teaches us to value our own existence.

And that is where the true charm of the book lies. Here, we get to discover the marvels of reality, the beauty of simple things and the power of imagination. Here, we get to see the importance of learning itself and just how much the world has to offer.

To say so much in such a small space makes this one of the most powerful children’s books of all time. And that’s why every child needs a phantom tollbooth.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Murder on the Orient Express- Quite the Journey!

murder-on-the-orient-express-agatha-christieSo I don’t know if you guys remember my Bookish Confessions where I said “I’ve never read an Agatha Christie book and I don’t plan to”… well apparently I lied. Not intentionally, but because of a few eager comments on that post, my curiosity was sparked. And then, thanks to a *brilliant* review by my friend Lashaan over at Bookidote, I knew I had to read it!! I ended up picking it up in a bookshop, thinking “let’s see what all the fuss is about”, and, one thing led to another, I got hooked!

No word of a lie- I’m actually experiencing a bit of a slump here, so I hardly expected a murder mystery written over 80 years ago to do anything  about that- yet I couldn’t for the life of me bring myself to put this book down.

First of all, I enjoyed the intriguing, somewhat atmospheric start. I found the characters vivid and delightfully drawn. I even found some of Poirot’s line’s chuckle worthy:

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(I know in context it’s just to show how perceptive Poirot is- but c’mon, what a 21st century insult- I was instantly rooting for him after that)

I will admit, not being a big mystery reader, I was pretty clueless about what was going on in the middle and I won’t pretend I followed a lot of it. For me personally, I felt it lagged a little. Even so, plotwise, I wouldn’t criticise it for that, because in the end…

WOW what a finale!! It made everything worth it!! I can’t say anything because you *do not* want to be spoilt for it. But even I, as a mystery virgin, found myself going “ohhh” as the clues slotted into place. Little things that had me frowning early on suddenly had me smiling as it all made sense. What’s even more impressive is for a book of its age, it felt fresh and completely not what I expected. I never saw that coming.

Unbelievably (at least for me), reading this has completely changed my mind about checking out Christie’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Have you read this? Did you enjoy it? And- I can’t believe I’m asking this- any other Agatha Christie books you can recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Watching Glass Shatter Broke New Ground For Me

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So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on here, but I’ve been experiencing a bit of an “end of year” slump. After months and months of reading at a breakneck speed, I’ve hit a bump in the road. Because, and I don’t know if you’re like me, when I read an insane amount a lot of that starts to blur together. I get to the point where it’s harder for things to stand out to me.

Annnd why am I talking about this? Well, this book broke through that barrier of samey-sameiness and did what so many books are failing to do for me right now. It was different.

The premise itself- the death of a patriarch, a child switched at birth, and a wait to find out the truth- gripped me from the start. Yet that was far from the only thing to keep me invested. Not only was the writing style crisp, clean and intriguing, but I also found that it was the characters which had me wanting more. Each one had their own distinct story, personality and secrets… There were so many secrets woven into the plot that I was hooked from beginning to end.

Now I don’t normally go for family drama, so it speaks volumes how *crazily* invested I got in this family’s drama. So much so that I was teary-eyed by the end and sorry to put the book down! While I did have a niggling point of contention with the ending, which I won’t mention for fear of spoilers, this was a powerful story of loss, family and honesty. James Cudney, who you can follow on here, did a fantastic job with his debut.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Truly A Suitable Lie is Well Worth a Read

suitable lieEons and eons ago I read the most sensational, intriguing review over on Meggy’s awesome blog for this book- and I just knew I had to read this. Because WOW have you seen the way she writes reviews?!? Plus, it didn’t hurt that this book was coming from Orenda and I’ve liked all the books I’ve read of theirs so far (not spon- hehe I wish 😉 ) Point being, I couldn’t have been more excited to read this book… and I was right to be!

Right from the prologue Malone set a melancholic note, the tone tense, quiet and utterly absorbing. It was not an easy book to read, given the subject matter, but there was no way I could put the book down. Gripping to the last, the story rushed by, not pausing for breaks or bumps in the road, capturing every inch of the victim’s trauma and struggles.

Real and raw, this book exposed an issue too often overlooked. I can say I’ve rarely read a book like this that exposes the world of domestic strife so truthfully. And yet, thankfully, the story was not sacrificed on the altar of accuracy. Above all, this book was about feeling trapped, suffocating in a situation where there was no way out- that was the most powerful part.

I could appreciate, then, how much of a relief the ending was- just to turn that last page and know that I could return to the safety of my own bedroom. And the conclusion itself was satisfying- made even better by the fact that it was foreshadowed from the very beginning. Like all the best thrillers, you won’t expect it, but the clues are there. And you can’t really say fairer than that. In fact, I’d say this is well worth a read with:

4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Unfolding My Feelings For Crooked Kingdom

crooked kingdom….as much as that is possible to do. Because I swear this series had my emotions in a vice. Honestly I was nervous to even start, but I needn’t have feared because this book was hella entertaining. It was as twisty as Inej on a tightrope, as funny as Jesper’s banter, as smart as Kaz… you get the idea- it was fantastic.

I fell straight back into the world and the story and the characters. And then, right when it had me in the palm of its hand, it crushed all the spirits it had previously raised so high. Don’t worry, no spoilers, but somehow Bardugo managed to simultaneously incinerate my heart, and then stoke what remained over a deliciously warm campfire, until I melted in a puddle of marshmellowy gooey goodness (can you tell I’m getting ready for bonfire night?) To say this ending was bittersweet would be an understatement. But whatever my feelings were about it: it was glorious.

There are so many levels to enjoy this series on: adventure, romance, friendship, darkness, characterisation. I feel like it has something for everyone. But speaking of characters, I have to state the obvious: I was head over heels for them. Plus, it even had a couple of great cameos from the other Grisha series- though I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who it was for anyone planning on reading it 😉

And oh my goodness the writing! I rarely stop reading to write down quotes- but this was too damn good. “Knife edge posture”- *shivers*! Perfectly fabricated, it injected so much life into the characters and the story. I also loved the use of slang like “the deal’s the deal” to make the world feel so much more real.

Okay, clearly I could sing this book’s praises forever, so I’m gonna leave it there, with the very obvious final rating of:

5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!