Serena’s Review: “Strange the Dreamer”

28449207Book: “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Publishing Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Review: This books if full of dreams and mystery. Moths and monsters. Poems painted onto a page leaving stardust in its wake, and images leaping from page to mind in a way that pulls you further in. And, while the audiobook version of this story was incredible, I spent much of my time while listening wishing and dreading that the story would unfurl faster. And, by the end, this combination of joy and dread was the perfect explanation of this book.

Lazlo Strange is a boy who grew up without a name. He has one, but it is similar to the “Jon Snows” of the world, and his childhood was that of an orphan raised among monks who finds his true home in books, and then later, in a library. (Obviously the librarian in my loved the fact that Lazlo was a librarian and that this fact, combined with his love of dreams, fairytales, and curiosity (traits that ring true for librarians everywhere, I’m sure we’d all agree) was repeatedly referenced and critical to the story.) And when he’s given the opportunity to visit the mysterious city of Weep that had suddenly cut off contact with the rest of the world years ago, Lazlo, armed with his dreams, is quick to take up the call. What he finds is much more mysterious, wonderful, and terrible than he ever imagined.

Beyond this basic plot, it’s hard to discuss much of this book due to many of the mysteries at the core of this story. I will say that I was surprised to find, about a third of the way into the book, that we were given another viewpoint character. One who was completely shocking and tremendously important to the story. But one whose history, motives, and role in this book would spoil much of it if I dug in too deep.

Lazlo, himself, was a fantastic character. It is easy to see how he falls into the roles he does and becomes generally beloved by those around him. He’s endlessly optimistic, creative, and sees the world in a way that is new and, most importantly, beautiful. And, like Jon Snow, Lazlo is much more than he seems. I was able to guess where the story was going with his character, but given the many other mysteries that took me completely by surprise, and the ones that are still remaining, this is hardly much to pat myself on the back over.

Thematically, this story covers a lot of pretty dark and grim ground. I was surprised by the levels of brutality the author brought to play, but it became clear that nothing else would do to fully realize the true horrors and terrible choices that were before all the characters involved. Both “villains” on either side of the conflict were terrible and terribly tragic. It was easy to see how each ended up where they did, and to feel the brokenness of their characters, and question what one would have done differently in their positions.

Beyond this more individual level, the story explored systematic oppression and trauma. And, the other side of the coin, the ugly side of hatred and fear, even if those feelings are based in truths. There was one line in the book about good people being just as capable of committing atrocities as the bad ones, only in the good people’s case they call those atrocities “justice.” I loved this, and it’s just one of a million examples of the careful handling of difficult subjects that Taylor covers in this story.

But, to balance all of this darkness, there is the sheer beauty of Taylor’s writing and storytelling. I’ve read other books by her, but it’s been a while and I had forgotten just how creative and poetic her writing style is. It walks right up to the edge of purple prose, looks at it, and walks forward, fully confident that it is beautiful and that that accusation won’t stick. There’s not a single falter in the entire book in this aspect. And the style of writing is just half of it. The sheer expanse of creative and lovely imagery is staggering. Taylor creates worlds within worlds and then invites readers to immerse themselves alongside her characters.

The only point that knocks this down from a “10” rating is the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger. I didn’t know going in that this was part of a trilogy, so that’s on me. But I also feel that it is possible to write trilogies without cliffhangers, and I’ve just never personally cared for them. This, however, may not be as off-putting for other readers (especially for those who know about it, or at least the fact that this is the first in a series, going in). Even with it, I highly recommend this book for fantasy readers everywhere. I think this has been marketed as young adult, but I feel like it falls pretty firmly into “new adult” (whatever that really means in the larger scheme of things). Who cares! Any fantasy fan should check out this book!

Rating 9: Dark and mysterious, full of wonder and wonderful terror. A must read for fantasy fans!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Strange the Dreamer” is included on the Goodreads lists: “Emotion Overload in Fantasy/Paranormal” and “Original Stories . . . a Breath of Fresh Air.”

Find “Strange the Dreamer” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion”

34690764Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” by Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage (Ill.), Laura Braga (Ill.), Mirka Andolfo (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, October 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Based on the hit DC Collectibles product line! As World War II rages across Europe, the Bombshells battle new enemies showing up out of the woodwork… and a Bombshell we haven’t seen since the Battle of Berlin shows up to help!
The incredibly popular DC Collectibles line is brought to life in these stories that reimagine the course of history! From writer Marguerite Bennett (BATGIRL, EARTH 2: WORLD’S END) and featuring artists including Marguerite Sauvage (HINTERKIND), Laura Braga (Witchblade) and Mirka Andolfo (Chaos) comes DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 5. Collects #26-29 and the DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS ANNUAL #1.

Review: Ever since I discovered the “DC Bombshells” series, I’ve kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Far too often do I find a comic series that I love, and inevitably have to have that moment of ‘oh, that was kind of lame’. It happens for most series and it’s by no means a bad thing! Sometimes there will be volumes that feel out of step with the others, and I’ve come to expect it and by no means hold it against the series as a whole. But for five volumes running, “DC Bombshells” hasn’t lost it’s step or it’s groove, and now we are at “The Death of Illusion” and I am STILL thrilled with almost everything about it as a whole.

We are now at the point where we can’t cover all of the characters in each volume, as there are too many and the cast is ever expanding. So while Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Renee Montoya, and the Gotham Batgirls sat this one out for the most part (more on that in a bit), we refocussed on a few familiar faces who had been away, some for a long time. Most importantly to me, we see the returns of Ivy and Harley, who are now an established lesbian power couple and leaving Atlantis to try and stop a famine in Russia, as Ivy plans to grow food for them. I already have to gush and geek out about this. I LOVE that in these stories, there is just as much creation as there is destruction. The women in this series are not only fighting to save the world, they are also trying to nurture the world back to life. It’s lovely and positive and a testament to the power of ladyfriends! With this plot line we get to see the less talked about ravages of war, specifically the starvation in Leningrad.

We also get the return of Supergirl, which was both excellent and bittersweet. Kara is still very much in mourning over her sister Stargirl, and she and Steve Trevor find themselves in the clutches of Doctor Hugo Strange. Supergirl teams up with Lois Lane, who has her own reasons for wanting to take revenge on Strange, and they both have to face their pasts and those that they are mourning if they hope to defeat this madman who has violated them both in various ways. I liked that Kara’s trauma regarding Kortni dying is still very present, as it shows that she is very much human as well as Kryptonian. With war comes loss and with loss comes grief, and I love that Bennett is showing that these costs take great tolls, even on the strongest of us all. And along with this plotline comes the first of the two debuts that made me freak out. I don’t really want to spoil it here, because it was a gasp worthy reveal, but…… OKAY FINE,

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(source)

SUPERMAN IS HERE, GUYS!! SUPERMAN IS HERE!!! But worry not, because while he has made his debut, much like Arthur Curry he does not step on any toes while doing so. While I’m sure it’s tempting to make him the focus, as he is, after all, the iconic Superman, this is still very much more Kara’s story than his, and he is staying in his lane as of right now.

Our universe expands again in this volume, as we go back to see Amanda Waller, who is one of the leaders of the Bombshells. She is tracking down a reclusive figure, a French woman who was a flying ace during WWI, but then disappeared into the swamps of Louisiana after her lover Luc vanished and was presumed dead. She hires Frankie Charles to go and find this strange woman. And who, is this strange woman?

Guys. Batgirl has arrived.

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I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT!! (source)

And not only is she here, but her storyline opens up a whole new set of possibilities involving her, Waller, Frankie, and The Suicide Squad. That’s right, WE ARE GETTING THE SUICIDE SQUAD!!!!!! I was admittedly hoping a bit for Secret Six (if Scandal Savage ended up in these pages I would absolutely DIE), but this is also excellent.

So yes, the shoe has not dropped yet and “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death Illusion” has only upped the stakes when it comes to this series. It’s flying so high, and while I’m still terrified that it’s going to come crashing down, it has yet to do so. It oozes positivity and girl power, and it continues to be one of the most empowering and fun comics out there.

Rating 9: With the returns of Supergirl, Ivy, and Harley, along with the debuts of some familiar faces, “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” continues the streak of excellence.

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” is fairly newish and isn’t on many Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think that it would be good on “Graphic Novels Featuring LGBTQ Themes”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously reviewed:

Highlights: January 2018

2018!!! Whaaaaat? [Insert witty comment that somehow accidentally ages oneself and reveals that 2018 might be a decade from a certain graduation year for one of us…and not the graduation you’d wish in this instance.] But never mind that! We will also NOT discuss the dumpster fire that was 2017. Instead, we choose to remember last year by all of the excellent books we read, and will look forward to 2018 as nothing more or less than another year during which we will read even more! So, without further ado, here are a few books we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

26032825Book: “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Though I haven’t had a chance to review one of her books on this blog, I’m a huge fan of Holly Black. She writes just the sort of dark fantasy that I right up my alley. So, when I saw a new one coming out from her, I knew it would make it onto this list. When I read that the story was going to feature a group of orphaned sisters who had been stolen away as small children and raised in a cruel and capricious Faerie court, I knew I had to get my hands on it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It’s like Holly Black opened my own personal wish list for fantasy fiction and pulled out this book just for me!

27366528Book: “Beneath the Sugar Sky” by Seanan McGuire

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Why I’m Interested: I’ve read and loved (to varying extents) the first two novellas in McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series, so it’s a no brainer that I would include her next book on this list. From the description, it looks like we’ll see a continuation of a plot point (Sumi’s death back in book one) that I definitely never expected. Somehow the story features Rini, Sumi’s daughter, who is on a mission to bring her mother back to life. So I’m guessing there’s some sort of “Back to the Future” stuff going on here? Other than that, the title implies that we’re going to spend some time in Sumi/Rini/s world of candyland, one of the worlds we’ve heard about but never visited so far.

33257757Book: “Iron Gold” by Pierce Brown

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

Why I’m Interested: A continuation of the “Red Rising” trilogy!!!…oh…you want more than that? Well, to be honest, that same excitement about the continuation of a much-loved trilogy is also tinged with extreme amounts of worry. I’m always concerned when authors revisit stories that they had originally ended a few years ago. Is there really a new story to be told? Or are they just dipping back in a known well and will somehow retroactively damage the quality of the originals? I’m pleased to see that the story will be set 10 years after the first trilogy and that it will feature more protagonists than just Darrow himself. These avenues will hopefully provide options for keeping this world and story fresh. I’m so excited! I’m so nervous!

Kate’s Picks

29749090Book: “Batman: Nightwalker” by Marie Lu

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s take on Wonder Woman in “Wonder Woman: Warbringer”, which was the first in the “DC Icons” series. This series is a set of  books written by some of the hottest YA authors about some of the coolest DC characters. Up next is “Batman: Nightwalker” by Marie Lu, and I must say that I’m QUITE excited for this one. First of all, it’s about my main dude Batman, specifically Bruce Wayne when he’s a teenager and before he’s officially become Batman. I like Lu’s writing style (I read “WarCross” last year and found it very fun, and I think that she can bring a good amount of edge and excitement to Bruce.)

33918883Book: “Before I Let Go” by Marieke Nijkamp

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: One of the stories that I didn’t really talk about in “Feral Youth” was written by Marieke Nijkamp. It was dark and brooding, and had a lot of hard themes and good characterization. When I saw that she had a new book coming out in January, “Before I Let Go”, I wanted to explore more than just a short story of hers. This book sounds like part small town conspiracy, part psychological chiller piece. When Corey’s best friend Kyra dies in their small Alaska town, she is heartbroken. And when it seems like the townspeople are hiding something, Corey has to delve into the dark secrets to find out what happened to her friend. My guess is this one will be tense and twisty.

35248505Book: “S.T.A.G.S.” by M.A. Bennett

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Why I’m Interested: It’s another book with bitchy boarding school girls and danger at every turn!! You know I’m into it. “S.T.A.G.S.” already came out in England last year, but it’s finally making it’s Stateside debut and I’m itching to get my hands on it. When Greer gets a scholarship to the prestigious St. Aidan the Great School (or S.T.A.G.S.), she is shunned from the cliquey atmosphere. But she is soon invited to a weekend holiday by a group called the Medievals, the most popular kids in school. Little does she know that her invitation is merely to set her up as bait. “The Most Dangerous Game” meets “Pretty Little Liars”, “S.T.A.G.S.” is sure to be a soapy thrill ride.

What are you most excited to read this month? Let us know in the comments!