Yesterday I shared with you Clare Fisher’s guest post on self-acceptance and it was a piece I asked her to write considering that it was mentioned as a theme in her debut novel. Huge thanks to the publisher, and Josie, for finding my blog and sending me a copy of the book (Plus a nifty themed notebook). My review is not affected by this. I will share my honest opinion below.
I gave the book the somewhat arbitrary rating of 4.5 stars on Goodreads. I struggle with giving numbers but do it anyway?! I tend to not be a reviewer who rounds up half stars either and reserve my 5 stars for something Je Ne Sais Quois. Do you know what? I think I need to come up with my own qualitative rating scale. I really can’t stand numbers. But other people look at them and … anyway. Back to the book.
This is an accomplished debut. Clare has succeeded in creating a character in Beth that is so flawed, so complex, so bloody human that I have a million different thoughts about her. Good books change you, and I think reading books means different things to you at different points in time when you read them. When I read this again, which I hope to, who knows how my thoughts will change.
If you’ve read reviews of mine before you might be aware that I don’t always write about things like the use of language and other objective stuff. I write about how the book affects me. That’s because to me reading is about emotion. About ideas and stories and it is about how it connects with me. I can make objective statements about books but I prefer to make subjective ones. Because you know what. My opinion will never be the same as anyone else’s. I break one of the cardinal rules of reviewing but it’s my blog so *pokes tongue out.
Back to Beth. She is 21. She’s in prison. She refers to a bad thing that she has done. Her counsellor Erika asks her to write down all of the good things in her life.
I loved how the chapter titles were the summary of the good things, and especially that one is left blank. It was such a clever device and structured the book so well.
We hear from Beth’s point of view in first person narration. We are limited to her view but we can see outside it. Can read between the lines. So clever. I love how she talks. I love that she’s a reader. Booky people are just awesome.
But Beth thinks she isn’t awesome. Beth has done something bad and bad people don’t deserve to be happy. Except that there are rarely, if ever, truly truly bad people, we are a product of genetics and circumstance. And Beth doesn’t have the best lot in life.
Does that excuse the bad thing?
Does that make the bad thing understandable?
Does it mean she never deserves a moment of happiness? Never deserves good things?
Crime and punishment is such an interesting topic and as an Occupational Therapist who has studied Psychology, Sociology and of course Occupation I am so interested by this. Hate the act. Hate the outcome. Try to understand the person.
So. Why didn’t I give it 5 stars? Reading my review I don’t really know. I hope Clare won’t mind being tagged in this review because I’m going to be honest. It just didn’t. I did kind of guess the bad thing early on – not that it truly mattered really except in that I felt it was made up to be such a big thing that it felt slightly anticlimactic. And you know what. That was possibly the point.
I also felt it ended a little abruptly and with lots unanswered. Again this isn’t at all a bad thing and wanting more is the sign of a good book.
In summary, if you’ve actually read my waffle (well done if you have – please let me know somehow), if you are interested in humanity, in why good people do bad things or why bad people do good things, in how you define good and bad. Read this book. I hope you won’t regret it.
I think I’m going to use my branded notebook to write about All the Good Things in my life. Because there really is some shit at times. But even with the shit there is some good, and that’s what we need to find. The glimmer of hope.
Clare. Thank you for your glimmer.
A very happy book birthday to Strange the Dreamer – the first in a new duology by Laini Taylor author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.
This has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 after reading a sampler last year. The sampler also encouraged me to finally read her first series, which I loved, and I entirely blame, for making me plan a trip to Prague in 2018.
The setting of Strange the Dreamer is entirely fictional so that should save me some money, although I will be needing the follow up in Hardcover too. I got my little grabby hands on a beautiful signed and blue edged copy on Saturday so spent the weekend reading it. I’d already made a mask prop for bookstagram and the story is set in a city called Weep so Sadness was a must for the picture below.
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 to 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?
In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.
Welcome to Weep.
What I Thought
Looking at the reviews on Goodreads it appears Laini Taylor is quite a polarising author, and I’m glad to say I am fully in the love her camp. Her writing is so beautiful that it made me read more slowly because I didn’t want to miss any words or the images they create. I’m not a very visual reader normally but, I can see her worlds.
We are thrown straight in to a world where people have two hearts and blood and spirit runs through them. I would have liked a pronunciation guide for some of the words because my brain was getting twisted trying to read them but I loved the myth and mystery that that bought.
Much as in her previous series we focus mainly on two points of view, that of Lazlo and the blue skinned goddess, though we do step into the minds of other characters too at times. There was only one point where the POV shifted within a scene unexpectedly. But, it was in a shared scene.
Lazlo is a dreamer and believer, a lover of books and stories, and as a fellow book person I was naturally drawn to him, but I also felt for Sarai, and was compelled by her inner conflict. Gods and Monsters seems to be a common theme in Laini’s work and she doesn’t shy away from exploring the murky side of what makes a Hero or a Villain. Consequently her characters are rich and complex, as well as humorous and human. There’s one character that reminded me of Claudia from Interview with a Vampire and there is more than one heartbreaking relationship explored in this book.
I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it but this book is magic and you will want to savour it and it will destroy you and … how long do we have to wait until part two?
If you’ve read the book and want to discuss DM me on twitter.
Also over the weekend I read samplers for The Boy on the Bridge by MR Carey and Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh but thankfully only have to wait until May to read them. Lucky really as I’ll be doing Camp NaNo in April.
Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements. *Tintagel, in case you were wondering.
What I Thought
Well, I couldn’t defy Rick Riordan – I loved this story.
This is a fantastic addition to the fantasy genre aimed at younger readers (with much older ones able to enjoy it just as much).
Lily and Thorn are both great lead characters and immediately make you want to invest in their story. And, what a story. It’s full of twists and turns and working out who is good and who isn’t (like anything is that simple anyway) will keep you guessing. I found myself questioning my mind many times. The only one slight frustration I had was how easily the characters jumped to conclusions at times, but I will forgive them this time.
There are three key animal sidekicks in this and each play an important role in the story, there’s a clue to my favourite one on the front cover.
There is clearly a lot more to know about this world and the magic within in but the information is being given to us piece and piece, when necessary, and makes you want more. So I’m very happy to say there will be at least two more books in this series. Dream Magic comes out in 2017 and Burning Magic has been announced too.
If you like…Seven reasons you will love Shadow Magic
- Books in maps
- Abraxos in the Throne of Glass series – Hades is very cool
- Mia’s magic in Nevernight
- Game of Thrones (for a MG audience)
- A feministy slant to your books – women aren’t allowed to do magic – What?!
- Spooky castles with secret tunnels
- Graveyards, ghosts and zombies
Scholastic are really doing well on their acquisition of middle grade fantasy. Looking forward to reading more.
Check out the rest of the tour on the blogs below
I received a copy of the book from the publisher but as ever the review and opinion on the book is ALL MINE.