Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor || 4.5 Stars

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Title: Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

Published: October 2, 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: 

*If you’re new to the series. Please see my review of book one. Synopsis contains spoilers for book 1 and is taken from Goodreads.*

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

Note: I received buttons and signed sample chapters of book one from the publisher. I bought both books myself. Opinions are my own.

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Review

Initial Thoughts

When I first finished Muse of Nightmares I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Upon reflection, I’ve decided that love it.

Why the skepticism?

The reason for my initial skepticism has to do with the fact that the first time I read the book, I was debating whether or not I was satisfied with the novels confrontation scene between our main characters and the antagonist. It seemed that the antagonist didn’t interact with the main characters until late in the book and when they did, everything seemed to happen at once.

The final confrontation scene resolves rather quickly, with several major characters not needing to do much of anything to resolve the problem.

Why the change of heart?

Despite these initial qualms, the more I thought about what I’d read, the harder it became to stop thinking about it. So much so that it got to the point where I’d reread the whole book, and have reread most of it one time more and still this book lingered in my thoughts. For a while, I had a hard time determining why. Eventually, I came to the realization that this was because it’s not really the plot that I love about this book.

It’s the characters; the thought provoking exploration of human nature, even though a fair number of the characters aren’t fully human; and the beautiful, poetic writing that I love. Because, the heart of most books isn’t their plot: it’s their characters’. And, what beautiful characters we have here.

With this in mind, I’ve changed my initial assessment that this book should be rated 4 our of 5 to a 4.5 out of five.

The Characters

This book juggles too many points of view for me to count, yet I was never confused as to whose perspective I was reading because all the characters have such unique voices. Lazlo didn’t get nearly as much time to narrate here as he did in book one, but he was still ever present on the page.

Sarai took center stage in this one, hence the book being named after her, and the book features more of the side characters from book one. Also added to the mix are Kora and Nova, whose story initially seems unrelated to the book as a whole but whose connections to the main plot eventually become apparent.

What’s Next?

The way this book ended makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing more of these characters in a future series. Fingers crossed, because I would love that. 🙂 Only time will tell.

Rating

This is one of the few times when I’ve liked a book more with distance. Yet, there is no denying that I loved this book beyond the extent I usually enjoy books I would rate 4/5, so I’ve settled on 4.5/5 instead.

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If you haven’t read Muse of Nightmares yet, are you planning to? Have you read the first book? If you’ve already read it, what was your favorite part? Do you think there will be some sort of continuation?

Please disclaim spoilers in the comments.

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How to Find Time to Read/Write in College || I Graduated?!

Image of books, a graduation cap, and the words "reading in college."I graduated this past August. It occurs to me that in the time I was obtaining my degree, I’ve never written a post related to my college experience. Since this may be my last chance to write a post about it, I’ve decided to share my reflections on finding time to read while obtaining a four-year degree.

Reading with a Related Degree

My first year, when I was perusing a degree related to the social sciences as opposed to one related to reading and writing directly, I found it much easier to find time and energy to read and write.

This can be seen in comparing my 2015 and 2017 Goodreads reading challenge results:

2015 Goodreads reading challenge, in which I read 73 books of my goal of 50.

My 2017 Goodreads reading challenge, in which I read 51 books of my goal of 30.

Not only did I read more in that time period, I also wrote more. Freshmen year was the only time during my college career I managed to  participate in the primary annual NaNoWriMo writing event. While I didn’t win, in a large part because I am an underwriter and the first draft of my middle grade project was less than the 50,000 word target. You can see about when I finished my draft by looking at my progress on this chart:

A 30 day writing progress bar chart. Progress keeps up with the goal until the 16th, with progress coming to a near complete stop on the 23rd.

This is further reflected in the number of posts on this blog:

Shows the total number of blog posts written per year. 11 more posts were written in 2015 than 2017.
Note: 2018 isn’t over yet and some early posts were deleted. 

My progress in these areas after I switched to an English/technical writing major slowed dramatically. This is because I was spending my whole day reading and writing and needed a break afterword. However, unlike the majority of my classmates pursuing the same or similar majors, my interest in reading and writing beyond the classroom did not stop. That’s because I found ways to keep myself reading and writing despite doing it for most of the day already.

Solutions

The ways I found to keep reading and writing while doing so much of it for school involved reading in different ways from how I was reading them for school and finding ways to make time:

  • Reading audiobooks— perhaps the most effective of the solutions. This allowed me to do other things while reading, effectively making time.
  • Setting a specific time— whether this be a specific time every day or even once a week, having a specific time to read and write did much to increase my output.
  • Goal setting— setting a measurable, reasonable goal for finishing writing projects and reading a certain number of books kept me productive. I find it helps to have something to work toward, even if I don’t end up meeting it.
  • Make it social–Finding ways to involve other people in what are otherwise solitary processes is a great way to make the writing less intimidating. This blog is one example of making reading and writing social. Some writing related methods for writing include using tools like MyWriteClub’s word sprints and events like NaNoWriMo.

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Would you like to see more posts about my time in college? How do you balance reading and/or writing with your responsibilities? How have your reading and/or writing habits changed overtime?

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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Top Five Reasons To Read The Vorkosigan Saga

Five Reasons to Read The Vorkosigan Saga Blog Header (1)

My break from blogging is because of something I’m sure many book bloggers will relate to none the less: spending all my free time binge reading a series of books.

Before we begin, I’d like to disclaim that my reviews typically point out my criticisms of books even when I love them, but this time I’ve decided to write a post that’s almost 100 percent positive for once. While I do see some criticisms I’ve seen for this series as valid, and haven’t even given all of the books five stars myself, this post is positive due to my enjoyment of the series.

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What is the Vorkosigan Saga?

The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels that follows members of the Vorkosigan family, primarily Miles Vorkosigan, but also sometimes Miles’ parents, his cousin, his love interest, and his sibling. It also takes occasional forays into stories of characters who exist in the same universe as the Vorkosigans but otherwise have nothing to do with them at all. The first few books in the series were released in the 1980s, and the series has continued into recent years.

Due to Miles’ nature as the primary main character, the series is sometimes called the Miles Vorkosigan Adventures while others call it the Barrayar Saga on account of it being the planet most of the characters call home and the title of one of the books.

5 Reasons to Read The Vorkosigan Saga (1)

1)  So Many Books

There are 16 books, several novellas, and content is still being written.

I love finding series with a lot of existing content. And, not only is the content of this series still being written but each book, at least that I’ve read so far, concludes in a satisfying enough way that you could stop reading there if you can repress the urge to continue.

2) Miles is Awesome

Miles is such an awesome character with a complex personality.

Miles has flaws like his controlling nature, but that’s part of what makes his personality jump off the page. I love reading about Miles, his adventures, and the messes he gets into. He’s also happens to be one of the only disabled protagonists I’ve read about in all of science fiction, especially in series that began in the 1980s.

3) So Many Different Subgenres

These books are all science fiction, but their plots can focus around everything from mystery to romance.

With all the different plots, there’s practically a novel for everyone. No matter if you love military science fiction, space opera, or even genres like romance that aren’t typically part of science fiction, you’ll find a book with a plot focused on those elements here.

4) Award Winning

The series has won and been nominated for several Hugo awards.

It’s hard for me to find an exact count, but books in the series have been nominated for about ten Hugo awards, won at around four times, and been nominated for the Nebula award about seven times.

5) It’s Addictive

I started this series skeptical of whether I would like it but ended up hardly able to put them down.

As stated at the beginning of this post, I was so caught up in this series that I didn’t have free time left to blog. That speaks for itself.

Where to start?

I started with the Warrior’s Apprentice and it worked well for me. Others start with the prequel novel, Shards of Honor, which follows Miles’s mother. Others still start from just about any book in the series; the books were all written with the intent that they could also be read as standalones.

It should be noted that the author writes out of chronologically, so there is an ongoing debate about how they should be read– often the debate comes down to whether chronological or publication order is best.

What I’ve Read So Far. . .

I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer to the ongoing debate about this series reading order, but this is the order I’ve read them in so far, and it’s worked for me: The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Vor Game, Cetaganda, Boarders of InfinityBrothers in Arms, Mirror Dance, Komarr, Memory, A Civil Campaign, and Winterfair Gifts.

I’ve currently gone back to the beginning to read the prequel novel Shards of Honor and plan to read its sequel Barrayar when I’ve finished.

And, there are still more I haven’t read yet!

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Have you read the Vorkosigan Saga? Are you planning to? Should I turn infographics into a regular feature on this blog? Should I create an infographic for “Five Reasons to Read The Stormlight Archives” next? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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Five years of Blogging || My Blogiversary

Wordpress 5 year aniversery

Earlier this month, I got a notification from WordPress.com saying that it’s been five years since this blog was created. This seemed a little hard to believe. Five years is a long time. Yet, sure enough, my oldest public post was published on July 29, 2013, meaning the blog itself would have been created over a week before.
Thank you to everyone who has helped keep me motivated to blog for so long by following, commenting, or liking my posts!

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If you have a blog, when did you start it? How has it changed over time? If you don’t have a blog, what’s the longest you’ve maintained something you’re proud of (a journal, an organization, a business, etc.)? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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First Half of 2018 in Review || Statistics About What I Read so Far

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So, I’ve been slacking on my wrap-up posts. As in, to the point where I haven’t written one in 6 months. I kept trying to write something to make up for this, but kept getting overwhelmed by the shear number of books I needed to cover. So, I decided to write this post instead.

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What I Read

The first half of this year proved a great reading experience. I read 27 books. I gave 2 books a 5 star rating and 16 received a 4 star rating. Two of these 4 star books were rereads from previous years. (The books themselves are listed at the end of this post.)

Books Read Per Month

I read between 6 and 2 books each month of the year so far. Or, between 1 and 3 books if I exclude this month, which isn’t over yet. This averages to 4 and 1/3 books per month.

Most Read Genres

I’ve read 11 fantasy books, 10 sci-fi books, 4 contemporaries, and 4 historical fiction novels. Note that some books fall into multiple categories. I’m very satisfied with this. I read more diversely in terms of genre than I have in just about any time period I’ve recorded so far.

In terms of age groups 20 out of 27 were young adult and 7 out of 27 were adult. I read no middle grade novels. These statistics are a bit more disappointing, because I generally have a more even split and read a few middle grade novels. However, with how busy I’ve been this year, I can see how my reading habits might favor YA novels, which tend to be shorter than adult novels on average.

Fun Facts

    • 20 books had at least one female point of view (POV) character. 18 books had at least 1 male POV character. 1 book had a character who didn’t identify as a male or female (they were someone who got a different body everyday).
    • 3 of the books I read were published before my birth.
    • 20 of the books I read were set on Earth, either in full or in part. Of those, only 5 took place somewhere outside of the US. Only 3 of those 5 took place somewhere other than the United Kingdom.

Read in 2018

Should I make infographics like the one at the top of this post more often? What did you read in the first half of 2018? What are your thoughts on these statistics? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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The 20 Questions Book Tag

20 Question Tag Background

In this book tag, I answer twenty questions about my reading habits. I was tagged by Angelica @The Book Cover Girl and Kelly @Another Book in the Wall.

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1. How many books are too many books in a book series? 

It depends on the series. I’ve read series where three or four books were too many and series where the first seven books were great before the new books felt excessive. I’m going to say that there is no hard-fast rule but more than seven books is often too many.

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers? 

They’re fine if they seem to be the organic endpoint to a plot, but often they are unnecessary gimmicks that make me role my eyes and take away some of a book’s cohesiveness.

3. Hardback or paperback? 

It depends on whether I have to carry the book around. If I’m traveling, then paperback. If I have enough time to read at home, hardback.

4. Favorite book?

For a long time this was Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radience, which I’ve reread too many times to remember and own two copies of. Now, I’m not sure because it’s been a while since I reread it and have read a lot of books since.

5. Least favorite book? 

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*Whispers* Nevermore, Maximum Ride book 8. Enough said.

6. Love triangles, yes or no? 

Mostly no, as in 99 times out of 100, but most tropes can work some of the time, even love triangles.

7. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish? 

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Unfortunately, The Ship of the Dead, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book three. I may go back to this one. It was mostly a matter of not being in the mood and my library loan expiring.

8. A book you’re currently reading? 

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Children of Blood and Bone

9. Last book you recommended to someone?

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If we’re talking books in general then Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read. It’s a book about sentence structure that forever changed the way I think about sentences.

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If we’re talking novels then Defy the Stars. Both were recommended to someone in my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin last month.

10. Oldest book you’ve read? (Publication date) 

If the transcripts of plays can count, then Oedipus Rex published in around 450 BCE. If only novels count, then Pride and Prejudice published in 1813.

11. Newest book you’ve read? (Publication date) 

Defy the Worlds, Defy the Stars book two published April 3, 2018.

12. Favorite author? 

Brandon Sanderson

14. A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?

Okay, so, I’ve already mentioned it and no one talks about this book anymore, but I once had a long conversation with someone who loved Nevermore by James Patterson so much that they carried all the Maximum Ride books, including Nevermore, around with them in a huge stack. (To be clear, I actually enjoyed most of the previous books in the series.)

It was one of the most awkward conversations of my life. Then, due to a twist of fate, we ended up sitting next to each other for several hours.

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?

Bookmarks all the way.

16. A book you can always reread? 

Probably any book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series so far.

17. Can you read while hearing music? 

No. I often “read” audiobooks so double no.

18. One POV or multiple POV’s? (POV’s = Point of views) 

Whatever works for the story, but I will say that I’ve been reading a lot of books suffering from “too-many-POVs” syndrome as of late and am coming to favor a single narrator.

19. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days? 

I would prefer one sitting, but I almost never have time for that. Then again, I do have a horrible habit of binge reading whenever I get a book I’m excited about. As in most things, it depends.

20. A book you’ve read because of the cover?

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Okay, so, this book doesn’t look nearly as good online as it does in-person, but IRL the hardcover of this book is downright gorgeous and just so creative with its two layers that I just had to know what was inside.

I tag

Rachael @Bath and Books 

Arwa @one’s peculiar

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What are your answers to these questions? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? Do you agree or disagree with my answers? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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My Writing Favorites|| Beautiful People April 2018

My Writing Favorites

Hello everyone, today we are discussing my writing favorites with a writing meme hosted by by Cait @paper fury and Sky @further up and further in in which writers discuss their current writing projects.

I am currently on hiatus and expect to remain on hiatus into the beginning of May for complicated life reasons and the time it takes to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, but I just had to return and participate in the final edition of this meme.

Today’s character based questions will center around Lyle, the protagonist of the project I’m currently revising for Camp NaNoWriMo.

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Favourite genre to write in?

Looking at what I’ve written in the past, I’m going to have to say science fiction. It’s what I write the most even if I write a lot of fantasy too.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

As much as I love fiction, I’d probably have to go with some sort of self-help book because Lyle’s life is messed up. Unfortunately, I don’t read a lot of self-help books. Maybe a guide on how to be human, LOL.

Favourite piece of dialogue you’ve written?

Most of my dialogue doesn’t work out of context . . . I’ve been looking for half an hour and haven’t found anything I’m willing to share, so here is one of my favorite first lines instead:

The only person here tonight who does not want to kill me is my mother.”

What did your character want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?

My character is still a teenager . . . sort of, it’s complicated, so he hasn’t grown up yet. I want to leave this open for a potential sequel.

Favourite character name(s)?

I’m actually really bad at naming characters so, um, Lyle. Let’s go with that.

What makes your character feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?

I misread this question as “what makes you feel loved” which made this seem like a very awkward question for this sort of Q and A. . . .

Anyway, this depends on whether the question is referring to before or after the book. I suppose Lyle’s friends make him feel loved?

Favourite character you’ve ever written?

This would probably have to be the protagonist of one of my middle grade projects. She is a fairy princess who wants to be something– anything– other than a fairy princess, and I just had so much fun writing her even though I generally dislike the rebellious princess trope.

If your character were permanently leaving town, what would they easily throw out? What would they refuse to part with? (Why?)

Well, Lyle actually does “leave town” so to speak early in my draft. He does so at the spur of the moment with very few belongings except for one that helps him speak. Lyle likes being able to speak.

Favourite tropes to write!

In my fantasy, I love writing stories that feature quests with lots of travel . . . maybe a little too much because I don’t travel often. In my sci-fi, I love exploring moral dilemmas that arise from concepts like time travel and other theoretical technology.

Overall, I’m not sure if this is a trope or not, but I love writing from unusual point of views. I mean this less in terms of the character I’ve chosen as my narrator being an odd choice, though there is some of that, and more in terms of the way in which they tell the story being somewhat experimental.

For example, when I wrote from the point of view of a character who could read minds, she would frequently make comments that, from any other character, would resemble what is known as “head-hopping” in which a character knows more than they should about what other characters are thinking.

Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

I really want to write something set underwater, but have never gotten around to it. At the moment, it’s next on my “to-write” list.

Favourite relationship between characters you’ve written?

This is a hard one. If this can apply to non-romantic relationships, then the complicated bond between two siblings who are side characters in one of my previous manuscripts I’ve now shelved.

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

There are so many “holes,” but I don’t necessarily think it’s my place to “fill” most of them. As to what I think the literary world needs more of in general, but not necessarily that I will write, I think it needs more books set outside of the US and UK, more books featuring friendship and family bonds, and more books featuring characters with various disabilities.

Favourite pinterest board / aesthetic for a book?

I have a tendency to get caught up in searching for these sorts of things for hours and I don’t have time for that right now, so I think I remember Marie Lu had some nice ones?

Favourite time periods & settings to work with?

Well, I love writing about the future an in places that don’t exist. Does that count?

When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?

This depends on the book in question, but generally I would like them to come away feeling I’ve made them think about concepts they’ve never considered before. Not even feeling that their thoughts on these concepts have changed, just feeling interested in having a conversation about them.

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What is your favorite time period to write in? Anyone else participate in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo? Were any of my questions surprising? 

Share your thoughts in the comments!