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.

Bluejay feather quill pen.

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.

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

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The Fantasy Tropes Tag

The Fantasy Tropes Tag

Today we explore books though fantasy tropes in this tag. I was tagged by Kelly @another book in the wall.

Bluejay Feather

“The Lost Princess”

A book/series you lost interest in halfway through

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Maximum Ride

I enjoyed the first three books in this series, but after that I don’t even know what happened because everything got way too wild. The characterization didn’t even seem consistent any more.

I read this in a time where I used to finish everything, so I read up what was then the last book. There is now an additional sequel that I have no interest in reading because the last couple books made me upset and not in a good way.

“The Knight in Shining Armor”

A hyped book/series you were swept up by

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Arc of a Scythe (Scythe and Thunderhead)

Okay, this series isn’t that hyped, but it’s hyped enough that I feel like I can mention it. I love this series so much. This book is one of the most thought provoking YA novels I’ve read (though I think the author’s other series, The Unwind Dystology, may have this one beat). The world is just so captivating and the plot twists are so great that I just love this series.

I ultimately liked book two more than book one. For this reason, I featured the image of book two.

Read my review of book one here.

“The Wise Old Wizard”

An author who amazes you with his/her writing

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Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor’s prose is beautiful and poetic. I want to quote her whole books! But, that would be plagiarism, so I can’t do it. 😦

“The Maiden in Distress”

An undervalued character you wished had a bigger storyline

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Flower — Wings of Fire Series

Wings of Fire is a middle grade series told from dragons’ point of views. While I think this was the right choice for the series, I’d love for Flower, one of the dragon’s human “pets”, to have a spin-off novel devoted to her. Her point of view must be so interesting.

“The Magical Sword”

A magical item/ability you wish authors used less

Resurrection

Okay, so this applies more to certain authors who shall not be named than authors in general. In some stories, resurrection can be an effective plot device, but a lot of authors overuse it to the point of ridiculousness: I wonder if that character who has died twenty times will stay dead? Of course not!

“The Mindless Villain”

A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at

“S/he released a breath she didn’t know s/he was holding.”

I see this everywhere. I’ve had to put a few books down because it’s so ridiculous.

“The Untamed Dragon”

A magical creature you wish you had as a pet

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Chalklings– The Rithmatist

It would be awesome to have a moving chalk drawing (AKA Chalkling) as a pet. A nice Chalkling though; I don’t want to get eaten by chalk. Thank you very much. I’m not sure having one of these is possible due to the in-universe rules, but I don’t see that there is anything explicitly against it happening either.

“The Chosen One”

A book/series you will always root for

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The Stormlight Archives/ The Cosmere

I’m going to go with The Stormlight Archives or better yet The Cosmere, the massive collection of books The Stormlight Archives series is a part of, because I love them so much. Yes, I have already mentioned a book by this author in this post, but I’m mentioning his books again because why not?

Rules

  1. mention the creator: one’s peculiar.
  2. answer the questions.
  3. tag as many people as you like.
  4. Have fun.

I tag

Sumeet @Aspire to Inspire

Abbie @Boneseasonofglass

Anyone who wants to do this tag should consider themselves tagged too!

Bluejay Feather

Were any of my choices a surprise? Have you read any of these books? How would you answer these questions? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

The Writer’s Tag || Why I write, The Best Writing Time, and 2018 Resolutions

The Writer's Tag

I wasn’t officially tagged for this, but I did tell Marie @drizzle and hurricane books I might do this, so let’s just pretend. Shall we?

Bluejay Feather

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

I tend to write science fiction and fantasy in almost all sub-genres, leaning a little more towards science fiction.

How long have you been writing?

This depends on how you define “writing.” If we’re referring to writing in my free time as opposed to for other obligations, then around 5 years, possibly a little longer.

Why do you write?

Because I love it.

When is the best time to write?

When I have no other obligations. Just kidding . . . kind of. The only time I tend to have available to write is right before I go to bed after everything else I need to do for the day is finished, but, to be honest with myself, I’m a morning person.

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

I love it when the words flow and everything I’ve researched and outlined clicks together into a coherent whole.

I hate getting started on a day when I’m mentally exhausted and the early stages of the editing process when I’m overwhelmed by all a pieces flaws and can’t see any way to fix them.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

In several ways. It depends on what I think is causing the writer’s block.

My most common solution is to take a break from writing to brainstorm a chapter-by-chapter outline of the next few chapters that need writing.

Are you working on something at the moment?

Sort of. I’m beginning to edit the novel length piece I wrote last summer, but it’s slow going.

What are your writing goals this year?

As the year ends in a few days, this will refer to my writing resolutions for 2018.

  • To receive at least three rejections for something writing related.
  • To finally get to a point where I have edited a novel length draft enough that I feel it is ready for beta readers.

I’m expecting a lot of writing non-related things to happen in 2018, so I’m not setting many goals.

Bluejay Feather

If you write, what are your answers to some of these questions? If not, what surprised you? What are some of your 2018 resolutions, especially book related ones? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and Merry Christmas if you celebrate, hope you had a nice day if you don’t!

Monsters of Verity Duology Review

Our Dark Duet

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Titles: This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publication Date: 2016-2017

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Synopsis: In Verity, people’s crimes manifest as monsters.

August is one of these monsters. He doesn’t want to be but didn’t have a choice in the matter. Besides, Verity doesn’t need another human. It needs a monster. It needs him.

Kate is the daughter of the man who controls these monsters. All she wants is his approval, but approval is hard to get from a man who deals with monsters.

Together, they make up two halves of a divided city. A city where both halves hang on the edge between order and chaos.

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Thoughts: Without a doubt, I liked and at times even loved this duology. That said, there are also some aspects I’m not sure how I feel about.

I’ve read the first book multiple times in both physical and audiobook formats. I only do that with books that I adore.

What I liked most about This Savage Song were our protagonists, especially August. I love reading about characters who long to be someone they can never become. I don’t know why this is because this is not the case for me personally, unless the person I want to become is a successful novelist, but that’s not unachievable, just unlikely.

In any case, I recognize that this is a personal bias towards a particular character archetype as opposed to something other readers will feel the same way about.

I flew through the second book in a single day and found it difficult to put down just like the first one. That said, I don’t think I enjoyed Our Dark Duet as much as This Savage Song. 

It’s difficult to determine the cause of these feelings.  I think part of it stems from the fact that the protagonists undergo significant development between books one and two and at the beginning of Our Dark Duet. 

August and Kate have become very different people by the time Our Dark Duet starts. On one hand, the development is believable. On the other hand, I miss who the characters had been.

August and Kate develop a great dynamic in book one. It took a while for the two to start interacting with one another at the start of the book.

A similar amount of time is spent with the characters apart in book two as in book one, but I found myself wanting them together more. I feel like August and Kate lacked some of the synergy they gained in book one throughout book two. The reason for this is explained, but I still found myself missing their interactions.

I also felt like there was a plot-line introduced at the beginning of book two involving the other countries in this universe that was never concluded. This makes me wonder if the author is planning a separate novella or spin-off set in this location.

Part of my lack of satisfaction with book two might involve reading this book so soon after finishing the finale in the Shades of Magic series. Our Dark Duet and A Conjuring of Light had similar plots. 

I can’t go into many details without spoilers, but suffice to say that the similarities stemmed from the nature of the antagonists. Both Our Dark Duet and A Conjuring of Light contained what I consider to be two of Schwab’s least nuanced villains.

This Savage Song, on the other hand, had a plot that felt more different from Schwab’s other novels, though it felt more similar to other books I’d read.

Verity was something I loved in both books. I loved the idea of having monsters appear as a result of people’s sins. The world-building manages to feel simple and complex at the same time. My main complaint about the world-building is that I wanted to see more of it.

Rating: While, I didn’t personally love Our Dark Duet  as much as This Savage Song, I’m putting most of this down to personal bias and giving the series a 4/5 overall rating with 4.5/5 for This Savage Song and a 3.5/5 for Our Dark Duet. 

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Have you read this duology? What did you think? Do you want to read this duology? Have you read any of Schwab’s works in the past? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

February and March 2017 Wrap-up

Reading

Between February and March, I read six books, a novella, and an anthology.

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Title

The Three Body Problem

Short Synopsis

Science fiction novel featuring China’s cultural revolution, a high tech video game, and aliens.

Thoughts

Slower paced than I usually like, but I was intrigued enough to keep reading. It’s hard to see how all the different elements connect at first, but they come together by the end.

Rating

3.5 blue jays

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Dark Matter

Short Synopsis

Man is abducted and wakes-up to discover everything in his life has changed.

Thoughts

Really enjoyed this, but there were some elements of the world-building that confused me and kept me from rating it higher.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

Vortex (Tempest #2)

Short Synopsis

Sequel to Tempest.

Thoughts

I was in the mood for a book about time travel and read the first book a long time ago.

This book was fun, but some parts made me roll my eyes.

Rating

3 blue jays

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Title

The Naked Sun (Robot #2)

Short Synopsis

Classic science fiction novel in which Elijah Baley must travel to a distant world to solve a murder mystery.

Thoughts

I’d heard a lot about I, Robot before, but never knew the author had written a series set in the same universe. Even though this book is a product of its time, I enjoyed it much more than I expected.

Rating

4.5 blue jays

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Title

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Short Synopsis

Jonathan is a special seagull none of the other seagulls can understand.

Thoughts

Listened to this novella on a long road trip because one of my traveling companions wanted to. There were aspects I enjoyed, but it also falls pray to some tropes I’m not a fan of.

Rating

3 blue jays

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Title

The Caves of Steel (Robot #1)

Short Synopsis

Elijah Baley is recruited to solve the mystery behind the murder of an individual visiting Earth from another world.

Thoughts

Yes, I read these books out of order. I’m terrible, but these aren’t really books that need to be read in order. They still make sense if the second book is read first.

I enjoyed this book about as much as the second.

Rating

4.5 blue jays

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Title

Arcanum Unbounded

Short Synopsis

A collection of Brandon Sanderson’s short fiction set in the Cosmere universe.

Thoughts

Short stories/novellas in this collection would get a rating between 3/5 and 5/5 if rated on an individual level. Works that would get a 5/5 or a 4.5/5 include: The Emperor’s SoulMistborn: Secret History, and Edgedancer.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

A Wizard of Earthsea

Short Synopsis

A young wizard grows into his powers.

Thoughts

I’ve heard about Ursula K. Le Guin for so long but hadn’t given her work a try. I decided to change that. I liked this book but didn’t love it.

Rating

3.5 blue jays

Writing

I wrote a couple short stories that I’m revising this month. They’re turning out better than expected.

Blood for Blood 4.5 Stars

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Title: Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher (Little, Brown). Opinions are my own.

*This is the review of a sequel. For my review of the first book click here.

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, entered an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner got to meet Hitler.

Her goal was to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution. This book is the aftermath of that plan.

Thoughts: I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. I was worried with the way Wolf by Wolf ended this book would be all filler in an attempt to make a series out of a standalone.

I was wrong.

This book is one of the best dystopian revolution type books I’ve read. (Yes, I’m calling the government in this book “dystopian” even though it is based off of a form of government that once existed because this is alternate history, not actual history.)

What set this book apart from most other novels’ I’ve read centering around a revolution is that the main character, in this case Yael, still has an important message and roll to play in what is to come.

The world-building, something I didn’t feel was well executed in the first book, was better in this one. This is due in part to the fact that in the first book almost all the flashbacks were dedicated to showing Yael at the most devastating moments in her life, whereas these show a variety of circumstances.

This book put greater influence on Yael’s Jewish culture than the first one. Yael spent most of the last book pretending to be other people, and had trouble keeping herself from getting absorbed into the roll of the person she was pretending to be. That was not the case in this book. I enjoyed seeing Yael come into her own and embrace who she was. Though I can’t comment on the accuracy of the depiction as Jewish culture is not something I’m overly familiar with.

Our two leading side characters from the first book, Felix and Luka, play an even greater roll in this book than the first one. They get entire chapters from their point of views. I appreciated how, in spite of this choice, the author didn’t make the book all about romance.

I have a feeling Luka’s character arc in this book is going to be controversial. He accepted things rather quickly. Though the way he learned only part of what was going on at any given time made his actions more plausible.

Something else I noticed that I didn’t in the first one was that I’m not sure how accurately German words are used. I’m not anywhere near fluent in German, but when I read the first book my only exposure to German was spoken.

Between reading the first and second books of this series I decided to learn a little about the German writing system. Keeping in mind that the version I read was an ARC and I have only limited knowledge of German,  I think all of the German nouns in the book should have been capitalized but some weren’t. It seems to me like this is a very basic rule the author should have had a German speaker check for, but maybe I’m wrong since I’m not a fluent German speaker and this was not a finished copy.

Rating: A great sequel overall, though I had a few reservations.

4.5 blue jays

An Ember in the Ashes 4 Stars


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 An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: Laia is willing to sacrifice everything to rescue her brother. Including her freedom.

When Laia agrees to work on an undercover operation for the resistance, in which she must work as a slave for one of the most powerful women in the empire, the last thing she expected to find was a kindred spirit in her master’s son Elias.

Elias wishes to be free of his obligations to the empire about as much as Laia wants to rescue her brother. Together they might just succeed.

Thoughts: Since I’ve read an ARC of the sequel, to be released in August, I’ve decided it’s about time I sort out my confused feelings towards this book so I can move on to writing an advanced review of the sequel.

This book is addictive. I started listening to it on the last day of a road trip. When I got home that night at about 9 PM, I could not get to sleep until I’d searched my house for my physical copy and read it the rest of the way through.

I’ve read a number of reviews in which reviewers say this book got them out of reading slumps, and I can see why. It’s next to impossible to put down. The timing was also perfect for me to read this book at the time that I did, exactly halfway through The Way of Kings.

Most people who read my posts are probably aware that Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series (the first book being The Way of Kings) is one of my favorite series, but even I started to feel a little discouraged about halfway through the first one because the book takes so long to read and I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Reading this book so quickly encouraged me to finish The Way of Kings, and I’m glad I did.

The society depicted is one that encourages blood lust, and one of the protagonists is a slave. It could have been unrealistic, or even disrespectful to glaze over the violence. However, there was a particular act of violence between characters who trusted each other that seemed to be crossing a line, and made me lose some respect for the characters’ in turn.

In the time since I’ve finished the book my confusion with regards to how I feel about this story has only grown. The story doesn’t standout in my mind from all the other YA epic fantasy books I’ve read, and therefore hasn’t proven all that memorable. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason this story doesn’t stand apart for me is its usage of many common tropes in a way I’ve seen used often before. The magic system didn’t seem particularly unique, and felt largely unexplained in this first book.

The element of having magical masks that permanently adhere to peoples’ faces also brought to mind a number of questions in my mind while reading with regards to sweat, dead skin, and shaving. The story also followed a familiar formula with the novel being arranged around a series of trials.

The familiar elements of the story helped make it a quick read, but also made the story somewhat forgettable.

Rating: I recommend this to people who need a break from lengthy books, are trying to get into reading fantasy, or are trying to get out of a reading slump, but it is not a thought provoking read.

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