Book Review: Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares

This duology was recently recommended to me by a friend and I was intrigued by the premise.  I loved the first book, Strange the Dreamer.  And then the second one, Muse of Nightmares, was good, but much, much darker – which I kind of anticipated going into it. Even though I loved the first one, it was a few weeks before I felt emotionally ready to take on the second one!

The story centers around Lazlo Strange, who dreams of finding the Lost City.  He does find it, but that’s only the beginning of the adventure, involving gods (or are they demons?), mysterious powers, and dark deeds that are still haunting the people who did and witnessed them.  The second book in particular focuses in on horrible events of the past, and the way the trauma lives on for the people who experienced them.  There is a happy ending – I kind of felt all along that there would be, despite the darkness – but it was a rough journey along the way.

There’s a really lovely, lyrical, magical quality to this duology, especially the first book.  Even though we begin to skirt into areas that could be science fiction, especially in book two, it always keeps a very fantasy feel.  There’s some really cool and creative magic in here that I enjoyed.  There’s also a rather lovely romance that I enjoyed as well. Continue reading “Book Review: Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares”

Book Review: The Wayward Children Series

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Book 1 of the Wayward Children series, was one of the final books I got out of the library before everything shut down due to pandemic.  And the subsequent books in the series were the very first ones I requested once the library moved to “curbside pick-up” options.  Because this is an amazing series.

The series centers around Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for children (or teens, really) who have returned from magical lands.   Stories like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz focus mainly on the adventure and end when the child gets home.  This series picks up what happens next, when children try to fit back into a world where no one believes their stories of where they’ve been.

I love virtually everything about this series.  It gets a little gruesome for me in spots and I don’t love that – but I love everything else.  The concept is brilliant; I always love stories that take a new angle on something familiar, especially an angle that is somehow both new and obvious.  As soon as it’s said, I don’t know why it hasn’t been thought of before – but it wasn’t.

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Book Review: Incarnate

You may have noticed the blog was quieter than usual last week – my marketing job had me in Las Vegas for a conference, which rather overwhelmed everything else for a few days!  I did very little reading while I was traveling–and then spent the weekend after doing little else, recharging my introvert batteries after being surrounded by hundreds of people.  I spent a good bulk of the past few days tearing through Incarnate by Jodi Meadows.  It was a great way to recharge.

Incarnate is a fascinating fantasy novel that hit a lot of my favorite things.  Set in a world with sylphs and dragons (you don’t want to cross either), the most interesting part is still the humans: there are a million of them, and for five thousand years they have all reincarnated again and again, and remember all their lifetimes.  But then Ana is born–a “newsoul,” replacing another soul, and no one knows why.  Eighteen year old Ana is seeking answers for why she exists, and what it means to be human when you’re the only one without 5,000 years of identity behind you, or the promise of countless lives ahead.

I find reincarnation stories fascinating, but I’ve never seen one like this.  Normally the person remembering their succession of lives is the oddity.  I loved seeing a society where that’s the norm, and the culture, the societal structure, even the government, are based around that idea.  There were so many fascinating details – like the journals everyone keeps to help them remember their many lives, or the notion of maintaining a graveyard of all your past bodies (a little creepy, I know, but well-handled in the book), or the possibility of being mothered by someone younger than you, after your mother died in childbirth and came back again.

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Book Review: Every Day

A friend recently recommended a book to me with an intriguing premise: Every Day by David Levithan.  And it was every bit as intriguing as I hoped–and then some!

Our narrator, A, wakes up in a different body every day.  And it’s not that their body is changing–they’re entering a different person’s body every day, though always someone their own age, sixteen.  They’re still themselves, but they have control, can access their host’s memories, and generally try to live that person’s life for that day.  A has always been this way, and never known anything different.  There are drawbacks, but they do okay–until they fall in love, and want to have their own life.

Weird, right?  But SO interesting!  I listened to this on audiobook, and pretty much played it every spare minute I could until I got to the end.  I was just totally hooked to find out how A/the author would navigate the next complication to arise, and to see what life A would be visiting the next day.

This was also a very nicely done love story.  I am usually not a fan of instalove romances (they’re a pet peeve, in fact) but this was one of the rare ones that really made it work.  When A meets Rhiannon (while occupying the body of her boyfriend Justin), A is pretty immediately smitten.  But it was such a nice blend of physical attraction, really seeing who she is as a person, and sharing a very meaningful, magical afternoon together, that it worked for me.

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Book Review: NPCs

I love it when I get a good book recommendation from a friend.  I recently heard about NPCs by Drew Hayes, and was very happy to find to find it every bit as fun as promised.

The books opens with a group of tabletop gamers playing Spells, Swords & Stealth (more or less Dungeons & Dragons).  They promptly make a dumb decision and all four of their characters die in a tavern at the very beginning of their quest.  The story then shifts to the other inhabitants of the tavern–the NPCs, or non-player characters.  Fully-developed people, they have their own lives and concerns.  And a new problem–the four dead adventurers, whose deaths (though accidental) could bring the king’s wrath on their entire village.  Gnome Thistle, half-Orc Grumph and humans Eric and Gabrielle decide the only solution is to take up the adventurer mantle themselves and try to complete the quest.

I love this premise so much.  One of my favorite story angles is to tell the story from the traditionally overlooked characters (as you might be able to tell from my books…)  I love the concept that all those people just passing in the background have lives and personalities just as complex as the people the camera/story happened to be focusing on.  Hayes explores that beautifully without getting too heavy-handed about it.

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