Review: Strange The Dreamer

Book Title: Strange The Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Strange The Dreamer #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Goodreads
Pub Date: 03/28/17
5 STARS

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?

Welcome to Weep. 

***********

mahalA risk that will yield either tremendous reward or disastrous consequence.

That’s really the heart of what every reader desires in a fantasy world, right? Where there is no great risk, there is nothing worth losing, and where there is nothing worth losing, there is nothing worth reading. Perhaps that is the pinnacle of this book’s excellence, but it’s certainly not it’s only great feature. I knew from the moment I dove in that this story would be special; the three pages of prologue were more beautiful, captivating, and gripping than the entirety of many books I’ve previously read. I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about the quality, structure, and exquisite nature of the writing, but I won’t. I think it’s been duly noted in most reviews that the dreamy state of writing creates an unparalleled atmosphere to enhance our experience within such a delicate fantasy world. I would liken it to “calligraphy, if calligraphy were written in honey.”

“Vengeance… Vengeance ought to be spoken through gritted teeth, spittle flying, the cords of one’s soul so entangled in it that you can’t let it go, even if you try.”

THE PLOT
Best if you go into this knowing as little as possible, but for readers who need something to go on, there is a multi-layered plot that plays with the mind and the heart here. The beginning, after the prologue, is a slow building form of storytelling where we spend time getting to know Lazlo Strange and his part in this epic tale. Much emotion and feeling is infused here; I found this to be vital to the story as it forged my bond with Strange and welded my needs, hopes, and dreams with his own. Along the way, we are introduced to a new viewpoint where a similar form of storytelling is relayed. Once the two voices connect and intertwine, the pacing picks up and I really flew through to the end. While I would say this was easy to put down, I don’t mean that in a negative way; this was simply a novel I wanted to savor and not rush through. I was able to completely immerse myself in this fantasy world and was thinking about it constantly throughout my day, but I felt comfortable doing this with no pressure to sneak around and cram in a few pages every spare second I had.

(view spoiler)

THE CHARACTERS

We find out the above spoiler fairly early on, which I’m assuming pertains heavily to the next book as well, but I wanted to block it out for those who want no information. While there is quite a bit of action in the final 75 pages or so, the majority of the book is epic characterization and faultless world building. The atmosphere is simultaneously whimsical and bleak; it was equal parts bleary loss and gleaming hope. It felt strange and wonderful to be a part of something so unique as it truly contained a dreamlike, wispy quality, whereas most fantasy I’ve read does not contain this aesthetic. Even the scenes at the end featuring war, cruelty, and violence contained that lighter, more beautiful aesthetic. Oh no! She’s headed back to talking about the prose! Watch out! Seriously, this writing is otherworldly.

“She didn’t take away his conflicting emotions, although she could have. She left his hate there, right beside the love. It was the hate of the used and tormented, who are the children of the used and tormented… And it was love. Love that sets forth the soul like springtime and ripens it like summer. Love as rarely exists in reality…”

I’ll wrap this up, but I honestly was broken by that ending in the best possible way. If you haven’t read the book, then pick it up immediately. It truly deserves all of the stars. If you have, then I’m sure we are all in agreement that (view spoiler) Some of the finest writing I have had the pleasure of experiencing all year and easily my favorite fantasy to date, I highly recommend you read this. ❤

*Thanks Bentley for buddy reading this one with me! 

Come follow me on Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter! ❤

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Dennis Reviews: The Wife Between Us

Book Title: The Wife Between Us
Authors: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Drama
Goodreads
Pub Date: 01/09/18
5 STARS

 

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Once in awhile, you stumble (or luckily enough to be given a copy by the amazing Chelsea Humphrey) across a book that just pulsates throughout your entire thoughts, your day-to-day, grasping to find out what happened; not allowing yourself to do anything until you get to the end. The Wife Between Us is that book for me. The synopsis given to us by the publisher is very brief, and for good reason. When you initially pick up this book, you’ll immediately think of ‘oh here we go another jealous wife who’s trying to break up a couple and get her man back, #antifeminism101.” WRONG.

The Wife Between Us is a very mainstream read―insert alcoholic woman, unreliable narrator, domestic thriller(?)-esque plot, but as you read on, the storyline becomes not only much more sinister, but engaging and difficult to pinpoint (in the best way possible). You are led on a path that can best be described as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride―seriously, you will not expect these twists and turns, I promise you that. This story is so compelling to me and it completely engulfed my daily routine since I picked it up. I was so engaged and driven to finish this book that I cancelled my errands to run to the grocery store, bought an umbrella today due to unexpected rain on my commute home in order to make sure that by beloved copy of The Wife Between Us didn’t get tarnished by NYC’s sludge rain, and stayed up later than normal so I can write this review and rave about it to all of you. Please please please pick up a copy because I need to talk to you all about this book!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.

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Review: Little Broken Things

Book Title: Little Broken Things
Author: Nicole Baart
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Suspense Fiction, Mystery, Family Drama
Pub Date: 11/21/17
4 STARS

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn’s house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

Little Broken Things is indeed the next desirable novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany; I could spot so many similarities in their writing styles and, while Baart is a new to me author, I felt like I had come home to a familiar story all the same. Little Broken Things is a story filled with emotion, tension, and domestic drama. The book itself had some dark secrets spilled into the narrative and did manage to maintain an overall heavy feel, but I would still characterize this as a lighter read in the sense that it didn’t contain the graphic violence that many readers like to avoid. If you enjoy suspenseful mysteries without all the added grotesque flair, this one is for you!

The story is told through multiple POVs that were easy to follow; I found it an intriguing way to reveal the secrets and story piece by piece to the reader, a clever twist in itself. The characters were very onion like; not necessarily everyone will like them but they are multilayered and add flavor to the book. Personally, I thought they brought the story to an entirely advanced level and appreciate what the author accomplished; knowing her background and her advocacy for adoption and children, I could feel her knowledge wrapped up in this fictional story as a way to bring attention to very real issues.

There’s not much I can say about the plot without spoiling things, but the pacing was a bit up and down. Obviously the beginning with the text messages and the big conclusion were compulsive to read, and the middle was fairly steady, but may be a bit slow to the reader who is used to a high octane thriller as their go to read. I could just as easily see this book enjoyed on a beach vacation as I could picture someone curled up under the covers in a mountain cabin by a warm fire reading it. The story was neither full on fluff or total heavy darkness; it had a nice balance to appeal to a wide array of readers and would highly recommend to the fans of dramas surrounding family secrets. Bonus- you get to stare at that gorgeous cover every time you pick it up!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here. 

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Dennis Reviews: 11/06/17

Book Title: Our Little Secret
Author: Roz Nay
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Goodreads
Pub Date: 04/24/18
5 STARS

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

A police interview room is the last place Angela expected to find herself today. It’s been hours, and they keep asking her the same inane questions over and over. “How do you know the victim?” “What’s your relationship with Mr. Parker?” Her ex’s wife has gone missing, and anyone who was close to the couple is a suspect. Angela is tired of the bottomless questions and tired of the cold room that stays the same while a rotating litany of interrogators changes shifts around her. But when criminologist Novak takes over, she can tell he’s not like the others. He’s ready to listen, and she knows he’ll understand. When she tells him that her story begins a decade before, long before Saskia was in the picture, he gives her the floor.

A twenty-something young professional, Angela claims to have no involvement. How could she? It’s been years since she and H.P., Mr. Parker that is, were together. As her story unfolds, it deepens and darkens. There’s a lot to unpack… betrayal, jealousy, and a group of people who all have motives for retribution. If Angela is telling the truth, then who’s lying?

Roz Nay’s Our Little Secret is a delectably dark and twisted thriller that I am now obsessed with! Right from the very beginning, you meet the main deck of characters that will come into play here, with the protagonist Angela Petitjean being pulled in by Detective Novak for questioning. Detective Novak is seeking answers to the disappearance to Saskia Parker, but Angela is confused as to why they are keeping her in interrogation. Angela is just leaving out one piece of the puzzle, Saskia is her ex’s wife. As things start to unravel, Angela starts letting Detective Novak (and us) in on the past she had with her ex, HP, and how Saskia and HP became a couple and back into Angela’s life.

I seriously loved Our Little Secret so much! At 228 pages, it is a quick fast read (read it within a day) that I recommend anyone to pick up if they have a lazy day, beach day, or just want to relax after work. The story is very engaging from start to finish, and leads you to many different possibilities, with an ultimately shocking end. The book is a light read in a sense that it doesn’t really dig too deep, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you’re in the mood for. Luckily for me, it’s exacting what I wanted. I really loved hearing about Angela’s backstory with HP and it made my heart skip a beat or two thinking of what a beautiful romance they shared before things hit the fan. With an unreliable(?) narrator, characters with dark secrets, and a deeply sinister and depressing storyline, it proves that everyone has a past, and some just can’t get past it.

Book Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Non-Fiction, Politics, Memoir
Goodreads
Pub Date: 09/12/17
5 STARS

For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Clinton takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet.

In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Clinton shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect American values and democracy in the future.

“When I sat with Putin in meetings, he looked more like one of those guys on the subway who imperiously spread their legs wide, encroaching on everyone else’s space, as if to say, ‘I take what I want,’ and ‘I have so little respect for you that I’m going to act like I’m lounging at home in my bathrobe.’ They call it ‘manspreading.’ That was Putin.”
LOL sorry but this is hilariously accurate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened is a brilliantly written, deeply honest, humbling account of her upbringing, family life, and of course – her 2016 run for President. I will keep my review short and as objective as possible, as I do not want to be attacked by trolls (which is also covered explicitly in an entire section of this memoir), nor do I want my review to be baiting to anyone politically. Coming into this with an open mind, Hillary takes accountability for her mishaps in the election; how the media and the press, along with Russian intelligence and Wikileaks helped shape Donald Trump into being the 45th President of the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed Hillary’s candor in regards to how they campaigned in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. She also dives into the Flint, Michigan water crisis and other varying social controversies taking place in modern day America. I thoroughly enjoyed that the book was broken up into distinct sections, where for the most part could be read at its own pace, and not consecutively. It was refreshing to see her own up to campaign oversights while also being vulnerable like a normal human being. The media has portrayed her to be robotic and unsympathetic to the average American. After reading What Happened , they couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Blog Tour: Broken Bones

Book Title: Broken Bones
Author: Angela Marsons
Series: DI Kim Stone #7
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Pub Date: 11/03/17
5 STARS

The murder of a young prostitute and a baby found abandoned on the same winter night signals the start of a disturbing investigation for Detective Kim Stone – one which brings her face to face with someone from her own horrific childhood.

As three more sex workers are murdered in quick succession, each death more violent than the last, Kim and her team realise that the initial killing was no one-off frenzied attack, but a twisted serial killer preying on the vulnerable.

At the same time, the search begins for the desperate woman who left her newborn baby at the station – but what looks like a tragic abandonment turns even more sinister when a case of modern slavery is uncovered.

The two investigations bring the team into a terrifying world of human exploitation and cruelty – and a showdown that puts Kim’s life at risk as shocking secrets from her own past come to light.

Hey guys! I was invited to give my review in a video format by the publisher this time. I’ve never done anything like this before, so please excuse my mortifying video skills and the 978 billion times I say “um”. 😉 This is just a quick, spoiler-free snippet on Broken Bones and why the series means so much to me as a reader. Highly recommended!

*Apparently WordPress compressed my video and left out a few words here and there. So sorry for how rediculous it makes everything sound! Haha

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley.

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Weird, Way-Out Winter

Hey guys! It is finally November and officially fall here in Virginia. The leaves are falling and the weather is crisp and cool which makes me a happy camper. As you may have noticed I’ve been mostly posting reviews for arcs and blog tours that I had previously committed to, but that’s about it. Well, I’ve been clearing my backlog and holding off on accepting almost anything new because I’m hoping to get back into my discussion posts, lists, and other non-review related shannanigans. My first order of business was creating a sort of challenge for myself, something to encourage reading a variety of books, both review copies and reads I have either bought or grabbed from the library. What I came up with was a seasonal challenge, although my first one is going to combine a bit of fall into winter because I do what I want because of how the timing came out. My first challenge will run from November-February and… Wait for it…. Is titled…

Weird, Way-Out Winter!

Haha, Mr. Humphrey is still laughing at my title, but my WWW challenge is something I anticipate to be an exciting way of holding myself accountable. I polled my Goodreads friends on their favorite weird books and I’m really excited that I found a few that fit well. The theme for this season is obviously books that are weird, odd, creepy, and dark. Each season will feature a new theme, but I thought this one fit best for the months of the year where it gets dark the earliest. I’ve also broken this down month by month; I’ll announce the four books I’ve chosen for November today and will announce the rest on a monthly basis (you know, in case I change my mind on the ones I want to read and stuff). First off, we have Nebulous November!

nebulous • hazy; unclear, vague, or ill-defined.

My thought behind choosing Nebulous November was the urge to jump into some reads on my shelf that give me that hazy, “what did I just read?” feeling. I love a good mind-warping book and I think I found a few that fit the bill. Three of my choices are review copies, but for the remaining 3 months only 1 choice is an arc, so these all will mainly be books I purchased or snagged from the library. Here are my choices:

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. 
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. 
She’s wrong.

 

***************************************************

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland super fan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

***************************************************

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

***************************************************

When ninety-five percent of the world’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. Four years after the Rending, Mira has everything under control. Almost. 

Then Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first in this strange world and a new source of hope for Mira. But Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and soon other women of Zion do, too—and the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new world begins to fray. As the community wrestles with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world outside Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira has to decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her community, and her own fraught pregnancy.

That’s it for me guys! What about you? What would be your nebulous picks for November? Anyone is welcome to join in who needs accountability clearing their shelves! ❤

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Blog Tour: Whiteout

Book Title: Whiteout
Author: Ragnar Jonasson
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Dark Iceland #5
Genres: Nordic Noir, Crime Fiction, Mystery
Goodreads
Pub Date: 11/01/17
4.5 STARS

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.

As per my usual with these books, I would like to start off by giving you what I feel is the best reading order for chronological consumption of this series. It gets a little tricky as we are at the mercy of the order of translation, but for those who have been holding off on reading the Dark Iceland series, you now have enough buffer material to avoid major spoilers being revealed before their time. Below is my current (as of November 2017) recommended reading order:

Snowblind
Blackout
Rupture
Whiteout
Nightblind

Now, as for Whiteout in particular… Wow! Another fantastic entry in the series. I found this one to have a slightly different format than the previous books I have read featuring Ari Thor; Whiteout actually features the characters pertaining to the individual case for quite some time before jumping in with our reoccurring cast, a switch-up that I quite enjoyed. I also found that, even though I knew some of the outcomes because I have already read Nightblind (such as (view spoiler) ) it still didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story.

I don’t like to discuss specific plot details when it comes to sequels, but I will say that if you’ve enjoyed the previous novels in the series you will very likely enjoy this one as well. There was an intriguing balance of the heavy, dark atmosphere weighing against the light, hopeful anticipation of Christmas, among other things (see spoiler above). One of my favorite things about this book was how we get to learn more about Kristin and who she is. Previously, I felt that she was a little cold and judgmental, but after reading this installment I’ve come to really appreciate her character in an entirely new light. If you enjoy nordic crime fiction with slow building suspense, mystery, and characters who are easy to grow fond of, please give this series a try! Highly recommended!

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

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