Impressed Review of Strange the Dreamer

Laini Taylor’s recent trilogy, which began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was a Strange the Dreamerterrific foray into fantasy fiction.  So I grabbed this first in a new series with some interest.  It’s always difficult to begin a new series, letting go of old characters who you might not feel quite finished with, and embracing a whole new world and storyline.. but Taylor has created yet another compelling fantasy world here.

Strange the Dreamer starts with two stories that soon become intertwined.  Laszlo Strange (Strange being the name given to orphans or unclaimed children in his land) grows up in a terrible monastery before finding his first real home in a library.  A lover of stories and fairytales, he makes a particular study of a land known only as ‘Weep’ – the real name being obscured by magic.  So when citizens of Weep appear – he begs to go with them and make his dreams come true.

But Weep has many secrets… including a history of rebellion against evil Gods that threatens to arise as teenage Godspawn test out their powers high above the city.  One has power over dreams…

This is a love story, an adventure and the start of something special.  I loved the story, the characters and the symmetry of not one, but two Strange Dreamers in the novel.  Clever plotting, intricate characters and overall a roaring tale.  You’ll love it.

Book Review of Judas

JudasThere’s a lot to like about Judas, the 2017 Man Booker Prize nominated novel by Amos Oz.  An Israeli, Oz has exceptionally beautiful prose and seems to have mastered romantic longing in his stories.

This one if about Schmuel, a university student dedicated to the study if Jewish views of Christ – and that also if Judas, a largely demonised character in Christian mythology but not so much in historical record. But Schmuel’s life is upended when his parents announce they can no longer afford his school fees, and his girlfriend leaves him to marry her ex.

Schmuel quickly finds himself living as a companion to an old Jewish politician and his daughter-in-law, a sad and mysterious women who quickly he comes to dream about.

Its a book about foolish young hearts, unrequited love, intellectual curiosity, and the ostracising of the Jews for their failure to recognise Jesus as the messiah.  Some of this was deeply religious, and some political and much of it admittedly outside of my sphere of understanding.  And this did slow down my reading of what ultimately is a finely crafted story.

Feeling Nostalgia… Book Review of New Spring

New SpringFor me, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is so many hours of your life well-spent.  I mean, 16 epic books of about a thousand words in length… it really is an investment.

Sadly, the length of the series makes re-reading it a daunting task.  So finding New Spring amongst a pile of unread books (okay, one of many piles) was a delight.  A new chapter as such.

New Spring is a prequel story to that of Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn.  It centres mainly on Moiraine Damodred, the Aes Sedai who found Rand along with fellow tavern Mat and Perrin in the Two Rivers.  Just before Moiraine is raised to full Aes Sedai, she is present when a sister foretells the birth of the Dragon Reborn.  As we know, finding him and training him for the Last Battle again at the Dark One becomes Moiraine’s life purpose.

We delve deeper into her friendship with Siuan Sanche, another Aes Sedai destined to rise to the Amyrlin Seat (their leader for those of you who haven’t read the series) and learn how she comes to bond Lan as her warder.

Reading this was completely wonderful.  I felt like i was visiting old friends – it was warm and familiar and they had new stories to share with me, and new insight ready to offer.  The perfect holiday read.

Book Review of The Left Hand of God

the-left-hand-of-godI’d heard a lot about The Left Hand of God, and had it marked on my to-read list for some time. But I was disappointed with the plot, which wasn’t really epic in scale.

Thomas Cale was raised a Redeemer, a soldier for fanatic religious zealots. He was abused and mistreated from childhood and eventually turns his back on the order when they murder and rape women.

He and his friends make their way to a safe city where he meets and falls for the princess he eventually is sworn to protect.

Cale’s military prowess and the love story dominate the narrative, although interests develops in the very last portion of the text, when the Lord Redeemer most responsible for his mistreatment reveals he is the centre of a prophecy. By forcing the princess to betray him, he lures Cale back to his cause, ultimately leaving the pathway open for more interesting things (hopefully) in subsequent books.

Book Review of Good Me, Bad Me

The premise of Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me is one that intrigues.good me bad me

Annie, now known as Milly in the foster system is the key witness in her mother’s trial.  She was a serial killer of small children and since Annie was a child, she has been groomed to be complicit in these crimes, taught how to manipulate and gain trust.  Taught to make those who oppose her pay.  Taught to please by following in her mother’s footsteps.

Then the boy taken to the ‘playroom’ was one that was known to her.  And Annie decided to go to the police.  Too late to save the ninth and final boy though.

Now as Milly, she must try to begin again.  Fostered by a counsellor, her home is a mixture of care and therapy.  And Milly must decide which version of herself she is going to nurture as her new life begins to take shape.  She must make new friends.  She must hide her identity even though a woman with the same face as hers is on every TV screen and the cover of every newspaper.  She must deal with the bullying of her stepsister.  But how is she to do this when her every instinct tells her to lie and manipulate and make those who oppose her pay?

But if she wants to stay in her new life, with her new family, she cannot show any of these traits.  So which version of herself will win?

A great holiday read – engaging and fast-paced.  The ending disappointed me a little, but this didn’t take away from an absorbing reading experience.

Review of S-Town Podcast

s-townWhen Brian Reed, a broadcaster working with This American Life and the Serial team is contacted by John B. McLemore, a resident of a small town in Alabama (which he calls Shit-Town) his interest is peaked by the suggestion of an investigation of a young wealthy man who claims to have gotten away with murder.

While the investigation leads nowhere, McLemore and Reed begin an unusual friendship – which I suppose any friendship between McLemore and anyone is going to be.  A horologist, inventor, maze-maker and conspiracy theorist, McLemore isn’t your average resident of rural Alabama.

And – SPOILER ALERT – when McLemore dies, it sparks a bitter feud between the parties of his life, and a search for reasons by Reed.

S-Town is that story – how the friendship came about and what Reed learns about McLemore through interviewing his friends, family and the residents of Shit-Town.

While there is no real mystery to solve like in Serial, there are plenty of unanswered questions and multiple stories that don’t add up.  Plenty here to keep you interested.  And what’s even better – the whole 7-part series was released at once.  Binge!

Check out the incredible website as well.

Book Review of White Apples

carroll applesSome books are a door opening. Others are a door closing. I don’t really know which this is yet – but I don’t suppose it matters.  It’s a door.

White Apples was a book recommended by someone with clearly exquisite taste in literature. It is a beautiful Murakami-Esque journey into and beyond death.

Vincent Ettrich, a charming womaniser, was rescued from beyond the veil by his true love – a woman who has left him many times. Why? Because she is carrying his child. And this is no ordinary child – but one who is destined to save the world. But in order to do this, he needs his father to teach him what he learned in purgatory.

Magnificent, gruesome and glorious, this is a book about destiny and how we can choose it. The characters and – strangely – many of their situations felt so familiar to me. It’s been a long time since I have related to something this much – which sounds just about as odd as it was. Hard to put down.