January Read Books

Hello readers! This month I read quite a variety of books that I never got around to reviewing. Most of them were sitting on my TBR, dying to be read for ages. I feel rather proud of myself for sticking to my new year’s resolution and finally reading them!

Strange the Dreamer

28449207by Laini Taylor

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?

Brilliant and beautiful book.

The author is clearly a lover of stories. When you have a storyteller writing about storytellers, magical things happen. Everything about Weep and the world around it, all the magic and depth and complexity, it’s a true work of art.

I do agree with other reviewers that Lazlo takes the crimes in stride perhaps too quickly. Awful, atrocious things were done, by both sides. Maybe it’s because he’s the Dreamer, and can see the good in people, but it was a little quick in my opinion.

Even so, this is exactly the kind of book I want more of. And I need a sequel right now!

My review: ★★★★☆

Colliding Stars

By Debbie Zaken36428272

Since Skye Reilly can remember, she has been looking up to the stars. With high school graduation upon her, her telescope in one hand and her college acceptance letter in the other, she has life as meticulously mapped out as her star chart. That is, until the Celeians arrive and she meets Ethan, an alluring alien. Ethan collides into her like an asteroid, causing a gravitational shift in Skye’s trajectory and hurling her life into a cataclysmic collision course of interplanetary proportions.

The Celeians promise many things. An end to disease, global warming, and famine. The knowledge to help humankind. Despite the suspicions surrounding the intriguing aliens and rising anti-alien protests, Skye gives Ethan her trust, and eventually her heart. The very heart he could stop with a lethal electrifying touch of his hand. 
When the Magistrate, a council of alien leaders, threatens to put an end to their interspecies relationship, following her heart could cost Skye her life and the lives of everyone she loves. 
Not even light can escape the pull of a black hole.

I was really excited to get a copy of this book: I love YA sci-fi, adore the alien/human relationship trope, and was so eager to connect with an MC who loves space as much as me. But I was really let down: this is just my personal opinion and I can see why people loved the book, but for me, there were quite a few problems I just couldn’t get past.

The first chapter was riveting. I loved the straight to action pacing: was pulled straight in, instantly connected with Skye and was so excited to see what happened after aliens arrived. But from then on, the pacing slowly declined, until the story became really dull.
Ethan, the alien love interest, comes off as one of those characters who is too perfect. Are they called Gary Stu’s, you know the type: flawless in every way, more beautiful than any human, with abilities humans could never have. In any case, he falls instantly in love with Skye, and she falls for him, hard. But of course, being from an alien delegation trying to establish diplomatic relations with earth doesn’t make dating easy. Are his people even trustworthy? And would her parents approve?

Sit back, relax, and dig in, because three quarters of the book is just that question. Over, and over again. There are chapters devoted to convincing people around her that they should let her give this relationship a go. Despite being an adult, entering a relationship with Ethan makes her parents ground Skye for life. But it’s ok, nothing can hold him back from visiting her! Sneaking into her room at midnight uninvited, or making her go to sleep with his hypnotic voice…

I think that’s where the book lost me. Ethan’s obsession with Skye wasn’t cute, it was creepy. He stalks her, takes her alone into the woods without cell reception (I am totally with her mom on this one), enters her room in the middle of the night, uses hypnosis on her to alter her mood. Every time he said something about nothing keeping her away from him, I wanted to tell Skye to get out of there. Red flags were everywhere. We even learn later he manipulated certain events around her with his abilities so he could see her more, which was moving beyond stalker territory.

From here until the last two chapters of the book, it all reads like Twilight. Replace the brooding vampire with a brooding alien, and it’s the same: there’s even an awkward prom. (And an excuse for chastity, which felt contrived, and familiar). When we finally got some action at the very end, it raised some interesting plot points but should have come much earlier in the book to keep my attention. I honestly was hanging on until the end in a hope that Skye would realize the relationship was toxic and possibly dangerous for the human race.

The dialogue between Skye and Ethan also really bugged me. Like many Gary Stu’s, Ethan speaks incredibly eloquently, and is, of course, super genius. But take this from someone who is surrounded by astrophysicists, cosmologists and astronomers day in and day out: that’s just not how anyone talks. Quoting Carl Sagan and calling it “Quantum Physics” or thinking someone is a genius because they know Venus has phases like the moon made me feel like Ethan was insulting her intelligence.

I was honestly hoping for more, but it was just a little too flat for me. I can see why others would like it, but I couldn’t get pact Ethan’s creepy stalker habits.

My review: ★★☆☆☆

The Power

by Naomi Alderman29751398

In The Power the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

It’s amazing reading the reviews of this book, and seeing how it has affected us all in such a similar way.

For the first half, I found myself feeling elated, energized. I felt pumped up in a way I never did before. I loved the concept, the world in which women finally had the power to stand up to abuse and oppression, and could walk outside without fear. I found myself imagining how much I wanted that ability, realizing I wanted to go outside but couldn’t because it was dark and my own neighborhood is unsafe. Reading was an experience that actually gave me energy.

Then things started to get out of hand, and I was disturbed. Really, really disturbed. There are some scenes that I can never get out of my head again, and I wish I hadn’t read. Disgusting, terrifying. I was actually sickened by what I read.

And then, framing the narrative with the ‘historical novel’ approach, the dialogue between a man and a woman in a world 5,000 years in our future? At first, I thought, no, this cannot be possible, because if women were in charge… and it hit me that those with power have the power to abuse, and will do so. It doesn’t matter which gender they belong to, but power and hate go hang in hand. And reading the last sentence had me laughing uneasily, out loud, for way longer than I’d like to admit to.

The author accomplished exactly what she set out to in this book. I feel like I connected with it, was able to suspend my disbelief even when things were pushing coincidences a little too far. It didn’t bother me, I was engrossed. A masterful piece of work.

My review: ★★★★☆


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