Strange the Dreamer; worth the hype?

strange the dreamer

Laini Taylor has officially landed a place on my ‘Favourite YA Authors’ list.

Are you a fan of fantasy? Do you enjoy reading about mystical cities and orphan-boys-turned-librarians who dream and dream and dream about the aforementioned mystical cities late into the night? Have you dreamed of half goddess girls with blue skin and terrible powers sharing the title of ‘protagonist’ with a sweet and hungrily curious boy with a knack for adventure?

Whether you answered yes to all the above questions, or just need to escape the world (and your responsibilities) for a few hours, then Strange The Dreamer is for you. I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s the kind of book that you know you’re going fall hopelessly in love with as soon as you read the first few sentences. Which gave me chills, by the way. Laini Taylor as an author is nearly incomparable to me. The only other person who I could compare her to would be Maggie Steifvater–author of The Raven Cycle, and an all time fav. This book reminded me why I loved to read, even as I was reading it. The world we find ourselves in is so beautifully spun, the storytelling so immaculate, I genuinely found myself actually gasping in wonder at some points. I have heard complaints lamenting the length of this book, but I just can’t relate. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be a page shorter. I can sympathise with those who wished for better pacing, but I was having too much of a good time revelling in the prose to really care.

The basic premise itself is glorious;

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.

We have a QUEST! We have ADVENTURE! We have romance of the epic kind! Honestly this book delivers on every front, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The characters all have enough page time (the book is huge lol so I’m not surprised) to be thoroughly fleshed out and explored… everyone has a past or a back story or inner monologue that will make you love them, or hate them or change your view completely. The world is so easy to get lost in, it’s almost scary.

One of my favourite things in this book (and any book, for that matter) is the idea that literally anything is possible. I definitely think this is why I lean more towards sci-fi/ fantasy when it comes to reading for fun, but this is such a huge theme in Strange The Dreamer. Laini Taylor really goes all in with ‘anything can happen if you want it badly enough, you just have to go out into the world and make it so’ and I love it. I also think that the main characters we have in Lazlo and Sarai really contribute towards this whole idea; Lazlo is a nobody and alone, and this is relateable on some level for everyone, but he has this dream which keeps him going and keeps him going. Again, relatable on some level for everyone. And Sarai. An an entire city of poeple think they know that she is a monster, simply because of the things her parents did. But we as the reader get to know a kind and caring and fiercely protective girl who would sacrifice anything for those that she loves. The dual third-person works extremely well here as we see much more than just the inside of our protaganist’s heads, and so we understand so much more, and so we are granted a kind of omniscience that is rare in YA Lit today, but which, in my opinion, gives a richer experience that first person.  The idea of dreaming is also woven so tightly into the fabric of the narrative that story itself begins to feel almost dreamlike, again making the possibilities for all the characters seem veritably endless. And also, I found, making me question alot of the things that keep me awake with how much I want them, the things that I dream about, but keep to myself.

A word of caution… if you prefer gripping, page-turning murder mysteries to drawn out prose and description, then this book might not be for you. Although if any story has the potential to change your mind it’s this one.

recommended for: fans of the raven cycle by Maggie Steifvater, romantics, dreamers, anyone seeking epiphany, and of course, any person who’s ever wanted to get out of this world for a few hours and go someplace extraordinary.

trigger warning for discussion of genocide and rape, also mind control.

let me know what you guys thought,

esmie xx


update: Strange the Dreamer #2 has a title now: ‘Muse of Nightmares’… and a Goodreads page, which means we know it’s 528 pages long (hardcover) and slated for an October 2nd, 2018 publication date!!!



We Are the Ants review


Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson was my last read of 2017, and honestly? I can’t think of a better way to end the year. Henry was a highly engaging and candid first person narrator, who I actually saw a lot of myself in despite the fact we had next to nothing in common on paper. Getting a look inside his head was a delight–even though it rarely, rarely felt like that. This book is dark, and sad, and very lonely at times, but do not let that put you off. I for one think there is far too much wishy-washy, does-he-love-me, over-dramatisation of inane problems and the plague that is insta-love in YA lit, and this book is pretty much the antithesis of that.

At first, the ultimatum Henry is given seems almost stupid, or too easy: if you had the chance to save the world from impending doom then surely you would, wouldn’t you? The point of this book is to show you that it simply isn’t as clear cut as that. In some ways this book is a bit of an exposé on the world as a whole; this planet and the people on it are capable of terrible, terrible things. We are constantly hurting each other in a million little–and not so little–ways.

Case in point: Henry’s life isn’t so great. His mother is a struggling waitress who has all but given up on keeping their family together. His brother is unemployed and and soon to be a father. His grandmother is losing her battle with Alzheimer’s, and perhaps worst of all, Henry is still coming to terms with his boyfriend Jesse’s suicide last year.
So in that respect it is understandable why he isn’t all too enamored with this world, or too intent on saving it. But this book is also about grief and the tricky part of grief where you actually start to pull through it. As our Lord and Savior Brendon Urie of P!ATD sings in Hallelujah:

“Then the time for being sad is over
And you miss ’em like you miss no other
And being blue is better than being over it”

Sometimes being sad and existing in that perpetual state of sadness is easier than moving on. I think that for a large part of the novel, that it what Henry feels, and it is only when he starts to weigh up (and actively participate in) the world around him that he sees there are any other options for the way he is to live (or not live) his life than grief.

The way this book looks at the intricacies of family and how we blame each other for things that are ultimately out of our control hits very close to home, and is startling in it’s accuracy.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.

One of the things I loved most about this book though, was the narrative voice. Henry’s voice is hilarious yet cynical and so, so real. It is also very consistent, and always in character, something which I feel many YA authors struggle to convey. No doubt this book deals with some very heavy themes; suicide, Alzheimer’s, bullying and existentialism to name but a few, but it does so in a poignant and intelligent way, while still maintaining an accessible and original feel.

There is also a whole host of characters to fall in love with. The new kid Diego will steal your heart and break it. Both Audrey and Henry’s older brother Charlie (as well as his girlfriend Zooey) will wind up deep within your affections without any warning whatsoever. We Are the Ants holds up a crystal clear magnifying glass to humanity and doesn’t flinch at what it finds – even if I did.

To put it simply; I loved this book. I definitely thought it was tragic at times, but also quietly hopeful, and determined, and so thoughtful it genuinely made me catch my breath. It’s also the kind of book that lends itself to re-reading, which I will be doing… time and time (and time) again.

I will also definitely be grabbing The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley (another one of Shaun David Hutchinson’s books) the next time I’m in Waterstone’s!


recommended for: fans of i’ll give you the sun, anyone prone to serious introspection and those who err on the side caution when it comes to soft sci-fi or YA lit: this book more than any has the potential to change your mind.

let me know what you all thought,

esmie x


trigger warnings: suicide, self harm mentions, existentialism/nihilism, very bad bullying & physical assault, attempted rape.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour – review


we are okay.jpg

blurb from goodreads:

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need… Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.”


This book is about a girl called Marin who lives with her grandfather in a house by the beach.

This book is about a girl called Marin who lives in a motel all alone and whispers herself to sleep every night through tears.

It is also a book about a girl called Marin who lives in a dorm room at NYU and isn’t not present in her own life so much as she is vacant from it.

It was definitely. Something. I don’t really know how else to describe it.

It’s lonely and sad and so, so melancholy, but it is also hopeful and whimsical and nostalgic.

The story is told in a sort of non-linear way that is only really rewarding if you get to the end. I did find myself slightly frustrated at how vague it all was, but as it is a short novel (only 234 pages long – I read it on a lengthy train journey) the frustration is short lived. The ending, I would say, is very satisfying and kind of perfect.

(yeah, I cried… shhh)

Marin as a first-person narrator was also interesting. I usually dislike first person narration but it worked here as it was, more than anything, Marin’s story being told. I don’t believe a third person or omniscient narrator would have had the same effect. I think it worked for me in this case as it just made everything Marin felt hit a little closer to home, and just a lot more real. Especially her descriptions of grief and loneliness, which I believe LaCour handled very well.

Even when I was 20 or so pages from the end, I did not expect to be so emotional about the ending. I hadn’t felt that attached to Marin throughout the novel, but I did find myself shedding a tear when things finally started looking up for her.

Strangely enough I find myself more able to relate to Marin more after finishing and reflecting on the novel. I cannot claim to have been through any of the trauma she has suffered through, but she is a very old, lonely soul who distances herself from the people who love her in order to recover/survive. I can, on a small scale, relate to this, and so it felt comforting (to a degree) to know that I wasn’t alone in this coping mechanism.

It was also really great to have some decent wlw/lesbian rep that wasn’t a coming out story, or contributing to the horrific ‘Bury Your Gays Trope”. Marin’s sexuality was never made out to be a big thing, which I liked. There was also no damaging homophobia scene which unfortunately crops up nearly always in lgbtqia+ ya. It simply was, which was refreshing to say the least. I also thought the description of Marin and Mabel’s relationship was incredibly beautiful.

On to the plot twist! I did NOT see it coming. I was expecting something to be *not quite how it seemed* simply because the story was not being told chronologically, which is always a dead give-away for a plot twist, or dramatic reveal, but I am not going to lie, guys. I am a total sucker for that kind of thing. I LOVE it. Especially when the reveal is nothing like you expected or anticipated… 😉

Unfortunately, I cannot give this a five star review, or even a four starred review, because even though it was a good book that was very well written and dealt with difficult subject matter, it did bore me sometimes. There were too many little details that were kind of… very irrelevant. It felt like the author was simply filling the page at times, which is understandable as not a lot happens, and the book only takes place over 3 days.

The other thing is, while being a very sad, yet lovely novel, it was a bit forgettable. It didn’t change me, or my outlook on life, it didn’t make me question anything, but perhaps that is a lot to ask of a book, and perhaps my standards are a bit too high. It was just very sad and then a bit happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just sort of feel like this was a book the author needed to write, but didn’t necessarily need to be written? That sounds a bit harsh, but I don’t know how else to put it.

It was good, though. If you have a spare hour or two or three it would be a solid read, and I would recommend it.


I’ll leave you with that, and of course my rating:

rating: ★★★.5   (3.5 starred review)

let me know how you guys found it!

esmie xx