Monday, 27 March 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Strange the Dreamer is the story of: 

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep. (Goodreads)

I've been looking forward to Strange the Dreamer since I finished Dreams of Gods and Monsters (the last of Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy). I didn't even know if she'd ever write another book, but I knew if she did I'd be first in line to read it. 

We've had a long wait for Strange the Dreamer since it's release was pushed back...but IT'S HERE. FINALLY. AND OH MY IS IT WORTH THE WAIT.

It's impossible not to fall in love with Lazlo Strange. He's possibly the cutest character I've ever read. But as a fantasy reader, I felt so connected to Lazlo. He's every reader that's spent their childhood with their nose in a book, dreaming of adventures in far off lands. 
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The cast of characters are so complex and layered; my feelings are so complicated over them. The guilt some of them carry is heartbreaking. We didn't get enough of some of the characters in this book, leaving me aching to find out more in the next book.

Taylor's writing is exquisite, as usual. It's beautifully crafted and lush to read. Add that to a masterful plot and you've got the makings of an absolute classic. I loved reading about the world, its so well constructed and well thought out (and has a link to the DOSAB books). Strange the Dreamer needs is own category of fantasy, like her first series, it carves out its own unique spot. You'll never read anything like this.

The romance is adorable, sweet and so very very real. There's no insta-love. (Spoiler: I loved the small fact that Sarai didn't think Lazlo was good looking when she first saw him. But as she got to know him she saw the beauty in him and fell in love with that.) 

I have seen people say that they thought it was hard to get into Strange the Dreamer, but I didn't have any problems. I was immediately drawn in and though the plot progressed really fast. However, I enjoy lonnnggg descriptive and drawn out books, so this probably impacts my opinion. 

I NEED more. The wait for book 2 is going to be excruciating. 

5 Stars. Undeniably. To me, its perfect.

I'll be doing an interview with Laini when she visits the UK in April. Let me know if you have any questions you think I should ask!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

My Grandma and Me

I've debated about writing something about my grandma's Alzheimer’s and myself for a while. Writing is a release for me and right now I need one. I hope you read this and thank you if you do. 

I remember doing a presentation on Alzheimer’s in college and the other students in my class saying how it was the worst thing they could possibly imagine happen to their loved ones. I remember listening to them and wanting to cry.
At this time, she hadn’t forgotten who I was but the combination of college work and knowing each day that how she was today would be the best she’d ever be again caused me to be very depressed. Being the shy person that I was, I contemplated speaking to someone about it, but never did. I should have. I ask myself why I didn’t quite often.

I don’t like to see my grandma. I admit I will avoid going to see her. It’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever thought, but I can’t help it. I hope you don’t judge me for it. I love my grandma. But it takes such an emotional toll on me after every visit that every time it takes me longer to pull myself back together.

Today, we put my grandma into a home. Nearly five years after we first suspected something was wrong, the time came that she could no longer stay at home. Her Alzheimer’s has progressed enough that she needs 24/7 care. Something that my elderly grandfather can’t provide.

This afternoon, I went with my mam to my grandparents’ house to pick my grandma up. Seeing the garden that was her pride and joy so overgrown and neglected made me want to start crying before we’d even got there.
I played with their dog while my mam packed her clothes into a suitcase. As my grandad explained which pills she should take and when, I could hear my grandma in another part of the house talking to herself. She often talks to herself in mirrors or reflective surfaces because she doesn’t know her own face.
With the car packed with her clothes and box of adult nappies, it was time to go. My grandad started to cry. While we put her coat on, he told her he’d see her soon and she gave him a confused look. He kissed her on the cheek. She turned to me and began to cry. “You’re making me cry. That was lovely. Thank you,” she told him.
“You can come with us you know,” my mam said to my grandad.
“No,” he answered.

In the car, she turned and smiled to me in the back. That look is what breaks my heart each time. It’s the empty smile you give a stranger. A polite one.
At the top of their drive, there’s a gap between the bushes that lets you see down to the kitchen window. Every time I have visited my grandparents’ house in the 20 years I've been alive, I have stopped to wave at them. They'd always be leaning on the counter waiting to wave back. We stopped at the spot, my mam and I waved, and my grandma watched us while we did it. I wanted to tell her to remember to wave, but she wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

At the nursing home, we walked her slowly inside as she can’t walk very long distances any more. As I helped, she patted my cheek and said, “You’re lovely.” I smiled back.
We sat her down and one of the nurses gave her a cup of tea. After taking a sip she told us how lovely it was, how much better it was than what she used to get at the last place. Her house for the last 30 years was now ‘that place’. She didn’t understand that she was now in a nursing home.
We labelled all her clothes with her name and put them in her drawers and cupboard. One the nurses came to ask us some questions about her. Does she eat? Yes. Does she take from other people’s plates? Yes. We explained that she was doubly incontinent. The nurse reassured us that they had seen it all. Nothing could surprise them. She told us not to worry. I wanted to thank her over and over for the work she does. Throughout my grandma sat, quietly watching, completely unaware that we were talking about her.

My grandma’s room is opposite a women she used to live two doors down from for 25 years. “It’s Rita, grandma,” I told her. “Oh,” she said.
My mam went to say hello and chat to Rita for a few minutes and it was quiet between me and my grandma. Years ago, I used to tell her everything, visiting her after school to chat. Now she can’t hold a conversation, she just can't follow it along. My mam and Rita laughed about something across the hall. “Someone’s happy over there,” she said to me. I nodded back. ‘That’s your daughter!’ I wanted to say. Instead I smiled and made comments about the room, about her tea that had now gone cold. She explained to me how she’d gotten the tea, as if I hadn’t been there. I acted like I didn’t know what she was telling me.

When we were leaving, she sat, oblivious of being in a strange room with strange people. My mam kissed her on the cheek. She laughed and made a surprised face at me. I kissed her on the cheek too. “I’m getting so many kisses,” she said. “Thank you.” She started to cry.

Driving away my mam said to me, “If I ever end up like that, please hit me over the head with a frying pan. I don’t want to go into a home.”
“Do you know who else always said that?” I asked her.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Song Rising Locations In Edinburgh

On Tuesday 7th March I was lucky enough to be able to attend the launch party for The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. Samantha does an amazing job of bringing the city to life in the book, so while I was there, I thought I'd take some pictures of the locations featured in the book!

Locations from Chapter 15: The Grand Smoke

'Mist laced around the old stone buildings...Edinburgh was sometimes called the Grand Smoke, and now I knew why: there were chimneys everywhere,' (p.214)

You can also see the hills where Paige and Warden hike in the background.

'On the ledge of volcanic rock, a decaying fortress knelt on the skyline of the citadel.' (p.214
(The castle is looking pretty damn good for its age, so you just have to imagine the decay and crumbliness)

(I actually forgot to take a pic of the castle, and the one I took last time is pretty dark so I stole the one above from Google so you can see it better)

'The safe house was in an alleyway halfway up..."Anchor Close? Is this a joke?"' (p.215)

Chapter 16: The Vaults

'I could appreciate the beauty of the Old Town, It's buildings were beautiful and motley, with spires and rooftops that clambered skyward' (p.224)

'The steps led us up to the Grand Mile...Beneath our feet were broad, piebald cobblestones,' (p.225)
The Grand Mile is actually called the Royal Mile in real life. But in the world of The Bone Season, there isn't a monarchy anymore, so it was probably renamed by Scion. 

(also stolen from google)

'"The South Bridge Vaults," he said. "Sometimes known as the Edinburgh Vaults."' (p.226)

The Song Rising launch was actually hosted in some of the vaults. It was such an atmospheric space. However, I don't think i'd like to be alone in there...Edinburgh has mannnnyyy ghost stories. 

I found this picture of what the vaults look like under the South Bridge.

If you visit Edinburgh, you can take a tour of the Vaults. Auld Reekie Tours uses this picture on their website.

Chapter 18- Vigil

'We were making for the hills behind Haliruid House- once a royal palace,' (p.252)

Haliruid House is names Holyrood House in real life and is a place the Queen stays when she visits Scotland. Many Kings and Queens have stayed in the palace including Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots. 

'The park and grounds of Haliruid House was thick with pine trees. We hiked around them and up the rough-hewn hills, belted by a bitter wind.' (p.252)

The hills around Holyrood House are called the Salisbury Crags.

'We made camp below an overhang.' (p.252) 

Chapter 19- Offering

'At the edge of the park, I skidded to a stop, unable to believe what I was seeing. A multitude of people had amassed before the gates of Haliruid House- hundreds of them, gathered around a fountain on the enormous driveway,' (p.264)

You can see Holyrood behind me here (The big grey building) 

'Others were climbing on to the Gothic monument on the street to get out of the crush,' (p.267)


I hope you enjoyed this post! 
Have you been to Edinburgh? Did you think The Song Rising captured it well? Has TSR made you want to visit (without the threat of Scion)?

Bonus picture of me just pretending I was the badass that is Paige Mahoney. ;)