Review of Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

DreamstriderDreamstrider
By: Lindsay Smith
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

Reading While Sick

That might seem random but this last week I had a bad cold and had to resort to meds to help me breathe. In the midst of my sickness I picked up Dreamstrider and I found it to be probably the BEST book I could have chosen to read. This book was written very well and had a slower pace that kept me interested but allowed me to savor each word.

I am finding it so difficult to really communicate the experience of reading this book. It was a tad confusing at parts but in a wonderful way. The story revolved around dreams so it fit perfectly for it to not be completely clear cut. The characters, especially Livia, were really well done and easy for me to connect to. I really loved the relationship between Brandt and Livia and I adored their scenes together.

As for the twists and turns I never exactly knew where things were headed but a lot of that was due to the general cloud of confusion that I had throughout my reading experience. I really don’t know if this was because of my Dayquil haze or if things were hard to understand in general. I’d love to hear from other readers if they found things confusing or not. I am confident I will reread this book at some point because it was such an excellent read for me. I feel like it is the type of book that a reread would allow me to focus on other elements that I missed on the first read.

An element of this book I did not expect was how creepy certain elements were. This book had me cringing with creepy in a few places. I loved this and felt it was so well done and executed. I should have suspected that a book about dreams and nightmares and dreamwalking would have creepy bits but it came as a surprise.

You’ll notice in the summary the word ‘espionage’- I loved how Smith incorporated spies, espionage, betrayal, political schemes and dream walking all in one story. Though so many things were touched on it all meshed beautifully. Really, I just found this entire book to be such a surprisingly well done book.

Final Thoughts:

Dreamstrider was the book I’ve been looking for- a story that incorporated the dream world with excellent characters and a incredible story line.

This is a book to buy and add to your collection especially if you love dreams, espionage and spy novels.

Review of Stone in the Sky by by Cecil Castellucci

StoneintheSkyCoverStone in the Sky (Tin Star #2)
By: Cecil Castellucci
Release Date: February 24th 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
After escaping death a second time, Tula Bane is now even thirstier for revenge. She spends much of her time in the Tin Star Café on the Yertina Feray—the space station she calls home. But when it’s discovered that the desolate and abandoned planet near the station has high quantities of a precious resource, the once sleepy space station becomes a major player in intergalactic politics. In the spirit of the Gold Rush, aliens from all over the galaxy race to cash in—including Tula’s worst enemy.

The Story:
Stone in the Sky picked up with Tula on Yertina Feray- she is well acclimated to her environment though she is living with a good amount of guilt over the events in the last novel, Tin Star. The first book was slow paced and focused a great amount of how Tula’s life had developed on this lonely space station. In this novel the action picks up and there was less time on her interactions with others though that was still a main theme. We got to travel off of Yertina Feray and see other planets which I thought was done beautifully.

Castellucci knows how to create a vivid and realistic otherworldly environment. Her alien races were well thought out and easy to visualize as being a real entity in the universe. Because we are traveling around other planets and experiencing more action on Tula’s journey the pacing was faster in this novel than the first and it felt slightly more science fiction based. I thought all the details (like a space elevator) were wonderfully approached and seemingly based on research.

The writing style was still quiet yet powerful and loaded with emotion. I was impressed with how easily Castellucci was able to jump from Tula’s internal dialog to an action sequence. My only complaint with this novel (and I think ending to the series) was that the ending felt very rushed to me. I could have read another book dedicated to the last third of this book and been much happier. I wanted more depth and detail. The ending felt a bit too wrapped up nicely.

The Characters:
Tula was still the central theme of the novel and we get to experience her growth even more in this novel. I adored Tula in the first book and even more in this sequel. I felt her character arc was beautifully executed. I feel that my main draw to these two book was my appreciation for the author’s ability to create such a well rounded, relatable character in an otherworldly environment.

Tula was still close to her special alien, Tournour. I adored their relationship and how each character brought out strengths in the other. We get to learn more about Tournour’s past which I loved. My only issue was that I read the first book so long ago I had trouble recalling what he looked like so while reading I had a blank spot for him in my mind’s eye. I plan on doing a reread of the two novels back to back and figure I’ll have an even more intense emotional response.

Of course Brother Blue was prominent in this novel and once again I loathed him…though I was able to maybe, just maybe see the tiniest bit of why he was the way he was. As much as I can’t stand him I would love to read a novella focused on him in his earlier years. I think that could be very interesting.

Final Thoughts:
I am so impressed with both Tin Star and Stone in the Sky. I think that Castellucci is a very talented writer and that fans of character driven stories and science fiction will enjoy these books.

Review of Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

GhostsofHeaven1Ghosts of Heaven
By: Marcus Sedgwick
Release Date: January 6th 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

My Thoughts:
As other reviewers have pointed out this book is very difficult to rate and review. Sedgwick takes his reader on four different journeys which all share a common thread. I loved the idea behind the book and Sedgwick’s writing was beautiful as always.

The first story was my least favorite and this was probably because it was written in verse. I’ve not had luck with verse because I find it nearly impossible to connect to the characters. It was written well and was easy to read but I didn’t have the emotional response I’d have preferred. If you enjoy verse I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. The second story was an easier read for me but I was a tad underwhelmed with the storyline. This one centered around a young woman being accused of witch craft. I felt the story was a bit predictable. The writing was crisp and beautiful but it wasn’t enough to really have me love this story.

The last two stories turned the tide for me though. I found them both to be mesmerizing. The third story centers around a hospital for the mentally ill. I absolutely loved the storyline and main character. It was sufficiently creepy, fast paced and really beautifully done. The last story kept that momentum but turned the story to space. This one was so imaginative, horrifying and breathtaking. I want Sedgwick to write a full length book centered in space (has he done this yet? If so let me know!) Everything about the last story was amazing. It’s a must read even if it’s the only story you read from the book.

So, how do I rate this book since two stories fell flat but the other two were incredibly strong? I’d say try the first two but if they don’t grab you read the last two. I am eager to read more from Sedgwick since I’ve only read this and She Is Not Invisible.

Final Thoughts:
Though the first two stories weren’t hits for me the last two makes this book worth owning. Each story was well done but the last two were breathtaking in their originality, elegant prose and haunting storyline. Once again I’m blown away with Sedgwick’s ability to construct a story and add his unique voice to all sorts of genres.

Review of The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

The Vault of DreamersThe Vault of Dreamers
By: Caragh M. O’Brien
Release Date: September 16th 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

The Story:
I really enjoyed the idea behind The Vault of Dreamers because the concept of a reality show based on a school for creative kids seemed like it could go all sorts of fun places especially with the sleep angle. In reality, this book didn’t quite hit the mark I had anticipated. I wanted a bit more from the big reveal and found the pacing to be uneven and slow at times. I think a good section of the book could have been cut and wouldn’t have really detracted from the storyline.

This was a fairly l0ng book and to be honest not a lot happened. The mystery unfolded rather slowly which would have been fine if it had been more impactful. I didn’t have that feeling of intrigue or shock. There was never a moment that I really feared for the characters or felt at the edge of my seat.

I’m not entirely sure what this novel was trying to be because it didn’t feel all that science fiction or much like a thriller. Anytime dreams are mentioned my expectations go through the roof and I expect something that is going to really mess with my perception of reality. Add in a boarding school for creative types being aired on TV? I wanted oh so much from this book. That might have been the novel’s biggest problem-living up to it’s own summary hype.

For me this novel meandered a good amount and focused on slowly revealing what was really going on with the Forge school. We see things through the main character’s eyes and at the speed she was finding out the information. This typically works for me, but in this novel it felt pretty long winded. I wanted things to move faster or for the stakes to be much higher.

The Characters:
Possibly the story’s pacing and emotional impact would have been better if I’d have connected on a deeper level with the characters. They weren’t poorly constructed but I never cared as much as I would have liked. Why? I couldn’t really say. There was nothing that made me dislike them and I felt that the author did try to give them depth.

The romance did interest me in certain parts of the book and I did enjoy some of the character interactions and dialog. I felt that Rosie’s relationships at the Forge school were probably the strongest aspect to this book for me and did pull me through the slower sections and kept me reading.

Rosie was given a back story including a rough childhood, abusive stepfather and weak mother. Her motivating factor and hopes were placed with giving her little sister a better life. Though we witnessed some of these scenes with Rosie I never felt that her family was very well developed individually. They all felt very flat and I never felt the emotional pull the author was going for in the sibling relationship.

Final Thoughts:
Sadly, The Vault of Dreamers fell flat for me because of the slow pacing, anticlimactic reveal and lack of emotional connection to the characters. The reading experience was salvaged by some well done dialog and a love story that had potential.