Saturday, January 30, 2016


Published by Macmillan (UK), 2015. Hardcover, 438 pgs

       This was utterly delightful! Every ten years, the Dragon picks a village girl to come live with him in exchange for the village's protection against the dangerous Wood. The feared, respected Dragon has mastered the use of certain magics and lives mostly as a powerful, aloof wizard in his tower. When Agnieszka is surprisingly chosen as his companion over her friend (and assumed choice) Kasia, she embarks on many unexpected adventures in (and out) of his household.
      I absolutely adore the heroine, Agnieszka. She is plagued by self-doubt, holds occasional pity-parties for herself, is average in appearance, and grows realistically as a character. The most impressive part of her story is the fantastic way that she resourcefully figures out how to solve a problem by doing her best. Sounds simple, but so many books take illogical jumps from a character having basic skill to mastery of the skill in the course of a minute. Agnieszka uses the knowledge she has from reading and understanding the basic nature of a simple substance to do the best in whatever situation she lands in. Sometimes it simply slows down a problem until a more permanent situation can be found. This is often how REAL life is, even though there is also magic in the story.
       The magic is completely enchanting. There's a beauty to the fluidity of the spells that make it a joy to read even as terrible things are happening. The juxtaposition of gruesome in the Wood and the evocative, often merry-sounding spells was captivating. 
       It's also hard to find good gal friendships in stories these days. Particularly without jealousy, heaps of resentment over appearances, or fighting over a man/multiple men. Agnieszka and Kasia remain devoted to each throughout the story, no matter if they're experiencing highs or lows.  
       I greatly respected Novik's approach to the story, and the blend of elements she used to make a truly entertaining read. It is apparent that she was raised on Polish fairy tales, and has indeed "pillaged degrees in English literature....from various ivory towers" (from author blurb on the back flap of my edition). Definitely interested in reading her backlist, particularly the Temeraire Series.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Published by Scholastic Press, 2013. Hardcover, 437 pgs.

     Sigh. I was just not feeling this one. I can't fault Stiefvater, since the writing is similar in quality and style to The Raven Boys. My least favorite elements of the first one included the plot about the search for the Welsh King Glendower, and the supernatural points in general. I love Blue and her family of psychics, but they weren't featured as prominently in this story.
     The main character in this one is Ronan Lynch. We hear more about his life, relationships with his brothers, and family history of procuring items from dreams and bringing them forth to real life upon awakening. Nice premise, but felt confused during most of the disjointed dream sequences. I realized there would be an explanation, but still couldn't make myself care in the moment. It was the type of confusion where my attention wasn't piqued enough to fly through the pages and figure out what happened. I just became annoyed at my lack of interest, and subsequently forced my way through it.
     The addition of the Kavinsky character and the car racing/Molotov cocktail throwing bravado wasn't my cup of tea either. "The inside of the old Camaro smelled like asphalt and desire, gasoline and dreams." Eh, maybe the appeal is there for some, I just found some of these scenes humorous, when I'm sure that was not the intention. The physical descriptions of characters and tough-guy personas seemed overwrought. "And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war." Okey dokey. I was also a little uninspired by the Gray Man being named the Gray Man, because, well, he wore Gray.
       As I've repeatedly stated, I just had a hard time. I feel extra guilty since I have the third book and really wanted to pre-order the final book for it's release in late March. This goes to prove that I need to buy books in a series one at a time! If you usually enjoy Young Adult paranormal and bad boy characters, this might be in your wheelhouse.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Published by Scholastic Press, 2015. Hardcover, 184 pgs

    The bookseller I purchased this from said this was a wonderful middle grade book about big issues without being a "big issue" book. She couldn't be more correct. This cute and deceptively simple story features twelve year old Lily and her old dog Lucky, who live in Maine near a blueberry farm. One day Lucky gets away and  crosses into the blueberry fields where a little girl Salma is working her plot. Salma catches Lucky by giving her a peanut butter sandwich. When Lily takes Salma's family a thank-you pie, the two strike up a lovely friendship.

      Accepting change, evolving friendships, and the impact of art as a medium of expression are explored in this contemporary novel. The reader also glimpses loss through the lens of Salma, since her family never stays in one place. Lily's loss of her mom weighs heavily on her own day to day experiences. Together, the two teach each other about meaningful, lasting friendships. From a mutual love of painting to bonding over animals, this coming of age story set in Maine is sure to delight. And, of course, who can resist that cover?

Monday, January 18, 2016


Published by Sterling, 2013. Original, 1965. Leather Bound Barnes and Noble Edition, 585 pgs

      In this visionary work of Science Fiction, we open on the Duke of Atreides, his concubine Jessica, and their son Paul. Preparations are under way to leave their homeland in Caladan and journey to the Arrakis planet of Dune, previously ruled by the brutal Harkonnen regime. On this new planet, they will experience peril at every turn from the evil Harkonnens, a traitor from within, and the harsh physical landscape where water is scarce and giant sandworms roam among the precious spice commodity.  
      As in most created worlds, it takes me an hour or two of intense concentration, occasional notetaking, and @100 pages to become invested in the story. This was no different. This novel was published fifty years ago, has been made into a movie and sci-fi channel series, and been discussed thousands of times. I don't think I'll have any earth shattering observations, so will just share what I loved and what was slightly problematic for me.
       There are so many things to appreciate with the construct of the story. The world-building is incredibly detailed, with rich history for all groups of people. The precarious balance of power is fascinating and keeps the tension/suspense element present! I love the concept of any novel that explores the scarcity of a certain commodity, and how that can change people's daily lives. In this case, spice and water. The desert and structure descriptions were simply fantastic.
      I thought the writing was good in most parts, like this observation: "Always before, Staff had ended on an incisive air. This meeting had just seemed to trickle out, worn down by it's own inadequacies, and with an argument to top it off." Quite succinct, and really highlights the mood. I was a big fan of the italicized portions at the beginning of each segment (often written by Princess Irulan), which provided history and often great foreshadowing for the book.
      I think this had one of the most incredible villains. I liked the grotesque physical descriptions that were excellently repulsive! Specific examples would be "thick purple hands" "copious jowls" and "baby-fat hands".  ICK.
        I had some trouble with all the prophecies, legends, and visions that came to Paul and his mother. While I loved the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood element, some dreams went on too long and I wanted the action to move forward without a confusing/muddled dream sequence. Some of the descriptions seemed nonsensical and rambling, and became tedious to me. The visions always seemed fevered, but perhaps that is explored more in book two...or maybe I just need to concentrate and reread.  
       I can see why it is a landmark of Science Fiction and I'm pleased that I had the experience of reading such a beautiful edition. While I appreciated the imaginative work and rich world building, I'm not sure I'll be continuing with the series at the moment. I'm glad that this sufficed as a standalone, but that I'll be able to find plenty of material if I choose to return to this world. I recommend to anyone who wants to read a classic in the genre!


Published by Anchor Books, 1998. Paperback, 311 pgs

"I too am a missing person."
      Jeepers creepers!!! In this work of speculative fiction, Atwood takes elements of our current society, and twists them just enough to make you feel desperately uncomfortable. This is her uncanny gift in most of her works, but particularly in this fantastic piece.
      This books takes place several years after a "war" and is exceedingly upsetting in flashing back and forth between the "before" and present day. The reader hears the accounts told from the perspective of a Handmaid only known as "Offred" (names in the before having been abolished). This adds to the haunting feeling- with many snapshots of memories and precious day-to-day that was taken for granted.
"Absurd, but that's what I want. An argument, about who should put the dishes in the dishwasher, whose turn it is to sort the laundry, clean the toilet; something daily and unimportant in the big scheme of things. What a luxury it would be.....These days I script whole fights, in my head, and the reconciliations afterwards too."
     Every time I tried to take a step back from this coldly-sterilized society, the descriptions of loneliness pulled me right back in. All live in fear and subversion, and Atwood handles the role of men brilliantly. They are also in a prison of sorts, albeit playing different roles than the women. As in any brutal regime, power and privileges are doled out to a select few. The role of the "Aunts" described in the Historical Notes section at the beginning was beyond brilliant. All the groups listed were captivating from a sociological perspective.
       Beyond the awful duties these women must perform, I found the most heart wrenching part of the story to be unrequited longing and loss of hope. Longing for simple comforts, basic friendships from other women, and the smallest measure of freedom. The constant daily fear mixed in with mundane tasks makes this a compulsive read. Even the bland descriptions of food managed to be unnerving, as well as the system of dress.
     I truly couldn't find a single fault in it, even if I shouldn't say the reading experience is "enjoyable". Exceptionally well-researched and paced. One of the rare books you read where it doesn't feel a single word is wasted. There was such depth of feeling, and luckily I own my copy, since I had to dog-ear pages and pages of quotes. Also, that intro. Also, just everything. It's an unforgettable masterpiece.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Published by Avon, 2012. Mass Market Paperback, 386 pgs

     I received this regency era romance as a selection in my Book Riot Quarterly box over a year ago. I've finally come around to reading it since I was spurred on by a readathon on Booktube. The challenge this satisfies is "to read a book outside of your comfort zone." After hearing Maclean speak on a panel at the Book Riot Live event this past November, I was further intrigued to pick this up.
       The scene opens on a day in 1821 when the Marquess of Bourne gambles away his family estate and riches to a former friend and family mentor. The disgraced and embittered Bourne swears vengeance and spends the next ten years trying to regain his wealth as a partner in London's premiere gaming hell, The Fallen Angel. When he is given an opportunity to regain his property upon a marriage, he jumps at the chance. Of course these things don't go as planned, and he has a childhood connection to his sweet and innocent new wife Penelope.
     I thought the witty banter between the characters was fun. Let's be honest, in these stories it's mostly a build up to a sex scene. I was surprised this had a smidge less cheesiness than expected, and was often tongue in cheek. I only cringed marginally. There was a particular dinner party scene where Penelope is musing on her husband's account of their meeting "Such lies. So smooth. So easy to believe." Umm, not quite. If someone was gushing and laying it on that thick over a meal I'd be inclined to think he was at least disingenuous.
       I might read the second book if it's available at my library because it focuses on her bookish sister Pippa. I'd recommend for anyone who likes a quick, fun romance set in the Regency era. There's some fun back and forth and it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Published by Bantam, 1997. Mass Market Paperback, 757 pgs   

      An epic ending to a fantastic trilogy. I did feel there were a couple pacing problems, particularly on a long journey near the end. I shouldn't have been surprised at some of the extreme magical elements, but there were a couple parts I wish had a more grounded explanation. I realize this is ridiculous since there are obvious hints of a grand revelation in the magic system setup, but it was quite fantastical and threw me off for whatever reason. However, I adored the magic of the Skill and the Wit-bond to animals. As someone who spends her days with four dogs, Hobb's loyal, loving depiction was accurate and appreciated.

     This book opens once again on a damaged Fitz who is trying to achieve normalcy and eventually go on a vengeful mission. Of all the novels, this is the most introspective and magic heavy. We also get additional Six Duchies history and lore. The reader has been on a long journey detailing the Kingdom's battle against The Red Ship raiders. The story is concluded in this final installment.

    The relationships wrapped up in both perfect and imperfect ways. There was a mix of happy and sad, with many realistic outcomes. It's so hard to stay out of spoiler territory, but my favorite resolutions dealt with Nighteyes and Molly. I appreciated that certain characters were given their due in sometimes unexpected ways, while others were elevated. This is intentionally vague, but those who have read the series will probably know which characters I'm referencing. If you'd like to discuss this series, please get in touch with me here or on YouTube. This is my new favorite series of all time. I haven't marathoned books all together in ages, and will deeply miss these characters. I'm thrilled that I have more Robin Hobb to discover. I urge you to try her books if you have any interest in Fantasy. Utterly brilliant.