#RETELLINGSRC2017 Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

Hardcover, 435 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Del Rey
Finally, I was able to make time to read this book!  I have heard so many good things, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since I heard about it at ALAMW15.  I’m so glad I had the “excuse” of choosing this title for the Retellings Reading Challenge 🙂
The story and characters were riveting, and I found myself unable to set it down for very long.  I especially loved that the Woods had their own personality, which lent to giving the whole story a thrilling and darker aspect.  This is a retelling/reinterpretation of the Beauty and the Beast story, and there are hints and throwbacks throughout the story to give you the sense of the original, but this story’s main feature is all its own.
As this is a standalone, you can expect to read a full story that wraps up almost all the loose strands by the final page.  Characters develop and grow throughout, and you get to see a good chunk of this fictional world as the story unravels.  In a book world that features series quite heavily (and I adore that and seek them out), it was nice to have a contained story that didn’t rely on additional materials.
There were a few things that I found disappointing like the distinct lack of actual dragons, and the ending didn’t seem to have enough explanation throughout the first part of the book.  It needed a bit more development and lore to seem more believable.  But overall, this is a very solid example of an author taking a familiar story and putting their own twist on it, successfully.

Summary:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass

Paperback, 751 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Roc (first published September 29th 2015)
You may recall that I’m participating in the AceRocStars street team program, and this book was one of the earlier galleys they sent out.  I’ve really wanted to read it ever since I finished reading the prologue, which introduced Gwen as she battled her mother in a flurry of words and gauntlet blasts.  What a way to introduce a character!  But then we shifted gears to Captain Grimm, and it took me a little while to warm up to him.  When I start a new series, they usually seem a little slow at the beginning until the author finds his/her rhythm.

Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

R★: Highly recommended. (Must-read right now!) Creative Must (Does something different really well.) I had to stay up last night just to finish this book. While the beginning was a little slow with world-building, the pace quickly grabbed my...

R★: Highly recommended. (Must-read right now!)

Creative Must (Does something different really well.)

I had to stay up last night just to finish this book. While the beginning was a little slow with world-building, the pace quickly grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. As a humorous breakdown of horror stereotypes in a MG novel, the characters really came to life.  Majordomo-the Frankenstein monster, Cook and her son Angus-minotaurs, Serenissima-she’s completely unique, and Pins-a voodoo doll come to life.  Here’s what you need to know about this book!

Pros:
Great characterization and well-rounded cast
Main character had to confront a bully, but she had great support from friends
Catch more flies with honey not vinegar trope well-used
Twisted horror tropes
Firm conclusion with space for a sequel (NOT a cliff-hanger ending)
Fun art throughout
Enjoyable for all ages

Cons:
Beginning was a little slow to set the stage
The tasks and Board of Magic were a bit confusing at times

This is definitely a title every library should have, and it should be added to bully prevention lists for its portrayal of support.

 

Reviewed from an uncorrected proof.

Throwback Thursday: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

R: Recommended (This is at the top of the pile.)
Creative Must (Does something different really well.)
I loved the premise of this book: Instead of the Library of Alexandria disappearing, it becomes the “impartial” reservoir of all knowledge. Written...

R: Recommended (This is at the top of the pile.)

Creative Must (Does something different really well.)

I loved the premise of this book: Instead of the Library of Alexandria disappearing, it becomes the “impartial” reservoir of all knowledge. Written books are supposed to be handed over to the Library, which leads to an extensive black market trade. There was a lot to like about this book, and I’m glad the author’s already working on book 2!

Pros:
Diverse characters, full of personality
Bits of ephemera between chapters to flesh out back story
Main character learns to accept himself as an individual
Just enough description, great world-building
Homosexual relationship presented as accepted

Cons:
Sometimes the pace seemed distracted or slowed
Character deaths, they were logical mostly, I just hate when named characters die 😦

This is definitely something everyone should read and share with their friends as soon as possible!

I received this uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review through AceRocStars.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel soon!

Throwback Thursday: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

R: Recommended (This is at the top of the pile.)
Creative Must (Does something different really well.)
This was an amazing retelling/sequel to the world that is Oz! I will freely admit that I might not have read this if it wasn’t for meeting the...

R: Recommended (This is at the top of the pile.)

Creative Must (Does something different really well.)

This was an amazing retelling/sequel to the world that is Oz!  I will freely admit that I might not have read this if it wasn’t for meeting the author at ALA Midwinter 2015, just because I’ve never been in love with the Wizard of Oz.  But I’m very glad I read this because the storytelling was great and the retelling aspect was almost seamless.

Pros:
Amy, the MC, was compelling and likable
Wicked characters did not completely change sides
The new characters mixed well with familiar ones
Characters were diverse and interesting

Cons:
Pacing seemed off sometimes-slow exposition bits
Tin Man/Scarecrow/Lion are now horror-level creepy w/o explanation
Still not convinced why Amy must be the one to kill Dorothy

Some of the cons are rectified with the reading of all the side novellas, which explain a LOT of the backstory I was wondering about while reading this novel.  But I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Throwback Thursday: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

R★: Highly recommended. (Must-read right now!)
Creative Must (Does something different really well.)
With this book, I deviated from my comfort zone of fantasy/sci-fi and delved into horror. A creepy psychological thriller, The Dead House shines some...

R★: Highly recommended. (Must-read right now!)

Creative Must (Does something different really well.)

With this book, I deviated from my comfort zone of fantasy/sci-fi and delved into horror.  A creepy psychological thriller, The Dead House shines some light on DID (disassociate identity disorder) through a multimedia format of diary entries, video transcripts, police interviews, and post-it notes.  And as a debut for Dawn Kurtagich, this book is a masterpiece.  Here’s my rundown!

Pros:
This format was easy to read and a whole lot of fun
Pacing was appropriate to the story’s flow
Round female characters
Use of Mala & Grundi is different and interesting

Cons:
Male characters felt stereotypical
Would have been nice to have a better grasp of Mala & Grundi (like an author’s note explaining the real-life basics)

Spoilers below

I’m not sure how I would classify the ending (as pro or con).  Basically the author puts forth enough information/evidence to support either that the main character was in fact insane or that someone really had cursed her.  I dislike endings that feel like ‘it was all a dream’, but this one had me thinking. I liked this ending because both sides had equivalent evidence and you really do have to figure it out yourself.

This book is great in any library but may be of particular interest to those wanting a first-person look at a multiple personality disorder. Definitely one to go out and buy as soon as it hits the shelves in September!!!

Reviewed from an uncorrected proof claimed from work.

One of my favorite reads from last year, I have been recommending this book to everyone who shows even the mildest of interest (including feigned interest!).  Luckily, it’s an amazing read and most of the people who took the plunge really enjoyed it.  I was able to purchase a signed hardcover at BEA16 from the Anderson Bookshop booth!!

Throwback Thursday: Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs

For the next few weeks, my Throwback Thursday will feature reviews previously posted on my Tumblr.

R: Recommended (This is at the top of the pile.)

Creative Must (Does something different really well.)

Here’s a quick breakdown of the first 4 books in this series.

Cry Wolf: After years of abuse at the bottom of a pack, Anna has learned not to trust dominant males, until Charles Cornick, the enforcer and leader of the North American werewolves, reveals her true nature as an Omega wolf.

Hunting Ground: Newly mated werewolves, Anna and Charles, attend a summit discussing whether or not the wolves should make themselves known to humans, when Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic.

Fair Game: Charles, the enforcer of the North American werewolves, is sent to Boston with Anna to assist the FBI in tracking down a serial killer who is targeting werewolves.

Dead Heat: A birthday vacation to Arizona turns deadly for werewolves Charles and Anna, who discover that a dangerous Fae, who is replacing human children with simulacrums, was released to show humanity what the Fae are capable of.

Each book is a contained story, which is used to grow and evolve the main characters, Anna and Charles, while also developing the world.  Briggs does a masterful job of both and is always a joy to read even if the story is a bit iffy.  While I prefer the Mercy series, I really enjoyed learning more about this set of characters, which occasionally cross over.  One of my favorite authors for sure, I’ll recommend her to anyone wanting to start a new fantasy author/series.

I received an uncorrected proof version of book four in my first AceRocStars package and quickly purchased books 1-3 to read!

Book Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Planetfall

I was really enjoying this book, and just had to stay up late to make a mad dash to reach the end–to finally find out what happened during the first planetfall exploration, which had only been hinted at throughout the book.  The journey was fascinating, and I liked the mystery and little pieces that were revealed throughout the narrative.
Unfortunately, I was super disappointed in the ending. It felt rushed, disjointed, and was not, at all, what I was expecting, which I usually don’t mind, if it makes sense. In this case, I felt like the last five or so chapters were almost from a different author.
Perhaps my dissatisfaction stems from a personal preference for tidy endings without ambiguity. And since Planetfall has underlying philosophical and religious themes, the ending did follow that thread, but I felt like there was not enough focus on those themes to justify that kind of ending.
The other 3/4 of the book I absolutely enjoyed! The main character is a female 3D printer engineer, who also knows about genetics, is bisexual/lesbian, and later we learn that she is a hoarder. These things make for a wonderfully diverse story in a time when #weneeddiversebooks is on the rise.  The storytelling pulled me in with the knowledge that the main character and the leader of the colony had lied about the death of the original “prophet”, and the mental stress was starting to seriously affect her.

I decided to build a list of pros and cons for this title as some people reading reviews might want the meat in a quick, easy-to-find format.  (What do you think?  Let me know in the comments!)

Pros:

Strong female narrator/protagonist
3D printing and engineering
Addresses hoarding as a mental illness
Future technology that makes sense and is cool
Emotional descriptions were spot on
Characterization worked well
Great worldbuilding for the colony & God’s city

Cons:

Ambiguous ending that didn’t satisfy many of the BIG questions set up in the narrative
Never really addresses the cult-like behavior
Would have liked to know more about the flora and fauna of the planet

The religious and philosophical overtones will fall into different categories for different people, but I don’t think they are insulting, but they are definitely thought-provoking. And, isn’t that what good science fiction does?

A big thanks to Ace/Roc for an advance copy, which I received through the AceRocStars program, in exchange for an honest review.  I chose this title to fulfill one of my November slots as part of the Pub. month challenge.  This book came out just last week, so you should go pick up a copy.  I know I’ll be sharing this with friends over the holidays 🙂

From the publisher:

From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…