Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2015-05-19
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
five-stars
“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.

I have only read the first book in the Temeraire series but it was enough to make Naomi Novik one of my ‘must read’ authors. His Majesty’s Dragon was such a fun fantasy and while I plan on reading the rest of the series eventually, when I heard about Uprooted, a standalone novel, I definitely wanted to read it.

Uprooted was such an intense read. Every time you think things are starting to get resolved, things get crazy again. It’s extremely action-packed. The fantasy world is that of an alternate historical Poland, a world that feels real given that it somehow resembles the fairy tales kids are fed on. Yet there’s a very dark layer to it that sticks with you.

Agnieszka is an unlikely heroine and the Dragon isn’t what you think. The Woods are an evil that stick with you even when you go to sleep. I definitely had a lot of Uprooted-tainted (or corrupted, haha) dreams while reading this. They even stick with me after finishing it.

My biggest complaint is that I felt like I was missing some details or sentences. It could have been that it was a review copy. But you know when you are reading something particularly exciting you may skip a few sentences to see what is going on? That’s how this book sometimes read, even though I would go back and see if I did skip a sentence or two. There were some scenes that could be hard to follow, but I was able to get through them with a good idea of the point and still thoroughly enjoy the book.

I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a good standalone fantasy novel with an ending that is completely satisfying.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Salt and Storm by Kendall KulperSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-09-23
Genres: 19th Century, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Historical, Multigenerational, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Sea witches is not something that I have had much experience in reading about. But Salt & Storm presents a magic structure that was intriguing and had me interested through most of the book. Each of the Roe witches has their own specialty, something that makes me turn into a little kid, imagining what my own specialty would be. (Don’t ask, I haven’t decided yet.)

If I’m remembering correctly, this book to me had a lot of opportunities to become cliche but avoided most of them. The setting was unique, being both historical and paranormal, on an island somewhere in the northeastern U.S. In some regards, I almost wished for more setting of the world beyond, but it matched the type of isolation Avery was feeling on the island.

The author’s note was perhaps the most interesting to me, which sounds strange, but it really helped tie things together for me. The book had its flaws, and it wasn’t a perfect read for me, but it was definitely an enjoyable one.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Lucky Us by Amy BloomLucky Us by Amy Bloom
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014-07-29
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-stars
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” (The New York Times). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.  Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.   With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.

The beginning of this book left me with a smile and feeling like I could finish this book real fast.

The middle and end disproved my theory.

I did not finish it real fast. I don’t know whether to blame feeling tired or stressed or if it was really that I was losing interest in the book. The beginning seemed like it was a story about these two girls and their crazy antics. There was a connection there with the characters and while it felt a little far-fetched, it was okay.

But then I started getting confused as more characters were added to the story, and not just as secondary characters, but sometimes switching to their point of view. Time raced by and I started to feel a little more disconnected from most of the characters. When bad things happened, my emotional reaction was just ‘ok’, instead of actually experiencing it.

That’s not to say that the book wasn’t good–there is a certain art to the way it is written and type of slice of life (but with a definitive and conclusive ending) style that is atypical. My experience of the book was just that the middle to end was less tight at the beginning.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-11-04
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asia, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Family, General, Love & Romance, People & Places, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Writing this review a couple of months after finishing it, I still remember my overarching feeling towards this book: Wow. That’s messed up.

I don’t mean the book itself, the writing or really my enjoyment of it. The world is describes is what is messed up. It is dark and dangerous with elements that shocked me considering that this was being marketed as a young adult book.

There are drugs and the use of drugs for coercion. There are sex slaves, kidnapping, and torture. There are broken families and broken individuals. The scenes that those things occur in were very shocking to me, and even given my poor memory of books after finishing them, I can still remember my reaction to the book.

The three different narrators were fun to me, and once I became immersed in the book I was able to more easily tell them apart (especially given that their situations and environments were completely different). I remember being most confused about the status of the Walled City in the first half. What was it? Why was it there? What time is this story taking place in? Obviously all of that becomes clearer by the end and particularly by the note that explains that this type of urban environment is based on reality. But I think I would have benefited from knowing that bit in the beginning or at least a little earlier.

I will agree with other reviewers about the note of the happily ever after not quite matching what the rest of the book was like. I wanted the characters to be happy and I was left in suspense over certain events in the plot, but to have everything tied up like that in the end was almost more jarring than the corruption and evils by that point.

I would definitely recommend this book for those looking for a darker read in a dystopian environment that could actually exist.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Half a King by Joe AbercrombieHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014-07-15
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Sagas
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-stars
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

The book’s beginning does not set up Half a King’s true story. Because right away, things get turned on their head and the main character, Yarvi, is sent on quite the journey, literally and figuratively.

I have never read Joe Abercrombie before, but his reputation for the dark and gritty had reached my ears. Half a King is a young adult book though and despite some darker elements, it never strayed too far from material suitable for its intended audience.

My biggest complaint was the ending. I know that this is something that is perhaps stylistically typical of Abercrombie, but the end made me feel hopeless. It was not the type of happily ever ending that I would hope for after a long book.

Half a King is a grand journey fantasy novel, where Yarvi and his companions travel a great distance and undergo great hardships to reach their goals. Sometimes with journey novels I get bored, sick of the journey myself, but this did not happen with this book. I was excited to read it and read it at a very fast pace.

pj - michelle