Uprooted – Naomi Novik

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Source: Goodreads

Agniezka and Kasia grew up knowing they were born in a choosing year, that one of the girls their age would be selected by the Dragon at 17 to live in the tower for 10 years. They also know that whoever is chosen usually leaves the valley after their years are up. When the Dragon arrives to claim his choice, everyone assumes it will the bravest, the most accomplished, the most beautiful: Kasia. Except they are wrong.

This book has been getting many (and by many I mean thousands) of mixed reviews. They complain about the romance – newsflash, the age difference is still less than that in Twilight – as well as the protagonist. She gets called a ‘special snowflake’ a lot. I think this term has come to be used very loosely and in too many different ways.

The term is actually defined as a person who gets special treatment because of supposedly unique attributes or characteristics. In 2017, we have to contextualize our use of the word, because it has come to mean someone who creates ridiculous characters (like an ‘Avariel wereshark Elemental Archon of Fire‘), as well as a derogatory word for an entire generation of people (who are apparently ‘too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own‘). Lately, if a fictional character discovers any type of hidden talent, they are immediately called a ‘special snowflake’. Sure, in the past few years this term was used to define a character who miraculously finds out they know the exact way to win their personal battle at the exact right moment and is able to accomplish it without any training whatsoever (like if Harry Potter had Avada Kadavraed Voldy as an 11-year-old without ever being taught the spell, or if he made up a new one altogether). But that’s not what our heroine does in Uprooted.

SPOILERS **** Not only is she terrible at most magic, the only magic she is good at was written by a famous crazy lady who had the same affinities that the heroine does. And also: SHE PRACTICES! Plus she’s like, channeling the valley, or whatever.****

The point being at no time in this book is the heroine a ‘special snowflake’. She works hard for what she has, and it’s explained that she’s had these tendencies since she was born. I wouldn’t even call her a ‘chosen one’ since she finds others like her later on. If she hadn’t saved the world, someone else would have. The timing (and her temper) just set everything in motion in time for this story to take shape. There is, in fact, nothing so special about her at all.

That being said, this story is fantastic. It’s based on a Polish folk tale, the kind of story the Brother’s Grimm would have loved to tell, but not quite as dark as they probably would have written it. The heroine is frustrating, as are our would-be heroes, and I wouldn’t say anyone is completely good or evil, or even completely sane, probably, but that just makes everything more mysterious and magical, and twisted. I really loved their use of the forest as a backdrop, character, and metaphor. You don’t come across many stories as filled out as this one anymore, and it’s a standalone novel!

Anyone who enjoys their fairy tales dark(-ish) will love this book. And not just because it has something like five climaxes. Just a warning: It is YA. There are some ‘romantic’ scenes not really appropriate for younger audiences, but they are pretty quick, so I wouldn’t really call the book steamy or anything. If you have a young teen, I would recommend you read it first and then decide if it’s appropriate for them to read.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes, #2) – Brittany Cavallaro

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Source: Goodreads

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes attempt to spend their Christmas holiday visiting their families in England, relaxing after their near murders in A Study in Charlotte, but the great game has other plans for them. Holmes’ uncle suddenly goes missing, and Charlotte and Jamie are left to pick up the pieces of his undercover investigation. In Germany. Working with and against the Moriartys. It’s a test of their relationship, which is complicated enough, to begin with, and could spell the end for our dynamic duo.

I felt conflicted going into this story, in large part because I thought the first book was rather dark, and I wasn’t looking forward to a series that was going to make me depressed. However, I am delighted to say that The Last of August wasn’t nearly so deep or mysterious as its predecessor.

That being said, I still had issues with it. As with the first book, the reveal waits until the very end. The difference being that in this one the reveal made absolutely no sense, even to Charlotte. It was obvious something was wrong throughout the book, but not one of the characters was able to see the twists coming. I found the fact that no one had the full story and continued to make stupid mistakes rather ridiculous. Charlotte and her family are Holmeses for goodness sake. We spent the entire first book being told how good Charlotte is at what she does, and how bad Jamie is at it all. This book flipped everything on its head. Charlotte wanted to be invisible rather than at the forefront of everything, Jamie became significantly more outgoing, and yet somehow everything still ended in disaster. I’m at a loss to understand where the third book is going to take our now seriously uncoordinated duo.

HHC Rating: 3.25 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Study in Charlotte

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) – V.E. Schwab

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Source: Goodreads

Four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell and Rye prepare for the international magic tournament known as the Essen Tasch, while Lila sails dark seas in search of a new version of herself. In another London, long gone magic is brewing, threatening to upset the balance that has kept Red London safe.

OH MY GOSH, VICTORIA. Pardon my language, but having read the last half of the book in nearly one sitting today, my emotions are in pieces. It’s not just the cliffhanger, I swear. I have the final book, A Conjuring of Light, sitting next to me, waiting for me to finish typing this review before I dive in (and presumably drown).

As hard as I found A Darker Shade of Magic to get into, A Gathering of Shadows is the utter and complete opposite. You’re thrown right in, the worlds you met in the first installment bright and welcoming alongside everything you never knew. The action is near non-stop, what with the tournament and the enemies plotting, and Kell and Lila’s constant dancing around each other’s feeling that is only amplified by Rhy’s own issues bubbling to the surface.

The writing is superb, dragging you along in its current as if you were drowning in the Isle. I was reading in a Starbucks one morning and had to leave because I kept laughing, squealing, and gasping with every sentence. I’ll admit that just about everyone felt a little flat in the first book, but not anymore. It’s as if they’ve all been hooked up to air pumps and made into 3D. I feel like I haven’t breathed since I started reading at 8 am this morning. I only took a break because it’s Sunday and I had to go the church (it’s really hard to concentrate on God when all of your favorite characters’ lives are in potential peril). And then I came home and haven’t left my room since. This book. Everything about it is brilliant. It has easily cemented its place on my 2017 favorites list, and my family and friends can now expect it to be shoved down their throats in the very near future. Also, Delilah Bard is my favorite human.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Darker Shade of Magic
Book #3 – A Conjuring of Light

March Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

March Update

Maybe it’s the weather, the last dregs of winter that hang on until you want to scream or spend your meager savings and fly somewhere tropical, but this time of year always makes me want to sit down and assess things in my life. What do I want to accomplish this year? Where do I want my blog to go? Am I making my brand work for me? What can I do to make my content better?

The results of all my brainstorming usually end up getting published in my annual Theme of The Year post in July, but it all starts spinning around in my head now – in March!

This year, I’m tossing around a few big ideas for the blog including consolidating (and possibly rebranding!) as well as tons of post ideas on a variety of topics. I can’t wait to share everything with you!

I’m also processing some very big news that I recently received: I got accepted into graduate school! I will now officially be attending Emerson College in Boston this Autumn to get my MA in Publishing and Writing! Of course, this means I have to figure out how to pay for it all, and where I’m going to live, afford textbooks, etc. I suddenly have a lot on my plate, but I’m not going to let it slow me down. I’m taking it all in baby steps: planning for school, working on my book(s), making this space the best it can be… there is a lot to get done before September, and I’m excited to dive in!

I’ll write a more in depth grad school/life update after I attend accepted graduate students day next month, but until then let’s take a look at how I’m doing with my goal tracking.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
The writer’s block is real, but I’ve been re-reading my favorite series from my childhood and it’s really jumpstarting my imagination again. Some of these are the books that inspired me to write The Everest Chronicles! It is also almost spring, and that always gives me the urge to write contemporary, so I’ll be diving back into a contemporary mystery series I started writing last year that I’ve tentatively titled The Catchachatchamunga Diaries (try saying that 10 times fast!)

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: I have a full-time babysitting gig, but with grad school expenses I may need a full-time salaried job in order to pay tuition and maybe get an apartment closer to campus.

Apply to Grad School: Complete! As you read in this month’s intro, I just got accepted to Emerson College! WOO HOO!!! I won’t find out any scholarship/fellowship information until later this week, but I am so incredibly excited to have been accepted into this program!

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: This has really been more like building a budget and assessing how I spend, but so far it’s going better than I expected.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: My bank account is saddened by this, but it’s really not so bad.

Build Savings Account: I’m getting there! I know most of what I’ve saved is going to end up going towards a security deposit and/or tuition payments, but it’s comforting to see the money sitting in there right now, haha!

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: I’ve managed to get all the books on my read/review list for the year and stay under $300, so I feel like I’m doing okay. I’ve also taken advantage of sales and sale sites to save money, which has been helpful. #FirstWorldProblems

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: I’m trying to come up with a list of what I might need to replace or add to my wardrobe for the spring/summer before I do my shopping either the end of this month or the beginning of next before everything is sold out. I hate that I have to do my summer shopping when it’s still snowing.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: It’s been more like six-seven hours with all the reading I’ve been doing, but not terrible.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: With the season finale of BBC’s Victoria behind us (SO GOOD YOU GUYS), and having finished The Crown at the end of February, I have now moved on to Stranger Things. I can’t say it’s amazing yet, but that could be because I’m watching it alone and therefore have no one to theorize with. There’s also not a lot of explanation, and I’m doubting that anything is going to be resolved by season end (I’m only three episodes in out of eight total). Next, I’m planning to watch The Last Kingdom.

Finish Craft Projects: I am now more than halfway finished with all three of my projects. That’s as much as I can say. I’ve been reading a lot and neglecting everything else.

Post Regularly: Ha. As usual, I have big plans and then they never see the light of day. I’d be a great content planner for anyone except myself. I’m going to keep hacking away at this goal though because I think I’m starting to break through!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: If only I had Wi-Fi in my room. We’re getting a booster this month, but as it stands now I am writing to you from the kitchen island, which I’ve taken over for the day so I can write a few reviews and pay my taxes. Fun stuff. (update 3 days later: we moved the Wi-Fi box and now I have a download speed of 89 and upload speed of 13. For comparison, last week’s speed readings were 0.39 for downloads and 0.04 for uploads.) Everything is ridiculous.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Still not keeping to them, but at least I glance at them every now and then.

Read 50+ Books: I’m at 13 for the year so far, which is slightly ahead of schedule now. Yay! But I have two books to finish by the end of the month that I’m no longer excited about, so that stinks.

Get In Shape: I did get some running in two weeks ago when it got up to 70 F, but it’s been snowy and frigid since then. I’m trying to fit in some yoga and pilates to make for being cooped up.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: I walked over 50 miles last month! WOO HOO!

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: I wrote three sentences last week, and I’m hoping to write a good chunk today.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Too cold and snowy to run with a baby, so I can’t get anywhere near this goal yet.

March Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles: I’m close to 28 miles already and it’s the 20th. Not too bad considering I spent a whole weekend in bed sick.

Run 12 Miles: If it ever warms up outside, sure.

Learn Stretching Exercises: YouTube is a cool place.

Do Yoga 8 Times This Month: I debating whether or not to get a subscription to One0Eight.com. I love Yoga Girl and everything they’re doing at Island Yoga, but I’m not sure if it’s a financial thing I can do at the moment. It’s $14/month for yoga, meditation, and nutritional content.

Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
*Uprooted by Naomi Novik
*The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson

Write 4+ Book Reviews:
The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Get more involved at church by going to an event: I attended a very nice dessert potluck at the beginning of the month, and there’s a group of us going to the Museum of Science. Yay for making friends!

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: This is meant to be the same 20,000 words discussed before, and yes, I am failing hard.

Find a Hair Salon: I have a lead on one that I need to check out, but I’m also going home to New Jersey because I need to make a visit to my Dermatologist, so I think I’m putting off the hair salon decision for anther month and just having my stylist back home do a touch up while I’m there.

DO NOT BUY BOOKS: This is a given.

 

 

So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!

 

 

Until next time,

Amanda

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald (T: Swedish-English by Alice Menzies)

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Source: Goodreads

Sara Lindqvist, a bookstore clerk from Sweden, travels to rural Iowa to visit her pen pal, Amy Harris. Unfortunately for Sara, she arrives just as Amy’s funeral is ending. Unsure what to do with her two-month-long visa, Sara is collectively taken in by the town of Broken Wheel, where she slowly comes to know everyone she has only heard about through Amy’s letters.

 

This book has many high ratings, and I have heard many people discuss it and how much they loved it. I don’t think it lived up to the hype, but I did enjoy it.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend should have some kind of warning label attached, however, due to the spoilers for other books that are contained in its pages. Yes, Sara and Amy are huge book lovers and so book talk is to be expected, but Bivald’s book contains huge spoilers for works such as Pride and PrejudiceFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CaféLittle WomenTo Kill A MockingbirdGone with the WindJane Eyre, and The Horse Whisperer (book and film) to name a few. Having read most of these, the spoilers didn’t phase me so much, but I feel truly terrible for those readers who have had all of these wonderful stories ruined for them without warning. I would also like to note the author’s fictional adherence to some laws, yet complete ignoring of others. A town cannot just open a bookstore without doing any paperwork. They just can’t. Sara even says she wouldn’t be able to open one in Sweden for a host of reasons, but these reasons apparently cease to apply at the town line of Broken Wheel.

That being said, the translation is impeccable. The story itself takes around fifty pages before it actually gets interesting at all, but once things start rolling it’s quite a fun ride. Going into the book I didn’t have any background beyond Amy’s death, Sara’s arrival, and that a bookstore was somehow involved. Let me tell you, those the bare essentials. So bare, in fact, that they may be almost meaningless. This book is not really about a bookstore. Sure, everything revolves around said establishment, but only because Sara happens to be there. No, the real story is the town, the people’s who’s lives have almost lost meaning rising up like flowers in the spring, and how every single tiny thing we do can change the world around us. Oh, and of course there’s unrequited love and complicated romances and diversity galore.

Overall I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I certainly didn’t expect a fluffy romance crossed with a comeback story, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The beginning was boring, but the ending had me in tears. At the time of writing, I’ve only been done with the book for about 10 hours, so things are a little jumbled. Ah, well, maybe it’s just one of those things you’ll have to read for yourself.

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 stars