Uprooted

by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Kim Novak

Guys, this book was good. Also, let me put it out there THIS IS A STAND ALONE BOOK!!! Hallelujah! Finally! Someone who can complete a YA fantasy story without dragging it out for several books. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of series of books that I love. My problem is that I am in the middle of so many series waiting for the new installments to come out that I sincerely thought about developing and app that would alert me when the new books in a series were coming out. Don’t steal my idea, internet. One day I just might. At any rate, just to let you know how good this book is, I suggested it to my husband who has very different reading tastes than I. He then recommended the book to his boss who also enjoyed it and while I don’t know much about her reading habits I think it would be safe to assume they aren’t like my husband’s either. I think we can chalk this point up to broad appeal.

Naomi Novik creates such a unique world (no easy task in today’s fantasy market) and throws the reader in with first person. Through Agnieszka’s eyes we see a comfortable home life and a beautiful best friend named Kasia who is noble and brave. We see the fear of the woods that boarder their town and their encroachment. We also are introduced the Dragon, a wizard who protects the village for a price. Every ten years the Dragon takes one of the village girls to live with him alone in his tower. After the ten years are up he releases them, but they are changed somehow and quickly leave the village to pursue their futures in the capital or go to university. Though the girl’s swear the Dragon hadn’t touched them or harmed them in anyway, Agnieszka and the villagers aren’t buying it. Agnieszka is particularly distraught as the book begins because everyone knows that the Dragon will choose Kasia, only he doesn’t. Yeah, curveball. Turns out Agnieszka has the ability to do magic, and she is going to need it. Events combine to make strange allies of Agnieszka and the Dragon as they try to understand and conquer the inherent evil they find in the Woods.

I really don’t want to tell you anymore about the plot because I want you to read it for yourself. Really. I will tell you; however, that I loved this book because of the surprises. Initially, I imagined I’d be able to see where this book was going from the first couple of pages. I pictured a Beauty and the Beast scenario where they’d conquer the Woods and their wayward hearts all at the same time. There were interesting and dramatic twists and turns and at one point I had no idea who was good and who wasn’t. In the end, so much that you feel you know isn’t what it seems. THAT is what I want in my fantasy and that is what Uprooted gave me. I’d recommend this book to people who like fantasy, independent of age. This book doesn’t feel YA. The writing, characters, and descriptions are engaging and interesting and the world Novik created really worked well. While I might enjoy other books in this world I am still so glad this didn’t take place in a series.

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Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii

by James L. Haley

Captive Paradise by James Haley

Way back in the early days of 2016, my husband and I decided that we would do something spectacular for his four week sabbatical rather than the yard work and errands that we’d initially talked about. Then randomly we decided we’d go to Hawaii, and we’d take the kids. I’ve never had a lot of interest in Hawaii, it seemed too touristy, too obvious, too not my kind of island, but once we decided we’d go (and take three kids aged five and under) for 2+ weeks in paradise, I threw myself into research mode. Read More »

Uprooted

by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Kim Novak

Guys, this book was good. Also, let me put it out there THIS IS A STAND ALONE BOOK!!! Hallelujah! Finally! Read More »

Merlin’s Keep

by Madeleine Brent

Merlin's Keep by Madeleine Brent

Take a trip with me to nostalgia town. Really, I first read Madeleine Brent the summer before I turned 13 and I thought they were the BEST books ever. Back in that time my idea of romance came from Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Then I discovered Madeleine Brent, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Georgette Heyer. They were my Jr. High staples, and for a LONG while (longer than I’d like to admit) I would re-read my favorites each year.
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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

So, apparently Jenny Lawson writes a beloved blog. I did not know that when I put this on my Christmas wishlist. I thought the description was intriguing enough and at this point in my life various people I know have suddenly become depressed, are seeking help for depression, or are recovering from depression. I was hoping to get a humorous insight into the disordered or depressed mind… that isn’t exactly what I got. Read More »

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-year-old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresnioski

Get ready with the tissues because this book is full of big feelings. In this day and age negative race relations is big money as it sells newspapers, has splashy headlines, and evokes strong emotions. Unfortunately the media has seized on the negativity in a way the early yellow journalists manufactured threats, wars, and published rumor as fact. Read More »

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne Valente

I’ve been vocal about my support for Valente and her work but I can not lie to  you, this last book took me way too long to get into. I just didn’t find the story as compelling no matter how prettily it was written. Read More »

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Fun back story, because I know you come for the back story. My husband bought me this book (it has been on my to-read list… a VERY long list) from a used book store for Christmas two years ago. Inside there is an inscription “To my sweet Love Jo, I hope you’ll enjoy this book… and many more that I plan to give you :) Always yours, Oren Liberman” Then there was some Hebrew (?) and it was dated Feb 9th 2015. So… the detective in me goes to work. Jo could either be I guy or a gal, I am assuming Oren is a man, a man who plans to give many more books and likes to write smiley faces. What happened to Oren and Jo? A mere few months later this book was in a used bookstore being purchased by my guy who likes to give me books. Did one of them die? Was there a falling out? Was Jo using Oren for the books? Cold, Jo, so cold.  Read More »

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder

by Daniel Stashower

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower

Congrats to Stashower for introducing me to a true crime that I knew next to nothing about. Sometime, somewhere, in some article or book or other I knew that Edgar Allan Poe had based one of his stories on the murder of Mary Rogers, but that is about it. I looked forward to learning a bit more about the whole affair. And MAN, affair it was. Really this book tells two stories. The first is of Edgar Allan Poe, a lonely, kind of ungratious, impetuous writer. The second is of Mary Rogers, a young girl with secrets who happens to get killed and to this day no one knows exactly who did it. I hate to admit it, but the Poe stuff was very secondary and when the story switched to follow him it always took me a couple paragraphs (or pages!) to actually care again. Not a good sign, but overall, I enjoyed the book.

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The Haunted Bookshop

by Christopher Morley

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

If I had to pick one word to describe The Haunted Bookshop it would be “charming”. As I was reading it, I felt struck that the old fashioned whimsey could be captured in a play, or in old movie musicals the kind that star Gene Kelly and have a fair amount of tap dancing. Anything that evokes Gene Kelly tap dancing is okay for me.  Read More »

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission

by Hampton Sides

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides

I keep telling you I am going to stop reading books about World War II, and I keep reading books about World War II. I am in that vicious Can’t Stop/Won’t Stop cycle. Apologies again and always, but I love me some World War II books, and spoiler alert, I’ve started reading spy books about that era so you are going to be in for it for a long time. Read More »

The Quickening Maze

by Adam Foulds

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

Another Man Booker finalist. I distrust them but keep reading them. The Quickening Maze is an interesting book that I found well written and compelling. Notice I didn’t say it was enjoyable, because I find it hard to enjoy mental illness, and Foulds deftly created a world that indeed felt like a maze. Read More »

Bastards

by Mary Anna King

Bastards by Mary Anna King

I come from a stable home. Two parents who are still together and just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Four kids. A few regular ups and downs but certainly my childhood was filled with a sense of security and well-being if not full of ponies and sweet sixteen parties. My life could not be more different than King’s but I enjoyed reading an account of someone who was able to reconcile a tumultuous childhood and examine it in front of the world. Read More »

Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running

by Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner

Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running by Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner

I used to be am a runner, but until I regain my former running glory, I made the goal to read one running book a month to keep the inspiration alive as I’ve battled through an IT band injury, knee-injury, various pregnancies (okay, only three), and the sleep depravation associated with having three kids 5 and under in my life. Read More »

M is for Malice

by Sue Grafton

M is for Malice by Sue Grafton

It seems like Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone is always getting involved in uncomfortable family dynamics in these books.
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I is for Innocent

by Sue Grafton

I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

Another of the earlier Kinsey Millhone books. This time has Kinsey picking up mid investigation for a PI who died of a heart attack while working on a civil suit (or did he die of a heart attack… dun dun dun…)  Read More »

Fearless Fourteen

by Janet Evanovich

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich keeps cracking these books out, and I keep reading them. Read More »

Lean Mean Thirteen

by Janet Evanovich

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum, our hapless heroine is back to her old tricks. I think I mentioned that I am getting tired of this series in general. But when one gets books for free one reads them. Especially when I am in the midst of trying wean #3 and perhaps Evanovich’s light fare are all I can handle mentally right now.

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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-map Dealer who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

by Michael Blanding

The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps by Michael Blanding

I love maps. I do. In all my dreams of having the “perfect” room (you can go ahead and imagine a library because all my perfect rooms are library dreams) it has maps all over the place. We moved into our current home about 4 years ago (wow, time flies! I remember unpacking all those books when we got here just like it was yesterday) and I am finally getting around to decorating our bedroom. I found the most amazing map printed on glass over some translucent turquoise  painting. It is awesome. I keep waiting for it to go down in price to something remotely reasonable, and one day IT WILL BE MINE. What I’m saying is, I get a guy wanting to steal maps. I understand why people would collect them and preserve them. In short, I get this book. Read More »

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

by Helen Rappaport

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

Does the world need another book about the Romanovs? That is the question. I’m not exactly sure that it does, but then again I’m not sure that it doesn’t. Helpful, no? There are a slew of nonfiction books about Czarist Russia, Rasputin, the October Revolution, etc and a book has to be unique to add something new to a discourse that has been hashed over to the point of animated musical fodder. Read More »

This is Not a Love Story

by Judy Brown

This is Not a Love Story by Judy Brown

This goes on the record as one of the BEST books I’ve read this year. 2016 has started out with some truly great books, but this one sticks with me. It is Judy Brown’s memories of growing up in a Chassidic jewish family in New York City. She and I have a lot in common, not really, but sort of. Read More »

Deep Blue

by Jennifer Donnelly

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

You may have noticed that I’m reading a few more YA books than usual. Guilty. Now that #1 is in pre-school he comes home with all these book orders and I can’t resist. I’ve also noticed that when I graduated from University (Go Cougs!) I shortsightedly got rid of my ‘frivolous’ reads and now that my kids are getting ready for real books I am sad that I gave away all my hardcover Harry Potters… So I’ve been trying to get current on what good middle grade or YA books are out there. Read More »

House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family

by Paul Fisher

House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James family by Paul Fisher

I’ve been wanting to read this book since it came out. I’ve kept my eye on it and put it on my amazon wish list in hopes my husband would get it for me for Christmas of my birthday. I am VERY easy to shop for. Books, chocolate, and running shoes, in that order. Easy.
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Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

by Chris Matthews

Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked by Christ Mathews

No secret. I LOVED Reagan. Loved. Him. Sure I was about a month old when he was elected to office, but he was my first president. I always had an interest (some would say unnatural) in politics. I remember watching the Oliver North trials by choice! Not the average activity of choice for a little kid. Whenever I see that there is a new book out featuring the Reagan presidency, I gobble it up. I was a bit skeptical because Chris Matthews is not well known for fair minded political reporting, but it had REAGAN on the cover so I couldn’t resist.

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Fathers and Sons

by Ivan Turgenev translated by Richard Freeborn

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

The back of this book reads “This new translation… makes Trugenev’s masterpiece about the conflict between generations seem as fresh, outspoken, and exciting…” blah blah blah. I can tell right now, fresh, outspoken, and exciting are not words I would use to describe this book.  Read More »

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence

by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore art by Andie Tong

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence by Stan Lee, Stuart Morre and Andie Tong

I have been looking for books that might interest my son when he gets a bit older. As his interests right now include super heroes, I thought this might be one to check out. I am pleased I did. Read More »

Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume One, 1775-1820

edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman

Women of Faith Volume One Edited by Richared E. Turley and Brittany A. Chapman

I’d actually read several excerpts of this book and following volumes and had wanted to sit down and read the entire book. I also hope to get to the rest of the volumes when time permits. Read More »

W.A.R.P The Reluctant Assassin: Book 1

Eoin Colfer

W.A.R.P. the Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

YA sci/fi fantasy isn’t always my go to fiction choice. Lately, though, I’ve started reading a bit in order to find things that I’d like to read with my kids once they get bigger, or things that they’ll be able to read when they want to. I am a book buyer. Some say hoarder, but hey, I like books. Read More »

Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century

by Sergie Kostin and Eric Raynaud translated by Catherine Cauvin-Higgins

Farewell the Greatest Spy of the Twentieth Century by Sergie Kostin and Eric Raynaud

This book was so disappointing. So. Disappointing. I don’t know how you can make such an interesting story boring, but the writers managed to make this book an actual snoozefest if such a thing exists.
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The Liar’s Club

by Mary Karr

the-liars-club-mary-karr

How to review a book of this nature? It is basically like casting judgment on someone’s life and what they have gone through. I’m in a memoir phase lately, which in and of itself is a bit of a surprise. I’ve always maintained that if you write an entire book about yourself you should definitely have done something mildly noteworthy. Is having a crappy childhood, and equally crappy adolescence noteworthy?
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The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

by Marie Kondo

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo

Disclaimer: I am NOT a hoarder, but I do have bit of a reputation for saving every. single. paper. that comes into contact with my life. Read More »