February Minireviews – Part 1

February was a really low reading month for me.  I read a few books that were kind of downers and took me a while to get through.  But hopefully that means I can catch up on reviews a little faster!!!

Edit: I wrote most of this post literal weeks ago but… life has just been crazy!! This is my busiest time of year, plus we are working on our crazy bathroom/closet/laundry room remodel still lol But since I know you all are quite interested to hear what I was reading back in February – and considering I already wrote the post but just never got around to putting the pictures in – here you go!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

1984 by George Orwell – 4.5*

//published 1949//

What.  Even.  This is one of those classics that I had never read because it just sounds so dang depressing.  But, current life in this country being what it is, I thought maybe it was time to set aside my prejudices and and read it – and I have no regrets because it was SO GOOD.  Yes, it’s incredibly depressing – but that’s also kind of the point.

This is definitely a book that you read and while you’re reading it, you assume that your political opposition = the government from 1984 – like I can see both conservatives and liberals thinking that the opposite are the ones who best represent everything that is creepy about the politics in this book.  That said… we all know I’m conservative, so it’s probably no surprise that I could see a lot of parallels between the Party and certain groups here at home who find it necessary to rewrite books, “cancel” everything that doesn’t fit their strict narrative, tear down all statues of historical figures they don’t like, and try to get us to ignore basic biological facts because, you know, 2+2=5.

But even beyond this, in many ways this book transcends political differences as well, reminding us of what happens when we, as a people, allow the government to have complete and total control over our lives.  To me, the warnings in 1984 are beyond “don’t let such-and-such party be in charge of your government” – it’s “don’t let ANY government take away your basic human rights.”  And no matter what side of the fence you’re on, if you don’t have a big problem with our freedoms and privacies being swiftly eroded, well, maybe it’s time for you to read 1984 as well.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams – 3*

//published 2019//

This was a book I’d had on my list for quite a while, so I was really looking forward to a lighthearted romcom when I picked it up.  (I needed a little 1984 contrast!)  Unfortunately, this one just didn’t live up to the hype for me.  The idea is that the main character is having marital issues with his wife, who feels neglected and uncherished.  Yearning to recapture the romantic magic they had when they were first together, Gavin turns to his buddies for advice – and finds out that they have a secret book club wherein they, all men, read romance novels and then try to apply the lessons on love they find there to their relationships.  It’s a super fun concept, but it just fell really flat for me.

My main issue – it’s obvious that both Gavin AND his wife (Thea) have problems, but the entire book is all about how EVERY problem in their marriage is 100% Gavin’s fault – Thea has been PERFECT the entire time.  Gavin spends the entire book groveling, begging, pleading, and kissing Thea’s feet, only for her to repeatedly shrug him off and basically say it isn’t good enough.  And you know, it’s one thing to say that if it’s just you and another person involved, but Gavin and Thea have daughters, and it just made me SO angry when Thea kept blowing Gavin off because “it’s better for the girls to have no father than one who isn’t really committed” and a bunch of other BS.  Thea also has a sister who I genuinely wanted to thrown down a flight of steps.  She’s a complete bitch and half the reason Thea was so reluctant to take Gavin back was because Thea’s sister basically kept telling Thea she wasn’t “allowed” to forgive Gavin because what he did was “unforgiveable.”  (Please keep in mind that Gavin DID NOT EVEN KIND OF CHEAT ON HIS WIFE – his “unforgiveable” offense was… being busy with his job… earning a lot of money… for Thea and his girls… and the freaking sister who LIVES WITH THEM)  There were times that Thea would soften towards Gavin and then her sister would just go off on Thea about how she “doesn’t need a man” and she just needs to be “strong” for the “sake” of the girls, yadda yadda.  The sister was a HORRIBLE person and I despised her – she honestly made it hard for me to even get through this book.  There’s also the part where the men’s book club chapters are basically the guys just sitting around reeling off feminist platitudes about “toxic masculinity” etc.  So boring, and completely unrealistic.  Honestly, this entire book felt like the author had never had a conversation with an actual man in her entire life. Finally, it’s a sexy-times book, which I’m sometimes okay with, but this was one of those stories where that aspect just permeated the entire narrative, like Gavin finds out that Thea’s been “faking it” their entire marriage and it’s this whole involved thing (and I’m sorry, but is it really Gavin’s fault that he hasn’t been “satisfying” his wife if his wife freaking has been lying THE WHOLE TIME?!?!) that just kept going on and on and I frankly did not care and did not want details.

So… a weak 3* because there were some funny moments and I like the concept.  I also liked poor Gavin although I felt like he deserved better and also I feel sorry for anyone with a sister-in-law as obnoxious as Thea’s sister.  But this one definitely wasn’t a win for me, and although at the time I had the next books in the series out from the library, I flipped through them and decided to send them back without bothering to read them – especially since the second book was about the horrible sister!

The Big Six by Arthur Ransome – 4*

//published 1940//

I’m still working my way through the Swallows & Amazons books.  This wasn’t my favorite in the series – possibly the first time I’ve given one of these books less than 5* – but it was still a lot of fun.  My main problem with this one is that someone is casting off boats on the river and three of the local boys (members of the Coot Club from an earlier book) are getting blamed for it.  It just seemed painfully obvious who had the motive to do this (hint: not the boys who were getting blamed for it) so I was really frustrated/stressed by the adults in this story who were being so mean to the boys throughout the story.  I don’t like it when people are getting in trouble for something they didn’t do, so since that was a big part of this story, it bothered me.  I will say that the boys’ parents actually did believe the boys were innocent, though, so I appreciated that part of it.

While I didn’t love this one, it was still an overall really enjoyable story with adorable characters – I genuinely am loving these books!!

A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell – 3.5*

//published 2019//

While this wasn’t the best thriller I’ve ever read, it was the first thriller I had read in a while and I’d kind of forgotten the way a decent one can just suck you in and refuse to let you do anything else with your life besides find out what happens.  In this one, Caroline (who is super rich) finds out her husband is having an affair.  She goes to a local dive bar and ends up having a one-night stand with the bartender.  For Caroline, it’s just a one-off.  For Aidan, it’s much more, as he becomes obsessed with her and begins stalking her… or does he?  The first half/two-thirds of the book is told from Caroline’s first-person perspective and Aidan’s third-person perspective, but while what they have to say about different events is mostly the same, they differ at critical moments, leaving the reader unsure which of them is lying.  When a Big Event occurs, the narrative switches to straight third person. I did figure out what was going on, but it was pretty close to the end when I did, and there were still had some details that I hadn’t worked out.  If you read a lot of thrillers, this one may not bring anything fresh to the table, but if you’re like me and you only pick them up from time to time, this one was pretty entertaining.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – 3.5*

//published 2018//

This was a reread for me – I read this one back in 2018, and you can read my more detailed review from that time here.  I did like it a little better this time around, but I still just don’t love this one.  Most of my criticisms from my original reading still stand – this book is unrelentingly depressing; the romance between two of the main characters is really underdeveloped, leaving me confused about why I’m supposed to hope they end up together; there are way too many different voices; having the story center around a Jewish family means that the story is somehow too rooted in our real world instead of a fictional one, which makes the rhythm of the story feel weird to me; and the women in this story all end up betraying someone throughout the course of the tale, adding to the overall downer tone of the story.  It’s not a bad book, and so many people really love it.  There is loads of gorgeous writing, and the concept is fantastic.  But in the end, this book just isn’t magical to me.

October Minireviews – Part 2

Yes, I realize it’s December. Someday I’ll catch up!!! I usually try to not review more than five books in one of these minireview posts just because I don’t want to bore the bejeebers out of all of you, but I’m determined to finish October’s reviews today so you get seven reviews for the price of one!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

East by Edith Pattou – 3*

//published 2003//

I feel like I read this one a really long time ago, but I couldn’t remember whether or not I liked it. I saw that a sequel had come out for it, so I thought I would give this one another read and go from there. In the end, though, I didn’t bother reading the sequel because this one was just super boring to me. The narrative voices (and there are SEVERAL) all sounded absolutely identical. For me, if you need more than three narrators to tell a story, you need to tell your story in third person because all the jumping around is just plain annoying, especially when some of the chapters are only a couple of paragraphs long. (And this as someone who is generally fond of short chapters…) There were long swaths of pages where basically nothing was happening except for people wandering around looking for other people. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t one that I really wanted to pick up again. And at almost 500 pages, it was just way too long.

I thought about reading the sequel anyway, but then I read the synopsis – and it’s basically the same story as East all over again! So thank you, but no thank you.

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras – 3.5*

//published 2020//

This was borderline 4* for me. There was a lot I enjoyed about – the main characters were likable and the setting in Key West was super fun and fluffy. I really liked Luis’s warmhearted family, and appreciated the part of the story where Sara’s family was trying to come together as well. But somehow, even though this book had a lot of ingredients that I really liked (love me a fake relationship trope), the story just sort of dragged in places. Luis is mad at one of his brothers, but when I found out why I honestly mostly felt eye-roll-y about it. Like yes, that was a jerk move but… it’s been literal years so maybe it’s time to get over yourself and move on?? Sara was kind of the same way. She has an eating disorder that is currently under control, but it seemed liked it was all that she thought about. I understand that it’s a big part of her life, etc., but she was so sensitive about it. If anyone in her family said anything about her not eating enough, she would get incredibly wound up about and like – yes, I understand that it bothers you and why, and they definitely need to back off – but at the same time, they’re coming from a genuine place of love and concern?? And it felt like Sara literally never acknowledged that. The whole point of her family getting together in Key West is because her mom is recovering from cancer and wants to change the way that they’ve treated their (now adult) children and to bring their family together, and Sara is basically a little spoiled whiny-pants about it instead of even trying to meet her parents halfway.

It all comes together in the end, of course, and it wasn’t like I hated this book. But at some level it felt like both Luis and Sara were kind of immature in the way that they were handling their family issues, so it low-key annoyed me during the whole book. However, this is supposedly the first in a new series, and I would totally read the next book, presumably about one of Luis’s siblings. This wasn’t an instant classic for me, and I know I just whined about it a lot, but it was still overall good romcom fun that I did mostly enjoy reading.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – 4*

//published 2020//

So I really loved Uprooted by wasn’t a huge fan of Spinning Silver. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this first book in a new series, but I really loved it. I’ve seen reviews that are all over the places for this one, and I think it just comes down to whether or not you enjoy a narrative style that does some info-dumping. I actually do, as long as I find the information interesting. I love complicated world-building, and don’t mind having it explained to me by a character. But a lot of people find that super annoying, so that’s definitely one of the big complaints I’ve seen about this one – and honestly, they’re justified. The narrator of this book does a lot of rambling. It just happened that I found the rambling intriguing.

This book is a bit slow on action and long on talking, but for some reason it really worked for me. The writing style reminded me a lot of Robin McKinley’s Dragonhaven for some reason, another book that I see a lot of mixed reviews for. All in all, if you like rambly narrators whose internal monologue is super sarcastic, you may end up liking this one. However, I’ll freely admit that I can see why this isn’t a book for everyone.

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller – 3.5*

/published 2019//

This was a traveling book club book, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Set in 1875, the story focuses on a young widow named Alva Webster, whose recent marriage and separation, followed by the unexpected death of her husband, has left her trailing scandal everywhere she goes. She’s moved back to New York and purchased an old house in the country that she remembers from her childhood. Meanwhile, Sam Moore, an eccentric scientist from a family of eccentric scientists, is interested in ghosts and paranormal phenomenon. When he hears that Alva’s house may be haunted, he convinces her to let him run a series of experiments there, even though Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. What unfolds in a not-entirely-surprising love story with a bit of ghost story mystery thrown in.

It was exactly “my style” of book, but I still did overall enjoy this one, mostly because Sam is perfection. Some of the situations felt a little overwrought, and there were a few times where it definitely felt like modern sensibilities were being imposed on the past, but it was still good fun. I don’t know if the author is planning to create a series from these characters, but I would totally read a book about another of Sam’s siblings, even if his whole family felt a little over-the-top. If you like historical romance and don’t mind some paranormal in your story, you’ll probably like this one as well.

Well Played by Jen DeLuca – 4*

//published 2020//

Earlier this year I read DeLuca’s debut novel, Well Met, which I really enjoyed but did find a little rough in places. I definitely felt like the sequel was better as far as pacing and dialogue goes, and there wasn’t nearly as much time spent listening to the main character lust after the hero as there was in the first book.

Stacey, a friend of the first book’s character, has had a bit of a crush on one of the members of The Dueling Kilts, a band that plays at the Renaissance Faire every year where Stacey volunteers. (Readers of the first book may remember that this Faire was the setting of that story.) But she’s always assumed that it’s just hormones, so when she gets an email from him after the Faire has left, she’s surprised at the connection she feels with him. Soon they’re emailing and texting every day, and Stacey can hardly wait until the Faire comes back to town.

The real problem with this book is that the actual synopsis tells you the twist, because it isn’t exactly meant to be a twist for anyone other than Stacey. But because the reader already knows what she’s going to find out, it means I spent a lot of the book rolling my eyes at how dense Stacey was for not realizing what was going on. But if I hadn’t already been privy to that information, I may have been just as surprised as she was – I definitely think this book would have read better if the synopsis hadn’t told the reader how it all plays out.

Still, this was overall an entertaining bit of chick lit. I really liked Stacey a lot. I did think the ending dragged out a little too long, and I’m also way over romance books ending with people saying things like, “I know he’s the one for me, but we’re just gonna shack up for a few years instead of actually making a real commitment to each other.” Sorry, moving in together is NOT a romantic way to end a book!

The Wrong Side of Magic by Janette Rallison – 3*

//published 2016//

This was another traveling book club book, and while it was a perfectly enjoyable middle grade read, it just never felt magical to me. There were fun moments and some clever ideas, but I never really connected with the characters.

Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery – 4*

//published 1919//

It’s actually been even longer since I read this book than it has the rest of the series, as this is the only one that I’ll sometimes skip when I’m reading the Anne books. While this story is full of Montgomery’s humor and relatable characters, the focus shifts from the Blythe family to the Merediths, the children of the Presbyterian minister. A widower, Mr. Meredith is incredibly absent-minded, and although he (theoretically) loves his children, he does almost nothing to actually care for their physical well-being. Meanwhile, the four Meredith children run more or less wild. They aren’t mean-spirited, but they don’t have a lot of direction, so most of this book is comprised of stories of their “scrapes” and the ways they try to make up for them.

My issues with this book – (1) I want more about Anne and her family, not these random kids, (2) Mr. Meredith is repeatedly said to be a “kind and love father” yadda yadda yadda, but even though on more than one occasion he “wakes up” to realize that he needs to do more for them – he always just goes right back to being obsessed with his studies instead of snapping out of it and taking care of his family. This drives me absolutely crazy. Mr. Meredith, despite the fact that he’s actually quite kind, is high on my list of least-favorite fictional fathers. (3) Mary Vance is probably one of my least-favorite characters Montgomery ever invented, and a large part of this book is also about her. I find Mary to be SO OBNOXIOUS.

So yes, the combination of Mr. Meredith and Mary Vance in one book means that I tend to skip this one even though there are parts of it that I actually really do love. And you do need to read this one at least once before reading the final book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside, as this one does set up a lot of the characters and backstories for that one, and Rilla is possibly my favorite out of the whole series.

While I definitely don’t love Rainbow Valley as much as I love the rest of the series, it’s still better than half the books I read these days, so I’m sticking with my 4* rating.

Spinning Silver // by Naomi Novik

//published 2018//

Although published in 2015, I didn’t get around to reading Novik’s first book, Uprooteduntil last year.  It was incredibly magical, and was one of my favorite reads of the year.  This also meant that I didn’t have to wait very long for Novik’s sophomore novel, Spinning Silver, which came out this summer.  While this book didn’t quite live up my expectations (which were very high, thanks to Uprooted), it was a stirring and  beautiful story in its own right – just not exactly what I had been expecting.

I think the biggest difference between the two books, and the reason that I just can’t rate Spinning Silver as highly as Uprooted, is that Spinning Silver just isn’t a very happy book.  Every single one of the narrators (and there are three main ones, plus several chapters from a handful of others) has had a terrible, difficult life, and they’re basically convinced that they have nothing else to look forward to.  While the narrator of Uprooted was essentially an upbeat lady, always trying to make the best of her situation and always convinced that there was a way to save everyone, the narrators in Spinning Silver come from desperately difficult situations and are resigned to the fact that sacrifices, even of lives, will have to be made for the greater good.  The three main characters each betray someone in the course of the story, and while it can definitely be argued that they owed nothing to the people they betrayed and thus were justified, it doesn’t change the tone of the story, which is that betrayal and sacrifice are sometimes just what has to happen.

It wasn’t exactly that every page was drudgery, but there was just a lot of heavy stuff to deal with. Horrific poverty, prejudice, cruelty, abuse, demon-possession, kidnapping, murder, forced marriage, etc.  Adding tot he mix that the main narrator, Miryem, is Jewish, it kind of read like historical fiction with a bit of magic thrown in, and the historical fiction part wasn’t very happy.

My understanding is that Novik is Jewish, and I’m sure she is very well qualified to write Miryem’s character, but somehow the Jewishness of Miryem didn’t exactly fit with the tone of the story in my mind.  Miryem herself was an excellent heroine, and her Jewishness was a part of that and it was fine, but it was also the only thing really anchoring this story into my world versus setting it someplace completely fictional, and I think maybe that was why it felt strange??  I’m just not sure.  It may have also been because Miryem’s character felt like Novik was not-completely-subtly trying to constantly make a point about the persecution of Jews through the ages.  Again, not a bad point to make, and it’s a point that is completely true and justified, but it didn’t always fit with the flow of the story.

The multiple-narrators aspect of the story mostly worked.  Honestly, the voices between the characters weren’t super different – where they were and what was happening was what set them apart from one another, not necessarily the way they talked/thought.  One of the characters is supposedly very uneducated and poor and comes from a horrifically abusive background, yet her voice sounds basically the same as Miryem’s, who comes from a loving family and is much more widely-traveled and well-read.  The third main narrator is the daughter of a lord and has grown up in a much more refined setting, yet again she sounds basically the same as the other two girls.  I guess most of the time, if there need to be more than two narrators to keep the story flowing, it just seems like the story ought to be written in third person instead.

I’ve spent a lot of time whining about this book, yet it was still an easy 4* read for me.  The story itself is good, and the writing is excellent.  I genuinely felt cold while I was reading this book about the ever-lengthening winter.  And while I would have preferred to hear from the main characters in the third person, I still found them likable.  Despite their horrible backgrounds and current situations, all three of the main heroines are strong and determined to do what is right, no matter the cost.  They have a strong loyalty to family and community and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the ones they love.

I would have liked to have had an epilogue of some kind.  While it’s implied that everyone’s lives are going to be a bit better going forward, it would have been nice to have seen that, at least briefly, considering how long I had to spend wallowing in their misery.  The love story aspects of the tale were definitely a bit rushed.  Towards the end of the book, Novik skips a multiple-month period, glossing over it in just a few paragraphs.  Yet that’s the exact time frame that two of the characters are genuinely coming to know and love each other.  Consequently, the lovey conclusion between the two feels a bit thin.

All in all, I do recommend this book.  And I think that I’ll actually like it better on a reread, now that I know where things are going.  Part of my discontent with this story was definitely because of the overall tone being so much darker than Uprooted, and I wasn’t ready for that.  Now that I know what to expect, I think that I can appreciate the other aspects of the story more fully.  While Spinning Silver wasn’t an instant classic for me like Uprooted was, it is still a solid, well-written tale with sympathetic characters and an engaging story that I fully intend to reread in the future.

September Minireviews – Part 2

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

I realize that it’s now October, but September really flew by!  I had most of this post already written up, and they are books that I read last month – so here are a few quick paragraphs just to try and get somewhat caught up!!

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – 3.5*

//published 2016//

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book.  I had read a couple of good reviews of it (by Books for the Trees and also Cleopatra Loves Books), so I knew that it was a historical crime book – and that was about it!  The setting was fantastic and the characters were well-drawn.  However, while I found this book compulsively readable, it never really captured me.  There was a twist at the end that I had guessed almost from the very beginning, and it made me feel rather out of sorts with a few of the characters along the way!  So while I did overall enjoy this read, it didn’t really make  me want to rush out and see what else Mazzola has been up to.  I think part of it was that I was expecting to experience some terror while reading this, and that just never really happened.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – 3.5*

//published 2014//

A while back I read The Travelers by this author.  I liked the book enough to want to try another of his works, and while I enjoyed this one as well, it didn’t really blow me away in any sense.  It was a good plot and good pacing, but it just felt like loads of people got knocked off unnecessarily.  The ‘villain’ of the piece was a big vague – like we know who he is, but he’s really just sort of a shadow man; there is never anything from his point of view or anything.  I think the book definitely would have benefited from having him be a little more concrete.  The other problem was that I didn’t like anyone in this book, so while I wanted to root for the ‘good’ guys, they weren’t super likable either, so in a way I kind of didn’t care. However, there was a really good twist towards the end of the book that suddenly made everything come together, which bumped this up half a star.  Pavone isn’t a super prolific writer, so I’ll probably still check out his other couple of books.  They’ve  been fun for one-time reads, even if they aren’t instant classics.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – 4.5*

//published 2015//

After reading SO MANY 3-3.5* books, I really wanted to read something that I knew I would love.  Ever since I finished Uprooted last year, I’ve wanted to reread it, so I picked it up the other day and enjoyed it even more the second time around.  This was one of my top three books from 2017, and my reread only cemented that opinion.  This book is incredibly magical, with fantastic world-building and engaging characters.  I absolutely love the terror inspired by the Wood, and the ending is just so, so perfect.  I’m still not a fan of the sex scene, because it makes me feel uncomfortable recommending this book to younger teen readers, but other than that this book is really just a complete delight.  I’ve ordered Novik’s second novel, Spinning Silver, and am really looking forward to it!

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1940//

We were camping this weekend, so I grabbed this one for a quick read.  Heyer never disappoints, and this book was full of all sorts of lively adventures and genuinely funny moments.  Heyer’s writing frequently involves a somewhat-older male lead with a somewhat-younger female lead.  I have mixed feelings about this, and I realized when reading this book that it really depends on the female’s situation.  In a lot of her books, the girl has been out and about in the world (Frederica and Deb from Faro’s Daughter come to mind), and then I don’t mind an age difference so much.  But other books, like this one (and actually the last Heyer I read, The Convenient Marriage), the girl isn’t even ‘out’ yet, so having an older (and by older I mean late 20’s/early 30’s, not like her dad’s age or something) fellow sweep her off her feet feels a little weirder.  I realize that it’s a product of the time, where (upper class) men frequently waited until later in life to marry than women, but it still sometimes feels a little strange to have a 29-year-old man who has been out and about in the world marry a 17-year-old girl who hasn’t even had a Season.

HOWEVER all that to say that despite that, this book was still great fun with some very likable characters and some hilarious hijinks.  Heyer is so reliable as an entertaining and fun writer.  I can’t believe that I am still working my way through her bibliography, but I’m grateful that she was so prolific!!

Uprooted // by Naomi Novik

//published 2015//

While Fatal Trust was a really good read, Uprooted is the book that has finally pulled me out of my reading slump.  I started with a very ambivalent attitude, assuming that this was just going to be another meh read, but ended up being drawn in – almost reluctantly! – to a genuinely fantastic fantasy novel.

Agnieszka is our narrator, a young woman who has grown up in a valley knowing that their lord, the Dragon, would choose a girl from her year to be given to him for ten years.  In exchange, the Dragon protects his people from the evils of the Wood that borders their land.  Everyone expects Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia, to be chosen, but it is no surprise to the readers that the Dragon selects Agnieszka instead, and takes her to his tower to begin her years of servitude.

At first, I was really aggravated with both Agnieszka and the Dragon, because it felt like they just needed a good conversation between them.  The Dragon is so ridiculously impatient with Agnieszka, acting like she should just already know what he expects her to do and that she should already understand a bunch of stuff about magic and how the Wood works, all of which felt quite unreasonable.  Agnieszka, on the other hand, is absurdly stubborn, refusing to do anything the Dragon wants her to do just… because.  But their relationship gradually got a lot better and that’s when the book really started to get interesting.

Novik does a fantastic job of world-building.  It was so easy to immerse myself in the way Agnieszka’s world works.  The magic, the lifestyles of the people, the Wood itself – all superbly drawn.  I also loved the characters – there was a lot of depth to them, and their motivations were easy to grasp and understand, making the whole story flow well.  Even when ‘good’ people were doing the ‘wrong’ thing, I could see what was driving them and accept that they were doing what they were doing.

But what really pushed this book to the next level was the ending – it was perfect.  I could not imagine a single way to make it better.  It was everything I wanted the ending of this book to be.  There was just the right amount of explanation, just the right amount of resolution, just the right amount of epilogue.  I loved it, and the conclusion to this story made me close this book with a huge sigh of contentment, even though I was also sad that it was actually over.

Also, I really, really wanted to give this a full 5* rating (and I did on GoodReads), but there is a sex scene… and while I didn’t mind these two characters having sex, I felt like I ended up with a lot more detail than was necessary.  It’s also the only thing that would really hold me back from recommending this book to my (much) younger sister, or young teen readers in general, which is disappointing because this book has so much to offer.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend this one if you enjoy a fantasy novel with well-developed characters, excellent world-building, a completely engaging plot, and a perfect ending.  Uprooted is a book I fully intend to add to my permanent collection, and I’m also excited about reading Novik’s other books, a series about the Napoleonic Wars… except with dragons!  4.5/5 for this one, and highly recommended (except for that one bit).

This book was first brought to my attention by a great review by Sophie over at PaperBreathers, so thank you!