I've been wanting to read Naomi Novik's Uprooted since I first saw it in Chapters. A friend bought it earlier this summer and gave it to me after reading it. He's been bugging me to read it ever since. I finally made time to start it yesterday (just after I spoke with him as a matter of fact). And I have to say, the endorsement on the back of it from NPR was correct - I didn't want to put it down once I had started!
Uprooted is about Agnieszka, a girl who lives in one of the villages in the valley. The valley is surrounded by the malevolent Wood, which is kept at bay by their wizard, the Dragon. Every ten years he chooses a girl from the valley who will serve him without question for the next ten years. Agnieszka (and everyone else) knows he will choose her best friend, Kasia. But when the time comes, he doesn't choose Kasia. He chooses Agnieszka instead! And so she is whisked away to his tower without even a moment to say goodbye to her family.
That is, in a nutshell, what the synopsis on the back of the book says. And it is what happens at the very beginning of the book. But honestly, Uprooted is so much more than this synopsis! Agnieszka is a witch, unknown to everyone else in her village. The Dragon ended up choosing her because he recognized her gift and had to train her. But she will not be trained easily. All the regular wizarding spells aren't working for her. But she discovers the text from a legendary witch of folktales and is able to use those spells just fine. Unfortunately, the Dragon didn't think that actually WAS a spell book because nothing in it worked for him! So Agnieszka has to fumble along and find her own way with the grudging help of the Dragon.
And then things totally change! Uprooted becomes this political story, where Agnieszka goes to the capital needing men to help her and the Dragon deal with the Wood. The two of them managed to save her friend from the Wood, which is completely unheard of. While doing so, they found a way to harm the Wood, and figured that they could deal it a death blow with some help. The Dragon remains in the valley, sending Agnieszka to go to the king for help. But Agnieszka is very much a fish out of water. Because she is a witch, she is automatically admitted to the court. But she has no head or patience for the games of the court. And ends up on the run, framed for kidnapping and murder by the freaking Wood!
That sounds so ridiculous as I reread it, but it's honestly the truth. And it was incredibly well done.
So after dealing with THAT, Agnieszka and the Dragon go to confront the Wood one final time. They don't really have a plan, but they'll try to stop it or die while trying. And that ended with a rather epic confrontation with the Wood, which in turn ended in a very interesting resolution. I'm trying to avoid major spoilers here, but the conclusion was quite satisfying.
I also loved the characters. I think some of the political stuff in the capital wasn't as good simply because Sarkin (the Dragon) wasn't there. I thought he was hilarious, especially the way he always interacted with Agnieszka. (He was routinely calling her an idiot, but as the book went further along it got really funny because he would basically be saying "You idiot, I don't know how you're doing this but whatever, I'm not going to ask for an explanation because you don't really know what you're going but it's working somehow.") He got annoyed by her pretty much no matter what she did because her magic (and really Agnieszka herself) defied the way he thought the world (and magic) should function. And their banter really, really worked.
Agnieszka herself was someone I was able to relate to. I found this to be especially true in the political segment in the middle of the book. I'm not someone who is big on decorum and stupid political games behind peoples backs. And she really isn't either. She always means well, even if she's going to take a rambly path getting where she's going. And don't expect her to get somewhere clean!
All in all, I thought Uprooted was a fantastic read. It was definitely the best fantasy book I've read in a long while (the best one this year so far for sure). I'm looking forward to reading more from Novik in the future!!! :)
Continuing the graphic novel craze I have been going through (and unwittingly continuing reading stuff by Kieron Gillen), I've just finished The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1: The Faust Act. I actually found the very first issue of The Wicked + The Divine in my comic box (I think I got it for free from my comic shop) and read it a few days ago. I was super happy to see that the library had Volume 1, which meant I was able to read a bit more and see if I like it. The very first issue was enough to interest me, but it wasn't enough to really explain what was going on.
In this world, every ninety years twelve gods come back. They live for two years and then they die. In the modern day, the gods are superstars for those two years. And Laura is their biggest fan.
She wakes up after a concert and finds herself face to face with Luci. Luci, who just happens to be Lucifer, the God of Lies. Lucifer brings Laura backstage to meet the others, who are giving an interview. When snipers attack them, Luci uses her divine power to deal with them, landing her in the mortal courts. While sassing the judge, his head explodes in much the same way that the snipers' heads had (what is it with Gillen and exploding heads???) So Laura, convinced that Luci is innocent, sets out to find the real murderer.
Yes, this is ridiculously intriguing. Apparently Mercury Heat was not a one-off; I find myself a very big fan of Gillen's writing. I'll be looking for the next two volumes of this series (and volume 4 is coming out in the fall!!!)
A friend of mine at work really recommended DC's Bombshells to me. The premise is that the DC superheroines and villainesses are recast into WWII era people. The men are off to war so it's up to the women to hold down the fort back home. Well, and to also go to war to stop the Nazis' mad scheme. Many of these women have new backstories (and nationalities), making for a very interesting take on the DC universe.
I think of all the new backstories, my favourite was Supergirl. In this world, Supergirl grew up in Russia with her human sister. The two enlisted in the army to eventually become Supergirl and Stargirl (the latter being a superheroine I am unfamiliar with). They're used for propaganda purposes by the Russians.
This was also my first encounter with Mera. I thought the was a lot of fun and was hoping she'd have her own comic (but it looks like she doesn't). :(
Unfortunately, I felt like this first volume of Bombshells was a little too all-over the place for me. Right when I was getting interested in something we'd shift to another character. I doubt that will happen as much in Volume 2 because most of the characters are together now. So maybe I'll keep an eye out for it in the future.
And here's one more from the library: Mercury Heat. I saw this go by several weeks ago and was really intrigued by the premise. Mercury is ridiculously hot on it's sun-facing side, and ridiculously cold on the other side. Between the two there's a temperate zone where it's right around Earth-temperatures. So Mercury has been colonized by a nomadic workforce who has to keep moving to stay alive. They're building solar panels to trap the sun's energy, which is then transported to Earth.
Meet Luiza Bora. Her personality-type, 57B, made her dreams of being a police officer on Earth impossible. So she's moved to Mercury. Her first assignment is to investigate the death of someone. It could have been an accident. But as more and more people try to kill her the more she investigates, it suddenly strongly smells of murder.
If you like a strong, sensibly-dressed female-action hero and aren't offended by seeing people's heads kicked in, Mercury Heat is for you! I honestly can't wait for volume 2!
I saw Pretty Deadly at work and decided to take it out and read it. It's a really weird story that has rather weird art that suits it (although it's a bit hard to follow what's happening). It's a Western story about Death and his daughter, Ginny. There's a little girl with two different coloured eyes who is supposed to be Death's replacement for reasons. And a bunch of other people who may or may not be reapers. I don't really know what was going on. It was an okay read. Oh yeah, and a skeleton bunny is narrating the story to a butterfly. Very weird, but strangely okay. I probably won't be looking for Volume 2 though because I didn't think it was great.
I just finished reading Hollow City and I'm not entirely sure what to say about it. Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children leaves off: the children have Miss Peregrine, stuck in bird form, on their boats and are rowing away from the island towards the mainland. But then disaster strikes and they lose pretty much everything, then spend the rest of the book either running (there's a lot of running) or fighting off hollows.
They manage to find a loop full of peculiar animals, who help point them in the direction of London and Miss Wren, who will hopefully be able to save Miss Peregrine (who is stuck as a bird). They get captured by Wights, fight their way free (thanks to Horace and his bees). Make it to London and another loop. Find a pigeon to guide them to Miss Wren. Find yet another loop where Miss Wren is hiding. All while running from wights and hollows. And encountering more peculiars along the way.
Honestly, by about 30% of the way through the book (it's a Kindle ebook that I was reading) I was bored. But I persevered through to the end. There's a crazy awesome twist at the end.
(the bird they've been carrying around ISN'T Miss Peregrine!)
But it isn't enough to keep me interested or make me want to read more. So at the very least I'm going to go and read something else. Maybe I'll come back to this series and finish it in the future. But then again, maybe I won't.
I should also add that the pictures, which made the first book more interesting, really detracted from Hollow City. Things that happened felt contrived to fit a picture. And I felt like the book relied on the pictures too much to show you what things were like rather than leaving them to your imagination.
Knowing that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is going to be a movie soon, I got it out from the library at the same time as The Happiness Equation. Both books had holds, so I decided to return Miss Peregrine and buy it on my Kindle instead (because it was the cheaper of the two on Kindle). Of course, right when I returned it I discovered there actually weren't any holds on it anymore and I could have had it out for longer. C'est la vie.
Miss Peregrine's starts out with a prologue where protagonist Jacob talks about the stories his grandfather used to tell about his childhood growing up on a mysterious island in Wales before going off to fight monsters. According to his grandfather, the other children there all had peculiar talents. Like the girl who could levitate. Or the boy who was invisible. He even had pictures to prove it. But as Jacob got older, he stopped believing his grandfather's tales, especially when he found out that his grandfather had literally been fighting monsters - the Nazis who killed his family. But then Jacob goes to his grandfather's place to find him dead in the back, torn apart by a literal monster. Jacob is the only one who sees it and is deemed crazy (his grandfather must have been torn apart by wild animals, wasn't there a pack of dogs attacking someone last week?) A series of coincidences happen which send Jacob to the island of his grandfather's youth, trying to find answers from the past. And he finds more than he bargains for in the war-torn house that remains.
Miss Peregrine's was a somewhat hard read to get into at first. I found myself wishing things would move along quicker more than once. But after Jacob finds the Peculiar Children, things definitely speed up, making it difficult to put this book down.
The Peculiar Children were interesting, but I have to admit I had a hard time remembering who was who outside of the main three or four. You had Emma who could light things on fire. Enoch, who could reanimate dead tissue (or animate inorganic tissue). Bronwyn who is super strong. And Millard, the invisible boy. There were a few other children mentioned repeatedly (Olive, Claire, Fiona, and Hugh) but I had a hard time keeping them straight (especially the girls).
Oh, I should mention Miss Peregrine herself, too. She can change into a bird (in her case a peregrine falcon) and control time. She keeps the time loop that the peculiar children all live in going. Basically one day loops over and over again, keeping them all safe from the monsters who are after them. And, you know, safe from the ordinary people who won't understand them.
I want to add that the set up really, really reminded me of X-Men. You had Miss Peregrine as a stand-in for Professor X, with a school of mutant children. Just saying.
All in all though, I did enjoy reading the book. I was sad that it ends at a spot that leads directly into book 2. I wasn't sure if I was going to keep reading the series or not, but supposedly book 2 is better than book 1, so I just bought it on my Kindle, too. Hopefully it will be!
Oh, I forgot to mention the pictures. The book has lots of old-timey pictures showing the various characters. That made it a whole lot more interesting to read!
*As of September 24/15, I am not taking any more requests from authors to read their books. I currently have too many books to read. I'll update this if/when that changes.*
I currently have 164 fiction books just sitting in my room to read (although that doesn't stop me from randomly picking books up at work or buying them on Kindle!). I've been keeping track of them on a paper list for years. This blog shares what I read as I attempt to get "the List" down to a more manageable number.
If you'd like to know what books are on the List, check out my Goodreads shelf devoted to them - it's my physical list digitized! I've also got a shelf for every book I've reviewed here on this blog.
Not everything I review here is actually on the List. Some books come from the library, some books are nonfiction (which are not included on the List), some books are on my Kindle (which have never been included on the List), and some books are given to me by friends and family.
Note: as of April 12/14, I am not going to add the *spoiler* warning I used to when I'm giving away details of books. I want to talk about the books I've read in whatever detail I'd like. So if you haven't read a book I'm reviewing, you might not want to read the review.