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Book Review| Uprooted by Naomi Novi

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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 received this book from my OTSP Secret Sister, though I’ve been meaning to read it for a while now. It’s always caught my eye when I walked into a bookstore, but I can be choosy when it comes to my fantasy books. I always heard great things about it, though, and now I know why. It took me a few days to really get into, but once school ended, I was really able to give myself to the book completely.


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The Woods: Novik uses The Woods in the common archetypal way: they’re the source of evil, a place where people go in but don’t come back out. Within literature, forests are places of the unknown. Nobody knows the origins of Novik’s Woods, or why the woods are magical. Woods are usually a place of transformation, which is a recurring theme between many different characters.
The “unknown” part of this can also be attributed to The Dragon, since the townsfolk know little to nothing about it.

Agnieszka: Taken by The Dragon, we soon find out she’s actually a witch, but she finds the spells The Dragon tries to teach her just don’t fit well with her. She’s your typical “main character” of our time; she isn’t beautiful or pretty, she’s constantly dirty; she doesn’t find herself “special”; she defies The Dragon often and can be pretty temperamental. However, being our main character, she easily fits into The Hero archetype, specifically that of The Initiate.

The Dragon: A powerful magician whose job is to protect many towns and provinces, his dislike for Agnieszka is immediate. He is constantly demeaning her; he scowls at her dirty clothes, yells at her when she can’t figure out a spell (and yells when she does), and he finds comfort in the orderly way magic is – until Agnieszka shows him otherwise. The best archetype I could find for him was the Evil Figure with the Ultimately Good Heart. We are introduced to The Dragon as a thief of young women, but the more we read, the more we learn about him.

Kasia: The ignored “chosen” girl, Kasia is constantly spoken about in high regards. Agnieszka finds her to be almost perfect; Kasia is braver, prettier, more talented, smarter – the list goes on. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER However, she’s captured by The Wood and is possessed by the evil within it. Before being taken by The Wood, she would fit more into the Platonic Ideal archetype. In fact, for most of the story she would. The only time she would fit into another archetype, The Creature of Nightmare, is when she’s possessed. The character who embodies the Creature of Nightmare throughout the book would be Queen Hannah/ The Wood-Queen.


final-thoughts

Uprooted was an enchanting novel filled with fascinating, complex characters, each one completely different from the next. The writing alone was spellbinding; each sentence pulled me deeper and deeper into the world Novik created. While there were a few city names I found difficult to pronounce, Novik kept the general world knowledge as a need-to-know basis. No map was needed, nor was a glossary. I did end up reading over the words used for spells rather than trying to sound them out; I know I would just butcher them, so I didn’t even bother.

If you’re a fan of fantasy, books that aren’t parts of trilogies, books with a hint of romance, complex characters and storylines that keep you questioning until the very end, I would highly recommend Uprooted.

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Book Review| Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

nimonaPublished: May 25, 2015
Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Young Adult
272 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.18
My Rating: 4.5 stars, rounded up

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

This was gifted to me by my OTSP Secret Sister. Nimona has been on my to-read list for a while, but because I speed through graphic novels, I tend to have a hard time justifying buying them. Thankfully, my Secret Sister has been amazing at sending me great graphic novels (Lumberjanes Vol. 1-3, Giant Days Vol. 1). They’ve also been amazing to read while I’m in college and swimming in papers.

I was surprised that Nimona took me a few days to finish. I found myself really enjoying the artwork (which makes sense, since Stevenson has worked on Lumberjanes) and the story line.

what i liked

The Characters

When I first noticed this book, I had no idea that Nimona would be a sidekick to a supervillain. That’s completely my fault because it literally says so on the back of the dang book. For some reason, I just assumed she was going to be a hero, and I really thought Ambrosius Goldenloin was a woman until he was introduced. Again, spoiler from the back of the book.

I really gotta start reading those…

Nimona is hilarious and strong, but keeps herself guarded from other people. She hates looking weak in front of anyone, including her “friends” (Lord Ballister Blackheart, in this case).  She’s an extremely tortured soul, but refuses to talk about why. The reader doesn’t really get a backstory for her until later on in the story, but it gives us more insight into her character’s emotions and actions.

Blackheart & Goldenloin were both surprising characters. I fell in love with Blackheart. He’s such an atypical villain; he doesn’t really want to hurt people, he doesn’t really want to be King, and he doesn’t fall into the evil genius category either. He’s angry at the Institution for its unfair treatment of him when he lost his arm, he’s angry at Goldenloin for his part in the same accident, but he tries so hard to keep innocent people out of harm’s way.

The Story
Sometimes graphic novels can be tedious in their story telling. Sometimes they don’t really have an end in sight. Most times each issue is just a random moment in the life of the characters, not holding too much significance like any typical filler. Nimona doesn’t have that problem. It reads like a fluid novel, with highs and lows and a climax that made your heart drop. The characters are likable when they’re meant to be. There are allusions to social issues happening now, like police brutality.

final thoughts

I didn’t add a “Didn’t Like” section because I didn’t dislike anything, really. I wish there would have been more to the epilogue, but that’s a personal thing. I dislike ambiguous or open-ended stories, unless it leaves room for another book of course!

If you’re a fan of unconventional stories, graphic novels, women and men who break stereotypes, then Nimona is definitely for you.

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Life Update

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I have to apologize for my absence. Brandon and I moved from Connecticut to Georgia and, in May, found out we are expecting our first child.

People who know me personally know that I have a hormone disorder called PCOS. One of the main symptoms, and one that I’ve dealt with since getting married, is infertility. We had started treatments in 2014 to try to get my body in balance, to try to figure out if I could even get pregnant. The doctors told us that I didn’t ovulate, but once I did, I had plenty of good eggs; they weren’t worried about us getting pregnant. Almost immediately after meeting with that doctor, we moved to Connecticut.

Fast forward almost a year and I decided to try losing weight. I wanted to finally feel good about myself after years of self-hate. Using a low-carb/keto diet and accompanying my husband to the gym six days a week, I dropped 15 lbs. It was the most weight I’d lost since my PCOS diagnosis. About two months into keto, I was complaining about (what I thought were) PMS problems when a friend convinced me to get a pregnancy test. I never thought in a million years it would be positive, but it was. And now we’re almost to the end of the pregnancy. Our due date is in January, and we are so excited to meet our little one.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into blogging a little more, but I know my time will be sparse with a newborn.

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Literary Movies| Becoming Jane

RPoster002elease date: Aug. 10, 2007
Main Cast: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 2 hours

Though Jane Austen’s (Anne Hathaway) financially strapped parents (James Cromwell, Julie Walters) expect her to marry the nephew of wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), the young woman knows that such a union will destroy her creativity and sense of self-worth. Instead, she becomes involved with Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a charming but penniless apprentice lawyer who gives her the knowledge of the heart she needs for her future career as a novelist.

I cannot believe I’ve gone almost 10 years without seeing this movie. For some reason I thought it was similar to the movie/book Austenland, even though I have never read or watched that either. As much as I adore Pride & Prejudice and Emma, I’m always skeptical of watching movies based on them. I’m not the biggest fan of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, and even movies loosely based on classics can just seem very sappy and over-done.

When I saw this on Netflix, I saw it had James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway, both of whom I love. Throughout the movie, I kept having to look up what was true and what wasn’t true. I had known before watching the movie that Jane Austen never married, so the idea of this movie being about a romance made me pause. I hadn’t realized Jane had a big romance in her life. Learning about Tom Lefroy was interesting, considering I’d never heard of him before. I know most of the movie was fictional, as were many of the characters, because what we know about Jane’s life is so limited.

what i liked

The Cast

 

How can you not love these actors? Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, James Cromwell, Harry Andersen and so many more great people help bring this movie to life. McAvoy is one of my favorite actors, so when I saw he was the leading man, there was no way I couldn’t watch this movie. Everyone did such a great job that at no point was I bored or confused about anything. Hathaway did a wonderful job portraying Jane, both headstrong and wanting at the same time. She wants to please her parents, but she wants love as well, and is caught between doing what she wants and what they want.

The Scenery

Not surprisingly, the scenery in this reminded me a lot of Pride & Prejudice (2005). It has the same whimsical, ethereal feel to it that allows the viewer the ability to lose themselves in the story. I just love how green everything is. I know, it rains all the time because it’s England, so it’s super dreary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t romanticize it, okay?!

did like

The Fictionalized Characters

I was annoyed to find out that Lady Gresham and Mr. Wisley weren’t real. In fact, the more Jane interacted with Mr. Wisley, the more I really liked him. He seemed sweet and shy, and reminded me a lot of Jane from Pride & Prejudice. I understand that some people just aren’t meant for others, but I really don’t think life with him would have been so bad. I can’t even lie, I secretly hoped they would have gotten together, even though I knew better. Ah well, the curse of unrequited love.

The Feels

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AND THIS ISN’T EVEN THE WORST SCENE. The worst scene is all about Cassandra, Jane’s sister, and was the saddest thing to watch. Obviously I actually loved the feels, but ugh, my poor heart.

 

final thoughts

If you’re a fan of period pieces, beautiful movie scores, and good actors, I would definitely recommend this movie. I was very pleasantly surprised by how beautiful Becoming Jane was, and wish they made more movies like this.

Do you have a favorite literary movie? Let me know in the comments!

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Book Review| Me Before You – JoJo Moyes


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Published: Dec. 31, 2012
Genres: Fiction, Chick Lit
369 pages
Goodreads Rating:  4.30
My Rating: 5.0

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I really only picked this up because the movie was coming out and I’d enjoyed other JoJo Moyes books in the past. Once I saw the trailer for the movie, I was a little put off. I still have yet to see the movie, but Emilia Clarke’s acting in the minute-long trailer just seemed very over the top.

I needed a good romantic book to help get me through the beginning of my husband being away due to his military career. I was completely unprepared for how much I would love this book.

WARNING: SOME SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD

what i liked

Louisa’s Family Dynamic

Louisa’s family is very typical of a lot of families. There is a lot of love, and some repressed anger. There are secrets and intense moments of truth. Louisa’s parents, as much as they want to support her, need her to support them. It says a lot that somebody living in the United States can relate to the Clark family’s financial problems; we all know how one bad economy can affect the world.

This family was very authentic in everything they did. From the parents choosing a favorite child (even if they won’t admit it), to Louisa and Treena’s constant back-and-forth, this was one of the few literary families that didn’t feel too happy, too sad, or too melodramatic.

The Traynor Family (or,more specifically, Mrs. Traynor)
If there is anybody misunderstood in this book, I think it’s Mrs. Traynor. She loves her son the way most mothers love their sons; completely, if not a little too much. There is a constant feel of tension between the two, as if she has babied him all his life and he resents her for it. I picture the two of them at his college graduation, and she’s licking her thumb to wipe a smudge of dirt off of him or to tame a cowlick.

She is used to being the matriach, the person in charge of the family.With Will taking that power from her, I think she felt very lost. For the first time in a long time, she has no control over what is going on with her family. I think that’s why she was harsh and cold towards Louisa.

Will & Louisa

I mean, obviously. Their relationship was absolutely amazing. Starting off with an awkward meeting and continuing on until Louisa decides she is done dealing with Will’s nonsense. I think I really connected with this relationship because it wasn’t an immediate attraction. It took most of the book for the two of them to realize their feelings for each other. The wole wedding scene was so frustrating for me because all I wanted was for them to kiss and reveal their feelings. Unfortunately they were both too afraid and unsure of the other that nothing happened.

did like

The Ending

This isn’t entirely true. I liked the way the book ends. I think it’s great because it isn’t a typical happy ending. The thing I didn’t like was how quick it ended. I wish that there had been more time between the island scene and the Switzerland scene. It felt like so much was left unsaid between them and, as somebody who loves to talk and talk and talk about their feelings, it killed me.

Louisa’s Reaction on the Island

My god, girl. First, how the hell are you going to leave a man who can’t walk ON A BEACH with a lot of SAND?! IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. I get being hurt and upset and whatever, but poor, poor Will. Or, as my Spanish I class taught me, p-p-p-pobre Cenicienta. I have never felt such sadness for a character before. He depends on Louisa for so much, and he knows how much this will hurt her, but he can’t lie to her or lead her on. He knows his mind and he knows his heart. All I can picture is this poor man confined to a wheelchair, watching the woman he loves walk away from him as he tries to talk to her about this. He’s calling out for her and she’s just ignoring him. It’s not as if he can run to her, scoop her into his arms and tell her how wrong he was.

I completely understand the hurt and pain Louisa is feeling here, but my empathy lies more with Will at this point.

The Beginning

It’s not that I didn’t like the beginning so much as it just didn’t suck me in. Until Will became a larger part of the story, I felt like I was slowly trudging along. I’m not exactly sure why I could not get into it at first. Maybe it was just the whole angry, despondent feel of the book after Louisa lost her job and can’t find a new one. I am very glad I pushed through the beginning because this book literally brought tears to my eyes. final thoughts

Concerning the Controversy

I am not in any way shape or form trying to say how people should feel. When the movie first came out, a lot of people were angry and called it something along the lines of, “suicide porn.” People were angry because they felt the book and the movie showed that handicapped people were better off just killing themselves. I don’t think that was what JoJo Moyes was trying to convey at all.

As somebody who has dealt with depression and anxiety for years, I have come to realize that you can’t save everyone. Sometimes people are beyond help, some people don’t want help, and sometimes people don’t realize help is out there. To me, Will did not want the kind of help Louisa and his family wanted to give him. I am a huge proponent of assisted suicide. If a person is in their right state of mind, is in pain or is terminally ill, who are we to deny them the dignity of death before they lose themselves?

All in all, I loved this book. I might give it a 4.5 rather than the full 5, but it’s still a book I would recommend.

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Book Review| I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

malalaPublished: October 8, 2013
Genres: Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir
327 Pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.01
My Rating: 5.0

Synopsis from Goodreads

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

Since the fateful shooting back in 2012, Malala has been one of my idols. The shooting did not stop her message, but gave her a larger platform to spread her message. Malala doesn’t advocate for girls alone; her goal in life is to see that all children have the opportunity to go to school.

I’m not going to post a “Did/Not Like” section because, as a biography, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. Instead, I’d like to just give a general rundown of what I thought with a few quotes in there that really stood out to me.

Prologue

When Malala describes her attacker as, “a young man in light-colored clothes,” I was surprised. tumblr_mig49zyqzJ1rzlgoko1_500 I always pictured the man to be in typical Taliban garb – black clothes, terrifying looking, just like in the comics posted on the internet (right). It never occurred to me that, to Malala, the young man on the bus was not a threat. The Taliban did not rush the bus, screaming, “Allahu Akbar,” and threatening everyone. After the shots were fired, the bus driver immediately rushed them to the hospital, where Malala’s months in the hospital began.

I’ve always had issues when people decide to take artistic license with history. Obviously some are “necessary” for the audience of the story, like Maus. Even that stuck to history in  a way that a younger audience could appreciate. Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus, didn’t shy away from the harsh realities his father faced during the Holocaust, and it didn’t sugar coat or intensify scenes for shock value. This comic, however, seems to be perpetuating a stereotype about terrorists – that you’ll know one when you see one. The truth is, you won’t.

 

Chapter 10
“My father said the Taliban presence in Swat was not possible without the support of some in the army and the bureaucracy. The state is meant to protect the rights of its citizens, but it’s a very difficult situation when you can’t tell the difference between state and non-state and can’t trust the state to protect you against non-state.
Our military and ISI are very powerful and most people did not like to voice these things publicly, but my father and many of his friends were not scared…. ‘A state is like a mother, and a mother never deserts or cheats her children.'”

Malala’s father is a constant source of reason in her life. Had she been born to different parents, her life could have changed in so many ways. It’s passages like the one above that show how much her father saw through the false promises of these militants and his own government. Living in the U.S., it’s so hard to understand how absolute the corruption is in countries like Pakistan. If more people around the world knew about it and were able to do more, it would help the people of Pakistan (and countries like it) more than wars would.

final thoughts

The more I read this book, the more I realized that education is the key to stopping terrorism. Terrorism is an idea, just like racism is. You cannot fight ideas physically; no matter how many people you kill or bombs you drop, you won’t be able to stop people’s thoughts. However, if you were to fully educate people against the ideas and ideals of terrorism, you wouldn’t just educate one person – you would educate whoever that person educated, be it their children, siblings, friends, or family members.

Malala has been an idol of mine for years, but only after reading her book did I begin to truly understand her message. This is a book I believe everyone should read. If you really want to help the people under the control of terror, you need to understand why terror came into power in the first place.

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TTT| Ten Characters Everyone Loves But I Just Don’t Get

Every Tuesday, The Broke and the Bookish host a Top Ten Tuesday prompt. This week is all about characters, loved and hated. I always find the idea of thinking of ten things daunting, so I’ll keep it to a Top Five. These are in no particular order.

• Alice from Alice in Wonderland

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I read this book in high school because the movie was coming out and it’s considered a classic. I wanted to start reading more classics. There had to be a reason they were still so popular generations later, right? I really just hated Alice. I know she’s supposed to be very young in the book, but I found myself wanting to shake her and scream, “Stop being such an asshole!” In fact, I couldn’t tell you anything else about the story because my disdain for Alice clouded any part of it I may have liked. I know that the writing from that era to this has lost some of its meaning and inflection, but damn. Damn you, Alice!

 

• Superman

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Look at that face. What a douche. I’m kidding! Kind of. Here’s my problem with Superman: He’s too perfect. He is the definition of a Mary/Gary Sue. “I’m super handsome, super smart, literally the strongest creature in the universe and the only thing that can stop me is a rock.” Piss off.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen some posts from some of the more recent comics that give him a little bit of “stink” and I like that. I like my characters to be raw, for them to have emotions and weaknesses. It adds to the story. They say you should always put your character through some horrible shit, but when you can fly so fast that you spin the earth backwards to bring back the dead… What else is there to do?

• Cinder from Cinder
Cinder_book_coverI don’t dislike Cinder. She just didn’t stand out to me as a memorable character. While reading Cinder, I was reminded of Bella Swan from Twilight. I expected Cinder to be a kind of no-nonsense, calloused character because of what she’s been put through. Instead, I got a lovesick teenager. I can’t complain too much – it is a YA novel, and focuses on the feelings of a young adult. I guess I feel like I wasted my time reading this book. So many people love this book, and I wish I had enjoyed it nearly as much as they had.

 

 

• Anastasia/Christian Grey from 50 Shades Series
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This picture alone should be enough to make people never want to read this series or watch these movies. Ana is a manic pixie girl, but less cute and more annoying. I feel like she’d be that roommate who constantly breaks your stuff but then does this, “Oh my god I am so so sooooo sorry,” while she fake-cries and then three days later does the same shit. She’s uncomfortable with 90% of Christian’s craziness but is too weak to say, “Listen bro, stop forcing these gifts (and your dick) onto me. Go away.”
As for Rapist I mean Christian? No. Absolutely not. I’ve taken peeks at Grey and I swear to the gods above, the man is schizophrenic with his penis. Who has conversations with their genitals like this?! Go away, scary man.

 

• Severus Snape from Harry Potter
tumblr_li8zvp2h3U1qavo3co1_500Please, hold all judgments until the end! I used to love Snape. I was all aboard the Snape/Lily train. I had a necklace that said, “Always.” It’s just… The more I thought about what he did, how he treated Harry, the actions he took in life, I just started to dislike him.

He says he loves Lily, and yet when her son comes to Hogwarts, Snape makes sure to be overly cruel to this 11-year-old orphan, as if he isn’t abused enough at home. Yeah, Harry looks like his dad and reminds Snape of James, but he’s a child. There is no reason he should be held accountable for any of his father’s actions. When faced with a similar situation (having the option to exclude Luna and bully her the way James did Severus), Harry doesn’t. Harry isn’t like his father in that he’s been abused, been the outcast, and has the compassion to welcome others who may feel like they don’t belong.

Yes, Snape did a lot of things to keep Harry safe, but he was also extremely abusive to him. I also feel that Harry really snubbed a great person in his life by naming his eldest son after Severus – Hagrid. Hagrid, the half-giant who was expelled from Hogwarts for something Voldemort did. Hagrid, the man who saved Harry not once, but twice – from Voldemort as a baby and from the Dursleys as a child. Hagrid, whose hut was always open not just to Harry, but to Hermione and Ron too. If anybody deserved to be remembered in such a profound way, it was Rubeus Hagrid – not Severus.

final thoughts

There you have it, my top five characters I just don’t get. Are any of mine also on your list? Let me know in the comments below!

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