Aside

Book Review| Uprooted by Naomi Novi

uprooted-covuprooted2

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.


thoughtstest-2thoughts-2
thoughts-3


 

 

uprooted-vocab-vol-3


archetpyes-2
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.

siggy

Advertisements

Book Review| Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Image

When my husband and I lived in Virginia, I had my dream come true: I got a full time job at Barnes and Noble. My husband is a sailor in the USN, so I was only able to keep that job for a year. After leaving, a few of us fellow bookies decided to keep in touch and, just recently, decided to start a book club. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall was the first book of the Literary Ladies book club, and it did not disappoint!

The Synopsis from Goodreads

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.
When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.
As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

This was probably one of the few books I’ve read this year that I absolutely could not put down! We had an anonymous poll for which book we’d read this March, and I’ll admit: I didn’t vote for this one. I am so very glad it won because this was such a beautiful story, and I fell in love with the characters.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Emotions While Reading:
Image

What I Liked Loved

Starla Jane Claudelle – Firstly, her name is just the best name I have ever heard for a character without it being unbelievable. I can just picture a poor, pregnant, 17-year-old Southern girl with big dreams realize she’s having a baby girl and think the best name she could give would be Starla. She is a wonderful little ball of fire who hates backing down from a fight, and always ends up seeing right into the core of everyone she meets. My mother’s cousin has a daughter who is so similar to Starla (her name is Ireland, so they have that “different-name” in common, too!), it may have something to do with why I absolutely adored her.

Eula – To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Eula’s at first. I thought she was a little crazy, what with having a random white baby in the car and then her more-than-abusive husband. I did not know what the story was going to hold for Eula. As soon as that pan hit Wallace’s head, I knew I was going to like this woman. She did for Starla what no other adult had: she protected her. Starla’s father was off working, her mother was gone, and her grandmother was one of the people she needed to be protected from; Starla had to begin protecting herself at a young age. Even when Eula came into her life, Starla was busy protecting Eula for a good while. Once Eula was able to finally come into herself, she was able to show Starla the same love and protection Starla had been showing her. (And honestly, I really wanted Eula to tell Lulu off).

The Characters Met Along the Way – From Mrs. Cyrena to the Jenkins Brothers to the boy Starla met at the fair, the cast of Whistling Past the Graveyard was just perfect. Each character was essential to the story, and nobody felt awkwardly crammed in or just forgotten. Mrs. Cyrena was another favorite of mine, simply because of her compassion for others. When Starla was sick and Eula had $4 to her name, Mrs. Cyrena took them in and allowed these three strangers (including baby James) into her home, knowing how much trouble they could get in for having two white children in their home. When Eula & Mrs. Cyrena decided to allow Starla to go to the carnival, I think I fell in love right then. Poor Starla never had anyone care about her happiness before, and here are two women who have known her for less than a month and could already see the goodness in her. Even the Jenkins brothers were well-written characters. We all have “those people” in town; the white trash, racist, hillbilly folk that just make you ashamed of being from the same town as them. People who are mean just because they can be. Isn’t it funny how this book was set in the 1960s, 50 years ago, and we still have the same problems?

Every Character Grew – The amount of character development in this book was almost too much for my emotional state. When Starla’s father finally does come save her (from her awful egg donor of a mother), the amount of love he has for his daughter really shines through. It’s the first time we’re really introduced to him, but I could see then that the only reason he was not home with her was because he believed he was doing the right thing by having his mother (Mamie) raise Starla. He then quits his job, finds an apartment for them both and begins to raise her on his “own” (own in quotations because Eula did stick around, of course). Eula’s own character growth was glorious and lovely and all I wanted was for her to live happily ever after and I’m glad that she kind of did.

What I Disliked Didn’t Love

Another “Dead Beat” Mom – So many books I’ve read lately have single fathers, with the mother either dying from childbirth, leaving the daughter, or just disappearing completely. While I am all for being different and breaking the mold, we do realize that the majority of single-parent families have the mother as the head of household, right? Women mainly win custody cases because they show up and actually want the custody. When men do show up and try to get custody, most of the times they do.  It would just be nice to have a book where the mother and daughter had a coming-together of sorts. We women have enough nonsense to worry about without having to worry about books making us out to be creatures who will flee at the mere sight of responsibility.

My Rating:
5/5 

If you’re looking for your next good read, I highly recommend this be it! I swear, you will not regret reading this book!

Book Review| Not Without You by Harriet Evans

Image

I had bought this book the same time I bought The Imposter Bride, and really thought I was going to enjoy that one more than this. This totally proved me wrong.

The Synopsis from Goodreads
Sophie Leigh’s real name is Sophie Sykes. But she hasn’t been called that for years, not since she became an A-list movie star. Living in Hollywood, she can forget all about her old life in England and the tragedy she left behind. But in the process, she’s lost something of herself, too.
Eve Noel didn’t choose her name. A Hollywood producer did. In fact, he makes all the decisions for her—what to wear, when to smile, who to love. A product of the 1950s, Eve has none of Sophie’s modern self-confidence, but she knows she must follow her heart. One day, she simply vanishes: no one knows where she went, or why…
As Sophie’s perfect-on-the-outside world begins to crumble, it seems her life might be linked to Eve’s. And when past and present collide, Sophie must unravel the mystery around Eve’s disappearance to save them both—but is she already too late?

 

Apparently, I am a huge fan of books written with more than one point of view.

Emotions While Reading

Image

I absolutely hated how long it took me to finish this book, only because I never wanted to put it down! Both Sophie’s story and Eve’s story were so full of mystery and suspense and I just felt for them both so much. This book gave me a lot of feels, which I will explain a little more in the…

What I Liked
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Sophie & Eve – Both characters stole my heart. Actresses in different eras, one the inspiration for the other, their lives entwined without them even realizing it. I fell for each of them separately, and in their own way, but since they were the two main characters, I decided to put them in one grouping here. Sophie was much more aware of her role than Eve. To me, Eve did what others told her to do  blindly. She was completely new to the world of Hollywood, lost in the loud crowds and gaudy parties. Sophie knows how to play the game, and usually plays it well. We come in as she’s trying to get away from the typical “shallow” pictures she makes, bit she’s constantly held back by her agent. Out with the old, in with the new, eh?

How Their Lives Mirrored One Another’s –  Eve was young and new, innocent to what Hollywood had in store for her. Sophie was a vet, knowing what was expected of her and how to play nice with people. Eve was a star when stars were still untouchable, beautiful in a way other people simply weren’t. Sophie constantly has to walk that fine line between strikingly gorgeous and down-to-earth, the girl-next-door. How could two people who are so obviously different have mirroring lives?
• Eve’s parents stopped caring about their daughter once she left for school. Sophie’s mother feigns interest in her daughter, but truly only cares about how her daughter’s fame can benefit her. When Sophie is being stalked and threatened, her mother does the one thing she was told not to: talk to the papers & give them the address Sophie would be at.
• Both of these women were so completely alone. When Eve’s life was falling apart, she turned and found no one to help her, not even the man she had married. When Sophie is laying outside, wanting so much just to talk to somebody, the only person she can think to call is her facile mother. They lack any true friends, anyone who cared about their well being and would help them when they needed it.
• Whenever we flip a  page in a magazine, we are bombarded with large grinning faces, showing us how happy these celebrities or models are, and making us want so much to be just as happy as them. Sophie and Eve were these faces, and neither of them were truly happy. Eve’s photoshoot with her husband showed them waiting for party guests, playing tennis, reading together, being a happily married couple. As the reader, we knew differently. We knew how her husband would threaten her life, cause her emotional and physical harm, and was extremely controlling. Sophie has her whole life staged for her; when she’s “grocery shopping” (why would she when she could pay someone to do that?), getting a drink, everything she does is planned out for her to show just how happy she is. But is she? Of course not. She’s stuck in these one-dimensional roles with horrible one-liners.

What I Disliked

Sarah/The Assistants – I had a feeling she was going to be the crazy person, but considering how odd Sophie’s actual assistant was, I just couldn’t be sure. In fact, maybe I just disliked the way both assistants were portrayed, because they were both a little crazy. I understand being apprehensive about working with a celebrity at first, but the original assistant (whose name I can’t remember) was still so shy that it was almost ridiculous?

My Rating:
4.5/5

I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who like dual narrators or historical fiction.

Book Review| The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

Image

After reading a full YA fantasy series, it was a relief to find this book at Barnes & Noble. I’d picked this up on Valentine’s Day, but wasn’t sure how far I would get into it before March 1st (the deadline before starting my first book club read). I actually finished it last night, but wasn’t able to start the review until just now. 

The Synopsis from Goodreads: 

When a young, enigmatic woman arrives in post-war Montreal, it is immediately clear that she is not who she claims to be. Her attempt to live out her life as Lily Azerov shatters as she disappears, leaving a new husband and baby daughter, and a host of unanswered questions. Who is she really and what happened to the young woman whose identity she has stolen? Why has she left and where did she go? It is left to the daughter she abandoned to find the answers to these questions as she searches for the mother she may never find or really know.

The book is written with three narrators; the real Lily Azerov (through passages in her diary), the false Lily Averov, and Ruth Kramer, “Lily’s” daughter. Ruth is the primary narrator throughout the book, but every so often a chapter is allotted to the two “Lily”s, The format was one of the main things I really enjoyed, because it allowed the reader the chance to connect with each of the women. 

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Emotions While Reading

Image

Any book written in the voice of a young girl with no mother is enough to make me cry. It may be the fact that I am extremely sensitive to the idea of my family no longer being there (I used to make myself cry when I was a child if I thought about my parents dying), but there was just something about Ruth that made me want to grab her up in my arms and whisk her away to a place where her mother existed. I, who have not a motherly bone in my body, wanted nothing more than to tuck her in and kiss her forehead, if only to show her how much comfort she was denied. 

Ruth’s family was always there for her, trying to make her feel as if she should not be ashamed or lonely without her mother, but she was. When you are deprived of something others have, you want that thing. Ruth had more love in her life than most of her friends did, with her aunt and uncle, their three sons, her two grandmothers and her father all very involved in her life, but she always felt that she was missing something. It wasn’t until her Grandmother Bella passed away did she realize just how much of an impact her family had on her life. It wasn’t until Ruth met her mother (when Ruth was an adult with three children) that she realized she didn’t need a mother, hadn’t needed a mother, because her family had made sure of that. She had three motherly figures in her life to make up for the one who hadn’t been there.

The question of morality throughout the book was sobering. The Imposter Bride was not a book I read and thought, “Oh my goodness, I absolutely loved it, I need to talk to somebody about this immediately!!1!!”, but was one that left a sense of content. Ruth’s mother, whose real name is Yanna, fights with herself for most of the story over the guilt of stealing another woman’s identity (and journal, and large, uncut diamond). Yanna’s question to her mother-in-law: “If the person is dead, is it still considered stealing?” Yanna’s departure from Ruth’s life was another question of morality; Yannah wanted to give Ruth the love and comfort she deserved, and knew she wouldn’t be the one to give it to her. Instead of continuing with her charade, Yanna left Ruth with a family who would raise her with complete love.

How I Felt After Reading

Image

I did give it 4 out of 5 stars, but I wasn’t “Wow’ed by it. It was a good story, and I definitely recommend it for those who like Historical Fiction, but it wasn’t one that I was head over heels over. By the end, I had been sucked into the story, but in writing this review, I’ve realized there was no part that made my heart race, made me smile, made me feel more than the usual book does. Yes, Ruth’s plight did make me want to save her, but that only lasts a chapter or two. 

My Rating: 4/5

 

Book Review| Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

12680907

Considering this is the sequel to Graceling, I thought I was going to fly through this book. Honestly, it just fell short of my expectations and I was pretty disappointed.
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea, still under the influence of her father Leck, a violent psychopath who altered minds. Her advisers want to pardon evildoers and forget everything, but she sees the past holds fast. Two thieves, who only steal what has been stolen, hold the truth and change her life. One, his Grace skill unidentified, has a key to her heart.

First of all, this is the longest book in the series with the shortest synopsis. That doesn’t even cover half of the stuff that goes on, but whatever, we’ll get into that later.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

What I Liked: 
• Bitterblue – This book takes place eight years after the events of Graceling, making Bitterblue 18 years old, Kasta and Po (and all their friends) around 26-27 years old. Bitterblue may have been the queen since she was 10, but that doesn’t mean she’s been in charge of anything. She’s more of a figurehead, signing papers her advisers shove at her, constantly hiding in the castle until, finally, she decides to sneak out. Throughout the whole book, Bitterblue is finding herself. She befriends common folk, and it takes her a long time to realize how different they truly are from each other. Money means nothing to her; she can command anything to happen to anyone whenever she feels like it; she can pardon people for murder and sentence others to death for stealing bread. (Not that she does, those were just examples)!  She’s just a scared girl trying to play queen and by the end of the book, she does.

• The Return of Katsa & Po  – I loved these two so much in Graceling that I missed them in Fire. Having them back felt like old friends coming back after a vacation without contact. That they’re older and still so much the same. It wasn’t just the return of Katsa and Po, but of all the old cast: Giddon, Bann, Raffin, Helda. It was better than an epilogue, because I was able to really see what they were all up to. Tho I really wanted Giddon & Bitterblue together okay Idec about the age difference sue me

• Teddy & Saf  – Such polar opposites and so darn refreshing. Saf was so full of angst and misguided anarchy, while all Teddy wanted to do was create and share books. I loved Bitterblue’s relationship with both of them; Saf was her freedom and Teddy was her compassion for her people. Teddy always trusted her, and Saf was always pushing her. Saf’s reaction to Bitterblue’s true identity was so realistic too; most people would feel so betrayed that it would take them forever to forgive that person. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t feel betrayed.

What I Disliked
• The Ciphers
– This may just be a personal preference since I’m awful at puzzles and math, but good lord does everyone use ciphers?! It just felt like so much overkill. Is the molding on the walls also a cipher, left by the architects? It just felt so ridiculous. I understand that writing letters in a ciphered text makes sense, but journals and even embroidery being a cipher? To me, it just felt ridiculous that Bitterblue would even consider that her mother’s embroidery could be a cipher. I really have a problem with Leck keeping 35 ciphered journals just laying around (no matter how hidden he thought they were). For some reason, I just feel like he would have been so paranoid with anyone finding them that he wouldn’t have written them at all. And speaking about the late King…

• Leck – Some people are just crazy. There’s no reason for the madness, and rarely ever do they leave reasons laying around. He was a good villain for the series, but I just didn’t like the way every single thing was explained. Bitterblue’s need for clarity is completely understandable, but truth is a luxury some people don’t get to experience. Leck was always worried about people being able to ignore his influence; even in Fire, he hated knowing there were people who he couldn’t control. Why would he ever leave notebooks around that gave people that information, ciphered or not?

• The Advisors – Everything just seemed too convenient about Bitterblue’s advisors. They were all guilty, and yet nobody said anything? Nobody? Out of all the people in the castle, nobody saw anything? I just find that so unbelievable. And then all but one dies, of course. Suicides, betrayal… It just felt like they were placed there because somebody needed to take the blame for Leck after his death.

Rating: 3/5

What did you think of the third installment of the Graceling Realm books? What did you love about it? What didn’t you love about it?

Pilot Episode, Engage.

Hello there! First, I’d like to thank you so much for actually taking the time out of your day to read this! And then I’d like to apologize for the lack of posts. I used to have a wordpress blog when I was younger, and then somebody introduced me to tumblr, where I’ve been hiding away from the sun ever since. Now is my time to be reintroduced to the world of people! Hurray!

The Introduction

1010787_644913888903414_1515096432_n

My (first) bookshelfie

I guess I’ll start off by telling you a little about myself. My name is Victoria, though a good number of people call me Torie. I was a tomboy as a kid, playing in dirt and always trying to fight the tough kids (in elementary school), so it took me a few years to appreciate my name. Now I find it weird when people don’t call me Victoria.

My birthday is January 9th, and this year I turned 22! I still feel like I’m 19 and I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, though now I’m starting to realize a lot of people feel the same way.

I have been married since December 14, 2010 (6 months after I graduated high school) to the most wonderful man I have ever met. His name is Brandon, so if you ever read that name here, you’ll know who it is.

Me & the Mr. on our wedding day.

Me & the Mr. on our wedding day.

Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with books. The first book I ever read was The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss. I used to have this Lion King book that would read the page to you if you pulled the lever on it, and I ended up pulling that darn lever so much that I actually memorized the pages. I was maybe three years old at this time, and my father happened to hear me one day. He was so amazed that I had taught myself to read! Until he tried getting me to read something else, which is when he realized I had just memorized the book (which is still pretty impressive, if you ask me).

This blog will be a sister-blog to my Goodreads account. I will be posting reviews on books as I read them, and may even take requests from some “followers” if I’m in a real book funk. Right now, I’m in the process of reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore, so look for that review soon. For now, I think I’ve written the best introduction I can without becoming obnoxious.

Thanks, and happy reading