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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.


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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| The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris

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Kristina McMorris has had a large part of my heart ever since I read Letters from Home. Being a military wife, stories about military couples (and WWII in general) just get me. I end up putting myself and my husband in the stories, replacing the main characters. (I also recently took an online test that said I was over-emotional, so I’m sure that doesn’t help either). Her stories are so emotionally devastating, sometimes in a good way, and I end up feeling so content with the way each story ends.

The Snyopsis from Goodreads:

Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal. 

 

I honestly was not sure what to expect with this one. Though it centers itself around WWII, the modern story line threw me a bit. I wasn’t sure how the two stories were going to come together in a way that wasn’t corny or ridiculous, but I was surprised in how content the ending was for me. It’s very possible that the end was a little corny, and I may be biased in my absolute love of McMorris’ work. Even if you didn’t or don’t like the modern story line, you simply can’t resist loving her WWII story line. Vivian and Isaak and Gene, I just couldn’t resist loving them! I’ve seen people talk about Vivian like she’s some weepy, wispy woman who needs a man in her life, but I don’t think those people read the book. Spoilers! When we first meet Vivian, she’s already dating Isaak. Once they’re separated and she decides to move on, she does not immediately go looking for a man. She goes looking for fun. Just because she happens to find somebody doesn’t mean she needs them. When I met my husband, I had just stopped seeing somebody. My husband was a rebound (don’t worry, he knows this!), and I had no intention of ever marrying somebody from my home town. But the more time we talked, the more we spent time together, the closer we became. I was in no way looking for the person I would marry, but we found each other. Maybe that’s why I could relate to Vivian; she fell in love with somebody she wasn’t expecting to.

This book literally brought tears to my eyes. There were two scenes that really just broke me down, but the one that really got me (and made me say, “Oh no,” out loud) was Vivian and Gene’s death. For some reason, when Vivian is thinking about Judith and how she’ll always be loved, and when she hears the I’ve got you while holding Gene’s hand, I just felt my heart drop. When that time comes, I can only hope to be surrounded by people I love, looking back on my life and the people in it. 

Rating: 5/5

If you have a soft spot for WWII-era novels, then I strongly urge you to pick up any McMorris book.

Book Review| Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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This book was always part of the Buy 2, Get 1 Free sale at Barnes and Noble, and as many times as I picked it up and thought, “I should get this,” I never did. Don’t ask me why, but I just never picked it up. The last time my husband and I were at the local Barnes and Noble, I picked this book up and said, “Oh this book looks so good!” and my husband said, “You always grab that book, and you never buy it. Just buy it, you obviously want it.” Bought it, and he ended up reading it first. I’m pretty sure he loved this book more than The Alchemist. Before I go any further, let me give you the synopsis.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them. 
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 
A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

 

(Sorry, that was super long).

Emotions While Reading:
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Considering James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, is pretty much just a long-lost Revenge of the Nerds character, I felt this gif was appropriate. Allow me to begin with what I liked.

**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD**

What I Liked

The Players – The Big Five (the first five players to get past the First Gate) were all such great characters. Each was written with their own personality and actually kept that personality throughout the book. This may have been the first book I’ve read where the main characters actually sounded like teenagers. Thank goodness this wasn’t considered a YA book. Most YA books now have these horrible love stories that take away from the story. Though there is some romance in Ready Player One, it doesn’t take away from the story. So many times, an author will throw in some phrase or action that you just feel the character would never do or say, and I didn’t find that in this book at all.

All the 80s References – I’m going to be completely honest: there were some that I didn’t get. I was born after the 80s (I’m a baby, I know), so most of my 80s knowledge comes passed down from my “metal head” parents. My father definitely raised me to carry on his nerd legacy though: I was raised in a household where we had a room dedicated to Godzilla, Speed Racer, Star Wars and comic books (mainly X-Men). With that said, some of the references were too odd for me. Most references were just pure gold. At one point, Wade is trying to get passed one of the gates and the theme music from Conan the Barbarian comes on. My dad literally owns that CD. The last battle is a showdown between Ultraman and Mechagodzilla. Okay, let me show you something.

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See those guys? I OWN THESE. My parents bought it for me to decorate my mini-cubicle at work. My dad owns the whole dang series of Ultraman (that he found at a truck stop). If it’s 80s SciFI, it’s not too dorky for me. Some of the references got to be a little too much at times. For the first few chapters, I just felt like, “Good lord, how many references are we putting in this?” My husband had to tell me over and over that the whole point of the Gunters (short for Egg Hunters) was to memorize everything Halliday loved (which turned out to be 9/10s of the 80s). 
The Ruthlessness of the Sixers – Greed runs most businesses nowadays, so it makes sense that the main villain of the book comes in the form of big business. As ruthless as businesses can be, I did not expect them to actually murder people (even though it is in the synopsis). It kept the story realistic; as a society, we tend to think everything is a conspiracy, and most conspiracies involve big companies. So many stories are about the corporate evils coming after Mom & Pop stores and, in reality, they usually win. It was so nice to have a story that was neck and neck, on the edge until the very end. No lie, at one of the last chapters when it says, “And then we all died,” I was sitting at work ad had to stop from yelling. I was so pissed! Such a good story. 
Ogden Morrow – I loved this man. Absolutely loved him. He was like the Snape of Ready Player One (except not a dick). Also, my husband now has to live up to the expectation of buying me a life-size version of Rivendell. Just saying. I really just enjoyed how he was the crazy uncle, but didn’t overstep his part in the game. He played his part, helped the big Four (since Daito was murdered by the Sixers) by giving them a place to hook into the OASIS, but didn’t help them by giving them cheats or hints. All he did was guide them to their own destiny.
All in all, I am so glad I finally bought and read this book! I may have felt like the biggest dork ever, but I also felt like the biggest badass ever. 
My Rating: 5/5