Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted book cover

The Blurb

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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

My Thoughts

3 / 5

Not as much romance as I wanted but I did appreciate the strong theme of friendship running though the story.

After reading the description I was hoping for a fun romance between Agnieszka and Sarkan and it did start out that way with lots of mystery from Sarkan and sarkiness from Agnieszka. But just as I was starting to enjoy the interactions between them and it looked like things were heating up the romance side of the story is just ditched when Agnieszka leaves for the capital.

I loved the first half of the book – it starts out with a lot of banter between them and Agnieszka is struggling with learning the magic basics. You can really see the Beauty and the Beast influence here and it’s fun watching the balance of power between them change as Agnieszka finds her strength in her abilities and her confidence grows.

After the halfway point Agnieszka started to irritate me with her amazing abilities that appear just when she needs them and her lucky escapes. Then Sarkan disappears from the story altogether just as we start to get to know him and the spark and the contrast between that made the story so lively is gone.

The story gets more exciting but it doesn’t feel like anything special. It feels like I’ve seen this story over and over again recently. A young woman is looked down upon and treated like she is a second class citizen but finds that her abilities are super special and she starts to outshine and outwit everyone around her.

What I did appreciate is the way Agnieszka’s confidence grows and she becomes much more sure in herself and her abilities, though it eventually goes too far with this. She forges her own path and isn’t afraid to go against the popular appearance. She is the hero of the story and the removal of Sarkan makes this clear. By the end though she is so amazing and so fantastic and kind and wonderful that it gets a bit grating.

Friendship is a strong theme running through the book, Agnieszka and Kasia are the real stars of the story, I think this should have been the focus all the way through, adding a romance into the story just took away from this. Kasia and Sarkan are never fully realised, dropped in and out when it suits the story and it would have been nice to get to know at least one of them in-depth, and maybe see their side of the story.

The writing is beautifully done though, by far the best thing about the book. And to be fair, Agnieszka was always just the right side of too irritating to live. The way she was written made her more enduring than annoying, but only just.

I expected more after all the hype about it, but it’s an enjoyable coming of age adventure story and it’s very well written.

Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Young Adult Fantasy
May 12th 2016
Paperback
435

Jem and the Holograms Playlist

Jem Cover

I had so much fun putting this playlist together! I’ve filled it with my favourite punk / rock songs by female artists and listening to it takes me back to my teenage years.

I’ve also added in a couple from the recent film. It was rubbish but had some good songs in there.

I’m only sad that I couldn’t find the original Jem and the Holograms songs on Spotify.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power Cover

What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands?

Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed The Power, it’s very readable, but not nearly as original or groundbreaking as I was hoping for.

It tries for a very serious style, jumping between people and events in a way similar to World War Z but some of the events come off a little too far fetched and daft to make it really work. It’s not as gritty as it wants to be and sometimes I caught myself thinking ‘that’s so silly how would that work’. It jumps around a lot too, it doesn’t stay with any one person long enough to get to know them so the human side of the story and the emotional impact is almost lost.

It’s a story with a premise that the author could have gone anywhere with, there was so much she could have said in this book but she just wrote about a straight role reversal, the women end up just like the men. I don’t know if maybe she was trying to say something about how power corrupts or how deep down we’re all really the same but if so it didn’t come across very well.

For a speculative sci-fi book it would be ok and an interesting read but it’s got such an attention-grabbing blurb and it’s been so massively hyped that it ends up being disappointing.

The Power
Naomi Alderman
Sci-Fi
April 6th 2017
Paperback
341

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Franie Langton Cover

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

My Thoughts

The Confessions of Frannie LangtonThe Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me ages to get through this book because I had to keep taking breaks and reading something else. The pace is very, very slow moving and it tackles some heavy issues but it’s not the most interesting of storylines. So I struggled to read it, I had to keep taking breaks to read something else and then come back and read a bit more.

The story only picked up at the end when it turns to the actual trial but then that is just rushed through in a couple of chapters. Though since the trial itself only lasts a day and a half – a sham trial, the minds of the judge and jurors made up before they enter the room – it’s actually a realistic representation. If there had been more of the events of that night or the things Frannie did when helping Langton with his experiments revealed at points through the book it might have added a bit more interest and life to the story. Most of it focuses on her obsession with Marguerite – something that never felt believable to me.

What I like most about this book is that Frannie is angry. She’s not a kind-hearted, self-sacrificing good girl. She’s angry at the way she’s treated and she doesn’t win people over with the kindness of her heart and you can believe it is quite possible she might actually have murdered her master and mistress.

I also liked that it goes in-depth into the overt sexism and racism prevalent at the time and the viewpoint from the slave feels realistic. I can feel Frannie’s frustration at her situation coming off her in waves. An intelligent woman who would be happy with just a bit of free time to read a book every now and again, she is treated as a savage and a beast, as though she is not human, by everyone around her.

This book has a lot to say and it’s worth reading for its viewpoint on race and slavery alone. I just found it too slow to hold my interest for long periods of reading and it’s also a bit dreary and very depressing.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins
Fiction
April 4th 2019
Kindle
384

The Obsidian Tower (Jewelfire #3) by Freda Warrington

obsidian tower cover

In this final volume of the Jewelfire trilogy, all seems lost for the humans of Aventuria. The shape-changing Bhahdradomen have invaded and Queen Helananthe has been forced to step down or see her mother and brother murdered. Meanwhile Tanthe is attempting to rescue her sister, Ysomir.

My Review of The Obsidian Tower

The Obsidian Tower (The Jewelfire Trilogy #3)The Obsidian Tower by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is not ok to play with my emotions like this Freda Warrington! Excuse me while I go sob in the corner, please.

So, at the start of The Obsidian Tower, everything looks bad. The Bhahdradomen have invaded and taken the throne, Helan, Tanthe and the others are in captivity and Rufryd has been left for dead. Well, things only get worse from here!

I’ve grown to love this series. I wasn’t convinced by the first book but it grew on me and I ended up heavily emotionally invested in it. The writing is lush. The descriptions of the worlds are beautiful: this world is alive in my head, I could almost step into it.

And there is SO much character growth. Characters I hated at the start ended up being my favourites and characters that I thought were going to be the heroes or the villains are anything but. There are no truly good or bad people in the worlds Freda Warrington creates. There are no superheroes and no evil villains. Her characters are very real, often messy and usually contradictory. And don’t get too attached to any of them because Warrington is not averse to killing off the people that seem like the stars of the show. None of them is safe!

The storyline is very, very clever. There are lot’s of different characters and different stories going on but they all weave in together and bring a very satisfying, if bittersweet, resolution with all the different storylines rounded up and finished off.

I got off to a wobbly start with this series but by the end, I’d fallen in love with it. It’s clever, dark and as realistic as high fantasy gets. Give it a go, it’s worth the investment.

The Obsidian Tower
Jewelfire
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
2001
Paperback
708

The Silver Tide (The Copper Cat #3) by Jen Williams

The Silver Tide Cover

From Jen Williams, highly-acclaimed author of THE COPPER PROMISE and blistering follow-up THE IRON GHOST, comes the final epic instalment in the Copper Cat trilogy. 

Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed.

My Review of The Silver Tide

The Silver Tide (The Copper Cat, #3)The Silver Tide by Jen Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Silver Tide brings to a close a massively fun ride that has been full of magic, gods, dragons and mayhem.

I’ve absolutely loved this series, I tried to read this slowly to eke it out longer but it’s hard when the story is so exciting. I just wanted to turn the world off and cosy up with a big cup of tea and read all day.

The Silver Tide introduces us to Devinia the Red, Wydrin’s mother, who is even more of a loose cannon than Wydrin herself! And when Devinia gets the idea to be the first to reach the centre of a cursed island you just know it’s going to end badly. She enlists the black feather three for help but Wydrin, Frith and Sebastion are still reeling from the events of The Copper Promise. They go along with her plans but as usual for the trio events soon spiral out of their control.

It’s fresh, modern and fun and packed full of action. The story is a riot but there is also a serious side and I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but there is lots of chance for character growth. And an ending that left me happy sad.

Wydrin is one of the best characters in a fantasy series in my opinion. She’s fiery and can hold herself in a fight but she’s not the stereotypical ‘badass’ women. She has flaws and a realness to her that just bring her to life.

Jen Williams has put herself up there as one of my favourite fantasy authors, one of the few I will auto-buy when a new book comes out. She takes the standard fantasy plot and gives it a big kick up the arse.

I love the characters – Wydrin, Frith and Sebastion will always have a special place in my heart. I’m sad to see this series come to an end and I’m tempted to go straight back to the first book and start over.

The Silver Tide
The Copper Cat
Jen Williams
Fantasy
February 25th 2016
Paperback
608

Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 2: Viral (Jem and the Holograms #2)

jem cover volume 2

Jerrica and her sisters face their biggest threat yet—success! Meanwhile, the Misfits aren’t taking these upstarts lying down… as they find themselves under new management. Plus, go behind the scenes and see THE HOLOGRAMS and THE MISFITS from a whole new perspective… that of music columnist Rio Pacheco!

Written by Kelly Thompson with art by Emma VieceliCorin Howell and Amy Mebberson with colors by M. Victoria Robado.

Collects issues #7-10, the Outrageous Annual 2015, and the 2015 Holiday Special.

My Review of Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: ViralJem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume starts off with a bit of fun! The girls fall asleep watching movies and each of them has a short sequence of their different movie dream!

And then it’s back to the normal programming as Shana angsts over whether to stay in the band or follow her fashion dreams to Italy, The Holograms choose a label to sign with, and The Misfits hatch plans to bring down The Holograms and become more popular.

So business as usual really!

The art is fun, bright, colourful and the outfits are still amazing! There’s a little bit more about the girls and their lives in this one, their personalities come through a lot stronger than in the first volume. The writing and story lines showcase the strength of friendships and it’s nice to read stories about women with strong bonds between them.

My only complaint – I could do with slightly less of the relationship angst between Kimber and Stormer. They are cute together and I wish they would just get on with it.

I absolutely adore the artwork and the costumes and though the story doesn’t bring anything new it’s done well and the dialogue works. I’m loving this series!

Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 2: Viral
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Emma Vieceli, Corin Howell, Amy Mebberson, Maria Victoria Robado
Graphic Novel
May 3rd 2016
Paperback
152

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye Cover

Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood — unbearable betrayals and cruelties — surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years.

Cat's EyeCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.”

Cat’s Eye is an in-depth look at the effects of childhood bullying and how it has long-term, lasting effects.

Elaine Risley escaped her bullies and went on to be a successful artist but the buried memories of her childhood still haunt her. It’s only when she returns to Toronto as an adult and reminisces as she visits the places she used to live and her old school that she realises much they still affect her and have harmed her relationships with other people in her life.

A strong theme running through the book is that revenge – an eye for an eye – is a dead end; it hurts everyone involved. Elaine got revenge on her bullies by becoming harder and meaner than them but that had knock-on effects on her relationships with other people. Elaine has to forgive herself for her actions as much as she has to forgive the people who bullied her.

“But I began to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of the other. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water.”

Time changes the way you view things, memories change and you see people and events differently as you age. When Elaine looks back on her childhood she can see that the bullies were trying to compensate for problems in their own life, it wasn’t anything Elaine did that caused it. She realises that her bullies weren’t concerned with her but with themselves. You are never the centre of other people’s stories: they are.

Margaret Atwood has a knack for telling complex and in depth stories in an accessible and easy to understand way. I think she’s brilliant at character observation: she knows exactly what to do to bring her character’s personalities to life. She also has this open and friendly writing style that just makes her stories super readable. I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by her, and this has to be one of my favourites so far.

I loved reading Elaine’s life story, how she travelled with her family and her experience of growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Actual events from history are woven in around Elaine’s life, which really helps to ground the story in reality. I’ve never been to Toronto but I was so engrossed in the story I felt like I could imagine myself there with Elaine. Now, I feel a bit like I have actually visited the city itself!

This is another brilliant book by Margaret Atwood. It’s very cleverly done and it’s also very enjoyable. Highly recommended!

Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood
Fiction
1990
Paperback
421

Fire (Engelsfors #2) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren

Fire Cover

The Chosen Ones are about to start their second year in senior high school. All summer they have been waiting for the demon’s next move. But the threat comes from another direction, somewhere they could never have foreseen.

It becomes more and more obvious that something is very wrong in Engelsfors. The past is woven together with the present. The living meet the dead. The Chosen Ones are tied even closer together and are once again reminded that magic cannot make you happy or mend broken hearts.

My Review of Fire
Fire (Engelsfors #2)Fire by Mats Strandberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fire is very Buffy inspired in that it’s as much about dealing with the horrors of high school and adults that think they know better, as it is about dealing with actual demons and magic users intent upon nefarious deeds. It even has a morally dubious magic council trying to police and control the witches powers. But Fire is moving and deep and transcends its Buffy influences by creating a wonderful story all of its own. This is definitely one of my favourite series about high school magic users, up there with the Brooklyn Brujas books by Zoraida Córdova.

I’d say the first 50% of the book there isn’t really any magic in it though, it’s just the girls dealing with life and family and friends. The magic side of the story is a slow burner, building up in the background all the time the girls were dealing with the fallout from Anna Karin’s magic use in the first book. Then when I’d actually stopped caring about the lack of magic because I was just enjoying the story, it all starts to kick off and the magic use amps up!

All through the book, there has been a demon touched witch lurking in the background influencing and controlling the townspeople. The girls kinda brush it to one side whilst they are surviving the magic council’s attentions as the ‘bad’ witch gains more and more power.

Both sides of the story are done well, I wasn’t bored waiting for the magic bits like I would normally find myself with this sort of book. I know what it’s like to be an ‘outcast’ at school and I think Fire captures that feeling so well. The girls are dealing with all sorts of family and relationship issues and then on top of that they have to deal with the magic council turning up too. It’s very realistic in the way it portrays the girl’s personalities and the cliques which exist in high school.

We have Minoo – super shy and retiring, she struggles to make friends and has little confidence in her magic.

Vanessa – a wild child whose self-worth is wrapped up in her boyfriend.

Ida – the school bully who has had her eyes opened to the effect her actions have on other people.

Linnea – an independent loner that tries to deal with everything on her own.

Anna Karin – an overweight outcast who feels that she has no control over herself or her life direction.

There is massive character growth in Fire: these five girls are still almost strangers at the start of the book but by the end, they see the good and the potential in each other. They start to trust their magic circle.

I’m kinda heartbroken by the ending, but I feel hopeful it’s just setting up for a killer storyline in the final book.

Basically, I loved it all! I can’t wait to read the finale.

Fire
Engelsfors
Mats Strandberg, Sara Bergmark Elfgren
Young Adult Fantasy
June 20th 2013
Kindle
687

My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

My Real ChildrenMy Real Children by Jo Walton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Now.” “Never.” When her fiance Mark gives her an ultimatum about their wedding date, Patty’s life splits into two completely different paths. One where she marries him and becomes an isolated housewife with four children, and one where she ends their relationship and becomes a writer of travel guides.

I put this on my to-read list because I found it in a list of sci-fi books somewhere. I’ve noticed a lot of comments that it’s not a ‘proper’ sci-fi book (whatever that is) but I disagree. Maybe it’s the focus on women’s issues and lives that make people feel like it’s not really sci-fi? It certainly is a focus rarely seen in this genre. But there are moon bases and Mars missions going on in the background (including a marriage on the moon!) and of course the divergent / alternate histories – it’s as sci-fi as The Man in the High Castle anyway.

But more importantly than the question of is this really sci-fi or not, there is also a story good enough to make me just glad that I came across it, whatever it is. Both of Patty’s stories are by turns happy, fun and heartbreaking that had me hooked. I stayed up way past my bedtime reading this and I resented having to put it down.

My only issue is that the later years are just skimmed over, almost like too long was spent on Patty’s early life and there just wasn’t enough space in the book left for Patty when she was older. I felt like a lot got missed out in Patty’s lives and also the happenings in each of the worlds. The tech and politics in the two different timelines diverged a lot and I found it hard to keep track of what was happening in each because they were only mentioned in passing. The differences between them suddenly became a very important part of the story at the end of the book and I’d not paid enough attention to really understand the decision Patty had to make.

Aside from that, I found it very moving, with characters that I could care about. My emotions went up and down right along with Patty and both her families.

It’s a ‘can’t put it down’ novel that I very much enjoyed. I highly recommend it for your next holiday read! Just pay attention to what’s going on in the background a bit more than I did.

My Real Children
Jo Walton
Sci-Fi
May 20th 2014
Paperback
323