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.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at last cover

A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid. How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?

As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can’t he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They’re far too different to be a good match, surely?

My Thoughts

Ayesha at LastAyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Completely charming, with a cast of sweet and funny characters, and a message about not judging other’s actions – I just loved it!ed it!

Khalid is adorable, kind and honest and trying his best to make his mother happy even though he starts to have doubts about her approach to life and her restrictive views on how to be a Muslim. Ayehsa is intelligent and caring – her family allow her more freedom but she isn’t sure what she wants to do with it.

When Ayesah and Khalid meet at the Bella lounge, Ayesha thinks Khalid is stuffy and Khalid thinks Ayesa is the “wrong” sort of Muslim. But neither of them can deny their attraction to each other.

Add to this a meddling mother, a Shakespeare quoting grandparent, a selfish young cousin, a banished sister and a best friend with her own romantic troubles and the stage is set for a funny and charming tale.

It’s based on Pride and Prejudice – I’ve never read that so I can’t say how faithful an adaptation it is but I have read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (hated it), and there are a few things I can recognise from that story!

There’s a very strong message in this story about not judging others or assuming things about them, and about how there is more than one way to be a good person. Ayesha and Khalid spent a good part of the book with the wrong ideas about each other – they have to see past their pride and their prejudice and learn to stop judging so harshly.

It stays light-hearted and fresh though – the characters are charming and well developed and the plot rollicks along at a fast pace that I just couldn’t stop reading. I very much enjoyed it and it’s hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel. I hope she writes a lot more!

A heartwarming read that I couldn’t put down, I highly recommend this.

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

Ayesha at Last
Uzma Jalaluddin
Fiction
April 4th 2019
Kindle
368

Books with Roller Derby in Them

roller derby books

Time for another book list! It’s been too long since I did one of these.

This time, these are books that have my favourite sport roller derby in, in one form or another.

Slam!

Slam is a bright and fun graphic novel about two young women who join a banked track roller derby team. The artwork is wonderful! Bright and bold, and it really captures the different characters personalities. The story is strong and interesting, with good dialogue. and this is all around just a lot of fun.

Whip It

This is the book that was made into the film that has helped roller derby become so popular recently. It’s about a teenager that wants to escape the world of beauty pageants and join a local roller derby team, against her parent’s wishes.

Whip it cover

The Derby Girl

A full-on romance novel where the heroine is a derby girl. There was really no way I wasn’t going to like this, the characters are smart and sassy and the story is cute and fun!

The Derby Girl Cover

Going in Circles

A more grown-up roller derby tale with about a fairly standard story about a woman that joins a roller derby team after her relationship ends and finds her inner strength.  A nice feel-good tale, even if there is nothing much original about it.

going in circles cover

Derby Shorts: The Best New Fiction from the Roller Derby Track

This is a little book full of short stories set in the world of Roller Derby. It’s produced in collaboration with London Roller Girls and the publisher, For Books Sake, is a company that champions women writers. There’s a mix of styles, so something for everyone! My favourites include the super fierce post-apocalyptic story and a quite sweet one about two teenage sisters playing in a junior Roller Derby league.

Derby Shorts Cover

Troll or Derby

Now, I wasn’t hugely keen on this one but a lot of reviews seem to really love it. Debs is a roller skater living in a trailer park with her sister and borderline abusive mother. Her sister disappears kicking off a chain of events that makes  Debs start to realise that she isn’t entirely human.

Troll or Derby Cover

 

Masked by Moonlight (By Moonlight #1) by Nancy Gideon

Masked by Moonlight Cover

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE. ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS. Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS. Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

My Review of Masked by Moonlight

Masked by Moonlight (Moonlight, #1)Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Way more of a romance than an urban fantasy.

Charlotte is a detective in New Orleans. A rubbish one but that’s ok because the murder mystery doesn’t amount to much anyway. Max is the bodyguard of the underworld crime king and he has been in love with Charlotte for years. Cue much angst and drama.

The setting of New Orleans is massively underused. I understand that New Orleans is an unusual city with a distinctive style and atmosphere but this could have been set anywhere. The story outside of Charlotte and Max’s relationship starts with potential but gets lost in all the romance drama.

There isn’t one scene that Charlotte and Max don’t end up together in, talking and flirting. Normally with Urban Fantasy, I get annoyed because the love interests spend so little time together so you’d think I should have liked this. But, I don’t know why, it just got too much, even for me. I think it was done at the expense of building Charlotte’s world and so it all feels very limited.

Max is a sweetheart and my heart breaks for him the way he’s head over heels and just wants to be with Charlotte. For a character that’s supposed to be a hardened killer, he seems like just a big softie. He carries the whole book and I read it really just for him.

Charlotte is independent and fun to read but also she’s kinda mean and closed off. She has her reasons but Max is such a sympathetic character and it’s easy to forget he’s a killer so it makes it hard to like Charlotte when she is so cruel to him.

The writing is average, there are some dodgy bits here and there but it’s not offputting and it’s a fun and easy read. There are 10 books in the series though so hopefully it will improve as it goes on!

I intend to read the next one, all the setup has been done so I’m hoping for a bit of a more in-depth story. If not I’ll be quite happy with just reading another book with a lot of Max in it!

Masked by Moonlight is a fun, quick Urban Fantasy romance read with a likeable and very sweet love interest!

Terrible cover though.

Masked by Moonlight
By Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Urban Fantasy
May 25th 2010
Kindle
375

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Ensnared Cover

Ensnared Blurb

A Near-Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

This novel contains adult situations and is only suitable for readers who are 18+.

My Review of Ensnared

EnsnaredEnsnared by Rita Stradling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ensnared is based on Beauty and the Beast, but it takes the basic idea and runs with it, throwing in sci-fi elements with automatons, AI, and self-aware robots.

I was expecting a young adult story from the blurb, but it’s aimed at adults.

If I’m being honest the story is daft, there’s not a lot of world building, and there are plot holes you can drive a truck through. But it’s also a lot of fun, with likeable characters.

I liked Alainn, she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind, but she’s not perfect. She’s not overly intelligent and is prone to taking risks that endanger her life. It’s this daredevil impulse that leads her to agree to impersonate the robot Lorccan has ordered to save her father from going to jail. It (kind of) makes sense in context.

Lorccan is a recluse who is scared of germs and has little to no experience of other people. I can almost believe he doesn’t realise that he got a real person instead of a robot, even though Alainn is very, very bad at pretending to be a robot. She doesn’t even think about how she is going to eat, so almost starves herself at first. I think about food all the time, so if I was going to have to pretend to be a robot somewhere it’s probably the first thing I would worry about.

I liked that Lorcann’s problems aren’t magically fixed by the power of lurve. At the end of the book, he still can’t leave his home for fear of germs. It’s clear that it’s a bigger, ongoing issue that Alainn can’t fix for him.

My favourite character in this has to be Shelley. She has anxiety, and battles with herself when she pushes herself way out of her comfort zone to help Alainn when things go wrong. She reaches a point where she can’t force herself any further and leaves with the police instead of escaping with Alainn. I loved that she wasn’t treated as a coward for this, instead, Alainn thanks her and calls her a badass.

If you want something that’s not going to tax your brain and you can just enjoy reading it, then this is a good choice. I read it in a day, I didn’t want to put it down. I even had to have it propped up in front of me while I was brushing my teeth!

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

Ensnared
Rita Stradling
Sci-Fi
May 23rd 2017
Kindle
419

My Favourite Books with Tattooed Characters

books with tattooed characters

Tenuous link for my book list this month: I recently got a tattoo. So here is a list of my favourite books with tattooed characters in 🙂

It’s a lot shorter than I thought it would be, so if you have any suggestions please share them in the comments or on twitter.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

An obvious choice to kick off with, Lisbeth Salander is tattooed, independent, and doesn’t care what others think of her.

Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

A romance where the main character Iris works in a tattoo palour and the love interest is a tattooist. I’ve mentioned Mariana Zapta before on this blog, she’s one of my favourite slow burning romance writers out there.

This couple go from hating each other to being friends before finally falling in love and their journey is believable (for a romance novel) and sweet. I could have done without the motorbike gang stuff, but other than that this is a lovely story.

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew is a quiet, antisocial bookworm working in a small bookshop in York. She closes herself off from relationships and finds herself lost for words when she tries to talk to people.

But she wasn’t always this way, and through flashbacks and memories we find out what happened in Loveday’s past that has left her so guarded and reluctant to trust anyone.

I only picked this up because it’s about a bookworm with a nose ring and tattoos, and it’s set in York, a city that I love to visit. But this is a very thoughtful and beautifully written story, with flawed and interesting characters with a lot of depth to them.

One of my favourites of the year so far.

The Derby Girl (Getting Physical) by Tamara Morgan

Another romance, this time the main character Gretchen is a tattooed roller derby girl. I’m not blown away by the love interest, he’s a bit too corporate for my liking, but Gretchen is funny, feisty and flawed and I kinda want to be her.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Sci-fi where the main character has a full face tattoo. I’m not sure I’d say I enjoyed this book, there’s some pretty grim stuff in it, but it’s thought provoking and interesting. It’s also the only sci-fi I could think of to add to this list!

Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane

A series I think I’ve mentioned before, Downside Ghosts’ main character Chessie has full body tattoos that also help her work magic. It’s my favourite urban fantasy, and it has a bit of romance thrown in. The love interest Terrible is by far my favourite book boyfriend.

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage Cover

The Great Passage Blurb

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, dishevelled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

My Review of The Great Passage

The Great PassageThe Great Passage by Shion Miura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it’s ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussion about the meaning and origin of words and I’m impressed by how these have been translated from the original Japanese to still make sense in English. A couple of times I had to re-read paragraphs a few times to follow the meanings, but the majority of them were easy to follow.

The geeky side of me enjoyed the bits about describing words and the look at how a dictionary is created. The three stories with their quirky characters provide a warm, human element that I could connect with.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It made me smile while I was reading it and even though the ending has some sad moments it left me happier and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Also, I love the cover!

The Great Passage
Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translation)
Fiction
June 1st 2017
222

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars Blurb

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My review of Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1)Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love sci-fi and anything to do with robots, so I was excited about reading this book. The cover is stunning, and the promise of an android main character and spaceships had me sold.

Unfortunately, the details of the sci-fi are glossed over and dumbed down. It seems to be used for something to make this book stand out from the mass of dystopian YA books that have been released recently. There are some interesting ideas and technology in it, but I’m not convinced the author’s put a lot of thought into how it all works. It’s just somewhere different to set the same story I’ve seen over and again since The Hunger Games.

Saying that though, I did enjoy the sci-fi setting. There are enough spaceships, star gates, and mechs (androids and robots) running about to keep me happy.

I liked the characters. Abel is lovely! He’s sweet and thoughtful and seems more human than a lot of YA male love interests. The way he tries to protect Noemi makes my heart melt. He almost seems too human to be an android though.

Noemi is a bit too perfect to be believable. She’s intelligent, kind, compassionate, brave, athletic and willing to die for her friends. If she has any flaws they’re not shown in this book! She’s that YA troupe made popular in The Hunger Games of an independent, almost unfriendly young woman that doesn’t think much of herself, but everyone else adores her.

The writing is very dry, I found it hard to get into at first. Once I’d got through the first 30% though I found I had become engrossed in the story. I lost track of time reading it, which is always a good sign!

The story is interesting and fun, if very fast moving, and a bit too far fetched even for sci-fi. There are a few very convenient coincidences, and a lot of dramatic “just in the nick of time” escapes.

So I’m a bit on the fence about it all, but I am rooting for Noemi and Abel, and I’d like to see what happens next with them.

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

Defy the Stars
Defy the Stars
Claudia Gray
Young Adult Sci-Fi

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Strange the dreamer cover

Strange the Dreamer Blurb

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

My Review of Strange the Dreamer

Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strange the Dreamer is a book about dreams, about the things we wish for, and about dreaming of a better life for yourself. And yet again, Laini Taylor has swept me away with her beautiful, dreamy writing. I’m so overwhelmed by this book I don’t even know where to start with my review.

Lazlo spends his life daydreaming and reading stories about the lost city known as Weep. Lazlo is a bookworm who works in a library, but he’s a bookworm with a purpose. He spends his days searching for stories and information about the lost city known as Weep, a city he has been obsessed with since he was a child.

And when one day an expedition from the lost city appear, literally on his doorstep, to recruit a team of scientist and engineers, Lazlo sees his chance to make his dreams reality and actually visit Weep.

Sarai is a blue skinned girl that is living imprisoned in her (rather large) home, surviving with four other young people who use their magical gifts to keep themselves alive. One creates fire, another can bring rain clouds, and one can cause any plant to grow from the smallest of seeds.

But Sarai’s gift is something different, Sarai can enter people’s dreams.

And that’s how Sarai and Lazlo meet, in a dream world they create together, and I can’t tell you how beautiful it all is. Their romance is sweet and slow, and more than a little awkward.

Normally I’m counting down the number of pages in a book, calculating how soon I can start the next on my TBR pile, but this one I just didn’t want to finish.

I’m in love with the characters, with the world that Laini Taylor has built, and with the dreams Lazlo and Sarai create (and normally I hate dream sequences, I’ve given up on more than one book that has them in, I can’t stand the Disney Alice in Wonderland).

It’s a massive story, and when I think about it, it’s very complicated too. It didn’t feel that way when I was reading it though, it starts out with the story of Weep hidden, and the truth being revealed slowly as the story progresses. I liked this because I wasn’t overwhelmed with it all at the start, and the mysteries and secrets made it all feel that bit more magical.

The only sour note for me is that I think I’ve fallen out with it over the ending. How can it end like that? Why do I have to wait a year for the next book? I just can’t.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review

View all my reviews

Strange the Dreamer
Strange the Dreamer
Laini Taylor
Young Adult Fantasy
March 28th 2017
432