Uprooted, Naomi Novik

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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.

The problem with only writing one review a week is that when I have a lot of them already written, newer ones sit in my drafts for a while before actually posting. Which means that my first (technical) book review of the year won’t actually be seen, so it won’t look like my first actual read book of the year was not that.

But yes. At the current time of writing this, it is the first of January 2017, at about 5 in the evening. There is a glass of wine by my side (we couldn’t find any champagne) a fire roaring at the other side of the room, and a book by my computer that I have just finished.

Honestly, I almost regret reading this book at this point; I hadn’t planned to stay up for new years, since I was exhausted from work. However, I thought I would read a bit before sleeping. Three hours later, at 2 in the morning, I put the book down. When I got up this morning, I walked the dog, then sat down and read the last 100 pages or so, complaining whenever anyone distracted me. I don’t regret the reading (because I think the tone of this review already says I at least liked it) I regret that I loved it, and its set the bar far too high for every other book I read this year.

I didn’t actually go into this book expecting much. I don’t tend to these days, when books are hyped up online. I’ve been disappointed more than once, struck dumb on the reason why everyone seems to like that book.

But this one- it had everything I love in a book. Fairytales, magic, a grumpy immortal type… and a rather nice cover.

So I thought to try it, and I devoured it.

It was beautifully written. The words floating off the page and hovering before me so I felt like I was there in that dark wood with the characters, watching actions unfold. I wanted to know more about everything in their world. How the magic worked, how their magic all differed, the worlds history and what would happen next. I didn’t want to stop reading.

The characters were great as well- it’s pretty clear the Dragon was my favourite- he was so grumpy it made me laugh, but I did feel for him. I mean, Mainy was irritating at points, and he had spent so long on his own in his tower, not talking to anyone. He was lonely. Bless him.

The only problem I had was that I wanted more. I got to the last page and was like… ‘is this it?’ Everything seemed to be tided up really quickly, the last chapter a bit of a rush, as if it had run out of pages to be written on. But maybe that was because I didn’t want to let the characters go.

five stars

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Nevernight, Jay Kristoff

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In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

I think I have found a rival for my book of 2016 (having finished this the day before 2016 ended)- which is saying something, when I have read so many incredible books this year. (Crooked Kingdom was my book of the year, with ACOMAF in a close second, but now…)
It’s really rare for me to pick up and authors book for the first time and know it was going to be a favourite- yet within a chapter of Nevernight, I knew the book was going to be brilliant.

And it did not disappoint.

This is a book about assassins. Not the airy, fairy, cutesy assassins you seem to normally get in fantasy (no, really. I read a lot of assassiny book yet most still don’t act, well, like assassins?). No. This book is gritty, full of twists and characters that sometimes show their colours and sometimes do not. In a school of assassins, do you ever know who to trust- who would stab you in the back (literally) to get ahead?

But its not just that. It’s a book about a girl who can talk to shadows- whose closes friend is a shadow in the shape of a cat, who drinks her fear (their interactions are just wonderful) and her progress through life, revenge, and finding out who she is.

I loved pretty much every aspect of this book. From Mia herself to her friends- and even the romance that blooms between her and another in the school. And I loved the writing. It was beautiful and funny and interesting- even down to the footnotes that had me laughing on occasions.

It’s just….If you like fantasy, then go out and pick up this book and read it. And then stare at the cover because that is also beautiful.

five stars

On the TBR Pile: Life and Adventures of Robin Hood

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In the ballads, Robin Hood is represented as brave, courteous, generous, and religious; withal he was a robber. It was, however, the age that made the man. Kings and prelates in those days filled their coffers by acts as grossly wrong as those by which Robin replenished the stores of himself and band. Robin was in all likelihood driven to the course of life he adopted, more by the tyranny and wrong-doing of those in authority, than by a natural love of the life which he led. He strove against the oppression from which he and others suffered, and, in doing so, was forced to a certain extent to use oppression; but it was those only who were guilty of the oppression whom he punished.

On the TBR Pile: Sisters Red

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Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris — the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend — but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

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Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive

I’ve been mulling this book over for an hour or two, because I don’t really know what to say about it.

I mean… I did like it- after the first 50 pages or so. It was really quotable (or, at least, the monster was quotable.) and it was meaningful and it almost did make me cry (Almost, since I was at work and I was not going to cry in case customers came in)

I loved the stories the monster told. They were incredibly clever and beautiful, but then, I expect nothing less from Patrick Ness. This is only the second book of his I have read, but he is already becoming a firm favourite of mine for his storytelling.

I’m not actually sure why I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. At the start, the writing annoyed me, but I got used to it. But still, something about it just irritated me the whole way through. Maybe it was Conor- a character I understood- I was the invisible one at school, and sometimes it is more painful than anything else people can throw at you. But while I empathized with him, for most of the story, I didn’t really care enough about him to be interested.

I seriously can’t even put into words why.

However, though I did like the story in the end, I don’t really understand all the hype around it- yes, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It doesn’t make me want to reread it again, it didn’t make me want to jump up and instantly start talking about it with all the people I know that have read it. It was just a good read.

(Sidenote- I also went to see the film and that is really good. The way the monsters stories are shown is just stunning)

four stars

On the TBR Pile: Gilded Cage

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Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

The Sun is also a Star, Nicola Yoon

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Honestly, this is really the month of contemporary love, isn’t it? Not just because every book I’ve actually read this month is a ‘love’ book, but because I have loved every one (*jaws drop all over the world because I NEVER like contemporary books*).

So I read everything everything over a year ago, so I can’t remember much, but I do remember that I really liked it (though, having a proof copy on my kindle meant I didn’t get to see half the ‘not words’ in the book!) but I knew this author would be on my To Watch Our For list.

And when I started this book, I knew, once again, I would not be disappointed. Yoon has this wonderful way of writing- its so different and refreshing to read. Even with this- a double narrative with a boy and a girl who meet and everything- I was expecting to be bored. What I wasn’t expecting was the history throughout of culture and people- and to learn about the side characters. And I loved that- I liked how, though the two main characters were the focal point, the other parts of the book made it clear that everything could have been different if their parents were different, or the person in the shop decided not to talk to them.

It was a wonderful, refreshing way to look at a contemporary ‘friendship’ (I dont really want to call it a romance story. It was more than that) novel.

four stars