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review 2016-03-04 14:08
"Uprooted" by Naomi Novik
Uprooted - Naomi Novik

I'm very conflicted about this book. I had heard great things about it, and when I started it, it was immediately clear why so many readers sing its praises. It's beautifully written, and the Wood is the most chilling, most disturbing, and most imaginative villain I've ever encountered in literature. I also loved the bond between the narrator/heroine/Chosen One Agnieszka and her best friend Kasia, which is the central relationship in the story. (This book easily passes the Bechdel Test.)


And yet, as I read, I developed some serious reservations that lead me to warn that this book is not for everyone. First, it's pretty gruesome and violent. That doesn't bother some readers as much as it bothers me. It wasn't gratuitously violent, and the violence was in keeping with the plot, but it was disturbing enough that I couldn't read this book before bed -- and since bedtime is when I do the lion's share of my reading, it took me about five times as long to read Uprooted as it usually takes me to read a book of this size. That always reduces my enjoyment a little, because the more I have to stop and start, the more disjointed the reading experience feels.


The second thing that really, really bothered me, was the "romance" aspect between 17-year-old Agnieszka, and the Dragon, the centuries old wizard who takes a 17-year-old girl as a servant every decade. Because of the age difference and the vastly differential power dynamic between the two of them, the physical aspect of their relationship was super squicky and inappropriate. It also wasn't very believable or compelling. The Dragon was grumpy old goat, and Agnieszka could have admired his wisdom and guidance without wanting to get in his pants.


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review 2016-02-15 01:14
"Act Like It" by Lucy Parker
Act Like It - Lucy V. Parker

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. I loved the smart, fast-paced, funny dialogue. I loved the British slang. I loved the London setting. I loved the sensible, intelligent, kind heroine and the cranky, misanthropic hero. I love discovering a new author I will definitely read again. I really loved that it only cost $0.99!


Lainie is an up-and-coming actress with a supporting role in a West End play, and work has become very awkward since her boyfriend-slash-onstage-love-interest got caught very publicly stepping out on her. This makes Lainie a sympathetic figure in the media, and the bosses at her theatre decide to capitalize on her newly-single, media-darling status to help polish the reputation of the actor who plays the show's villain, who has a bit of an anger management problem in real life. Richard is delightfully grumpy and gruff, which is only fun because Lainie doesn't waste time trying to please him. She does as she likes, and in time, he comes around to wanting to please her. 


Everything about this book was fun, and I loved that the setting and the language made  "Act Like It" different from everything else I've read lately. I loved the interplay between the characters' private relationship and their public personas as London theater celebrities. I loved that their work was an integral part of the plot. I loved how smart both Lainie and Richard are, and how they communicate like reasonable, responsible adults. I'll definitely be re-reading this one again soon!

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review 2016-01-30 16:40
A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time #1) by Anthony Powell
A Question of Upbringing: Book 1 of A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell

The first of Anthony Powell's epic 12 volume saga, this is a nice introduction, but little more. This first book focusses on our narrator, one Nick Jenkins, and his youthful adventures in a series of vignettes serving to introduce us to a host of characters, and their place in post WWI British society.

   The writing is, befitting a classic, very good -a dry, sometimes bordering on sardonic style, with some simply gorgeous turns of phrase and even entire paragraphs.

   As a standalone novel, it's not very strong. However, knowing there are 11 more novels to come, covering Nick's entire life, there is a very strong sense of all the pieces being set up on a board. I thought perhaps a chessboard, but it's more complex than even that really, more like watching a master set up one of those huge and intricate domino falls. It's mesmerising to watch, but it's only a precursor to the real action - and just because you can see the patterns already, doesn't mean that something surprising and wonderful won't happen when the dominoes begin to fall.

   So 3 stars, because as much as I liked it, I didn't love it... but I have a feeling I will come to love this series as a whole. I also suspect, there is much richness and foreshadowing that would be found upon a re-read, once I've finished all 12 books. I have a feeling that after this book club read, one novel a month for all of 2016, I may very well be turning around and re-reading them all from the start again.

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review 2016-01-13 16:53
"Pushing the Limits" by Katie McGarry
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry

I had heard good things about this series, but approached it warily because high school romance is not generally my speed anymore. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this as much as I did, since it's much more angsty than I usually like. The two main characters have backgrounds so tragic it was a bit of a trial to willingly suspend my disbelief. Yes, maybe such a series of extremely unfortunate events could happen to one person, but two? And I'm to believe that these two so completely damaged people would be a good match for each other, rather than being too broken to help themselves, much less each other? 


Still, for purposes of a good story, I went with it. I ended up liking Noah and Echo very much, and I liked the way the story revealed the layers of their tragic histories gradually, without info dumping or excessive navel-gazing. I liked that both characters had their own individual character arcs, independent of their evolution into a couple. I liked that supporting characters were well-developed and had important roles in the story, and were not just there to give the main characters someone to talk to when their significant other wasn't around. -And the romance was very satisfying, though much angstier than I generally prefer. 


Because this book is about and for high school readers, the main characters don't have sex, though there is discussion of it and progress toward that end goal. 

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review 2015-12-07 13:21
Too Many Characters, Too Many Secrets
Staying at Daisy's - Jill Mansell

A friend recommended I should check out British author Jill Mansell, and I can see why she thought I would like this. It's constructed sort of like Love Actually, with lots of intersecting plot lines, and of course it's full of adorably British people saying adorably British things. In theory, this ought to be right up my alley. In practice, it missed the mark.


Staying at Daisy's is about the father-daughter owners of a schmancy hotel in the Cotwolds, their staff, guests, lovers, and neighbors. There are a lot of characters. I didn't have trouble keeping track of who the characters were, but since several of the intersecting plots hinge on characters keeping secrets from one another, I did have trouble keeping track of who knew what.


All of those secrets were my biggest problem with the story. Not my confusion, but the fact that all of these characters were so dishonest with one another, keeping secrets and sneaking around. For me, that made it hard to like these people.


I also found many of the characters very flat and underdeveloped, likely because there were so many characters that, in the interests of space, the author sacrificed character development in order to move the plot. Unfortunately, if the characters aren't developed, I have trouble giving a fig what happens to them in the story.


Anyway, this just wasn't my cuppa.



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