Jan 22

Something Else Sunday #22

Life, Musings 4

something else sunday

Hey everyone! It’s time for Something Else Sunday again and I’m feeling very disjointed and a little bit bummed out today…yay for all the political unrest on FB and general arguing I hear every single time I step outside my house (and sometimes within it). Blah. So, I’ve deleted the FB app from my phone (again…I did it for about 2-3 weeks back in November and it was very helpful) for an unspecified amount of time, and am going to try to  channel that energy into reading and writing.

I participated in the Beat the Backlist bookstagram challenge this week! I was SO EXCITED about this because I love bookstagram but feel like I don’t have the time to commit to it the way so many people do. A week long challenge was perfect, and I ended up with quite a few images I really liked. I realized there is a LOT to be said for lighting, because I took the first few pics on a day with perfect natural light and then didn’t have good light for the rest of the week!

I did a lot of stitching the week, accompanied as always by the faithful Sir Tristan. He’ll do anything for chin scratches, I swear.

If you haven’t entered the INTERNATIONAL bookish tea giveaway from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe, be sure to go to the original post and enter!

Last week on the blog:

Down the TBR Hole #8
The Star-Touched Queen (YA review)
Riddle’s Tea Shoppe (bookish review + giveaway)
Silver on the Tree (MG review)

This week on the blog:

Down the TBR Hole #9
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin (fiction review)
Writing Up Wednesday (new meme for writer-reader-bloggers!)
Fear the Drowning Deep (YA review)
Green Witch (non-fiction review)

 

Divider

Jan 21

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Book Reviews 0 ★★★

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan CooperSilver on the Tree (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book Five) by Susan Cooper
Published by Listening Library on February 26th 2002
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Goodreads three-stars

The final volume of Susan Cooper's brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.
The Dark is rising in its last and greatest bid to control the world. And Will Stanton--last-born of the immortal Old Ones, dedicated to keeping the world free--must join forces with his ageless master Merriman and Bran, the Welsh boy whose destiny ties him to the Light. Drawn in with them are the three Drew children, who are mortal, but have their own vital part in the story. These six fight fear and death in the darkly brooding Welsh hills, in a quest through time and space that touches the most ancient myths of the British Isles and that brings Susan Cooper's masterful sequence of novels to a satisfying close.

Notes on the audio version:

Alex Jennings narrates the last of this 5 book series, and I was very glad to have him back as a narrator! I’m not sure why they switched on book 4, and while that narrator was fine, I like continuity. That said, the audio QUALITY on this version was ATROCIOUS. It’s been digitized from cassette tape, I’m almost positive, and it was absolutely horrible. As soon as I started it I knew I was going to struggle through it because it just sounded old and a bit crackly. Ugh.

The book – short review:

I’ve read this entire series by audiobook, and while I enjoyed it, I really think I need to go back and read them as books. Sometimes I would have gaps of days in between my listening within a book, and gaps of weeks or even months between the books themselves, so I got a little confused. The whole series seems a bit un-explained, to me, and I’m really kind of perplexed that I couldn’t get as into it as so many other people. I didn’t like the way the point of view jumped back and forth between the Drew kids and Will, I didn’t like the way the “magic” was never fully explained (at least not to my satisfaction), and I didn’t like the characters themselves much! I was especially affronted by how the female characters are either air headed (Jane) or magical. Why is this series considered to be so brilliant? I really feel like I’m missing something.

Despite that, I stuck it out for the entire series and was fascinated by the setting of Wales and England. I think that, given how short the books are, I will go back and re-read them at some point. I think maybe all my gaps in reading effected my comprehension of the plot. I really don’t think anything can rescue the characters though.

Challenges:

This one counts into my Audiobook Challenge 2017, my 75 in 2017 GoodReads challenge, and my Beat the Backlist Challenge! 😀

three-stars

Divider

Jan 18

Riddle’s Tea Shoppe Review and Giveaway!

Giveaways, Reviews 11

Today I’m so excited to be giving you this Riddle’s Tea Shoppe Review – and, thanks to the very generous Aun-Juli Riddle, also bringing you a tea giveaway (at the bottom of this post). You might have seen the lovely little box of Riddle’s tea that was in my November OwlCrate review. I was so taken with both the adorable tin and the tea, that I poked around online and found both her Etsy shop (which has lots of other cool stuff as well as tea), and her Adagio Teas page, which has TONS of different tea blends. I immediately ordered 3 of the sampler tins…I couldn’t resist the artwork AND the fact that she had teas inspired by some of my all time favorite books – the Lord of the Rings!

Disclaimer: These were not supplied by Riddle’s, I bought them myself and just had to share! Also, I’m far from being any kind of professional or even a very experienced tea drinker, so excuse my lack of proper terminology. Hehe.

First, the Wonderland Elixir tea that came in the OwlCrate box. It came in the most bee-yoo-ti-ful tin, and in the most adorable little pyramid tea bags (I’d never seen anything like them!). It looks like it’s only available in loose leaf from Adagio now.

See? Am I the only person who had never seen these amazing bags? I love how they have enough room for full tea leaves to open, plus the mesh just feels delightful when you pick them up.

I can’t have enough pictures of this tin, either. And you can see the description of the Wonderland elixir right there on the box!

This is a very tasty, mildly aromatic blend with predominant flavor of peach and cinnamon. The others you can smell or taste slightly but not quite as much. It’s decaf, so you can drink it all day long if you’re sensitive to caffeine!

Next up is the Elevenses tea, first of my LotR obsession-inspired buys. Haha. This one is:

blended with white tea, oolong tea, black tea, blueberries, natural blueberry flavor, natural vanilla flavor, natural creme flavor

I’m obsessed with these little tins, too. They’re smaller but just as adorable as the OwlCrate one. I’ve thought of 100 different things to use them for when they’re empty!

I don’t really taste blueberry in this one! There’s a faint scent of it, but it doesn’t seem to affect the taste much. It’s an extremely smooth, mild tea blend. The prominent flavor to me is vanilla, but even that doesn’t over power the actual tea taste. Color is a deep golden amber. It’s mild enough to not really need a sweetener (but I add a little honey anyway…I like the flavor even a little honey adds). My husband – who until now was a strictly Southern sweet tea drinker – loves this blend and asks for it almost daily. My little loose-leaf tea steeper is getting quite a workout!

Watching tea leaves unfurl and expand is almost hypnotic.

Next is the Shieldmaiden Tea. Eowyn is probably my all-time favorite female character, or at least favorite fantasy character, so naturally I had to try this one.

blended with black tea, white peony, natural caramel flavor, ginger root, natural ginger flavor

I also love seeing how the different blends look. 😀

It has a very distinct ginger scent and flavor. I couldn’t drink it without honey, too much of a bite. Definitely a TOTALLY different tea than the Elevenses. I think this one is best to drink in the morning, very energizing – and I don’t just mean the caffeine!

Last but far from least is the Elven Nectar blend. The description is what really pulled me to this tea.

blended with black tea, apple pieces, natural peach flavor, natural apricot flavor, natural caramel flavor, marigold flowers, apricots

I love fruit, and I love caramel. Surely it couldn’t go wrong! This one is my favorite of the 4 teas here. It smells absolutely divine. I am in love with the scent of peach combined with caramel and if it came in a perfume I would TOTALLY wear it. The taste is not as strong as the smell, and it’s a very quiet, calm blend despite apparently having a high level of caffeine listed. I’ve had it before bed several times and never had problems sleeping, but I also drink really strong coffee.

Aun-Juli has SO MANY MORE blends!! I just discovered she has a few Outlander inspired blends while I was writing this post…I might need an intervention.

ANYWAY, she has very graciously agreed to sponsor a giveaway for this post! Open INTERNATIONAL (yay!), she’s offering a sample of a Hogwarts house inspired blend (can you guess mine??) for the lucky winner. Enter in the widget below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Divider

Jan 17

Review of The Star-Touched Queen

Book Reviews 4

Review of The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 342
Goodreads

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

This has been on my TBR since before it was released last year! I’m so excited to have finally read it. So without further ado, I present my review of The Star-Touched Queen!

“I am  a frightened girl, a roaring river and night incarnate….And I will not be tethered. My life belongs to me.”

Feels:

Reading The Star-Touched Queen was like falling headfirst into a swirling vortex of color, light, and strange beasts. It was beautiful, fascinating, terrifying, and slightly confusing at times.

Characters:

Maya is one of the many sons and daughters of the Raja of Bharata. Ostracized for her “cursed” horoscope her entire life, Maya has developed more independent thinking than most of her sisters. I immediately admired her resiliency in adapting to her less-than-ideal circumstances. I loved her protectiveness towards her younger sister Gauri. Very endearing. I didn’t quite understand some aspects of Maya’s character though…some of which I think may be due to cultural differences. For instance, near the beginning of the book, she makes a certain choice (no spoilers), that for the life of me I cannot understand and to me seems very out of character for what we know of her, up to that point, and even to her as we see later in the book. I just don’t understand it at all.

Maya does a lot of growing in this story. She changes. She comes to realize who and what she is, is not determined by her horoscope.

Once, I would have hurled curses at the stars. But the longer I looked, the less I hated them. The stars, filled with cold light and secrets…I, not the starlight, shaped my decisions.

Amar is the hero of the story…or is he? What is he? He’s so mysterious, so confusing…and holy shit, the man has some of the most amazing one-liners I’ve ever read. Like melt-my-heart kind of one-liners. Stop and think and WOW kind of one-liners. At the same time…he seemed to be a lot of smooth talk and not a whole lot of action. At least that was my impression. As more of his character and his life is revealed…well, you’ll have to judge him for yourself. His quotes are amazing though.

“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers.”

“There is no romance in real grief, only longing and fury.”

To be honest, while I liked both Maya and Amar, I wasn’t OMG invested in either one of them. I think this was at partially because I was so overwhelmed by the world and everything that was happening (more on that later). I’m really eager to see how the next book plays out, thought I’m afraid that since it’s focusing on Gauri, we won’t really get to know Maya and Amar much better.

Plot:

Bharata is at war. The Raja will stop at nothing, nothing, to win and secure peace. However, all that quickly takes a backseat to the journey that Maya takes with Amar, to the kingdom of Akaran. Everything slows way down once they arrive there, and several chapters are spent wandering around the palace and discovering ALL SORTS OF THINGS. It was beautiful, but it was slow. While I was intrigued, I kept wondering when something was going to happen.

Once things started moving again (oh look…there’s ONE THING Maya is not supposed to do…and what do we all do when told about ONE THING?), they really start moving. I was NOT prepared for all the world-time-space jumping and more than once literally felt like I was falling into that vortex. It was amazing, but it seemed a bit disjointed at times.

About halfway through the book, I realized that there were really TWO major plot lines. My little light-bulb came on, and that was very helpful…but I really feel like it could have somehow been done better to avoid all the “WTF is going on” moments I had. I really doubt I’m the only one having these thoughts, but if I am…you know. I might just be weird.

I really like that there is no prince-saving-the-princess going on here. Yes, there is a love story. It’s beautiful, and powerful. However. Maya and Amar both remain fully their own people and in the end, Maya is the one who really does the saving.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

This, my friends, is where The Star-Touched Queen shines. The world building here is nothing short of phenomenal. The fuzziness of the plot was forgivable so long as I could live in this bright, beautiful, and unfathomably deep world. It glows. It glitters. Rosin Chokshi employs all five of the reader’s senses when building her world. I could smell the spices, see the split skies, hear the jingle of bells. It’s by turns beautiful and frightening.

The world and characters are largely drawn from traditional Indian (Hindu?) mythology and culture. Now, I am almost entirely unfamiliar with both, so maybe I was a little more in awe and sometimes a little more confused than a reader with more background. I had next to none, but the awesome thing is: it didn’t matter. Chokshi has missed nothing…I could see every step Maya took in the palace halls, I could feel her falling through space, I could see both the beauty and the horror of her journey. As someone with no frame of reference for this world, I can’t say enough good things about this aspect of the book. I was fascinated. When I was confused, it wasn’t for lack of being able to picture what was going on but being at a loss as to WHY or HOW something was happening.

I had never read a fantasy book where reincarnation was treated as…well, as anything! It added an amazing new element and all kinds of new possibilities. I found it a little hard to wrap my head around, but I hope to see it again in the second book.

Rating/Thoughts:

4/5 stars. Half a star off for the meandering and delay of the plot after the story moves to Akaran, half a star for the confusion and lack of explaining on how the space/time thing worked. Maybe I’m just a confused muppet but I really could have used a little more explanation…shocking, coming from someone who usually complains about too much telling versus showing.

I’d love to hear what other readers thought of this book! Was I the only one confused?


Challenges:

This book counts towards my 75 Books in 2017 Challenge, the Beat the Backlist Challenge, and the Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge!

Divider

Jan 16

Down the TBR Hole #8

Books/Writing 5

down the tbr hole

Time to wield the axe again – I’m mercilessly culling my TBR list on GoodReads with the amazing Down the TBR Hole meme by Lia at Lost in a Story!

Most of you probably know this feeling. Your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well, that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

When I started this series of posts, I had 604 books on my TBR list. Since I am incapable of NOT CONTINUOUSLY ADDING books to the list, I am currently at 610 books. And I am actually SO PROUD OF MYSELF because that’s still less than last week! Haha. This week I’m changing it up a little and doing 10 titles, because looking at the next 5…I’m not removing any of them and it feels like no progress at all! So here are numbers 37-46 of my original list. Covers link to GoodReads!

 

Title/Author: Callander Square (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt #2), by Anne Perry

Date Added: January 22, 2014

Thoughts: I like Anne Perry. I really enjoyed the first in this series and I have the next 4 on my Nook!

Judgment: Keep.

 

Title/Author: Labyrinth (Languedoc #1), by Kate Mosse

Date Added: March 30, 2014

Thoughts: I have the beautiful illustrated UK edition of this on my shelf. I started it at once point, knew almost instantly that I would love it, and put it down, terrified I was going to get attached to the wrong character. One of these days I will grow a backbone and read it through.

Judgment: Keep!

 

 

Title/Author: March, by Geraldine Brooks

Date Added: April 6, 2014

Thoughts: I’ve only read one other book by Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book), but it was amazing. Absolutely stunning. I don’t know why I still haven’t read any of her other books.

Judgment: Keep.

 

 

Title/Author: The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Date Added: April 6, 2014

Thoughts: This sounds awesome but painful. I’m keeping it but I don’t know when I’ll get to it because books that immediately sound like a tear-fest aren’t high on my list…hmm.

Judgment: Keep…ish.

 

 

Title/Author: No Easy Day, by Mark Owen

Date Added: April 6, 2014

Thoughts: I don’t think I’m going to enjoy this book, but I think I need to read it. Due to my family’s military background and that of a lot of my friends. I feel like it will be a real slog though.

Judgment: Keep. Sigh.

 

Title/Author: The Knitter’s Life List, by Gwen Steege

Date Added: April 6, 2014

Thoughts: This sounds like a really cute little knit-centric book, and since I’m obviously obsessed with knitting and already have it on my Nook…

Judgment: Keep.

 


Title/Author
: Aunt Dimity’s Good Deed (Aunt Dimity #3), by Nancy Atherton

Date Added: April 6, 2014

Thoughts: I read the first two books of this series, and while they were cute…eh. I’m not motivated to continue. The paranormal aspect was just a little to cut-and-dry with a side of cheesy.

Judgment: Go (wow, that felt really freeing…I’m giving myself permission to NOT FINISH A SERIES).

 


Title/Author
: A Superior Death (Anna Pigeon #2), by Nevada Barr

Date Added: April 12, 2014

Thoughts: I read the first in this series and now I can’t remember a damn thing about it other than the MC is a…forest ranger? Something like that.

Judgment: Go (look at me! Permission to not finish TWO series!).

 

 


Title/Author
: The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5), by Diana Gabaldon

Date Added: April 12, 2014

Thoughts: Squee! My favorite characters of pretty much all time. I’m scared to finish the series though. Because authors are cruel…

Judgment: Keep!

 


Title/Author
: A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6), by Diana Gabaldon

Date Added: April 12, 2014

Thoughts: Once I’m completely committed to a series, I add them all to my TBR. So yep…the next few are the rest of Outlander, haha.

Judgment: Keep!

 

 

Phew! Ok, so that’s not nearly as good as weeks prior, but it’s ok. I feel like these are all really good books. How are the rest of you coming on your TBR? Anyone else doing the Down the TBR Hole meme?

 

Divider

Divider

Jan 13

Review of Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book Reviews 4

Review of Fairest by Marissa MeyerFairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 220
Goodreads

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I was so excited to have this book (along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles #1-4!) under the tree for me this year! When I first heard of Fairest I wasn’t convinced I would want to read any story from Levana’s point of view (already having read the 4 main books), but I enjoyed the world so much I decided that yes, indeed, I would probably just have to read them all. So, I present you with my review of Fairest! (A few days late, because my DH was hit with an EXTREMELY violent bug of some kind and I was busy taking care of him!)


“Love is a conquest. Love is a war.”

Feels:

I went into this absolutely positive I would never feel anything remotely akin to sympathy for Levana. She’s such an unholy terror in the other books! And seemingly without reason. I felt like she just liked being evil and inflicting pain on others (which I guess is partially true but there’s so much more to it than that). However, about halfway through I changed my mind. Of course I already knew roughly how it would end, but it was just so tragic. I was so overwhelmingly sad. Levana as a young woman had so much potential, if she had just had someone to help her channel her emotions and teach her how to overcome.

Characters:

She tried to brush away the sting of rejection, the knowledge that she was still not good enough…she pressed the feelings down, down, letting them turn hard and cold inside, while her face was smiling and pleasant.

Obviously, this is Levana’s story. However, we see characters familiar to us sprinkled throughout (especially if you’ve already read Winter, like I had), which was fun. Some of the characters that have already passed on in the other books are here and alive, too. We get to see some of the events that are only speculated on by Cinder and her friends. There are a couple of other characters that are new to this story, that really wrung my little heart out as well.

When we first meet Levana here she’s a relatively normal 15 year old girl! She’s been abused at the hands of her egotistical, cruel older sister, neglected by cold, distracted parents, and pushed and pulled into the image of a perfect princess (since, as the second born daughter, she’s only fit to be married off). Levana is gifted – or cursed – with a quick mind, intelligent and resourceful – the mind of a queen. She’s also terribly scarred, as much mentally and emotionally as physically. This combination has resulted in her being an entirely self-centered, self-absorbed person who quite literally never thinks of other people or their feelings except as they pertain to HER feelings or desires.

I think that in the end, selfishness was Levana’s true issue. She is one of the most selfish characters I’ve met in a long time. She becomes egotistical, but she didn’t start out that way. She reacts to pain by assuming that the world owes her something (not a hard conclusion to come to, when you’re a spoiled princess anyway). She comes to believe that she is entitled to whatever she wants, no matter what it takes to get it. No matter how much she might hurt other people, even the one person she actually cares about. She has no concept of true love for anyone. She hurts, but beyond that she knows almost no emotion.

Plot:

This is a novella, so the plot is pretty straightforward. I.e., how Levana became queen and all the people she hurt in the process.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

If you’re familiar with any of the other Lunar Chronicles books, you’re already familiar with Luna and her people. If you’re not, I strongly recommend starting with Cinder! This story is basically the backstory that we never see fully in the main 4 books. You could start with Fairest, as chronologically it is actually first, but I don’t think it’s very interesting without that prior knowledge. The setting is there, but it’s not explained as well.

Rating:

3.5 stars. I’m struggling to give this one 4 because it really feels like a flashback that should have been somewhere in Cinder, also aside from Levana’s becoming a psycho it’s all focused on luuuuuuuv. And I just…I’m so tired of twu wuv being THE motivator of teen girls. I mean I know we were all there once. But come on! I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Challenges:

This is 2/75 for my 75 in 2017 GoodReads Challenge, and 1/40 of my Beat the Backlist Challenge!

Divider

Jan 11

TTT #10: 2016 Releases I Missed (but still plan to read)

Books/Writing 7


Linking up with the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish again this week! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is 2016 Releases I Missed (but still plan to read). There are SO MANY books still on my list from 2016, this one is just perfect. Below are 10 of them, not in any particular order.

     
  1. The Trespasser, by Tana French. This one is sitting on my shelf, and I have NO IDEA why I didn’t manage to read it as soon as it released.
  2. Heartless, by Marissa Meyer. I love the Lunar Chronicles so much, I’m convinced I’ll love anything Marissa Meyer writes. I’ve seen sort of mixed reviews on this one though, so now I’m scared. :-/
  3. Stars Above, by Marissa Meyer. See above. Also this one is actually PART of the Lunar Chronicles so I’m even more sure I will love it!
  4. The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner. This one came in the March 2016 OwlCrate, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. Everyone loves it. In a painful sort of way.
  5. And I Darken, by Kiersten White. This sounds like MY KIND OF BOOK. It was under the tree for me at Christmas and I’m so excited to read it! Also a bit scared because it seems to be a love it or hate it book.
  6. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. A WWII historical fiction that sounds lovely, but I didn’t read nearly enough historical fiction last year.
  7. Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson. I love Shakespeare. I love the Merchant of Venice story. A modern retelling? Yes please!
  8. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. This sounds painful but very important. Also, I’ve read great things about the author’s writing style.
  9. One Would Think the Deep, by Claire Zorn. I want to read some Australian authors, and this came highly recommended by PaperFury. I meant to get my hands on a copy before the end of the year but it didn’t happen. *trots off to TBD to see how expensive it is now*
  10. Red Queen (Alice #2), by Christina Henry. I have both of these, and LOVED the first one (also read last year). Exactly why I didn’t read the next is beyond me.

Are any of these on your list from last year? What is the biggest “I can’t believe I didn’t read that!” from 2016 for you?

Divider

Jan 10

Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

Book Reviews 5 ★★★★★

Review of The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Before I get to my actual review of The Bear and the Nightingale (possibly my longest review ever), I have a little note:

Dear 2017,

I’m sure you’re aware of what a suck-tastic year 2016 was, for so many people. I really appreciate your efforts to make up for it by giving us this amazing treasure of a book so early in the year. The Bear in the Nightingale is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time. It’s savage. It’s painful. And it’s phenomenally lovely. I had chills. I cried (and not just the tears-in-my-eyes kind…the I’m-on-a-public-bus-and-I’m-trying-so-hard-not-to-sob-I’m-shaking kind). Thank you for giving me a stellar 2017 book to recommend to everyone I know. Thank you for giving me another author to put on auto-buy.

Please send more books like this my way this year. 

~Lizzy

P.S. On second thought, maybe just one a year is fine. I had to order both the US and UK editions, so very many of these might break my bank.


There was a time, not long ago
When flowers grew all year
When days were long
And nights star-strewn
And men lived free from fear

Just to clarify: The Bear and the Nightingale (TBATN) is NOT a YA book. I’ve seen it pop up on several lists as such, but it is not. It’s also NOT historical fiction, though it is heavily inspired by historical, medieval Russia. It is adult fantasy that reads almost entirely like historical fiction until Part II, where it starts to feel like magical realism historical fiction…so let’s just keep it simple and say fantasy. Could some teenagers read it and appreciate it? Yes, but the style is very different from most YA, and some of the content is definitely adult (marital rape and a little graphic violence). This obviously didn’t deter me from ADORING it, but I thought the slight genre-confusion I’ve been noticing was worth a mention.

In Russian, Frost was called Morocco, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.

Feels:

I am in love. With everything. With the world, with the characters, with the woods, the village. With Vasya. A little bit with Alyosha. I wept with Vasya and her family. I saw the spirits as Vasya did. I felt the fear of the villagers. I felt the pain and confusion of a young child with a wild, free spirit in a world that didn’t accept her. The writing in TBATN is astounding. Lyrical, whimsical, and utterly entrancing.

Characters:

“I am only a country girl,” said Vasya. “I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.”

Vasya, the main character, is my sister from another mother. I swear. Her love of nature, her stubborn refusal to accept the fate others wish to push on her, her refusal to be broken. I already said I love her but it bears repeating. The story spans from right before her birth to the time she is 14 years old. She doesn’t have an easy life, but she has to be one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Bent, at times, but never broken.

“All my life I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing.”

Now no joke, there are quite a few characters in this story. However, they are all so clear and distinct I was never confused. Not once. Not even with the Russian names. I did have to realize in the beginning that everyone had a given (fancy) name and a called (shorter, plainer) name, but since Arden stuck mostly to the called names it wasn’t hard. Also, each character experiences a growth arc in the book. No matter how minor, they show some growth and change – sometimes for good, sometimes for bad! That is an incredible feat and after reading so many books with such flat minor characters – amazing.

Romance – guess what? There is none. None. None, none, none, NONE! It’s such a beautiful breath of fresh air. There IS marriage. There’s also sex – and by sex I mean marital rape. It’s not graphic, but it’s obvious. I feel it’s treated as well as such a thing CAN be – these are medieval times, and in those times women were no more than property, no matter how highly valued that property. The women themselves often never questioned the right of their fathers and husbands to barter with them and then use their bodies for their own pleasure – it was a husband’s right and a wife’s duty! *insert much sarcasm* It definitely effects the entire dynamic of the story.

Plot:

TBATN is not a fast-paced book. It’s a slow burn building up to more and more – and it’s TOTALLY worth the read. All the details are beautiful and intriguing, and they really add to the mystery and overall atmosphere. The characters are really the driving force, and all the drama and suspense are very slow to build but after spending several chapters getting to know the people and the country I was already so invested I already knew I was in for the haul. Things really start to pick up with the arrival of a new priest in Vasya’s village. There is a struggle between the new Catholic church and the old spirits of the land and as things start to happen at first NOTHING is explained. Everything just kept building and building and there’s even a little mini-climax at one point (which was EXTREMELY satisfying), but things just keep going! Not only did it keep going, it picked up speed and I was completely wrapped up in the story.

As previously stated, there is no actual romance in TBATN. It doesn’t need it. There’s also not an entirely happy ending. It is…heartrending, yet hopeful at the same time. There’s no actual cliffhanger, but so much room for additional stories, and Vasya’s fate and path seem far from decided.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

Phenomenal. It truly has a historical feel to it. I’m not all the well-versed in Russian history or mythology, but the detailed notes on language and history at the end, as well as the comments I’ve read from people native to that part of the world seem to bear out that thought as well. The descriptions allow you to fall through the pages into the story, and it really feels like a full sensory experience. When the mythological creatures begin to appear, it feels so amazingly right.

Rating/Further Notes:

5 stars. I don’t have any more words for how beautifully savage this book is. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Arden comes up with next. I’ve heard rumors this is the first of a trilogy, but in her author Q&A page I only see mention of a sequel. I’ll be buying whatever she comes up with!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Challenges:

This one only counts towards my GoodReads challenge!

 

 

five-stars

Divider

Jan 09

Down the TBR Hole #7

Books/Writing 4

down the tbr hole

Time to wield the axe again – I’m mercilessly culling my TBR list on GoodReads with the amazing Down the TBR Hole meme by Lia at Lost in a Story!

Most of you probably know this feeling. Your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well, that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

When I started this series of posts, I had 604 books on my TBR list. Since I am incapable of NOT CONTINUOUSLY ADDING books to the list, I am currently at 613 books. I seem to have made absolutely NO headway the last couple of weeks, even though I’ve been knocking 3-4 titles off I always have that many added back by the time the next week rolls around! This week up for inspection are books 32-36 of my original list. Covers link to GoodReads!

 

Title/Author: The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: A true man-against-nature, non-fiction book. This one actually still appeals a lot to me.

Judgment: Keep.

 

 

Title/Author: The Holy Innocents (Roger the  Chapman #4), by Kate Medley

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Why is the 4th book in a series I’ve never read on my TBR?

Judgment: Go.

 

 

 

Title/Author: Firestorm (Anna Pigeon #4), by Nevada Barr

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Why is the 4th book in a series I’ve only read the FIRST of on my list? I’m sure the 2nd one is on here somewhere too.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

 

 

Title/Author: Killed at the Whim of a Hat, by Colin Cotterill

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: I’m starting to think I was just extremely desperate for something to read on this particular day. I’ve been going through books added on January 8 for like 3 weeks now.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

Title/Author: Death and the Chapman (Roger the Chapman #1), by Kate Sedley

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Oh look, it’s the 1st of the series I was wondering about above. Don’t know why I had the 4th on the list before the 1st. Not at all interested now, though.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

4/5 again this week, I’m so proud of myself! Looking ahead though, I anticipate my number definitely going up next week because I already known most of the next several books will be staying on my list. Hehe. Woes of a bookworm. The only solution is to…say it with me…READ FASTER! Have a great week, all. 🙂 If you’re working on your own Down the TBR Hole posts, send me a link!

Divider