Reread Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Rereading this book was interesting—I still loved it, but I loved different parts.

First reviewed: June 2015

Initial Rating: 5/5 stars

Reread Rating: 5/5 stars

First review here.

cover uprooted

Goodreads Description

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.

My Review

Uprooted blew me away the first time I read it. It took over my life, captivating me with the magic, the brutal fight scenes, and the fascinating characters.

The second time I read it, Uprooted still amazed me. Everything that I remembered loving was still just as powerful. I had been afraid that the story would not be as good as I remembered, and that fear was 100% unfounded.

However, different parts of the book stood out to me. The first time I read it, the plot took over my life. Everything was so intense, so unpredictable, that I honestly couldn’t stop reading. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about what would happen next. It’s the kind of book you can’t “snap out” of until it’s over (and even then, only barely).

Rereading it, I still remembered the plot, so I didn’t read it at such a breakneck pace. This was good, though, because it gave me a chance to really appreciate what was going on in the action scenes. Previously, I’d read them so quickly that I hadn’t been able to focus on the power of the imagery or the skill of the writing. This time, these were the elements that stood out to me, making the story even more impressive.

Additionally, the first time that I read Uprooted, I was consumed by the romance. It really isn’t a romantic book, which was what killed me. I loved the “ship” so much, and I was dying to see it sail.

Rereading the book, I already knew how the romance turned out, so I did not get the “ohmygod ohmygod” feeling, but I still enjoyed it. I think I was more focused on each individual’s character, though. The characterization is masterful, and reading is slower, I was better able to appreciate the complexity of each character.

The first time that I read this book, I categorized it in my mind as “dark YA” and was surprised when other bloggers referred to it as adult. This time, I was more aware of just how dark and intense some of the scenes are. I still think that the characters and the voice fit in with the YA world, but this book definitely is not for the faint of heart.

Finally, the best part of Uprooted both times I read it was the magic and the world building. I loved every scene that involved Agnieszka’s magic, and the way her magical abilities developed really added to the story. The Wood was just as terrifying as the first time I read it, depicted with gorgeous imagery even while it sent chills up my spine. Everything about this book has a fairytale feeling, but that feeling is woven together with truly terrifying and intensely human elements to create a realistic fantasy world.

Long story short, I’m still in love. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves gripping fantasy novels, strong characters, and impeccable writing. 

Book Review: This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This was such a good continuation of the Starbound trilogy! Though my heart broke to have different characters as the leads, I fell in love with Lee and Flynn too, and the story was even more gripping than the first.

4/5 stars

cover this shattered world

Goodreads Description

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

My Review

Okay, I have a confession. I was kind of pissed when I found out that This Shattered World had a completely different cast and setting than These Broken Stars. It’s not that I wasn’t open to seeing more of the world or meeting new characters…I just really loved Lilac and Tarver. But it was okay, because This Shattered World totally won me over.

In TBS, I fell in love with Tarver before Lilac, but in TSW, Lee won me over before Flynn. Captain Lee Chase (technically Jubilee) is the classic, hard-ass YA protagonist, and even if I’m sometimes frustrated with the trope, I also love it to death. Stone-faced Chase (as she’s called) is an infamous army commander, known across the planet for her ruthlessness. Even better, Lee’s character developed into a multifaceted character with real skeletons in her closet and a fascinating self-image.

Flynn took a little longer to grab me, but it was only a few chapters before I loved his character as well. He’s a pacifist rebel, fighting to hold back the militant faction of the rebel group. Flynn’s struggle to reel in the anger of his people really got to me—after studying so many revolutions in history, the sense of impossibility that Flynn felt was palpable for me. Even though Flynn is a self-proclaimed pacifist, his character is not mellow or bland at all. He is a fighter, he just wants to fight with words, and it presented a powerful juxtaposition with Lee’s loyalty to the military.

I found the plot of TSW more gripping than TBS. The pacing was excellent, the mystery was mind-boggling, and the romance was swoon-freaking-worthy.

Even though TSW has different characters than TBS, their two plots are directly connected. The mystery presented in TBS is explored further in TSW, with the whispers and LaRoux’s corporation still being investigated. However, even though there are common elements between the two books, there is still a lot of mystery in TSW. I expected to understand everything before the characters did—I had an entire book’s worth of prior knowledge, right—but I was often just as befuddled as they were…in a good way.

Once again, Kaufman and Spooner created an unpredictable and emotion-ruining romance. Flynn and Lee are caught on opposite sides of a civil war. It isn’t so much that they hate each other—honestly from the start they are drawn to each other in an inexplicable (but not cliché) way—but they are overwhelmed by how impossible it is for them to be a couple.

I really appreciated that even when the two of them were clearly in love with each other, they still kept themselves apart, putting their political loyalties first. From these characters, nothing else would have been believable…no matter how much I wanted the two of them to screw it and be together.

The romance seems like a cliché set-up, but in reality, it was executed in a unique way. The authors even presented openings for stereotypical romantic drama…and then let them pass by. Instead, they took the romance in an unpredictable direction, with the rest of the plot, keeping me on my toes at all times. It was awesome.

I would recommend this book to anyone who read These Broken Stars. Don’t be scared away by the seemingly disconnected plot—it is an amazing continuation of the story. I can’t wait to read This Fractured Light!

Top Ten Books I Feel Differently About Now That Time Has Passed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

There are a lot of books that I loved while I was reading them, but when I think back to them, I realize they weren’t actually that good, or that I will probably never reread them.

Books that Don’t appeal to Me anymore

I started reading YA really early, and it took me a while to develop my current taste in books. In middle school I was really into paranormal and dystopian books, and it kind of killed the genre for me. But even if I look back and realize that I would hate the book if I reread it today, that doesn’t change the fact that I loved it when I was younger.

1. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

cover the lightning thief

I LOVED these books when I was in elementary school, but all of the hype concerning the later books has scared me off the series. Also, when I think of rereading the series, I feel like the parts I found hilarious previously probably wouldn’t amuse me anymore. My sense of humor has changed a bit.

2. The Selection series by Kiera Cass 

cover the selection

I loved the first book, but the second book didn’t really work for me. By the time The Elite came out, I’d gotten over my “I love overly dramatic YA romances” phase (I really did have one for a while there), and the series started to annoy me. I haven’t read past book two, and I can’t imagine I will.

3. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

cover VA

I still enjoy these books (I haven’t gotten rid of them), but I don’t know if I’ll ever reread them. The drama that drew me to the series originally now makes me not want to read it. It’s not that the books are in any way bad—what I remember of the series was awesome—but they aren’t the style of book I reach for anymore.

4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

cover between the devil and the deep blue sea

Nope. This book was actually bad the second time I read it. When I read it the first time, I got caught up in the story and ignored the lingering feeling that the writing wasn’t good. The second time I read it, the story didn’t grab me, and I honestly wondered what I’d loved so much originally.

5. Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

cover dance of shadows

Again, this book had all the drama and consuming romance that younger me would die for. But nowadays, this kind of plot puts me off, and though I considered rereading it, I knew that it would kill my positive memories of the book.

Books that I Like in a Different Way Now

These are the books that I read when I was really young and had a certain impression, and when I reread them a few years later, my impression of them changed. I still love them (often even more) but I can’t deny that my first impression was not my second impression.

6. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter

cover gg 1

I’ve loved this series for years. I reread all six books at least once a year (but sometimes twice, or three times). They are my comfort-reads, my feel good books. But as I get older, I find that I have to suspend my disbelief more and more each time. I still love them, but I’m more aware of just how ridiculous they are each time I reread them.

7. The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray

cover a great and terrible beauty

 

The first time I read these books, 50% of the plot went over my head. By the third time I read them, though, I was old enough to really appreciate the difficult subjects that Bray tackled in her book, and the depth of the story she created. These books get more impressive every time I read them.

8. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Okay, so my mom bought this book for me in elementary school, and it sat on my bookshelf unread for years. I’d pick it up, read the first sentence, and set it right back down. It was just plain boring for me.

Thankfully, I finally decided to push past that first page and read the whole book…and I fell in love. Now, that first sentence makes me fangirl uncontrollably, and the series is my favorite series of all time. Every time I read the series, I find something new to love.

9. Going Underground by Susan Vaught

cover going underground

This book destroys me every time I read it, but the subject matter has gotten more meaningful to me as I get older. When I first read it, I understood that the story was powerful and important, but the full breadth of the story Vaught was telling didn’t hit me until I was older.

10. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

cover beauty queens

This book had become more meaningful to me as time passes and as I realize how impressive it is that Bray was able to weave so many social discussions into one book. As the push for diversity in YA books grows, I come to appreciate this book even more. (And the humor gets funnier as I get older.)


What books did you see differently when you reread them? Do we have any similar opinions?

Happy Tuesday!

Book Review: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This book was exactly what I needed to recover from Out of Darkness—romantic, sassy, creative YA.

4/5 stars

cover these broken stars

Goodreads Description

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

My Review

I discovered Amie Kaufman when I read Illuminae, which she co-authored with Jay Kristoff. I LOVED Illuminae, so I knew that I had to read Kaufman’s other books, the Starbound series. These Broken Stars did not disappoint.

These Broken Stars switches back and forth between two characters: Lilac, the daughter of the galaxy’s richest businessman, and Tarver, poor-boy turned war-hero being trotted around the universe as a publicity stunt. The two of them end up stranded together after the ship they are travelling on crashes on an unknown planet. Survival forces them to work together, despite their hatred for and frustration with each other.

I loved Tarver’s character. I generally expect that YA books like this will have a somewhat one-dimensional love interest, but Tarver broke this mold. He is more than a love interest; he carries his weight in the telling and shaping of the story. I loved his soldier personality—I believed that he could be the war hero everyone said he was. His voice was part professional solider, part teenage boy, and I loved how the two parts of his personality worked together. His ties to his family and the grief motivating him were believable, breaking the “tragic backstory” cliché.

Lilac took a little while to grow on me. In the beginning of the novel, Tarver tells most of the story, and Lilac comes off mostly as a prideful heiress who is more capable than people think…but who uses her skills for stupid reasons. However, as the story progressed, I got to see Lilac’s character develop, and I loved her. Even when she was falling apart, she fiercely tries to hold herself together, and it wasn’t just inane pride. Her character’s determination to stay in control made sense to me while simultaneously pulling at my heart strings.

The romance between Lilac and Tarver (c’mon, you knew it was coming) was awesome. I’m a sucker for love-to-hate romances, and this book executed it perfectly. Lilac and Tarver honestly hated each other in the beginning of the book, and it wasn’t a fleeting emotion. Even as they started to work with each other, their dominant feelings for each other were frustration and anger and hate—and I loved it. It sounds weird to glorify this, but I felt that it made their transition into romance more powerful. They made an amazing couple, but seeing that they had to “work” for it made it more meaningful when they eventually fell in love.

But These Broken Stars is more than a romance. The planet that Lilac and Tarver land on is filled with oddities and inexplicable occurrences, building until it is clear that some conspiracy is behind the entire planet. The mystery elements drove the plot well, giving it a good amount of suspense and confusion without making the story too overwhelming. I always wanted to keep reading, to find out what was going to happen next, to figure out another piece of the puzzle.

By the end of the story, enough of the mystery was resolved that I didn’t feel like the book was just an exposition for the series, but there were still a lot of lingering questions, pushing me to read the next book.

I would recommend These Broken Stars to fans of YA romances who enjoy creative sci-fi stories and like it when their heart is broken (a little). This book was filled with shocking moments and emotional scenes. Anyone who read Illuminae and needs more like it should definitely read this book.

Book Review: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

Oh. My. God. This book grabbed me from the first pages, terrified me, destroyed me, and left me with a story I’ll never forget.

4.5/5 stars

cover out of darkness

Goodreads Description

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them.

“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.”

They know the people who enforce them.

“They all decided they’d ride out in their sheets and pay Blue a visit.”

But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

“More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay.”

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

my REview

This book absolutely destroyed me. I didn’t know what to expect from it, besides that it was clearly dealing with dark subject matter, but I was not at all prepared for the emotional roller-coaster that this book was.

Out of Darkness is told from the point of view of six people: Naomi, Wash, Beto, Cari, Henry, and the Gang. Each character is given a unique voice and deal with multifaceted issues. Even the younger characters—Beto and Cari—have realistic thoughts, bringing them to life in a way that many depictions of children don’t.

While I expected it to be hard to keep each character’s story straight, it really wasn’t. Every character has such a clear personality that it was not hard to keep track of who was who, and their stories wove together in such a way that the overall plot was always easy to follow.

Out of Darkness begins with a dramatic depiction of rescue workers pulling wounded and dead children out of the wreckage of a school that blew up in 1930s Texas. Then the story backtracks to a year before the explosion, introducing the characters and establishing a separate plot. In this way, the story is not about the explosion, but it is always progressing toward the explosion, adding a heavy sense of doom to an already dark story.

The true plot of Out of Darkness is character-driven, focused on the life of Naomi and her family in an oil-drilling town in Texas. Naomi is Mexican, and her two half-siblings are half-white, half-Mexican, able to pass as white in the town. Naomi finds herself trapped between the white and black worlds of the town, unable to fit in with either culture. Romance, rebellion, racism and sexism all coalesce into a heartbreakingly real story.

Honestly, a lot more things happen in Out of Darkness, but to list them here would be to give away major portions of the plot. Suffice to say that this book is anything but one-dimensional, and it touches on countless societal issues.

The power of this book comes from the writing style. It has been a while since I’ve read a book that honestly shocked me with its prose. It’s hard to quantify what makes Out of Darkness’s writing so gorgeous; it’s not overly poetic or lyrical, but it reads with a rare fluidity. Each of the characters felt real to me, and their struggles captured my heart. I spent the last sixty pages of the book terrified, and the last thirty pages of the book sobbing uncontrollably. To say that this book took over my life while I was reading it would be an understatement.

I would recommend Out of Darkness to anyone who is up for a strikingly honest tale of racism in 1930s America. This book pulls no punches, and it doesn’t apologize for its graphic content—but I’m glad for it. I know I won’t forget this story for a very long time.

Poetry: You Came Back

You came back

Just long enough

To freshen the memories and

Unclog the tear ducts

 

You tracked in dirt

From memory lane

Leaving me

To clean up the mess

 

Thanks, a lot.

At least

I have something to write about

Again

AP Tests Are Over!!! Cue Lots and Lots of Books

Hey everyone! I’ve been really disconnected from the blogging world recently. I thought that May would be when I picked up the pace again, but then I actually took my AP exams, and I didn’t have time to blog either.

But I have good news, because AP EXAMS ARE OVER. (For me, at least. If you still have exams, I’m sorry and good luck!)

Which means that it’s time to start reading and blogging again!

I’m currently reading These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner and loving it. I just finished being emotionally destroyed by Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez. If you’ve read (or plan to read) either of those books, please comment! I’m dying to fangirl with fellow bookworms.

Even better, I finally ordered The Raven King, A Court of Mist and Fury, and The Unexpected Everything. They are three of my most anticipated books for this year and they all came out during AP season so I had to watch while other people fangirled while I was studying. But no more! Because very soon I will be able to have my heart ripped to pieces as well. 😉

Also! I made a bookstagram! My sister has been urging me to make one for a while and I finally caved. I’m loving it so far. 🙂 You can follow me at @52lettersinthealphabet!

What’s going on in your life? If you had AP exams, how did they go?

What are you currently reading and what should I read next?