Curioussquared pulls more ROOTs in 2023

Discussão2023 ROOT CHALLENGE

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Curioussquared pulls more ROOTs in 2023

Jan 5, 3:24 pm

Hello everyone! I'm Natalie. I have participated in the ROOTs challenge for a few years now and find it immensely helpful in getting books off my shelves read! For me, a ROOT is any book I own, no matter when I bought it or what format it's in -- paper or digital.

I'm located in Seattle, where I live with my husband and dogs. I do most of my reading curled up on the couch with my retired racing greyhounds Otter and Kermit, or listening to audiobooks while doing chores and walking the dogs. I am lucky to work from home full-time in HR communications for a large retail corporation.

I read mostly fiction, with a heavy emphasis on fantasy and sci-fi, romance, YA fiction, general fiction/literature, a scattered mystery here and there, and the occasional non-fiction title.

I've been keeping track of my books read since 2008, and I have traditionally aimed for 100, but I think these days I'm usually hoping to hit 150. Last year I hit 200, which was an all-time high and surprising even to me. Out of those 200, 85 were ROOTs, so one goal this year is to up that ratio to be closer to 50/50 ROOTs vs. library/rereads. I only post about my ROOTs in this thread -- you can see all my reading in the 75ers challenge group for 2023.

This year started off an a very low note as we had to say goodbye to our 10-year-old greyhound, Skelly, on January 3rd. I wanted to include a few photos of him as the topper for this thread.

At our wedding in 2021:

Yelling at his brother on the deck:

Being a good sport for Halloween:

In his favorite spot on the couch, very relaxed:

Ideal reading companions:

Up at my in-laws' beach house:

Sunbathing on the deck:

In one of his many pits:

And in the spotlight at our engagement photoshoot:

Sorry for so many, but I didn't want to make myself choose ❤

Jan 5, 3:27 pm


Jan 5, 3:30 pm

I had over 30 new-to-me 5-star reads in 2022. I managed to trim it down to these favorites:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Faithful Place by Tana French
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton
Paladin's Grace by T. Kingfisher
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Editado: Set 15, 5:30 pm

Last year, I identified a list of 61 books I own I wanted to get to in 2022, and I made it to 51 of them. This year, I'm being slightly less restrictive and still picking about ~40 books I want to read this year, but in some specific categories.

The first column on the left here is a stack of series continuations and sequels I own that I'd like to get to this year. From the bottom of the stack to the top, they are:

1. All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
2. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
3. The Time Garden by Edward Eager
4. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang
5. The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos
6. The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
7. A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
8. Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore
9. Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell
10. Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor
11. Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
12. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi
13. Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
14. Broken Harbor by Tana French
15. Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
16. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

And not pictured because I have them on my Kindle or forgot to include them in the photo and am too lazy to take a new picture:

17. Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
18. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
19. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
20. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

The second column on the right are books I've owned for a while (some as far back as 15 years or so!) that it's high time I get to. In order from top to bottom:

21. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
22. Headlong by Michael Frayn
23. Sula by Toni Morrison
24. Possession by A. S. Byatt
25. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
26. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
27. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
28. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
29. Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill
30. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

The final 10 books are books off my Kindle. I tend to neglect these owned digital books in favor of physical books, so I wanted to prioritize some this year.

31. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
32. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
33. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
34. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
35. The Martian by Andy Weir
36. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
37. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
38. Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly
39. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
40. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

DONE: 36/40

Jan 5, 3:35 pm

Welcome to my ROOTing in 2023 :)

Jan 5, 3:37 pm

Hooray, so glad you're here again! Those pictures of Skelly are lovely, what a fine boy he looks - there must be a massive Skelly-shaped hole in the house now. I particularly loved the picture of you reading with the two dogs - I think you should get that one framed!

Jan 5, 3:56 pm

>6 Jackie_K: Thanks, Jackie. Yes, the negative space is the hardest part. I used to come out of the shower and open the bathroom door to find Skelly patiently lying outside the door waiting for me, and it was tough the first time that didn't happen :( Otter and Kermit are doing their best to fill the gap.

Jan 5, 5:00 pm

Such beautiful and companionable pups, and I'm so sorry about Skelly. I'm in awe of your 200 books last year and recognize some good ones coming up in your general fiction/lit piles, happy ROOTing.

Jan 5, 5:42 pm

>8 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ. They are very good dogs.

A lot of the reason I made it to 200 is that I've started listening to audiobooks on 1.85 speed, so that helps 😂 Anything slower sounds wrong now!

Jan 5, 6:26 pm

Welcome back! I'm so sorry about Skelly -- what a handsome boy.

Jan 5, 7:37 pm

>10 rabbitprincess: Thanks, RP :)

Jan 5, 11:55 pm

Thank you for sharing those photos of your precious Skelly. It's so hard to say goodbye, isn't it? I'm glad you didn't make yourself choose just a few photos.

Jan 6, 12:17 am

>12 rosalita: Thanks, Julia. It's been nice going through old photos and seeing what a great life we were able to give him.

Jan 6, 5:13 am

I'm sorry to hear about Skelly, but very happy to see all the lovely pictures of your pups (the AT-AT made me laugh). Looking forward to your reading!

Jan 6, 6:51 am

>9 curioussquared: 1.85 speed? Oh my goodness - I usually listen at 1.2 speed, anything faster than that and it sounds like Pinky and Perky to me!

Jan 6, 9:30 am

Welcome back, Natalie. Sorry to hear you had to say goodbye to Skelly, but I'm sure he enjoyed his life with you.

Jan 6, 10:03 am

So sorry to hear about your loss of Skelly, Natalie. It's very painful to lose a pet animal. They feel like kids don't they?

Good luck with your reading plans, impressive stacks you have there.

Jan 6, 11:10 am

>14 Caramellunacy: Thanks, Caramel.

>15 Jackie_K: I don't know how I got here, Jackie 😂 I started out years ago listening at 1.2 or 1.3, like a normal person, then somehow I got to 1.5, then 1.7, and now I'm at 1.85 and I can't go back, lol.

>16 MissWatson: Thanks, Birgit.

>17 connie53: Thanks, Connie. They do feel like kids -- not that I have any human babies to compare, but Skelly felt like a furbaby to me!

Jan 6, 12:04 pm

1 ROOT down: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

When Abby's friend Leo convinces her to take a DNA test with him, she's not expecting much -- maybe she'll get some health insights or something. The LAST thing she expects is to find out that she has an older full-blooded sister who lives just 30 minutes away in another Seattle suburb. Abby and Savvy meet up and neither has any ideas about why their parents would conceal something like this from them, and no real ideas for how to get them to open up further. And Savvy is leaving in a few days to be a counselor at the summer camp on a nearby island that she's been going to her whole life -- so she convinces Abby to sign up for camp so they can spend time figuring out what on earth happened.

This had major Parent Trap vibes, but age them up 10 years and add a mystery element -- Abby and Savvy's parents looked like they were friends in the photos they were able to find, so what happened to drive them apart? The first third of the book felt slightly stilted to me, like the author was still finding the characters' voices, and as a Seattleite, the Seattle references felt kind of heavy-handed -- weirdly specific in some places and then super vague and wrong in other places. I kept going because I was still enjoying the story as a whole, and I'm glad I did because I couldn't put this book down by the end. There were several different storylines woven together -- the secret sister thing, Abby's spiraling grades and school problems, Abby and Leo's almost-romance -- and I thought Lord did a really good job of bringing them together and tying them all up in a very cohesive way that managed to feel like no plot element was ignored but also it wasn't TOO tidy. 4 stars.

Jan 6, 12:10 pm

>19 curioussquared: That's an intriguing plot concept, Natalie. I've been thinking lately every time another case hits the news that the whole "finding unknown relatives through DNA tests" is ripe for some great literary treatments.

Jan 6, 12:26 pm

>20 rosalita: Definitely! There's a very recent murder case in Idaho where they were able to find and arrest the suspect entirely thanks to third-party DNA/ancestry services which I thought was fascinating. I think it's going to revolutionize how we solve crimes.

Jan 7, 11:53 am

Natalie, 1.85 speed -- more awe! :)

Congrats on your first ROOT. I read the arraignment document on the Idaho suspect and it's more gripping than a novel, yikes.

Jan 9, 12:38 pm

>22 detailmuse: Agreed, MJ. I didn't read the arraignment but watched a video about it and was totally gripped as well.

Jan 9, 12:38 pm

2 ROOTs down: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Many years ago, there was the Awakening, when robots came alive and revolted, refusing to do their work and retreating into the wilderness. Since then, humans have learned the error of their ways and for the most part, they keep to their designated areas, leaving most of the wilds to nature and the robots. Dex felt unfulfilled in their life as a garden monk, so they changed vocation and became a tea monk. Now they travel all of Panga in their bike wagon, stopping at villages to listen to the woes of the people and serve tea to heal them. But a few years later, they start feeling unfulfilled again, and a strange urge leads them to drive into the wilderness. There, they meet the robot Mosscap -- and together, the two ponder the meaning of it all.

What a lovely, heartwarming novella. Can I visit a tea monk? This is everything I love in a cozy book, and I think everyone can identify with Dex's struggles to find a purpose. I normally shy away from anything approaching a philosophical novel, but this is the kind of philosophy I can get behind -- gentle and relatable. I'll probably pick up book 2 sooner rather than later. 5 stars.

Jan 9, 6:01 pm

>24 curioussquared: I want to visit a tea monk too! Reading this made me actually want to brew green tea properly from loose leaves instead of buying bagged tea :D

Jan 10, 6:35 am

>24 curioussquared: That book is on my STBR pile and moving upward.

Jan 10, 7:30 am

>24 curioussquared: This sounds so wonderful as I look out at the miserable weather we're I have no tea monk visiting at present, I suppose I will have to brew my own.

Jan 10, 12:33 pm

>25 rabbitprincess: I know what you mean! The craft of the tea was really soothing.

>26 connie53: I hope you enjoy it, Connie!

>27 Caramellunacy: That's the only downside of this one -- no tea monk waiting for you at the end!

Jan 10, 4:54 pm

>24 curioussquared: That sounds wonderful! I don't think I've ever read a bad review of any Becky Chambers books, I must see if our library has any of her books.

Jan 10, 5:10 pm

>29 Jackie_K: I can recommend this one and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as great places to start, Jackie! She writes some of the coziest, most human sci-fi I've ever encountered.

Jan 13, 12:33 pm

3 ROOTs down: Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Pelagia lives with her father Dr. Iannis on the Greek Island of Cephalonia. They have a relatively idyllic existence until WWII begins, taking Pelagia's fiance to the front, and until the Italian and German occupation of the island starts in 1941. Pelagia and her father are initially suspect when they are required to host an Italian captain, Antonio Corelli, but over the course of his stay, the captain manages to win them over with his gentle charm and beautiful mandolin playing, and eventually, he and Pelagia fall in love. But the war rages on and when Antonio and Pelagia are separated, they do not know when or if they will meet again.

I wasn't sure I would enjoy this; I had lumped it in my head with The English Patient (both acclaimed literary war novels that I bought at the same time from a library book sale with movie tie-in covers, I guess?) which didn't really work for me when I read it last year. But I really enjoyed this one! The setting is gorgeous and Bernieres does a good job of balancing the parts that dive into the atrocities of war with the less gruesome but still difficult aspects of the war's effect on normal people. I also appreciated that this book didn't end with the war ending, but instead gave us closure. 4 stars.

P.S. I did NOT realize from this movie tie-in cover I have that the film stars Nicholas Cage. I am... curious about this casting, lol.

Jan 13, 12:34 pm

4 ROOTs down: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Maia, the half-goblin youngest prince of the Elflands, has lived most of his life since the death of his mother in isolated exile with his abusive relative Setheris. Until one day, a courier brings the sudden news that his father and three older brothers have all been killed in an airship crash -- leaving Maia as the new emperor. Thrust into his new position with no friends and no idea how to navigate the political intrigue of the court, Maia is lost and helpless. Over the first few months of his reign, he must learn very quickly the rules of his new life and who he can trust in this new position -- or the consequences might be deadly.

Everyone told me I was going to love this and guess what, I loved it! One of the most complex, well done, rewarding fantasy novels I've read in a long time. The brilliance of this book is that we spend all of it in Maia's head, being very lost right along with him; that's also the part that might turn off some readers, as for most of the book Maia's head is a very lonely place to be. But this is balanced by Maia's essential goodness, and despite everything, he never loses that, and in fact, it only grows stronger. I wish that the pronunciation and character prefix/suffix guide at the end of the book had actually been at the beginning because I think I spent longer than I should have figuring out who everyone was due to my brain refusing to process most of the names. I keep wavering between 4.5 and 5 stars; let's go with 4.75 for now.

Jan 13, 1:50 pm

>31 curioussquared: Captain Corelli's Mandolin is one of my all-time favourite fiction books. I have always refused to see the movie, precisely because Nicholas Cage couldn't be further from the picture of Corelli in my head.

Jan 13, 1:55 pm

>33 Jackie_K: Seriously! I just want to know what went through that casting director's head. Someone on my 75ers thread just confirmed that yes, Nicholas Cage as Corelli is just as weird as you would expect.

Jan 15, 6:46 am

>32 curioussquared: I do enjoy books that throw you in the deep end - I tore through a bunch of Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel novels enjoying puzzling things out. But it is tricky to keep things straight when the names won't stick!

Jan 15, 6:29 pm

>35 Caramellunacy: I like books like that, too, which is probably why I liked this one despite the names :) I handed this one over to my husband immediately after finishing as one he might like and he's about halfway through now. When he mentioned how confusing the names were, I pointed him to the guide at the back of the book. We spent a minute wondering why it's at the back at the book instead of the front until I suggested that it might be so that we as a reader feel just as confused and afloat as Maia in his new position as emperor :) I have no idea if that's why that choice was made, but it satisfied both of us!

Jan 17, 1:39 pm

5 ROOTs down: The Jewel Thief by Jeannie Mobley

Juliette's father is crown jeweler to Louis XIV, the Sun King. When the King purchases the enormous Tavernier diamond, weighing in at a whopping 117 carats, Juliette and her mother think their fortunes are made -- but her father seems to despair. The King wants the diamond cut in the Mazarin style, but Juliette's father doesn't know that secret technique, and doesn't even know where to start with tracking down the gem cutter who created it. As months pass and the diamond remains uncut, the King grows impatient, and Juliette grows worried. Unable to sit back and watch her family sink into ruin, Juliette takes matters into her own hands.

This book was a major surprise for me. I have NO idea where I heard about it or what prompted me to purchase a brand new copy in 2020, or if it was some kind of impulse buy, but it sat on my shelf for a few years because I really wasn't hearing any buzz about it. I picked it up expecting a fairly run of the mill historical fiction novel, but I was immediately drawn in. Mobley has written a fresh, fast-paced adventure story featuring jewelers, of all people, and I couldn't put it down. The story is told with a sort of frame device, with Juliette recounting her tale to love interest Rene after being arrested, and the jumps in the timeline increase the urgency and had me racing toward the end. While Juliette is fictional, the diamond itself is very real, and Mobley as a historian did an excellent job of rooting her tale in history. 4.25 stars, and I'll be looking out for the companion book, The Diamond Keeper.

Editado: Jan 17, 1:50 pm

>37 curioussquared: Well, that's sounds interesting! I'll look for it at the library — thanks for the review, Natalie. I love it when I get surprised by a book I don't remember ever wanting to read.

Jan 17, 2:12 pm

>38 rosalita: Me, too! Sometimes I let myself get blinded by hype, and have to remember that there are some excellent books that haven't been hyped nearly enough.

Jan 17, 3:17 pm

6 ROOTs down: Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

Everyone's favorite cat pic-loving AI is back! Since the events of the previous novel, Steph's life has calmed down. Her father is in prison, she and her mom are now settled (ostensibly permanently?) in Minneapolis, and she's starting at a new school. There, she meets another new student, Nell, who's living with her father, her stepmother, her father's girlfriend, and her stepmother's girlfriend (it's complicated) after her mother disappeared. Oh, and she and her mother have been part of a doomsday cult for several years, so normal high school is a bit of an adjustment for Nell. On her first day of school, Steph gets added to a new phone game by one of the other students -- but something seems off. The game seems to know way more about her than it should, and since Steph has ample experience with sentient AIs, she puts CheshireCat on the case to investigate. As CheshireCat digs for details, they find that this phone game is much more sinister than it seems.

I loved Catfishing on CatNet, and I loved this book too. Both have an urgent quality that kept me reading past my bedtime, and will make you consider the permissions you give the apps on your phone. I probably liked this entry slightly less than the first one, but it was still really fun and I'd gladly read more in this universe. I also appreciated that the author took the opportunity to explore what a reformed police force might look like in this book based directly on the discussions surrounding the Minneapolis police following the 2020 George Floyd protests. 4.25 stars.

Jan 18, 5:10 am

>37 curioussquared: That sounds really good - and I enjoy the diamond girl on the cover. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Jan 18, 6:52 am

>37 curioussquared: >41 Caramellunacy: Same here. Looks like you found one for the team!

Jan 18, 12:31 pm

>41 Caramellunacy: >42 MissWatson: I hope you guys enjoy it! Book Outlet currently has the companion novel and I am contemplating an order.... hmmmm....

Jan 19, 3:23 pm

7 ROOTs down: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

In the aftermath of his partner Jim's death, George, a gay British man who works as a college professor in California, struggles to come to terms with his grief. The novel follows a day in George's life as he persists in his everyday routines.

This is a slim novel that packs a punch. I've always enjoyed books that are rather stream of consciousness or slice of life-focused, and enjoyed this one for that reason. The day we see George on is just a normal day, and throughout it we follow his actions, motivations, and internal musings closely. I can see how this would have been a slightly shocking novel when it was first published in the 60s. 4 stars.

Jan 19, 5:57 pm

>44 curioussquared: I'm pretty sure I saw the movie of that a few years ago and thought it was lovely. Well, Colin Firth was lovely, anyway, and I remember liking the rest of the movie well enough. :-)

Jan 19, 7:13 pm

>45 rosalita: Colin Firth is always lovely! I haven't actually seen this one and will try to prioritize it now that I've read the book.

Jan 23, 12:48 pm

8 ROOTs down: This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Briseis has always know she has a gift: plants respond to her in a strange, magical way. She can grow flowers from cuttings with a touch, and tree branches and grass lean toward her when she walks by. Her moms, who adopted her when she was born, worry about her, but they accept her gift -- and even let her put to use in their flower shop every once in a while. Summer break has started and Briseis is a bit directionless after her plans to take a botany class at the local community college fall through -- that is, until a lawyer shows up at their Brooklyn apartment and informs Briseis that her aunt, her birth mother's sister, has left her a whole house in upstate New York. Briseis and her moms are a little wary, but money's been tight, and some time away seems like it might be just what their family needs. So they pack up, find someone to run the shop, and head upstate for the summer. Once they reach the house, things are a little weird. It's dusty and needs to be cleaned out, but it's also full of paintings of Medea, from Greek mythology, it has a full-on apothecary shop in the back of the house, and strange people keep showing up outside. Briseis starts to get the feeling that her birth family might have known about and shared her strange gift -- and that the house might have been given to her for a reason.

I really enjoyed this fresh YA fantasy full of Black girl magic and cottagecore plant powers. It wasn't a perfect book, but I was hooked by the story and really enjoyed the ride. One thing I really loved was Briseis's relationship with her moms -- so many YA books have clueless parents who don't care, or at least parents the protagonist doesn't trust enough to ask for help. Briseis and her moms clearly love each other a lot and they show it with trust both ways. Briseis actually asks her parents for help! Often! Which just doesn't happen enough in YA books. Anyway, I picked up the sequel right after finishing this one, so clearly I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Jan 26, 1:06 pm

9 ROOTs down: This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron

In the sequel to This Poison Heart, Briseis, Marie, Circe and the rest must act quickly to complete their quest to unite the six pieces of the heart and save Briseis's mom. The key to their quest lies in ancient Greek mythology -- there are stories we know, but what if those aren't the real stories? As Briseis learns more about her powers, she also knows that it might not be enough if Karter and his family, Jason's descendants, are already way ahead.

I thought this was a decent but uninspired sequel. All the loose ends were tied up satisfactorily, but the book was lacking a lot of what I loved about the first book. Briseis necessarily has less support from her parents and has to deceive Mo; Circe and Persephone's arrival mean that almost all the mysteries of the first book are de-mystified. Plus, they're now in charge, so Briseis just has a lot less agency in general. I was also disappointed in the development of Briseis's powers. I feel like there was an opportunity to have her truly grow (pun intended) into her own, but in the end it just felt like Bayron was inconsistent about when Briseis did and didn't use her powers to help herself or others. 3.5 stars.

Fev 5, 10:58 am

>44 curioussquared: Onto the wishlist!

Fev 11, 1:38 pm

>49 detailmuse: I hope you enjoy!

Fev 11, 1:41 pm

Got back in the wee hours of Friday morning from Costa Rica and I'm a little tanner and more recharged than when we left, although I'm still feeling pretty tired from the actual trip home. My body keeps wanting to wake me up around 7 am Costa Rica time aka 5 am here, so I'm very glad I have yesterday and the weekend ahead to recover before going back to work on Monday.

Some of my highlights included all the wildlife we saw (including three types of monkeys, coatis, agoutis, iguanas, sloths, and more), the whitewater rafting trip we did on the Pacuare river, the gorgeous natural hot springs at our hotel in the volcanic region of Arenal, and lots of delicious food. The lowlight was being stung by a scorpion in our bed in the middle of the night on our last night! Luckily the kind that stung me is not at all dangerous and hurt less than a bee sting, and now I can say I've been stung by a scorpion.

We did a lot of adventuring but also a lot of relaxing and I have six ROOT reviews to catch up on!

Fev 11, 1:41 pm

First, I forgot to post this review before I left:

10 ROOTs down: Possession by A. S. Byatt

Roland Michell is an academic barely scraping by as a researcher, an expert on the poet Randolph Henry Ash. One day, he finds what he believes to be a previously unknown draft of a letter from Ash to an unnamed woman, who he determines from other sources to be the poet Christabel LaMotte. Not certain what exactly the letter means but with a gut feeling that it might be important, Roland does something he's never thought of doing before and takes the letter from the British Museum. Hot on the trail and determined to see if he can learn more about Ash and LaMotte's relationship, he meets Maud Bailey, a LaMotte scholar, and together they manage almost accidentally to gain access to LaMotte's ancestral home -- where amazingly, hidden away, they uncover Ash and LaMotte's passionate, previously entirely unknown correspondence. As Maud and Roland frantically continue their research, lying about their whereabouts to other scholars in their fervor to keep what they have found under wraps and solely their own, something blossoms between them. But other scholars are becoming suspicious, and it won't be long before Roland and Maud have to come clean about their discoveries.

I tried to read this book for the first time ages ago, when I was in college, and bounced off it then -- perhaps it was too close to home at the time. This time, I absolutely loved it. Byatt has so intricately crafted these interweaving stories and histories that I almost have trouble remembering that Ash and LaMotte weren't real poets. The book is composed of various types of prose -- the present day narrative, the past narrative, the letters themselves, various poetic works by both Ash and LaMotte, and a journal of a relative of LaMotte's, to name a few. I'm actually glad I listened to the audiobook because it's very possible I could have been bogged down by some of the poetry in print -- I enjoy shorter poetry, but can find longer works challenging. (Yes, I'm that person who skips all the songs when I read LOTR, sue me.) Possession is subtitled "a romance" -- but it's really multiple romances, wrapped up in a mystery, with a dose of historical fiction to tie it together, all written in the most intricate, lovely prose, and plotted and put together with exquisite detail. 5 stars.

Editado: Fev 12, 5:34 am

>51 curioussquared: How exciting that you got to see coatis - I love them and the little squeaks they make. I'm glad you had such a cool trip (apart from the scorpion).

>52 curioussquared: I admit, I skipped most of the poetry when I read Possession as well. I also enjoyed the movie adaptation with Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the poets (Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhardt in the modern roles notwithstanding).

Fev 12, 5:38 am

Stung by a scorpion is not something on my wish-list. But your vacation sounds ideal. With all the things you have seen, Natalie

Fev 12, 6:12 am

>51 curioussquared: That all sounds amazing (apart from the scorpion - glad it was relatively benign! But also scary - I remember freaking out about a spider under my duvet, goodness knows what I would have done if it had been a scorpion!).

Fev 12, 9:33 am

Glad you had a good trip, scorpion notwithstanding! Also glad you had a couple of days to adjust to your regular timezone and routine before going back to work.

Fev 13, 2:02 pm

>53 Caramellunacy: I think the coatis were my favorite. So very cute! Ooh, I'll have to check out the Possession movie.

>54 connie53: Mine either, Connie, but it wasn't too bad all things considered!

>55 Jackie_K: Luckily it wasn't under the duvet -- it was crawling on my uncovered arm (sorry if TMI!! It makes me shudder still). But under the duvet would have been worse!!

>56 rabbitprincess: Thanks, RP! Back at work today and while I'm glad I had the extra days I still feel very tired, lol.

Fev 13, 7:39 pm

Slowly working my way through reviews!

11 ROOTs down: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Lady Trent is old now, and one of the most respected experts on dragons in the business, but in this first of her memoirs, she recounts the beginning of her journey as a student of dragons: her childhood and initial interest, and then her first expedition with her husband.

I enjoyed this! The memoir conceit gives the story an interesting angle and I thought the adventure was compelling. I could see some being frustrated with the memoir-style narration but it worked for me and I'm excited to pick up further books in the series. 4.5 stars.

Fev 13, 7:39 pm

12 ROOTs down: Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

In this sequel to The Goose Girl, Enna's friend Isi is now married to the prince, and Enna has returned to her forest home. But after her mother's death, she's feeling at loose ends -- she needs a new purpose, and just being the Princess's friend isn't going to be enough. Things change quickly when a neighboring country declares war, and Enna accompanies Isi and the royal family to the front. Also coming along is Enna's brother, who has developed mysterious fire powers he seems to have learned from an old piece of vellum he found in the forest. But the fire is changing him, and Enna is worried. When Enna has a chance to see the vellum for herself, the fire takes her as well, and at first, she is elated that her new powers can help her country win their war. But soon the fire wants more than she can give -- and Enna and Isi will need to travel far to restore their balance.

I enjoyed this sequel to The Goose Girl. It felt darker than the previous book but still written a little simplistically, so I wonder if it had a harder time finding its intended audience, but it worked for me. I don't know if I'd reread it but I still plan to continue the series. 4 stars.

Fev 13, 7:40 pm

13 ROOTs down: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Are you a coward or are you a librarian? Esther really wants to believe she's a librarian. In this near-future dystopian western, Esther flees the marriage her father has arranged for her after her best friend and secret, forbidden lover Beatriz is hanged in front of her for possession of restricted materials. She stows away in the librarians' wagon, hoping for the best once they find her. The head librarian is tempted to shoot Esther on sight, but relents when she learns what Esther is fleeing from. On the road with the librarians, Esther thought she knew what she was signing up for -- traveling between towns, distributing approved government materials. But the librarians are different than what she expected -- two of them, both women, appear to be in a relationship, and the third one, Cye, looks like a girl but dresses like a man and tells Esther to use "they/them" when she talks about them. Thrust into a new world that's not what she expected, Esther must quickly figure out who she is and who she wants to be -- because it seems like there are a lot more options than she was aware of.

I loved this! Wasn't sure what to expect from a queer dystopian western but I ate this up. Really fresh concept; I feel like it would work well as an HBO limited series or something. Not too long, not too short, just the perfect length. 4.5 stars.

Fev 13, 7:46 pm

14 ROOTs down: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Years ago, Rhys Penhallow broke 19-year-old Vivi's witchy heart, and she and her cousin broke their biggest rule (Never mix magic with vodka) to lay a curse on him. Nothing really seems to happen, so they think nothing of it, but it did make her feel a little better. But now, Rhys is coming back to town, sent by his father to recharge the ley lines that lie beneath Graves Glen that were created by his family years ago. Vivi's dreading it, but figures it shouldn't be too hard to avoid him... until it's clear that something did happen when she cursed him all those years ago, and everything starts going terribly wrong. With no other choice, Vivi and Rhys must work together to right the curse -- and they're soon remembering what brought them together in the first place.

This was a fun concept, meh execution kind of book. It just never really clicked for me and I might have DNFed it had I not been literally reading it by the pool. My favorite part was the cat who started suddenly talking and would only ask for treats. If you're looking for a witchy romcom, I recommend Payback's a Witch instead. 3 stars.

Fev 13, 7:46 pm

15 ROOTs down: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

The third book in the Wayfarers series tells the story of the Exodans -- the humans who left what remained of Earth years ago and ventured into the great unknown on the Exodus Fleet, where their descendants still live permanently today, with a few technological modifications. Record of a Spaceborn Few is told from several POVs, including a few lifelong Exodans of different ages and occupations, as well as a descendant of Exodans who left the fleet for a different planet years ago, and is now returning to discover his roots. The book is also told with a sort of framing device of the report of a Harmagian alien who comes to the fleet to study this race that many alien species consider to be rather backward.

I think I had seen a few reviews of this entry in the series that led me to believe it was less enjoyable than the first two books, or at least many people's least favorite in the series, so I went in with slightly lowered expectations. Maybe that helped me enjoy it more, or something, because I absolutely loved this book. It's hard to describe, and it's definitely a bit more fractured than the previous entries due to the many narrators, but it coalesced into a lovely story that I couldn't put down. 5 stars.

Fev 13, 7:46 pm

16 ROOTs down: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Queen Sabran of Inys is the latest in a long line of queens who have ruled for nearly 1000 years, and tradition states that as long as a queen of Berethnet line is on the throne, the Nameless One, the horrible wyrm of old who was banished to the abyss almost 1000 years ago, will remain under control. Ead is from the South, a handmaiden of the Priory of the Orange Tree, sworn to destroy all wyrms, trained in sidon flame magic and warrior's arts and positioned as a lady's maid in Sabran's court to protect her -- on the off chance that the old bloodline tale is true. Tane is from the East, where water dragons are revered, and has trained all her life for the chance to join the Miduchi dragonriders. Three very different women will cross paths as the countdown ticks toward the end of the 1000 years -- and the Nameless One's return.

This book is hard to summarize -- it's chonky, and its strength is in its immersive worldbuilding and detail. I read most of it on the plane home, and it was the perfect choice of book for that -- something you can get totally lost in and not want to put down. I was surprised how quickly it went for 800+ pages. It helped that I think I actually enjoyed all the POVs equally, which doesn't usually happen to me. The first half almost felt like Game of Thrones lite in terms of the breadth of the world, cultures, and characters we got to experience. (I sent a text recommending it to my friend saying "it's like GOT but I actually care what's happening!"). I did have a few quibbles, especially toward the end. Feels weird to wish that something 800+ pages was longer, but the last quarter or so of the book felt super rushed to me, and like most of the conflicts sort of melted away. They were there, but each one was fairly easily solved. The final climactic action scene felt almost... passive, in a weird way. Maybe not quite epic enough? Not sure how to articulate it exactly. There was just a whole lot of build up in the first half, and then a whole lot of stuff happening in the second half all at once. The pacing just felt off -- it could definitely have been 2 or 3 books, honestly. So, not perfect, but I very much enjoyed the ride. 4.25 stars.

Fev 13, 7:50 pm

>60 curioussquared: I also thought this book was exactly the right length, and second the thought that it would make a good limited series.

Fev 13, 8:18 pm

>64 rabbitprincess: Right? Anyone know any HBO execs so we can make this happen? Lol.

Fev 14, 2:11 pm

17 ROOTs down: Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson

In this companion novella to Sorcery of Thorns, Elisabeth and Nathaniel have been living at Thorn Manor for several months when suddenly, the wards go wild. Trapped in the manor, they must work together to figure out what set them off -- and how to unravel the problem in time to host the Midwinter Sorcerer's Ball. And Silas is being most unhelpful....

This was essentially a feel-good fan service epilogue and I enjoyed every minute of it. Lots of squeeing. Perfect Valentine's read. 4 stars.

Fev 15, 10:04 am

>58 curioussquared: I really enjoyed A Natural History of Dragons when I read it a few years ago - it gave me strong Amelia Peabody (reinforced parasol-wielding Egyptologist) vibes.

Fev 15, 11:43 am

>67 Caramellunacy: Definitely! It was a fun one. The rest of the series aren't ROOTs for me, but I'm excited to get to them!

Fev 15, 1:37 pm

18 ROOTs down: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada was born with a clubfoot and has spent her whole life trapped in the room she shares with her abusive Mam and little brother Jamie. All she knows of the world she has learned from looking through the window and tales Jamie has told her. But as WWII looms, Jamie tells her that other children in London are being evacuated, and Ada seizes her chance. Sent to the countryside, Ada's world explodes in size. She and Jamie are taken in by an initially reluctant single woman, Miss Smith, and slowly but surely they start to bloom as they both learn things about the world they never could have imagined. But Ada can't stop shaking the feeling that her new life is too good to last, even as Miss Smith contacts her Mam in the hopes of getting her approval for a surgery to fix Ada's foot.

This book swept me up and wouldn't let me go. Such a powerful story, and at least part of its strength is in Ada's voice, which truly carries the book. It's so rewarding to see her open up as the story goes on. I couldn't put it down and immediately downloaded book 2 on Kindle when I finished. 5 stars.

Editado: Fev 19, 7:41 am

Hi Natalie, you have been reading a few book >62 curioussquared:, >63 curioussquared: that are on my STBR-list. Good to read your reviews. And >69 curioussquared: looks good too.

Fev 20, 2:07 pm

>70 connie53: I hope you enjoy them when you get to them, Connie! Priory of the Orange Tree was intimidating due to its size but it actually went really quickly when I got to it.

Fev 20, 2:07 pm

19 ROOTs down: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank's account of living in the secret annex with her own family and another off an office building over two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

I never read this one in school and I'm honestly super mad about it. I wasn't sure this would hold up as an adult but I'm so, so glad I read it. The strength of Anne's diary is in her own unapologetic teenager-ness. She acts just as you would expect a 13-15 year old girl to act; she's boy-crazy, mad at her parents and sister, obsessed with movie stars, and convinced that nobody understands her. That's why I'm so annoyed I didn't have to read this in school; what could be a better way to really show modern teenagers the reality of the holocaust than presenting them with this eminently relatable girl who didn't survive it? I listened to the audio read by Selma Blair and she did a fantastic job. 5 stars.

Fev 20, 2:07 pm

20 ROOTs down: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

One morning at the age of 83, Etta Vogel leaves her husband Otto at home and sets off a trek from Saskatchewan to Ontario to see the ocean. Etta has some kind of memory loss and only remembers her goal some of the time, but she keeps walking, armed with a rifle and some chocolate. Otto doesn't pursue her, and instead starts to learn to live by himself, helped by Etta's recipe cards. Their lifelong friend Russell does leave to pursue Etta, who is now accompanied by a coyote named James who speaks to her. As Etta continues her journey and becomes famous across Canada, with people tracking her journey and reporting sightings, the novel also jumps back and forward between the present and the past, covering Etta and Otto's meeting and Otto's military service.

I think this book was supposed to be whimsical and the jumpy, misty nature of the timeline probably was supposed to relate to Etta's memory loss; however, it just didn't work for me. I had difficulty following and difficulty caring about the characters, and I didn't like the ambiguous ending. There were some lovely bits, but as a whole I thought it was lacking. 3 stars.

Fev 21, 1:47 pm

21 ROOTs down: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

Moon is a shapeshifter who can turn from a humanoid groundling into a great scaled, flying creature and has lived most of his life away from his own kind. He remembers his mother and his flightless siblings, but they were killed when he was very young, and after some futile attempts to find his people, he has flitted from groundling settlement to settlement, leaving when it's no longer safe. When his current settlement learns of his true form, they tie him up and leave him to die because he looks like the Fell, the horrible demonic beasts that threaten all races. Poisoned and unable to shift, Moon thinks he's done for -- until something like him but even larger swoops in and rescues him. His savior is Stone, and he's a Raksura -- and he says Moon is too. Stone asks Moon to come back to his home, the Indigo Cloud Court, and live among his own kind, since their court is looking for more warriors to join it. Moon is wary -- after he looked for his own kind for so long, this seems to good to be true. But he has nowhere ese to go, so he follows. Back at Indigo Cloud Court, Moon is soon embroiled in the court politics, and he starts to figure out that Stone may have omitted some important things. But Indigo Cloud Court may be in trouble, and Moon can't help but get involved in saving the closest thing to a family he's known for years.

Why did it take me so long to read this? I didn't expect to like it as much as I did -- I think I didn't like the cover, but I should have trusted in Martha Wells. This is such a unique world, full of different peoples. Moon gives me Murderbot vibes a little -- he's a lovable loner who's slow to trust but at heart a good person. Anyway, I couldn't put this one down, and look forward to continuing the series. 5 stars.

Fev 23, 11:55 am

22 ROOTs down: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

Two years ago, Poe's love Call was killed by raiders on her first gold-hunting river voyage on a dredge ship. Grieving and deeply angry, she responds with invention, and designs an impermeable armor for the dredge ships made of ever moving sharp gears and metal pieces so the ships are impossible to climb. The outpost admiral is impressed with her design, and through her armor, Poe feels like she might actually get her revenge of killing as many raiders as possible. But now that her armor is ready, the admiral springs something unexpected on Poe: he wants HER to captain the armored ship's maiden voyage. A reluctant leader, Poe nevertheless feels things are going OK on their journey -- but someone keeps leaving threatening notes in her cabin. When it turns out that her armor might be less impermeable than she thought, Poe must do some quick calculations to figure out where her loyalties lie and what her values actually are -- all while processing an entirely different view of the world than the one she was raised with.

This book has an interesting concept and that's pretty much it. The worldbuilding is sketchy to the point of feeling like a fable more than a story. So many unanswered questions and promising ideas that never come to fruition because there's just not enough there. I think I was duped into buying this by the pretty cover; I haven't read anything else by Condie and won't be looking for more. 2.5 stars.

Fev 24, 12:20 pm

>73 curioussquared: I also thought the story was let down by the ambiguous ending and I thought the momentum of the story petered out - which was unfortunate because I was enjoying it. A pity, really.

Fev 24, 12:55 pm

>76 Caramellunacy: Same. I thought there were some good parts and some lovely writing but it never quite came together for me.

Mar 3, 12:39 pm

23 ROOTs down: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Marva has spent high school getting involved in politics and campaigning for voting rights and her preferred candidates and now that it's 2020, she can't wait to vote in her very first election. Duke knows it's his civic duty to vote in his first election, especially since his it was his politically active older brother who was killed in a drive by shooting who got him preregistered when he was 16. But when Duke shows up to what he thinks is his polling place, he's told he's not on the list, and he's devastated. Luckily, Marva just cast her vote and watches as Duke is turned away -- and she's not going to let injustice happen on her watch. Together, Marva and Duke spend the day on a voting wild goose chase, determined that Duke will exercise his rights and even make it to his band's concert that night.

This was a quick, easy read that only took me about 2 hours to get through. I enjoyed it! Colbert handled a lot of difficult topics with a light hand -- from voting rights to grief and trauma to police brutality. There were bits that felt a little didactic, but overall I think it was done well and will appeal to politically inclined teens and maybe help get others interested in voting. 4 stars.

Mar 6, 3:47 pm

24 ROOTs down: Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell

A collection of stories featuring some familiar characters and some brand new. I think anyone can read this, but Rowell's existing fans will be happiest. I had already read Midnights, Kindred Spirits, and If the Fates Allow in other formats, but I liked them just as much as I did the first time, especially Kindred Spirits. It was lovely to visit with Beth and Jennifer from Attachments, and Simon and Baz from the Carry On series, but my favorite story was Winter Songs for Summer, about a college romance with a music focus. My least favorite was The Prince and the Troll, which was a sort of fairy tale fable that just didn't work for me. The other new original story was In Waiting, which I liked but didn't love. 4 stars overall; I enjoyed the read but it felt pretty slight given that I had read almost half the content before. As a side note, the book itself is gorgeous, with sprayed edges, purple font, and a lovely ribbon bookmark.

Mar 6, 3:47 pm

25 ROOTs down: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

In high school, Tsukuru was part of a group of five inseparable friends. They did everything together, all five of them or smaller combinations. But then, after his first year of college, when he returned home and tried to get in touch to hang out, he was told in no uncertain terms that his friends no longer wished to speak with him or see him ever again. Hurting and set adrift, Tsukuru continued with his life at school in Tokyo and returned to his hometown of Nagoya as little as possible. He made it through a period of deep depression, got his degree, and began the career he had been working toward, building stations for a railway company. But he never forgot what his friends had done to him, and it affected him deeply into adulthood. Now in his late 30s and urged on by his girlfriend, Tsukuru decides to dig into what happened to him as a teenager and discover why his friends pushed him away.

This is a middling Murakami novel, not his best, not his worst. Some reviews described it almost as mundane, but I'm always captivated by his prose, even when it's describing the mundanity of life. This was definitely on the less weird side for him. 4 stars.

(My stats tell me this is only the third book I've read this year written by a man, lol. Not sure that says anything in particular, but I thought it was kind of funny.)

Editado: Mar 13, 5:23 pm

26 ROOTs down: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Elliot's life has never been great -- his father ignores him and has never shown him any sign of love, and as the weird, acerbic, too-smart redhead, he's been beaten up at school for years. So when he goes on a field trip and sees a wall that nobody else can see, he jumps at the chance to go to the Borderlands, the magical land on the other side of that wall, and starts attending magic school, AKA Border Camp. But magic school isn't all it's cracked up to be. First of all, the Borderlands might be full of mythical creatures like harpies and mermaids, but it turns out nobody can actually do magic. Second, Elliot enrolls in the council track at school since he's not into the whole warrior thing, but the jocks are definitely still prioritized in magic land. Third, nobody really likes him in the Borderlands, either -- except Serene, the most perfect, beautiful, talented, intelligent elf, who's breaking barriers by enrolling in both the council AND warrior tracks and being a woman (or rather, female elf) while she does it. For some reason, Serene likes Elliot, and Elliot will do anything to keep his new friend -- even make a reluctant truce with Luke Sunborn, resident warrior golden boy, while they help Serene find her feet and excel at both tracks. But soon, it's been years, and Elliot, Serene, and Luke are still hanging out all the time. Is what Elliot has with Luke still a truce?

This is a super fun send-up of your traditional portal fantasy and magic school book. Elliot isn't your traditional earthling who stumbles into a new situation and suddenly accepts everything; he sees a new world and immediately begins learning everything about it that he possibly can and asking how it works and why things are the way they are. I think this book probably loses a lot of readers in the first 100 pages. Elliot is annoying and there's no way around it. The beauty of it is Elliot's slow growth and maturation that occurs as the book goes on. Brennan does a great job of showing, not telling Elliot's growth, so that it almost sneaks up on you, and before you know it, you care about Elliot and are rooting for him to figure things out. The side characters are also great; I loved Serene and the elves' total reversal of traditional gender roles, and Luke and his family were lots of fun. 4.5 stars.

Mar 13, 5:23 pm

27 ROOTs down: Othello by William Shakespeare

The classic tragedy of love and jealousy. The BBC radio production I listened to was good, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the Shakespeare productions I've listened to from LA TheatreWorks. 4 stars.

Mar 15, 3:29 pm

I just realized I neglected to post two of my ROOTs from the end of February! Here they are:

28 ROOTs down: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

A year ago, at a weekend Scrabble tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Najwa's best friend Trina, the so-called Queen of the Tiles, collapsed on the Scrabble board, suddenly dead. Nobody knew why this otherwise healthy 16 year-old girl died out of the blue, and investigations turned up nothing. Najwa has spent the last year grieving, going to therapy for her panic attacks, trying to remember that day -- it's just a blank in her mind -- and mostly avoiding anything to do with Scrabble. But she can't deny that she loves the game, and she loves words, so now, a year later, she's back at the same tournament, determined to do well for Trina's sake. At first, things are hard. It's tough seeing the old crowd again, and she can feel people talking about her behind her back -- after all, she was Trina's best friend. But when Trina's Instagram account, which has been silent for a year, suddenly posts something new -- an image of a Scrabble rack that can be rearranged to spell REGICIDE -- things get serious. Najwa feels like she's competing against time to figure out what's going on -- and even while she works to solve the mystery, figure out who hacked Trina's account, and if there was foul play involved in her death, she's even more determined than ever to win the tournament and become the new queen of the tiles.

Yes, you heard that right -- Malaysian teen Scrabble tournament murder mystery! I picked this book up based solely on that description and I wasn't disappointed. Alkaf's writing is good and the concept and plot are fresh and interesting, and Najwa's grief feels well done and realistic. I was surprised by the reveal at the end, too. 4 stars.

Mar 15, 3:29 pm

29 ROOTs down: Broken Harbor by Tana French

Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy has never been on Murder Squad to make friends -- he's there to solve cases, and after losing his top solve rate recently to another on the squad, he's determined to make the next one count. So when word comes in of a brutal murder of a family up in Brianstown, a new estate on the Irish Sea formerly known as Broken Harbor where Kennedy's family used to holiday when he was a kid, he's thrilled to land it and get a chance to prove once more that he's the best, even if he has to take his wet-behind-the-ears rookie partner, Ritchie Curran, with him. As the case unfolds and he and his team bring in a suspect who confesses, Kennedy can just anticipate the praise they'll get from the super. But something about their suspect is off, and there are still a few things niggling at Kennedy's brain -- not to mention that Ritchie won't let go of a line of inquiry that Kennedy already dismissed.

Tana French is definitely my favorite mystery author, and the first three Dublin Murder books totally broke me. This one was just as well written and had the same compelling effect on me -- reading these books always makes me uneasy and raises my heartrate so that I often have trouble putting them down. But unlike with the first three books, I just didn't quite... love this one as much? I think French's characters always feel super real because they're always very flawed, but you still root for them and like them. I was rooting for Scorcher, but I never liked him, which didn't mean the book wasn't great, but made it slightly less enjoyable for me. 4.5 stars.

Editado: Mar 17, 8:30 am

>81 curioussquared: I thought this one was really fun when I read it. Especially Elliot trying to bring electronics all the time and then just gently smouldering...

>83 curioussquared: This sounds so fun - off to check the library...

Editado: Mar 17, 11:10 am

>85 Caramellunacy: Yes! And stocking up on ballpoint pens and highlighters 😂 I don't blame him, quills are a pain!

Mar 21, 7:54 pm

30 ROOTs down: Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell

Tennal is a reader, and a powerful one -- he can pick up on the surface thoughts and emotions of those around him, and he can read their minds if he wants to. Not that he would, since it's intrusive and illegal, but that's why readers are generally treated poorly and shunned by society. On the flip side, architects -- those who can write others, forcing them to obey a command -- are accepted and valued, especially in the military. Tennal has been living in the underworld, unwilling to conform to his military family's expectations, but when he finally goes too far, he's dragged back to his legislator aunt and he gets some shocking news: he's being conscripted into the army and being forced into a permanent mental sync bond with Surit Yeni, an architect lieutenant. Surit, meanwhile, isn't sure he wants to bond with a random reader, either -- but this career track will get his alt-parent access to his disgraced mother's military pension years faster, so he's willing to give it a shot. But when Surit and Tennal finally meet and Surit discovers that Tennal is being forced into the bond against his will, he's horrified and shocked at what the military, an organization he has trusted, will do to achieve its goals. With little choice, Surit and Tennal decide to fake their sync -- nobody really knows what it's supposed to look like, right? But they'll soon discover that the military corruption goes far deeper than they expected -- and they might be the only ones in a place to stop it.

This is the follow-up to the author's debut novel Winter's Orbit. Not quite a sequel but set in the same universe. I think I liked Winter's Orbit better, but this was a close second! I loved the slow-burn romance and I thought the worldbuilding was really interesting. 4.5 stars.

Mar 23, 7:32 pm

31 ROOTs down: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

The remarkable story of the Black women computers and engineers who contributed so much to NASA and the space race.

I've wanted to read this every since watching the excellent film adaptation, which I ended up rewatching last night after finishing the book, so I'm in a good position now to compare them. I thought Shetterly did a fantastic job of introducing us to these women, particularly Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, who the film focuses on. The book is able to go into so much more detail that in some ways, it's hard to compare them. It starts in the 40s, when the West Computing Group was formed at Langley and Black women, most of whom were working as math teachers or homemakers, were recruited to do the complicated math behind the airplane designs the white male engineers were working on for WWII. And it goes all the way through the moon landing and Katherine Johnson's contributions on that front. Shetterly even details some events that occurred after the moon landing in the epilogue and bemoans the fact that she didn't have space to include more. The movie, on the other hand, does a really good job of picking one point in time to focus on from the larger historical context (John Glenn's first orbital space flight) and condensing it into a narrative story. In some ways, they had to take license for the story in a way that actually put Langley in a worse light than Shetterly described in the book. For example, Katherine is portrayed as working with an awful group of white men, with the fictional Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) acting as the archetypical racist engineer in charge. While Katherine certainly worked with plenty of racist coworkers, she and Shetterly described her time on that team differently, with Katherine ignoring the restrictions on her race (including ignoring any direction to use a colored bathroom and just using whatever was nearest) and most of the men she worked with sort of following her lead once they grew to respect her drive and calculations. Shetterly also claims that Langley as a whole was an interesting example because the facility desegregated much quicker than the surrounding community -- so the women actually had more freedoms and respect at work than they did in their everyday life. Anyway, I enjoyed both book and film very much -- I was fascinated by a lot of what I learned in the book (as you can see by this long paragraph!) and captivated by the story told in the film. 5 stars.

Mar 24, 5:04 pm

>88 curioussquared: I loved this book too!

Mar 27, 4:15 pm

>89 Jackie_K: I thought it was very well done :)

Mar 27, 4:16 pm

32 ROOTs down: Forest Mage by Robin Hobb

Nevare Burvelle, second son and so destined to be a soldier, has survived the Speck plague that killed many of his classmates at the Kavala Officer's Academy and is looking forward to a trip home for his older brother's wedding. One odd thing, though, is that while most of his classmates who survived the plague are skin and bones, Nevare seems to be gaining weight at an alarming rate. Dismissing it and certain that he'll lose the weight on the arduous journey home, he sets out. But when he arrives, he's surprised to discover that he's fatter than ever, and his family is various turns of shocked, alarmed, and disgusted. His father, ashamed, puts him on a fasting regimen before the wedding and sets him to hard labor, but nothing seems to help and Nevare is eager to get back to school -- until an unexpected letter arrives to inform him that he has been medically discharged due to his weight gain, which the doctor believes is an unusual side effect of the Speck plague. Nevare's father is furious, but soon the Speck plague strikes their home as well, and Nevare finds himself working hard just to bring his family and estate through the onslaught. But none of it is good enough for his father, who casts him out and disowns him once the plague has cooled. At loose ends, Nevare sets out to find some kind of honorable life for himself, deciding to try to enlist as a standard soldier at the furthest army outpost, where men are working to extend the King's Road. Working as a lowly cemetery guard, Nevare begins to realize that something is very wrong in this town, and he's pretty sure it has something to do with the Specks in the nearby forest -- and that his massive weight gain has something to do with the Speck magic.

I love Robin Hobb and have been meaning to reread her Assassin's Apprentice books soon, but this was just too long. Nevare is not the most interesting main character -- he's selfish, and slow to learn, and while he's driven by an internal honor code and does try to make the right choice, he's just... not very good at it. It doesn't help that Nevare's is the only POV we get in all 31 hours of audiobook. I saw some reviews claiming this book was fat shaming, but I think it was actually doing the opposite -- at least 25% of the book is just Nevare been treated poorly or made fun of because of his obesity, and the message that we shouldn't judge people based on their physical appearance or size is very much conveyed. Overall, the book is saved because of Hobb's writing. The characters aren't likeable and the situations you read about aren't enjoyable, but Hobb can still tell a story. I'll finish the trilogy, but probably on audio again because these are just too long and they'll go quicker on audio. If you've been meaning to try Robin Hobb, do NOT start with the Soldier Son trilogy. 3 stars.

Mar 31, 4:47 pm

That's a wrap for March! My next ROOT will probably be Drums of Autumn but it's a chunkster and I'm only 1/3 of the way through. I finished another audiobook yesterday (Spare) but it was a library book so won't list it here.

Feeling pretty good about being more than 50% to my goal only 25% of the way through the year and also making good progress on my list of books I want to read this year at the top of the page (I'm through 14/40).

Abr 6, 5:31 pm

Took a break from Drums of Autumn (only 200 pages left!) to finish a short ROOT:

33 ROOTs down: The Time Garden by Edward Eager

Jack, Ann, Roger, and Eliza aren't excited when their parents leave them at their old relative's house for the summer while they go to the UK to put on Roger and Ann's father's play. They're longing for more magic like they experienced in Knight's Castle, and they're not sure how to find it. But the magic finds them, for when they reach their summer destination, they find a magical garden full of... thyme? But as the magical frog-like creature called a Natterjack tells them, the H is silent, and with the thyme, they can travel in time. The children embark on several adventures and do good deeds and escape from scary situations.

A cute old-fashioned fantasy by the author of Half Magic. These kids are the children of the Half Magic gang. A fun enough diversion with a few interesting episodes. 4 stars.

Abr 6, 6:06 pm

Wow, you read a lot! We have some in common, too. I LOVED A Closed and Common Orbit. And Nona — curious to see if you like it.

Very cute dogs! Happy ROOTing — seems like you've made a ton of progress already!

Abr 7, 12:19 pm

>94 pnppl: Hi, pnppl! Guilty as charged. My ROOTing is only a little more than half my reading so far this year. Becky Chambers and Tamsyn Muir are so excellent.

I'm pretty happy with my ROOTing so far... but I've also already acquired ~40 new unread books this year, so I'm staying pretty level, lol. I'm not good at curbing acquisitions!

Abr 7, 12:50 pm

>93 curioussquared: Oh, how I loved those Eager books when I was a kid!

Abr 7, 1:06 pm

>96 rocketjk: Me, too! I only read Half Magic and Magic by the Lake as a kid, so I'm reading the rest now :)

Abr 11, 3:32 pm

34 ROOTs down: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Newly arrived in the Americas (somewhat accidentally), Claire, Jamie, and young Ian journey through the dangerous new world to find Jamie's aunt and uncle who have settled in North Carolina. Jamie is also tempted by an offer of land of his own -- grants are being given to respectable scotsmen even through the law says they can't be Catholic to receive a land grant. Meanwhile, back in the present day, Brianna and Roger continue to dance around each other, unsure how to move forward in their relationship. Then, Brianna discovers something that leads her to throw caution to the wind and risk everything.

Another epic tale from Gabaldon, almost impossible to review just due to its expansiveness. Suffice to say I enjoyed this one a lot, if maybe slightly less than the previous book, and am looking forward to the next in the series. Roger's sections were a little long and he frustrated me a few times in this volume. 4.5 stars

Abr 11, 3:33 pm

35 ROOTs down: The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik

Now back in the outside world, El must partner with those she made alliances with in the Scholomance (some of whom actually like her? That'll take a while to get used to) to take down an evil force that is destroying enclaves around the world. Along the way, she'll face several terrible truths -- about herself, and about Orion Lake.

Hard to summarize this one without giving anything away but I gave it my best shot! I thought this was a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy. When I read both the first and second books for the first time, I remember wanting so badly to have the next one in my hands right away -- Novik does such a good job of bringing you into El's world and it's hard to leave it each time. I was sick this weekend and decided to use the time to reread the first two books and start this one. I did a book a day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (I took the day off work sick). It was so much fun to binge the series all in a row, even if I wasn't feeling great while I did it. If I had to offer some criticism for this book, it was that I wanted more, almost -- the first two entries are so closed off in the Scholomance. The world is finite and Novik had limited room for expansion (in spite of the endless void). This one, by its very nature, is the total opposite of that. We have the whole world to explore and it's truly a jetsetting book, with stops in Wales, London, Portugal, New York, Dubai, Beijing, India, and probably some other places I'm forgetting. I loved all of it, but there was so much jampacked in that I just wanted more detail than could possibly fit in a ~400 page book. 5 stars.

Abr 14, 4:21 pm

36 ROOTs down: Headlong by Michael Frayn

Martin Clay and his wife Kate are a young British couple from London who have semi-recently purchased a cottage in the country and are taking their newborn daughter to stay there for a few weeks for the first time. Kate is an art historian, and while we don't know much about Martin's work, he has also recently taken an interest in art history and is working on some kind of book of his own on the subject. While in the country, the two are invited to dinner at their neighbors' farm. Tony Church, the neighbor, asks for their opinion on a few old paintings he has inherited and is interested in selling. While a few seem worthless to Martin, the moment he sets eyes on the last one, he's absolutely convinced that it is a lost Breughel from the set of paintings known as The Four Seasons (even though there are five) or The Series of the Months. Rather than telling Tony this, though, Martin's immediate instinct is to not react in order to execute a plan of paying Tony a nominal sum somehow and then claiming the bulk of the profit and the fame from having unearthed a lost masterpiece for himself. Over the course of a few weeks, Martin manages to delude himself into believing he is a genius, much smarter than Tony and even his actual art historian wife, that his amazing plan will make him rich and famous. But then his plan starts to go sideways...

I bought this book back in college while visiting my ex-boyfriend in Rockford, Illinois, at the Half Price Books Outlet there. It was only a dollar, and now I know why. I wouldn't have picked it up except that said ex-boyfriend said he had loved it and it was great, so I bought it. I can say categorically that I did not love this book and it was not great, but I totally know why he liked it. Martin's main character trait is that he considers himself to be better than and smarter than literally everyone around him. He looks down on farmer Tony before even really speaking to him, and considers himself to be much more insightful on the topic of art history than his degree-holding, actual art historian wife, even though he has just really started dabbling of his own accord. His second character trait is that he is someone who believes that nothing is actually his fault and that anything that goes wrong or against him is something that is happening TO him, and not because of him. Unfortunately, these are both traits that he shares with my ex-boyfriend, lol -- he's still one of the smartest people I've ever met, but over the four years or so I knew him, he barely managed to get anything done because of a fundamental laziness and lack of ambition that he always turned into the odds being stacked against him. So I imagine it was quite easy for him to identify with the character of Martin. Anyway, don't read this book unless you want to watch a spineless, ego-inflated idiot hurt himself, his wife, and his neighbors for no reason other than his own greed and mostly get away with it. 1.5 stars -- there were at least a few bits where I learned some stuff about art history.

Abr 18, 4:49 pm

37 ROOTs down: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Tells the story of Bennie Salazar, a record label executive, and his assistant Sasha, a kleptomaniac with a troubled past, through a series of interconnected short stories -- almost character studies -- that jump around in time.

I enjoyed this! "Interconnected short stories" are not normally my thing but Egan's writing draws you in and I was engaged in figuring out each character's deal with each new scenario. 4 stars.

Abr 21, 4:47 pm

38 ROOTs down: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

Kiki Banjo is the ice queen of Whitewell College. She notoriously doesn't date, but she does play excellent music and dispense even more excellent dating advice on her Brown Sugar college radio show that she runs with her best (and only) friend, Aminah. Kiki's one vice is her hookups with Zack, who she's sworn off anyway. But then, a new guy enters the scene: Malakai Korede, transfer student, and he seems... different. When Kiki's mentor professor encourages her to partner with a new student in order to increase her radio listenership and gain admission to a study abroad opportunity in New York, Kiki is skeptical. She's even more skeptical when that new student turns out of course to be Malakai. But as they start talking, Kiki realizes she may have misjudged him. Soon, the two have entered into a fake relationship that will hopefully benefit them both by helping Kiki boost listeners and Malakai use the material for a new short film he's making on relationships. But as their friendship grows, Kiki starts to wonder just what's so fake about their relationship -- and she just might be forced to drop the ice queen front.

This book had a lot going on. The writing is stylistically really pretty and interesting; almost poetic in some spots. I really enjoyed the prose overall! I did have problems when the stylized prose bled into the dialogue; I have a lot of trouble believing that ANYBODY talks like these characters, let alone 20 year old college students. Overall, I enjoyed the story a lot, but was taken out a few times by the dialogue and a few plot points that felt very first novel-y. I would still read another book by Babalola, though. And I want the fake fantasy book series that Kiki likes to be real! 3.5 stars.

Abr 24, 2:55 pm

39 ROOTs down: The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

In a world where witches are divided in their powers by seasonal affinities, Clara Densmore is a once-in-a-lifetime miracle -- she's an everwitch, a witch who can use the power of all four seasons instead of just one. Not much is known about everwitches, as the last one lived 100 years ago, but theoretically, Clara should be able to control the power of the witches around her to complete larger magic workings than she and the other witches could do alone. And it's a power that's desperately needed. Witches work with the earth and the weather to maintain the natural balance, but as climate change accelerates, the world and the weather have been growing more and more out of balance, and wildfires and other natural disasters have increased to the point that the witch community is having trouble controlling things. But Clara's magic has never been her friend -- the power within her is so strong that it will sometimes lash out, even killing people close to her. Clara's training is at a standstill, and she's not sure how to move forward, so her school brings in new teachers -- a teacher from the California magic school, and his advanced studies student, Sang, a botany specialist who can project calmness with his magic. Clara and Sang begin to train together, with Sang using his calming abilities to help Clara feel more confident in her powers, and Clara begins to make great strides -- and she and Sang figure out new ways to use her powers. But as Clara's control grows, so does her attraction to Sang. It's mutual, but Clara knows what happens when people get close to her -- they die. As Clara struggles with her feelings and her instinct to protect Sang, the weather patterns start growing worse, and soon, Clara will have to make some choices about her future.

I'm not sure I did a great job summarizing us, but this was an enjoyable and fresh YA fantasy. I thought the seasonal weather magic was an interesting system and Clara's growth was believable and realistic. There was one leap at the end of the novel that felt a little unexplained, but it didn't affect my overall enjoyment. 4 stars.

ETA - with this finished, I'm halfway through my list of books to read this year at the top of the thread!

Abr 25, 2:20 pm

40 ROOTs down: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

It's the 1920s and Jade Yeo, a Malaysian journalist living alone in London, wants something more from her life. When she writes a scathing review of a novel and publishes it in her friend Ravi's journal, the author, Sebastian Hardie, finds her and takes an interest in her. Suddenly, Jade finds that she may encounter that "something more" sooner than she bargained for, and it might be more than she was intending to bite off.

This is a short, eminently readable novella; I think it's one of Cho's earlier works, but I found it just as compelling as Sorcerer to the Crown, my favorite of her books I've read. This one is straight historical fiction rather than historical fiction with a splash of fantasy. Jade is the main focus, of course, and I enjoyed getting inside her mind. 4 stars.

Abr 30, 11:40 pm

41 ROOTs down: The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Thea Kronberg lives with her Swedish immigrant family in the small town of Moonstone, Colorado. She has a talent for music, and takes piano lessons from the once-competent, now drunk Munch who lives in their town. The residents of Moonstone recognize Thea's talent, and her parents encourage it, but most people think her success will be limited to becoming the town's new piano teacher. But when a surprise windfall enables Thea to go truly devote herself to her studies in Chicago, Thea's new teacher recognizes her true talent -- for voice, not piano. Defying expectations of young women at the turn of the century, Thea continues to devote herself fully to her art -- and her passion and commitment might allow her to go all the way.

This book feels like more of a character study than a novel in some ways, and it's unique for that reason -- how many books from the early 1900s do we have that followed the development of a talented young woman into a successful artist, with (spoiler alert) nothing really bad or tragic happening along the way? As it drew to a close I felt like I could have used a little more conflict, but overall, I enjoyed this story, and Cather's writing is a delight. 4 stars.

Maio 1, 1:59 pm

42 ROOTs down: Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov

In the fictional city of Padukgrad, only philosopher Adam Krug stands up to the sinister new government led by Paduk, an old schoolmate of Krug's. Krug has recently lost his wife and hasn't been able to bring himself to tell his young son. Krug is uninterested and unwilling to participate in the new regime, but even as he tries to withdraw, Paduk continues to pursue him, slowly arresting and taking away those friends who supported Krug. But Krug isn't ready for Paduk's final attack...

This took me SO long to read. I like Nabokov, but this one didn't quite work for me. I was lost for the first half of the book. It seemed to pick up for me a little before the halfway mark, and I was able to get a little more absorbed and start appreciating the writing again, which is always my favorite part of a Nabokov. But the book didn't really manage to redeem itself, and the end was horrifying. 3 stars, which feels generous after typing out this review, lol.

Maio 10, 6:57 pm

43 ROOTs down: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri is just your average con artist living in Cairo (who also has mysterious healing powers she tries to keep hidden) when one day, she accidentally summons a djinn -- and a bunch of ifrit demons, as well. Reluctantly, she flees the city with the djinn -- actually a daeva, named Dara -- and the two race to the city of Daevabad, city of brass, where theoretically Nahri, whose powers indicate she is the heir to a lost tribe of daeva healers, will be safe. But Dara is cagey about Daevabad, saying only that he will not be welcome there due to his past. Meanwhile, Ali, second warrior son of the ruler of Daevabad, is determined to work around his traditional family and improve the lot of the shafit, those of mixed djinn and human blood. When Nahri finally makes it to Daevabad, it becomes clear that Dara has been hiding some things from her -- and it becomes harder and harder to know who to trust.

I feel like I'm missing something with this book. I pretty much only see great reviews. I liked a lot of things about it -- the basis in middle eastern culture, the city of Daevabad, many of the characters -- but I had trouble getting truly invested in the plot and I felt like it was way too long. Nothing much happened until halfway through when the main characters finally meet. Definitely felt like a first novel. I will probably continue the series, but I'm thinking I'll listen to book 2 instead of reading it in print. 3.5 stars.

Maio 18, 5:28 pm

44 ROOTs down: Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

A collection of stories inspired by Jane Austen in some way. Some are set directly in the worlds of her novels, some are contemporary retellings, some are ghost stories, some are based off Jane's life. As with all anthologies, the quality varies. My mom got me this for Christmas like, over a decade ago and I never picked it up because short stories generally aren't my thing, but I decided to finally read it to fulfill the PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt of "Started as Fanfiction."

My favorite stories were
- Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss, essentially regency fluff with a loose Jane connection, but relatively well done
- Jane Austen, Yeah Yeah Yeah, in which young schoolgirls discover Austen's merits with a backdrop of Beatlesmania
- What Would Austen Do, a contemporary story about high school student James Austen who signs up for a summer dance class and is sent to the principal because his regency manners make the school worry he's doing drugs
- The Love Letter, a modern-day Persuasion-inspired story. My only quibble was when the main character ran out of his medical board exams to go chase after his love. Maybe I'm not romantic enough, but you've been in med school for YEARS. Your declarations can wait 6 hours.

Among the less good:
- Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane -- Jane's wishes to a niece upon her wedding day. Boring, saccharine, nothing of Jane in the words.
- The Mysterious Closet, in which a woman takes a solo trip to stay at a refurbished abbey, stays in "The Radcliffe Suite," and surprise, meets Ghost Henry Tilney in the night. Except he's very real and entirely unexplained. Then she just... stays with him?? There's zero plot to this one. I love supernatural, but there need to be rules.
- Intolerable Stupidity -- An entirely incomprehensible story about a courtroom trial defending Austen's characters from all the changes made to them in modern day adaptations and retellings.

3.5 stars.

Maio 18, 5:29 pm

Not a great month for ROOTs so far as most of my reading has been audiobooks, which are usually library books for me. I've been playing a lot of video games (Zelda Breath of the Wild and then Zelda Tears of the Kingdom once it came out 5/12) and my husband caught a bad case of COVID this past weekend, so most household stuff has been falling to me. Hoping to get at least 2-3 more completed this month but we'll see!

Maio 24, 2:42 pm

45 ROOTs down: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

When Jamie Gray is laid off from his tech job right as the COVID pandemic hits, his options are limited, and he ends up in a dead-end job as a food delivery driver for a Doordash competitor. By chance, he delivers food to an old acquaintance, Tom, and after running into him a few times, Tom lets Jamie know that his company, an "animal rights organization," has a last-minute job vacancy. It's not glamorous work, mostly lifting things, but at this point, Jamie and his roommates are going to be evicted if they don't get some cash flow soon, so Jamie doesn't ask questions and gratefully accepts the job. Little does he know what he's signed up for...

I loved this! Scalzi describes it in his acknowledgments as "a pop song of a book" and that's exactly what it is -- catchy and fun. Probably the first book I've read that deals heavily with the pandemic but remains totally lighthearted despite it. 5 stars.

Maio 24, 2:42 pm

46 ROOTs down: A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

This sequel to A Marvellous Light throws us into entirely uncharted waters with new protagonists: Maud, Robin's sister, who has been tasked by her brother and Edwin with escorting Mrs. Navenby, one of the keepers of a piece of the Last Contract, back to England from the US via ship. And Violet, former subject of scandal turned burlesque performer in the US now turned surprise heiress, who is on her way back to England to claim her new fortune on the same ship. But when Mrs. Navenby is killed and her rooms ransacked within hours of boarding the ship, before she had any chance to even think about telling Maud which of her possessions held the piece of the contract, Maud finds herself in trouble. Determined not to disappoint her brother, Maud makes fast friends with magician Violet and, well, if not friends, then fast allies with Lord Hawthorn, an irritable former magician who has lost his magic. Who could the murderer be? They know one thing -- the killer is still on the ship, and the contract piece is, too.

See how I did a nice summary for you all up there? Well, this book doesn't do that. It opens in media res in a bad way, with no explanation of how Maud got to be where she is, and only pieces coming together over the first 50-100 pages of the book. Sometimes I get frustrated when books have too much recap in them, but this one had the opposite problem. Once I had situated myself I was able to enjoy the story more, but Maud and Violet never quite captured my heart in the same way that Robin and Edwin did, and while the ship setting was unique and fun and made it a sort of big locked room mystery, it was also very limiting in what the characters could do and where they could go. I'm excited for all the characters to come together in book 3, as I think the cast will be more balanced that way. This wasn't a bad book, it was just something of a sophomore slump for me, especially since A Marvellous Light was one of my top books from last year. I'm still planning on preordering book 3. 3.75ish stars? Would have been more except for the weird lack of context at the beginning.

Maio 29, 1:22 pm

47 ROOTs down: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

In a small Southern town during the depression, John Singer, a deaf mute, loses his only companion when he is sent to an asylum. Singer moves into a boarding house in town. There, four very different people -- a 14 year-old girl, an itinerant worker, a local cafe owner, and a Black doctor -- gravitate toward Singer, spending time talking with him in his room and feeling refreshed with the way they can unburden themselves to him. But Singer has his own problems...

This is a beautifully written book, and also a very sad one. As the title hints, it's almost an exploration of loneliness and its different forms. I knew it wasn't going to end well, and it was a little hard to read because of that, but the beauty of the prose kept hitting me again and again. I can't believe McCullers published this at the age of 23. 4.5 stars.

Maio 29, 1:44 pm

48 ROOTs down: Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Kat and Stevie are best friends and seniors in high school who spend most of their time involved in the theater department -- after all, Mr. Campbell demands absolute devotion if you want good parts. The cast list for King Lear was supposed to go up on Friday afternoon, but Mr. Campbell is late, and Kat is frustrated -- theater is her life and she's dead-set on playing Cordelia. Stevie is upset, too, but more because her dad was supposed to take her out to dinner in the city that night for her birthday and, just like the last two times, he flaked out and cancelled. Things haven't been the same since her parents' divorce and her dad's new marriage and three new stepkids. The dinner reservation is still available, though, and Kat and Stevie cook up a devious plan -- what if they go into the city themselves? Alone? Stevie takes some convincing, but soon they're on the train in from Connecticut, making plans for their evening before the late dinner reservation. But as soon as they arrive at Grand Central, things start to go wrong, and they're both in for a life-changing night.

I've read a bunch of Matson's books and would classify most of them as romances; The Unexpected Everything is one of my favorite YA romances that I can read over and over. This one had romance but felt more like a friendship/coming of age book. I enjoyed it! You have to suspend a little bit of disbelief; there are a lot of coincidences, but nothing felt TOO over the top -- it just gave the book a little sense of fun. Kat and Stevie both grew in realistic ways but also still felt like real teenagers. Overall, not my favorite ever Matson, but a fun read. I also loved Brad and the Teri interludes. 4 stars.

Maio 31, 12:09 pm

49 ROOTs down: Sula by Toni Morrison

Nel and Sula are two girls who grow up together in the small town of Medallion, Ohio. Through the years, their relationship changes, as each grows in different directions.

I found this difficult to summarize; it's at once a small story, of two girls, and a larger story of the community of Medallion and Nel and Sula's past and futures. It's all told in Morrison's wonderful prose, so of course I loved it. Not quite as heartbreaking to read as Beloved or The Bluest Eye, so maybe a slightly easier entry to Morrison. I will say, though, that I've owned this book since I was a freshman or sophomore in high school when I bought it for an optional book club at school. I never ended up finishing it, and reading it as an adult, I can see why -- I think that because this is a story about growing up and changing, it's harder to read and comprehend the messages as a young person. 4.5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:23 pm

Hello, fellow ROOTers! I got back a few days ago from a vacation in Italy which was lovely apart from awful air travel (missed connections both there and back) and a nasty cold. I managed to get to quite a few ROOTs while plane-ing and train-ing and a little bit of beach-ing, so reviews incoming!

Jun 21, 7:23 pm

50 ROOTs down: The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

Years ago, there was the Event, in which all of the animals in a certain radius in the UK were anthropomorphized and became humanoid. While several types of animals were affected, these days it's mostly the rabbits one sees around, as the original rabbits affected by the event retained their breeding habits, and now a sizeable population of anthropomorphic rabbits live in the UK. They're treated as secondhand citizens as most humans are worried about their own race being eventually replaced by the quickly reproducing rabbits. Our protagonist, Peter Knox, works for the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce as a spotter, being one of the few humans who can tell the rabbits apart. He's always felt vaguely guilty about his job -- generally he's actually quite sympathetic to the rabbits, and even was friends with one called Constance back in university. When Constance and her family move into the house next door, Peter is surprised and a little worried -- he maintains a carefully cultivated neutral/negative rabbit stance to placate his neighbors, and Connie's presence threatens to blow his cover. But Peter soon has bigger things to worry about as he watches his life slowly begin to spiral out of control, at work and at home.

I'm not usually one for allegories, but Jasper Fforde really can't miss. I don't think I would have enjoyed this by another author, but Fforde manages to expertly satirize a whole slew of relevant social topics -- racism, Brexit, local politics, xenophobia, animal cruelty, etc etc -- while still writing an entertaining and interesting story. This is one I recommend picking up even if the concept does not sound appealing to you -- it wasn't appealing to me but I trusted in Fforde and had a great time. 4 stars.

Jun 21, 7:23 pm

51 ROOTs down: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Set in medieval Russia. Vasya's mother died when she was born, but before she did, she predicted her daughter would have some of the magical powers her mother did. As Vasya grows, it becomes clear she is different. She spends hours in the nearby forest, and she talks to the spirits she meets in nature, as well as the friendly household spirits in the kitchen and stables. All is well until Vasya's father decides his children need a mother and takes a new wife, Anna, who also sees the spirits -- and fears them as demons, taking refuge in her Christian faith. Vasya and Anna naturally clash, and their conflict only grows when a new priest is sent to their town from Moscow, one who listens to Anna and sees it as his sacred duty to rid these people of the demons among them. But there are dark powers in the woods, and as the spirits grow weaker as the villagers are convinced to turn away from the old ways, the darkness grows every stronger...

I loved this! Arden uses folklore in her writing in the best way, and the prose was beautiful. I felt it was slightly slow to start, but once I was into the story, I couldn't put it down. My only other minor quibble was the ending -- the ending reads like a standalone book, even though this is apparently a trilogy, which I'm not mad about. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the series. It just felt like the ending didn't quite suit the fact that it was a series. Not really a big deal, though, and gives people the opportunity to end here if they prefer. 4.5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:24 pm

52 ROOTs down: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Katherine has never fit in with the other children at school -- for one thing, her father is the school principal, which is alienating enough. And she has always preferred the company of books. One day on her way home, her feet take her in a different direction, and she stumbles upon a tree with a door in it. When she opens the door and goes through, she's transported to a different world, the world of the goblin market, where one must never tell others their name, and where one must always be sure to settle one's debts and give fair value. There, Katherine becomes Lundy, and while the world is harsh, she begins to love it and thrive. But there is a darker side to the world she loves, and Lundy must tread carefully...

Possibly my favorite entry in the Wayward Children series so far! I talked about it with my best friend and she commented that she thinks she would have enjoyed it more if she didn't know how it ended. I had totally forgotten Lundy was a character in the first book, so I was blissfully unaware of the ending going in. Benefits of reading things far apart! I loved the details of the goblin market world, and the characters Lundy meets there. 4.5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:24 pm

53 ROOTs down: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

This book follows two half-siblings -- Paul, who has never lived up to his potential and struggles with addiction, and Vincent, who has never quite recovered from the tragic drowning of her mother. They grew up separately for the most part, aside from a few moments of intersection. Vincent's childhood was particularly remote, in a small town off Vancouver Island accessible only by boat. As a young adult, Vincent finds herself in Caiette again, working as a bartender at the luxury hotel in town. When a night cleaner job opens up, she manages to secure the position for Paul, and for a time, the two work together. It's while they're both working at the hotel that a startling graffiti incident occurs, shaking up the guests and staff. After the graffiti, their lives diverge again, with Vincent entering into a marriage of convenience with a wealthy CEO of an investment firm, and Paul again struggling to find his place in the world.

I think I bought this with no idea of what it was about after reading Station Eleven, so imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a fictionalized account of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Not my normal fare, and I imagine many readers expecting something like Station Eleven were disappointed, but while this wasn't my favorite book in the world, I still flew through it. Mandel's characterizations and writing are just as strong as ever and are what carried the book for me. 4 stars.

Jun 21, 7:24 pm

54 ROOTs down: Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

For years, Ximena has served as the Condesa's decoy, protecting the real Condesa, Catalina, from threats since their people were forced from their home when the Llacsans took over. They've managed to stay hidden due to their general's magic, but now she's missing, and they're running out of supplies. When the Llacsan ruler demands the Condesa's hand in marriage in exchange for returning their captured general, Ximena knows she must go in Catalina's place. After all, infiltrating the Llacsans from the inside might be the only way she can find the location of their secret weapon. As Ximena faces her enemy head on, she learns more about the Llacsans -- their way of life, why they took power -- and as she stares her enemy in the face, she learns more about herself, too.

A competent debut YA fantasy with a unique setting and basis in Bolivian culture and myths, which is the reason I originally picked it up -- I'm a quarter Bolivian :) For me, those parts were the strongest bits of the book. I thought the culture and language were expertly woven in and provided a fresh-feeling setting for the story. The plotting and character writing suffered a little from first book syndrome, but not to the point that I didn't enjoy reading it. I also thought Ximena's weaving powers were really interesting and different. Unsure whether I'll read the companion novel. 3.5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:25 pm

55 ROOTs down: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

This is a book primarily about stories and their power, and the people who love stories. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is spending J-term on his grad school campus ignoring his thesis paper and instead reading everything he can get his hands on from the library. One day, he stumbles upon a strange little volume with no marked author, seemingly misshelved ages ago and forgotten. When he goes to check it out, the librarian is a little confused as the bar code doesn't work and there's no record of the book in their system, but she lets him take it out anyway. Zachary finds himself drawn to the slim volume and starts reading immediately -- and he's even more drawn in when he discovers that he is a character in the book. As Zachary starts searching for more information about the strange book, he starts to get the feeling that he's disturbing something he shouldn't -- and that he might be in over his head.

As a very fast reader, I sometimes have trouble with books that forcibly slow you down and make you take your time, which this definitely is. I found it a little difficult to get into at first for this reason, but eventually the structure started working for me and I ended up getting very into it. It reminded me quite a bit of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and I thought it was interesting that they came out the same year. I think Morgenstern's novel was ultimately more successful for me than Harrow's; I was impressed with the way Morgenstern interwove the complex threads of her story and brought them together in the end. 4.5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:25 pm

56 ROOTs down: You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Five years ago, Feyi lost her husband in a tragic car accident, and she's finally ready to consider moving on. As she dips her toes into the dating scene again, what's supposed to be a casual relationship quickly grows more serious and Feyi finds herself in a dream, whisked away on a trip to a luscious tropical island to meet her boyfriend's family and take advantage of an opportunity to promote her art. But the island trip comes with unexpected complications as Feyi finds herself trying to navigate a battle between her head and her heart.

I didn't know anything about this book going into it except that it was Akwaeke Emezi does a romance, which was surprising to me based on the only other book I've read by them, Pet, and that it was fairly popular in BookTok circles. I'm really glad I didn't know much about it because I was totally drawn in and surprised by the twists and turns it took. Akwaeke managed to make me root for a romance that I was initially opposed to, which I think says a lot for their writing. The reviews of this book seem to be fairly polarizing -- you either love it or you don't. It was 5 stars for me.

Jun 21, 7:26 pm

57 ROOTs down: The Martian by Andy Weir

When Mark Watney's Mars mission goes awry, he and his fellow team members prepare to abort the mission and leave the planet early -- but during their escape, Mark is hit by debris and his team members, believing him to be dead, must leave him behind. But miraculously, Mark survives. His continued survival, however, will depend on his grit and ingenuity, as he tries to figure out how he will ever get back to Earth. His only chance will be to meet up with the next planned Mars mission, scheduled four years from now and miles away. But he has more immediate problems than getting there, as he doesn't have nearly enough food or water to last that long or any way to communicate with Earth.

This book had its heyday before I really started getting into sci-fi and it didn't really appeal to me at first, so I never got around to it. But after hearing nothing but praise, I finally decided to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. This was a perfect airplane book -- unputdownable and distracting enough to make me forget I was in a middle seat on a ten hour flight. It's impossible not to root for Mark and I was holding my breath alongside NASA. 5 stars.

Jun 21, 7:26 pm

58 ROOTs down: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

Trisha Raje is a neurosurgeon and the young star of her department -- but she's anything but a star with her family members. At home, she's excluded from her brother's campaign for governor of California because of a mistake she made years ago that almost cost him his career. As the campaign ramps up, though, Trisha is determined to be more involved and make up for past mistakes, even though she's busy at work trying to convince a patient to accept a life-saving surgery that will leave her blind. Trisha will get her chance as her sister, her brother's campaign manager, needs Trisha's help covering for her unexpectedly. Trisha is instructed to work with DJ, the caterer for an upcoming fundraising event. Too bad she already accidentally insulted him. DJ doesn't like Trisha, but he desperately needs this job to pay for his sister's -- Trisha's patient -- medical bills. Will Trisha and DJ be able to get past their differences to work together?

This... was fine. I think it honestly would have been stronger if it wasn't billed as a P&P retelling, because it really didn't succeed in that regard. It was WAY too long (500 pages for a romance is too much) and set-up took forever. The second half was better for me than the first. It was sort of a P&P retelling, but genderswapped, but also disregarded a lot of the plot and changed some points. Maybe if I had gone into it with the idea that it was inspired by P&P rather than a retelling I would have liked it more? I did enjoy some of the side characters and the family, but I didn't love the two main characters, especially Trisha. Also, the random addition of a clairvoyant cousin was odd to me. I also read this for the SPL book bingo prompt of "includes a recipe" and got frustrated because there were no recipes, until the bonus content at the very end -- not sure if that counts, but I'm counting it because I made it through this book. Anyway. I own the second book in the series but unless someone can tell me that it's better (Recipe for Persuasion) I might just give it away unread. 3 stars.

Jun 22, 2:58 pm

59 ROOTs down: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

As a child, Dora was almost taken by a Faerie, Lord Hollowvale -- but her cousin Vanessa saved her with the touch of cold iron, and Lord Hollowvale managed only to take half of her soul. Since then, Dora has lived with one foot in and one foot out of faerie, with only half a soul in the human world. She is present, but she is strange and has trouble fitting in -- she often does not react appropriately to social situations, and her emotions seem to be a pale imitation of what they should be. Only her cousin Vanessa sticks up for her and continues to love her as she always did, so when Vanessa and her aunt make plans to go to London for the season and find a husband for Vanessa, Vanessa insists Dora must come along. London is strange, and Dora doesn't fit in with the rest of the Ton. But it soon becomes clear why Vanessa wanted Dora to come so badly -- she is convinced the Lord Sorcier, the rude and offputting Elias Wilder, can cure her cousin. Soon, Dora is getting to know the Lord Sorcier much better than she expected, and she begins to wonder if he is not quite so unpleasant as everyone thinks.

This read as a combination of Bridgerton and a lighter Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I loved every minute of it. Really fun to read, and it had a surprise social justice angle that I thought was well done. I'm really looking forward to reading other books in the series. 4.5 stars.

Jun 22, 3:37 pm

>115 curioussquared: Oh no, hope you feel better soon! I saw my sister last week after she had a holiday at Lake Garda, and she had a horrific cold too. I guess there must be something nasty going round Italy.

>116 curioussquared: This is on my TBR, I love Jasper Fforde. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one!

Jun 27, 6:29 pm

>123 curioussquared: The space pirate logic in The Martian made me so happy!

Jun 28, 12:11 pm

>126 Jackie_K: Thanks, Jackie! Fortunately I did feel mostly better once we got home; unfortunately I was sick for about 10 days of our 16 day trip. I hope you enjoy The Constant Rabbit! I always enjoy his books even if the premise doesn't seem attractive to me, like this one.

>127 Caramellunacy: Me too, Caramel!

Jul 6, 3:32 pm

60 ROOTs down: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

In essays on topics ranging from the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" to Staph infections to wintry mix, John Green shares his unique way of looking at the world and rates each strange aspect of humanity on a five star scale.

What a lovely book! I've loved John Green ever since I first read Looking for Alaska in high school, and this book only reinforced that love. I think John is a person who thinks WAY more philosophically than I do, and takes life a lot more seriously, so I was a teeny bit worried I would be bogged down by some of his musings in this book. Luckily, that was not the case at all -- the short chapters kept things from getting too dark, and I couldn't help sharing bits and pieces of what I was reading with my friends and family I was hanging out with this weekend. 5 stars.

Jul 6, 3:33 pm

61 ROOTs down: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A year ago, your socialite Noemi's cousin Catalina married a mysterious man named Virgil and moved to his family home in the mountains. Now, Noemi's father has received a disconcerting letter from Catalina, a letter that suggests that Catalina is deeply unwell or out of her mind with the impossible things it describes. Worried, Noemi travels to Virgil's home, a dank, rotting mansion called High Place, appropriately named for its high-up home on a mountain shrouded with suffocating mist. At High Place, Noemi is greeted by Virgil, his stiff, serious aunt Florence, his quiet and obedient cousin Francis, and the family patriarch, Howard, who is very old and very ill. Catalina is there, but she's not the girl Noemi once knew, and in the limited time Noemi is allowed to see her, Catalina insists that everything is fine and she was delirious with fever when she wrote that letter. Nobody at High Place takes Noemi's concerns seriously, and Virgil is almost offended that Noemi would think Catalina is not getting the best care from the family doctor. Noemi stays at High Place, trying to make a plan to get Catalina outside care, but the longer she stays, the more disturbed she becomes, with her sleep interrupted by disturbing dreams and her waking hours filled with uncomfortable interactions with Florence and tours of the English cemetery. Noemi is lost, helpless, and alone -- could Francis be an ally? What rot truly lies at the roots of High Place?

I'm a little surprised this is such a hit on BookTok -- I enjoyed it overall, but found it very slow to start. Moreno-Garcia definitely pays homage to the classic gothic novels while also creating something more on the side of speculative horror -- I won't say more to avoid spoilers. I think this would be best read in one sitting, if you have the time, which of course most people don't. 3.75 stars.

Jul 6, 3:34 pm

Woohoo, and that's my goal! Just over halfway through the year :) And I've read more of my own books than library books this year so far, which I really want to keep up -- I'm at 114 total :) Hopefully I can keep up the pace!

Jul 7, 4:11 am

>131 curioussquared: Congratulations! That is quite the achievement!

Jul 7, 11:40 am

>132 MissWatson: Thanks, Birgit! Right now I'm on track for my best reading year ever in terms of quantity. We'll see how the rest of the year goes.

Jul 7, 6:01 pm

Awesome work on meeting your goal!

Jul 7, 6:24 pm

Jul 14, 7:59 am

>129 curioussquared: I have this on my TBR, and I'm looking forward to it even more now I know how much you enjoyed it!
>131 curioussquared: Congratulations on reaching your goal!

Jul 14, 11:41 am

>136 Jackie_K: I hope you like it, Jackie :) And thanks!

Jul 19, 4:41 pm

62 ROOTs down: The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos

Book 2 in the Mirror Visitor Quartet. When Ophelia is finally taken to be introduced to Farouk, the ancestral spirit of her fiance Thorn's home of Pole, Farouk awards her the title of Vice Storyteller, a position she decidedly does not want -- but she has no choice but to accept. The position also has the effect of putting her and her gift of reading the memories of objects front and center of the court at Citaceleste, the floating city where Farouk makes his home. As she struggles to perform her Vice Storyteller duties, Ophelia begins receiving anonymous threatening letters, and she suspects they may be related the the disappearances of various courtiers of Citaceleste. Unsure who to trust, Ophelia isn't sure where to turn. Thorn has never been helpful -- but is he reliable? And why does Farouk want Thorn to read his ancestral spirit book?

Apologies if the above summary makes zero sense. These books are complex and part of the fun of them is deciphering the strange world of Pole along with Ophelia, but that also means that 2 books in, you are DEEP in the world. I think some things are becoming clearer at the end of book 2 and I'm looking forward to book 3! These have a peculiar writing style that draws you in but also keeps you almost at a slight distance -- perhaps to enhance the foreignness Ophelia feels being at Pole. 4.5 stars.

Jul 19, 4:41 pm

63 ROOTs down: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Gangulis move from Calcutta to Massachusetts for Ashok's job, alone in a new country and trying to both fit in and preserve their culture. There, they welcome their first son. But something goes wrong, and the letter from Ashima's grandmother containing the baby's name never arrives. Forced to name the child before they leave the hospital and still expecting that the letter with the baby's good name will arrive eventually, the Gangulis decide he will have the pet name Gogol, after the Russian writer whose book Ashok was clutching when he almost died in a train accident years earlier. Gogol goes on the birth certificate, and the strange name will shape Gogol's life as he grows into a young man and grapples with his Indian heritage and American upbringing.

I loved this. Many of the same themes as Interpreter of Maladies, but this doesn't feel like a rehash of that collection. Lahiri's writing grabs you and makes you live her characters' lives -- reading one of her books is always immersive. 5 stars.

Jul 19, 4:56 pm

64 ROOTs down: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

After an encounter with a mysterious seed, Fatima becomes Sankofa, the adopted daughter of death, with the terrible power to take life from those around her. Accompanied by her fox companion, she walks from village to village in search of the seed that was stolen from her and that granted her these powers she does not want, searching for answers and her place in the world.

This is almost like... a sci-fi fable? It's set in a near-future, more technologically advanced world, but the story itself has the feel of folklore. I enjoyed it, even if there isn't much resolution. 4 stars.

Jul 20, 2:55 pm

65 ROOTs down: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Ari Abrams was thrilled to land her job as a meteorologist at KSEA three years ago, especially since her idol, local celebrity meteorologist Torrance Hale, would be her boss. Well, they say never to meet your heroes, right? Ari loves her job, but hates the atmosphere at the studio. Torrance doesn't invest in Ari's career or do any kind of mentoring at all, instead spending her time bickering with her ex-husband, Seth, the studio manager. Lately their fights have been getting worse, culminating in a Christmas party to remember when Torrance throws Seth's Emmy through a window. Ari and Russell, one of the sports reporters, have always made small talk about how bad their bosses are, but never really gone deeper than that. After the Christmas party, they stay at the hotel bar, drinking and complaining until 2 am -- and hatching a devious plan. Ari's pretty sure Torrance and Seth still have a spark for each other, so she and Russell decide to join forces and Parent Trap their bosses. As they set up scheme after scheme, they start to become actual friends rather than just people who work together. Soon, Ari can't help wondering if they could be something more...

I wanted to read something light after my long, stressful work day yesterday and picked this up around 4pm. I finished it before I went to bed at 11pm in between walking the dogs and watching two episodes of TV with Tim. It sucked me in and wouldn't let me go! This is a sweet romcom with characters who reminded me a little bit of the main couples from The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I don't usually go for workplace romances (especially after reading the disaster that is The Hating Game), but it wasn't an issue for me in this book at all. I loved that the third act drama wasn't based on miscommunication, but each of the main characters acting in a certain way that they come to realize maybe wasn't logical once they work through their feelings. I thought the treatment of depression was realistic without taking over the story or making it less fluffy, which made the characters feel more real to me. Also, Elodie was super cute. 5 stars -- maybe not a perfect book, but I was so immersed that it felt perfect while reading. Highly recommended if you're looking for your next romance novel.

Jul 31, 11:40 am

66 ROOTs down: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer, a fictionalized version of the author, takes a trip to Ukraine to discover his heritage and possibly find Augustine, a woman who may have saved his grandfather from Nazis. In the Ukraine, he meets up with Alex, his unlikely guide and translator, a young man who has studied English in school and manages to butcher each sentence in the most creative ways. They are accompanied by Alex's grandfather and the dog Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.. As they journey across Ukraine together in search of Jonathan's past, they learn more about each other and discover some things that have long been hidden.

This started out well for me but kind of lost the thread by the end. I was captivated by the writing style and two different lenses through which Foer was telling the story, but wanted those stories to come together a little more strongly in the end. I did really enjoy how the sections Alex narrated were written. 3.5 stars.

Jul 31, 11:40 am

67 ROOTs down: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends make up The Thursday Murder Club, which meets secretly in the Jigsaw room each week under the guise of the Japanese Opera club -- to make sure nobody unwanted will show up. There's Elizabeth, whose exotic past means she has connections everywhere; Ron, former union organizer and current loudmouth; Ibrahim, a psychologist; and the newest member, Joyce, a retired, rather lonely nurse who wishes her daughter would visit more. The club started with Penny, a retired detective inspector, who recruited the group to look into cold cases together, and has continued even though it seems that Penny may not wake up again. All four members are surprised when a real murder happens in their midst, and immediately take it upon themselves to do a little good-faith investigating despite the protests of the police.

This has been so hyped everywhere that I was initially a little disappointed. I wasn't captivated for probably the first third of the book. At that point the characters and writing style started to click for me and I began to really enjoy it. I don't think it's the best mystery ever, and I think its wide acclaim is probably mostly due to the fun concept and sort of cross-genre appeal -- I think lots of people who don't read many mysteries would still enjoy this. The characters got better but some still lacked a little meat for me by the end so I'm hoping that will be remedied in future installments. Like, am I the only one who feels like they know literally nothing about Ibrahim?. 3.75 stars.

Ago 3, 2:04 pm

68 ROOTs down: Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is now 15, and she and her friends continue to progress in their juju studies. But the threat of Udide, the giant spider creature, still hangs over them -- Udide has demanded that Sunny and Chichi restore her missing item to her, and now, she's given them a deadline. Sasha and Orlu aren't about to let the girls have an adventure alone, so the four set out together on a journey that will take them first to Nimm Village, home of the female warriors whose blood runs through Sunny and Chichi's veins, and then to an entirely different world.

It took me a bit to get back into this since it's been a while since I read the first two books in the series, but once I settled back into the world, I was hooked. A solid entry in the series and I look forward to the next one. Okorafor's writing is always so inventive and fresh-feeling. No wonder the blurbs on this book's dust jacket are so insane -- she has endorsements from Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Rick Riordan. 4 stars.

Ago 5, 4:59 pm

>139 curioussquared:, >142 curioussquared: Two of my favorites! I've been wanting to re-read Everything is Illuminated since Ukraine was invaded, plus I remember the humor.

Ago 6, 7:57 am

>142 curioussquared: >145 detailmuse: Yes, I enjoyed that one too.

>143 curioussquared: Re your spoiler, funnily enough, that's how I felt about Ron. Book 2 (which I'm currently reading) thus far has more of Ibrahim, due to an incident at the start of the story. I wonder if each book focuses primarily on different ones of the group? So book 1 is very Joyce-focused, with lots of Elizabeth too. Book 2 so far seems to be Elizabeth-focused with a fair bit of Ibrahim.

Ago 6, 1:22 pm

>145 detailmuse: They were both good reads!

>146 Jackie_K: Good to know, Jackie! I guess I felt like I knew a bit more about Ron since we meet his son in book 1, but you're right, he's pretty one dimensional aside from that.Glad to hear we get more of Ibrahim in book 2 -- I have that one on my shelf already ;)

Ago 9, 1:17 pm

69 ROOTs down: Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis Fontaine has always been torn in two, her Fontaine side at war with her native Ojibwe Firekeeper side. When she graduated high school, she planned to start at University of Michigan in the fall, but when her grandmother Fontaine became ill, she decided to defer her admission and stay in Sault St. Marie for a year to support her mom. Daunis loves her community -- both that of her tribe, and the community around the local hockey team, the Superiors, that she played for and her brother plays for now. One benefit of staying around for a year is meeting Jamie, a new kid in town and new member of the Supes. But then, tragedy strikes -- a new strain of meth appears to have infiltrated town and especially the tribe, threatening to destroy the community Daunis loves so much. When law enforcement reaches out and asks Daunis to go undercover and report to them about anything she might hear that could help them catch whoever's distributing the meth, Daunis is hesitant -- it feels like a betrayal, spying on those she loves. But it also seems like the only way she can save them, so she agrees. Soon, she'll uncover secrets she never wanted to know, and be faced with a terrible choice.

This started out a little slow for me but I ended up absolutely loving it, sneaking in pages whenever I had a break at work and spending way too long reading in bed before going to sleep. Daunis is a great character, and Boulley paints a fantastic picture of the tribal community. I thought the writing was excellent, and the plot kept me guessing until the end. 5 stars.

Ago 10, 6:46 pm

70 ROOTs down: Painted Devils by Margaret Owen

Vanja didn't mean to start a cult, but here we are. When she made up the Scarlet Maiden, she had no idea she was REAL. But now the resurrected low god has chosen Emeric, Vanja's... boy? crush? animated coat rack? as a sacrifice, and Vanja and Emeric have only a few weeks to figure out how to stop it from happening, as Emeric would really rather keep on living and prosecuting Vanja's many crimes. Luckily they have help from some kind villagers along the way, including Udo, Jakob, and Helga, who all seemed rather too eager to welcome Vanja into their home. Unluckily, Emeric is supposed to be completing his finding, the final test before he becomes a full prefect, and prefect emeritus Kirkling has decided to make this case into the deciding factor. As if they didn't have enough going on with the whole human sacrifice thing....

This is the sequel to Little Thieves, and I loved every minute of it. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you like YA fantasy at all, you need to be reading Margaret Owen. Great writing, compelling plots, complex characters, occasional meme references -- what more could you want out of a book? My only regret is that I want book three NOW and it doesn't even have a title or release date yet *sob*. Five stars.

Ago 10, 6:46 pm

71 ROOTs down: Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

What if Robin of Locksley didn't make it back from the Crusades? In this reimagining of the Robin Hood story, Robin is killed in the holy wars, and Marian, his fiancee, is left behind, her whole life uprooted with no purpose or direction. But when her maid Elena's brother Will Scarlet is taken by the Sheriff of Nottingham, Marian knows she must act. Drawing on the skills she and Robin practiced growing up together, she becomes Robin Hood, fighting for justice in the face of the greedy Sheriff. But Marian is acting alone, and sooner or later, someone will find out... and Guy of Gisborne is awfully suspicious.

This was fine. I love Robin Hood so am always willing to try a retelling. This one lost me near the end when it became enemies to lovers with Marian and Guy. Really it just made me want to go reread The Outlaws of Sherwood. 3 stars.

Ago 18, 4:08 pm

72 ROOTs down: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a gorilla who lives at a circus/mall combo in increasingly sad conditions with his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the stray dog. When the owner, Mack, brings in a baby elephant, Ruby, Ivan is inspired to really try to improve their lives for the first time in years.

I know this is beloved. I mostly just found it really sad. Maybe I'm not the target audience. 3 stars.

Ago 18, 4:08 pm

73 ROOTs down: All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

When the residents of Pern unearth an ancient AI technology from their space colonist ancestors, the AI, Aivas, tells them there is a possibility they could rid the planet of the threat of Thread for good. But it will take a lot of work, and a lot of cooperation -- and the strength of all the weyrs of Pern.

This was fine. It felt a little bit like Pern: We're getting the gang back together! It's been years since I've read the original Pern novels, but if you have a favorite character, they're definitely in this book -- F'lar and Lessa feature, Mennolly and Master Robinton are there, and Jaxom and Piemur play big roles, too. Storywise, I thought this was fairly strong in the first half, but I got a little bored by the end -- the whole thing is basically the endless steps in advancing Pern's technology to the point of being able to get rid of thread, and it was technical in a bad way, at least for me. I think I like Pern better when it's more of a fantasy novel instead of sci-fi. 3.5 stars.

Ago 18, 4:08 pm

74 ROOTs down: A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley

A collection of stories, a few set in Damar, others in our world or other worlds.

I'm not a big short story person, but I'll read anything Robin McKinley writes and have had this sitting on my Kindle for ages. I enjoyed all the stories, particularly The Healer, Buttercups, and the title entry. 4 stars.

Ago 18, 4:09 pm

75 ROOTs down: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde

"I'm not a big short story person," I say, and then I go and read two collections in a row! This was an interesting selection. There appear to be a few different editions, and the one I read included: “The Canterville Ghost,” “The Model Millionaire,” “The Young King,” “The Fisherman and His Soul,” “The Happy Prince,” “The Devoted Friend,” and “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.” I loved the title story and The Canterville Ghost, was meh about the next three, especially The Fisherman and His Soul, and then thought they picked up a bit with The Happy Prince and The Devoted Friend. The Portrait of Mr. W. H. appeared to mostly be an excuse to expound on a theory about Shakespeare's sonnets in the form of a story. It was fine, but more of an essay than a tale. 4 stars.

Editado: Ago 18, 7:37 pm

>152 curioussquared: I love the Pern series so much, but I agree that the fantasy aspects work better for me than the hard sci-fi stuff. But the first set of core books — the first six or seven, I'd say — are magical.

Ago 18, 5:36 pm

>155 rosalita: Agreed, Julia! Those first two trilogies are so good.

Ago 20, 4:42 am

Hi Natalie, 89 posts more! I'm not going to read them all. I try to de better in the future. Your doing great with your ROOTs. Even surpassing your goal, congrats!

Ago 21, 12:42 pm

>157 connie53: Hi Connie! Good to see you and no worries about keeping up with posts. I am having a great reading year so far :)

Ago 25, 5:28 pm

76 ROOTs down: The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Garcia Marquez chronicles the final days of Simon Bolivar, depicting the great leader not at his height, but at his nadir, shrunken and crumbling physically and mentally.

I'm not sure I "got" this. I love Garcia Marquez and the writing in this was gorgeous, and I actually really loved his author's note at the end in which he described the extent of the research he did to write this book. But the story itself never really worked for me -- maybe because it was less of a story and more of a portrait of a great man at a point of his life where he has lost most of his greatness. 3 stars.

Ago 28, 3:58 pm

77 ROOTs down: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Violet Sorrengail has trained all her life to be a scribe -- even though her mother is general of the dragon riding forces, she has a phsyical condition that makes her bones brittle and her joints weak, and the brutal world of the riders never seemed like a good option. But after her father died and Violet turned 20, General Sorrengail made it clear that Sorrengails do NOT become scribes. They are riders, like Violet's sister and brother before her. Despite the cruelty and brutality of the rider's quadrant, Violet is determined to succeed, even as her classmates die in various ways around her -- some by their peers' hands, as fewer riding candidates means greater chances of bonding with a dragon for the other trainees. Violet still manages to make friends and form alliances -- and she reconnects with her childhood friend Dain, a second-year squad leader who wants nothing but to protect her. On the other end of the spectrum is Xaden Riorson, orphan child of a rebel leader whose father was killed by Violet's mother, so he has every reason to hate Violet. As Violet continues to defeat the odds and survive months and months into her first year, Xaden remains a mystery -- and she starts to think he might not be as bad as she thought.

This book has taken BookTok by storm and I can see why. It's truly addictive to read -- you get sucked in to each chapter and can't put it down. There are no dull spots. It's relentlessly paced and great fun because of it. Is it the best book I've ever read? Absolutely not. There are huge gaping holes in the worldbuilding and some of the world structure starts to crumble if you poke it too hard. Violet is probably too perfect -- I was expecting her to be Very Special when I started the book, but I was NOT expecting her to bond with TWO dragons. I had to laugh even as I urgently kept reading. Some of the writing and dialogue are clunky, and a good editor could have gone a long way. But I still enjoyed the whole ride, couldn't put it down, and immediately preordered book two as soon as I finished. 4.25 stars.

Ago 30, 9:11 am

>160 curioussquared: i am on the holds list for this one at the library and am looking forward to it!

Ago 30, 2:48 pm

>161 Caramellunacy: I hope you like it! I described it on my 75ers thread as "A super fun book but not actually a "good" book" if that helps set your expectations, lol.

Set 4, 9:25 am

>162 curioussquared: That sounds exactly what I'm in the mood for, lol.

Set 6, 1:46 pm

Set 15, 5:26 pm

78 ROOTs down: Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill

In this family drama, a mother, father, and their two adult sons try desperately to pretend that everything is all right as they each struggle with their own personal demons, illnesses, and deep-seated resentment of each other.

This is a play where you read it and understand why it's a classic, but the experience isn't necessarily "enjoyable". I was somewhat fascinated by the extremely detailed notes O'Neill uses in his writing -- the set is described down to the smallest object, and there are many notes for the actors letting them know exactly how to play certain lines, down to facial expressions and tones. I don't think I've ever read a play with such detailed interpretation notes before. 4 stars.

Set 15, 5:27 pm

79 ROOTs down: The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Following the events of The Poppy War, Rin is in a bad place -- terrified of her powers, and addicted to opium to keep the god from rising within her. When Nezha's father, the leader of Dragon province, approaches her and the rest of the Cike with a proposition to join the revolution against the Empress and establish a new republic, Rin is at first skeptical -- but she may not have a better option, especially one that gives her such a good chance at killing the empress.

Just as good and just as brutal (ok maybe a teeny bit less brutal?) as the first book in the series. Kuang doesn't pull any punches. This was a long book, 650 pages, but I devoured it and I need to pick up the third one ASAP. 5 stars.

Set 15, 5:27 pm

80 ROOTs down: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

After Bree's mother died in a car accident, she shuts herself off, compartmentalizing the grief. Luckily, she's been admitted to the early college program at UNC Chapel Hill along with her best friend Alice, which seems like the perfect opportunity to get away from home and the painful memories there. As soon as she gets to UNC, though, things get weird -- Bree starts seeing things she can only describe as magic, and soon meets several members of what appears to be a secret magical society that is somehow related to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. There's mysterious, moody Sel, who uses some kind of memory-erasing spell on her that doesn't seem to work, and there's Nick, her new mentor, who seems nice but reluctant to tell her more. As Bree gets drawn deeper into an age-old legend, she'll learn more about the world around her -- and a lot more about herself.

This has been super popular, and deservedly so in my opinion. I was caught up in Bree's story and couldn't put it down. I thought Deonn's writing was excellent and I particularly loved the way that she updated one of the oldest, whitest stories in the book to make room for young, diverse faces. 5 stars.

Set 15, 5:28 pm

81 ROOTs down: Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

A doctor performs an experimental operation on a stray dog he picks up off the street that causes the dog to assume physical and mental human characteristics. Shenanigans ensue.

I'm sure some of the aspects of this book that were satirizing the Russian government and various social movements flew over my head, but I still enjoyed the humor and cleverness of this tale. 4 stars.

Set 15, 5:28 pm

82 ROOTs down: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

In rural Mississippi, 13-year-old Jojo lives with his Mam and Pop, his little sister Kayla, and Leonie, his drug-addicted mother who sees visions of her dead brother Given while she is high. When Jojo and Kayla's absent father Michael is released from prison, Leonie, who doesn't usually pay much if any attention to her children, insists that Jojo and Kayla make the road trip with her to pick him up, along with her fellow addict friend. Jojo has always acted old for his age, but this journey will force him to grow up even faster -- and reveal a terrible memory from Pop's past.

Gorgeously written and heartbreaking to read. Relatively short, but not an easy book to read. I wasn't expecting the magical realism aspect but thought it worked well. 4.5 stars.

Set 15, 5:29 pm

83 ROOTs down: Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

After a lifetime of mercenary work, orc Viv is ready to hang up her sword and pursue her secret ambition: opening a coffee shop. She's settled on the city of Thune for her venture, but there's one problem: nobody in Thune has ever heard of coffee. As Viv establishes her shop and makes some friends in her new home, she'll need to contend with the local gang offering their "protection," as well as some unsavory characters from her past.

I needed something joyful after Sing, Unburied, Sing and this fit the bill perfectly. I started it right after, and ended up finishing it in one sitting in under three hours. I loved the coziness and the found family, and I especially loved Thimble, the ratkin baker. 5 stars.

Set 15, 5:37 pm

>170 curioussquared: I have this on my TBR, it looks so much fun!

You've been reading up a storm recently!

Set 15, 5:56 pm

>171 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! It's a warm hug of a book :)

I've been reading a lot but also I've been bad at updating, hence the mass review posting :)

Set 15, 9:27 pm

>170 curioussquared: YES!!! I am so glad you liked this! I craved cinnamon buns so badly after reading it :D

Set 16, 1:03 pm

>173 rabbitprincess: Saaame. Thimble's creations sounded heavenly!!!

Set 20, 4:17 pm

84 ROOTs down: Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore

Following the events of Winterkeep, the Monsean delegation is making their way home via ship. Queen Bitterblue is incapacitated by seasickness, and Giddon spends most of his time worrying about her, so Hava, the queen's half sister and spy, spends most of her time flitting around the ship, learning about how it works from the sailors. But Hava is a spy for a reason -- she spent her childhood in hiding, observing, and something about Kera, one of the ship's mates, keeps striking her as... off. But there's not much she can do on a boat, other than keep her wits about her and keep watching Kera. Her grace of hiding helps her there. But the ship's captain, Annet, has a secret, too -- she has been keeping her concerns hidden, but their sailing is turning out to be much more dangerous than expected, and winter storms are starting to swirl.

Kristin Cashore is just so, so good, and I remain convinced that her writing improves with every book. I love Graceling, but it's so interesting to look back at that book compared to this book -- it's just a much simpler story. Hava is a familiar character from previous books, but it was so fascinating and heartbreaking to be inside her mind, to understand why she is the way she is, to see the full extent of the way that King Leck hurt her. Some might say that the plot of this book drags slightly in the first third; that might be true, but I just didn't care because I was enjoying spending time with Hava so much. I think Cashore's greatest strength as a writer is in her characterizations, and even though this is 600 pages with one POV, what a POV it is. Also, I still love the blue foxes. 5 stars, and I'll keep reading anything Cashore wants to publish, even if I'm a little sad her upcoming book isn't in the Graceling realm.

Set 20, 4:18 pm

85 ROOTs down: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Susan grew up in the English countryside with her mom, who was always mysterious about her father's identity. Now that she's 18 and headed to art school in London, she plans to spend some time before she starts working and searching for her father. But almost as soon as she gets there, Susan is pulled into a whole world she didn't know existed, pursued by ancient monsters and entities. Luckily, she also meets the booksellers -- left-handed and right-handed -- of London, an organization whose ancient work it is to keep these entities in check. Merlin and Vivien, bookseller siblings, take Susan under their wing and guide her through this newly revealed world. But some things even the booksellers can't predict...

This was fun! It was fast-paced to the point that I didn't really feel like I understood Susan as a character for much of the book -- it jumped into action rather than character development. But I think that sort of worked given that the point of the book is Susan learning about her parentage and identity. The booksellers are such a fun concept, and I really enjoyed Merlin and Vivian. I don't think anything will surpass Nix's Old Kingdom books as my favorites of his, but I enjoyed this romp and recently picked up the sequel, so I'll try to get to that one soon. 4 stars.

Set 21, 5:19 pm

>169 curioussquared: >I wasn't expecting the magical realism aspect but thought it worked well. 4.5 stars.
Same for me (including the same rating!) and enhanced, I think, by listening on audio. I'd like to re-read it in print. I've enjoyed everything she's written and she has a new release next month!