Review Corner: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a must read and must have for anyone who has ever felt the pull of inspiration and the desire to create. A college professor I had recommended it at lunch while we were discussing our respective fiction writing endeavors. I had recently watched a TED talk  with Elizabeth Gilbert and very much enjoyed it, so I became curious about Big Magic.




I won’t go into too much detail, it’s better to read her words for yourself, but truly, I must say I enjoyed reading this book. I may not entirely agree with everything Gilbert says or believes, but she also makes some excellent points and offers some advice on how we, as artists  and creators decide to perceive and work with inspiration, creativity, and our ideas.


Big Magic is split into six parts; Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity, each imbued with anecdotes and words of wisdom from Gilbert herself as well as what she has learned on her own creative journey.


From expressing the belief that we all have gems buried within us just waiting for the courage to dig them out, to discussing ideas as entities seeking the best partner to make them manifest, to giving you permission, if you can’t for yourself, to put your fears aside and live a creative life, and so much more, Gilbert presents a unique and amazing perspective that demands to be shared.


For this reason, I’m giving away a copy of Big Magic to bring in the new year with. Here’s how to win:**GIVEAWAY ENDED** 

  • You must be a resident of the US (or have a US shipping address).
  • Get one entry by commenting on this blog and sharing how you want to accomplish your own creative living or something that has recently inspired you.
  • Get another entry by posting about this Giveaway on Twitter  BE SURE TO INCLUDE ME,@amalgamology, IN YOUR TWEET SO I CAN COUNT IT!
  • You can Tweet once per day until the Giveaway ends and earn one entry per day on Twitter. (Officially begins today, 11/28)
  • The Giveaway officially ends on Monday 12/28/2015 at 11:59 pm EST.
  • A random winner will be selected and announced on Tuesday 12/29/2015 on Twitter and my blog.

***UPDATE, Winner Announced!***
SK Lamont! 
Please contact me with the address you would like me to ship your book to!

Thank you everyone that participated!

Review Corner: Raining Embers by Jessica Dall

I was approached by Jessica Dall and offered an ARC of her new book Raining Embers for an honest review. After sending me a little blurb about it, I decided I was interested in taking a looking. The idea of a disability being the actual sign of awakening powers, as happens to Palmer and Brier, the main characters in this oddly constructed story, reminded me of an idea I had of my own, and so I became curious what someone else did with one overlapping vein of an idea.

raining embers


As interesting as the concept is for Chaos and Order to be reincarnated into the bodies of the main characters of the story, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this the intriguing story it could be. I feel like there were a lot of very integral things missing, and a few that could use some revising.

The events, as best I can attempt to summarize, go as follows: Palmer Tash is an acolyte, Brier Chastain-Bochard lives in the palace and becomes engaged under supposedly suspicious circumstances to Nico Adessi-Guillroy. Both have a strange “disability” that has gone unexplained through their lives. The same night of Brier and Nico’s engagement, Palmer and Brier (who have only just happened to see/meet each other for the first time), are kidnapped by the brothers Goebel and their friend/helper/shape shifter Cerise (whose part is never really explained and essentially unnecessary to the story). After running away from the Goebels because of their involvement with the last reincarnation of Chaos’s death; they flee along with a six year old named Rosette that sinister Reinhald Goebel took from the streets that Brier decides they can’t leave, Brier and Palmer first settle in a small village, and finally decide to return home. When they return to the city, they find they are at war, so of course, they try to escape again, because it seems there is some kind of government/power takeover attempt going on, but run into Reinhald, who then coerces them to join him. First they retreat outside the city to pick up some troops, then return, and Brier’s power is unleashed and demolishes the city. After which, the story is pretty much done, except for Brier’s feeling of “wrongness” about herself (the lead in, I presume, to the next book).

After over 280 pages, I could tell you little more about the characters, plot, setting, culture, or even motives presented in Raining Embers. I get the feeling that Dall may have been trying to do too much without making sure to weave more depth into the story and her characters.

The characters were in desperate need of depth and personalities, traits that were unique to each character. Even the physical descriptions, if given, were not always consistent, or at the very least made imagining the scene uncertain. For instance, in the very beginning of the novel, Brier is described as impossibly tiny, despite the fact that she is, presumably, a young woman, but later, Brier is depicted as carrying a six year old over rough terrain. For a woman described as being not much bigger than a twelve-year old, it’s very hard to imagine her carrying a child, on her hip, for any extended length of time. All around though, I don’t feel like a single character had what I would deem a full personality. I also did not see any dynamic characters. There was no one to root for because I had no idea who I was dealing with and read an entire story without feeling like there actually were main characters, instead I felt like I was following two narrators that happened to be trying to act in the story at the same time.

There is one thing I do know about Brier, but it’s a choice I seriously question the necessity of, and that is Brier’s extreme concern about and obsession for finding alcohol. You could play a drinking game with the mention of alcohol and the need to find more for the first part of the book.

idiva_063Again, having no idea how old Brier is or what the culture is like, there is no way to know if this is acceptable or as shocking at it feels.( **correction, Brier’s birthday party is when the engagement is announced, however, I had to have this pointed out to me. As a plot point, again this needs to  be more attended to and given context in the story). Also, the reason that Brier supposedly desires to be drunk so badly is her “disability”, which is that every summer she suffers through a rotting smell. Nowhere in this book is there an adequate enough description describing this supposedly pungent and putrid odor that is supposedly so overpowering that most of what Brier thinks for at least the first couple of chapters, seems to be alcohol and finding more. Because of this lack of reason, Brier’s drinking felt pointless and completely unnecessary.

Connecting with the characters was made all the more difficult due to, what I feel, are some glaring dialogue issues. When there was a string of dialogue, it was a little hard not to feel like I was watching seventh graders perform a self-written play; over acted, some poor and over reaching word choices, and a dose of bravado. If the characters had been more deeply developed, each voice should resonate with the character speaking, with this this depth missing, the dialogue is flat and doesn’t properly do what dialogue should, which is move the story along and give the reader more information about what is going on, and about the character(s) speaking, or the ones being spoken about.

As to the plot, a lot of things played a big role in where this failed to deliver a spell binding story. For one thing, the setting and the culture were not adequately described by any stretch of the imagination. The last names, for instance, Chastain-Bochard and Adessi-Guillroy versus Tash; there is absolutely no explanation of why last names matter, or how, but there is continued alluding to them denoting rank, title, occupation, station…honestly I had to just roll with it and pretend I knew, but by the end of the book, I no longer cared. It feels like Dall tried to get intricate and devious with some kind of overthrowing power play, but with no explanation of the government, no history to ground it, no emotion to make the reader care, and no antagonist properly defined in any capacity, it doesn’t hold up.  I ended up just reading through it and shrugging instead of investing in it because I didn’t feel like there was anything or anyone to invest in. An all-out war is happening at the end of the book, Brier, as the embodiment of Chaos stretching her legs brings down the palace, destroys the piazza, and I couldn’t tell you who was supposed to be fighting, or why.

I also felt the action scenes needed more attention to. The settings, which I never felt were properly presented, became very difficult to picture, especially on the move with a lot of things happening. However, the action didn’t flow, what was happening became confusing and I ended up just going with it and being okay with not understanding what exactly was going on in the moment. For instance, I believe they are in the palace, but there is a sudden stream of gushing water down the hall Brier and Palmer are in, but you have no idea where this water source came from, or what made it suddenly come gushing towards the main characters. Details like this can make or break a story, you don’t have to go into minute detail, but if you’re throwing in things like this, add some context.

One thing I did enjoy, were some of the descriptions of the Nothing that Brier feels. As the embodiment of Chaos she can feel death, control it a little (sort of, but not really?), which I found an interesting concept. Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways you can describe Nothing and have it sound poetic while working in the setting.

I wanted this book to be more than it was but I think a lot could be made stronger on the whole. I honestly don’t even know how there is going to be another book because there just didn’t seem enough to the world, the story, or even the characters. I think, with development, there could be something here, but as it is, I would have a hard time recommending this book to anyone, but to each their own.

Review Corner: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

After reading the synopsis of Menagerie by Rachel Vincent, I was incredibly curious to find out more. I was fortunate to be sent an ARC of the book by the publisher Harlequin for an honest review and couldn’t wait to jump in once it arrived. In a world after a great tragedy where fear reins over reasoning, a menagerie filled with “attractions” in the form of gryphons, mermaids, minotaur, werewolves, other shape shifters, and more, where the sentient creatures, also known as cryptids, are kept in cages, sedated, malnourished, abused and then paraded out as spectacles in Metzger’s Menagerie.

Delilah Marrow, the heroine of the story, has the shock of her life as she is unexpectedly exposed as a cryptid, in public, in the worst possible place, Metzger’s Menagerie. It’s not only the crowd of people that are surprised by the fact that she is able to shift into a creature with sharp claws, hair that floats, white eyes, and a thirst for vengeance, Delilah is just  as shocked. If that’s not enough, Lilah soon learns that that her mother has kept the truth, a secret hidden away all these years, about where Delilah actually came from. Stripped of everything from her possessions and rights to her dignity, Delilah is assigned a handler by the name of Gallagher and locked in a cage among her fellow menagerie.

I finished this book in three days; it’s been a while since that happened with an over 400 page novel. I couldn’t devour it fast enough. The only thing slowing me down was the blurred vision, elevated heartbeat, and boiling blood from the utter cruelty and injustice perpetrated on the various characters in this strange and intriguing tale. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect was that I was not at all surprised at the level that some of the human monsters were willing to stoop in regards to the imprisoned cryptids that make up the menagerie.

It is Delilah’s character that really holds things together for me. She is intelligent, witty, sarcastic, and even after being knocked out with a mallet to the head, waking up in a cell completely naked, and then being told that her legal status was the equivalent of a vicious dog accused of attacking a person, Delilah still refuses to surrender to hopelessness. In fact, her fear makes her almost more defiant; it certainly makes her more determined about not being an “attraction” to be goggled at, and moreso, to escape captivity and the hellish change her life has taken. I think one of the aspects of the book that made some of the worst injustices “bearable” really was Delilah’s character, her attitude. She wasn’t fearless, but she doesn’t accept the circumstances handed to her, whine, or shrink away from what she is able to do, including keeping her mind clear and finding a focus. A strong, female character, even when all of her supposed freedom and power have been taken from her.

Something I do wish I’d seen a little more of in Menagerie were deeper descriptions of possibly lesser known cryptids. Almost anyone could describe a werewolf (or similar beings), in either form as well as probably give you one or two variations on the mythos that goes along with werewolves, mainly because they’re pretty common in recent fiction. However, some of the lesser known creatures described in Menagerie sometimes left me feeling absurdly curious about them and was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t some sort of backstory or information, especially since Delilah has been fascinated by them all their life. One such example that comes to mind is Adira, the marid, also called one of the djinn.  I have vague ideas of some of the mythos that accompanies the djinn, but there are various kinds and I am not familiar enough to remember them, their histories, or beyond characteristics alluded to or mentioned in the book. I halted for some googling for references and images to add to my imagination, but would have liked to hear more from the world itself about the creatures in it. Perhaps more will be revealed in the remaining books in the series. (As a side note, I think it’d be pretty awesome if Rachel Vincent released a collection of images depicting specific cryptids, or collected fan art created from inspiration from the cryptids of the book. I’d LOVE to see that.)

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The only real criticism I have for this book concerns the ending. A lot of big, shocking, and plan altering things happen in rather short succession in the last handful of chapters. I couldn’t escape the feeling that the last five or so chapters were typed out at break neck speed with a basic outline of things that needed to happen. There is barely time to register what all has happened before you realize you’ve turned the last page.

Menagerie was difficult to put down, my curiosity often winning out over the logic of sleeping or attending to the other necessities of life and living.  The characters seemed to call to me through the night leaving me with the strong desire to return to them; the cryptids’ plight is harrowing and with each turn of the page I eagerly anticipated what might happen next and vied for their release from their cruel captivity.

I’d recommend this book to those with a love of the strange, stories that involve fantastical creatures in a “real world” setting, and if you enjoy strong female characters. I would however tag this book as a possible trigger warning for those that may have experienced various assaults, abuse, or any form of captivity or where liberty has been withheld. As a survivor myself, I will say that some aspects of the book I found particularly disturbing and difficult, but that has less to do with any graphic description or detail in the book and more to do with my own imagination and horror.

The downside of receiving a book before it’s been released (as was this case) and finishing it within a couple of days is the inevitable and excruciating wait for the sequel. I now have at least a year if not longer to while away before returning to the menagerie after the intense and uncertain close to the first novel in the trilogy.

It is going to be a long wait. Hoping I’ll somehow be able to snag an ARC of the next two…so the wait won’t be *as* long.


Review Corner: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In a previous post, I mentioned how I was introduced to this book; Barnes and Noble sent an email about an offer on two books that caught my attention. After reading the synopsis of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, along with the first few pages that equated to the prologue, my interest was piqued;not least of which was due the appeal of the virtual reality utopia known as the OASIS, a story detailing an amalgamation of life and video game, and of course, a healthy dose of 80’s era references.
The OASIS, which can be accessed through multiple types of devices of varying price ranging from the basic, free ones our narrator, Wade, receives to attend school (talk about a little envy over here for being able to attend school virtually, the only thing I wouldn’t have been okay with in virtual form would be my books, but that’s another story), all way up to highly expensive rigs and haptic suits that are designed specifically to give the wearer the actual feeling and experience of what is happening to their avatar in the OASIS, including smell and touch.
What’s even more amazing about the OASIS is the free access to libraries, museums, movies, and more. The possibilities for experiences and learning in the OASIS are boundless. The main character even mentions that it is through the OASIS that he learned to read, speak, walk, and more, and he is hardly the only one in this book. Entire lives and relationships are lived out entirely and solely in the OASIS; truly the scope is hard to completely fathom.
The other side of the OASIS, the fun, gaming side, is another entity all its own, and yet is still part of the same universe. All avatars have an avatar name, Wade goes by Parzival (or Z by those closest to him), and it is with this avatar that they go on adventures, accomplish quests from thousands of possible games on the plethora of possible planets in the OASIS. Really, there is no better way to understand than by reading the book and becoming part of it in the story.
I do wish the book went into a little more detail about how certain aspects work in the OASIS. For instance, it took a few chapters to realize that yes, credits were transferable and usable both in the OASIS as well as outside of the OASIS (there was also no mention of conversion, not that it really matters, but I was curious). The other thing that I wish had been made a little clearer was how any possible language barrier was eliminated in the OASIS itself, or how it worked.
The story itself is entertaining and the lengths the villains of the story, the Sixers, headed by a man named Sorrento and hired by the IOI company,  are willing to go to eliminate the competition are even frightening and will definitely keep you turning pages. As the tale evolves, the evil corporation, IOI, is interested in the ownership of the OASIS for what all corporations want, revenue makers, and the currently (mostly) free OASIS is ripe in such greedy eyes to be taken over and monopolized. Sorrento and his team of highly equipped avatars face off with Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, and every other Gunter (or Egg hunter) in the OASIS before the end. The deeper you delve in realizing just how far the company will go to obtain its goal is truly sickening and yet sadly unsurprising.
The lines between video game and real life are blurred beyond proper separation from the two; entire relationships can begin and end existing only in the OASIS, including marriages. Trusting people has another level because everyone in the OASIS is completely anonymous (unless you have the technology, bribery and skills to hack/steal your way into information on someone’s true identity as Sorrento and his team do) but generally, you’re safe in the OASIS as long as you’re careful with what you put out there.
Wade, as his avatar, Z, hunts for the Egg alone, competing not only with the Sixers, but also his friends. Aech (pronounced like the letter H) he has known for years, and the two guys hangout in a chatroom Aech hosts called the Basement, where they practice their Halliday knowledge and challenge each other in video games, in between going to school. Then, there is Art3mis, who Z meets after obtaining the Copper Key. After having a long time crush on her from her blog posts and comments, he meets her avatar “in person” inthe OASIS and the interaction seals Parzival’s heart.
The relationships aspects explored in the book involving the online versus real life interaction was done in a truly interesting way and I applaud Mr. Cline for his ability to simulate the closeness that only those who have made close online friends understand. The need for caution when dealing with your real identity is, however, still outlined as a necessity; it just leaves open the option to form close and lasting relationships as well. In this  are a series of pictures that aptly describe what those who have found online friendship understand and what the close relationships in Ready Player One project to the reader.
The final reveal of the real identities and actual appearances of the people behind the avatars is certainly an interesting scene and I’m quite happy with some of the choices Cline made; this is particularly true of Aech’s story. I found the moment Z and Aech meet especially touching. Then of course, there are the hearts of Wade and identity behind the avatar Art3mis, which I will just say is worth the read.
For all of the wonder of the OASIS, Cline is sure to point out the dangers of living solely in the digital world and all that you might miss by not bothering to experience the real world around you. Ready Player One is a must read for gamer lovers and 80’s fans (especially where those two overlap). The style is easy to read and to pick up, the characters are easy to empathize and connect with; all around, this was an enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone who is in the  mood for something a little different and wants to read about a videogame/Willy Wonka-esque story.
Apparently there is now going to be a movie of this book…*sigh* ah, the love/hate relationships that is the movie based on a good book. We shall see….

Review Corner: Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

I was fortunate to receive a free copy of the book Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn from the publishers Simon & Schuster for a review. I had never heard of it before but it sounded like it could be interesting, it looked like style I hadn’t really read before, and like it could possibly funny; it involved the repercussions of a hit man disguised as an intern taking down and taking over the organization he once worked for.
My first thought as I was introduced to the narrator and subject of the story, John Lago, was…what an arrogant ass… The next thing I learned was that Hostile Takeover was actually the sequel to a book called The Intern’s Handbook which apparently is the story of how and why he wrote the book and which outlines the actual attack on HR, the company he worked for as a hit man, and detailing the death of his former boss. Then, there’s Alice, John’s wife/ex-wife/attempted murderer/ attempted hit. Oh yes, it gets complicated and then some; it’s like watching a high school relationship play out in between high powered guns and with a lot more “fucks” thrown in (the characters seem to have as much range and depth as your typical tuned out teenager).
From the start, you can hear the swagger between the pauses of John’s spoken and unspoken thoughts. You can practically see the quirked grin that opens to spew out little more than profanity and bravado to the point you aren’t sure whether to laugh or finally shove your fist down his throat.  The story starts with John speaking with an agent named Fletcher that John contemptuously refers to as “Fletch”, and relays the events of the takeover of HR by John and Alice up to the present, where John resides in FBI custody in the interrogation room after having been arrested.
It’s hard to know how much of this book to take seriously as a story. Admittedly the chapters are short and easy to get through and with the style simple to read it is easy to glide through this book. Often times, I found myself having to put it down and laughing to myself off to the side because something the narrator said was so ludicrous or absolutely improbable, even with suspension of disbelief.
For instance, John, having to be the biggest boy on the playground learns the Chinese art of “Iron Palm” which, according to Wikipedia, is the martial art of conditioning the hands to deliver powerful blows without injury to their hands.
It is not his learning this technique that I question, no, it is that a random, powerful, paranoid, Chinese businessman and all of his security guards, just happen to recognize John as a student of Iron Palm, and essentially are *all* incredibly impressed by his mastering it…..
Seriously? I found myself asking that repeatedly throughout this book. At some point I just found every new dramatic inevitability laughable. Whether it was snatches of dialogue, a new absurd situation, or the complete suspension of disbelief involving how much of a “badass” John Lago is. Considering how many gun battles, fist fights, knives, and things that go boom that this guy gets into, he doesn’t seem to get hit much, or at least it doesn’t seem to have much effect upon him, and I’m including pre-Iron Palm powers too…
Then, again, there’s Alice. Essentially the only woman in the book, she is referred to as “crazy” and paranoid multiple times as personality traits, in addition to her mood swinging behavior and radical decision making: one minute in love with Lago, the next trying to kill him. John and Alice’s supposed loyalty to each other is hard to take seriously and difficult not to view as at least semi-sarcastic.
My only other issue involves the lack of women, and how the very few in the book are portrayed or used in the story. One line in particular still stands out, while in a strip club (of course), our delightful narrator mentions, referring to the dancers, that he “speaks their primitive lipstick language”…I’m still not sure how to process that, and so I tell myself to let it go…but it irks me a bit, oh well. Also, the fact that the only “strong” female character is portrayed as an unlikable, bipolar, paranoid, power hungry, woman with a gun and the desire to shoot, not my favorite aspect, I’ll say.
Hostile Takeoverwas definitely not quite like anything else I’ve read before. You could easily read this one without having read the first because the events are explained and referred to quickly. I’m just not sure it’s the kind of book that’s for me or one I would recommend to anyone to instantly go read. If you see it in a library, it might give you a laugh, or you might thoroughly enjoy it more than I did, who is to say? I just prefer something with a little more substance than is in this book and the characters in it, which honestly remind me more of teenagers trying to act big and tough while playing with a bunch of money and weaponry, oh and drugs, plenty of drugs being had.
To each their own. Some people are definitely going to love it, and if the synopsis on the cover sounds like your kind of book, go for it. It’s one hell of a ride.

Review Corner: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

It was an email from Barnes & Noble (great marketing job by the way), that first led me to the book “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik. It was a special offer to purchase two e-reader versions of two bestselling books for half price. I do not own an e-reader nor am I particularly interested in virtual versions of books, I much prefer the real thing, but I was curious once I saw them.
The cover art caught my eye, obviously, which led me to click and took me to the webpage listing on the B&N website for the book. After reading the synopsis, I was not enthralled but I was a little more curious, so I clicked the button allowing me to preview part of the book.
I generally despise sneak peaks and previews of books. I couldn’t honestly even tell you why except that I prefer for the story and my thoughts on it to unfold as they are meant to, as I read them from start to finish…in this case, I decided to take a chance since the preview started at the beginning, the first page of chapter one, so I began.
I read the first two or three pages when it became apparent to me that I would continue reading. Needless to say, I acquired it. I found a hardback version of the book for sale because, well, as I said, bibliophile, I love the real thing over e-reader versions.
After waiting a couple of weeks to finally get my hands on it, I began the story of Nieshka, the Dragon, and the Wood.
Looking at the book as a whole, I would have to say that I enjoyed the journey I took while reading it. I was intrigued with the premise and most of all, painfully curious about what would happen next.
The writing was easy to read, generally simple in style and usage, apart from the tongue stumbling spells and incantations repeated and used throughout the book by the various magic casting characters.
Nieshka has quite a lot on her plate after surprisingly being chosen by the Dragon to essentially become his serving maid, only to find that she is not as ordinary as she had always believed, nor as the Dragon expected. Soon into the story, the reader finds that Nieshka is a witch and has a unique and special gift all her own that not even the Dragon knows or fully understands.
They both stumble and struggle through finding a way that the Dragon’s precise form of magic can be taught to or used by Nieshka’s unorthodox style of magic which generally involves ineffable feelings she has about what is good or bad, right or wrong.
It’s not long before Nieshka answers a cry for help from her own village while the Dragon is otherwise detained. Racing off at break neck pace to aid in any way that she can without knowing much herself, Nieshka truly begins the long, twisting adventure she finds herself in, involving the Wood, the kingdom of Polnya that she lives in, and the village she loves and never imagined leaving.
If you love a story that involves magic, you will probably enjoy the tale told here. The descriptions of magic were often beautiful and the intimacy described when the Dragon and Nieshka combine their magic is believable in its sensual qualities and is imparted to the reader in unique fashion.
However, there are a few things about “Uprooted” that I believe could have made it stronger. To avoid giving away too much information or any possible spoilers, I’ve put my more pointed thoughts below here. So if you’d like to skip particulars, please feel free to skip to the end, and consider it safe after the picture of the kitten under flannel asking if it’s safe to come out.
I feel like the characters were a bit flat, they didn’t seem to grow much or have much explanation for any of their doings and workings beyond a surface level examination of them. Even the title character, Nieshka, has a lack of depth that is surprising given how much ends up happening in the book and how many people she cares about and goes to lengths to protect or save. It’s perhaps also this lack of depth that makes the strange “romance” between Sarkan (the Dragon), and Nieshka seem unnecessary, or like an add-in for affect and attempt at giving the characters feelings and more depth.
The motivations of characters was sorely lacking in explanation, as was much in regards to setting. For instance, upon first learning that she is a witch, Nieshka doesn’t mention at all what this information means to her, her family, or her village. There are no histories, tales, or legends about witches, or even wizards, to shed light on the situation or give the reader any idea whether this is welcome or unwelcome news.  That Nieshka has magical capabilities doesn’t seem to register on any level other than as a vessel for action, was a feeling I never could shake while reading.
Prince Marek and his motivations for his various actions is also an example. He is both despicable enough to attempt to force himself on the main character, and yet is continuously referred to as something out of a song about heroes and knights in shining armor, and whose only true desire is saving his mother from the Wood, where she has been trapped for over 20 years and presumed corrupted or worse. At some points it is hard not to feel like some of the characters are only used to further the story, place holders and action drivers, while not actually having a solid place or purpose in the story, no real emotion or relate able reason to be examined or supposed upon.
At one point in the story, Stashek and Marisha, the two young children of the brutally murdered Crown Prince Sigmund and his wife, Malgorzhata,( also murdered before her children’s eyes), are being smuggled away by Kaisha and Nieshka to save them. All while you want them to succeed, there is no ensnaring your emotions about the futures of Stashek and Marisha and no feeling of loss for their parents other than the shock of their unexpected deaths.
Near the end, a lot happens in quick succession. The small cast of leading characters find themselves in one flight or battle after another, the nemeses only shifting faces and intentions as big and small aspects of the story collide and shift focus from aspects of court to the Wood. Perhaps this feels exacerbated by the seeming lack of profoundness in the characters feelings and desires, but the fast pace near the end almost feels like it may have been too much.
Possible spoilers being over, and criticism aside, the book was worth the read, even if I feel it could be even better. I enjoyed Naomi Novik’s style enough that I’m curious about a series she has been working on that blends dragons and history.
The ending of “Uprooted” was mostly one that I appreciated, though I cannot decide if I actually liked and enjoyed the ending. Nieshka’s life as it is painted after the various battles and revelations concerning the Wood is one that I enjoy picturing and imagining for her. I’m not sure if I’ll read it again or who I would specifically recommend it to, but it’s worth the read.

Review Corner: The Art of Racing in the Rain

A couple of months ago, my mother began telling me about how much she enjoyed a book she had read because it was told from the point of view of a dog. My mother has never been the biggest reader; not many catch and hold her attention enough to begin, let alone to finish. That being said, the fact that she enjoyed the book enough to share it with me piqued my interest. The book was called “The Art of Racing in the Rain”, written by Garth Stein.
I must admit that part of the enchantment of this book came from my mother reading the first thirty or so pages to me while I was in hospital waiting to be taken in for a surgical procedure.  No matter how old you get, there’s something ineffable and special about your mother reading a story to you.
The language was delightful and unique. The voice of Enzo as our faithful narrator tells the story of his life with his human, Denny, and their lives together from Enzo’s perspective. Anyone who is an animal, and particularly a dog lover will probably appreciate this special voice.
Denny, a hopeful race car driver looking for the path that would literally put him in the driver’s seat and where he could show his stuff, is painted into a corner by his in-laws and struggles to fight a bitter custody battle for his daughter, Zoe. Frustrating as certain parts of the book inevitably were, such as Denny’s arrest for a crime he did not commit, all for the sake of discrediting him and severing forever from a full relationship with Zoe.
Enzo enlightens the reader on all that he has learned and continues to learn throughout the book, gives his opinions freely, has his own theories and beliefs, and loves race car driving. Some of the more racing heavy parts of the book were lost on me as far as entertainment value, but certain aspects stuck with me. An often repeated phrase and one of the racing points that Enzo shares with the reader is “where the eyes go, the car goes”. Other tokens like “there is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose” add to the message that Enzo tries to relate the reader throughout the novel.
The chapters are pretty short and easy to get through, and it was very easy to be finished with the book before I knew it. The only time I wasn’t eating up the pages was when things were most frustrating in the story.
In the end though, I rather enjoyed the story of Enzo’s life with Denny. The last couple of chapters are tear jerking, especially for a dog lover; saying good bye is never easy. The very end though is what will capture your heart if a “good feeling” book is what you’re looking for.