Review Corner: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I’m not sure where I first saw Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, but I was intrigued with the description and tried multiple times for a copy of it on Goodreads giveaways and ARC copies. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review through another channel.

dark matter

I finished reading this many months ago (okay, almost a year now), so I apologize for the delayed review. I got frustrated every time I tried to put my thoughts into words and kept moving on to other things.

As excited and interested as I was for the book from reading the blurb, I was unfortunately disenchanted with it….….actually more than that, I disliked it and by the end, I was angry.

It was easy enough to read through quickly. It’s written in often short, choppy sentences or pieced together fragments. It’s supposed to add suspense, but it’s mostly lacking. At times it works well, at others it’s annoying. Some more strategic use of this would have made it stronger in my opinion…at least the reading part, the plot- well, we’ll get there.

The story goes that Jason Dessen (also to be known to as “Original” Jason) goes out one night to get some dinner (I believe) for his family, but never comes back because he’s abducted. The “familiar” but mask-wearing culprit takes Jason’s clothes, asks him some strange questions, and eventually disappears into the ether. Jason is eventually left unconscious in the unknown location he’s been brought to.

He awakes strapped to a gurney, surrounded by people that supposedly know him, but that Jason does not recognize. “Original” Jason is believed to be a different version of Jason, one that never married (wife, Daniela, called Dani) or had a child (Charlie), is not a professor, and who continued to pursue work in the field of quantum physics; it’s this Jason’s work that brings “Original” Jason to where he is. This “other” Jason’s research and work created a way, through use of ampules and what was once a physically impossible box, to travel to different dimensions, thus the many various versions a person’s life (and the world) can take. (Here’s how it works: once inside the box you take the ampules then start walking down a hallway of doors, each door is a different possible decision or branch that changed something about the world beyond; so endless Jason’s making endless Jason decisions….talk about nightmare, but anyway…)

It doesn’t take long to piece together that the masked abductor was this other Jason, who had decided he had missed out on a few things and thought stepping into “Original” Jason’s life made more sense than…any number of other things…. such as trying to reconnect with the Dani in his dimension, or another woman entirely…the point is, this over-entitled supposed genius had options, and he went with abduction and switching lives….I’ll explain even more how this is a problem in a moment…

So essentially, “Original” Jason wants his life back and escapes with (and with the help of) a woman named Amanda that ‘other’ Jason worked with. So they travel with ampules and simple packs through the endless rows of doors, randomly picking ones to step through to find the right door to “Original” Jason’s life.

Throughout the book I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was written as a testimonial to the author having researched, learned, and understood some physics. The bulk of it is told from Jason’s perspective, so the delving into physics explanations was like the man giving himself a mini-lecture in his head every time he remembered something physics related; it did not work for me at all.

Most of what happens in the box and in the worlds “Original” Jason (and sometimes Amanda) visited isn’t really important. The descriptions of the worlds are varied, their reason for leaving the box routinely isn’t highlighted or well explained other than to give the book a “middle” and attempt to illicit more drama. The only thing you need to know is that “genius” Jason tries some asinine and repetitive things to go home, Amanda leaves him to be stupid and whiney on his own, and eventually he magically finds his way to the world and life he was stolen from.

Which then leaves the other glaring issues with this book (and its horrible conclusion).

So, something to keep in mind while “Original” Jason has been blundering his way back home, Daniela has been living and sleeping with a man who is not exactly her husband or the man she married….there is SO much wrong to me on the basis of consent when it comes to the devious and disgusting violation of Daniela as a human being with rights to her own body. Of course one of the first things ‘other’ Jason did is have sex with the wife he took to be his, even though she wasn’t, of course without telling her. It is NOT an interesting philosophical debate about if it’s really Jason or not- it’s rape.

But it gets worse.

You remember how the box creates branches at each decision Jason makes, which leads to a large number of versions of Jason converging on this ONE Daniela and Charlie; all believe themselves to be the “Original” Jason that deserves to be with Daniela and Charlie…and NONE of them seem to really believe it’s down to Daniela to choose. There’s one very brief quasi-choice given to Daniela, but it’s not a full and proper choice; it follows the story the author decided he wanted to tell.

This book was mostly that; pieces of a story made to fit together the way the author wanted, characters acting out a necessary script, plus some physics and erasure of women’s choices. Consider me not a fan.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. It was a waste of time, a poorly plotted story (admittedly a difficult idea to tackle, but badly done), and unnerving in how many people seem unbothered by Dani’s lack of proper autonomy or the fact that she was violated throughout this book, which apparently didn’t matter because it’s all about Jason.

The very end is even more frustrating and further evidence of negating Dani’s rights and choices (it’s safe after the kitten under flannel):

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Dani selects her Jason (the one whose story we’ve followed)…BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH!!! Apparently Daniela’s “choice” isn’t enough to persuade the other Jasons, so Dani, “Original” Jason, and Charlie all “have” to go into the box and choose another world to live in and hopefully hide from all the other Jasons…..
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Let me break that down again: Dani chose a Jason. The other Jasons still think they know better. Dani and her chosen family have to flee their lives…..

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kitten flannel safe from spoilers

(safe from spoilers now)

There are also issues with continuity and explaining away the presence of the boxes throughout the worlds, how they were exactly where they needed to be for whatever purpose in the moment, all without being noticed by really anyone other than the Jasons; then there’s how much Jason is talked about as if he is incredibly intelligent, but he does some of the stupidest things and fails to ask some of the most important and obvious questions of certain characters that he meets.

Add in the glaring issues concerning Daniela (and Charlie)….

Yeah, I’m not a fan of this book and I would recommend you spend your precious reading time on other, far worthier, books.


Recommendations:
Assimilation by James Stryker

 

Review Corner: Boy: A Journey by James Stryker

While speaking with James Stryker after I had finished his debut novel Assimilation, he told me about his latest (then upcoming) novel, Boy: A Journey.  After reading the description on his website, I was very much interested in it as well.

A snippet of it is: Everyone knew about Jay’s hidden transgender past — except his son. Now that his father is gone, Luke must seek the truth to understand the man he thought he knew. (click here to read the rest)
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James Stryker was gracious enough to honor me with a copy of Boy: A Journey in exchange for an honest review. So, I eagerly dove head first into the novel, soon realizing that I would need to break from it over the holidays due to the sensitive and heart rending nature of the story and the events in it.

The first chapter includes the brutal and graphic death of Jay, Luke’s father, in the midst of yet another fight between father and son. The room became quite…dusty…during the first chapter, of course being the cause of my watering eyes…

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When I was able to collect myself (and *ahem* find a less dusty room) I returned to the story to learn what happened in the aftermath of Jay’s death.

Boy: A Journey is told in three perspectives. We’re first introduced to Luke, the King of Brats, Luke the “Wronged”; the next chapter, we meet Tom, the man dying of cancer holding secrets to his chest like precious gems, in love with Jay and hiding in the wings; and finally, we have the perspective of Ginger (real name Jake), Luke’s brother-in-law and the man stealing Beau away from possessive Luke (he and Beau are twins, after all).

Unfortunately while reading, I ran into some similar issues that I had with Assimilation regarding pronouns and how time passes. For instance, it could be difficult at times to know for sure who is talking or being talked about. This was especially true when there were more than two people in the conversation; it got a little confusing on occasion.

There was also a lot of jumping back and forth in time without clearly seguing the reader through the time shifts; this made the car ride home with Luke and Jay in the first chapter a little confusing and difficult to get through, in particular.

Some chapters repeat blocks of time from different people’s perspectives, but it’s not always stated or made clear that that’s what’s happening. This left me with a discombobulated feeling. I think if chapter intros were used more consistently and effectively (which may or may not be the case with the final published version, I’m not sure), this problem would be mostly resolved.

Before I go too much further, there is one major detail (or set of details) that I wish were perhaps different: three important characters have the names Jay, Jake, and Jackie…even by the last page, this still messed with me. The names are so similar it took me way longer than it should have from the beginning to place who each character was every time I came across them. I became frustrated with momentary mix-ups more than a few times. It was easier when Jake was called by his nickname, Ginger, but then it would throw me off when I saw “Jake” used again.

Nevertheless, the story drew me in for the most part, despite Luke’s obnoxious and occasionally cruel asides. I did, however, spend a healthy portion of the book wondering why I was reading so much from Luke’s perspective; the giant chip on Luke’s shoulder leaves him with a skewed version of events in his life, all of which are compounded by the unexpected revelation of the secret Jay had kept most vigilantly from his son, and the fact that Luke is the last to know. It’s hard to understand how Luke came to be this much of an ass.

In the aftermath of Jay’s sudden and traumatic death, Luke’s focus is still mainly himself. He may be affected by the loss of his father, but the reasons are far more egocentrically based than truly mourning his dad; he cares more about trying to rattle and humiliate Ginger (his brother-in-law) at Jay’s funeral than he does giving his last respects and saying goodbye to his own father. Even his eventual tender moments towards his mother and sister are all about playing Luke’s most important role, that of “perfect” son and brother.

Everything comes to a head when Luke finds out that there’s a secret and everyone else was privy to it except him, and he believes, his twin, Beau. When Luke finds out that Tom, a virtual stranger to him, knows and has some connection to Jay and thus the secret, he arranges a meeting in hopes of manipulating answers from him. The meeting, however, is brief as Tom quickly realizes that Jay has not told Luke everything and that Luke is fishing. The disastrous encounter prompts Luke to confront his mother, Jackie, and demand the truth from her…the night of his father’s burial.

There are a couple of things I would I like to comment on concerning the conversation where Luke is told of his father’s transgender past and the ending, but I don’t want to give anything away to anyone who wants to experience it for themselves (I definitely recommend that!) So just in case you don’t know the drill, scroll down until you see the kitten under the flannel, it will be safe after that.

Spoiler-Alert-Discussion

No matter what Luke’s justification is to himself, or anyone else, he is incredibly cruel with some of the things he says after the revelation of his father’s past, and Tom’s contribution to his and Beau’s existence.

The best part, though, are Beau and Jackie’s reactions; I loved the ferociousness with which Beau and Jackie defend Jay being a man and Luke’s real father. They rail against Luke and his ignorant and disgusting comments with passion…my heart swelled. Even though it was violent, I have to say I also enjoyed the detail of Ginger noticing Beau moving her wedding ring so that she smacked Luke with it facing him.

Another moment that tugged at my heart strings, and was incredibly sad to read, was Tom’s hallucination of Jay taking care of him, when it is really Luke. I almost cried.

As far as the end goes, one thing that I wish had been done differently was the apology and reconciling conversation between Luke and his family. I’m sure it would have been incredibly difficult to write, but as a reader, it seemed to resolve relatively easily. One long phone conversation after months of nothing, and things are on their way to being better. Not entirely fixed, but better, and mostly forgiven. Though it was obviously painful and difficult to get there for the characters, it still felt a little too easy of a makeup. I think it would have made the book a little stronger to further illustrate this pivotal conversation between Luke, Jackie, and Beau.

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Yes, is safe now.

There is only one other matter I have an issue with and feel I must comment on, and that’s the way Tom talks about the pain medication he is given for his cancer. To read Tom’s experience, it’s incredibly easy to get pain medicine when you need it, which is not necessarily the case, regardless of a doctor’s willingness to prescribe.

For a man that likes to comment on being put upon and listing all the things he has to go through, Tom doesn’t once mention the debacle of having to go pick up his higher dose pain prescriptions himself from the doctor’s office and then taking them to the pharmacy to be filled; a doctor cannot call in a prescription for pain medicine that is classified as a narcotic, they have to have the physically written prescription in hand, and the ID of the person picking it up/who it’s for. I know this from personal experience. And believe me, it’s not fun.

Both to keep to Tom’s character, as well as to accurately and responsibly depict something concerning pain medicine, it’s something I would like to see done a bit better.

All around, even though I wanted to strangle Luke on more than one occasion, it was an unexpected journey to experience, and one I enjoyed reading overall.

My favorite aspect of the book is the “good deeds of truth,” doing something for the sake of someone else without any benefit for yourself. In general, it’s a beautiful sentiment that I wish more people understood, shared, and practiced. In the book, it’s one of Jay’s pillars, especially in concerning his care of the dead; Jay and Ginger are morticians, they care for the dead with love and respect without being repaid in anyway by the person they care for. There is no benefit but to respect another human being’s life.

I heartily recommend this to anyone looking for an LGBTQ+ related read, but only if you can handle some sad and difficult scenes. It’s hard for me to say who might enjoy this book, it has cancer, death, and transgender man holding onto a secret, but it also has a lot of heart and an ending that won’t make you want to throw it across the room, though you might tear up.

It’s safe to say that I’m a fan of Stryker’s writing style and his stories are intriguing. I will be eagerly awaiting and anticipating his future releases. You can get a copy of Boy: A Journey on Amazon or B&N , or visit James at his website.

You Might Also Like:
Assimilation by James Stryker
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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.

 

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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.

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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: 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.