Friday, November 30, 2018

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Title: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik
Pages: 466
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy / Folk Tale
Source: Book of the Month
Format: Hardcover

Summary (back of the book)
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty - until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk - grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh - Miryem's fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

I thought this was excellent. A few years ago I listened to Novik's Uprooted on audio and fell in love with it - one of my favorite books of that year. Spinning Silver did not disappoint - despite my very high expectations.

All the characters here were very richly drawn. The story is told from the point of view of multiple characters and Novik does an excellent job getting inside all the various headspaces. I'm a sucker for stories told in this format. I like being able to get the same scene from multiple perspectives, and when it's done well it's a huge win for me.

As with Uprooted, Naomi Novik gives the reader an immerse experience when it comes to setting and place. I know I will remember the storyline to Spinning Silver, but when details begin to fade, the setting will not. From the village where Wanda and Miryem live, to the Staryk kingdom, the surroundings were written about vividly. This was one of my favorite things about the book. I'm a person who, while reading, really sees the story in my head like a movie. I'll be able to mentally enter Spinning Silver for quite some time.

I'm not typically a reader of fantasy. That's not to say I don't enjoy it, just that I don't consume it regularly. This book definitely had more of a folk lore feel as opposed to a fantastical feel. So even if fantasy isn't typically your jam I think it's 100% worth checking out.

If I had to make a complaint, I'd say that I was wishing for some kind of romantic spark along the way. If you've read Uprooted, I'm sure you remember that one scene, and I was hoping for something similar here. It didn't ruin the story by any means, but I would have liked it.

This book took me awhile to read, only because life has been incredibly busy. I think under normal circumstances I could have torn straight through it. If you want to get a copy for yourself, please consider using this link to get your hands on the book while also supporting Kate's Library!

Also, if you'd like to check out Naomi Novik's other book, Uprooted, I can't recommend it highly enough. As much as I enjoyed Spinning Silver, I actually thought Uprooted was better. So good. Click here to read my thoughts and click here to get a copy!

Friday, November 23, 2018

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Title: NOS4A2
Author: Joe Hill
Length/Pages: 19 hours, 41 minutes / 720 pages
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstopable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble... and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds her magic pitted against his - Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all... or die trying...

This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to in quite awhile. It was chilling. Joe Hill is such a wonderful writer - this is the third thing I've read by him and I've loved them all. He's becoming one of my authors that I auto-buy when they come out with something new.

NOS4A2 was really great on audio. The narrator is Kate Mulgrew (aka Capt. Janeway from Star Trek Voyager) and I thought she did a terrific job. There was one major mispronunciation, but you'd only know it if you're from the area where the book takes place (as I am). Narrator can make or break an audiobook and she really did well.

The premise of this book is so imaginative and terrifying. Vic, despite her issues, is a really badass lady and Charlie Manx is a horrifying villain. There are scenes from this book that will stick with me for quite awhile. For me, it was the perfect bridge between Halloween and Christmas.

It's hard to really say much else without spoiling the elements that create suspense. I could gush about it for awhile - it really was a fantastic book and it worked really well on audio. A quick google tells me that this is going to be a TV series - so you should read or listen to it beforehand! Consider clicking here to get a copy for yourself and support Kate's Library!

Monday, November 5, 2018

October Roundup

It's hard to believe October is at a close and we're starting to get into Thanksgiving mode. The fall is my absolute favorite season, and October turned out to be a fairly decent reading month.

Here's a list of the books I've read this month and affiliate links if you'd like to pick anything up!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This won a Pulitzer and I'm not surprised in the least. I really enjoyed this, my first Colson Whitehead, and I look forward to reading more of his work!
Click here for my thoughts and here to get your own copy.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
This was a thriller - not my absolute favorite, but it was really fast paced and that's exactly what I needed at the time!
Click here for my thoughts and here to get your own copy.

And here is a list of the comics I enjoyed this month. I have a handful of comics I read as single issues (I have a subscription box at my local comic shop - they're great, and although I don't live quite as local anymore I still make the trip every few weeks because I just couldn't bear to stop shopping there!). In addition to the single issue comics, I have a few titles I prefer to read as trade paperbacks (mainly because I first started reading them in trade after starting the series a little late). I've included affiliate links to many of these titles on Amazon, but it really can't beat finding your own shop.

Lumberjanes Vol. 9
This is a great series about a group of girls at summer camp - it's a lot of fun, they have adventures, they encounter supernatural and mythological creatures and people, and the characters are really diverse. One of my favorite comics! If you're interested, here's a link to pick up Volume 1 and start at the beginning!

Ms. Marvel #33, 34, and 35
Ms. Marvel is one of the only "superhero" comic series I subscribe to. She's a really great character - trying to figure out the balance between being Ms. Marvel and being herself - Kamala Khan. Kamala has a lot of heart, she's nerdy, she's deeply connected to her Muslim family and traditions, and she loves her friends and family. Click here to grab Volume 1 - it's one of the first comics I got into and I'm really glad I did!

Rat Queens #11 and 12
A group of lady mercenaries who are badass, have horrible language, and like to party. This is a fun comic. There was a little controversy surrounding the artist a couple of years ago, but I ultimately stuck with the series because I really enjoyed the characters. If you're interested, click here to get Volume 1.

Oblivion Song #6, 7, and 8
A section of Philadelphia was sucked into Oblivion and hundreds of thousands of people were lost. A decade later, Nathan Cole continues to risk his life to go to "the other side" and search for survivors, namely his brother. This is a new series and you can get a trade of issues 1-6 by clicking here.

The Seeds #1 and 2
This is a new series that someone from my awesome comic shop recommended. The art is really neat - black and white and and light green. The land seems to be divided in half, one of which is called Zone B and is tech-free. There are aliens who are trying to collect seeds of humans for some kind of embryo storage, and there's a reporter who wants to go to Zone B to get her big story. I am glad I picked this one up. Click here and try to get a paper copy, or you can get a digital copy.

Blackbird #1
Another recommendation from my local comic shop. Nina survives an earthquake when she was a girl - an earthquake she knew was going to happen. As an adult, she's convinced that in LA there is a secret underground magic world. Everyone thinks she's crazy, but she's not. I loved this. Great story and great art. I picked up #1 on a recommendation and texted the shop later that afternoon to ask them to add it to my subscription list! Click here to try and snag a paper copy or get it digitally.

Stranger Things #1
I'm a big fan of the Netflix series, so I added this to my subscription right away. This issue was great - you get more from Will Byers' perspective. Can't wait for #2! It looks like paper editions are sold out (at least on Amazon) but you can get it for Kindle!

Aside from reading, we've had a great month. The biggest news is that we're going to move to our new house in 5 days!!!!!! We've been at an extended stay hotel since the first of August and we are more than ready to get to our home. The first picture was a few weeks ago and the second picture is inside - almost done, just a few minor things they're pulling together before our closing this Friday!

Dominic is still loving Kindergarten. We're working with him on figuring out that he can't just not do his work because he's too tired or doesn't feel like it. It's been a process but he adores his teacher and he's happy going to school every day. He suddenly wants to write everything and is sounding out road signs. His question asking has increased by about 1,000%, and we love it. He can't wait to get to the new house, be only a short drive from his school, and finally see all his old toys and bedroom decor that's been in storage for almost 6 months!

Zach is doing so well at his new daycare. They're doing amazing things with those kids! His new thing is the alphabet and it's adorable. His language has exploded these past couple of months and he's got such a cute little personality!

The big thing for us has been the house and getting into the routine of school. The time change has thrown us all for a loop (4:22 wake-up for Zach this morning, turning on all the lights). We try not to "wish the time away" but we can't wait to get through this week and finally move to our dream home. But first, I need to get to bed because I'm presenting at a conference tomorrow! See you at the end of November, readers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Author: Sarah Pinborough
Pages: 340
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Thriller
Format: Hardcover

Summary: (back of the book)
Lisa lives a very quiet life. A single mother nearing forty, she values her privacy and devotes herself to raising her sixteen-year-old daughter, Ava. Wary of men, Lisa doesn't speak of her past or Ava's absent father. Her best friend and coworker, Marilyn, wishes she would open up more and maybe finally go on a date - especially with the sexy new client who's obviously keen - but maybe Marilyn shouldn't be handing out dating advice given her own problems.

Ava, meanwhile, is getting tired of her overprotective mother. She wants to live like a normal teenager - chill with friends, go to swim practice, study for exams, have a boyfriend. Her mom would freak if she knew that Ava's already got someone special, someone exciting and mysterious, who makes her feel sophisticated - and wanted.

Lisa has spent a long time looking over her shoulder, but lately she's been especially uneasy. Just when she starts to let her guard down, small things from the past begin to intrude upon her carefully constructed life, feeding her anxiety. As her world begins to unravel, Lisa knows that the only way she can protect herself and her daughter is to face her fears. Yet courage won't be enough. She'll need help from the only person she can trust - Marilyn. Between them they have to save Ava, and to do that, they have to be honest with each other. Truly honest. Marilyn did promise she'd do anything to help.

But a long time ago, Lisa made a promise too. Then she broke her word. And that betrayal hasn't been forgotten - or forgiven. Now someone is going to make her pay for her sin. A captivating and hair-raising psychological thriller, Cross Her Heart is a masterful tale of obsession, intrigue, and suspense that will leave you reeling.

As a thriller, there were things about this that I enjoyed and things I thought were just okay. 

Overall I thought the premise was interesting, but there were definitely some plot holes that got under my skin. It's difficult to write about these qualms without giving away too much of the plot. Mostly, the circumstances surrounding Lisa's past left me with a lot of unanswered questions. There's a lot of distance between the Lisa of the past and the Lisa we meet at the start of this book, and I wanted more explanation as to how the transformation occurred. In addition, and I don't think this gives too much away, when Lisa's past finally comes out, I truly don't understand the reactions and the circumstances that led to her past being such a mystery.

There were moments when I was able to predict what was going on, and a few moments that caught me off guard. Of the moments that caught me off guard, only a few of them were completely out of left field, meaning there were a few where you could connect the dots after knowing the whole story. When it comes to thrillers, I'm always more excited to read stories where you can go back and see all the little clues after things are laid out. 

The biggest thing that was difficult for me is that this book violated a rule I have about avoiding books where bad things happen to little kids. I just can't do it. And this book was a big violation - I'm not sure I would have picked it up had I known more about this part of the storyline. There were a few paragraphs I had to skim - and then put the book down to hug and kiss my two-year-old son.

I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't love it either. It was a really fast read, which I kind of needed last week. Who else has read it? Drop your thoughts below! And if you want to grab a copy for yourself, consider using this link to do so and support Kate's Library!

PS - I received this book from Book of the Month Club. If you haven't looked into this service, I highly recommend it!!! It's one of the few treats I reserve for myself! Click here for more information!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Pages 313
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Copy

Summary (back of the book):
Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood - where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

In Colson Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is the gripping tale of one woman's will to escape the horrors of bondage - and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

This book has received so much attention, I was a little nervous when I began. It's never fun when something doesn't quite live up to the hype. I think all the buzz surrounding The Underground Railroad was completely warranted and well-deserved. This was a fantastic book.

When I read the description on the back of the book I was expecting the "railroad" aspect of the story to play a more prominent role. I love a good historical fiction novel, and the idea that there was a literal railway system leading people to freedom is such an imaginative idea! Even though I would have loved the railroad scenes to be a bigger part of the story, I understand that the railroad was a way for Cora to pop up in different parts of the United States during this particular time period, therefore giving her a wide range of experiences. I found the story to spend less time on the journey than on the places Cora inhabited for periods of time. I liked these snapshots.

I loved Cora as a character. I found her to be strong and constantly attempting to find peace and expand her knowledge despite her horrific circumstances. I thought she was a beautifully developed character. Whitehead does a beautiful job helping the reader understand Cora's heart right from the beginning. There is never any doubt about her integrity and character.

My only complaint is that I wish some secondary characters had been developed a little more. That's not to say there wasn't any development at all, but I was left wanting a little more, particularly about Caesar. This is, however, a small and picky complaint for what is a wonderful book.

This was the first book I've read by Colson Whitehead. I thought his writing was captivating and beautiful. Looking at his catalogue, it appears that his books span a very wide range of genres. I'm always impressed when I read authors who are able to access parts of their imagination to create works of science fiction, historical fiction, etc. Such a wide range! I have Zone One on my phone as an audiobook, so I'm going to have to move it to the front of my list.

Please drop a comment and let me know what you thought of this book! And if you'd like to grab your own copy, consider clicking this affiliate link to not only get a great book, but to support Kate's Library in the process!