Helloo and welcome to part 2 of what I read in July! You can read part 1 here, where I reviewed The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Uncommoners, and Rooftoppers. Part 2 is much less middle grad fiction, much more young adult/ adult fiction. I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Alexanda Bracken's Passenger, listened to Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon on audiobook, and On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Some of these I loved, some of these I didn't really love... so without further ado here are my reviews!
I got this BEAUTIFUL book in hardback for my birthday. It's just so beautiful with shiny gold and with pretty blue and with the illustration of the tower casting a shadow over a little house. I was also very pleased to find the contents just as enjoyable. This book is so much more than its blurb, which focusses on the wizard known as the Dragon, who chooses one young woman every ten years to serve him in his tower. The main character Agnieszka becomes his unlikely choice and a much bigger story unfolds from there. This is a book about magic in its many forms, magic you can learn from spell books, and magic you can summon from within. The world building is wonderful and rich, drawing on folk stories and fairy tales. I loved watching Agnieska learn about her new found powers and navigate the courts as an outsider, and use her outsider knowledge to discover more about the true villain of the book, the enchanted and evil Wood, which is slowly but surely taking over the whole kingdom. So spellbinding. Wonderful world building. Great magic. So much more than its blurb. And I really liked the ending.
So I found this book to be promising at first. It follows the stories of Etta Spencer and Nicholas Carter who are both travellers, able to travel through portals to different points in time and history. Etta has been raised unaware of this ability in New York, where she is a skilled violinist awaiting her debut. She gets thrust into the past and into the world of travellers one night after a performance and a tragic accident. She meets Nicholas aboard the ship he is captaining and learns she has been kidnapped by the Ironwood family, to whom Nicholas was previously a slave. Together they go on a hunt through history for a valuable time travel object that chief evil Ironwood patriarch wants to get his hands on. All this was very exciting and well paced, I loved the bits on board the boat and the race through history following clues left by Etta's mother. However, I was really majorly put off by the romance plot. It's a classic I-just-met-you-but-I-would-die-for-you insta-love and there are endless lengthy will-they-won't-they-have-sex scenes with detailed multi sensory descriptions. This really slowed the pace down considering they were in a life or death race against time. I think I would've absolutely loved this book if the whole romance plot had been entirely dropped. Nicholas is black and from past and I get that Etta wanting to have sex with him would be a big historical taboo. But ugh, I just found it so slowing for what was otherwise a very fast paced plot. He could've been gay, that would've been much more interesting, and Etta could've been focused on her mum not getting murdered. Overall, cool premise and great story, just could have done without the romance.
Ctrl Alt Delete
This book is wonderful! I now fully love Emma Gannon. I've been listening to Emma's podcast of the same name and really enjoying it. She's had some tip top great guests on so far. So the book chronicles Emma's life growing up online, going on chatrooms and photoshopping her holiday snaps in the dial up days and eventually finding a place for herself online as a successful blogger, with some pretty cool sounding internet-jobs along the way. We're the same age so I basically shared most of her online teenage experiences from MSN and bebo to Facebook and Twitter. She is an engaging storyteller, unafraid to give all the gruesome details of a life lived online. I particularly enjoyed her online dating stories; I have some very similar MSN romance escapades. I laughed and smiled and cringed along as I walked around listening to the audiobook, probably alarming passersby. Follow Emma on twitter, subscribe to her podcast and definitely download this audiobook because it's great and she's one cool lady.
On the Other Side
I really wanted to like this book, I really did. I've watch Carrie on Youtube for years now and really like her. She's a talented, thoughtful lady. I've seen her talking about the writing of the book for ages so I was pretty interested to see how it turned out. I really liked the premise; waiting to get into the afterlife until you've let go of things holding you to earth. Our main character Evie Snow finds herself returned to her 27 year old form in the apartment building she inhabited at that time, unable to enter her old apartment, which contains her version of heaven, until she has let go of what is making her soul too heavy to move on. Much of the story is told through flash backs to Evie's life aged 27 living in a city, working at a newspaper, and falling in love with violinist Vincent Winters. There is no time or place setting at any point, something which has been done deliberately to make the story 'timeless', however I just found it very jarring with my brain skipping around trying to figure out if it was the 1900s, 1950s, 1980s, 2000s, so I could imagine the spaces and the characters within these spaces. There was also a lot of telling rather than showing, with characters introduced with full two page biographies and then sometimes not really seen again. It was strange. There is a school scene in the middle that felt so out of place, maybe because there was actually showing and not telling. Also in my hardback edition there are blank pages before each chapter, which really just felt like padding. Also also inexplicably there are moments of magical realism, which don't feel quite in tune with the story as a whole. However I have no doubt that Carrie will keep writing, this was a great premise and I reckon her future books will be way better.