Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Genre: Historical fiction, magical realism
4 stars.

On a snowy winter day in 1910, Ursula is born and dies before she can take her first breath. What follows is a tale of life after life, as Ursula gets chances to live again and again and again, taking radically different paths with each choice as history marches before her and carries her story in its wake.

Well written and engaging, I thoroughly enjoyed Atkinson’s look into the way our choices can change the course of our lives. Atkinson weaves mysteries throughout the book, some of which are answered by later story lines, some that are only hinted at, some that are never answered at all. We watch as Ursula navigates and renavigates decisive moments in her life, waiting as she dodges a mistake she made in a previous life. The characters in Ursula’s life are fleshed out through glimpses of their stories, and I found myself caring about the directions their lives took. I also enjoyed Atkinson’s visceral look into the poignant history of early 20th century Britain–exploring the intense toll both World Wars had on a population.

I found Ursula difficult to relate to, however, and her overall personality to be a bit grating and difficult to understand. I cared a lot more for her mother and her sister than I did for her. I felt that she was a character to be projected upon rather than possessing a distinct personality of her own.

I also felt like there was no real ending to the book. Ursula lives so many lives which go in a number of fascinating directions, but the story just seemed to stop, suddenly and with no real conclusion. Was Ursula’s final life supposed to be her best life? Had she finally reached her full potential as a human being and so she stopped being reborn?

Despite those questions, I highly enjoyed Atkinson’s book, the way she wove history through the story, and left her audience rooting for Ursula and the choices she makes in life.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations for History and Fantasy Lovers

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If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you will know that fantasy and historical fiction are my two favorite genres. Books that combine both elements, however, make me absolutely giddy. Well done historical fantasy, as I’ve dubbed this genre, is much more difficult to find than you might expect (with the industry riddled with time-traveling romances like Outlander), so today I’ve drawn up a list of my top ten books for lovers of well done historical fantasy. Continue reading

T5W: Fantasy Series that Improved

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A notorious trope in fantasy trilogies is that the second book often falls flat. You know what I mean: characters recovering from a great battle and preparing for the Final Conflict, having petty arguments, traveling endless miles or sitting in one location for an annoying amount of time. But there are a few fantasy series I’ve discovered where I would argue that the second or subsequent books are better than the first, and absolutely worth holding out for. Continue reading

Top 5 Wednesday: Hate to Love Ships

Okay, who doesn’t love a good hate to love romance? I mean, the tension, the will they/won’t they can drive me through a book like nothing else. A truly good “hate to love” romance is not actually “hate to love.” It’s more of a passionate frustration, often driven by misunderstanding, between parties who are mutually stimulated/attracted (often intellectually) by the other. There’s just something so fun about this trope, and so satisfying, that it has been played upon again and again throughout the history of literature. “Hate to love” romances done well can truly explore a character’s growth and change, and I think that is why we can’t help but love this trope. Without further ado, here are my top 5 Hate to Love ships in books.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Okay, yes, I did start with Jane Austen again, but Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is literally the best example of “hate to love” because it pioneered the trope. Almost everything that follows in literature is directly derived from Austen’s novel. Her satirical tone, her ease with language, not to mention the near perfect symmetrical structure of the novel single Austen out as a master of her craft. She truly understood her society as well as human nature in a way that makes her works so accessible today. Continue reading

Book Con 2017 Book Haul/TBR

Wow. I spent this past weekend at Book Con in NYC and as a first timer I was completely overwhelmed. But it was also SO MUCH FUN. I wasn’t expecting the sheer amount of people, of insanity, of waiting in line, or the plethora of FREE ARC’s I was privy too. Not only that, but the connections you make with other readers, with other aspiring authors, and, as a blogger, with publicists was beyond my wildest dreams. I drove down to NYC from Michigan with Sierra of Quest Reviews and Laura of Laura Luna Books and we had an absolute blast finding other people like us. So, there will be a more comprehensive post on Book Con sometime in the next week, but for now I wanted to focus on the incredible haul I acquired in the two days of Book Con.

 

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Hunted by Megan Spooner

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Hunted by Megan Spooner
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale retelling, YA
4 stars.

I have not read as genuinely delightful of a fairy tale retelling in years. Hunted follows in the hallowed tradition of Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, and I was immediately swept into the nostalgia of Spooner’s enchanted world.

Yeva, the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant, longs for the solitude and magic of the forest, where she is free from the confines of society and can hunt as she pleases. When her father falls into financial ruin and then madness, disappearing into the forest in search of a mysterious “cunning beast,” Yeva has no choice but to follow him. When she finds a beast of nightmares looming over her father’s body in the snow, she swears vengeance on the creature who killed her father and that has now taken her captive to complete some mysterious test. Continue reading

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

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The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Genre: Historical fiction, Fantasy, YA
3 stars.

“If the story was happy, you’d care less about that tiny little bit of freedom . . . We wouldn’t like the daylight if it wasn’t for the night. We wouldn’t notice the stars if not for the endless dark of night. All the story, like you said? That’s the important part. The sad parts are all about surviving. We are a people that survives. We endure. We will endure this too.” Continue reading