Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

I didn't add a review of this book. I do remember being taken in by the writing and the characters. The story is sweet, profound and strong. I would have loved to read this one to my kids.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale AND The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

 At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

 Opening line:
"It was late winter in northern Rus', the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow."

I really loved being immersed in the folklore of Russia in this book. Vasya is a fantastic protagonist! She's witty, stubborn, adventurous, and finds herself getting into a lot of trouble. But she's okay with that because moves to her own beat. She sees "creatures" around the house and woods and becomes a friend and protector to them. She was raised to leave food and other treats for them to pay them for protecting the town.
But two things happen that cause problems and heartache for the town: Vasya's father remarries and a priest moves in. The stepmother sees the creatures too but she has a negative view of them which is ironically opposite of her stepdaughter. She comes across as mentally unstable and the villagers stay clear of her.
The priest takes it upon himself to cleanse the village of the heretics and their beliefs. In the process, he turns the villagers against their own beliefs, which leads to the village being vulnerable to more evil and death.
There are a lot of Russian names that I found hard to keep track of until about half way through the book when I understood who was related to who, etc. I enjoyed learning about Russia in this time period through the story.

Thanks to netgalley for the early review!

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

 Opening line:
"A girl rode a bay horse through a forest late at night."

The Girl in the Tower is every bit as good as the The Bear and the Nightingale. I love the main character, Vasya, and her strength, determination and love for her family. When Vasya is left with no choice to live her own life, she escapes by dressing up as a boy and riding a magical horse across Russia in the depth of winter. She is united to a brother, sister and cousin who are all unwitting players in a play of lies, deception and evil rulers.
Each character is painted in rich colors as well as the landscape and homes of Russia. And against the austere and bleak backdrop of Russia, Vasya shines even more as a strong, intelligent woman who will do what she knows is right.

Thank you netgalley for this early read! I loved it!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Delilah's Desserts by Melanie Jacobson, Heather b. Moore, Julie Wright

Welcome to Tangerine Street

Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. Delilah's Desserts, situated in the middle of this charming collection of shops and caf├ęs on Tangerine Street, is a bakery that offers a different variety of desserts each day. The emotions that Delilah bakes into these desserts have a strange effect on customers, sometimes altering the course of their lives . . .

A Taste of Magic by Melanie Jacobson
"Delilah stepped back from the giant mixes and brushed a stray lock of her hair out of her face."

The Art of Love by Heather Moore
"Roxy Randall hated her name all through elementary school."

Much Ado about Cupcakes by Julie Wright
"KC glanced at her watch before taking a sip of her lemon-infused water."

I LOVE the stories from Tangerine Street!

2017 Readying Update

I read 137 books.
Which equals over 45,000 pages.
My longest read (I actually listened to it) was:

Here are a few of my favorite reads (in particular order) from last year: