Books Read in 2019: Uprooted

In general I’m a sucker for fairytales and fairytale retellings, so I expected to enjoy Uprooted. I first tried borrowing the e-book from the library when we were on our trip, but the waiting list was long so I just waited to check out a paper copy when we got back.

I’m so glad I did. This book sucked me in and didn’t let go until I finished. It’s got great world-building and magic and Polish names and the creepiest Wood.

Agnieszka (ag-NYESH-ka)–I think it’s a Polish name?–is a girl who lives in a village near the Wood, and her best friend Kasia is destined to be taken by the nearby wizard who protects them from the Wood’s evil influence. But of course when the wizard actually chooses a girl, he doesn’t take Kasia (I mean, if he did, Kasia would be the narrator, right?).

“Our dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tall outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man…. “

Agnieszka learns about magic and the larger political forces at play in her small kingdom, all while the Wood looms large, sending its poisonous roots out to corrupt the villages.

I loved the atmosphere and the Wood was creepy and ominous. Everyone who entered it was given up for lost, and if they did emerge, they were changed and corrupted and probably would be killed to stop the spread of the corruption.

Parts of the story were somewhat predictable, but it’s a dark fairytale, so I’m ok with guessing some of the plot since it was well-written with an interesting world.

I especially liked the two types of magic cast by the wizards/witches, and the way they worked together (or didn’t, depending on several factors). Our protagonist was the right person for the challenge, and she was rooted (pun slightly intended) in her land and community to fight the evil.

If you don’t care for fairytales, or if you’re looking for lots of twists that you absolutely don’t see coming, you probably won’t like this book. But if dark fairytales with atmosphere and magic appeal to you, you might like this as much as I did.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Books Read in 2019: the Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy

I’m a little late to the party, as last summer I feel like I saw people reading this series everywhere, but after finishing War and Peace I thought it was time for some book candy.

I listened to Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems while on our England trip and after we got back. They were perfect for an early summer read, as they’re light and entertaining.

The books follow a large cast of colorful characters in a tight-knit society of ultra-rich Asian families as they live their lives of incredible luxury, flying to and fro on private jets, going on million-dollar shopping sprees, and eating delicious-sounding food. There are a lot of descriptions of the food, so I advise against reading while hungry.

The characters are entertaining, and Kwan does a great job of detailing incredible luxury while reminding us that these characters are still human, and while a multi-billionaire might be able to buy their way out of many problems, there are things that money cannot solve. When everyone you socialize with is a billionaire, what sets you apart?

Also hilarious: the ways some of the characters try to economize: one character spending millions on jewelry and art and clips coupons at the grocery store. Another spends a fortune on a weekend getaway but hoards hotel shampoo and soap. Details like these made the characters come alive, and I enjoyed these on Audible.

★ ★ ★

A Murder Is Announced

My long list of 50 classics to read by 2023 includes two Agatha Christie mysteries. My mother and grandmother introduced me to the delights of Christie when I was in middle school (exact age unclear) and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve read almost all her Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, but thought I hadn’t read this one.

I’ve had a hard time locating a copy here, and was delighted when I found this fun retro copy at the beautiful Daunt Books shop in London. What better souvenirs to bring back to the US than British literature?

As I started reading, the story started to feel familiar, and about two thirds of the way through I was pretty sure I remembered who the murderer was… but this was still a fun (re)read.

The mystery opens with an announcement in the small town newspaper announcing a murder that evening at 6:30. Half the village shows up “randomly” at the house in question around that time, curious to see the outcome. Of course, it turns into a very real murder, soon followed by other murders. The local constabulary needs the help of the unassuming-looking Miss Marple to unravel the tangled web.

I don’t think this is Christie’s finest, but it was still an entertaining read, full of details of village life and the cleverness of the underrated Miss Marple.

★ ★ ★