A Year of Reading

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I spent far too much time trying to fix something unfixable before I realized it was Amazon’s fault, so it’s late and I’m cranky. In other words, this post is just going to be a lazy one. It’s a recap of what I’ve read this year, plus the last two I plan on finishing. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a reading list from me.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. It’s still my favorite of the series.

2. One Poison Pie by Lynn Cahoon. You can see my review here.

3. Take Joy by Jane Yolen. It was a nice little craft book, but nothing spectacular.

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. A little more rambling than I remembered, but still in my top three HP books.

5. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. You can see my review here.

6. Dark Shadow by Danielle Rose. A good series.

7. Vasilisa by Julie Mathison. You can see my review here.

8. Dark Descent by Danielle Rose. A good series.

9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Probably in the bottom three of my favorite HP books.

10. Down World by Rebecca Phelps. You can see my review here.

11. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Somewhere in the middle of my favorite HP books.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. Probably my least favorite HP book.

13. Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. You can see my review here.

14. Dark Power by Danielle Rose. A good series.

15. Death in Bloom by Jess Dylan. You can see my review here.

16. Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien. I love this cozy mystery series.

17. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. I was super disappointed by this one.

18. Bound for Murder by Victoria Gilbert. A little description heavy, but a cute cozy series.

19. Walking Through Needles by Heather Levy. You can see my review here.

20. Watch Her by Edwin Hill. The series is on the darker end of the cozy spectrum and worth checking out.

21. Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron. You can see my review here.

22. A Crafter Hooks a Killer by Holly Quinn. A cute series, but nothing special.

23. Murder in the Village by Lisa Cutts. You can see my review here.

24. Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw. A lovely read, if a bit predictable.

25. A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris. Another cute series.

26. Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. Beautiful illustrations, but the fairy tale retelling was just meh.

27. The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher. You can see my review here.

28. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I freaking loved this book and I have no idea why. It’s not my usual genre, but it gave me all the feels and I can’t get over how much I enjoyed it.

29. The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole. You can see my review here.

30. Murder Always Barks Twice by Jennifer Hawkins. Another super cute cozy series and it features a corgi.

31. Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells. I probably should’ve re-read the first book in this duology, but things eventually came back to me. Definitely recommend it.

32. Flying Angels by Danielle Steel. You can see my review here.

33. Midnight Spells Murder by Mary Angela. It’s not a bad cozy series, but not great.

34. Currently Reading: Shackled Fates by Thilde Kold Holdt. I am in love with this trilogy so far.

35. Currently Reading: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw. I couldn’t find a book I wanted to review this month, so I decided to buy Ernshaw’s newest book and review it later this month.

Thoughts on VASILISA

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of February and we’ve pretty much thawed out here in Dallas (was around 80 yesterday). Anyway, it’s time for my last book review until the end of March. This time, I wanted something a little fantasy meets folklore, but something I’m not very familiar with (Russian folklore seemed like a good choice), so I decided to request Julie Mathison’s Vasilisa. It was released yesterday (February 23rd) from Mathison’s own imprint, Starr Creek Press. As usual, I must thank her and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover.

Vasilisa begins in 1919 in Edenfall, PA and follows our heroine (Vasilisa) as she struggles to come to terms with her father going missing in Flanders, a creepy suitor sniffing around her mother, her babka’s waning health, and learning who she can trust. Unfortunately, the answers to all of her troubles lie in Old Rus with the witch Baba Yaga. But Vasilisa doesn’t have to go alone when young Ivan appears by her side. Together, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Plotwise, this one is a standard fairytale. There’s a maiden, a prince, some witches, a fairy godmother type character who happens to be Vasilisa’s grandmother, an ogre, a forest sprite, and even a dragon thrown in there for good measure. And that’s not even all of the fairytale stuff, just what I remember off the top of my head. Despite all of this, the story doesn’t feel cluttered or convoluted. It’s actually pretty impressive how much is crammed into this fairly short book (less than 250 pages) without making it a slog.

Me after counting all the tropes I could remember.

The pacing is quick. Sometimes a little too quick. Especially in the romantic development. It’s for younger readers, so I understand glancing over boring things, but it’s really weird how Vasilisa goes from not being sure she can trust Ivan to loving him in the span of a couple of pages without any real internal struggle. I think that’s due to the fact that a lot of this story is telling instead of showing. I’m not against that, but while it makes the story flow faster, it also makes it more difficult to express emotional growth within the characters. The POV probably also contributes to that.

As far as the characters go, they were a little flat, but still enjoyable. Vasilisa is basically the personification of kindness, which is a little boring if I’m being honest. She has zero flaws. She never does anything wrong except that one time she skips school to steal something from the bad dude in order to save her babka. It gets old fast. Ivan and Evelyn are better in that department. They at least have motivations that force them to straddle the line between right and wrong. Everyone else is pretty much a cardboard cutout of their fairytale roles.

Me when reading about Vasilisa.

The writing is clean and makes for a quick read. Sometimes I wanted more description, but it’s not bad. There’s nothing really special about it. No lines really jump out at me as quotable or memorable. But it’s smooth and works well for this story.

Ultimately, Vasilisa is not bad, but not great. The epilogue sets us up for book two, which I’m not opposed to reading, but I’ll probably forget this series even exists before it comes out. I’m not upset I read it. I don’t want those hours back or anything. It’s just kind of blah.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy fairytales and want something quick and cute to read, go for it. If you have a youngster who’s into this type of stuff, I can definitely see kids enjoying it. The story’s fun, it just fell short for me.