Not Just Books: December 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

MV5BMTU0OTc3ODk4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4NzI5NjM@._V1_Movie: “Roma”

I just got done watching this movie yesterday, so it was quick to come to mind when thinking what to highlight this month in this post. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until, when browsing Netflix, my husband spotted it and mentioned that he had heard of it. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this movie was definitely different than much our typical watching-fare. It’s in black and white and is a foreign language film, detailing the life of Cleo, a young maid working for a wealthy family in Mexico City. The story is quiet, contemplative, and then will hit viewers with a bang at the most unexpected moments. It’s also a story of the strength of women and the complicated roles they can play in each others’ lives. It’s also definitely Oscar bait, but I still very much enjoyed it and strongly recommend it!

The_Sims_3_Refresh_CoverComputer Game: “Sims 3”

To follow that lofty note of true art, I also had a Saturday shift this month and got super bored. So what to do? Download “The Sims 3” and play it all day, of course! As a kid, I played the first two versions of “The Sims” pretty obsessively. We won’t get into the rather ridiculous and maybe even messed up things that my friends and I did with that game (…we MAY have created and proceeded to kill a bunch of Sims so that we could have a hundred tombstones in our cemetery…). And I think I might have played “Sims 3” at one point or another, but definitely not to the same level. So it was high time to get back into a quality time-waster such as this. What exactly is the true appeal of trying to re-create your actual life on a virtual platform, two pet cats and all? I’ll never know, but I sure as heck enjoyed it.

p15885732_b_v8_acTV Show: “Jeopardy!”

We don’t have TV, so we’re not one of those families who sit down and watch this nightly. No, we’re probably even worse: we’re the kind of family who, upon seeing that there are now seasons available on Netflix, spent the next week binging entire “Jeopardy!” championships. Yes, we have an exciting life, don’t get too jealous. But, in all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed this show, so it was fun to find some of it available to stream. Kate and I are on a trivia team together, so she knows how bad I really am at trivia. But for some reason, the format and kinds of questions featured on “Jeopardy!” play better to my strengths. Though it’s still a fight to get an answer out before my husband, who is a trivia guru. We also had an exorbitant amount of fun choosing favorites and least favorites from among the tournament participants.

Kate’s Picks

iconTV Show: “King of the Hill”

If you were to ask me what my favorite animated TV Show of all time is, I would absolutely say “King of the Hill”. It follows the various anecdotes from the daily lives of people living in a small Texas town called Arlen, with the main focus on Hank Hill and his wife Peggy and son Bobby. It’s understated and sardonic, with the kind of humor that is highly quotable while still staying firmly in reality. I have loved this show since it was on the air for it’s 13 Seasons, and when I saw that it was back to streaming on Hulu I was overjoyed. While I do love all the characters on this show, the biggest stand out for me is the paranoid and eccentric Dale Gribble, whose complete lack of chill is far too relatable (though John Redcorn is a very close second). This show has so much heart and is so timeless, and episodes from almost twenty years ago still resonate today. If there was ever a comfort show for me, this is it.

PuhHRfNGbPs3MCRRIsm6WjrEsnn0DZAgVideo Game: “Let’s Go, Eevee!”

I have the fondest of memories of playing “Pokemon Blue” on my Gameboy back in high school. So when I found out that Nintendo was pretty much remaking it on The Switch, and this time you could start with Eevee if you so chose, I WAS SO EXCITED! “Let’s Go Eevee!” is pretty much a remake of “Pokemon Blue” (with “Let’s Go Pikachu” being “Pokemon Red”, which my husband got for himself), though it has added and tweaked some factors that make it a bit more immersive. You can play with your Eevee, you can have an additional Pokemon follow you around, so I of course picked Meowth, and you can see the unique personalities that each of your pokemon have. I was playing this game a lot during a stressful time this past month, and it really mellowed me out as I did so. If you have a Switch and have nostalgia for the original Pokemon games, “Let’s Go Eevee” and “Pikachu” should definitely end up on your list of games to check out.

theres-more-to-the-marvelous-mrs-maisel-season-2-than-meets-the-eye-750-1544444384-1_cropAmazon Prime Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

My favorite show about a Jewish Comedienne in 1950s New York is back!! When we left Midge Maisel in the Season 1 finale, her soon to be ex husband Joel had discovered that she was doing stand up with him as the punch line. When we get back into her life, we see not only the fallout from that, but we also see how high her star has been rising. Rachel Brosnahan continues to shine as the charming Midge, though this time around he has a few more moments of poignancy when it comes to her complicated feelings for Joel. And Alex Borstein shows exactly why she won an Emmy for her portrayal of Susie, Midge’s curmudgeon of a manager and confidant. And let me tell you, the moment Midge and her family went to the Catskills for an extended vacation, my husband and I were basically shouting in glee at the blatant proud Jewishness on display. Pride, man. This show is still marvelous.


Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

26244626Pick Number 5: “Veronica Speedwell” mysteries by Deanna Raybourn

“A Curious Beginning” Review & “A Perilous Undertaking” Review & “A Treacherous Curse” Review

We all know how much I love the Amelia Peabody series. So imagine my excitement when I discovered yet another historical mystery series that featured an excellent heroine! And a series that is being written currently, with the fourth book coming down the pike this upcoming spring! Veronica Speedwell, in many ways, is the natural heir to Amelia Peabody: she’s snappy, clever, and willing to do things herself if those around her shy away due to her “feminine sensitivities.” And, of course, with every talented female sleuth comes her gruff partner in crime, trailing behind being exasperated but also endeared by our heroine’s antics. Stoker is just such a man. And, unlike the Amelia Peabody series, the “will they/won’t they” relationship between these two has yet to be resolved, three books in. We’ll see what comes of things in the next!

22299763Pick Number 4: “Six of Crows” & “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo

“Six of Crows” Review & “Crooked Kingdom” Review

I had pretty mixed feelings about Bardugo’s original series. By the end, I actually disliked it quite a bit. So when “Six of Crows” was picked for bookclub, I went in with a pretty heavy dose of skepticism. Imagine my surprise when not only did I like it, but I loved it! Probably the most of anyone in our bookclub! I immediately went out and purchased the second book in the duology and read it in a few days. I loved all of the characters involved, their tragic backstories, and the effortless chemistry that developed between them all. Plus, a fantasy heist story. A FANTASY HEIST STORY! Of course, I’m all over this! It also had just the right dash of romance sprinkled throughout to satiate that side of things for me as well. These are technically two books, of course, but they read as one continued story, so I had to include both here!

26863057Pick Number 3: “Age of Myth” by Michael J. Sullivan

“Age of Myth” Review

This book makes this list not only for the story it contains in its own pages but for what it represents: a gateway into an entirely new fantasy world and fantasy author who I had previously not discovered. I read a lot of YA, and that’s my only excuse for how I somehow missed a prolific author such as Sullivan.  But after reading this book, I’m on this train for good. “Age of Myth” introduces a fantastic new world full of familiar beings (elves, dwarfs, giants, and humans), but stands on its own with strong characters and an action-packed story. I particularly enjoyed the strong women characters at the heart of the story: a middle-aged chieftain’s wife who finds herself at the heart of a growing conflict and a young seer girl who begins to understand that she may be more than she previously thought. We also get insights into one of our villain’s mindsets, and the fact that I enjoyed even this (against my usual preference for limited POVs in books) just speaks to the strength of this book as a whole. Look for reviews for the next two books in the series which should be coming your way shortly!

363423301Pick Number 2: “Lady Sherlock” series by  Sherry Thomas

“A Study in Scarlet Women” Review & “A Conspiracy in Belgravia” Review & “The Hollow of Fear” Review

Kate gave me the first book in this series last year for Christmas, and thus, a new great love was born. I quickly devoured the first two in the series and then waited anxiously for the third to finally arrive this fall. I’ve loved every bit of this re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes that cast the titular character as Charlotte Holmes. But while we’ve seen a gender-swap of the famous detective before, what makes this series stand out is its added interpretations of other staple characters from the series, often re-creating them in new and unexpected ways and providing plenty of surprises along the way. And, of course, Charlotte herself is an incredibly original character, not only from the original Sherlock, but from all of the other “girl Sherlocks” we’ve seen in the past. Fans of historical mysteries and Sherlock Holmes in particular should definitely check these out!

36896898Pick Number 1: “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik

“Spinning Silver” Review

It will probably surprise no one to find this book at the top of my list. If Kate and I had been operating this blog when I read “Uprooted” I have no doubts that it, too, would have topped my reading list for that year. Novik has mastered the art of fairytale re-tellings, as far as I’m concerned. The best part of her approach is that while still distinctly told in a fairytale type way, the original story is often only barely discernible beneath the creative twists she’s taken on events and characters. “Spinning Silver” was even more thrilling because it was re-telling a lesser-used fairytale, “Rumpelstiltskin.” Novik also diverged from the approach she took with the first book and here introduced an entire cast of characters all sharing POV chapters to help unfurl the story. I loved everything about this book. So much so, that while now on Christmas break from work, I’m having a strong urge to re-read it, less than a year after the first go-around!

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2018?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

40774524Pick Number 5: “Lethal White” by Robert Galbraith

“Lethal White” Joint Review

I waited three long years for this book to finally be released, and not only did it not disappoint, it became my favorite of the Cormoran Strike series! Cormoran and Robin’s continuing adventures as detectives in London have never been longer, but they’ve also never been more satisfying. This time they take on the privileged class when a politician may have ties to a potential murder from decades past. “Lethal White” is a showcase of how much Galbraith has grown as a mystery author since the series debuted, and it is also a good reminded that Galbraith is a great master of characterization. All we need now is for Cormoran and Robin to finally start figuring out their feelings for each other, though I know we’re probably still a few books away from that. If you haven’t started the Strike books, you absolutely should, because “Lethal White” pays off big.

36124936Pick Number 4: “The Outsider” by Stephen King

“The Outsider” Review

Speaking of masters within their field, I was so happy to see that Stephen King returned to his horror roots this year with “The Outsider”. When a young boy is molested and murdered in a small town, the cops think that they have an open and shut case when DNA evidence points to a local little league coach. But all is not what it seems, as the coach has not only an air tight alibi, but video evidence of being hundreds of miles away at the time of the murder. The monster in this book is one of the most unsettling that King has ever created, but it’s the appearance of his character Holly Gibney that really sold this book for me. Throw in some homages to “Dracula” and a number of likable characters, and “The Outsider” is just another example of the new Golden Age of King we are living in.

36686229Pick Number 3: “Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles” by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan (Ill.)

“Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles” Review

The best graphic novel of my reading year was also one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen put to comic page. I myself would have never thought to take the Hanna-Barbera character of Snagglepuss and make him a symbol of LGBTQIA+ resistance during the Lavender Scare, but Mark Russell did just that and MAN did he create a powerful tale. In this universe, Snagglepuss is a successful playwright who lives a life of glamour and glitz as the toast of Broadway. But when those around him start getting targeted by the Government for their sexualities, Snagglepuss has to decide if he wants to be a sign of rebellion, or to play ball. This book was a powerful and all too relevant tale about Othering, and it gave an emotional story to a character that was decidedly not emotional in his original conception. Bring tissues to this one though. You will probably cry.

34810320Pick Number 2: “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

“Sadie” Review

Honestly, we’re basically in crying territory from here on out, because “Sadie” almost wrecked me. But it’s power and rage and devastation is what makes it so good. When Sadie’s younger sister is murdered, she is determined to hunt down the man she is convinced killed her and get her revenge. Meanwhile, a podcast about Sadie’s disappearance and the murder of her sister is telling her story to thousands of listeners, and two narratives converge to tell a larger picture about love, misogyny, poverty, and loss. Summers doesn’t hold back any punches as Sadie goes on her mission, and she faces awful circumstances and hardships along the way. She is a tough and gritty protagonist that you root for, and her story is absolutely soul crushing in it’s realism. But it’s hands down one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.

35226186Pick Number 1: “Providence” by Caroline Kepnes

“Providence” Review

It probably comes as no surprise that one of my favorite authors made the top of the list this year! Caroline Kepnes may be well known for her disturbing Joe Goldberg books, but “Providence” is more of a tragic romance with speculative fiction thrown in for good measure. Jon and Chloe are teenage best friends, but when Jon disappears the romance that was blooming stops. When Jon reappears a few years later, something about him has changed, and his very presence is lethal for those around him. I fell in love with Jon and Chloe, I rooted for them and their star crossed relationship, and I loved the Lovecraftian influence that Kepnes brought into this book. It had me filled with suspense, elation, and woe, and when I set it down I knew that she had once again kicked me in my feels and left me raw. “Providence” is a WONDERFUL book, and it’s my favorite book of 2018.

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2018?

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

363010231Pick Number 10: “My Plain Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

“My Plain Jane” Review

The unexpected companion novel to the unexpected joy that was “My Lady Jane,” this story tackles a re-imaging of “Jane Eyre” with all of the twists, humor, and nonsense that I’ve come to expect from this author trio. The twists pile on top of each other right from the beginning when we are introduced to not only Jane Eyre, a girl who sees ghosts, but her school mate, Charlotte Bronte, a girl who likes to write. What made this unexpected addition all the better, was the fact that I ultimately ended up enjoying Charlotte’s story even better than Jane’s! All of the required pieces from the original are present, but almost only if you squint. And that’s a compliment! “My Plain Jane” feels completely fresh and original, and the fact that these authors somehow pulled this little stunt off for a second time is pretty incredible. I hear there’s a third book “My Calamity Jane” in the works, and you all know I’m already lined up for it even though it’s not slated for publication until 2020.

32991569Pick Number 9: “Jane, Unlimited” by Kristin Cashore

“Jane, Unlimited” Review

Not only do I include this book because it is fully deserving, but I do it in the same mode that I wrote my review: as a service to a book that has been criminally overlooked or DNF’d by fantasy fans who were disappointed that it wasn’t the next “Graceling.” As I said in my review, I understand that reaction (I, too, loved Cashore’s first trilogy), but I also feel that because of the massive popularity of her first books, “Jane, Unlimted” didn’t get a fair shake of it. This book is so completely new, so completely unique, that it’s a true shame that it has gone by so unnoticed. Cashore described her writing experience as trying to essentially create a “choose your own adventure” novel for adults. And it’s that and so much more! This genre-defying story follows the twists, turns, and choices of Jane, an average girl who likes to make umbrellas, as she explores a mysterious house and all of the wonders, and horrors, it contains. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy reading this book, but it left me thinking long after I turned the last page. And now, just re-reading my review, I feel compelled to re-read the entire book to try and remember exactly how this complicated story played out. I’m sure I missed many little nuggets that would be great to discover on a re-read!

25446343Pick Number 8: “Strange the Dreamer” and “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

“Strange the Dreamer” Review & “Muse of Nightmares” Review

Can you believe that I read both of these this year?? In my mind, it was FOREVER ago when I read “Strange the Dreamer.” Probably because it ended on a killer cliffhanger that tortured us all until the sequel and conclusion came out this fall. But man, I loved them both. The beautiful writing, the sharp characterizations, the increasingly complex look at what makes up who we are and why we do what we do. Grief, family, love, retribution. It’s all there! Looking back, I think I enjoyed “Muse of Nightmares” even more than the first book, preferring its deep-dive into some pretty dark topics over the heavy focus on romance in the first book. But, of course, you couldn’t have the sequel without the first, and I loved that one as well, so they both get a shout-out and the duology as a whole should be a “must” for all YA fantasy fans.

33555224Pick Number 7: “Thunderhead” by Neil Shusterman

“Thunderhead” Review

Speaking of cliffhangers, beware this next book unless you want to live through the waking hell that is counting down the days until “The Toll” comes out…sometime in 2019? Ugh. I loved “Scythe” and the uptopian world that Shusterman created where people live in a perfect world where death doesn’t exist, except when doled out by a select group of people whose job it is to keep the population under control. “Thunderhead” takes the concepts introduced in the first book and expands them exponentially. We get an even greater look behind the curtain into the corruption that exists in this seemingly perfect system. And our two heroes, Rowan and Citra, are coming at the situation from very different angles: one as a rebel, trying to  blow up the entire system, and the other working from withing, attempting to gather the power and influence necessary to steer the course of the future. The events at the end of this book are huge, effecting not only our main characters, but also the entire world. I have no idea where the story will go from here, but I can’t wait to find out! Soon, hopefully!

35921536Pick Number 6: “The Defiant Heir” by Melissa Caruso

“The Defiant Heir” Review

“The Tethered Mage” came out of nowhere and blew me away, so it was with much excitement that I got my hands on “The Defiant Heir” as soon as possible. And, again, this sequel proved that even good things can get better with time! No mid-trilogy slump here! What I loved most about the first book, and continued to love here, is the incredible female friendship that operates at the core of the story. Not only are Amalia and Zaira cautious friends, though. Their complicated relationship bound up in the restrictions placed on those with magic is being constantly challenged by the different forms of power and restraint they each face. This second book also expands the world out even further and we get a look into the massively crazy power of the Witch Lords whom we had heard about so much in the first book. Amalia and Zaira spend much of the book behind enemy lines and in tremendous danger. It’s definitely a more action-packed take than the more politically-focused first book. The third one comes out in April, and I’m already scheming up ways to get my hands on an early copy!

So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2018?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

33918887Pick Number 10: “Bruja Born” by Zoraida Córdova

“Bruja Born” Review

This creepy follow up to “Labyrinth Lost” was the book that confirmed that I had a new favorite witch series to follow! A witch series that shows the dangers of bringing the dead back to life, as Lula Mortiz does to her boyfriend. The sad and also very creepy continuing story of the Mortiz Sisters was an improvement on the first, as not only does it center more on the scares and the dangers of the magical world the sisters live within, it ups the stakes and makes the consequences of their magic feel very apparent. Plus, the focus on impetuous and flawed Lula gave me a more well rounded character this time around, with lots of emotional moments as well as scary moments that would make “Pet Sematary” proud.

35068432Pick Number 9: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara

“I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” Review

The passing of Michelle McNamara was devastating, especially since her book about The Golden State Killer was such a labor of determination and hope for justice. What made it all the more poignant was that shortly after this book was published, The Golden State Killer was caught. “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” would have been a true crime powerhouse even had he not been, as McNamara does a superb job of tracking the case to the most specific detail, as well as putting the focus less on the monster, and more on getting justice for his many victims of rape and murder. This is a haunting book for many reasons, and will assuredly be a classic in the genre.

38746485Pick Number 8: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

Goodreads Page

While this memoir didn’t make the blog reviews, I was completely blown away by Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”. Our former First Lady was already an amazing person in my book before reading her memoir, but as I read it realized that not only is she incredibly intelligent, compassionate, civically minded, and poised and fabulous, she is also a great, great writer. I was taken in from page one, and her memories of childhood, meeting Barack, the ups and downs of married life and parenthood, and then being FLOTUS all leap off the page. She is candid and frank about how hard it could be to be in the spotlight, and the misogyny and racism she faced as First Lady made my blood boil. But, of course, she transcends all expectations and speaks her truth with eloquence and fierceness. This woman is a national treasure, and we don’t deserve her.

36750068Pick Number 7: “The Last Time I Lied” by Riley Sager

“The Last Time I Lied” Review

Riley Sager blew me away with his previous book “Final Girls, and I had high hopes that he’d be following it up with something just as strong. He came back with something better. Part gritty and scary mystery, part homage to “Nancy Drew”, “The Last Time I Lied” follows Emma, a woman whose past at a summer camp has haunted her. Specifically when three of her fellow campers went missing, and she told a lie that had rippling consequences. Emma’s return to the camp is rife with tension, as someone is stalking her for her misdeeds. This one kept me guessing up until the very end, and the suspense was palpable throughout the entire book.

36381091Pick Number 6: “The Cabin At The End of the World” by Paul Tremblay

“The Cabin At The End of the World” Review

Some consider Paul Tremblay to be a new master of horror, but I see him as the master of ripping my heart into a billion little pieces. His horror stories are emotional rollercoasters, and “The Cabin At The End of the World” had me scared to death and sobbing my eyes out by the end. When a home invasion interrupts the cabin weekend of two men and their adopted daughter, the invaders speak of an apocalyptic prophecy and a terrible choice the family has to make. There are many questions as to whether or not the invaders are right or just nuts, and this book raises questions about faith, family, and how far you’ll go to protect the things you love, no matter the cost.

So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2018?


12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Happy holidays fellow book lovers! And in honor of this time of year when presents  giving is everything, we’re hosting our second annual “12 Days of Christmas” Giveaway. But, tricky us, it’s actually two giveaways, each comprising of six books from our preferred genres. Read on to see what books are included in each prize package and enter for your chance to win! Both giveaways are open to U.S. residents only and end on January 4.

Serena’s Prize Package

“The Dark Days Deceit” by Alison Goodman (My review)

“Furyborn” by Claire Legrand (My review)

“Deathless” by Catherynne M. Valente (My review)

“Empire of Sand” by Tasha Suri (My review)

“Lifel1k3” by Jay Kristoff (Goodreads)

“Song of Blood and Stone” by L. Penelope (My review)

Click here to enter!

Kate’s Prize Package

“The Boy on the Bridge” by M.R. Carey (My Review)

“The Most Dangerous Place on Earth” by Lindsey Lee Johnson (My Review)

“Pieces of Her” by Karen Slaughter (My Review)

“Bring Me Back” by B.A. Paris (My Review)

“The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond (My Review)

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (Goodreads)

Click Here To Enter!

We wish you the best of luck, and hope that you are having a happy and healthy holiday season!!!

Serena’s Review: “Finding Baba Yaga”

39680799Book: “Finding Baba Yaga” by Jane Yolen

Publication Info:, October 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: Netgalley!

Book Description:

You think you know this story.
You do not.

A harsh, controlling father. A quiescent mother. A house that feels like anything but a home. Natasha gathers the strength to leave, and comes upon a little house in the wood: A house that walks about on chicken feet and is inhabited by a fairy tale witch. In finding Baba Yaga, Natasha finds her voice, her power, herself….

Review: I don’t read a lot of novels in verse, but I’ve been a fan of Jane Yolen for quite a while. Pair that with a Baba Yaga story, and I’m in! This was a quick read, and while it took me a bit to really feel invested in the story, in the end, I really enjoyed this interpretation of Baba Yaga and the writing decisions behind presenting it as a story in verse.

The story follow Natasha, a girl running from a very unhappy home. As the cover of the book so beautifully depicts, she makes her way into the woods where she finds a certain house walking about on chicken feet. From there, the modern setting from which Natasha came mixes with the fairytale version of Baba Yaga that readers are more familiar with.

There are a bunch of incredibly strong themes in this book. Natasha, coming from a bordering on abusive home, travels an intense journey of self-discovery throughout the story. Through her, we see the struggles that face those who live in shut-down families, like the challenges to not only find one’s own voice, but even to give validation to one’s own thoughts as valid and worthy of expression. In her “new life,” she must not only tackle these growth areas, but deals with both sides of the emotional coin in loss and love. There’s also a very nice through-line about found families and the strength of connections that can be forged between two individuals who, outwardly, have nothing connecting them.

I also very much enjoyed the poetic style of the book. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of novels in verse. If anything, I’m more likely to pick up a collection of poetry than I am to read a book like this. In the past, I’ve often struggled to feel truly connected to a story that reads like a novel but is told through such a reduced number of words and often presented in challenging formats on the page itself. Maybe this comes from too many poetry classes, but I’m often so distracted trying to analyze line breaks and why a certain piece was laid out on the page the way it was and what that says about the content to maintain a consistent connection with the ongoing story.

I had the same problem with this story, but about halfway through, I was able to get more fully into the action. I think this slow dive in also had to do with the way that Yolen tells her story. Things aren’t all simply revealed from the beginning. Instead, we’re slowly introduced to who Natasha really is, what her life has been, and how the events she’s currently experiencing connects to it all.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a very short read (not only page count, but word count), so readers are likely going to be able to finish it in one setting. If you’re skeptical about novels in verse, I’d also say that this might be a good introductory piece, especially if you have an interest in fairytales and Baba Yaga in particular (I didn’t get into her much, but I really enjoyed Yolen’s interpretation of this classic character as well!). And, of course, fans of Yolen’s work will not be disappointed by this new entry.

Rating 8: Though it starts slow, the style of the story adds power to the deeper themes it is presenting throughout, such as self-discovery and finding one’s own power in the world.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Finding Baba Yaga” is a newer title, so it isn’t on many relevant lists. But it should be on “Novels in Verse.”

Find “Finding Baba Yaga” at your library using WorldCat!