Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot

GENRE

Adult Historical Fiction / Romance (396 pgs.)

SYNOPSIS

He's a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She's an adventurous neauty with more than a few secrets of her own. 

Finnula needs money for her sister's dowry, and fast. Hugo Fitzstephen, Earl of Stephensgate, is returning home to England from the Crusades, has money, saddlebags of gold and jewels, and lots of it. What could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom? Especially when he's more than willing to allow himself to be caught by such a winsome captor. 

Well, for starters, Finnula could make the terrible mistake of falling in love with her hostage, only to realize he's been lying about his identity all along... But then, so has she. 

Now their lives--and the lives of everyone they know and love--could be in mortal danger. Is Finnula Crais in hell? Or in heaven?


MY REVIEW

This book had really good promise for me. I've only read a couple of the Princess Diaries books (I'm more familiar with the movies), but the ones I read were really enjoyable. When I first saw this book on the shelf, I thought it would be a great combination of Meg Cabot's signature humor and some good historical fiction.

This book just really missed the mark for me, and on every level... plot, characters, setting. I think with a bit more effort on Meg Cabot's part, it could have been much better written. 

Let's start off with the characters. I really loved the character of Finnula Crais, our leading lady. She is strong, tradition-defying sassy wench, but as soon as her love interest is introduced, she loses it. She's so hell-bent on not conforming to the constraints of medieval society, yet she ends up becoming everything she is not... the quiet, sub-servient wife of a nobleman, who is completely won over every time she's taken for a tumble in bed, to be frank.

Hugo Fitzstephen, our protagonist male, starts off the book with promise, but doesn't really grow out of his "lusty" stage. I really couldn't see him coming to love Finnula any deeper than the lust he has for her sexually. 

The villains of the story were totally cliched, with really nothing redemptive about them. In a novel, I like a villain to have something more... something that makes it a bit harder to really hate them. Not in this story. It was just cut-and-dry cliche.

Speaking of cliche, the whole plot of the story was completely unoriginal. It really read like a cheesy, Harlequin romance novel. I thought the beginning of the novel really had some promise, but by the end of the story, I was really left disappointed. It was like all of the hard work Meg Cabot put in to the beginning of the book was for nothing. 

The historical setting was passable at best. I'm pretty sure medieval women who went around in men's pants (as our leading lady did) were either disgraced or burned for witchcraft in those days. The narrator also adds that kidnapping and ransoming noble gentlemen was common practice for those medieval maids strapped for cash. It was just completely unbelievable.

The only thing I got a good laugh over was how Meg Cabot managed to include some of the medieval vernacular into her dialogue. She made some medieval "thees" & "thous" sound a bit more modern, which was fun. 

For those of you who don't know what the literary term "suspension of disbelief" is, look it up. You will become quite familiar with the term if you decide to read this novel.


MY RATING

1.5*/*


Appropriateness Factors

Please do not think that this novel is appropriate for tween girls just because it is written by Meg Cabot! There are quite a few (surprisingly) graphic bedroom scenes. Please proceed with caution, especially younger readers!


Book #18 in Historical Fiction Reading Challenge



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Follow Friday (24)

TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!



When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it...?)

I am a dreadful book hoarder. Seriously, I've gone through two bookcases already and am currently in the process of transforming one of the walls of my room into a library. That being said, I (almost) always keep my books. If I come across a book that I really didn't care for, I will put it up for swap on paperbackswap.com. Otherwise, long live book hoarding!


-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Melanie @ Books Are Vital
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Phantom by Susan Kay

GENRE

Adult Historical Fiction / Mystery (468 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

A child is born... his mother's only gift is a mask. Precocious and gifted, he will live friendless and alone. Taunted and abused, he will flee, only to find himself caged again--as a freak in a Gypsy carnival.

A brilliant outcast... the world is his home. Filled with bitter rage, he will kill to escape, becoming a stonemason's apprentice in Rome... a dark magician at the treacherous Persian court... and finally the genius behind the construction of the Paris Opera House and the labyrinthine world below.

Lacking one thing only: a woman's love. Cloaked in secrets, his power complete, he will see the exquisite Christine and for the first time know what it means to love. Obsessed, he will bring her to his eerie subterranean world, driven to possess her heart and soul.

A haunting story of power and darkness, of magic and murder, of sensuality and betrayal, and ultimately, the unforgettable story of a man and woman and the eternal quality of love.


MY REVIEW

The story of the Phantom of the Opera has held a special place in my heart since I was first introduced to the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical way back. I was very excited on my discovery of this book, as I really don't think there are many retellings of the original Gaston Leroux novel out there. I had to read it.

This novel is an absolute feast for the senses in every meaning of the phrase. The way Susan Kay re-tells Erik's (The Phantom's) story is absolutely incredible. It invokes every single human emotion... fear, hate, love, disgust, sadness. It connects with a reader on an entirely different level, but remains faithful to complete human fragility.

The characters are all stunningly written. I especially appreciated Susan Kay's treatment of Erik and Christine. Instead of making Christine a zombiefied puppet always in the Phantom's trance, Susan Kay delves deep into the world of psychology to explain her complicated relationship with the Phantom. Because when you think about it, what would draw someone to a creepy stalker with the face of a corpse? Yet the ALWeber musical is the longest running stage musical, ever. There is something very deep that draws us to the Phantom, and Susan Kay does an excellent job of explaining that strange relationship.

And Erik's story... wow. Absolutely heart-wrenching. It really shows the Phantom in a new light, and explains the "method behind the madness," if you will. Like I mentioned before, when you are reading this interpretation of Erik's story, every imaginable emotion is brought out in you.

The setting of this novel, from Paris to Persia, was very well written and superbly described. The history was also very well researched. I went into the story expecting more focus to be on the story, but Susan Kay managed to include well-researched history, which made the story come to life.

Gaston Leroux's novel was a bit dry on the actual "story" side, because it was written as more of a Mystery/Thriller. But this novel keeps the reader absolutely engrossed with every turn of the page. The story is never dull. It is all too easy, in fact, to get lost in the Phantom's world.

This novel was really, really excellent. Not only did this book interrupt me from reading another book, it kept me up till around 5am on more than one occasion. Any "phans" of the story of the Phantom of the Opera must read this book. Please believe me when I will say you will not be disappointed by this masterpiece.


MY RATING

5*****







Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Friday (23)

TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!




What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!

Wow. This is really a lot harder than I thought it would be. I think my absolute #1 pet peeve I have when it comes to books is writing a book with a sequel/series already planned out. I've actually posted about this before in some of my reviews. I just absolutely hate it when authors write a book for a series *ahem Bright Young Things!*, as I feel that this causes the authors to really skimp on the story. In the end, I feel like I've just read a giant prologue.

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Lauren Gets Literal
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks for the Things I Treasure


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

First off, I do have to apologize to those readers who are outside the US, as this holiday is decidedly US-centric. But I think the meaning of the holiday is something that everyone can relate to. Bear with me.

We all have things to be thankful for. Here's a short list of the things I am giving thanks for this year, in no particular order:

1. Books. I would literally be lost without them.

2. Authors. You serve as a daily inspiration for me, and for that I am extremely thankful.

3. My Family. You have supported me no matter what the cost. Words can't even express how much I am thankful for you.

4. My Blog Readers. You are the reason for this blog. Thank you so much for your continued support, and for caring so much about this project. I can't thank you enough.

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day. Heck, I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

What are you thankful for?



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis

GENRE

Adult Historical Fiction (454 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

Daughter of the Duke of Milan and wife of the conniving Count Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza was the bravest warrior Renaissance Italy ever knew. She ruled her own lands, fought her own battles, and openly took lovers when she pleased.

Her remarkable story is told by her lady-in-waiting, Dea, a woman knowledgeable in reading the "triumph cards," the predecessor of modern-day tarot cards. As Dea tries to unravel the truth about her husband's murder, Caterina single-handedly holds off invaders who would steal her title and lands. However, Dea's reading of the cards reveals that Caterina cannot withstand a third and final invader--none other than Cesare Borgia, son of the corrupt Pope Alexander VI, who has an old score to settle with Caterina. Trapped inside the fortress at Ravaldino as Borgia's cannons pound the walls, Dea reviews Caterina's scandalous past and struggles to understand their joint destiny, while Caterina valiantly tries to fight off Borgia's unconquerable army.


MY REVIEW

I am completely obsessed with the Borgias. It's definitely official. I went through my Tudor phase when the Showtime series was still on, and now I'm completely devoted to the Borgias. After reading Jeanne Kalogridis' last novel on the famous Italian family, I knew I had to pick this one up.

I think the thing that most impressed me about this book was its main character, Caterina Sforza. Pardon my language, but she was definitely the bad ass of Renaissance Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed how Jeanne Kalogridis portrayed her, both as a powerful ruler and as a broken human being. It really brought a nice depth to the story.

The historical setting was very well done. It most definitely accounted for all of the scandals and intrigue surrounding that time period in Italy. Not only that, but all of the politics that went along with it. Caterina, at some times in the novel, wasn't even sure if she could trust her own family. I think as a woman, I most definitely wouldn't have wanted to live in a world like that.

Something I wasn't too fond of was the pacing of this novel. The beginning and end were very well written, but the middle felt like I was reading a history book. Basically the middle of the novel consisted of the narrator, Dea, recounting what was going on, with a few genuine plot points happening in between. Sure, those historical events went on to affect Caterina, but I think it could have been written better. Like I said, it felt like all of a sudden someone had taken a few pages of a very well-written history book and stuck them in the middle.

The other thing I had a slight problem with was this whole neo-Christian mysticism that Jeanne Kalogridis added to the book. It was really only effective in the beginning and the end, and was very much forgotten about in the middle. And when it was effective, I didn't much care for it, but that's my personal taste. But to tell the truth, a lot was forgotten about in the middle. It was kind of like Purgatory for a bit there, just emptiness.

There were some plot decisions made that I didn't agree with as well. For example, when turmoil finds Caterina in her land of Forlí (I won't elaborate for the sake of spoilers), the narrator Dea's husband, the scribe Luca, decides to up and leave his love. Here's his quote:
'"I only know," he said, "that I am needed elsewhere. Just where, I do not yet know. But my heart leads me"' (364).

I thought that was a bit of a cop-out on his part. It was just little things like this that really took away from the story for me.

All in all, I think the negatives outweighed the positives in this book, but not by much. I definitely think that Jeanne Kalogridis' other novel, The Borgia Bride, was much better, and is a better read for those who are just getting into the Borgias.


MY RATING

3.5***/*


Appropriateness Factors

There are a handful of bedroom scenes, some more explicitly described than others, so proceed with caution.




Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

GENRE

Adult Historical Fiction (457 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler's heretical desire to forsake Egypt's ancient gods.

From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people, but she fails to see that powerful forces are plotting against her husband's reign. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game--one that could cost her everything she holds dear.


MY REVIEW

After reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, and being thoroughly impressed, I couldn't resist this next read. Ancient Egypt has held my absolute adoration since I was a young child, so any historical fiction on the subject I am instantly drawn to.

With this second book of Michelle Moran's, she has rightfully earned a place in my favorite historical fiction author list. Her writing is absolutely fantastic. She is outstanding at balancing the emotion of a good fiction while keeping intricate historical research in play. Let me tell you, for the duration of this novel, I lived and breathed Ancient Egypt. It is so easy to slip into the history the way Michelle Moran writes it!

I will say that at first I was a bit put off by the fact that this novel is actually narrated by Nefertiti's sister, Mutnodjmet, rather than Nefertiti herself. But in the end, I thought this choice in narrator made the story all the more potent. It was really a testament to the kind of power Nefertiti held as Queen of Egypt, and how that power affected her family. Mutnodjmet was a completely reliable narrator, which I think Nefertiti wouldn't have been, just given her character.

Speaking of the characters, they were all very well written. Wow, was Nefertiti absolutely ruthless! I think sometimes it's very hard for authors not to take more of a modern stance on re-interpreting some of these historical figures. I don't know how Michelle Moran does it. She makes each character so touching to the reader, but still retains their historical characteristics.

The plot was gripping and never dull. Since many events in Ancient Egypt are really open to historical interpretation, I think some authors make their plot a little too grandiose and unbelievable. But Michelle Moran connected the dots, so to speak, in a way that is completely believable.

This was an excellent read. I really did have a hard time putting this one down. Every aspect was engrossing, from the characters to the plot. The world of Ancient Egypt Michelle Moran created was absolutely stunning. This, my friends, really is historical fiction at its best.


MY RATING

5*****





Friday, November 18, 2011

Follow Friday (22)


TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!




Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

Oh Christmas! I can't believe it's already Christmas time again! This is definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

I will say that Santa came a bit early for me. ;) Today, he dropped off a beautiful leather-bound, gold-edged edition of Grimm's Complete Fairytales by the Brother's Grimm! (Because someone got rid of her other beautiful hardbacked Grimm fairytales book because she was such a smart 12-year-old! Stupidest thing I ever did!)

The image really doesn't do it justice, it's absolutely stunning! I don't know if you can tell, but the embossed trees on the front cover have very scary faces! I have been pouring through this all day. Would you believe Santa found this for me at Costco? (For those of you who don't know what Costco is, it's a big warehouse where you can buy bulk items... if I ever buy books there, it's usually cheap, mass-market paperbacks!) For Christmas gifts, they had a bunch of these beautiful hardcover editions... I saw the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Homer's Illiad & Oddysey. It was definitely a struggle for Santa not to take them all home!

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Lauren's Book Blog
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!



Monday, November 14, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (17)

Happy Tuesday everyone! This week's teasers come once again from Jeanne Kalogridis's The Scarlet Contessa, a historical drama set in the Borgias era of Italy.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

"When she finally composed herself, she said darkly, 'I will do what I must. But he has nothing but contempt for me, and I only hatred for him. I will bear him children--for my purposes, not his." (154)

--The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis



Friday, November 11, 2011

Follow Friday (21)

TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!



In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran's Day, tell us about your favorite soldier and how he or she is saving the world. Fictional or real life.

My favorite fictional soldier would have to be Lancelot, of the King Arthur legends. He is, after all, the greatest knight to ever walk the earth. But I have to pay respectful homage to my Grandpa, who served in the US Airforce in both Korea and Vietnam, and my uncle, who also served in the Airforce during Vietnam. They are the true heroes.

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Motherlode
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ARC Review: The Dig by Audrey Hart

GENRE

YA Fiction / Fantasy (208 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

Zoe Calder has always been an outsider. Stashed away in boarding schools since her parents died, Zoe buries herself in the study of ancient worlds. Her greatest thrill is spending her summers with her archaeologist aunt and uncle on digs around the world. And one day, while investigating a newly unearthed temple in Crete, Zoe discovers a luminous artifact that transports her to ancient Greece.

As Zoe quickly learns, the Olympian Gods are real, living people—humans with mysterious powers… Powers that Zoe quickly realizes she has come to possess, as well. However, when the people of ancient Greece mistake Zoe for an Olympian, the Gods must restore the balance of the ancient world… No matter what.

Zoe is forced to play a confusing and dangerous game as Hera rallies the gods against her—all except for Zeus, the beautiful, winged young god who risks everything to save her.


MY REVIEW

This book was sent to me by the author, Audrey Hart, as an ARC ebook. After I read the synopsis, I knew this book was going to be right up my alley.

I've always held a fascination with Ancient Greece. I think it's the whole god-human interaction. The myths of Greece tell of many instances where the gods fall in love with mortals, which always intrigued me. It's almost like the gods had some unquenchable desire for humans, even though they were all-powerful and immortal.

Anywho, I absolutely loved this book! This was really the first book in a very long time to make me laugh out loud. Not just a little chuckle, but a big booming laugh that probably made my mother think that I was crazy. There's so much humor in this novel, it's really impossible not to crack a smile.

I have to say my favorite part of this novel was its heroine, Zoe. Really, she was one of the most well-written leading females I've read in quite a while! It was so incredibly easy for me to relate to her. I think a lot of younger readers out there will really connect with Zoe and her "outsider" status and awkwardness with boys. I certainly did! Zoe has such an amazing voice throughout the novel, it's really very hard not to connect with her.

I also really like the perspective Audrey Hart takes on the gods of Ancient Greece. When it comes down to it, the gods are really nothing more than immortal humans. Audrey reminds us that we are all human, especially when it comes to a thing like love. No one is really truly perfect, so why don't we all just embrace it?

Another thing I quite enjoyed was that when Zoe first travels back to Ancient Greece, she realizes that even though the people speak Greek, it's an archaic form of the language she can't understand. The history geek in me totally ate this up. It made her time travel all the more believable.

The story was really fast-paced and had me turning pages like a maniac. I really couldn't put it down! It was very well-written, without any over-complicated plot to confuse readers. It was a very easy read, but that doesn't mean it was any less exciting. There are many references to modern pop culture, which keep the book current and refreshing.

All in all, this was a really great book. Like I said before, I haven't had a book make me smile in a very long time! This was a really great read, with an exceptionally great heroine. Don't pass this up!

Oh, and I will definitely be reading the sequel, as the end of the book is a semi-cliff hanger!


MY RATING

4.5****/*


(This book is available on Amazon.com)



Teaser Tuesdays (16)

Happy Tuesday everyone! This week's teasers come from Jeanne Kalogridis's The Scarlet Contessa, a historical drama set in the Borgias era of Italy.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

"Caterina nodded; a cascade of diamonds and rubies sparkled at her ears. She was truly magnificent to behold that day, a porcelain beauty with gleaming golden hair, dressed in shimmering white, the dark red trim serving to accentuate her pale glory." (82)

--The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guinevere by Sharan Newman

SYNOPSIS

Sharan Newman tells the story of the golden child whose dearest friend is a saint who hears spirits singing; of the gentle-hearted woman who begins to dream of love, glory, and the fierce, proud king who will become her husband; of the passionate beauty whose name will be remembered and hated for centuries.


MY REVIEW

Of course this was an instant read for me, being the Arthurian legend junkie I am. There are really more series on Guinevere than I realize, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

I can't say I liked this book. But I can't say I absolutely cursed it to damnation either. I don't know, maybe it's that Arthurian legend junkie inside of me keeping me from being too harsh.

Let's start with this book's namesake, Guinevere. Sharan Newman's aim, I think, is to have Guinevere come across to the reader as "otherworldly" and "different," somehow like the "chosen one." But really, she came across to me as spoiled and just kind of "out there." And not in a good way. It was like she was always in some other world that everyone else, and it was a bit annoying.

I was really quite mad at Guinevere towards the end of the novel, when she first meets Arthur. Arthur goes completely gaga over her, of course, but Guinevere remains completely ignorant. I mean, Arthur is willing to go so far as to change the person he is for her, and Guinevere acts surprised when Arthur tells her he loves her? I mean, come on. Like I said, it's like Guinevere's existing in some other dimension throughout the novel.

I also didn't like the fantasy aspect of this novel. Guinevere talks to a unicorn. Really. And she sees invisible spirits. It was just too weird for me, and in my opinion, it really didn't add anything substantial to the book.

I will say I did like Sharan Newman's interpretations of all of the other Arthurian characters. But it seems kind of silly to me that I came away from this book liking everyone else except Guinevere. Kind of defeats the point I guess.

The writing was pretty well done, although it really took me a while to get through it. I definitely didn't get that magical feeling I get when I read Arthurian legend. (Except at the end when Sharan Newman introduces Lancelot ;D).

All in all, if you're super duper into Arthurian legend like I am, I'd say why not, give it a try. But if you are just getting into the magic that is King Arthur, pick another series. I might read the rest of the series just to see what she does with Lancelot + Gwen, but we'll see.


MY RATING

2.5**/*




Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo!

Hello everyone! It's officially November, which means it's time for the National Novel Writing Month!

I decided to join in the fun. Since I have already completed my first novel, I decided that instead of trying to squish in a full novel in 30 days, I am going to use NaNoWriMo to work on all of the other projects I have in mind. I swear, I have at least 5 other story ideas saved on my computer. So, instead of letting them collect dust, I decided they all need a bit of work.

I encourage you to join me on this endeavor! It's completely up to you whether you want to write a whole novel in 30 days, or be like me and work on a variety of projects. In other words, this November, let your creativity run wild!

Check out my NaNoWriMo profile here. It's pretty bare bones right now, but oh well.

Enjoy November, and happy writing!



Follow Friday (20)

TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!



Today's question is something new, an activity. We want to see what you look like! Take a pic with you and your current read!Too shy? Boo! Just post a fun pic you want to share.


Here I am! Sorry for the poor quality, it's all my webcam can do! I thought this was the most Egyptian-like pose I could muster at 1am. xD

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Sky Ink Book Reviews
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

GENRE

Y.A. Historical Fiction (389 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart.


MY REVIEW

This novel was an instant buy, and had been on my wishlist for quite some time, for 2 reasons. 1, I absolutely loved Anna Godbersen's last series, The Luxe. 2, This novel is set in the Roaring 20's, which is one of my favorite modern decades.

For those two reasons alone, I really, really, really wanted to like this novel. But unfortunately for me, it fell a bit flat.

Let's start with the characters. They were all really well-written and engaging, but in the end, I just found myself really not caring about them. Sure, I liked them, but I just didn't care a lick about them. They didn't possess qualities that I could personally relate to, and therefore, I felt quite disengaged from them.

But the worst part of this novel was the plot. It was pretty bad. But before I delve into that too much, I'd like to clarify an opinion I have.

This novel was obviously written for a series. You can actually go out and buy book #2 right now. In my opinion, when writers write a novel with a sequel/series in mind, their story really suffers. This was definitely the case with Bright Young Things. I felt like this book was a giant prologue for the series. Really. Not exciting, not engaging. Whatsoever.

Moving on from that, I definitely felt I had to read this novel whilst "suspending my belief," if you will. Anna Godbersen definitely got the polish and glamour of New York in the Jazz Age right, but where was the grit? Where was the strife? Fast living isn't all smiles and happiness. Granted, Anna Godbersen wrote in some "down" moments, but it hardly affected the characters or the plot.

Not only that, but the whole bit about Cordelia's long-lost father being one of New York's wealthiest bootleggers was just outrageous. How she meets him was really outrageous too. She manages to sneak past his armed guards, run right into the guy and he accepts her as his daughter, no questions asked. Come on, what kind of fairytale are these people living in? Like I said, lots of smiles, but hardly any grit.

I will say that I do like Anna Godebrsen's writing, however. She comes up with the coolest metaphors, so I have to give her her props for that.

All in all, this was a pretty big letdown for me. Definitely far below my expectations, which were pretty high coming off of Anna's last series. So if you want to see Anna Godbersen at her finest, please read The Luxe series. It is absolutely fantastic.


MY RATING

2.5**/*




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (15)

Happy Tuesday everyone! This week's teasers come from Sharan Newman's Guinevere, a retelling of Arthurian legend.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

"Everyone followed their own pattern until the whole household felt as if it were involved in some complicated ritual dance, where one missed beat would bring catastrophe. And the center about which this dance revolved was Guinevere, never a part of the pattern, but always the focus, an object of caution and concern." (118-119)

--Guinevere by Sharan Newman



Monday, October 24, 2011

And the winners are...

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well. Today I'd like to announce the winners of my two giveaways: "A Century of Followers" Giveaway & "For the Love of Jane!" Giveaway!

First off, congratulations to Natalie of Mindful Musings for winning my "Century of Followers" Giveaway!

Natalie selected Steel by Carrie Vaughn as her prize off of my to-read list. I can't wait to hear what she thinks!

Next, on to the winners of "For the Love of Jane!"

Congratulations to Malvina for winning a beautiful copy of the Complete Novels of Jane Austen!


...And congratulations to Emily for winning the Favorite Jane Austen Novels set!


Once again, congratulations to all three of the winners! Thank you so much for all of you who entered and participated. I sincerely wish I could give prizes to you all! Your support is priceless!



Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (19) + Follow Friday

Hello everyone! It's finally the weekend, which means time for another hop! Hosted by the lovely Crazy-For-Books.

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

"What is your favorite type of candy?"

Snickers are my guilty pleasure. Seriously. I could eat them all day. And Halloween just means MORE! :)





What superhero is your alter-ego?

Definitely Batman. He's my favorite superhero by far. I love the darkness that surrounds his character, and that even though he is a superhero, he is still a human. He is really a very well written character. Plus, he's the only superhero that doesn't need superpowers to kick butt. Take that Superman!

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Book Savvy Babe
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday! Be sure to check out my giveaway... "For the Love of Jane!" Giveaway!



Friday, October 14, 2011

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

GENRE

Classic Literature (236 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen's "Gothic parody." Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story's unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy
atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry's mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.


MY REVIEW

Aside from Pride and Prejudice, this has to be my next favorite of Jane Austen's novels. I think Jane Austen was really trying to get in touch with her Gothic darker side when writing this novel, and I heartily applaud her for that.

There is just something about the protagonist, Catherine Morland, that continually draws me to this story. I think it's maybe the way Catherine has a problem with separating the fact from the fiction, or the story from real life, which I can definitely relate to. She is undoubtedly a hopeless romantic, which I knowingly acknowledge myself to be. And she has such a vivacious passion for reading! Alright, I admit it... I see very much of myself in her. She is definitely one of my favorite literary heroines.

I also admire that Catherine lends a certain vulnerability to the story. She is certainly not the perfect heroine... she doesn't answer every question perfectly, she makes mistakes, and she has yet to be crossed in love. Definitely easier to relate to the shy, unassuming character in her.

I absolutely love Catherine's love interest, Henry Tilney! He is such the charmer, but still manages to maintain his sincerity towards Catherine. Definitely a step away from the likes of Mr. Darcy, but still absolutely wonderful in his own right. My favorite Henry quote:

"'Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.'"

Not only are the characters engaging, the story is very well written. Once again, more of a step away from the traditional Austen novel, but definitely not short on the intrigue. Lots more of the Gothic-ness that was becoming increasingly popular during that literary time period. But I think it adds a nice excitement to the story.

All in all, one of Jane Austen's finest, in my humble opinion. But then again, which one of her works isn't great?


MY RATING

5*****

P.S. The Masterpiece Theater version of Northanger Abbey is absolutely terrific. Felicity Jones is outstanding as Catherine Morland, as is JJ Field as Henry Tilney. Watch the trailer here!


Part of Jane Austen week, hosted by Historical Tapestry.

Be sure to check out my "For the Love of Jane!" Giveaway!






Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (18) + Follow Friday

Hello everyone! It's finally the weekend, which means time for another hop! Hosted by the lovely Crazy-For-Books.

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

"What is your favorite spooky book (i.e. mystery/suspense, thriller, ghost story, etc.)?"

Wow, this question is tougher for me than I thought! I'm really not much of a spooky book reader. The closest thing I can think of would be Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty series. They are definitely dark books, with lots of dark magic as well. But still a very well written historical fiction. The best of both worlds I guess!





If you could make characters from a book meet and form an epic storyline with characters from a TV series, which characters would you choose and why?

Great question! Well, right now I am completely and irrevocably obsessed with Season 4 of Merlin on the BBC... so... I'd pair the Merlin crew with Jacky and her gang from L.A. Meyer's Bloody Jack series. Wouldn't that be an interesting little romp! I think Jacky's group of hardcore pirates could teach the knights of Camelot a thing or too. ;)

-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Confuzzled Books
-Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
-Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
-Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
-If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
-If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday! Be sure to check out my two giveaways... "A Century of Followers" Giveaway & "For the Love of Jane!" Giveaway!



Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard


GENRE

YA Historical Fiction / General Fiction (238 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips...conks her head...and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily's family, Callie warms to them - particularly to Emily's cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.

But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex's heart, before her time in the past is up?

MY REVIEW

I was a little hesitant when picking up this novel. I didn't exactly know how far I was willing to stray from Jane Austen. I guess it was the "purist" in me that wasn't immediately drawn to this book.

But I have to say, it was really very charming! It was well (if simply) written, the characters were likable, and the story was well done.

I wouldn't count on too much Jane Austen influence here, though. The "Prejudice" side of the title really refers to the time period, the Regency, rather than the story. The main similarities were that Callie's love interest, Alex, was of course the Mr. Darcy of her world, and that Callie reminded me a bit of Emma with her matchmaker (or in her case, breaker) qualities.

That being said, it was still a very enjoyable story. Callie was definitely likable and relatable as the girl who just wants to fit in with the "it" crowd and save herself from embarrassment. She has a very human teenage girl quality that I think young readers will very much enjoy.

I also have to commend Mandy Hubbard for her outstanding character development. You can really see at the end of the novel how far Callie has come from that shy, people-pleasing girl to being so much more sure of herself. I think maybe we could all learn a thing or two if we time-traveled back to Regency England!

The plot was well done, with a big twist at the end that stayed true to the Pride & Prejudice story (Mr. Darcy's side of the story, anyway). It was never boring or dull, and Callie's vivaciousness really kept the story moving.

All in all, this was a great, quick read that was very well done. I think it is a great read for those younger readers who are just being introduced into the world of Jane Austen.


MY RATING

4****


Part of Jane Austen Week, Hosted by Historical Tapestry

Be sure to check out my "For the Love of Jane!" Giveaway!





Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For the Love of Jane! Giveaway (Closed)



First of all, I'd like to welcome everyone to Jane Austen Week, hosted by Historical
Tapestry! Throughout the week, I'll be posting my favorite Austen-inspired reviews, news, and fun stuff! I hope you'll join me in celebration of all things Austen.

In honor of Jane Austen Week, and in honor of one of the greatest authors of all time, I've decided to do a giveaway! Two (2) winners will be selected to win either a copy of...


or...

(Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, & Persuasion)


This giveaway is open Internationally (i.e. wherever the Book Depository ships!) . You do not have to be a follower to enter, although you get extra entries for being one. This giveaway will close on October 24th at 12:00 AM, Pacific Standard Time. Also, check out the button I made (I decided to get fancy on myself!). You get extra entries for posting it somewhere and sending me the link!


Grab My Button


Best of Luck!






Monday, October 10, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (14)

Happy Tuesday everyone! This week's teasers come from Anna Godbersen's Bright Young Things, a novel of the Roaring 20s.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

"The music was wild and fast, blurting and bouncing in every direction; the beat echoed across the room in the ecstatic shaking of shoulders, the furious tapping of toes, the jittery clicking of fingertips.

Cordelia's red lips bent upward in a natural smile as Thom's fingers grazed her spine, sending shivers from her neck every which way along her skin." (188)

--Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (23)

Greetings everyone, hope you are all doing well! Happy Monday! Be sure to check out my "Century of Followers" giveaway here!

This next read is a little bit of change of "historical" scenery, so to speak. Huzzah for the 20th century!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey in which we bloggers share what we have read in the past week, and what we're currently tearing through this week.

Last Week I Read

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (Read my review here!)

Currently I'm Reading

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen



Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Century of Followers Giveaway! (Closed)


Hello everyone! Hope you are all doing well. I am extremely excited to announce my first ever giveaway for all of my treasured followers!

This giveaway is open Internationally. The winner will be able to choose either a book that I have previously reviewed on this blog (list here) or that is on my Goodreads To-Read List (here). Please list your top 3 choices from the lists I have provided, just in case the Book Depository is out of a certain title. You can combine your top 3 picks from both of the lists (think of it as one big master list).

Good luck to you all! Giveaway ends October 21!





Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

GENRE

Historical Fiction (418 pgs.)


SYNOPSIS

Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashed back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Battle of Franklin, five of the bloodiest hours of the Civil War. While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie McGavock's land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead--and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.


MY REVIEW

I admit I started reading this book with an equation in mind: death, love, passion, all plainly spelled out and all totally expected. But this novel was definitely a refreshing change from the "typical" sweeping, epic historical fictions about the Civil War.

Firstly, this novel is an absolute masterpiece of storytelling. I really can't stress that enough. I lost more than a few hours of sleep due to not being able to set this book down. This story truly moves the reader, in every sense of the word. For those of my readers who are American, you will look at the Civil War differently after reading this novel. It was so much more than an absolute bloodbath. It wasn't as simple as 600,000 men dying, albeit seems simple enough.

I very much appreciated the fact that the actual, historical Civil War took more of a backseat in this novel, and that Robert Hicks focused more on the after-effects of the war that literally changed the fabric of America. Not just the changes in population count, but the changes in how people thought and lived.

I really enjoyed how Robert Hicks composed his novel. Each chapter was usually narrated by a different person, and all of the character's stories were somehow intertwined with one another. It really brought the novel to life, looking through the eyes of so many different people on all sides of the war. It was easy to see how Carrie's plight really became the defining soul of the Civil War.

Robert Hick's writing is exquisite, albeit plain. But his words really need no flowering. His characters are true and strong in their own ways. His story needs no help from overly-padded descriptions. It will move you all the same.

Don't start this novel expecting a meticulous history: the history was there, but the story was what counted. Carrie's story is what counted, and what will count for generations to come. This novel was breathtaking, heart wrenching, and enthralling all at the same time. I am quite serious when I say this is one of the best books I have ever read.


MY RATING

5*****





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