Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Haul: Barnes & Noble

It is a travesty to man-kind that my last book haul was in 2011. 2011!

I am quite ashamed of myself. But alas, things get in the way (new job, uni, etc.). That, and my favorite bookstore that was a mere 5 minute drive from my house went out of business (*cough*BORDERS*cough*).

Anyway, I am proud to announce that as of May 18, my book famine has ended! Check out the sneak peeks of the titles I hauled home, courtesy of my (somewhat) local Barnes & Noble.

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Every girl wants what she can't have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle--and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she's engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago's most powerful families, Gloria's party days are over before they've even begun ... or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria's goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch--but Clara isn't as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she'll do anything to keep hidden...

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria's social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria's shadow. When Lorraine's envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone's going to be very sorry...

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty's royal family--with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl's deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh's aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family's history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes the union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Rameses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history. 

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated was museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableu of the royal family at dinner, Marie's museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Though many people are starving and can no longer afford bread, Marie's business is booming. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there's whispered talk of revolution.

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Follow Friday (25)

TGIF everyone! It's time for Follow Friday!

What is one thing you wish you could tell your favorite author?

Dear Lisa Ann Sandell:

Thank you for your gift of writing. I would be a different person than I am today without your stories. You are the reason I have taken up writing for myself. Thank you so much for your inspiration!

Anxiously awaiting your next novel,


-To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
-(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { } and any one else you want to follow on the list
-(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Ali @ Ali's Bookshelf 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!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


YA Dystopian Literature (374 pgs.)


In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.


Alright, I admit that I am probably the last person on the face of planet Earth to read this novel. Every time I was asked if I have read this series, I was always greeted with shock and disbelief when I answered in the negative. I just have never found the dystopian genre appealing, whatsoever. And the idea of kids killing kids in a televised reality-type shindig was really not my cup of tea. So, when my mom brought this novel home one evening (a hopeful attempt to get my brother, who hates reading, to read) I decided I might as well read it and get it done with.

I finished it in 9 hours, reading non-stop. But let's not everyone jump out of their seats just yet.

First off, I have to give credit to Suzanne Collins. I can't even begin to fathom what kind of imagination she has to come up with a story like this. I just kept thinking to myself, as I was reading, "wow, a human being came up with this. Somebody actually imagined this world." That aspect of the novel just blew me away.

The plot was excellently paced. Definitely a page-turner. I wouldn't be surprised if my brother actually enjoyed a novel for once. There is plenty of action and some of the plot twists had me freaking out. Even though I tend to freak out a lot, this is definitely saying something. But let's not get off track here.

I also very much enjoyed Collins' writing. It flowed very well. Even though she is not heavy on the descriptions, the reader easily falls into the world of Panem. She has definitely mastered the art of trusting the reader and their imaginations. She won the author's battle that is as old as time itself: showing vs. telling. Suzanne Collins showed me the story, the characters, the places. Very powerful and masterful writing. Well done.

I think one of the main things this novel thrives on are its universal themes. Themes such as oppression, bravery, open-mindedness all resonated very well with the reader. I think that is why this series has been enjoyed world-wide. It really take a thorough examination of  humanity, both its flaws and its strengths. 

Alright, for those of you who are superfans of the series, please don't bite my head off. I just have to get this gripe out and be completely honest.

Gripe #1. Katniss. Yes, I thought she was very well written, it's just that at the end of the novel, I still felt only a superficial connection between us. I don't exactly know the rhyme or reason for this, as Collins provided excellent narration and backstory, I just felt there was a paper-thin wall of glass existing between us by the end of the novel that kept me from really getting to know/believing in Katniss Everdeen. Actually, I lied, I do have a theory.

I think Katniss' character had a bit of the "curse of the series." I feel that, had this novel been written without a sequel/series in mind, Collins would have put that last bit of effort into opening Katniss up to the readers completely. I know this is supposed to make the reader finish the rest of the series, it's just I didn't feel that deep of a connection with her. 

But all in all, I thought this novel was very, very well done. Like I said before, the whole dystopian thing is definitely not my cup of tea, however, that did not hinder me from discovering that this was a very good read. I applaud Suzanne Collins for the depth of her imagination and the craft of her writing. If, like me, you have passed up this book so far, please read it. You won't regret it.

Oh, and one more thing... may the odds be ever in your favor.



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Queen Defiant by Anne O'Brien


Historical Fiction (412 pgs.)


Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, knows she needs a strong husband to hold on to the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Western Europe. She welcomes her arraigned marriage to Louis the Sixth, King of France, hopeful of forging an influential partnership with him. But when Louis's fanatical devotion to the Church and weakness of will thwart her wishes--leaving her isolated and powerless--she seeks another way. 

In her quest for freedom from Louis, and in search of a man worthy to stand beside her, Eleanor will defy her husband, ally herself with secret lovers, risk her life on an adventurous Crusade, and challenge the Pope himself. And in the end she will meet Henry, Count of Anjou, brilliant, mercurial, and as impatient as she is to build a dynasty. Finally, within sight of passionate fulfillment with Henry, Eleanor will take the biggest gamble of her life--always a courageous queen defiant.


Eleanor of Aquitaine, much to my own surprise, had escaped my historical curiosity up until the purchase of this novel. I knew very little about this historical era (the early Middle Ages), but to tell the truth, after reading this novel I feel like I have been reacquainted with a long lost friend. 

Let me explain a bit. 

Eleanor, as she is presented by Anne O'Brien, feels like an old friend, an old confidante. She comes to life in such a way on the pages that it's like meeting some long lost part of yourself. Her emotions are incredibly real and heart-wrenching, and her dialogue is provoking and powerful. Her passionate narration is truly a window into the real Eleanor of Aquitaine and the woman she was. 

This novel focuses mainly on Eleanor's early years, prior to her marriage to Henry II and her rise in becoming Queen of England. To tell the truth, for those readers looking for the re-imagining of the famous turbulent later years of her life, read this book. After you do, you will feel like you don't need to read about her later life, because you already know the woman who was Eleanor of Aquitaine so well.

I am amazed that O'Brien was able to craft such a page-turning plot line from such a dark, hazy period in history. Her historical research is impeccable, and it shows. O'Brien utilizes her research in such a way that makes the "fiction" part of the genre of historical fiction completely and utterly believable, which is the aim of any good historical fiction author. 

The characters of the novel are all very well crafted and all have something to contribute to the story. The character of Louis VI was very well done as well. His insurmountable devotion to the Church is maddening, but at the same time, you feel such sorrow and pity, for both him and Eleanor. 

Eleanor's fight against the political and societal limitations surrounding her show beautiful depth into her strong character. Page after page comes defeat for Eleanor, yet still she stays strong. It is truly amazing that someone with such a fire in her spirit survived such a dark period in history. 

All in all, this novel was really outstanding. The plot was turbulent and exciting, the historical research phenomenal, and Eleanor was one of the best historical re-imaginings I have ever read. For those who are skeptical about this novel because of its less-than-interesting historical setting, believe me, you will not regret reading this novel. I certainly didn't. 



Book #3 in Historical Fiction Reading Challenge


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