Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (62)





The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand - Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss
Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan - Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon 

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 612
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VIII's claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret's contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors. After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret's world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and & holiest; woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors."
In Gregory's Cousins' War series, the last book focused on Elizabeth of York; however, in The King's Curse our protagonist is Lady Margaret Pole, Elizabeth of York's cousin.  It has been rumored that her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth's mother cursed the Tudors so they wouldn't have any healthy male heirs.  Instead of Margaret marrying someone of royal blood, as she should, she is married off to a knight and is in charge of the Prince of Wales, Arthur, Henry VIII's brother.  Arthur is a good person and Margaret knows he will make a great king. He actually loves his new wife, Katherine of Aragon.  He dies very shortly after they are married and they are both quite young. Katherine insists their marriage wasn't consummated and is looking to be betrothed to the next in line for the throne, none other than Henry VIII.  Henry is very, very different than good natured Arthur, but Katherine insists that this was Arthur's dying wish as he wanted to see Katherine on the throne. As the years progress, Margaret is placed in a high regard at court, but as alliances change, she is then banished for a time, having to fend for herself with little to no money.  But at the Tudor Court things change on a whim and everyone must cater to Henry VIII's current mood.  Philippa Gregory's latest historical tale, The King's Curse, is entertaining and suspenseful despite the fact that readers already know how it plays out.

Margaret Pole is an interesting protagonist for The King's Curse as she sort of sees things from a different perspective. Sometimes it is an outsider's perspective, which makes things rather interesting.  In The King's Curse you can really see how Henry VIII's choices even impacted someone like Margaret. At one moment she is living a lavish lifestyle bringing up the Prince of Wales and then the next moment she is banished from court and can barely survive. It was also interesting to see the Tudor Court from her perspective and watch the events play out, such as Arthur's untimely death, the rise of Henry VIII, the arrival of Anne Boleyn at court and then all of the people executed or imprisoned at the Tower.  Even though I have heard this story before, reading about it again from Margaret's perspective really illustrated how one man, Henry, can truly bring about the demise of so many people.

What I also liked about The King's Curse was Gregory's perspective on Henry VIII. She gave us a glimpse into his childhood and sort of explained why he acts the way he does. He was brought up very differently than his brother, Arthur, and after Arthur died, he was indulged and wasn't exactly raised to be a fair king. I thought this was an interesting perspective and an "aha" moment for me in The King's Curse.

The heartbreaking aspect of The King's Curse is the alleged curse. We all know that this curse may or may not be true, but what is true is the fact that Tudor line does actually end with a virgin queen, Elizabeth I.  So, it was fascinating to sort of explore the idea of a curse and see how it plays out. It was heart wrenching though reading about Katherine of Aragon's many miscarriages and stillborn children as well as Anne Boleyn's. It even prompted me to research why so many of Henry's children either died early on in life or didn't survive childbirth.  There are many theories, but that is beside the point.

I am very pleased with this final installment of the Cousins' War series and if you love the Tudor Court, but would like a fresh perspective, definitely check out The King's Curse. I know I can't wait to see what Gregory has up her sleeve next.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (61)





The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows - Thanks to Katherine Teagon Books and Edelweiss
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark - Thanks to Henry Holt and NetGalley
99 Days by Kate Cotugno  - Thanks to Balzer & Bray and  Edelweiss

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo Update

Ok, so we are almost half way through NaNoWriMo and I am, surprisingly, right on track. I will admit this time around it is a lot easier for me, because I have made some changes….changes which (so far!) actually work for me! 



NanoWriMo 2014: My Guidelines

  1. Write everyday- Obviously. But there were times last year that I wouldn't write on a particular day and try to make it up the next day. Yeah, that doesn't work well for me and creates stress.
  2. Wake up early - This stinks. It does, but I have been waking up a little bit earlier than normal to make sure I get my writing time in. I haven't always been a morning person, but after having a kid, I think I have crossed over to the dark side.
  3. Stop watching as much TV - Instead of watching TV, I might work on my story and I can't say I really miss TV that much.  
  4. Stop reading as much - So, if you know me, this really sucks. Reading de-stresses me and even though I have wanted to read at various times this month, I worked on my story instead. I have only read two books this month, which is quite telling. The only book that sort of hooked me in a bit was Voyager. Damn you, Gabaldon, with Jamie Fraser and your way with words. However, I think it's good to read when you are writing though, but not too much!
  5. Have fun - Seriously. I used to stress about my word count and it became a pain in the butt, sort of like going to the gym when you don't want to, but I have lightened up a bit. I like my story, so it's been a lot of damn fun.  

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this month, how are you doing? What changes have you made in order to meet your goals? Any tips you want to share with me? 

Let's hope my next post about this is a celebratory one saying I "won" NaNoWriMo!  

Happy Friday,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-fi
Pub. Date: November 4, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined. A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure."

Marguerite Caine isn't your average teenager. She has been homeschool by her brilliant physicist parents and spends more time surrounded by graduate students than her own peers.  Her parents have invented the Firebird, a device that can allow people to travel into other dimensions. While in the other dimension, they can assume the role of themselves in that alternate universe. Unfortunately, her father was murdered, which obviously sends her family for a loop, especially when they find out the alleged murderer is none other than one of the graduate students, Paul, whom is practically family.  Paul escapes into another dimension and Margureite is determined to hunt him down, along with the help of another graduate student, Theo.  Traveling to other dimensions can be very dangerous though, but Margerite is determined.  Plus, while she is hunting down Paul with Theo she comes to learn about these two men in the other dimensions and things become a bit murky and unclear. Who really killed her father? Perhaps Paul isn't the murderer and things aren't what they seem? And to further complicate matters, Marguerite starts to have feelings for both men as she gets to know them more and more in the alternate worlds.  Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You is an imaginative story of other dimensions that kept me flipping the pages even though the romance part of the story left me feeling a little flat.


Marguerite is a fun heroine in A Thousand Pieces of You. I mean she has never even studied alternate dimensions and doesn't know how to use nor fix a Firebird device, but she's willing to risk it all in order to track down her father's killer.  This is the kind of heroine that makes things interesting and entertaining.  I liked her loyalty towards her family and her drive as well as the fact that with each "jump" to another dimension, she learns more and more about herself. So, this novel focuses a bit on Marguerite's journey, which I enjoyed. 

The driving force behind Marguerite is the justice she seeks for her father's murder. She wants so desperately to right the wrongs, but it isn't as simple as that in A Thousand Pieces of You. Things are most definitely complicated and in turn, I was pleasantly surprised to find out there's a bit of a murder mystery in this novel.

Regarding the love interests in A Thousand Pieces of You, I was a little turned off, because of the possible love triangle between Paul and Theo. I mean at first she is hunting down Paul and starts to have feelings for Theo as she spends more time with him. However, that changes when she encounters Paul in another dimension. I had some whiplash, especially because it wasn't too long ago she hated Paul for being an alleged murderer and wanted him dead.  So, anyway, without giving too much away regarding Paul and Theo, let's just say that I didn't really feel the angst or budding romance. It felt a little too forced for me.

However, please know that didn't stop me from enjoying the whole fast-paced time travel/alternature universe/adventure aspect of A Thousand Pieces of You. I mean who hasn't thought of the possibility of people existing in another realm or alternate dimension? Either way, the idea of time travel and alternate dimensions greatly intrigues me and Gray takes readers to such fascinating places, such as the House of Romanov (squee!) and a futuristic London.  This was, no doubt, my favorite aspect of the story.

Even though the romance didn't work for me in A Thousand Pieces of You, I enjoyed the familial aspect of the story, the mystery of the killer, the character of Marguerite and the whole time-travel vibe, so I will definitely be checking out book two in the Firebird series. I can't wait to see where Marguerite takes us next.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Pages: 392
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction/Thriller
Pub. Date: October 7, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Hush, Hush
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.  Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.  In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.  But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?  BLACK ICE is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous…"
Instead of going to Hawaii over spring break, Britt has convinced her best friend, Korbie, to come along with her on a hiking trip of a lifetime. They are going to hike the Tetons and stay at Korbie's family's cabin in Wyoming.  She partly plans this trip with the hopes that it will gain attention from her ex-boyfriend, Calvin, who is an avid hiker and also Korbie's brother, but she also plans it to prove to herself she can do it. She has been training for quite sometime and even has all the equipment, thanks to Korbie's generous parents.  Looks like her plan is playing out just the way she has hoped: Calvin is going to be the "chaperone" on this trip and meet them up at the cabin later that day. On the way up to the cabin, they encounter a blizzard that sort of pops up and the girls find themselves in a precarious situation.  Despite Korbie's complaints, they try to find shelter and abandon their car on the road.  They come across a cabin which happens to have two hot guys, Mason and Shaun, staying there.  Mason just so happens to be someone she has encountered at the local gas station the other day and helped her get out of an awkward jam with her ex-boyfriend, Calvin.  So, what is he doing here? The guys take the girls in, but quickly Britt and Korbie find out these young men aren't who they seem to be and things get dangerous quickly.  In the back of her mind, Britt hopes Calvin will find them and come to her rescue.  Becca Fitzpatrick's Black Ice is a thriller that I really felt torn about. On one hand, I found it to be compulsively readable, but on the other hand, I loathed all the characters, so it ended up being an "meh" read for me after all.

First off, Britt is an annoying character in Black Ice. I just couldn't relate to this girl at all. Both Britt and Korbie are spoiled, privileged, and vapid. For real. I'm not joking. Britt isn't as bad as Korbie, but the amount of eye-rolling I did concerning these two girls and their antics was crazy. They were always making poor decisions and getting themselves into disasters.  First off, Britt is boy obsessed. I mean I get that she is still hurt by Calvin dumping her, but she needs to get over it and move on. Just when I think she is giving Calvin a run for his money, she does something stupid and I find myself not liking her again.  She was really shallow, which leads me to Korbie. I'm not even going to get into it, but she is like a 90s mall chick.  Why would Britt even take her on a  rigorous hike? Her idea of cardio involves shopping at Nordstrom.  And these two aren't even best friends. They don't support each other, are severely competitive, and are straight up mean-girls.  So, you get the idea.

What I liked about Black Ice, and why I finished it, was the suspense/thriller part of the story. I liked the whole man vs. nature and the "survival" theme. There are parts of the novel that involve police tracking people, unexpected weather, and of course, murderers on the loose, which all added to the suspense  The setting of the Tetons was fantastic and I was on the edge of my seat with worry that Britt was going to end up freezing to death out in the elements.

The romance in Black Ice didn't work for me completely. Main reason why: I didn't like Calvin or Mason.  I thought all the guys in the books were jerks and I wasn't rooting for either.  Even when Britt finds herself attracted to Mason and he shows he isn't a monster, I felt like I couldn't trust him despite his backstory. And Calvin is just awful. Why she would still feel attracted to him after he treated her that way (dumped her before a dance) is baffling.  I just wasn't feeling any of the guys and I don't like the whole idea of Stockholm syndrome. 

So, Black Ice is a fascinating thriller and I liked the suspenseful parts, but it was the characters that ruined the story for me in the end.  If you read this book, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's That Time Again: NaNoWriMo


So, it's that time of the year again! National Novel Writing Month.  Who is participating? Let me know. I'd love to be writing buddies. My name on there is Chris327.  I have been participating for about five years, but have only won one time. The difference for me between winning and not winning is all about planning. Last year I had a great idea and did some research/planning way ahead of time.  

This year I also have a great idea, but haven't done any planning ahead of time. Cue the anxiety. I am in the midst of research as I type. I am off to a good start, but I am not sure how long that will last.  So, we will see! Plus, I am not 100% sold on my idea. It's sort of playing out in my mind still.

Last year's novel was a YA historical fiction/fantasy novel and this year, it's more YA historical fiction, loosely based on tidbit of information I found out about a really interesting spy.  It involves some research on my end, so I am kicking myself for not preparing prior to November 1st.

Well played, Agatha. Well played.

Nonetheless, I am going to give it try, because whether I win or not, I feel it's good practice, right?  The blog will be pretty quiet during the month of November, which means I will only be posting sporadically and updating you guys on my status of NaNoWriMo. I just wanted to give you a heads up.

So, let me know if you are participating in NaNoWriMo and share some tips with me or let me know what you are writing about!

Back to drink more coffee and write, write, write,
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