Friday, October 2, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me (12)

It's not you, it's me."  Some books just don't work for me, whereas other readers may have really enjoyed them.  This feature will be showcasing books that I never finished or reviewed; you know…...the dreaded DNF.

Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius 

Goodreads says, "Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both? Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time."

My Thoughts:  I love all things Tudors, so I thought this book would be right up my alley, but I couldn't handle the modern interpretation of these historical figures.  For starters, Katherine of Aragon was described as a Barbie-cheerleader.  Whhhhattt?  From what I've read, Katherine was a smart, deeply religious woman and that's not how I saw her in this novel.  Maybe she could have been casted as a goody-two-shoes Catholic school girl instead?  Also, I love Anne Boleyn, but in this novel, I really didn't care about her, so I knew right away that this book wasn't for me.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn 
Goodreads says, "London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth."

My Thoughts: I love Deanna Raybourn's books, but I couldn't get into this one. For starters, I couldn't relate to the heroine.  She seems too good to be true. She also hunts for butterflies. True story. She is witty, smart, a non-conformist and all the guys love her. *cue my eye roll* I feel like I have met this heroine so many times before and sometimes I like my heroines with a tragic flaw. Anyone else? There are some awesome reviews for this book,  but the first fifty pages left me unimpressed.  I heard the second half is better, so maybe I'll pick it up at a later date.

So, what do you think? Have you read any of these books? What's the last book you DNF? 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 6, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next. And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong. Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air. Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster." 
She knows that Lo-Melkiin, the king, will come to her village looking for a new wife.  He has killed over three hundred wives since he has started the tradition of going from village to village to search for a wife.  She is worried that her beautiful sister will be chosen, so she takes her place knowing that she'll eventually be killed by the king.  Except once she arrives to Lo-Melkiin's kingdom many days go by and she isn't killed; in fact, he listens to her stories.  As more time goes by, she realizes that the king wasn't always this way.  What has turned him into a monster? E.K. Johnston's A Thousand Nights, a retelling of Arabian Nights, is told in a unique fashion and is very well-written; however, some parts I found to be frustrating.

The main character in A Thousand Nights is unnamed which I think is an interesting and a very challenging way to tell a story.  Obviously, Johnston is a brilliant writer and used this technique to focus on the differences in gender during the time period.  I had a hard time getting to know her and I think it is because the story was told with an oral-tale quality; therefore, it was hard to truly know the main character.

The setting was really captivating in A Thousand Nights. I haven't read too many books with a Middle Eastern setting, so for me it was unique.  However, I think I would have appreciated this book a little bit more if I had been familiar with the original Arabian Nights tale. Also, Johnston weaves some fantasy elements throughout the story which I thought was very well done.  

My one issue with the A Thousand Nights is the writing style. While it was beautiful and literary in every sense, I wonder will the average young adult appreciate this? I am not so sure. In fact, I think it is geared more toward adults or very strong young adult readers.  

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a smart read this fall that is beautifully written, check out A Thousand Nights, especially if you appreciate Arabian Nights.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Confessions

Guys, I did NOT have a good reading month mostly because I was sick and when I am sick, surprisingly, I don't feel like reading. I sit on the couch and watch TV. I am now all caught up on Suits though.  Nonetheless, being sick really cut into my reading time.  Let's hope I manage to read more this October, because there are SO many awesome books coming out.

Books Read in September:
1.  The Shadows by Megan Chance - 3.5 out of 5 stars
2.  Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson - 4 out of 5 stars
3.  The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory - 4 out of 5 stars
4.  Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester - 3.5 out of 5 stars
5.  A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston - 3.5 out of 5 stars (review to come)

1.  Favorite Book:  Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson - I really enjoyed this tale about the Gold Rush and the Old West....such a unique setting for young adult literature.

2.  Biggest Surprise: The Shadows by Megan Chance - I loved the Irish folklore in this novel! 

3.  Biggest Disappointment: A Thousand Nights was a little disappointing to me, because I was hoping to LOVE it, but for me, it was a struggle at times. Review to come later this week.

4.  Favorite Post from September: My Favorite Bookish Quotes

5.  Favorite Part of September: We took my little guy to Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. He LOVED it and rode the big log flume for the first time. 

What was one of your favorite books that you read this past month? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ARC Giveaway!

I have some ARCs that are looking for new homes.  There's definitely something for everyone here!  

All Played Out by Cora Carmack
Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester
Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams

One winners gets all three and it's open to US readers only. The deadline is October 10th.  Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck and thanks for visiting!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway- Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

Pages: 368
Genre: Middle Grade
Pub. Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Before I Fall
Delirium and Vanishing Girls
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "What you will find in this book: – A rather attractive bearded lady– Several scandalous murders – A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities – A quite loquacious talking bird.  Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.  This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.  What you will NOT find in this book: – An accountant named Seymour – A never-ending line at the post office – Brussel sprouts (shudder) – A lecture on finishing all your homework on time – A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys."
At Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, a person can see many unusual things. like relics, mummies, a bearded lady and more.  It's 1930 New York City and everyone is intrigued by the items found at the museum, especially with the arrival of the new Amazonian shrunken head.  Philippa, Sam, Pippa and Max are all orphans and live at the museum, but they aren't like other children. They all have extraordinary abilities, which makes them part of the appeal at the museum.  Things start to get serious though when a customer suddenly dies after seeing the Amazonian shrunken head.  Then they come to find the head has been stolen right from underneath them.  Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester's Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is a fun start to an quirky middle grade series filled with mystery and adventure.

There's something old school about Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head that reminds me of the many mysteries I read as a kid.  I love that four very unusual children are determined to solve a murder mystery and figure out who did it all set in the backdrop of 1930s New York City.  Such a fun setting for a mystery!

Oliver's writing is pretty good in Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head. She includes many red herrings and beautiful language, while still making it accessible to middle grade readers.  Also, I thought it was really interesting when I learned that  Lauren Oliver collaborated with her father, H.C. Chester, who is a relic collector. How fun is that?

I also love the many beautiful illustrations included in Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head. It really added to the story and we all know middle grade kids really appreciate this.

You'll want to pick up a copy of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head for your favorite middle grade mystery lover and it will be especially enjoyable to read this fall/Halloween season.  

Thanks to HarperCollins, I have a hardback copy of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head to giveaway to one lucky US reader.  Please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is October 9, 2015.  Good luck!

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winner (86)

The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrell - Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte
Villa America by Liz Klaussmann - Thanks to Andrea at Cozy Up with a Good Read

Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Congrats to Joy for winning my YA/MG Giveaway! I hope you enjoy the books!

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, September 25, 2015

Book Review: The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Why would a woman marry a serial killer?  Because she cannot refuse... Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him. Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn's trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent. But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry's dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy - the punishment is death by fire and the king's name is on the warrant... From an author who has described all of Henry's queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power and education at the court of a medieval killer."

Kateryn Parr is the infamous Henry VIII's sixth wife and although I have read many books about Henry, I am not too familiar with the end of his reign.  Kateryn, newly widowed, has caught the eye of Henry and before she knows it, she is now his queen as no one can say no to Henry.  Henry is a lot different than his younger self. He suffers from an old leg wound that is constantly oozing and he is morbidly obese, yet this doesn't stop him from thinking he is God's greatest gift.  Kateryn wants to keep her head, so she has to figure out a way to deal with Henry and deny her true feelings for Thomas Seymour, whom she was seeing before she was made queen.  Philippa Gregory's The Taming of the Queen is another captivating installment about the Tudor Court and Henry's last days as King.

I can't say that I was overly interested in Kateryn in The Taming of the Queen.  I liked her well enough, but she lacked that extra drama that Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn might bring.  Kateryn is more into her scholarly work and maintaining Henry's favor, which I guess is why she kept her head despite the fact that many wives did not.  I did feel for her when dealing with Henry though. I can't imagine dealing with such a person on daily basis...someone that has that much power and changes him mind so quickly. It's hard to anticipate his moods.  Plus, he is still very much obviously in love with Queen Jane who died in childbirth and gave him a son.  No one will ever take her place, so that's a reality that Kateryn had to deal with on a daily basis.

Gregory did a great job portraying Henry at the end of his reign in The Taming of the Queen. He's pretty much a monster.  Gregory described him physically and I felt nauseous just thinking about his forever oozing leg wound.  Not even taking his looks into consideration, he behavior was no better. He was cocky, unpredictable, unrealistic, and downright scary when he was in a bad mood. There were a few scenes where I was worried Kateryn was going to end up like Anne Boleyn.

The Taming of the Queen isn't my favorite of Gregory's novels, but it's still pretty interesting if you want to know more about the last days of Henry's reign.  There are some slow parts dealing with Kathryn's studies and discussion of religion, but other than that, fans of the Tudor Court will enjoy this novel. 

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