Thursday, March 29, 2012
Author: Sarah Vowell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2011 (print available from Riverhead Trade)
Narrator: Sarah Vowell
Rating: 4.5 stars
Have you ever wondered how the United States came to acquire Hawaii? Do you know anything about the history of the last state to join the country? Sarah Vowell, in her typical sarcastically funny and intelligent fashion, takes us through the history of this chain of islands that have been through so much. From the ancient Hawaiians, to the missionaries that first stepped on the shores, to President McKinley making Hawaii officially part of the United States, Vowell tells us all about the dynamic history of Hawaii.
How have I made it this far in my life without reading one of Sarah Vowell's books? This book is fantastic. I loved Vowell's voice; she puts herself into the story as much as all of the historical figures and events, and the story is richer for it. We start with her contemplating her plate lunch, and how all these different cultures are together on one plate in Hawaii. She launches into the history and culture, both past and present. Her biting comments, quirky choice of words, and funny asides kept me listening and eager to hear more.
I picked up this audiobook because my fiance and I are going to Hawaii for our honeymoon, and I wanted to know more about it. Plus, I've heard great things about Vowell. I wasn't disappointed. Not only did I learn a great deal about the history and culture, but I was entertained throughout it with Vowell's unique style of writing. I was kind of surprised at how much I didn't know about the islands, though I suppose I shouldn't have been. We don't learn this stuff in school, and I had no reason to learn about it before this. Not that that's an excuse, but my interest was piqued when I learned I'd actually be going there.
A note on the audio edition: At first I was completely turned off by Vowell's voice. It was whinier than I was expecting. But I got used to it, and eventually started to really like how she narrated her writing in deadpan and in a conversational way. I would definitely listen to another one of her audiobooks, and most likely will. I can't wait to get my hands on Vowell's other work.
Disclosure: I got this from the library.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Some of my favorite bookish Someecards...for shits and giggles today.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
There are probably a million ways you can interpret this week's prompt but I'm going to go with the Top Ten Books (On My Shelf) That I'd Play Hooky With....it's just too bad I don't actually have much PTO left with to actually let myself PLAY hooky because of all the wedding/honeymoon time I'll be taking off come August.
Let's be real here...I'd play hooky from work with ANY book EVER but I would definitely play hooky with these books on a nice spring day...
1. Starters by Lissa Price: I've heard how utterly addicting this dystopian YA novel is and I feel as though it'd be the perfect book to just absolutely DEVOUR while playing hooky from (and trying to forget about) my life as a marketing professional.
2. Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty: My friends are going to kill me but as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVED Sloppy Firsts when I FINALLY read it in September, I just have procrastinated getting to this one next even though I'm already obsessed. Hanging out with Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie sure sounds like the makings of a fun filled day of playing hooky.
3. Shift by Jeri-Smith Ready: Jen from Makeshift Bookmark is going to punch me in the face for this but after finishing (and LOVING) Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready I kept making plans to read this one but it just kept getting pushed down the pile because of review books and just general wedding planning madness. I think Nurse Jen needs to write me a fake sick note so I can stay home and read this?
4. In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson: I keep meaning to read this one. Nothing like a little armchair travels and daydreams on a fake sick day from work to make me happy. Hard to daydream about places I want to go with the click click click of people typing and the most visually uninspiring work space ever.
5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: What better way to spend a day off than trying to make a dent in the biggest freaking book on your shelf? Ok...well one of the biggest. It's looks so daunting!
6. Dreamless by Josephine Angelini: Ever since this came in the mail last week I've been DYING to just find a huge chunk of time to devour it. I could be persuaded to play hooky from work to read this. Starcrossed was so easy to get lost in and I'm hoping this will be similar.
7. Harry Potter: Dude, you guys. I have admitted this crime/dirty little secret several times on both this blog and my personal book blog but I STILL have not read this series. Like WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE FOR ME TO MAKE TIME TO DO THIS?! A day of skipping work is maybe what I need! I CAN DO ANYYYYTHING. PS. Do you like how I tried to bury this within my list hoping you would not see it?
8. Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget: Ok you all might think this is a lame way to spend a day playing hooky because shouldn't playing hooky be FUN AND FROLICKING?? Well, friends, NOT if you are planning a wedding and only have five months to go and have SEVERELY procrastinated. Let's be honest, I'd be knee deep in favors, flowers and family seating drama-rama with a day off. WOMP WOMP. Lamest hooky day ever.
9. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard: I hadn't heard of this book until it made its way into my mailbox but seriously...parasols, corsets, zombies and a Victorian setting? How could I not play hooky with this one? While I'm picky with my paranormal, I always love just spending a whole day in a crazy world and this seems so interesting! HarperTeen, are you prepared to plead my case when I get fired for playing hooky? :P
10. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen: Last week mentioned that I needed a little Austen on my Spring TBR list but Pride & Prejudice would be the PERFECT reread to play hooky with. In fact...maybe my car will just NOT start tomorrow.....OOOOPS.
What books would YOU want to play hooky with?? Also, thanks to April from Good Books and Good Wine for this awesome topic suggestion!
As always, check here for the future Top Ten Tuesday schedule. It's typically scheduled months in advanced...when I'm on the ball!
Monday, March 26, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Publisher/Year: Ballantine, 1974
Where I got it: I got my copy from my library's used book sale
Why I read it: I adore reading about anything to do with Gettysburg and the Civil War
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation's history, two armies fought for two dreams. One of freedom, one of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle--memories, promises, love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields--shattered futures, forgotten innocence, and crippled beauty. It was a battleground forge for America's destiny and a sweeping panorama of valor, drama, and passion.
My family and I have been making multiple trips a year to Gettysburg for as long as I cam remember, so I'm not sure what has taken me so long to get around to reading this. But now that I have, I'm sitting here itching to read more, more, more about this battle and its key players.
Having such a love for this town and this battlefield, perhaps I am a bit biased in giving this book five stars. I truly believe, though, that someone who has little to no knowledge of this battle could read this and enjoy it. I will say this, though, if you find yourself in that position, don't go into this reading it like a history textbook, or it will read like one. There are battle moves discussed, multiple maps (which I found very helpful actually), and many names. Try not to get too caught up in keeping it all straight.
Shaara writes beautifully, there's no other way to say it. Some of the passages within these pages literally took my breath away. He just has this stunning prose. The other part of his writing that I especially enjoyed was how his characters' thoughts starkly changed upon going into battle. Thoughts became shorter, less reflective and more instinctive. This stream-of-consciousness he employed was really effective.
For me, my favorite aspect of this novel was the characters, and I think Shaara's intent with this wasn't to provide a play-by-play of the battle tactics, but rather to take a look into the thoughts, reflections, and decision-making processes of the men behind the war. With the movie Gettysburg (which I've seen a couple times before I read this) and subsequently this book, for the first time, the Civil War was not black and white, blue and gray, right and wrong. I actually felt for both sides. Of the key players, Longstreet and Chamberlain were the most fascinating for me, and I fully intend to read more on both of them. I still am in awe of how much I felt for these men, even considering the fact that this story was written in third person, not first. I actually found myself close to tears when Longstreet was reflecting before Pickett's Charge. I just loved "seeing inside the heads" of the men of this battle.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. And honestly, if you're still hesitant about picking this one up--read a basic summary of the battle or even look up some pictures of the Gettysburg battlefield and its landscape. It'll help you get a feel for things, even though, like I said, Shaara does not write a "dusty history book." Rather, it is a compelling piece of literature well worth your read.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Publisher/Year Published: January 2012 by Hyperion
How I got this book: From my library system
Why I read this book: I saw it show up a few places in the blogosphere and the description intrigued me
Rating: 3 stars
Let's start with a brief summary. Kaelyn just moved back to her home, an island with her mom, dad and brother, and is feeling a little blue. She misses her best friend Leo, who she had a thing for, and starts writing letters to him in the form of a journal to feel connected to him. Inadvertently, she also starts to document the spread of a new unknown virus on the little island. This story is about that virus, how it ravages the island, and how people turn either bad or good when the going gets insane.
The Way We Fall was a refreshingly good book. It is pretty much is just what I told you in the paragraph above. There is an island and a disease that no one has seen starts cropping up and killing people throwing everyone into a panic. Once the island was quarantined, the book picked up speed and did not slow down. It was what Lord of the Flies would be if it was an island of people of all ages, supplies, was set in modern day and was enjoyable...
I really enjoyed the medium that the story was presented to us. I thought since the journal was to someone not on the island, some of the more specific details made sense. Granted I never would expect a journal to have paragraphs of dialogue that this one did, but it really didn't bother me.
Kaelyn, our narrator, is interesting and yet still a teenager. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, it's just you can tell that she is a teenager with her stressing about fitting in, and pinning over a boy. But when the going gets tough, her personality goes beyond just that and over the course of the book grows. At times, she can be a little frustrating and at one point I was thinking "Oh yeah? You figured that out and not the experts? Please." but the book actually schooled me a bit on that thought.
Some of the secondary characters can be one note, but the ones we see a bit more of, like the family, round out a bit around the edges.
It is hard to say much specifically about the story, considering it is pretty much just a pandemic attacks an island. Everything you think may happen does. The characters are believable. Our narrator, reliable. It was enjoyable story in the way a story about a pandemic can be.
In a slight aside, remember how I mentioned that all current YA are series? Well, as soon as I had fished this I was thinking about how I was going to go online and profess my love for finding an excellent standalone young adult book. Then once I went to Goodreads, I see "Fallen World #1". What a disappointment.
So where does it fall short? Before I knew this would continue, I thought that the ending was a perfect open ended ending for a book that is so weighty in its subject. With a teeny bit more closure I would have been happy. I would have known what I needed to know to form my own conclusions about the future of this world. I am actually really disappointed though not surprised that this is the beginning of a series.
I had a whirlwind relationship with this book (I read it in 6 hours. I was sick, which I thought was pretty ironic) and I think I am judging the ending more on what I wanted it to be more so than what it actually was. There were some pretty loose ends, three major ones, that I sort of wrapped up to myself. But I really believe that this book would have been AWESOME if it's ending was a little more conclusive and wrapped up those loose ends (to an extent, leave us to draw some of our own conclusions) and call it a day. One book and out.
I don't know if I want to know more though. I like where my mind took it. I like not knowing the whole picture or the after. And I wish that the author could have done it, but I've babbled on about my wishes long enough.
Summary: It was a good book; solidly interesting. I would recommend this for people who don't mind a little death (because seriously it is a pandemic) and for people looking for a good survival story.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
For future Top Ten Tuesday topics, check them out here!
You guys! It's the first day of spring today!! And what better way to kick off this season which means bye-bye to the nasty cold (a girl can hope right?) than to break out a list with the exciting books coming out between March 20th and June 21st 2012??
I'm doing new releases, but of course it can also be books that are already out, cause a TBR list is just the books you're wanting/hoping to read.
To give you fair warning: you guys know I can never seem to play by the rules right?
1. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin: the cover for this one is absolutely gorgeous and I've heard people who've been lucky enough to get an ARC gush about it so much I can't wait to read it!
2. Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers: it's about NUNS who are ASSASSINS! Enough said really.
3. A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont: I LOVE Jane Eyre, so this girl falling right into the story is my dream!
4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: I know, I still need to read Fire, but I couldn't resist pre-ordering the shiny new book that will be Bitterblue! I adored Cashore's writing in Graceling and I'm sure I'll love this one as well, I've been hearing nothing but wonderful things about Bitterblue!
5. Until I Die by Amy Plum: the second book in the Revenant series, I absolutely LOVED Die For Me when I read it last year and I can't wait to see what happens next for Kate and Vincent. And the cover is just gorgeous!
6. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: YAY NEW FANTASY AUTHOR! I'm really excited about this one, it's supposed to be really good, I can't wait to read it! :) The main character sounds like she'll kick some major behind and I love it when my heroines do that!
7. Of Poseidon by Anna Banks: MERMAIDS! I have a thing for mermaids. And this book sounds amazing!
8. Revived by Cat Patrick: cause really, how could I resist a book that has a main character called Daisy? And one that doesn't sound like she's simpering in a corner for a change?!
9. Struck by Jennifer Bosworth: a girl who is struck by lightning all the time and survives and has strange powers and such. Call me fascinated!
10. The sequels I couldn't all fit into this Top Ten (see, told you I cheat): AKA Black Heart by Holly White (this series is THE awesome!), Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter (I really enjoyed the Goddess Test, yay Greek Mythology!), Dreamless by Josephine Angelini (I was DEVASTATED at the end of Starcrossed! And again: YAY MYTHOLOGY!)
So that's my list, I actually went a little crazy and pre-ordered almost all of these... :) What are you all planning to read this spring? Any exciting books I should know about? I'm always looking to add books to my TBR list, so let me know what I forgot/should definitely order as well!
Monday, March 19, 2012
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC, 2010
How I got it: Bought it at Barnes and Noble
Why I got it: Loved Brave Story by her and had to read this one too
Rating: 5 stars
First off, let me apologize for my absence on the blog. So far 2012 has been light on the reading front, I think I may have burned myself out a bit last year and so I'm trying not to over-read now. I know that's not an excuse to all you lovely readers, but merely an explanation. Anyway.. on to what you are actually here for.
The story is thus: Yuriko is a normal elementary school girl. Her family is average, etc etc. Then one day she is called out of class because an incident has occurred. It turns out that her brother went to school that day and killed and injured two classmates. Everyone was shocked because he was a model student. Yuriko quickly learns (from talking books no less!) that her brother has been possessed by The Hero. The Hero (and The King in Yellow) is the manifestation of every hero story ever told, while he is everything good, The King in Yellow is the other side of the coin and represents everything bad. In order to save her brother (and stop him from bringing chaos into the world), Yuriko must become the allcaste and journey to defeat the King in Yellow.
There were really fantastic elements to it. My favorite part (that I mentioned briefly) was Aju, a dictionary that befriends Yuriko and travels along side of her. There is the nameless land filled with nameless devout who keep the stories of the world in motion. And crazy monsters like giant floating eyeballs or tornado like hands that come down from the sky and tear up everything in their path.
I really don't know how to describe everything I enjoyed about this book. It created ideas behind books, stories, readers, and authors that I would never have dreamed of before. For a large part of the novel, the group travels into a "region" which turns out to be a fantasy novel. Yuriko travels with a character from the book in order to follow after The Hero's incarnation of that story. Because if she can stop his progress in one story, she can stop his progress in her world, because then his story stops being told and his chaos can't happen. Are you following? I promise it makes sense.
The only way I can properly describe this book is that the whole time I was reading it, I wanted to be reading it out loud to someone. It had this magical quality to it that I just wanted to share with someone. But instead of just shoving the book in their hand and telling them to read it, I wanted to experience it along side with them. Does that make sense?
My two problems with this book (which aren't really the books fault anyway) were that:
1. I kept comparing it to Brave Story. I caught myself doing this far too much. They are similar themed books - something awful happens, kid gets gathered up in a magical land to try and fix it, awesome adventures ensue. With that being said, they are entirely different books, and it was not fair of me to compare one to the other. But I found it fairly distracting and I found that The Book of Heroes did not stand up as well as Brave Story. That's why it wasn't a 5+ for me.
2. Sometimes Yuriko could fall flat as a heroine. I say this - and then let me qualify it. I would find myself disappointed in how she acted and then have to remind myself that she was acting exactly like a 10 year old would. When she was confronted by a giant floating eyeball... she started screaming. So here I am wondering why she wasn't busting out some crazy move to defeat it and then I have to stop myself and think "..wait a second... I would be screaming and crying too, and I'm not 10" So it wasn't the books fault- if anything Miyabe did a good job of capturing how freaked out a little kid would be by an experience like this.
I highly recommend this book. And Brave Story. And... if nothing else the cover is gorgeous!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Title/Author: Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett
Publisher/Date published: Sweetwaker Books, December 8th 2011
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads summary: ""Think I can turn that boy bad?" 17-year-old Jen turns her life upside down when, out of boredom, she makes a bet that she can turn school geek Trevor into someone like her. Instead, the goth girl finds herself sucked into his world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even-ugh!-bowling. To truly belong with him - and with her new foster family - she must first come to terms with her violent past."
Sometimes I misread summaries. Sometimes this means that I expected more of a book. This time, it meant that all I was expecting was a cute lovestory and it turned out to be SO MUCH MORE!!!
Seriously, I LOVED this book! Geek Girl is not only a cute lovestory, but it deals with some serious subjects. At first I needed to warm up to Jen, but as the story progressed and I learned more about her backstory, her attitude of somewhat bitterness and the trust issues she had all made perfect sense!
And I really liked Jen! I felt everything along with her and I had the urge to give her a big hug, even though she probably wouldn't have welcomed the gesture. She was so real and it all just felt so natural! I got totally sucked into the story and I felt like I became Jen while reading the book. To me this is the sign of a wonderful, well-written book, so major brownie points to Cindy C. Bennett for accomplishing this! Jen goes through a LOT of character growth and experiencing this along with her was wonderful!
And THE BOY!! I LOVED Trevor I'm sure I'm not even remotely coherent about this! Trevor sounds exactly like the boy I would have fallen in love with in high school! Or actually, he sounds like the boy I did fall in love with: my boyfriend. Really, smart guys rule FTW!! Also, I got pretty much all the 'geek' references and of the movies mentioned, I think I've seen about 80% or at least know of them enough to understand all the geeky jokes. Yes, I'm a geek and proud of it! Trevor is just a really good guy and a wonderful brother and loyal friend. He's my kind of guy!
And of course there's some heartbreak, because what would a good lovestory be without some roadblocks? EXACTLY! But it didn't once feel artificial, I could imagine this happening exactly the way it did in Geek Girl. And the tension-filled moments between Trevor and Jen totally brought tears to my eyes, I LOVED it!
So yes, I'm saying READ THIS! It is absolutely not just a fluffy romance as I expected from the summary and it deals with some really dark and serious stuff. The lovestory in Geek Girl is amazing and real and tear-inducing! The writing completely drew me in and I didn't want to put this book down unless absolutely forced to! I'll be sure to check out anything Cindy C. Bennett manages to come up with after Geek Girl!
My rating: 5+ stars
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Okay so some of these may not be strictly 'Historical Fiction'... I cheated a bit on a few of them. ;) But they take place in the past, or have characters from the past... That counts, right?
1- The Book Thief- I know I'm just repeating myself now, I think this has made it onto at least 3 of my TTTs. But it really is a fantastic book.
2- Travel to Tomorrow- I read this book several months ago, the publisher sent it to me. I even got to intereview the author! Then my computer died and I lost the review, the notes I'd taken during the interview... I'm was slightly traumatized. However, thank heavens, one of my wonderful neighbors saved my computer and the document! I'll be able to post it soon. Check this novel out, it's not strictly historical fiction... But seriously, read it.
3- Time for Andrew- This has been one of my absolute favorite books since I was 12. It's 'children's' fiction, but a delight to read for ANY age. Promise.
3- Stepping on the Cracks- Wonderful WWII novel, another children's fiction (same author as Time for Andrew, actually) but a wonderful book.
4- Memoirs of a Geisha- Excellent book. Loved learning even more about the Japanese culture. (Though there are a couple of mistakes...but that's beside the point) I love unique cultures, I really enjoyed this one.
5- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie- Not only does this book have one of the most engaging young protagonists I've found, but it's an all around good mystery novel laced with plenty of humor as well as suspense.
6- The Thief Lord- I actually do not have the slightest idea when this takes place, but it's at least many years in the past. I've heard this book compared to 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman. So if you like that, you'll probably like this. The descriptions... I fell in love with Venice even more. It made my wanderlust even worse, I wanted to go there and see what the author was describing.
7- The Help- By now everyone has heard of this book, so I need not say much about it. Excellent book, powerful story that can truly change how you look at life. If you like audio books, check this one out. It's fantastic.
8- Sarah's Key- (Ok, so I actually haven't read all of this yet...)I received this as a gift a little over a year ago and just now had a chance to start reading it. It's fantastic so far.
9- The Secret Life of Bees- Rather similar to The Help. I came across this book back in my sophmore year of High School. We had our 'reading time' in English and I'd finished my book. 15 minutes to read and no book to read. So I went begging to my teacher. She handed over her own copy of this book for me to borrow, she'd just finished it and loved it. Fantastic book. After I finished it a couple days later I got to chat about the book with my teacher, we sat and talked about what we loved, what had made us cry, etc... It was so great! (Thank you Mrs. Young, you were my absolute favorite English teacher!!!)
10- Anne of Green Gables- Okay okay, I know, this may not exactly count because it more or less takes place within few years of when it was written. However, I adore these books and I say they belong on this list.
Can't wait to see what every one else has! I actually had a difficult time putting this list together. Share your list below!
Monday, March 12, 2012
Title/Author: How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long (Pennyroyal Green #6)
Publisher/Date published: Avon Books, January 1st 2012
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads summary: "The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice.
Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.
She's not afraid to play with fire...
But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted."
So if you guys follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me doing all kinds of gushing about this novel already! When I started this book, it had been 3 weeks since the last time I felt really absorbed in a story and it was just all kinds of amazing! I went off-pile for this one because I'd been having some meh reads and had really enjoyed another book in this series before and I'm SO glad I did it!
From the first moment I felt a connection to Phoebe, the main character. She's a schoolteacher and as such not your typical romance novel character. She's smart and can hold her own and I appreciated that about her. Phoebe's going places even if she doesn't have a man to support her.
And then we have Julian, who is just a swoonworthy man and who made me want to whack him on the back of the head and give him a hug at the same time. He's got a HUGE sense of responsibility and was completely trustworthy and just basically a good guy. I mean, I love me some rakes, but a good guy wins my heart every time. And seriously, when he chased after Phoebe's cat when it slipped out the door onto the dangerous streets of London, looking all kinds of ridiculous, he earned himself a special place for all time. (Oh, and the cat is awesome too!)
But no matter how amazing they were in their own rights, together they blew me away! The chemistry was amazing and I had goosebumps all over. And the tension! It was FANTASTIC! Plus, brownie points for totally making me cry! It's been so long since a book brought me to tears, but this one did the trick and it was wonderful! These two actually have real conversations and real problems! And gosh, can I just say how much I was annoyed by the heroine's rival? Seriously, that girl turned out to be EVIL!
But mostly, what I meant to say was that I absolutely, completely LOVED this book! I think I've found myself a new auto-add historical romance author! If you like the genre, be sure to pick this one up :)
My rating: 5+ stars
Friday, March 9, 2012
My thirst for books set in 16th century England is absolutely insatiable. Nancy Bilyeau's new (and FIRST!) book just helped whet that constant need. What appealed to me was the relatively unfamiliar settings and perspectives in her book. The Crown takes place in the midst of the Reformation. Henry VIII is trying to rid England of Catholicism - mainly by emptying out the abbeys and taking the wealth there for himself. Monks and nuns being forced from their lifestyles and beliefs in these abbeys were left in helpless and pitiable situations.
Our heroine in The Crown is Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun who is also of royal blood. She sneaks away from Dartford Priory when her cousin Margaret Bulmer is sentenced to burn as a traitor for resisting the Reformation. At the execution site, she and her father are arrested for causing a ruckus and are sent to the Tower. There, Bishop Stephen Gardiner (that old grumpy guy who always wears purple robes on The Tudors) offers her a deal in exchange for her release and her father's life. Joanna must search and find him the legendary Athelstan crown, supposedly hidden in her abbey. This crown is said to offer the rightful owner great power and defeat against enemies; Gardiner desires to use the crown to sway the Reformation in his favor. In her search, Joanna meets a mysterious monk named Edmund, a charming civilian (creating an odd love triangle of sorts), and runs into more murders, sickness, and betrayl than I think the average nun did. The action and mystery is nonstop!
One of my first impressions about The Crown was how great it was to read a book that takes place in Tudor England but does NOT focus on Henry VIII or one of his wives. Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both do play a part, but Prince Arthur and George Boleyn are the main focus of their stories, respectively. It was interesting to get a fresh perspective on the events I've already read so much about. I also loved all of the various characters we met along the way. I specifically liked finding out the reasons why some of the nuns and monks decided to join the church; some were truly pious to God, others simply traumatized in their childhood for various reasons. There was such great characterization and variety! The only lingering feeling that is still bothering me is the ending: I wouldn't say it's exactly a cliffhanger, but it didn't feel completely wrapped up. I wanted to know specifics! Readers may be me left demanding a sequel - not that that's a bad thing!
If you like history, religion, and mystery (from that description, this book sounds similar to The Da Vinci Code...it's not.) then this book is for you! 4 stars to a great debut novel.
Due to limited space and an impending move later this year, I am giving away my copy of The Crown to one of you! Open to US residents only, enter by filling out a short form HERE! You have until March 16th. Good luck!
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Okay, okay, I know. What took me so long. Life got in the way, kids. But I finally made it, months after everyone else. And of course, everyone was right.
Anna is being sent to France against her will for her senior year of high school. At least it's an American boarding school, but still, she's pissed at her dad (a famous author who sounds suspiciously like Nicholas Sparks) for taking her away from everything she knows and sending her to some foreign country on her own. But she eventually settles in, makes friends, and is forced to get to know the city by said friends, especially St. Clair (that's his last name, first name Etienne). Friendship gets complicated between these two though, when both start to feel something more but, oh hey, St. Clair has a girlfriend. Then throw in a mean girl, another dude, and the excitement only Paris has to offer and you get one awesome book.
There's really not much more I can say about this book that hasn't been said, but I'll do it anyway. Yes, St. Clair has a British accent and is a super nice guy and is extremely attractive (and short—my fiance would approve), but he also has his baggage. This includes a truly awful father and the inability to be alone at this time in his life (you'll see why). Anna is equally down to earth, and she has an appreciation for film that is rarely seen in YA novels—her aspiration is the be one of the few female film critics. Their relationship is incredibly real and exactly what a friends/more-than-friends relationship is like. Anyone who's ever been in that sort of situation will feel the same way, I'd guess. And I love that it takes the appropriate amount of time for them each to fall for the other.
Did I mention there are serious issues in here too? No? There are serious issues. Bullying, for one. At one point Anna has to deal with some truly terrible people and I actually cried at how they were treating her. That's not the only real-life issue in here, but that's where I'll stop because I don't want to give any spoilers for the few who have yet to read it.
And how could I forget the setting? This book made me want to go back to Paris, since hey, I was there for only 7 hours between trains. The food, the people, the excitement are all intoxicating. Even though it rained most of the days in the book, I still wanted to be there.
I stayed up late to finish this, something I wasn't expecting to do, and that doesn't happen very often for me. So yes, this book is everything everyone has been saying it is. It's truly worth the read, not only because of how utterly delightful it is, but because of it's depth and the truth behind every relationship.
I know the American cover isn't the best, one of the reasons I didn't read it sooner, but let me show you an alternate cover I found:
Isn't that so much cuter?
Side note: Did anyone else think the way Anna was described sounded exactly like Anna Paquin in X-Men? Gap between the front teeth, bleach in the hair, her name is Anna...
Disclosure: I got this book from the library.