Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: "Prophet's Prey" by Sam Brower

From Goodreads:  From the private investigator who cracked open the case that led to the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the maniacal prophet of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), comes the page-turning, horrifying story of how a rogue sect used sex, money, and power disguised under a fav├čade of religion to further criminal activities and a madman's vision.

Despite considerable press coverage and a lengthy trial, the full story has remained largely untold. Only one man can reveal the whole, astounding truth: Sam Brower, the private investigator who devoted years of his life to breaking open the secret practices of the FLDS and bringing Warren Jeffs and his inner circle to justice. In Prophet's Prey, Brower implicates Jeffs in his own words, bringing to light the contents of Jeffs's personal priesthood journal, discovered in a hidden underground vault, and revealing to readers the shocking inside world of FLDS members, whose trust he earned and who showed him the staggering truth of their lives.

My Thoughts:  "Who's that?" was the question I received from my coworkers when I told them I was reading a book about Warren Jeffs.  To me, it was quite shocking that they didn't know who this person was.  Jeffs has made national news off and on for the past several years and was even on the FBI's most wanted list so I assumed that most people have heard of him.  So for those of you who don't know, Warren Jeffs is the now jailed prophet of the FLDS sect that predominantly lives in Southern Utah/Northern Arizona.  Sam Brower, the author of this book, is a private investigator who was brought in to help in a variety of cases against Jeffs and wrote Prophet's Prey about his experiences with Warren Jeffs and the members of his church.

To start, I knew Warren Jeffs was a pig before I read this book but Brower exposes a lot of evidence that showed just how disgusting Jeffs really was.  Brower includes parts of Jeffs' journals and information from audiotapes made by Jeffs discussing his marriages to young girls and one tape is even a recording of him having sex with a 12 year old!  Brower's book basically allows the reader to see into who Warren Jeffs is, how he became the prophet of that sect of the FLDS church and how he cemented his authoritarian rule over the members of his church.  It was pretty eye opening and I was surprised to see the extent to Jeffs' power over his flock.  They even sat by quietly while he essentially used his father as a puppet when his father was too ill to lead the church on his own.   I have been interested in this topic for a while but it never ceases to amaze me when I see how truly brainwashed many of the members of the FLDS are.  The book did seem to end rather abruptly and I would have liked to see what had to people Brower helped after Jeffs was put in prison.  There were several girls who escaped and brought charges against Jeffs and I would have liked to see how they are adjusting now that he is no longer a huge threat to them.  In short, this was nonfiction written for the everyday reader about a pretty fascinating topic.  3 stars.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Friday (28)

Woohoo!! FRIDAY!  It's been a super busy week so I am so glad it's the weekend!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View.

This week's question is:  Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?

For some reason, I can only read one book at a time.  If I try to read more than one book, I wind up putting one completely aside (sometimes for good) to read another.  I also get kind of stressed out about having more than one unfinished book.  I just like to read one and then move on to the next.

Do you read more than one book at a time?

Review: "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton

From Goodreads:  A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

My Thoughts:  I didn't quite know what to expect when I picked up this book.  I have heard good things about Kate Morton so I hoped for the best.  It turned out to be a pretty intriguing story that completely pulled me in.  There were a lot of characters and a lot of jumping between time periods and the characters in those periods.  Normally, I don't love when a book is written that way but Morton did it so seamlessly that for the most part it didn't bother me.  Morton's prose is fantastic and added to my feelings towards the story.  I also liked how she included the fairy tales into the story;  not only did she talk about them but she actually made up fairy tales and put them in the book.  It made this book stand out a lot.

The mystery aspect of the story kept me reading and everytime I thought I had it all figured out, I realized that I didn't.  The descriptions to the setting of the story were amazing and I felt like I could really visualize the gardens and homes that the story took place in.  My one complaint is that besides Cassandra, none of the characters had a lot of depth.  Because the story jumped around so much, I felt like I only got to see snippets of each of the characters and they all really had a lot of potential.  I also had some issues with the ending, mainly Eliza's ending.  I understand that it helped wrap everything up nicely but it still bothered me because it seemed out of character for the person she was supposed to be.  Otherwise, this was  really good story and I will be reading more of Morton's works in the future.  4 stars.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: "Think" by Michael R. LeGault

From Goodreads:  In "Think!," award-winning author LeGault refutes the 2005 bestseller "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thought" and describes an intellectual crisis in our country, the factors that created it, and why thinking is relevant to everyday lives, jobs, and quality of life.

My Thoughts:  The main premise of this book is that critical thinking is declining and how important is for people to use reason to make decisions as opposed to just making snap decisions.  He stressed the importance of looking at problems from all angles and thinking about all aspects of the problem before making a decision.   LeGault spoke extensively about how politics, the media and culture in the United States have turned intellectualism and critical thinking into negative things.  I found a lot of his assertions to be spot on; he talks a lot about millenials which include students in high school and college and their relationship with teachers and parent and the things he says are so true.  I work in higher education and I found myself nodding along to some of the things he was saying as they are things I deal with on a daily basis.  He discusses things like how students would rather have someone hold their hand through everything as opposed to going and finding information for themselves and how students don't want to deal with the consequences of their actions and expect people to clean up their messes.  I know that not all students are like this but a good amount are

I know that some of what LeGault discusses as causes for the lack of critical thinking in this country are controversial (overmedicating children, overly permissive parents, etc) but I couldn't help but agree with him on a lot of these issues.  Parts of the book seemed unnecessary, there is a whole chapter about famous thinkers which included mini-bios of people like Einstein and Edison.  It was really boring and seemed really out of place.  I also thought it was interesting that a lot of reviews that I have read called this book 'too conservative'.  This surprised me because I don't consider myself to be 'conservative' and yet I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said.  Overall, I found this be a pretty fascinating read.  3 stars.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Play Hooky With

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books I Would Play Hooky With

To be perfectly honest, if I could I would probably play hooky with any book.  I would much rather stay home and read than go to work.  Unfortunately, this time of year is the busiest at work and it's not easy to call in sick.  Here are a few books that might make it super hard for me to go work.
1.) Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward-As I have said before I have been waiting for 9 books to read Tohr's story.  It will be hard to go to work when I know this will be waiting for me at home.
2.) The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead-I miss the Vampire Academy gang!  There was also kind of a cliffhanger at the end of Bloodlines so I want to see where that leads.
3.) Written with My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon-Oh my goodness, I have only been waiting for this book for 3 years!  It's the one book I told the hubs I could break my book buying ban for and I would definitely want to skip work to stay home and read it.
4.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King-I have a feeling this is going to be an epic book.  I may want to lock myself in my room and not leave until it's done.
5.) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo-I am going to read this in 2012 and I am actually excited to do so.  I started it in high school and never finished it but I remember loving what I did read of it.  It's so long that a whole day to myself with it might be helpful.
6.) A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir-I loved Innocent Traitor and am excited to read this sequel. 

I only have 6 this week, sorry!  It's always hard for me to pull away from any book and go to work so this list could be a lot longer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: "Trafficked" by Kim Purcell

From Goodreads:  A 17-year-old Moldovan girl whose parents have been killed is brought to the United States to work as a slave for a family in Los Angeles.

Hannah believes she's being brought from Moldova to Los Angeles to become a nanny for a Russian family. But her American dream quickly spirals into a nightmare. The Platonovs force Hannah to work sixteen-hour days, won't let her leave the house, and seem to have a lot of secrets - from Hannah and from each other. Stranded in a foreign land with false documents, no money, and nobody who can help her, Hannah must find a way to save herself from her new status as a modern-day slave or risk losing the one thing she has left: her life.

My Thoughts:  I have been interested in horrors of human trafficking for some time.  It's hard not to notice when studying Russia and Eastern Europe but it still seems like it's this invisible thing that people don't know about or choose not to know about.  I applaud Ms. Purcell for writing a YA novel aobut human trafficking; maybe by bringing this issue to the attention of young people it will lead to more discussion and more concern about human trafficking and how widespread it is.  There is some sexual content but I still think it would be a good read for older high school students.

Hannah's story is terribly sad; a young girl comes to America so she can work and earn money to help her family and instead she is forced into slavery and abused by those who are supposed to be looking out for her.  Hannah was a great character: incredibily resilient and smart but still naive enough to not know who she could trust.  Lillian and Paavo were such well-written 'bad guys' and I kept thinking throughout the whole book "Jeez, Lillian is one crazy bitch".  The story is fascinating and easy to read though there are times where I just cringed at how bad things got for Hannah.  The book wasn't perfect but I still really enjoyed it.  Whether or not you have any interest in human trafficking and whether or not you are a fan of YA, I highly recommend this book.  4 stars.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (45)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I am still trying to not buy books and so far I haven't bought a book since January.  Yay!  Instead, I have had to spend a bunch of money on running shoes which has been quite the epic disaster.  Boo.

  I only picked up one book this week and it was from the library.

Demonglass had such a cliffhanger ending so I am ready to see what will happen next.

What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare

From Goodreads:  Dark and bloody drama of ambition, guilt, and revenge centers on an ambitious Scottish nobleman who murders the king in order to succeed to the throne. Tortured by his conscience and fearful of discovery, he becomes fatally enmeshed in a web of treachery and deceit that spells his doom.

My Thoughts:  I don't have a lot to say about this play so I will keep it short and sweet.  I know that this is one of Shakespeare's most famous plays but I just couldn't get into it.  I normally like Shakespeare and was looking forward to finally reading Macbeth but I was just so disappointed.  Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for reading it but it just didn't work for me.  Macbeth seemed like a likeable character in the beginning and then it was all 'Hey, let's kill everyone so I can be king.  Woohoo!'  Lady Macbeth was kind of bad ass; crazy but still not afraid to get things done.  The witches were kind of fun (I kept picturing the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus) and I think it would be neat to see an actual production of the play.  Things like the soldiers carrying branches to represent the forest would be cool to see on the stage.  Anyway, I didn't love this play but since it's Shakespeare, I am glad that I read it.  2 1/2 stars.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: "City of Glass" by Cassandra Clare

From Goodreads:  To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that enter-ing the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City -- whatever the cost? 

My Thoughts:  Hands down, this is my favorite book of the series so far.  I could not put it down!  This will be a brief review because there is so much I could give away and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.  The story was action packed and we get to find out even more about Valentine's past and how Clary and Jace fit into it.  I also felt like I got to know the main characters more in this book and see their true colors.  I liked that Simon is no longer brooding over Clary and he seemed like less of a brat in this book.  He seemed annoying in the other books but I actually found myself really liking him by the end of City of Glass.  I also liked that Alec really matured in this book and wasn't so crabby all the time.  There are some major surprises in this book and some surprises that I kind of expected but I liked that everything was kind of cleaned up in the end.  Some characters resurfaced and some unfortunately, didn't survive the story (that's all I am going to say!).  I did read that originally this was meant to be the final book and I can really see that; all the loose ends seemed tied up and I would be perfectly happy with that being the end.  So, that makes me really excited to read the next book.  I can't help but wonder what kinds of things will happen in City of Fallen Angels.  It is definitely worth reading the first two books in the series to get to this one.  4 stars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: "The Dressmaker" by Kate Alcott

From Goodreads:  Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.

Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.

On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I have always been fascinated by the sinking of the Titanic so this book definitely sucked me in.  The Dressmaker takes place, briefly, on the Titanic but most of the story revolves around the aftermath of the sinking and the judicial inquests that were meant to find out how the disaster happened and why so many died.  I haven't read much about the hearings held after the sinking so that made this book really interesting to me (even if it is a work of fiction).  The story is well-written and moves quickly; what I mean be this is that it really kept my interest and I wanted to keep reading.  What I love about this book are the two strong females, Tess and Pinky, who are breaking the rules of feminity of that time period.  They were both extremely likeable and admirable.  I did not love the fact that this book had a love triangle; throughout the story it was pretty obvious who Tess was going to end up with and the love triangle really just took away from the story (in my opinion).  Lady Duff-Gordon was the character you love to hate but the descriptions of her dresses, workshops and the fabrics she worked with were wonderful.  I haven't read a work of historical fiction that revolves around the sinking of the Titanic and it was a really nice change of pace.  3 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Books on My Spring 'To Be Read' List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books on My Spring 'To Be Read' List

1.) Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward-I have been wanting a Tohr book ever since I read Dark Lover.  I can't wait for this one!

2.) Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins-Demonglass had a crazy cliffhanger ending so I am ready to find out what happened.

3.) City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare-I am trying to catch up on this series before City of Lost Souls comes out.

4.) City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare-The cover is so pretty, how can you not want to read it?

5.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green-I can't believe I still haven't read this!  It's on my nook just waiting for me to read it.

6.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King-I spent all winter waiting for this book and it's sitting on my shelf right now, I just got caught up in other things.

7.) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo-Another cover crush.  I can't wait to see if the story is as good as the cover makes it look.

8.) The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon-Another Christmas present I haven't picked up yet.  I need a Jamie fix!

9.) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett-This has just been sitting on my shelf for far too long.

10.) Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare-I have been wanting to read this for a long time so hopefully I can pick it up sometime this spring.

What books are on your Spring TBR list?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: "You Know When the Men are Gone" by Siobhan Fallon

From Goodreads:  In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.
There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.
When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.

My Thoughts:  This book was incredibley intense.  Fallon has written a wonderful set of short stories about life on Fort Hood and in Iraq.  There are stories from the point of view of army wives and some from the point of view of the men returning.  The stories are heart-breaking, horrifying and some leave you feeling like you have just been punched in the stomach.  The stories sucked me in and made me feel like I knew these characters.  I liked that, even though this was a set of individual stories, some of the characters from one story would make an appearance in another story.  It was interesting to see how all these peoples' lives were intertwined and there was a definite sense of family among the people living on the base.  I normally am not a fan of short story collections but this is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.  5 stars.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In My Mailbox (44)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

For Review:
The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas
(Isn't the cover pretty?!)

From the Library:

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

What books did you get this week?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy Friday (27)

Happy Friday everyone!  The weather is supposed to be gorgeous here and I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend and the NCAA tournament (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!).

 Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q: What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month?

The best book I have read this month is You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon.  It's a book of short stories about soldiers and their families at Fort Hood.  It was really thought-provoking.

I am totally going to get flamed for this but the worst book I have read this month was probably Macbeth.  I love Shakespeare but this one just didn't do it for me.

What are the best and worst books you have read in the past month?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: "Archive 17" by Sam Eastland

From Goodreads:  It is 1939. Russia teeters on the verge of war with Germany. It is also on the brink of bankruptcy. To preserve his regime, Stalin orders a search for the legendary missing gold of Tsar Nicholas II. For this task, he chooses Pekkala, the former investigator for the Tsar. To accomplish his mission, Pekkala will go undercover, returning to Siberia and the nightmare of his own past, where he was once a prisoner in the notorious Gulag known as Borodok.

Pekkala must infiltrate a gang of convicts still loyal to the Tsar who, it is rumored, know the whereabouts of the precious gold. He soon learns that the best-kept secrets are those that no one even knows exist.

In the brutal frozen fortress where his survival once made him a myth, he begins to unravel the true identity of a murdered inmate, whose own mission to Siberia has lain buried for years deep within the mysterious Archive 17, where long-lost files obscure a shocking conspiracy that could decide the future of the Soviet Union itself. As more people die around him, Pekkala must decide where his true loyalties lie, or else take his place among the dead.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Archive 17 was a good mix of historical fiction and suspense.  This is the third Pekkala book that Eastland has written and I thought it was pretty good.  The characters are unique and interesting and Eastland's portrayal of Stalin is good; just the right mix of intelligent and insane.  The reader learns more about Pekkala's time in the gulag which is only touched on in previous books.  I also liked how Eastland continued to show Pekkala's sense of morality in the face of his dealings with the Soviet state.  One negative about this book is that there is very little background on Pekkala; this book is definitely written with the intent that the reader has already read the previous two books and don't need that information.  The story was well-written and didn't give much away; I really wanted to keep reading because I had no idea what was going to happen next.  I also really appreciated that Eastland included an extensive 'Author's Note' at the end of the book explaining the facts regarding the events of the book.  Overall, a very enjoyable read but I would recommend the first two Pekkala books before reading this one.  I am definitely looking forward to a fourth Pekkala book as I wouldn't mind seeing him get a happy ending.  3 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: "Lover Unleashed" by J.R. Ward

From Goodreads:  Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, warrior cloth as her brother: A fighter by nature, and a maverick when it comes to the traditional role of Chosen females, there is no place for her on the Far Side… and no role for her on the front lines of the war, either.

When she suffers a paralyzing injury, human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello is called in to treat her as only he can- and he soon gets sucked into her dangerous, secret world. Although he never before believed in things that go bump in the night- like vampires- he finds himself more than willing to be seduced by the powerful female who marks both his body and his soul.

As the two find so much more than an erotic connection, the human and vampire worlds collide … just as a centuries old score catches up with Payne and puts both her love and her life in deadly jeopardy.

My Thoughts:  I can't get enough of this series.  I wasn't super excited to read Lover Unleashed simply because I didn't love Manny Manello as a character in Vishous' book.  I wound up being pleasantly surprised and really came to like him and Payne.  What was interesting about this book is that I found it was almost more about Vishous and his issues than it was about Payne.  At times, her issues kind of got pushed to the side and Vishous, Jane and Butch took center stage.  The Xcor side story was weird and kind of wrapped up a little to neatly for my taste and I started to get really annoyed with Qhuinn and his whining.  I know I am in the minority here but the Qhuinn/Blay thing is really starting to get on my nerves.  If one isn't moping around, the other one is and I just want something to either happen or not have to hear about them anymore.  Overall, this was a good addition to the series though I did feel like I was left with some lingering questions.  There was a big 'what the what?!' moment but no real resolution came of it.  Despite all of this, I am still super stoked to read Tohr's book in a few weeks!  3 stars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top Ten Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is to make a list of the Top Ten X Genre books.  I think I have done Top Ten Historical Fiction books before so this time I am going to do Top Ten Classics (in my opinion).

1.) War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy-This book is huge but talk about an EPIC story.
2.) 1984 by George Orwell/We by Yevgenii Zamiatin-Dystopian at it's very best.
3.) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-Even though this book was written post WWI, it is still incredibly relevant today. 
4.) East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Oh my, the writing and characters are AMAZING. 
5.) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickons-I love all of Dickons' metaphors.  I know a lot of people who hate this book but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
6.) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn-The classic gulag book...a must read.
7.) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-This is one of my all time favorite books; anyone who loves reading and books should read this.
8.) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier-Such a creepy but completely awesome story.
9.) Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoevsky
10.) A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-A beautiful love story with fantastic writing.

What's on your list Top Ten list this week?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: "Sister Queens" by Julia Fox

From Goodreads:  The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I thought Sister Queens was kind of depressing.  I don't mean this to be negative because the book was really interesting but Juana of Castile and Katherine of Aragon had such difficult and complicated lives and I felt so sorry for them throughout the book.  Sister Queens tells the story of two women who basically got the awesome opportunity to be mistreated by the men in their lives, men who were supposed to take care of them.  It was really awful to see how their father/husbands/son treated them.  I also found it intriguing that Juana's son, Charles, seemed very sympathetic to the plight of his aunt Katherine but had no problem treating his mother like garbage.

I have always wondered if Juana (aka 'Juana la Loca') was really crazy or if she just didn't conform to the ideal of femininity.  This book didn't show me anything that would lead me to believe she was mentally unstable, just feisty, and I felt the author was trying to infer that.  I think Juana is a really fascinating historical figure but she is definitely overshadowed in this book by her little sister, Katherine.  I completely understand why, as Juana was locked up for 20+ years and not much is known about her time there while Katherine's trials and tribulations are very well documented.  I have read a lot about Henry VIII so a lot of the information about Katherine I already knew.  But that's okay because I liked how Fox compared the lives Overall, I thought this book was engaging and easy to read for non-fiction.  I really appreciate when writers make history accessible and fun to read.  I have had Fox's book about Jane Boleyn on my TBR list for a long time and I am definitely more eager to read it after reading Sister Queens.  3 stars. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Mailbox (43)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

From the Library:

I must say that I LOVE my local library.  I really wanted to read this book and they didn't have it.  So I suggested they purchase it...and they did!  I was pretty surprised.

Borrowed from my boss:

What books did you get this week?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Friday!! (26)

Happy Friday everyone!! I had a pretty craptastic week so I am excited for a nice relaxing weekend!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View.

Q: Have you ever looked at book's cover and thought, This is going to horrible? But, was instead pleasantly surprised? Show us the cover and tell us about the book.

I must have seen the Outlander books a hundred times at the library.  Every time I would see it on the shelf I would pick it up and think, ' way' and move on to something else.  The cover did absolutely nothing for me.  I honestly don't think I ever would have read it if my aunt hadn't raved about the series.  I must say that I was completing misjudging the book because I absolutely loved Outlander and the subsequent books in the series. 

What cover turned you off initially?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: "Ripper" by Amy Carol Reeves

From Goodreads:  A paranormal mystery involving London’s most notorious killer

In 1888, following her mother’s sudden death, seventeen-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother’s request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there.

But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Even more horrifying, Abbie starts having strange visions that lead her straight to the Ripper’s next massacres. As her apparent psychic connection with the twisted killer grows stronger, Abbie is drawn into a deadly mystery involving the murders, her mother’s shadowed past, and a secret brotherhood of immortals—who’ll stop at nothing to lure Abbie into its “humanitarian” aims.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I was really surprised by how good this book completely sucked me in and I wound up reading it all in one day.  The story moves really fast and is pretty well written.  There were some really great characters but Abbie is by far the best.  She was strong-willed and smart and could kick some serious butt.  She's also psychic which turns out to be kind of creepy because she can see where Jack the Ripper is going to strike next.  The combination of the Ripper murders and paranormal activity make this story intriguing and kept me wondering what would happen next.  There was a love triangle but it was not a huge part of the story so it didn't overpower everything else that was going on with Abbie.  And let's be honest, Abbie was way cooler than the two guys who were interested in her so it didn't really bother me.  The end was a little open-ended so I don't know if the author plans to write a sequel or not.  I don't think one is necessary but it could be done.  Overall, this was a fun mix of the historical fiction, mystery and paranormal genres.  4 stars.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: "The Wilder Life" by Wendy McClure

From Goodreads:  Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she's never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House, and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura's hometowns. Whether she's churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of "the Laura experience." Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder's life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.

The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones-and find that our old love has only deepened.
My Thoughts:  This book was adorable.  I was a huge a Little House fan when I was a kid and have read all of the books in the series multiple times.  I, even, had Mary and Laura dolls, the Little House cookbook and one of Laura's biographies.  This book made me remember how much I loved all things Little House.  It was great to follow the author as she traveled to all of the historical sites and tried to do things like make vanity cakes and churn butter.  It was also interesting to to read about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family and the differences between the real family, the books and the television show.  I do think that the author built up her 'Laura World' a little too much; it seemed like every time she visited a different site, she was disappointed because it wasn't as awesome as she had hoped it would be.  Overall, this was a light, fun read that took me back to my childhood.  I only live a few hours from one of the Little House sites and upon finishing the book, I told the hubs that we are definitely going to visit it this year.  If you were a Little House fan, I think you will enjoy this book.  3 stars.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  My Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (I am not usually a huge fantasy lover but the cover of this book sucked me in!  It's gorgeous!)

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (I love the way the snow is all swirly on this cover)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Such a creepy cover!!)

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (I don't even like her books but the cover made me read it)
The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall (LOVE the red dress and the palace in the background)

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Another book I didn't want to read but did anyway because of the cover)

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier (AMAZING)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (All of the books in the trilogy have gorgeous covers)
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (I love the mix of past and present)

That's all I have this week!  What are your favorite covers?

Monday, March 5, 2012

To Sell or Not to Sell?

I have a ton of books.  And I have moved many of them several times.  The hubs and I are moving again this summer and I have accumulated quite a few books since we moved almost 2 years.  I am starting to wonder how many of them I really want to move again.  For example, I own quite a few Anne Rice books (10+) and I have moved them at least 8 times and across different states.  When I bought them I was sure that I would reread them because I love Anne Rice's writing...but I haven't.  There are quite a few books I own because I JUST HAD to have them on my shelf.  Now I am starting to rethink this.  A lot of the books I would want to get rid of are on the 'looking for' board at Half Price Books.

I also have four bookshelves in my dining room.  Two are lovely huge oak bookshelves while two of them are smaller and less nice looking but still match each other.  I would kind of like to use the smaller shelves for other things when we move and be able to fit all my books on the two nicer pieces.

Soooo, my question to all you wonderful people, do you hold on to your books for dear life or have you purged your shelves ever now and again?  If you have purged your shelves, did you feel guilty about it or was it worth it?

Review: "The Wolf Gift" by Anne Rice

From Goodreads:  The time is the present.

The place, the rugged coast of northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. . . an older woman, welcoming him into her magnificent, historic family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . an idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence. . .The young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing who—what—he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf,” by authorities, the media and scientists (evidence of DNA threaten to reveal his dual existence). . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there are others like him who may be watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time and may possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge and throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I haven't read an Anne Rice book in many years and I had almost forgotten how much I love her writing and the great stories she tells.  The Wolf Gift is a fantastic story and is not just your average paranormal werewolf book.  It is so much deeper than that.  The characters have so much depth to them and through the characters and 'the wolf gift', Rice poses questions about good vs. evil.  One of the main points she makes is that when evil is done for good reason, it is still evil regardless of the end result.  It made me think about the concepts of revenge and 'an eye for an eye' a little bit more and question some of the beliefs I have about these things. 

Reuben Golding is a great main character and even though he is a lost rich kid looking for his place in the world, he is still relatable.  I was worried at first that I wouldn't like him but my fears were quickly pushed aside.  The only thing I didn't love about this book is how abruptly it ended.  There was a huge reveal in the last 100 pages and then it kind of felt a mad dash to the finish.  There was so much more I wanted to know about Reuben and Laura and all the others that kind of got cut off when it ended.  It made me wonder if Rice has plans to make this into a series or trilogy; if she did, I would definitely read the next book.  I highly recommend this book!  4 stars.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In My Mailbox (42)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I only received one book this week!  But that's okay...I kind of need to stay away from NetGalley for a while until I got caught up on the books I have already received from them.

I received:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 

I am obsessed with the cover!  As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to read this book.

What did was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Friday! (25)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

This week's question:  What book would you love to see made into a movie or television show and do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters?
This is such a hard question!  So many books that I love have already been made into movies so it's hard to think of another.  I think Vampire Academy/Bloodlines could make for a good t.v. show following all the shenanigans of the Moroi and Dhampirs at St. Vladimir's.  There are enough different characters and crazy things going on to keep a show interesting and there is too much going on to make a movie.  I think they would have to pick unknown actors for this show though.  I can't imagine any famous actors doing justice to the roles of Adrian, Lissa, Rose and Dmitri; I love these characters and the cast would need to be as similar to the book characters as possible.

What books would you have made into a movie/t.v. show?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: "The Last Romanov" by Dora Levy Mossanen

From Goodreads:  For almost a century, Imperial Russia has captivated the imagination— the ruthless execution of the royal family, the disputed survival of the heir: it’s a cinematic chaos that the masterful Dora Levy Mossanen unravels for her readers. Taking readers deep into tarnished grandeur, The Last Romanov follows Darya, a wise old beauty whose time spent with the Imperial family has haunted her entire life. When the murderous events unfold, Darya is plagued by the prophecy made by the Empress’s advisor, Rasputin. She must find the missing Tsarevich Alexis Romanov and restore the monarchy or risk losing her own life.

My Thoughts:  I received this book for review from NetGalley.  I am fascinated by all things Russian and especially by Imperial Russian history which is why I was so drawn to this book.  That being said, I really didn't enjoy this book.  The story was slow and strange and I could not get into it all.  Darya was an interesting character but she was the only one.  All of the other characters lacked depth.  Darya's love interest, Avram, was supposed to play this major role in her life and all I really knew about him was that he was a Jewish painter.  Darya was supposed to be madly in love with him and yet Avram's character wasn't fleshed out. I felt like I did not know the charcters well and thus, I didn't really care about them.

Another thing that really bothered me was how the author referred to St. Petersburg as Petrograd throughout the entire book.  St. Petersburg did not become Petrograd until 1914 but in the chapters taking place in 1904 and on, Mossanen refers to the city as Petrograd.  I thought that maybe Mossanen did this because it was supposed to be Darya telling the story to someone in 1991, but if that had been the case Darya would have referred to the city as Leningrad.  I know it's minor but it bugged me!

 The story also includes an odd flashback and we find out that Darya was a Jewish Queen in a past life; this substory seemed to me to be not incredibly relevant to the story.  Darya was a mystical character but I didn't feel like this explained who she was any further.  The end of the story was sad and anticlimactic and so much was left unanswered especially in regards to what happened in the House of Special Purpose and Avram's role in rescuing people.  This book had potential but just didn't hit the mark.  2 1/2 stars.
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