Showing posts with label 5 Stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5 Stars. Show all posts

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Victoria


30841109Victoria

Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

My Thoughts:

"Your subjects are not dolls to be played with...To be a queen, you have to be more than a little girl with a crown."

I love Goodwin. She is one of my top 5 current authors and I always want to read whatever she has written. The American Heiress is one of my absolute favorites. So when I saw she wrote about the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign I was so excited.

She didn't disappoint.

I have read a lot about Victoria - her tempestuous relationship with her mother, her love story with Albert and of course the scandals in the beginning of her reign with the whispers of Lord Melbourne - and Goodwin wove all of the history together brilliantly. I often forget that the greats of history were teenagers at some point - I mean I'm currently 7 years older than Victoria was when she took her crown and while she was more prepared than I will ever be to run a country, Goodwin allowed for her to be an 18 year old and showed her missteps and corrections.

It was beautiful to read. Well written, well researched and simply a joy. I would recommend this for anyone who has any interest at all in Queen Victoria.

I was given a galley copy in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

YA Wednesday - A Matter of Magic


A Matter of Magic (Mairelon, #1-2)A Matter of Magic

By: Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.

Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right.

My Thoughts:
Everyone has probably figured out by now that I have a thing for magical novels...they are kinda sorta basically my favorite - if they are well put together and these ones are.

First off, this is two books published together - kind of like my one of my favorite fantasy novels Crown Duel and it was great to not have to wait to read the next one but just follow the story. I loved the characters - Kim had everything I loved in a heroine - mainly she was her own character, romance really wasn't something on her agenda and she was sharp as a knife. I was kind of reminded of the book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for a slightly younger audience. And Mairelon - the magician who finds Kim - is wonderfully exasperating and needing to go off on adventures. He doesn't care about what society thinks and I loved seeing his reactions to all of the chaos which surrounded him. 

I finished the book last night - having stayed up far later than I intended - and was left wanting to search for the next installment of the series...sadly I don't know if there is one, though goodness knows it would be a marvelous thing. If you want Regency England with Magic, this is the perfect book for you. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fantasy Friday - Stolen Songbird


Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)Stolen Songbird

By: Danielle L. Jensen

Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars 

Summary:
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

My Thoughts
I needed a full 24 hours after reading this book before I could pick up another one. I needed a cathartic relief because I was enthralled by Trollus and wanted to be there. I wanted to live in this world, I wanted this to happen to me. And when I think about it all I want to do is to read it all over again. It is a mix between two of my favorite fantasy novels Crown Duel and The Hollow Kingdom (review to come shortly) and I loved every moment of it. I can say that it is perhaps the best modern fantasy that I have yet read. Jensen's world building was wonderfully done and she did it all without getting bogged down into the details as she introduced us into this new world. I could gush for a really long time...

I love Cecile. She is smart, strong and a wonderful heroine. She can be funny, and while thrown into a world roiling with dangerous politics she can hold her own. And Tristan...I love him. I just want them to communicate more. But, well communication is everyone's problem and it furthered the plot well. I loved the other Troll characters - the twins Vincent and Victoria and Merc, the first troll you meat. I love their distinct and fully formed personalities. I love the politics and the secrets and the schemings. 

Even the villains are well thought out nd developed so that they have decent motivations and we as the readers can know them. One thing that I wish I could have seen more of was (Spoiler highlight to see) the use of the bonding magic. In the world when two trolls are bonded they can feel what the other is feeling, and so Cecile and Tristan can feel each others emotions - including things like pain and hunger - I just wish that she had used more of this wonderfully amazing idea. (Spoiler done)

The biggest drawback is that the next one doesn't come out until June 2nd...I will be counting the days.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Misc. Monday - I'll Be Seeing You


I'll Be Seeing YouI'll Be Seeing You 

By: Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
It's January 1943 when Rita Vincenzo receives her first letter from Glory Whitehall. Glory is an effervescent young mother, impulsive and free as a bird. Rita is a sensible professor's wife with a love of gardening and a generous, old soul. Glory comes from New England society; Rita lives in Iowa, trying to make ends meet. They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home. 

Brought together by an unlikely twist of fate, Glory and Rita begin a remarkable correspondence. The friendship forged by their letters allows them to survive the loneliness and uncertainty of waiting on the home front, and gives them the courage to face the battles raging in their very own backyards. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support.

My Thoughts:
I am going to buy this one rather than just settle on  it being from the library because I love the language that these women use. It had the wonderful charm of  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society but here on American soil. 

I loved watching how the women came to know each other and the power which letters have in helping friendships grow. It actually made me really sad to be living in a time where letters are obsolete - and when it comes to communicating with friends e-mail seems to be as well. 

The beautiful advice which was passed between women, and the strength which the pulled from each other as each of them had their lives changed by the ravages of war made me get out my highlighters and mark the whole thing up (Don't worry my librarian friends it is still in perfect condition.) One of my favorite lines though was:

“Did you ever catch a glimpse of what you could be, if you really tried at life?”

Maybe because I am young and at a place where I don't know what the future holds but this line really rang through me. Almost all the prose is like that. Wonderful, deep but not trying to be. It is simply two WWII wives passing along recipes and advice for how to survive the war - and all of the problems that just generally happen in life.  

Book clubs will love it - READ IT!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Angelina's Bachelors


Angelina's Bachelors: A Novel with FoodAngelina's Bachelors: A Novel with Food

By: Brian O'Reilly
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
Far too young to be a widow, Angelina D’Angelo suddenly finds herself facing a life without her beloved husband, Frank. Late one night shortly after the funeral, she makes her way down to the kitchen and pours all of her grief and anger into the only outlet she has left—her passion for cooking. In a frenzy of concentration and swift precision, she builds layer upon layer of thick, rich lasagna, braids loaves of yeasty bread, roasts plump herb-rubbed chicken; she makes so much food that she winds up delivering the spoils to the neighbors in her tight-knit Italian community in South Philadelphia. Retiree Basil Cupertino, who has just moved in with his kindly sister across the street, is positively smitten with Angelina’s food. In a stroke of good fortune, Basil offers Angelina (not only husbandless but unemployed) a job cooking for him—two meals a day, six days a week, in exchange for a handsome salary. Soon, word of her irresistible culinary prowess spreads and she finds herself cooking for seven bachelors—and in the process discovers the magical power of food to heal, to bring people together . . . and maybe even to provide a second chance at love. 

My Thoughts:
I have tried to become more stingy with my 5 stars, only offering them to books which changed me in some way, be that on a philosophical plane or something more shallow such as picking up new habits and hobbies. All of my food books that I've read recently has made me want to cook more, but this one seems to take all of what the other books started and brings it all together to the point where I am going out and buying supplies to make my own recipe box. 

Right from the start where she is making her "Frangelico Chocolate 'Dream' Cake" I was hooked. I loved her indignation at someone serving a store bought cake as homemade. (Though this may or may not be something that I am guilty of.) The whole book made me want to get up, go to my pantry and see if I could whip up something tasty. I also really loved the different bachelors that Angelina had coming up to her house. My favorite one being a man who isn't really in the mafia...but still "knows a guy" who can take care of pretty much anything. 

The plot overall is a very sweet, and heartwarming. The writing genuine and well executed. I was actually surprised when I looked at the author's name and realized that it was written by a man, he has good insight in to the feminine perspective.  Also, since he is the head of Food Network's Dinner: Impossible the recipes he includes are all great.

I love it and would recommend it to anyone who wants to read something heartwarming and sweet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

YA Wednesday - Troubled Waters

Troubled WatersTroubled Waters
By: Sharon Shinn
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king's fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river. 

It's there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood-and the secrets of the royal family-she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.


My thoughts:
I have read Shinn before (see this other review) and I love her. I love how she is able to build worlds that are believable and wonderful all because they have a hint of magic in them. In the books I have read her magic is more simple than what can be found in things like Harry Potter and other such fantastical things. Instead she deals in a quieter magic - though in this book it's a little louder than in her Safe-Keepers Series. 

I loved Zoe. She struck me as someone who was calm and for the most part in control of her emotions. She didn't sweat the small stuff and yet wasn't passive. She had say in how her story went and expressed it. I loved how she was a mix of the traits which Shinn had made up in this new world. As a coru she is calm like water but also has the spark of sweela which is that of fire. 

I also love that romance isn't what Shinn focuses on. Marriage isn't Zoe's goal, because frankly she is too busy doing other things to worry about that. One thing that I really did love about her is that she lost her temper occasionally. If she hadn't I don't think that I would have been able to like her at all.

I will admit I squealed a little bit while reading, and had those wonderful moments of revelations where I think I know how it's going to end and who the bad guy is and then it turns out to be someone totally different. I loved it. I will probably go out and buy it when I have money. (Or get it as a gift for my birthday or Christmas...hopefully)

If you love light fantasy this is the book (and quite possibly author) for you!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Must Read Monday - Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray
by: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars.


Summary from Goodreads:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.



My Thoughts:
This is a book that everyone should read. It holds a story of survival and courage which until this point in time has been forgotten. It shows the many different types of bravery which can be shown by the human spirit when faces with unfathomable challenges.
Told through the point of Lina, a fifteen year old girl, it still manages to show the courage of her mother, and the pain of her neighbors. 


This novel doesn't skirt around the horrors done at this time. She accurately writes what she discovered about her own ancestry and does so in a way that is neither overly gruesome nor too gentle. She simply states the truth.  She does so with hope and with humanity which is what makes such a hard story readable. 


I loved the writing style, the prose was simple and sweet and I hope to be reading more from Sepetys in the future. I do urge those who have any interest in WWII to read this.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Tuesday: Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck ClubJoy Luck Club
by: Amy Tan
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
The Joy Luck Club explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.


My Thoughts: 
I called this a classic even though it is pretty contemporary mainly because I believe that it is a book that will be read for generations. Amy Tan has a wonderful way with words and knows the human character and holds great insight to human relationships.

I didn't come across this until half-way through my junior year of college (last week). I somehow made it through school without being assigned to read this. It makes me sad that I wasn't able to read this sooner. It is a wonderfully written novel. I love the structure, the style and the stories. Lots of books focus on a plot, on moving the story along to one final climax and happy resolution. Well in this case it felt a lot more like it was focused on getting to know the characters and their lives rather than on getting through a story. 
It showed so many complex relationships between mothers and daughters and more importantly went back to reveal what caused these women to be this way. 

I loved this novel and would highly recommend it to any reader man or woman.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Just for Fun Friday- Entwined

EntwinedEntwined
by: Heather Dixon
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Well you can in this case, the cover design is phenomenal and the story is just as good. 

I cannot get over how wonderfully done this book is. Not only the magic and adventure, but also the family relationships. The King broke my heart when I saw how hard he was trying to be a dad, he just didn't know how. Also, as a person with many siblings, I loved how different Dixon allowed each of her girls to be. Each had their own trait and none of them were entirely cookie-cutter characters. It is hard to make 12 sisters not only be different, but each add their own part to the story.

Now what would a fairy tale be without Prince Charming? Well this one had 3 and they couldn't be more different. There was one for each of the oldest, one so serious that he almost couldn't be taken seriously, one so outrageous (especially his last name), and one who might not live up to his name in the end. Each of the oldest girls love stories is unique, precious and wonderful.

I loved the writing style, the characters, the magic, THE ENDING, so much! I am pretty sure that I am going to go out and buy this to add to my collection, probably tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

YA Wednesday - Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)Amulet of Samarkand
by: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars


Summary:
After being humiliated by a magician, apprentice Nathaniel vows to wreak his revenge. To help him do this he summons Bartimaeus, a djinni to steal the precious Amulet of Samarkand. But this turns out to be more dangerous than Nathaniel planned on and he is whipped into a world of magic, espionage and rebellion.


Told from the point of view of both master and servant this is a wonderful book from Jonathan Stroud.


Oh my goodness! This book was simply amazing. I am very glad I got to finish off my year by reading something so wonderfully done. Part of me is beginning to think that British novelists are really the best ones out there. They certainly seem to beat Americans on almost every literary front (except the short story, we rock at writing those).


I didn't think I would find anything on the same plane as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel anytime soon but this blew me away. Bartimaeus is one of the most entertaining characters I have ever read and one whom I would be very happy to meet someday (as long as you know, he didn't hurt me or anything.) Also I love the new world which has been created by Stroud - the magic, the demons, this new government. I am so excited to read the next books in the series, I will probably just hunt them down tomorrow.

So details as to why I loved it:
I love books that are done with a first person narrative, as long as the author knows what they are doing. Well Bartimaeus tells his parts of the story, with wonderful footnotes at the bottom and I love footnotes at the bottom! The plot itself was wonderfully managed leaving us with enough knowledge to feel satisfied but wanting to read quickly so we could see what happens next.



I must say though that Bartimaeus really is the best part of the book, he deals with a messenger imp so nicely and is so creative in his revenges, and part of me feels that he is more powerful than he has let on to us, the readers.


I am excited to see how he will continue his story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - Tacky the Penguin


Tacky the Penguin
by: Helen Lester

Genre: Children's
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
"Tacky was an odd bird, but a nice bird to have around." Compared to the other penguins Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect, Tacky is an odd bird. Yet when hunters come to the ice we find out that he is a nice bird to have around.

I have already reviewed a Helen Lester story-A Porcupine Named Fluffy - which I adore and this is another one of her creations. I giggled at Tacky's antics when I was little - I mean really a penguin in Hawaiian shirts? who cannonballs into the ocean? you can't get much better than that- and my little sister does so now and my children most likely will as well. The rhyming used will ensure that you remember the specific lines like how the hunters come with their "maps and traps and rocks and locks."

This is another unknown wonder of childhood that I would recommend for everyone.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Classic Tuesday: King Lear

King Lear
by: William Shakespeare

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
Deciding to divide his kingdom between his daughters, King Lear portions out his land to those whom he believes love him most setting the stage for the most classical of Shakespeare's tragedies

Now I wonder if plays count as books, but that is the beauty of the Bard. He has an all-encompassing reach for both the English and Theater worlds with influences on everything in between. There is so much going on that there is no way for me to cover it all in a little 300 or so word blurb but I shall try my best.

I have read this one twice for school and both times I was struck with how powerful it was. It deals with love and all of it's forms, with the fears of old age, with the battle for power everything needed to create an amazing story. Written toward the end of his life, I believe that a lot of Lear is Shakespeare's own personal fear and struggle of growing old and losing the respect that he feels he deserves. Lear is one of the most complex characters simply because of how dynamic he is. He begins Act 1 as a spoiled man who doesn't know himself, who is not wise enough to know what love and devotion really are. From there he descends into madness until finally being able to see the truth only in time to die himself. (Sorry if I spoiled but it's a Shakespearean tragedy, you know that everyone is going to die.)

I could go on about Regan and Goneril as the first evil (step)sisters that I have come across - they certainly make Anastasia and Drisella look like perfect angels. Or about Edmund a truly evil character rarely to be rivaled in literature. Shakespeare manages to capture human nature in all of its interesting shades so wonderfully that it is impossible to do him justice.

Read (or if possible watch) this wonder of Shakespeare, it will leave you satisfied and, hopefully, thinking.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Crime and Punishment


Crime and Punishment

by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption. 

This was the first book assigned for my high school AP English class it was summer reading and it was something which was dreaded by all. I am finding that classics are a lot like vegetables, we eat them because we are told to and then realize..."hey I actually like broccoli!"  I must admit I started the summer with good intentions and kept telling myself I would start it tomorrow until I found myself looking at the first day of classes. Never fear I got it done and I loved it. Russian Literature just might be one of my favorite genres. 

What I love about this piece is how deeply it delves into the psychology of man. By getting so directly involved with the thinking process of Raskolinkov we delve deep into human psyche.  The book isn't so much about the crime and punishment themselves but rather about the internal crime of pride and the internal punishment which Raskolinkov goes through. This could be the very first psychological thriller ever written, a genre which hadn't ever been tried before and Dostoyevsky did a masterful job at creating marvelously shaded characters and writing a story that is absorbing and thought provoking.

I love this piece and believe it should be one of the first “vegetables” forced upon readers who are lacking in the classics. 




Thursday, September 1, 2011

Historical Thursday: Hattie Big Sky


Hattie Big Sky
by Kirby Larson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary from Goodreads,
In 1917, Hattie Brooks was a 16-year-old orphan who had spent most of her young life passed from one relative to another. But a letter arrives from an uncle she never knew she had, and everything changes as she leaves for eastern Montana to prove her uncle's land claim.
Hattie was no tenderfoot when she arrived in Montana, but in her first year there, she's forced to battle the hazards of weather -- bitter winters filled with blizzards, and summers of drought and the threat of wildfires. Though homesteaders arrive anticipating a difficult road, one thing Hattie hadn't expected to confront was a seething prejudice among her neighbors. At the height of the First World War, the patriotism and loyalty of German-Americans was suspect, and Hattie finds herself at the center of an unsubstantiated hatred for one of her neighbors, a man who has shown her nothing but kindness. 

Now I know what you're thinking..."Two 5 stars in a row? I thought she said she was picky!" Well first of all I didn't say "picky" and secondly this one deserves it too, I can't help that I found another amazing book. And besides what are you complaining about? This just means that there is another great book for you to read!

So my thoughts on this book. I have never read about a cow with quite as much personality as the one found here. When even the animals are fully developed characters we know we have a keeper. On a more serious note, this book deals a lot with the anti-German sentiments which were around especially throughout the first World War. All of this prejudice that Hattie and her friends have to face really is quite sad to see. Hattie is a character who I fell in love with and the writing style (done in first person) is simply charming. 

I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It may say that it is a young adult fiction but it is a book that is wonderful at all ages.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

YA Wednesday: North of Beautiful


North of Beautiful
By: Justina Chen Headley

Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

I love this book. I try not to give many 5 stars because I feel like a book really has to be something awesome in order to get the best of the best and this book has it. The characters are believable and endearing. The story deals with heavier issues (borderline abusive parental relationships/physical deformities) in a real way. The port-wine stain  that covers her face is the tool used to write a book that is truly based on family relationships in all of their complexity.

All of the characters are dynamic and most achieve significant growth throughout the novel. My favorite of these would be Terra's mother. She begins as a very overweight, submissive, spineless person. She refuses to stand up to her husband and seems unable to come out of the shadows. However in the story she has moments where she comes into her own and reclaims her identity.

I love this book, I haven't bought it yet but I will as soon as I have the cash (poor, starving college student remember) go and read it, it really is amazing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness
by: Joseph Conrad

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
Sent into the steamy heart of the jungle, this story chronicles Marlow's journey up river to the inner station where he meets the legendary Mr. Kurtz. Marlow's journey and discovery of Mr. Kurtz reveals the depravity to which mankind can seek when left to their own devices.

This is a classic novella which almost everyone it seems is forced to read at some point in either their high school or college career. The reactions run the gamut from absolutely loving it, to thinking it was the biggest waste of class time ever.  As my rating might show I am of the first camp. Now I know that it can seem slow- as if you are floating down a river...ever...so...slowly and all of the "brooding gloom" may seem too much for some people but I find it marvelously written and the ideas within it are wonderful.

The idea of what mankind is like without the social constraints of the police, of friends, of other people in general around is quite alarming as we see with the powerful Mr. Kurtz. It does make you ponder about what's inside each of us and overall if we would succumb to our own "heart of darkness" if given the chance to do so.

Now I should probably make note of the racist ideas in there. First off, remember when reading books from other eras you need to understand the mindset of the time so Conrad was simply writing within his era. Secondly, look at who the self-control and who can be described as almost regal during selections. My opinion is that this social criticism casts the Europeans in a much worse light than the natives.  So please read with an open mind.

I love this book, it is one that I have kept and reread without being assigned to do so. I love how Conrad makes us think. I love that there are quite a few hilarious quips peppered throughout the story. I simply love this book.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

YA Wednesday: Mara Daughter of the Nile


Mara Daughter of the Nile
by: Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
A slave girl in Ancient Egypt, all Mara wants to do is to be free. Therefore when she is offered not one but two chances for freedom how could she refuse. All she has to do is turn double-spy and work for both Queen Hatshepsut and her younger brother and contender for the throne Thutmos III.  The game she plays is a very dangerous one and one she intends to win.

This girl is your wonderful hot-tempered heroine. She is feisty and will fight for what she wants, and because of this willingness to fight for herself I found myself rooting for her as well. She is intelligent, calculating, but still grows throughout the novel.

The adventure/political aspect of it is wonderful as well. Mara could very easily sell out her other master Sheftu to the Queen and gain her freedom, yet in the novel she begins to learn to see the bigger picture and wonders if that would be the best choice for Egypt. Her going back and forth on this issue and her intrigues to keep both parties happy keeps the story moving at a wonderful pace.

 I found this book in 7th grade and I am still reading it in college - it's one of the few that I brought with me. I love it and think it is simply wonderful.






Monday, August 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - I Am Really A Princess


I Am Really A Princess

By: Carol Diggory Shields

Genre: Children's
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
 "I am really a princess. And when my true parents, the king and queen, find out how I have been treated around here, they are going to be very upset." That first sentence says it all as a little girl complains about all of the things she has to do.
However, after the day is done, the chores are through and it's time for bed our little princess that trading ponies and princes for tickles and hugs just might be worth it.

There are childhood favorites that stay with you and that you want to make sure that you have for your kids, this is definitely one of those for me. The story is very cute and expresses  exactly how all children feel, from eating whatever you want for dinner to having a pony (who of course will stay in your room). 

This is another that I had memorized because I wanted to hear it every night. I really think I just wanted to look at the pictures. The  illustrations are what really make children's books and these are just so adorable. I had a toss up between the picture of the dinner scene or where the young princess picks out her own most marvelously mismatched outfit.

This is perfect for just about every little girl you may have in your life and maybe even some of the older ones as well.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Our Mutual Friend


Our Mutual Friend
by: Charles Dickens

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
It all starts when John Harmon comes out of exile and back to London to claim his inheritance. A myriad of characters come together and weave a story that is rife with mystery, adventure and romance.

Dickens is perhaps my favorite author. His descriptions of people, and places, his very distinctive beginnings - everyone can recite those of  A Christmas Carol  and  A Tale of Two Cities - along with his satire make him one of the funniest and most memorable authors I have ever come across. And this book is, thus far, my favorite of his. 

It is a little gem which has been almost forgotten, Sparknotes itself doesn't have a page for it, which is probably why my English teacher assigned it. This is by far and away my highest favorite novel I have ever been assigned to read. It is almost like reading a soap opera it is so complex and yet all of the story lines are nicely intertwined - you just may not see it at first.

Jenny Wren – a little girl with a “bad back and queer legs” is one who has stuck with me. She isn’t an angelic child who is patiently bearing her struggles, she is more like an old crone stuck in a child’s body. She is wise beyond her years and has a bit of a vengeful streak that had me laughing and cheering her on.  To counteract this marvelous character is Bradley Headstone, to me one of creepiest persons ever put to paper.  The image of his hands wringing and his horrid calls for “Eugene Wrayburn” can still send me shivers just thinking about them.

Now do not be daunted by its size dear readers. Despite its hundreds of pages it is a book that will suck you in and not let you out willingly. I love it and am planning on rereading it during my flight back to school.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - The Screwtape Letters


The Screwtape Letters
by: C.S. Lewis

Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
This satire is a series of letters of an upper-level devil named Screwtape to his nephew Alcorn in regards to the best ways of keeping one from becoming a Christian. It systematically sheds light on all of the faults and foibles of human kind that keep them from religion.

I love this book. Lewis manages to point out exactly all of the nuances of human nature that can be used either for us or against us. The younger and more inexperienced tempter does his best to draw the Christian away with the bigger sins of adultery, greed and anger. These are the things which seem like they have the biggest impact yes? Well as Screwtape advises his young charge he explains that it is the smaller of the sins- those of thought, laziness, and bad intentions which are the most destructive.

An example that sticks out to me is the advice of distraction. Screwtape advises his nephew to make the human focus on the faults of the people around him when his is at the church service rather than pay attention to the meeting itself. He tells the younger tempter to make the man focus on the faults of all the others and remember how one has offended him. Lewis has done a masterful job in making us see the gravity of participating in such seemingly trivial matters.

This book caused me to really look inside myself to gauge where I am at in my life and if I am content with staying there. It brought up so many points in neat, concise writing that it was necessary to slow down and to ponder them. For all that it was done in a witty manner and so beautifully written as well.  

This is a MUST-read for all Christians and a book which should be discussed with friends and family.