Monday, October 3, 2011

Misc. Monday - Hannah's Journey

Hannah's Journey
by Anna Schmidt


Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
In 1928 a young fatherless Amish boy from Florida runs away with the circus. His mother, Hannah, meets the owner of the circus, Levi, and pleads with him to help her find her son. This leads to a journey with her father-in-law and sister-in-law on a train to Wisconsin. Will she find love again and will Levi's past become a part of his present?
This is a quick read. It is interesting to learn about how a circus traveled in the 1920's. The best theme of the novel is how Amish traditions of family and faith comforts and challenges people to do the right thing. 



If you can't tell, my summer was spent reading as much fluff as I could cram in. I spend my semesters working my way through Homer, Milton, Dante and Hume, so I feel like I should give my brain a bit of a rest from all of the heavy reading I am forcing upon it. (Currently it's Joyce and Plato with some other textbooks scattered in there as well.)  This one was just as fluffy as others. I promise that I am running out of the fluff and hopefully by this time next month I will just be reviewing materials with a little more substance. 


This was a plot line that required some serious emotional investment into the characters in order to enjoy the plot. Sadly the character who I liked the most was on of the sub-plot people who really didn't do anything throughout the story. The Amish plight put in here wasn't nearly as well done as in others I have read and well Hannah and Levi just weren't cutting it for me. 


I did like the circus aspect, not something I have read about for a very long time...if ever...now that I think about it this was my first circus read though there are plenty out there I am sure. That part intrigued me and is what helped save the story from being too straight-forward of a love story. Overall, you can pass on this one, there is better Amish fiction out there if that is what you are looking for.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

School is much harder than it looks...

So, once again I am apologizing for not posting anything for over a week. Did you notice? Do you miss me? If you said yes to either of these questions, thanks and I shall try to be better - probably not perfect, but at least better.

I have several excuses for as to why I haven't posted anything (midterms, school's internet out, lack of sleep) but really you don't want to hear that, if you are here you want to see what books I believe are worth reading and worth skipping.  So I will cut this short and just say I'm sorry and hope your reading endeavors are going better than mine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

YA Wednesday- Steel

Steel
by: Carrie Vaughn


Genre: YA
Rating:3 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure. 
The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.


In theory this is a pretty awesome book. Fencing is a sport which is generally not written about so that was refreshing. Jill was your standard teenager who after losing seems to think the world is over, but we have all been there so I forgive her. I also liked how the pirate's world was portrayed. None of the romanticizing found in the Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise, I felt that she had really done her research in that regard.


What made me not like it...the writing was juvenile. There was the relationship which seems mandatory in YA novels which was rushed and I felt unnecessary to the whole thing. Henry was ok on his own but the way that Vaughn tried to get the two of them together seemed awkward and contrived. Then there was the magic aspect...and the ending. I just felt confused and dissatisfied with the whole thing by the time I was done with it. 


My overall reaction was "Meh" **shrug of the shoulders**  I didn't feel like I really wasted my time but it is one that I won't remember by next semester.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classic Tuesday - Eight Cousins

Eight Cousins
by Louisa May Alcott


Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Life with seven boy cousins isn't quite what Rose expected. Left an orphan after her father's death, Rose Campbell is sent to live at the "Aunt Hill" with her six aunts and seven rowdy boy cousins. For someone who is used to a girl's boarding school, it all seems pretty overwhelming. Her guardian, Uncle Alec, makes her eat healthy things like oatmeal, and even tries to get her to give up her pretty dresses for drab, sensible clothes.


I liked this one a lot more than Little Women, while it is still on the more didactic end of the spectrum it is a most wonderful little story. Now I must state that if you have read any Alcott the same basic principles apply. But unlike little women rather than having a narrator tell you how to live your life, the lovable Uncle Alec does so in a not too preachy manner. Now as the children are still children they are overly perfect and sweet, yet the adults (who are for the most part overlooked) are what makes the book for me. I love Aunt Jessie and wish that I had one or that I could be one sometime in the far distant future. 


I like how there is an emphasis on children remaining children. With my 6 year old sister asking to dye her hair blonde it seems like the final nail in the coffin of childhood is very close to being hammered down. This is a wonderful childhood classic and one that should be read rather than looked over.

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.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Frightening Fluffy Friday: Love on a Dime

Love on a Dime
by Cara Lynn James


Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 2 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
In age of elegance and excess, Lilly Westbrook longs for a love both true and eternal.Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and ladies of leisure. Of opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons--dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.But it's not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that's exactly what she does.No one in Lilly's social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company...and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.But Lilly must put aside her feelings and follow the path that will maintain her family's social stature and provide the financial security that everyone is depending on.Now Lilly faces a double dilemma. Can she continue to protect her secret identity? And will she have the courage to choose the man who will risk it all just to win her heart?


I couldn't take this book seriously. I really found it so entertaining to read bits and pieces of it to my roommate in a dramatic voice causing her to laugh out loud at the effusive writing. It is like sugar, chocolate syrup and cotton candy mixed together it is that fluffy. The premise is good, there is the romance and intrigue (the local gossip columnist has found out her identity and is now blackmailing her) there really is the making of a decent novel in there. Sadly the execution failed.


Lilly is unable to make up her mind. She is too proud to ask for help even though it can come from many different sources, and  she makes too big of a deal out of everything, if she would simply relax and think for a moment she would know what to do. She and Jack really needed to make up their minds, communicate and the story would have been cut in half.


I could go on and on about the predictability  of the plot, the unlikable characters and the really juvenile and contrived writing but I have to go to class. Pass on this one good cover, bad writing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Historical Thursday - A Constant Heart

A Constant Heart
by Siri Mitchell


Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. her destiny is guaranteed...at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.


As an authors first foray into the world of historical fiction I would say that she did a neat job of it all. You could tell that she did her research in regards to the lifestyle of the period thoroughly and represented the era well. She took a different stance on her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth though one I am coming across more often. Rather than the benevolent and nearly perfect being that we are  taught of in our school years she depicts a demanding, vain and fearful  woman competing to remain the "fairest of them all." I find her going a little too over the top in creating the "wicked step-mother" for dramatic emphasis rather than showing Elizabeth as a real person. Though this did open the door to show the make-up practices of the time which were in no way FDA approved.


Now as to the story, it is written in alternating POV between Marget and her husband, sometimes too abruptly for my taste though since I didn't get confused I forgive Mitchell for it. I pitied Marget in the beginning of the novel but by the end of it I was tired of her lack of backbone and willingness to let everyone run her life. The same applies for the dear Earl. The love story was cute and seemed genuine enough but there there is all of this doubting going on that I kind of got bored with it all.


It concludes nicely and plausibly, wrapped in a neat bow and not hinting at a sequel (I really hate books that do that - leave plot lines open in case the book becomes popular and they want to make more money.) It is full of angst so if you are in the mood for that it's a good choice, but on the whole, I won't tell you not to read it because it's a very nice historical novel. On the other hand, I won't tell you to run to your nearest bookstore.  It was...respectable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

YA Wednesday: Where I Belong

Where I Belong
Gwendolyn Heasley

Genre: YA
Rating: 2 stars

Summary:
Corrinne seems to be living the perfect life, plenty of money, access to all of the hottest clubs in NYC until suddenly it all comes falling apart and she finds herself living in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Now she finds herself needing to work, attending a public school and frantically searching for a way back to life before the recession.

Goodness, don't waste your time on this one. I was up at my cabin without anything else to read so that is my only excuse. Give me 2 months and I will have completely forgotten about it.

Corrinne was irritating and shallow I feel like she had just stepped off the set of Gossip Girl, the writing style seemed juvenile and how many times have we seen this story? Perhaps I am older than the intended audience but even then I wouldn't recommend this to my younger siblings or their friends. While Kitsy was a better character she still wasn't enough to redeem the book.

 I felt like all of the plot lines were left unresolved because of this curve ball that is thrown into it. It probably was one of the worst endings of a book I have ever read. It felt like the author was on a deadline and cranked out the last chapters in 30 minutes the way I occasionally do my homework. There's hardly any closure and you are left extremely dissatisfied.

Don't judge the book by it's cover, it is a pretty cover I know, but don't be fooled! You will have wasted your time.

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.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

Veiled Rose
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary From Goodreads:


Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.
Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands.
But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find?
Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishing for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Because I was given this, I didn't have the chance to read the first book in the series. And while I wish that I had some more background information on some of the characters, this novel works well as a stand alone. the characters a believable and dynamic. Rose Red in particular is a very solid character with a likable personality and really carries the thing through. She provides the depth to what would otherwise be your very basic boy-meets-girl-and-then-problems-ensue plot.There is that romantic element within the story but rather than making a straight forward teen romantic plot the author chooses instead to explore the complexities of relationships and in a way that add depth to the whole. 

As expected from Bethany House there are religious undertones. It's rather like the cautionary tales of the Brothers Grimm. The point of the story isn't completely obvious and yet you are aware that it's there.

The humor of the story was wonderful with a few moments where I giggled out loud and if you are at all a fan of young adult fantasy I would recommend this book for you.


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. 




Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm sorry, I don't have the energy or heart or attitude to handle a post right now.

In a way I am being more fair to the book I have scheduled today, in my present mood it doesn't matter what I read it would still be horrible. So I will be kind to the hapless book who was supposed to be the center of my attention today and leave it for another time.

Happy Reading. (oh if you have things that you think I should read I would love to hear from you.)

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 30, 2011

Classic Tuesday

Cranford
by: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Gaskell's witty and poignant comedy of country town life - a gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century,Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle- aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances.

Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters—including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni,Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.



I listened to this while driving around this summer and the characters were so adorably funny that at times I almost had to pull over because I started laughing pretty hard. One of those memorable instances was when one of the esteemed ladies got dizzy when thinking that the earth is spinning around the sun not staying still. 
Rather than having any real plot it is a series of vignettes telling all of the secret foibles which can be found in the society of women. Gaskell teases in a gentle manner however, perhaps because she was aware of the restraints of the society which she created for them, genteel enough to not work but not wealthy enough to be truly independent. There really is very little for the women to do.
It is a wonderful comedy of manners which points out faults in these wonderful women what some of us can be sure to find in ourselves. It is an extremely happy read with endearing characters and a wonderful movie to go along with it (though it is a little mixed up as most movies are). I love Gaskell, I have since I first came across North and South, and this one is simply wonderful

Monday, August 29, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday -Christian Fiction


Widow of Larkspur Inn
By: Lawana Blackwell

Genre: Christian, Historical fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary From Goodreads:
Julia Hollis' opulent life in Victorian London crashes to pieces when her husband passes away. Worse, she is told by his bankers that he gambled away their fortune. Now, the family's hope rests on The Larkspur, an old abandoned coaching inn in the quaint village of Gresham. 
Driven by dread and her desire to provide for her children, Julia decides to turn the dilapidated inn into a lodging house. But can she--who was accustomed to servants attending to every need--do what needs to be done and cope when boarders begin arriving? And then an eligible new vicar moves into town....

Let me first say that with the school year now officially upon me I will most likely be taking more summaries from Goodreads

This was a wonderfully gentle read. It didn't particularly race along with its plot but rather moved at a sedate pace, meaning that yes in places it dragged for a bit, but on the whole was something that I read when I didn't need to think that much because I was recovering from studying for finals.  The characters are all likable, the plot doesn't really throw you for any loops and it has a nice message. There is a very strong Christian aspect (Main man is a vicar what do you expect?)

it's a perfect “recovery read” for when you simply want to relax and get a good story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fluffy Friday: Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart


Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
by: Beth Pattillo

Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating 2 stars

Summary:
Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone. She's been dating Neil -- a nice if a bit negligent -- sports fanatic. But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy -- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's journey to finding her own romantic lead. 

While reading this I wondered if Patillo had actually read Austen. The impression I got was that she had simply watched the movies and not the good ones. All of the obvious Pride and Prejudice plot points were there only the characters were so underdeveloped that I really couldn't possibly care less about what happened to them. Clair was irritating and her "budding romance" with James was not at all believable.

The worst parts were the little bits of "First Impressions" that Pattillo tried to pass off as Austen. It was obvious there that Pattillo had never really studied Austen and that's what truly made me question if she had read it. You may try to defend her by saying it was her mimicking the Authoress before she became a good writer. That won't work.  Jane Austen has a very distinctive writing style and whatever Pattillo was doing it wasn't this. 

Pass on this one, it will save you a lot of time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sorry Nothing Today

Hey there....sorry there is no review today simply because I am moving across the country for school, the likelihood of there being one tomorrow is slim too. Please forgive me and if you have noticed this and are missing me, thank you so much for being a follower!

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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday- She Walks in Beauty


She Walks in Beauty
by: Siri Mitchell

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

I loved this little gem that I found when looking for free books for my kindle. It is a sweet book about a girl who is being dragged kicking and screaming onto the social scene.  She would must prefer to spend her time reading than learning the latest dance. 

Rather than focus on romance as most historical novels seem to do this focused a lot more on the fashion aspect.  A particular point in the novel is the use of the corset and the battle all women go through to try and achieve the perfect 16 inch waist. Now obviously we know the dangers that are associated with the corset but at the time this was written they had been suspected but weren't viewed as a serious threat.  Also we see the beginnings of American stardom and the paparazzi beginning to take to the scene.

It claims to be a Christian fiction but in reality it really wasn't much of a point in the novel at all except for the fact that it was clean, and the main characters went to church a few times (in order to be seen by society).

All in all it was very well researched, decently written (if a little formulaic) and I related to Clara. It is a very fun read that still has some substance.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fluffy Friday


Courting Miss Amsel
by: Kim Vogel Sawyer

Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 3 Stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Edythe Amsel loves her first teaching assignment - a one room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. She has big plans for her students and intends on their receiving a fully rounded education. Unfortunately her ideas just may be too much for this town to handle
 Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council hired a female teacher to replace the ruthless man who terrorized his nephews for the past two years. Having raised the boys on his own since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel believes they will benefit from a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods, which include collecting leaves, catching bugs, making snow angels, and stringing ropes in strange patterns all over the schoolyard. When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer.

I liked Edythe as a character, her love of teaching and of children was obvious and her creativity in regards to teaching methods was fun to read about. Also learning about her less than happy family life and how it affects her throughout the novel was a nice little part of it as well.

The plot was a bit predictable and I wasn't entirely hooked on the characters change of attitude at the end of the novel but it was good for its genre. This novel is exactly what you expect it to be. It's light and sweet with little bits of history thrown in here and there good for a day when you want a good story without having to think too hard.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Historical Thursday



The Bad Queen
by: Carolyn Meyer

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 3 stars

Summary from Goodreads
From the moment she was betrothed to the dauphin of France at age fourteen, perfection was demanded of Marie-Antoinette. She tried to please everyone—courtiers, her young husband, the king, the French people—but often fell short of their expectations. Desperate for affection and subjected to constant scrutiny, this spirited young woman can’t help but want to let loose with elaborate parties, scandalous fashions, and unimaginable luxuries. But as Marie-Antoinette’s lifestyle gets ever-more recklessly extravagant, the peasants of France are suffering from increasing poverty—and becoming outraged. They want to make the queen pay.

Everyone who has learned anything about the life of Marie Antoinette knows the entire plot of this novel. It covers her difficulties in conceiving, to her lavish parties, to the night her husband was killed, everything. What set it apart for me was the fact that the reason Marie was what she was is that she was simply doing what she was told to do. She was following orders and traditions on almost all counts and if she had been instructed better who knows what would have happened.

But if Meyer was trying to make me like Antoinette she failed miserably. All I saw was a whiny child who lacked all self-discipline, and showed no interest in anything other than herself. It was quite irritating actually to have to listen to how she hates to read and can’t write and can’t keep up with the current events of the country she is supposed to be running.

This book is great if you want to know the life of Marie Antoinette and haven’t gone in-depth yet but if you already know her life story I feel like you can pass on it.

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.






Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birthday Dedication!! Happy Birthday Little Bro - This is for you!


The Lightning Thief
by: Rick Riordan

Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

Let my preface: I am a mythology nut. Greek, Egyptian, Norse, Celt - I love it all. Here there is a really nice in-depth look into the Greek mythology done in such a way that the modern-day youngsters can not only enjoy it but also remember it. It is a perfect series for those young friends of our who really don't like to read normally because it's fast paced and full of action.

I really loved how all of the different mythologies got dropped in here and there. From the invisibility cap to the wonderful use of Iris (who is my favorite little goddess). The book is peppered with details that show that Riordan did his research in regards to the mythology of the novel.

But I do need to mention that it did feel a lot like a HP knock-off, but I will forgive it because HP is a good thing to knock-off of, and the age group that this is intended for probably won't notice.

I really do need to reiterate that this is the perfect novel for the reluctant reader, some of my younger siblings would rather be outside rather than reading but both of them have read this and loved it and the rest of the series. If a book can do that, it definitely has my seal of approval.

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.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Fluffy Friday - Head in the Clouds


Head in the Clouds

by Karen Witemeyer

Genre: Chick-Lit, Historical Fiction, Christian Romance
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
Adelaide Proctor finds herself in Texas following her Prince Charming, little does she know that he is really not the man she imagined him to be. With no job or other prospects she jumps eagerly at the chance to be a governess and tutor for a young Isabella, the mute adoptive daughter of British rancher Gideon Westcott. Gideon had come to America in the hopes of making something of himself and was given the charge of Isabella on the ship over. Far from the grasping hands of her uncle both Adelaide and Gideon believe themselves safe; little do they know that trouble is coming for them.

I really thought this was marvelous chick-lit. I give my ratings based on their genre and this one did its job marvelously. The characters were endearing and believable for the most part and I thought the writing style far surpassed in what can be found in Chick-Lit these days. The Christian aspect was balanced well, adding to the story rather than distracting you from it. 

Gideon was a perfect gentleman that women everywhere would swoon for and thankfully Adelaide deserved him. She was intelligent, and from her interactions with Isabella it showed that this author has actually interacted with children. it could be because I have so many dealings with them myself but when a writer writes children in I pay close attention to how they behave and most of the time they are either too young or too old for what their supposed age is. Here Isabella character perfectly suits her.

For those of you looking for some sweet summer reading this would be the perfect thing for a lazy afternoon or two. 

Shame Nation

Shame Nation Genre: Non-Fiction Rating: 4 Stars Summary My Thoughts: This is a book everyone needs to read. The title perfectly fits ...