Friday, July 23, 2010

Queen of This Realm: The Tudor Queens (Queens of England, #2) by Jean Plaidy

Author: Jean Plaidy
Publish Date: May 18, 2004
Website: Goodreads - Jean Plaidy
ISBN: 9780609810200
List Price: $14.95
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket synopsis:
In this "memoir" by Elizabeth I, legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy reveals the Virgin Queen as she truly was: the bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father; a captive in the Tower of London; a shrewd politician; a lover of the arts; and eventually, an icon of an era. It is the story of her improbable rise to power and the great triumphs of her reign—the end of religious bloodshed, the settling of the New World, the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Brilliantly clever, a scholar with a ready wit, she was also vain, bold, and unpredictable, a queen who commanded—and won—absolute loyalty from those around her.

My comments:
I thought this was an excellent historical romance. I love reading about Queen Elizabeth I and thought this book was a wonderful story, partially including real history, but also always touching on the missed romances that Elizabeth had throughout her reign. I like the way that Jean Plaidy writes. Her written voice is easy to follow, exciting, and educating. She includes not only the romance realm, but also insight into the politics of her reign and never-ending fight for her crown by usurpers, foreign princes, and distant family members. It is an insightful read about Elizabeth’s inner voice and emotional turmoil that she endured throughout her reign.

I look forward to reading more of Plaidy's books in her series titled the Queens of England. The Tudor Saga Series also looks very intriguing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman

Author: Eleanor Herman
Publish Date: April 1, 2005
ISBN: 9780060585440
List Price: $13.95
My Rating: 2 out of 5

Jacket synopsis:
Continuing her accounts of history from women's perspective, Herman foregrounds the royal mistresses of Europe since the Middle Ages, who are usually relegated to shadows even when significantly influencing policy. One of her insights is that mistresses provided kings not so much with sex as with companionship.

My comments:
This book was supposed to be about the historical role the mistress played in the structure and balance of the monarchy. Be it for beauty, politics, power, greed, or even love, the mistress played an important role whether moral or not. This book was disappointing to say the least. This book is not organized well. To read it is confusing and without an organized flow. It was very disjointed and skipped around way too much. The characters begin to blend together and it is hard for the reader to place the event being read about into a time line with the right historical figures. The character stories should have been organized into mini-stories or into specific topics, or at least by a time table. An interesting insight to the role of mistress. I already have another of Eleanor Herman's books and I am not sure that I will read it through like this one if it is as haphazardly put together like this one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Get It Done When You're Depressed by Julie A. Fast

Author: Julie A. Fast
Publish Date: January 2, 2008
ISBN: 9781592577064
List Price: $14.95
My Rating: 3 out of 5

First, I have to say thank you to Julie Fast for writing a book without the confusing medical jargon and giving us strategies that can be truly applied to everyday situations and circumstances. There are too many books out there that just give you big words, no help and just a bunch of fluff. Julie's writing is honest, eye opening, and to the point. You don't have to read 100 pages to start applying her strategies and guidance. You don't have time to wait when dealing with anxiety and depression.

As the reader, you don't have to read the book in order, but you can. There are 50 chapters and I read them in my order of importance which helped me obtain that "accomplished feeling" along with working through chapter's short trainer to apply the chapter's lesson. Each chapter is only about 6 pages which means her strategies are simple and condensed. There is no run-on discussion, just to the point strategies to help you function, acknowledge, and move past any anxiety, self-esteem or depression issues you are dealing with. We all deal with depression in our lives and this strategy reference guide (which is what it will be for me now) is quick and so helpful... Thanks Julie...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publish Date: July 13, 2010
ISBN: 9780545123280
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Trailer: Linger Book Trailer (created, filmed, and scored by Maggie Stiefvater)
Trailer: Music Composed for the Book by Maggie Stiefvater

The story is about a boy who was a wolf and about a girl who is destined to become one. Even though they are together now, in Linger, they have to fight to stay together. Secretly Grace's health is deteriorating and all the signs are leading her to believe that the wolf in her if fighting to be free.

Linger begins where Shiver leaves us with Sam and Grace together after the surprising risk they take to keep Sam in his human form. Sam is still in shock over the possibility that he will stay human, no longer shift to a wolf form, and stay with Grace forever. If that were the case, the story would end there.

All is well for a while, Grace and Sam could not be happier planning a future together. Grace begins to feel there is something wrong as she notices regular nosebleeds and a strange wolf smell on herself. To add to that, Grace and Sam are torn apart when Grace's parents find out that Sam and Grace spend every waking and sleeping moment together. They forbid her to see Sam. All the while she is becoming more sick. Grace eventually makes the decision to be with Sam and leave her absentee parents.

New characters are introduced into the story as Beck, Sam's pack leader, recruits new pack members, who unfortunately are not the average recruits, Cole and Victor. Sam struggles with understanding why Beck recruited members so famous which could reveal their existence. To complicate matters, Beck has transformed and is not expected to shift back, ever. Sam is left to assume the new pack leader role. Cole and Victor are well-known rockers who wanted to escape their life of bad decisions. Sam and Cole do not get along, but when they are confronted by threats to their pack mates and Grace's possible death they find away to help each other. Even Isabel join the struggle and fight to save the pack and Grace.

The story is written from 4 character perspectives: Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel. The author does a great job of transitioning between each character's voice making sure to keep their distinctive personalities within each chapter. My favorite quote is from Isabel talking to Grace about leaving home to be with Sam "...because you couldn't live without The Boy's stunning Boyfruits for another night." (pg. 311) I just love the author's sense of humor amongst all the drama.

The author certainly give characters the right balance of melodrama and humor. Between crying there is laughing... The author has created a unique and original plot around the existence of wolves creating the idea of escapism where the character can give into their raw senses. The conclusion of Linger is both expected and unexpected. I cannot wait to hear Grace's voice in Forever...I won't spoil it. This is another great young adult (YA) novel from Maggie Stiefvater and I am eager to see the next book in the trilogy, Forever, due out in July 2011.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publish Date: August 1, 2009
ISBN: 9780545123266
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5 

Trailer: Shiver Trailer 

The basis of the story is about a boy who lives his winters as a wolf and his summers as a boy. All the while in love with a girl on the edge of the woods. He saved the girl from a pack attack when she was young and has not been able to forget her all those years. 

Grace has spent her days watching the wolves in Mercy Falls always noticing a particular yellow-eyed wolf watching back. That summer Grace happens upon a yellow-eyed boy all too recognizable at the local bookstore. Grace knows this must be her wolf. Soon Grace and Sam are inseparable, but as winter approaches they are both desperate to find a way to keep Sam human because if he turns into a wolf he may never turn back again. 

Let me just say I read this book in one day! I could not put it down. The love story between Grace and Sam is so precious and inviting that you just can't help but finish this book in one sitting. It is not without its adventure and excitement as Sam fights to stay human. He knows that he has little time left before he transitions to a wolf for good. The author, Maggie, has such a unique writing style that draws you into this is so vivid that you feel like you are right there watching the entire story unfold.

Beware: I started crying at chapter 35!

The story is written so that each chapter is either from Grace's or Sam's point of view. It just gives the reader a valuable insight into the emotions, thoughts, and inner monologue of both Grace and Sam... an insight that just draws you closer and deeper into each character. This story is such a page turner...I cannot wait for Linger to get here ... I cannot wait to see what Grace and Sam...(not going to spoil it)...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Author: Anne Fortier
Publish date: August 17, 2010
ISBN: 9780345516107
List Price: $25.00
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Juliet Trailer

An amazing story by a very talented new writer. A story about a girl with little direction in her life finds a whirlwind adventure about mystery, loss, fate, lost love, and arrives at a conclusion no one could have foreseen. The twists and turns of this story are thrilling and on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertaining. I was unable to pull myself away from this exciting read. Juliet's trials and adventures are so well written and engaging. This book is truly a labor of love by Anne Fortier. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical adventure of the true Romeo and Juliet and how it lead to a 600 year old mystery to be solved by today's Juliet. The emotional attachment to the characters is strong and as the reader you cannot wait to see where the myth and mystery travels next. I know other readers will find this book just as mesmerizing, intriguing, and completely entertaining. It is a love story that spans 600 years. Best of luck to Anne Fortier and I hope that this book is as well received as I hope that it will be. I look forward to more stories by Ms. Fortier!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Publish Date: April 9,2006
ISBN: 9781565125605
List Price: $13.95
My Rating: 3 out of 5

A cute story of the life of Jacob Jankowski. A very vivid story about the trials of Jacob's life as a unplanned circus vet during the 1930's depression era. It begins with him as an old man, 93 to be exact, and how he is worried that he is losing touch with reality and becoming one of those senile folks he sees in his assisted living home. Jacob is sharp as a tack though and completely aware of what he still wants out of life. Each chapter bounces him from the present, age 93, to his youth at 23...where we begin his life story at college and the terrible events that catapult him to a rocky adventure with a circus at the beginning of the depression era. 

In the beginning, we learn that Jacob has lost his parents to a terrible car accident and left him penniless as the depression begins to unfold over America. Jacob leaves college and wonders aimlessly until he happens upon a moving circus train that provides an escape from loneliness and loss. Jacob joins the circus because he has no where else to go. 

Jacob meets Marlena and August after he has stowed away on the circus train of the Benzini Brother's Circus. Marlena is the star of the show with her equestrian act and August is a circus boss. She has a natural talent of speaking to the animals and the charisma of an angel. Jacob falls for Marlena even though she married a man, August, to escape her family to a new life on her own terms, or so she thought. August isn't what he appears and is a feared character in this story. August has violent tendencies toward people and animals. He can't be trusted. 

The circus is a third rate circus which doesn't bode well for anyone. "Red lighting" (being thrown from a speeding train) occurs often to keep the circus "profitable" and paychecks are usually hard to come by. As they struggle to keep the circus together, they happen upon an elephant, by the name of Rosie, who needs employment. It's soon believed that Rosie has no talent and was a worthless purchase, but Jacob observes that Rosie is trained ... in Polish which may lead to an amazing act. However, tragically Marlena is injured and we endure the wrath of August as he shows his anger towards Rosie. 

I thought the story was entertaining, had a great twist in the plot, and an unexpected ending. The author's able to paint a pretty vivid picture of this "menagerie," but in the end I felt the love story could have been better established. I just didn't feel the strong love connection between the characters that I expected. It just didn't tug at the heart-strings. They are currently bringing this book to the big screen, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the movie screen.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Author: Lauren Kate
Publish Date: November 19, 2009
ISBN: 9780385738934
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Fallen Trailer

Where to start!? This book is a can't-put-it-down type of book. The plot is original, creative, and captivating. Lauren Kate, the author, draws you into the world of Luce and Daniel with such dramatic visions of an unknown, uncontrollable darkness that has followed Luce all her life. Luce’s life seems tragic and destined for a dark ending. Until she arrives at the reform school, after a terrible incident involving death, Luce sees Daniel and she feels an unbelievable pull, and a knowing him that she can't explain. No matter how mean and off putting he is, she is drawn to him. As the dark shadows befall Luce again and are increasingly more dangerous, Daniel appears to be more present to save her or guide her. Luce starts researching Daniel's past as she is drawn to him. She has to know everything about him. This only leads to more shadows appearing and hurting those around her. Ultimately, Luce figures out why she has these vivid dreams of her past and of being with Daniel and realizes they have been together in past lives and no matter what they do they find each other, but they are soon driven apart upon Luce's death. She only lives for 17 years each time and Daniel is heartbroken but so in love he falls for her each time. This time though things are different and Luce doesn't die when Daniel and others expect her to and Daniel is doing everything he can do to keep her safe and break the cycle of losing Luce. As the angel war begins, Daniel is doing everything he can to keep her safe because they need her.

As the reader, we don't find out in the book why they need Luce and what her importance is to the fallen angels, but both sides of angels need and want her and that is where we are left... with Luce safe and Daniel watching over her until he and his angel friends can figure out how to save her and win the war... One character alludes that the sanity of the world shouldn’t revolve around the love of two sick lovebirds (Luce & Daniel)… so we are not sure how important that Luce and Daniel be together really is. We are left with a lot of questions and so eager to continue the story.

I hope to hear more about Luce’s past lives and her purpose in the world of the fallen angels. Lauren Kate has such a great writing style. The story is vivid. I felt like I was there in every scene. This story would make an amazing movie if the screenwriter could capture the story and world Lauren has created.

Torment, the sequel to Fallen, comes out in August-2010. It is already pre-ordered! I cannot wait to continue this story. I was completely on the edge of my seat with this story and I did not want to turn to that last page. It was hard to close the book and have the story end. My anticipation is boiling over for this next book...hurry up August!!

Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia

Author: Jennifer Murgia
Publish Date: May 18, 2010
ISBN: 9780982500538
List Price: $10.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Angel Star Trailer

Angel Star is the first book from Jennifer Murgia, a brilliant new YA author. What if you met your guardian angel? What would happen if you fell in love with him?

It is a story about a girl with a normal life going to school and dreaming about what all girls dream about...the perfect boy to come along and fall in love. Teagan never imagined a world beyond her own. Until…a transfer student appears and shares with her a secret no other human knows. There are angels, guardian angels, that are there our entire lives. Teagan’s guardian angel, Garreth, is allowed to reveal himself and the world of angels to her only because Teagan has powers unknown to her that will help save humanity.

Teagan learns that Garreth has given up his wings and will become human in eight days in order to declare his love for her and prepare her for the darkness. Garreth will no longer be able to protect her as he has all her life from the shadows. The struggle between the light and the dark become personal when those around her are touched by the darkness.

Can Teagan grasp her hidden power and hold on to her true love, or will the darkness overcome her and lead her down a dark path? Temptation to do so is strong, but can Teagan harness her powers to see the Truth?

Hadrian, a dark angel, is very alluring and beautiful in his in own right. She encounters Hadrian in a painful struggle to save Garreth, her guardian angel. In the end she has to choose between Garreth and Hadrian … learning that some people have more than one angel. Could one of them be a dark angel that pulls at the darkness within us?

The story pauses at this point where Teagan knows that Hadrian is watching her too. Lemniscate (2011), the sequel to Angel Star, will continue Teagan’s story…

I could not put this book down. It was fast paced, action packed, with a brilliantly woven love story… This book is one of my new favorite-must-keep books and I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. I look forward to reading more of Jennifer's book in the future. She has a fantastic and imaginative writing style, which paints the most detailed scenic pictures. I could picture the stone chapel in the woods and every scene Teagan experienced.

Wonderful book, Jennifer! Congratulations on realizing a dream. I truly look forward to many more books from you...

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

Author:  Thomas Mullen
Publish Date: January 26, 2010
ISBN: 9781400067534
List Price: $26.00
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Trailer: Firefly Brothers Trailer

I thought this was an intriguing read about mobsters in the '30s Depression era. It is a story about fictional mobsters known as the Firefly Brothers, Jason and Whit Fireson, who defy the law of "death." They are fairly well known criminals and adored by the public for their heroic deeds of tearing up past due debts of destitute Americans when robbing banks. Unfortunately, they are caught in a wild shoot out and killed, we think! Once I started this read, I could not turn the pages fast enough.

The story starts in 1934 and is action packed with robberies, shootouts, kidnappings, close calls, and wild adventures of being on the run. The Depression is looming and America glorifies mobster figures. When the brothers are caught in a fire fight and are killed, for the first time, the media is on a race to cover the story. As other mobsters like Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd are becoming "Public Enemies." The FBI is making mobsters priority #1. After the media gets a look at the bodies of the Firefly Brothers and publishes their demise, somehow they disappear from the morgue without a trace until reports of appearances crop up about the Firefly Brothers showing up in banks and speakeasies again.

The brothers cannot explain how they are still alive and law enforcement cannot explain why and where they are either, so the brothers are on the run. The FBI attempts to cover up the public blunder while searching for them and explain the growing mystery now surrounding the brothers. The brother's fear their new found apparent invincibility, but as old habits and family obligations emerge they can't help but make new plans for bank robberies.

The story gives the reader a great fictional but historical view of the Depression and the impact it had on the American worker, creating Hoovervilles, and the family strife the Fireson's endured.  The author also intertwines the FBI's true misgivings of the time into the Firefly Brothers's story along with references to real mobsters of the day (Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc.). The reader not only follows the escapades of the Firefly Brothers, but how their family members and sweethearts are effected throughout the story. The story weaves in the concurrent stories of the assigned agent to the Fireson's Investigation Team and even J. Edger Hoover.

Mr. Mullen's writing style is thrilling and intriguing. He keeps the reader completely engaged while sustaining the mystery and action throughout the story. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in '30's Mobster era or even just an action packed, suspenseful read.