Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham



Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 368
Source: ARC from Publisher
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5


Synopsis:

Margaret of Anjou was betrothed to Henry VI at the age of fourteen, a match that was suppose to bring stability and peace between the much rivalled England and France. Her husband-to-be, Henry was throned as an infant, and very different from his father. While his father was a military hero, Henry VI yearned for peace., he believed that Margaret would bring him what he wanted. A young Margaret was sent off alone, and had to endure a long, arduous boat trip, a trip that left her indisposed and consoled by strangers. To make matters worst, her parents left her a measly, embarrassing dowry. Margaret was scared, and unsure of her outcome. When Margaret finally reaches England, she is relieved to meet her patient, loving, and kind husband. Her dowry is forgotten, the King showers her with gifts and life is looking bright. Shortly after her coronation Queen Margaret’s family have their own ultimatums, and Margaret must deliver. Her future is threatened, Margaret is pulled between the love of her husband, and the loyalty to her family. When she has issues producing an heir, the people of England remain cold, the longer she advances without becoming pregnant, the people become more hostile and suspicious. Margaret begins to lose hope, Henry stands patient and comforting. King Henry, thought to be a weak King, trusting too easily and questioning very little. His family seems to all have their own interests at stake, and see a thorn that may soon become vacant. When Margaret bores a son, she is elated but her happiness is soon splintered when she finds out her husband is not lucid. Henry’s mental state is not stable, and he recognizes none. Margaret must fight for the rights of her husband and child. The future of England becomes uncertain.



Overall Impression:

My description does not do this book justice. Susan Higginbotham’s “The Queen of Last Hopes” is filled with rich detail, and memorable characters. Much of the novel is narrated by Margaret, with a few other characters points of view included. I did not struggle with the point of views, I found the flow of the novel very easy to read. This was very important to me, because often I find the flow of historical fiction novels difficult. At times I was confused by all the characters but this was not a big issue, it’s something I expect from Historical Fiction. This was my first Susan Higginbotham’s read, and I can’t wait to pick up “The Traitor’s Wife.” I really love her style. I found it so refreshing to read a story about a Queen who truly loves her King. So many historical fiction reads that I’ve read lately deal with hostile King and Queen relationships. This is one that historical fiction lovers will love.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher



Publisher: Revell
Pages: 298
Source: Publisher/Litfuse Tour
Category: Amish Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Jonah Riehl has been trying his best to raise his daughter on his own. Living in an Amish community in Ohio, Jonah strives to raise an obedient daughter. One who would serve the Lord before all else. Life has been anything but easy. One terrible night, a buggy accident changed his life forever. His wife, Rebecca was killed, he was gravely injured but miraculously their infant daughter was unhurt. Wrapped in a blanket, little Bess comforted her mother in her final moments. Bess gave her father the strength and determination to persevere. Jonah has been finding it increasingly difficult as a single parent, but Jonah is reluctant to remarry. His heart still remains with his wife, and together Bess and him will survive. When Jonah’s mother writes to request that Bess spend the summer with her, to help her recover from “woman surgery” Jonah encourages Bess to remain with him. When it’s evident that her report card will be arriving shortly, and her algebra exam did not go as planned, Bess decides to go to Rose Hill Farm. Bess is a little reluctant, her grandmother is a little rough around the edges, but she knows duty is essential in the Amish community. When Bess arrives at Rose Hill Farm she quickly realizes that her grandmother’s surgery was nothing more than teeth extraction. Although she is baffled that her grandmother would fabricate an issue to get her to come to visit, she is quickly smitten by her grandmothers hired hand. Billy is handsome, intelligent, and everything Bess believes she wants in a man. While Bess is settling in at Rose Hill Farm, Lainey O’Toole deals with some issues of her own. Her car has broken down in the same town where she grew up, and believing in divine intervention she decides to listen to the clues and stay a short while. She has saved every penny to afford to go to culinary school, and has everything planned out. In the meantime Lainey accepts a job offer at the local bakery. Her car needs to be fixed, and she still has a journey in front of her. She’s sure that her issues will be sorted out shortly, and it is nice to be back home. Although Lainey is content, she does have a deep, dark secret that she has been harbouring for fifteen years. One night when she was ten years old, motherless and afraid she made a decision. This decision affects many individuals at Rose Hill Farm, some are about to find out.


Overall Impression:

Disclosure: I cried. I don’t cry when reading, and I cried. I think that’s a sign that this is a 5 star review. I loved every bit of this book, I was hanging on by every world, and each sentence had me more captivated then the one before.This is the third book in the Lancaster series, and I think this one has been my favourite. The Lancaster series is always filled with drama, and life choices. I really enjoyed book 1 (The Choice) but “The Search” was so heartwarming. Suzanne Woods Fisher constructed these characters that I fell in love with, I’m was carried through their journey, and was instantly hooked. Each character is authentic, genuine and realistically flawed. I was completely absorbed into their world, and I was sad when I closed the book after completion. Suzanne Woods Fisher is an extremely talented author, “The Search” is a riveting tale that must be read. A powerful story of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. This book will warm your heart, and leave you seeking the goodness that may be hidden, but is unfailingly surrounding each and every one of us. A must read!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes



Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5


Synopsis from Goodreads:

The private lives of the Plantagenets, that 'passionate brood' who were the children of Henry the Second and Eleanor of Acquitaine, Richard and Johanna, Henry and John.

Margaret Campbell Barnes explores the Crusader King’s triumphs and tragedies in a compelling novel of love, loyalty, and lost chances. The fierce Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine birthed a Plantagenet dynasty before her marriage to Henry II became a mockery, and her family’s future hinges on Richard. Linked persistently with the Lionheart in folklore is Robin Hood, portrayed here as Richard’s foster brother and conscience, who so enraged the King that he is banished. The Passionate Brood is a tale of a man driven to win back the Holy Land, beset by the guilt of casting out his childhood friend, and shouldering the burden of being the lionhearted leader of the Plantagenets




Overall Impression:

I wrote and rewrote my synopsis, and I was going nowhere. I opted to include the Goodreads description. I’m sorry, but I was really going nowhere...”The Passionate Brood” is a reissue from Sourcebooks, and one I was very excited to read. I liked it but didn’t love it. Richard is highly romanticized and it you’re reading to learn more about Robin Hood, he really is only a secondary character. I loved reading about the Royal family, and their every day lives but there were a few issues I had with the book. There are a lot of characters in this one, and I had to do a lot of research to understand who was who. I felt lost when beginning this book. However, I realized that the timelines were not very accurate which to me is an issue with a “historical” book. However, I think this was the better Margaret Campbell Barnes novel I read, you have to be willing to move past the details though. I really felt that this novel was timeless. The language and flow was very easy to read. I did find the story interesting, and captivating. So, if you’re looking for an interesting read, you can try this one. I suggest allotting a good portion of the day when starting this one, it takes some time to get into it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Little Princes by Conor Grennan



Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 304
Source: ARC from Publisher
Category: Memoir
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

29-year-old Conor wanted to take a year long trip around the world, after receiving some criticism from his peers about this foolish trip, he decided to volunteer at a little orphanage in war-torn Nepal. Who could criticize a man who was taking a trip to volunteer to help little children? Conor thought is sounded pretty impressive, and after his 3 months, he could walk away and he would be free to do as he pleases. However, those 3 months changed his life forever, and when he tried to leave he realized a large part of him remained with those children.He had to go back. Conor was astonished when he learned that these children were not in-fact orphans, they were children subjected to child traffickers. In war-tore Nepal parents were desperate to keep their children safe, parents were willing to sell all their possessions to pay to keep their children from being conscripted into a rebel army that had formed in opposition to the government. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages that they could protect the children -for a large fee- they could bring them to safety. Desperate parents would sell everything, and trust these strangers to take care of their children. The children would be led far away from home, and abandoned in the capital of Nepal, many of them landing in orphanages. Their parents far away, and unaware. After his 3 months, Conor continues on his trip but realizes he must do more. Conor gained the trust and love of the children and vowed to help them be reunited with their families. His initial ideas about his trip were abandoned, and he throws himself into trying to open a non-profit organization to help these children.




Overall Impression:

This is one that everyone should read in 2011.”Little Princes” is a powerful, heart-breaking, brutally honest memoir. Truly amazing, and a real eye-opener. Once I picked this book up, I couldn’t put it down and I immediately wanted to tell everyone about it. The good news is, it’s in the bookstore and you can go pick yourself up a copy. Child trafficking is not something that I knew a lot about, and it’s so sad that these parents honestly thought their children were going to be educated and well taken care of, instead they were made into slaves, abandoned on the street, or placed into orphanages. This book made me grateful for everything that I have. “Little Princes” reads like fiction, and then you remember that this is a true story that happened not long ago. While this can easily be a very depressing book, Conor’s humor and the children’s resilience really shine through. So, one more time...PLEASE GO BUY THIS BOOK!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Flawless by Sara Shepard



Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Category: Young Adult
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Alison DiLaurentis has everything, she was the leader of her pack and she was the “it” girl. When her body goes missing, her friends grieve and continue on with their lives. They distance themselves from each other, and move on. However, Ali is no longer missing, her body has been discovered. When the new tenants move into the DiLaurentis’ former home and begin renovations Ali’s body is discovered under concrete.
“Flawless” picks up right where “Pretty Little Liars” ends, the evening of the funeral. Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily are disturbed that Ali was always near them. Since Ali is dead, the girls wonder who possible can “A” be? The text messages, and letters continue, to their horror some of their secrets are revealed, and the threats are becoming more vicious. “A” is threatening the girls to reveal their deepest, darkest secret, “A” knows about “The Jenna Thing” and the girls are unnerved. While the girls may have grown apart, “A” is bringing them back together. The police have re-opened the case, now a murder investigation, and the girls have been warned that they will be questioned once again. To make matters worst Toby Cavanaugh, Jenna’s step-brother has come back to town. Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna’s worlds are falling apart.
Aria is trying to get over her biggest crush, their connection was undeniable but he’s her AP English teacher. Aria has other issues to worry about, she realizes that the problem she thought vanished, may still be a problem. Her father is not very discreet, and someone else discovers the secret. Spencer was secretly dating her sister’s boyfriend, her parents are disgusted by her actions, and Melissa hates her. Her home is very quiet, because everyone refuses to talk to her. Although, she ears straight A’s and is on every committee, she will never be able to step out of her sister’s shadow. Emily is trying to hid her feelings for her friend, she can’t be a lesbian, her parents would never accept her. Her swim coach offers her a proposition she could never turn down. Hanna is desperately trying to hold together the world she created after Ali disappeared. As things seem to spiral out of control, her father walks back into her life. He’s spent years away and Hanna is not sure that she should do. “A” knows all their dirty little secrets, and the girls are walking on egg shells. Who can they trust? Can they trust each other? Can they trust themselves?


Overall Impression:

“Flawless” is every bit suspenseful, mysterious, and captivating as “Pretty Little Liars.” It’s a great book, and I love Sara Shepard’ style. Her ability to create these amazing secondary characters is remarkable. Each character is memorable, enjoyable, and realistic. I even love the titles, the titles of each chapter foreshadow the upcoming predicament of each character. The narrator is completely unreliable. Another death occurs, and I didn’t see that coming either. Honestly, this series is addicting. Yes, I said addiction...I can’t put these books down. I’m quite surprised that I love this series as much as I do.