Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: The Queen’s Vow by C W Gortner



Publisher: Ballentine Books
Pages: 400
Source: Blog Tour
Released: 2012
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

After the death of their father, Isabella of Castile, her brother and their mother were living in exile. When Isabelle was a young teenager, her step-brother Enrique, the King demanded that they leave their mother and come to live at court. Enrique planned to keep them under his wing, and make sure his throne was not threatened. Isabella’s mother knew that a time would come when Enrique ordered her children to be taken away from her; she feared the most for her son, Alfonso who was the next in line for the throne. The announcement of Enrique’s daughter caused a lot of turmoil at court; many believed that the child could not be his. Enrique himself didn’t seem so sure, either. Queen Juana’s behavior concerned many and rumors of the child’s birth remained strong. Queen Juana felt threatened by Isabella and Alfonso, and didn’t try to hide her disdain for them. She wanted her daughter to be the rightful heir of the throne and she would stop at nothing to make sure Alfonso never became king. Isabella and her brother became a pawn in a plot to dethrone, the indecisive and unpopular King. Isabella was forced to decide where her loyalties lie, and who she wishes to be King. Isabella proved to be a strong, determined and persuasive young woman.

Review:

The Queen’s Vow is a captivating read. The relationship between Isabella and Enrique was very interesting. He seemed very lonely, lost and desperate. He wasn’t able to trust anyone; his advisor’s manipulated him to further their own lives and his wife was despicable. She used him as her pawn. Isabella remained strong, and supported her brother until she thought it was no longer in everyone’s best interest. Greed comes between the siblings, and Isabella must look out for the people. I didn’t know much about her life before, but I kept finding myself researching about her once I finished the book. I’m truly intrigued by her story.

A great historical fiction author is able to recreate a time and place that allows readers to learn and live what life was like during that time period. Gortner proves to be a truly amazing historical fiction writer. The book kept getting better and better, the pace was perfectly orchestrated and I loved every minute of the experience. There was never a time when I felt bored with the novel. I do enjoy historical fiction, but I’ve come to expect some lags when reading the genre. Many times I begin to feel a little bogged down with facts and feel that the story isn’t moving along as fast as I would like, The Queen's Vow certainly was an exception. This would appeal to historical fiction fans, and readers who just love a good story. Highly recommended!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The never-ending TBR pile...

I know we've all been here, and we all want to read every book we intend to read but there's simply not enough time in the day. I really want to share with you some books that have been lost in the pile, that I'm still hoping to get to. Sooner rather than later... 


 

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.


But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.





 
 
Searing. Explosive. Lyrical. Compassionate. Here is the astonishing new novel by the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The White Tiger, a book that took rage and anger at injustice and turned it into a thrilling murder story. Now, with the same fearlessness and insight, Aravind Adiga broadens his canvas to give us a riveting story of money and power, luxury and deprivation, set in the booming city of Mumbai.

At the heart of this novel are two equally compelling men, poised for a showdown. Real estate developer Dharmen Shah rose from nothing to create an empire and hopes to seal his legacy with a building named the Shanghai, which promises to be one of the city’s most elite addresses. Larger-than-life Shah is a dangerous man to refuse. But he meets his match in a retired schoolteacher called Masterji. Shah offers Masterji and his neighbors—the residents of Vishram Society’s Tower A, a once respectable, now crumbling apartment building on whose site Shah’s luxury high-rise would be built—a generous buyout. They can’t believe their good fortune. Except, that is, for Masterji, who refuses to abandon the building he has long called home. As the demolition deadline looms, desires mount; neighbors become enemies, and acquaintances turn into conspirators who risk losing their humanity to score their payday.

Here is a richly told, suspense-fueled story of ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none: the new India as only Aravind Adiga could explore—and expose—it. Vivid, visceral, told with both humor and poignancy, Last Man in Tower is his most stunning work yet.

 
 
 
 
 
Abby and Luke chat online. They’ve never met. But they are going to. Soon.

When Abby meets Luke online, she can’t believe her luck. He’s nice. He’s funny. He listens to her and he thinks she’s pretty. He even gets jealous of other guys, which is adorable. Without Luke, Abby’s not sure how she’d make it through her first year of high school. Everyone, including her mom and her best friend, Faith, tells Abby that if she just made more of an effort, she’d be having fun instead of dreading each and every day as if it’s a prison sentence. But there’s nothing fun about being the lowest link in the social food chain.

Abby knows she’s not supposed to chat with random guys online. But Luke isn’t random, and he isn’t a stranger. Best of all, he really loves her. So what if she never goes out with her friends anymore and her grades are slipping? All she needs is Luke. Luke is her secret, and she’s his — it’s perfect that way. So when Luke suggests that they meet each other in person, Abby agrees. And then she’s gone. Missing. Without a trace. And everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don’t, they’ll never see Abby again...



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Arranged by Catherine Mckenzie



Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Pages: 416
Released: 2010
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

Anne Blythe is 33 years-old and coming out of another failed relationship, this time her boyfriend was caught cheating. While analyzing her past relationships, she realizes the problem might be the type of men she’s attracted to. She will be the first to admit that looks matter when picking out a suitable boyfriend. Anne’s new tactic is to try and stay single for a little while. This lasts until her best friend announces her engagement. Anne wants the happy ending too, and decides to consult the business card she found on the street; a dating service might be her last chance. When Anne sets up her first meeting, she is shocked to find out that they are actually marriage brokers who have a 95% success rate. Can science lead her to the man of her dreams? Anne decides to give it a chance, and not think too much about the money they are requesting. Jack H is her match, and she will meet him the day before their wedding. She can’t wait to meet him, and can’t believe she is actually going to go through with an arranged marriage.


Review:

I really enjoyed Catherine McKenzie’s first novel Spin, but I loved Arranged. There was just enough drama, romance, and twists to keep me wanting more. Anne is a lovable character, and she’s very relatable. She’s 33 and her biological clock is ticking down. Everyone around her is lucky in love, but her. Her name is Anne Shirley Blythe, named after Anne in Anne of Green Gables. The name alone screams, happily ever after. An arranged marriage may not be a typical romance story, but it just might be her romance story.

Arranged seems to take a predictable path, until the story begins to unravel and readers are scrambling to find out how the story will end. Anne and Jack really hit it off great, but telling family and friends you went on vacation and got married is hard, telling them that this was an arranged marriage, is not acceptable. Anne struggles with receiving support from her friends and family while getting to know her own husband. The mandatory therapy sessions seems to do more harm than good. Will Anne and Jack actually be able to make their marriage work?

In both Spin and Arranged, McKenzie manages to write very original, intriguing plots. The pace of the novel is just right, never dragging and always holding your attention. The plot may seem farfetched, but McKenzie makes it believable. This one is a great summer read.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Hi Everyone!

Last week we had a heat wave, and it was hot! I like the heat, but it was too hot even for me. I didn't get too many books, but I am getting more reading done. I hope everyone has a great reading week!


I'll be hosting Mailbox Monday in July! I'm excited to host for the first time.

For review:

Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe & Asa Traff

Ebooks:

Forgotten by Catherine Mckenzie

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Belles by Jen Calonita



Publisher: Poppy
Released: 2012
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5



Synopsis:

Isabelle Scott has a lot on her shoulders. When her mother passes away, she only has her grandmother left. Isabelle has always lived with her mother and grandmother. When her grandmother’s mental health begins to decline, Izzie does everything possible to keep them together. Her community helps her every step of the way, including sending them meals. In her spare time Izzie gives free swimming lessons at the local community center, works as a lifeguard and manages to spend time with her friends. Summer is just about over, and school is about to start. Her life is demanding but she wouldn’t change it for the world. When her social worker calls, and insists on meeting with her, Izzie knows something is up and she’s afraid of her future. Her life is turned upside down, when she is told that her grandmother had made arrangements for her to be taken care of by an unknown uncle while her grandmother will be put into a nursing home. Izzie is a teenager, and teenagers aren’t suppose to take care of themselves and their ailing grandmother. Izzie is given very little time to pack up, before she is dropped off at her new home in a rich community. Izzie is taken completely out of her element. Her cousin, Mirabelle isn’t thrilled to share her life. Her Aunt is handing her everything on a silver platter, and Izzie is a fish out of water. Money doesn’t buy happiness, and Izzie really struggles to be happy.



Review:


I really loved Belles, I thought it was very well written. I really enjoyed all the characters and their dynamics. I really couldn’t peel myself away until I was finished. Izzie’s situation is very unique, and heartbreaking. She only has her grandmother left, and her grandmother doesn’t know who she is anymore. The relationships really resonated with me, the loss of her mother and grandmother, her not being able to bond with all the members in her new family, and her school life. I thought it was very realistic that she was able to bond with her male cousins, but there was a lot of tension with her female cousin, who was the same age. Mirabelle really feels threatened, and angry that everyone expects Izzie to blend in with her friends and social life.


The background story about the long lost “Uncle” really didn’t sit well with me. I knew there had to be something more to that story, and I was right. There was one line in the book that really gave me a clue, and I had to find out if I was right. The only issue I had with the story is the fact that her uncle was a running for U S Senate and he went to the media about Izzie coming to live with her. I felt that storyline was very unrealistic and dramatic. Her story was in magazines, featured in newspapers, and her uncle went on talk shows to speak about her situation and used the story to help his political campaign.


Overall, Belles was a great read! This is my type of young adult read. This book is emotional and the characters are very memorable. This book is definately worth the time, and even with it’s flaws, I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty



Publisher: Riverhead
Pages: 384
Released: 2012
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

When fifteen-year-old Louisa Brooks is offered to study at the prestigious Denishawn School of dance in New York, she is ecstatic but annoyed that her parents insist on sending her with a chaperone. Cora Carlisle overhears that the Brooks’ are looking for a chaperone, and she quickly jumps at the chance to offer her assistance, giving her husband no choice but to agree to let her go. Cora is in her thirties, married to a successful lawyer and her twin boys are away for the summer. Within a few days, Cora and Louisa board a train, set for New York. Cora quickly learns that she must tighten the reins on Louisa. Louisa is a wild child; ready to take on New York, keeping her morally in check proves to be very difficult. Cora is relieved when she learns the Denishawn School has strict rules which Louisa must follow while attending class. During the day Cora is free to explore New York; instead of sightseeing Cora has a hidden agent to investigate her own past. Before she was Cora Carlisle, she was “Cora X”- an orphan in New York.



Review:

The Chaperone is cleverly written and astonishingly well plotted. Louisa Brooks may be the famous silent actress with a sordid past, but the root of the novel is in Cora. Readers will immediately connect with Cora. Cora yearns to discover who she really is, who her parents are, what her ethnicity is. Her past is a blank slate, and she is hoping after many donations to her orphanage, they may decide to have a change of heart, and give her something, one little clue. Cora has spent her whole life, hiding her past, telling everyone her parents passed away. Her husband is the only one who really knows about her past. As a young girl, Cora was sent on a Catholic orphan train bound for the mid-west. She was eventually chosen by a nice couple, and she settled into her new life. Unfortunately, they passed suddenly, leaving Cora with nothing. Cora now has a respectable life, a successful husband who seems devoted to her, but behind closed doors, their marriage is not what it seems. Cora’s story is truly absorbing and very original.

Louisa is also a very interesting character, her family relationships are strained, especially with her mother. Louisa explains that her mother never really wanted children, and as a result she has always been disinterested in raising them. Louisa is self-centered, spoiled, and bratty but she also has a troubled past. Cora has her work cut out for her, and Louisa is sneaky. While Cora may be traditional, and conservative, there was no denying that times were changing.

I loved the Chaperone, and I didn’t really know what to expect when I started the novel. I was immediately captured by the story, and it was much better than I expected. I expected a book about flappers, and 1920’s New York, but there is so much more to this novel. The historical details are plentiful, but the story is truly spellbinding. There has been a lot of buzz around this book, which is well deserved. I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday

I didn't receive any review books this week. I did buy 2 Ebooks. Have a great week everyone, and happy reading!

The Queen's Vow by C W Gortner

Traveler's Rest by Ann Tatlock

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood



Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Pages: 428
Released: 2012
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

Iris and Eden Bellwether are upper-class, privileged siblings. They mostly keep to themselves and their small group of friends who they’ve known through many years of boarding school. They now attend Cambridge, fully indulging in their parent’s money. Iris is pressured to follow in her father’s exact footsteps in the medical field while Eden lives and breathes music; he’s a master organist and the apple of his parent’s eye. Oscar Lowe stumbles upon the sibling in a church, when he can’t help but stop to listen to Eden play. He quickly learns he is the complete opposite of them, he works for a living, never attended post-secondary education but when he falls in love with Iris, he tries to accept Eden and all his quirks and narcissistic behavior. Eden firmly believes he has the power to heal through his music. When Eden’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and seemingly dangerous, Oscar can’t believe Iris is torn between believing Eden and thinking he’s wrong. Oscar is determined to prove Eden isn’t the healer he believes himself to be. Eden becomes aggressive, distant and determined to prove he has the power to heal. Tensions rise between Oscar and Eden. How far will Eden go? How far will his friends leave him go?



Review:

Readers will immediately be pulled into The Bellweather Revials, it’s almost impossible to close the book after reading a few short pages. Wood’s opens the book with utter chaos, and confusion- three bodies, two dead and one barely living. Oscar is quickly introduced as he begins to unravel the puzzle for readers and explain his relationship with Iris and her manic brother. The pace is so action-packed and fast that’s hard to put it down at any point. The characters are unpredictable and very well developed. Eden is a fascinating character, he’s not likable but readers will remain curious about who he really is. Is he really a healer? Is he really just a disturbed, young adult who has a “God” complex? He’s so convincing that readers are left wondering throughout the book. The book concludes with the events that led up to the bodies, and readers are finally privy to who was killed and what happened.

This may be Benjamin Wood’s debut novel, but it is a pure masterpiece. It is a solid piece of literature that deserves many accolades. The Bellwether Revivals doesn’t read like a contemporary novel, it has more of an older, classic tone. I was constantly thinking of Sylvia Path’s The Bell Jar while reading this one. The impending doom, the psychological situation, and the madness really kept me captivated.

I highly recommend this one. It might sound complicated but it really isn’t. The writing is amazing, and the story is even more fascinating. I was really happy to read this one, it was unique and fresh. I don’t think I’ve really read a novel like this one before. This is definitely be a 2012 favorite.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Everybody has Everything by Katrina Onstad



Publisher: Emblem
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Released: 2012
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

James and Ana are happily married with successful careers, their one wish is to have a child, and they’ve recently learned that they both have fertility issues. They begin to test the waters of the adoption process, unsure if this is really what they want. Their lives as married, childless adults has been isolating, it seems like everyone is consumed with their children and couples struggle to include them in activities, thinking they wouldn’t be interested. Marcus and Sarah were different, but James and Ana had no idea just how much their relationship would change their lives. When Marcus passes away in a car accident and Sarah is left in a coma, James and Ana learn two year-old Finn has been placed into their care and they were appointed his legal guardians. Scared, grieving and worried about Finn, they take him home, and hope for the best. They are forever thinking, what would Sarah do in this situation? Every time Finn mentions his parents, they are put on edge and not sure what to say. Ana quickly begins stepping away, distancing herself and re-evaluating her situation, unsure if this is what she wants. James has been adapting much better than Ana, and Finn has become very attached to him. Ana is not sure why this bond doesn’t seem to be happening between her and Finn. Her whole life is turned upside down, and everything she thought she wanted becomes blurry.



Review:

I loved, loved this one! The emotions are raw and the situation very real. How do you parent someone else’s child? They don’t know if this is temporary, perhaps Sarah will wake up. What would they do if this does become permanent? Ana and James learn that life continues, even when you want it to pause and slow down. To make matters worse, James loses his job. Ana is offered a great career move but she will need to move. Life becomes hectic, and unstable.

Ana begins to question if parenting is for everyone. Did she want a child because James wanted one? Ana forces readers to think about some stereotypes, childless adults face. This is another book that is great for discussion. Onstad had me glued to the pages, and I struggled with my feelings towards the characters. How could I judge Ana about her uncertainty when her life has been turned upside down? They were friends with Marcus and Sarah, but how well did they really know them? The friends they would turn to in this type of situation are no longer around.

This is Katrina Onstad’s second novel, but the first I’ve read. I am a fan, and will be looking for her first book entitled How Happy To Be. This book evoked many emotions in me, and made me question what I would do in this situation. This situation is something readers probably never think about, but it does happen and could happen. Highly recommended!





Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Home by Toni Morrison



Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 160
Released: 2012
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5



Synopsis:

Frank Money is a bitter, damaged veteran, he has been lost since returning from the Korean War, and he’s since been institutionalized. When he receives word that his sister has been medically abused by a doctor who has been experimenting on her, he escapes and rushes to try and rescue her. Frank is miles and miles away, and has plenty of time to reflect on his past. Frank is angry, and trying to find his place in the world he left behind, forced to return to the state he never wanted see again. Life was difficult during the war, but life has been even more difficult since he’s returned; he’s been harboring a deep, dark secret that he can’t run away from, he’s mourning his two best friends that fought along-side him, two friends that he grew up with, and feeling guilty for being the only one who survived. Frank still has life lessons to learn.

Review:

Home is a short novel, but it is action-packed and will keep readers on their toes. The plot is relatively simple, but very satisfying. Frank Money reminisces about his past, but he’s not completely reliable. Readers will need to remember how fragile he really is, he’s tortured by his past, and his future looks bleak. Can saving his sister snap him out of his tortured mind? He’s been abusing alcohol, and trusting no one. Frank learns that home is where the heart is, and sometimes it is where you least expect to find it. People can surprise you, and offer assistance when you never thought it was possible.

I haven’t read many Toni Morrison novels, but I really loved Home. I would really like to explore more of her novels. Home is a perfect book club read, that case be discussed on many different levels. I believe it takes a talented writer to evoke so many emotions in a reader, with a mere 160 pages. Since it is so short, you will refuse to put the book down. Morrison depicts the racial issues at the time, and it’s very interesting to read about the racial divide and how this affects Frank. I highly recommend this one! I will certainly be checking out more of her novels as well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Hi!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. We finally moved, and we're all unpacked! We've been bringing over boxes and unpacking all week. Friday, we just had all the big furniture. I might have evenings back soon. What will I do? Oh, right...read! We have a few more things to get done this week, and then we will be all settled. Simon and Schuster sent me 2 books that's I'm very excited about. If you went to BEA, I hope you had a wonderful trip! I'm hoping to go next year. Here is what I got this week:

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan

I also bought some ebooks:

Bone China by Roma Tearne

City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ebook Sales

5.99$


4.99$

B&N (No Sale Price)
Amazon


 3.99$



3.99$


* Prices were checked before posting, and may be subject to change per country.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Hi!

I didn't receive any review books this week, but I did buy a few Ebooks.


Here is what I bought:


 

Everybody has Everything by Katrina Onstad ( Currently Reading)

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall


Quick question: Do you prefer when bloggers link to Goodreads?

I haven't been doing it the last few weeks because i've been so busy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Month in Review: May




May was pretty hectic and busy, my reading did slow down but I was determined to read as much as possible. Reading is my entertainment and my way of relaxing. I'm a week away from moving, and so excited to have things slow down. This week has been a particulary bad week, we had a major thunderstorm which flooded my parents basement. They are currently on vacation, and my husband and I took care of everything. My nephew was sick yesterday, and I broke my Kobo Vox. I dropped it, and now it has a very badly damaged screen. I have another Vox, so I was able to keep it together and not panic but honestly, it's been a tough week...

Hoping things start to look up from here.

This month I read:



Home by Toni Morrison (Review to come)



The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood (Review to come)


In our current apartment I only had room for one little bookshelf, now I have room for my three big shelves! I've been going through all my books and deciding which ones to keep. I have 7 boxes of book that will be donated to my church. I also need to convince my husband another set of shelves will fit. Here is what they look like so far: