Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Abundance

 

In my opinion, Abundance is the definitive historical fiction novel on Marie Antoinette. I think she captures her perfectly as she is the one telling her own story. In this novel, she is portrayed as entirely human throughout the whole thing. I particularly enjoyed the fact Naslund framed the novel into 5 acts like a Shakespearean play, and I think it works. The rise and fall of Marie Antoinette and the rest of the nobility does read like a Shakespearean tragedy. Though there were times Naslund’s prose delved a bit into being really fluffy, I still enjoyed it.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marie and her husband, Louis XVI. A lot of authors seem to go the way of having Marie Antoinette hop into bed with Axel von Fersen like two seconds after they met. But I don’t necessarily believe that was the case. Instead, Naslund builds an awkward love story between Marie and Louis and it’s just the cutest. Yes, their relationship starts off rocky as we all know by not consummating their marriage for seven years but they grow to truly love each other. And yes, I do believe they loved each other. After all, Marie Antoinette stayed with him to the very end even though there were numerous times when she could have gotten the hell out of dodge.

The descriptions of Versailles (the palace and court life itself) brought me to a completely different time and place. While reading, I also did the virtual tour of the real palace and it enhanced the reading experience.

I did not want to get to the end of the novel for obvious reasons. I truly sympathized with her plight. She honestly tried to do the right thing for the people but they just hated her… mostly for things she had no control over.  A lot of the things she was accused of literally every other noble did the same thing many times over. And don’t even get me started on The Diamond Necklace Affair. Ugh.

I truly loved this book and it might actually crack my all-time favorites list.

Rating: 5/5

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Bookish Posts

Winter Wrap Up

For the first couple months of 2018, I did pretty well reading-wise. So far, I’ve read 13 books in January, February, and March with a total of 5, 159 pages. Yay me! Here are the books that I’ve read so far:

  • Some Luck by Jane Smiley [4/5]
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau [3/5]
  • Early Warning by Jane Smiley [3.5/5]
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys [5/5]
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios [4/5]
  • Golden Age by Jane Smiley [2/5]
  • March: Book 3 by John Lewis [5/5]
  • Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember edited by John Mellon [5/5]
  • Bingo Love by Tee Franklin [5/5]
  • Victoria Victorious by Jean Plaidy [3/5]
  • Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee [5/5]
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab [4.5/5]
  • Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser [4/5]

Of all the books I’ve read,  my favorites have probably been A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee, and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. I’ve reviewed the other two, but Bygone Badass Broads is a definite must-read if you want to learn about little known historical women who kicked ass and took names. I 100% reccommend it.

badasss historical chicks

Here’s to reading a lot more during the spring (despite the fact that I have no time off until Memorial Day weekend because our spring break was stripped away because of the snow)…

Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

 

A Darker Shade of Magic is an awesome New-Adult Fantasy novel following a young man named Kell who has the power to move between alternate Londons: grey London, red London, and white London. He serves as an ambassador between the Londons and on one of his trips, he acquires an artifact that changes his life forever.

What I Liked:

The worldbuilding is amazing! I love V. E. Schwab’s different versions of London. Each one is very different and it was easy to tell them apart. My favorite of them all, of course, has to be White London. I hope we see a lot more of it than we did in the sequel. I mean, we do see a lot of it, don’t get me wrong, but I want to know more about the geography, other countries, the political workings, and the royal family…especially Prince Rhy, because swoon. White London creeped me out (in a good way) and I thought the Dane twins were deliciously cruel (though a bit two-dimensional). Even though I know they already played twins in another enormously successful franchise, I kept picturing Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Astrid and Athos. We know Aaron Taylor-Johnson can pull off white hair, and I bet Olsen can, too.

scarletwitchquicksilver-1430152839

 

Kell and Rhy’s bromance was well-fleshed out especially as you find out how much Kell has exactly done for Rhy. It is heartbreaking. The sacrifice that Kell makes to keep him safe made me cry, and books usually don’t make me cry so that says a lot.

My favorite character has to be Delilah effing Bard, wannabe pirate. She was all of my favorite things: feisty, sarcastic, and didn’t take crap from anyone. What I really loved was that even though she was a criminal, Lila does show that she has (some) morals and is really rather vulnerable. Even if she doesn’t like to show it. I totally ship her and Kell so it’d better happen.

heart eyes

The magic system is a unique take on the four elements system that is so overdone nowadays. (Yes, I do realize I am writing a novel that has this magic system, but I’m trying to overhaul it.)

What I Didn’t Like (mini spoiler):

I found A Darker Shade of Magic to be a bit predictable. From the moment we met Holland and Dane twins, I pretty much knew what was going to go down. They were just too textbook cruel. However, it wasn’t predictable enough where I did not enjoy the novel.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Disney Stuff, Non-Bookish Post

Disney Tag

You guys may not know this, but I am a humongous Disney fan.

disney gif

If I could go to Disney World every year of my life, I would but, you know, that would be ridiculously expensive. Anyway, I thought I’d do a couple posts about my love of Disney. In this post, I will be answering a whole bunch of questions pertaining to everything Disney from the movies to the parks.

1.) Your favorite character?

my favorite character ever.gif

My favorite Disney character would forever have to be Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remember the movie coming out when I was 6, and I was so drawn to Esmeralda. She was fierce, funny, and kind…all of the traits 6 year old me wanted to have. In almost every game on the playground whether it was Power Rangers or superheroes, I had to be Esmeralda, even though my poor friends probably wanted to exclude me forever. I even had an Esmeralda umbrella. Also, one of my friends in kindergarten had someone dress up as Esmeralda for her birthday and give us all makeovers. However, I’m a bit ashamed at how long I actually believed it was actually her. Don’t judge me…

2.) Your favorite Disney princess(es)?

mulanbelle

tiana

I have a 3 way tie when it comes to Disney princesses, so bear with me friends. My 3 top Disney princesses are Belle, Mulan,  and Tiana. I love Belle because she’s a bookworm just like me, I love Mulan because she’s a badass, and I love Tiana because she’s such a hard-worker who is determined to get what she wants.

A VERY close second is Elsa.

3.) Your favorite heroine?

Please see #1.

 

4.) Your favorite prince?

aladdin

My favorite Disney prince is Aladdin. I don’t necessarily know why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that he was my first crush as a child. I mean, look at that face. My 2nd favorite Disney prince and a close runner up is the Beast.

5.) Your favorite hero?

milo thatch

Milo Thatch from Atlantis. This poor underrated nerd. He spends basically his entire life searching for Atlantis, finds it, and risks his life for a place he’s only been in for what, 3 days? He gets all of the kudos from me. Besides, his relationship with Kida is adorable.

6.) Your favorite animal?

nala

I absolutely love Nala from The Lion King. She’s loyal to her kingdom, enjoys having fun, and is one amazing Disney queen. An honorable mention is her daughter Kiara from The Lion King II, and Koda from Brother Bear. 

7.) Your favorite sidekick?

pascal

I love Pascal from Tangled. He’s so hilarious. I do realize that he’s an animal, but for the last question, I went with animals who are main characters.

8.) Your favorite villain?

maleficent

Maleficent is the first character that comes to mind when I think of a Disney villain. She is THE Disney villain in my opinion.

9.) Your favorite song?

bells of notre dame

“The Bells of Notre Dame,” solely because of that high note at the end.

10.) Your favorite love song?

can you feel 1

can you feel 2

I’m going to have to be real basic and say “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King….

batb

 

…and Beauty and the Beast…

So much good music, though…even from live-action movies…

can i have this dance

I’m done now…I promise…

11.) Your favorite villain song?

be prepared

“Be Prepared” from The Lion King. ‘Nuff said.

12.) Your least favorite song?

It’s possible to have a least favorite Disney song? How? Okay, okay, I guess if I had to choose one, I’d choose…

le sigh

I don’t hate it. I’m just pretty much indifferent to it.

13.) Your favorite kiss?

all of them

I don’t know who made this, but it’s pretty accurate. I cannot possibly choose just one. It’s just downright cruel to ask it.

14.) Your favorite classic movie?

sleeping-beauty

I love Sleeping Beauty. I don’t see it a lot anymore because I don’t own it, but it’s probably my favorite of the earlier Disney movies. I love the music, the animation, and the voice acting.

15.) Your favorite newer Disney movie?

I have another tie. These two movies shaped my childhood so much. I’m pretty sure Beauty and the Beast is the first Disney movie I’ve ever seen and The Lion King is the first Disney movie I saw in theaters. They hold a dear place in my heart.

the lion kingbeauty-and-the-beast-poster

 

16.) Favorite live-action movie?

beauty-and-beast-2017-3

I had to. Just everything about the 2017 live-action movie is astounding. When I went to see it in theaters, I cried because it was just so beautiful. The cinematography, the music, the acting, the special effects…it was just amazing. This version will definitely be one I introduce to my children along with the animated version. Besides, Emma Watson is amazing.

17.) Most underrated movie?

underrated

This movie does not get any credit…

18.) Your favorite theme park?

disney world

I will always love Magic Kingdom at the Disney World park in Florida. It was the first park I’d ever been to, and I will always act like a 5 year old every time I set foot on its grounds. I’ve been 4 times so far and every time, I always have a new experience. I hope I always feel like that when I go there.

19.) Your favorite theme park attraction?

kali-river-rapids-e1482457644209-1024x770

When I went to Animal Kingdom, I loved the Kali River Rapids ride. It was on a super hot day, and it was a really fun way to get cool. It’s one of my favorite water rides ever!

20.) Why do you like Disney?

I love the Disney franchise because it makes you believe that anything is possible. It makes you feel that it’s not childish to wish on stars or believe in true love. Yeah, I know it’s a super huge mega-corporation, but I love everything about it. I hope Disney stays around for a very long time.

Book Tags

Book Tag – The Stationary Book Tag

Because of my obsessions with pretty notebooks, pens, and other stationary goods, I thought it was only too appropriate to do this book tag. It was created by Sam @ RiverMooseReads.

 

Pencils – Name a favorite middle grade or children’s book. 

Pencils

I have several favorite children’s and MG books so bear with me…

  • Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
  • Swimmy – Leo Lionni 
  • Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet Ahlberg
  • Goosebumps – R. L. Stine
  • The Babysitter’s Club series – Ann M. Martin
  • The Magic Tree House series – Mary Pope Osbourne 
  • Sweet Valley Twins – Francine Pascal 
  • Dear America series
  • American Girl series
  • Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Pens – A basic staple for any reader

6atrd_Contour_Pens1

I’m going to be completely basic and name the Harry Potter series. I’ve always enjoyed reading as a kid, but I always was made fun of for it. Then Harry Potter came out and it completely changed the game. Suddenly, I wasn’t made fun of for reading because EVERYONE was reading!

 

Notebooks – What books do you own multiple copies of?

spiral-journals-assorted-colors-800

I actually own multiple copies of the first two books in the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. I bought the first two books on my Kindle, and then received the entire trilogy in hardcover for this past Christmas. 

 

Markers – A book with a beautiful cover

pretty-book-covers

 

Glue – Two characters that work well together even if they aren’t together

glue

I’m going to cheat and name several characters for this question. The six main characters from Six of Crows are my FAVORITE ensemble cast EVER. Of course to pull off such a dangerous heist, all six of them have to work very well with each other to get the job done. 

 

Scissors – What is a book you’d like to destroy?

eiffel tower scissors

Hoo boy…would I like to take scissors to the first book (and following books) of the House of Night series. Oh, God, this series is actually the worst I have ever decided to attempt to read…

 

Art Kit – What completed series do you own?

art kit

  • The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas
  • Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
  • Queens of England series by Jean Plaidy
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • The Century trilogy by Ken Follett
  • North and South trilogy by John Jakes 

 

I TAG….

EVERYONE!!!

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Book Revew – Victoria Victorious by Jean Plaidy

Victoria Victorious

First, let me say that this was a re-read, and I’m not entirely too sure why I decided to read this again as I wasn’t too fond of it 6 years ago.

Victoria Victorious is a fictional “autobiography” about Queen Victoria chronicling everything from her childhood, accession, and life on the throne to her relationships with her children, Prime Ministers, and most importantly, her one true love, Prince Albert.

What I Liked:

I loved the first 1/3 of the novel that describes how Victoria was raised and was never allowed to be alone ever. I could not imagine never having any time to myself and having my every move watched. I felt bad for her when her mother basically forbid her from having anything to do with her father’s relatives because her mother felt that they were beneath her. When she finally acceded to the throne, I cheered and even enjoyed the bantering relationship she had with Lord Melbourne.  However, when Prince Albert came into the picture, I suddenly remembered why it was that I was frustrated with this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

I honestly don’t understand how the relationship between Victoria and Albert could be considered one of the greatest love stories of all time. She was OBSESSED with him and he treated her like an idiotic child. Also, maybe it was just Plaidy’s characterization, but Albert was truly controlling. Every time they argued, he called her “dear child” and would talk about taming her temper, and she’d just simper and apologize even if said argument wasn’t even her fault.

tina fey eye roll

He was even borderline abusive of their oldest son, Bertie (King Edward VII). Albert would beat Bertie, called him stupid on more than one occasion, and did not think he was capable of doing pretty much anything. When anyone showed the slightest bit of affection toward him, he said the boy was being spoiled. This was ironic, because Albert himself spoiled their eldest daughter, Vicky, silly. Of course, this seems to stem from Albert being jealous that Bertie would take precedence over him in ceremonial gatherings. Queen Victoria allowed Albert to treat Bertie like this and never really tried to come to his aid.

Even after Prince Albert dies of typhoid, Victoria still obsesses over him, and makes decisions based on if Albert would do the same thing if he were alive.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that she loved him very much, but she doesn’t need to call him a saint and talk about how so very good he was on every page just because he didn’t cheat on her…

Verdict:

Despite how I feel about Victoria and Albert, I did grow to like her relationship with her children, especially Bertie, Vicky, and Alice, and actually liked them more than I liked their parents. However, since all Victoria could talk about was Albert for 300 pages, I can’t give this book more than 3 stars.

Book Reviews

Mini Review – Bullwhip Days edited by James Mellon

Bullwhip Days

Bullwhip Days is a collection of slave narratives that describes the horrors of slavery and what it really felt like to belong to another human being. Personally, I could not imagine going through what my ancestors went through and I could not admire their strength and courage enough. There are several tales that stuck with me as I read, especially one in which a female runaway slave got her breasts tore from her body by dogs after she was caught and brought back to the plantation. The cruelty slaves faced at the hands of their owners made me sick. I was also surprised by how many of the ex-slaves stated that the missed the slavery days and one man even praised the KKK. Like, what? I had to re-read that part again to make sure I’d read that right. Anyway, this book and other books like it are very important to read, especially for young African Americans. It is vital for us to learn about our history.

Rating: 5/5

Book Reviews

Book Review – Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea is definitely my first 5 star read of the year. It is, without a doubt, equal parts powerful, haunting, and heart-wrenching. Telling the story of a little known tragedy, Salt to the Sea follows four characters: Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a Polish girl; Florian, an East Prussian mystery man; and Alfred, a member of the German navy. Their stories start off individually but soon they come together amid thousands of refugees trying to flee the oncoming Soviet army aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

What I Liked:

Ruta Sepetys doesn’t sugarcoat history. When something bad happens, she says it plain…no matter how it might hurt to read about. This could not have been an easy book to write. For example, we have the quote,”

Mothers tried hurling their infants to passengers up on deck, but they couldn’t throw high enough. Their babies smashed against the side of the ship and plunged into the sea” (pg. 295)

Sepetys’s words will definitely stay with me for a long time. World War II was definitely not an era I would have wanted to live through especially when it comes to war-torn Europe. I could not even imagine being desperate enough to throw my child towards a sailing ship knowing there was a 99.9% chance they wouldn’t make it. Plus, the scenes describing the sinking ship are just as depressing to read about. However, it’s sooo important to do so.

Even though the chapters were short, I still feel like I got to know the essence of every single character and how they developed. I loved 3 of our four main characters and how they banded together first out of necessity and then later as a family. I sympathized with all of them, but especially Emilia. She was such a poor little cinnamon roll who I just wanted to hug and feed cookies to.

Also, I love how this novel is about little-known history. How crazy is it that this humongous ship sunk, killing about 9,400 people, and no one has ever heard of it? Then there’s the Amber Room, a treasure-filled room that no one knows the whereabouts of. This room hasn’t been seen since 1945 and apparently people have died trying to find it. It’s really interesting albeit creepy to research.

What I Didn’t Like:

Oh, Alfred…if only there was someone out there who could love you…

I HATED his character so much, and was actually very happy at his fate. He was legit a psychopath. I don’t want to give too much away, but omg I wanted to do this for the whole novel.

get him anna

Final Verdict: I just loved everything about this novel, and I can’t wait to read more of Ruta Sepetys’s work.

Rating: 5 stars

Book Reviews

Book Review – The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

 

The Testing

The Testing is basically the lovechild of The Hunger Games and Divergent. However, in my opinion, this one seems a bit more plausible than either series. Colleges and universities are already competitive so why not make applicants duke it out to win a FREE spot. Shoot, I’d take it. If there was more than one university in this futuristic version of America, it’d be even more believable.

Our main character, Malencia (Cia) Vale, really wants to go to university in the Capitol…I mean, Tosu City, which is indeed the Capitol of the United Commonwealth, and the only way to do that is to have students selected to participate in The Testing. Not only did they have the vastly normal standardized tests (which I’ve always hated), but there’s also hands-on experiments, group work (which again I hated), and a seven-hundred mile trek through a war-torn, poisonous landscape. Yeah, that escalated pretty quickly.

Even though I did think that the premise is plausible, the book was just okay. I really liked the beginning that covered Cia’s graduation, nervousness about whether she’d be accepted for the Testing, being accepted and then meeting other Testing candidates. I also really liked the way the first three tests were done. They were “normal” with definite catches. There were some casualties over the course of these, and I do have to mention a suicide does take place within this book. It was shocking and disturbing.

The fourth test, for me, lost all plausibility. It was basically The Hunger Games and took up at least half of the novel. Not only did Cia and her love interest have to find each other and then survive in the wilderness, but they additionally had to face other candidates who wanted to kill off the competition. I would have liked the novel so much better if the fourth test could have consisted of literally ANYTHING else.

Also, some of the characters I felt were entirely one-dimensional…namely Cia. We knew she was smart because she was selected for The Testing and that she was close to her family, but that was about it. She just had no personality, likes beyond her love interest, or dislikes. I couldn’t even manage to put a face to her. The “empty” protagonist works in other novels (i.e the Hunger Games again) because in other dystopians, the citizens aren’t supposed to have a personality because their identities have been basically stripped away. However, Cia is allowed to have a pretty great childhood. Many of the other Testing candidates, including Cia’s love interest, were much more distinctive.

Again, I thought The Testing was okay. Just…okay. Maybe I’ll continue with the rest of the series. I don’t know yet. I hope the next two books will be a bit more original though.

Rating: 3 stars

Book Reviews

Book Review – Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Some Luck

The concept behind Some Luck by Jane Smiley was cute. Every chapter in the novel is a year from 1920-1953 and covers a few moments in the life of a farming family from a small town in Iowa. It starts when the eldest child is about a year old and ends when he is thirty-three. I understand that this novel could be boring for most people, but I liked it for what it was.

What I Liked:

It felt like I was a guest of the Langdon family as I hung out with the patriarchs of the family, Walter and Rosanna, their six children, Frank, Joe, Mary, Lillian, Henry, and finally baby Claire, and other extended family and friends. Through the novel we see each child grow up and into their own person. There were definitely some characters I liked better than others. Out of the Langdons, I really liked Frank and Lillian, and even Rosanna’s sister, the feisty and outspoken Eloise. If we had seen more of her (basically if she was the main character), she would have most likely been my favorite. I also like how some characters made questionable decisions, but this just made them that much more human.

The passage of time in the novel was again a really great concept. The novel covers the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War all through the eyes of this one family. And we get to know them through how they react to these important moments in history.

What Was Meh:

Much of the beginning of the novel was about daily life on a farm. While I do respect those who farm and grew up on farms and stuff, whoo boy was this boring. There was chapter after chapter of talk about which crops grew better with which soil, and I almost fell asleep. The book didn’t truly get interesting until the children began to branch out and realize there was much more to life beyond their small farm.

Also, I felt some chapters just ended too abruptly. I’d be getting really involved with a character or a story line, and then next thing I knew, it’d be the end of the chapter. The novel itself actually ended this way after a HUGE moment, and even though I’m excited to move on to Book 2, I’m still sooooo mad.

Verdict:

I really did like this novel and I can’t wait to dive into Book 2, Early Warning. I’m rating this novel a 4, because even though I did like it, I did get pretty bored and I hope the chapters don’t go too fast in the next one.