Quick Book Review: Queen of America by T.J. Slee

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Book Review
Book Title: Queen of America  (Freya Eriksdottir #1)
Author: T.J. Slee
Date Read: September 26th – November 4th, 2016
Date Reviewed: November 4th, 2016

Background: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads for an honest review.

Quick Synopsis: This book is all about female vikings, which is a nice change from seeing all men vikings all the time. Freya goes out on a mission and is determined to finish it. You follow her struggles and the adventures that vikings have. It’s a great read following strong female characters that are also vikings.

Evaluation: This book was a good read, but I felt that the style did not match with me. This book is truly beautifully written and I love the strong female characters, the exciting plot and the incredible adventures, but I just didn’t like the writing style. It felt too slow for me, but that’s because I really like to read fast paced books. Yet, this book isn’t slow by any means – TJ keeps up an amazing pace. I just found it didn’t fit well with me as a reader. Other readers will definitely like this book! It gets all my praises and awards, but as a reader I just know the types of writing styles I like to read and TJ’s writing style doesn’t match with me personally.

That being said, it’s time to get into the juicy parts of this book. You follow Freya as she goes on an adventure, but you also meet her brother Leif. Her story was truly inspiring and compelling, which had me continue and finish this book.

For people interested in viking history but want a more interesting read than a history textbook, I would definitely suggest picking this book up. It’s a great fiction read that keeps you hooked and gives you some insight into their culture.

There are definitely characters I would have loved to see more of, but other than that there’s not much else to improve on in this set of stories. It’s truly a great read and I suggest readers pick it up!

4 out of 5 stars.

Manga March Book Review: Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel) by Neil Babra

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Book Review
Book Title: Hamlet
Book Author: William Shakespeare
Adapter/Illustrator: Neil Babra

Introduction: I love Shakespeare, and Hamlet has always been my favourite of all of his plays and sonnets so when I saw this little manga on sale at a location book shop I had to pick it up and read it. I read it about 3  years ago, but I finally found it again on my bookshelf and decided to read it again and review it.

Review:

This adaption is truly an adaption – it’s not identical to the original, but it’s great for younger readers wanting to get into Shakespeare. The typical Shakespeare form is not used, but that makes it easier for read for those not fluent in his verses.

This task of adapting the famous Hamlet into a shorter, simpler work would have been hard but Neil Babra makes it look so easy. The story is shortened into a perfect, young reader-friendly adaption. The famous lines are still in there, but they are so much easier to understand and read. The book is not dumbed down by any means, so readers do not have to worry – this book is a timeless, incredible adaption that should definitely be introduced to young readers.

The artwork is fantastic and matches perfectly with the story. The wordplay that Shakespeare uses is often seen within the pages of this book in illustrated form, which can make any true Shakespeare fan get a true chuckle out of this work.

Overall, this book was fantastic. The facial expressions, the artwork, the rewording, and the narrative are all fantastic.

Five out of five stars.

Quick Book Review: Mount of Hope:A Victorian Tale of Young Love by Jamie Michele

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Mount of Hope was a wonderful historical, romance read!

This novel is set in the 19th century in England and follows the main characters Alfred and Julia, who are adoptive siblings. Julia is considered an ugly duckling and far from the wonder child Alfred is, especially since Julia was adopted when her parents passed. The young woman has feelings for her adoptive sibling that are very obvious, but Alfred seems a little oblivious to it all. Meanwhile, Alfred is falling for a beautiful young woman named Amelia, who might be more deceptive than she seems at first glance.

Overall, this novel was cute. It took a while for me to get into the plot, since it starts out rather slow. It is a great novel to read though! The language is beautiful and it is obvious that Jamie Michele translated it from the original copy of the book.

Alongside the slow speed, I did find the novel to have many cliches. Perhaps the cliches are very obvious since this is an older novel, but I guessed most of what would happen. Despite these two problems, this book is an incredible novel!

I would definitely suggest this to people interested in: Romance, historical novels, historical romances, and someone who just wants a short, quick read.

I give this book a three out of five stars, due to the slow pace and the cliches that were easily guessed throughout the novel.

I received this novel for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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I never liked stories about History, but this novel definitely made me gain a new respect for War stories.

The Nightingale follows a set of two sisters throughout World War 2, and it a thrilling, addicting read. Vianne Mauriac’s husband has set off to war and she must deal with the aftermath of his absence. Soldiers from Germany are invading France, which means anyone who is labelled a Jew will be in trouble in the near future. Vianne must deal with soldiers staying in her home, friends disappearing, orphaned children, and situations no woman would ever want to face.

Meanwhile Vianne’s sister Isabelle is doing the opposite of Vianne, she’s getting involved. Vianne is trying to stay quiet if she decides to help, but Isabelle is being loud and proud. Isabelle will help people, and is determined to no matter what.

The story has many different arcs and plot intertwined in one. Vianne’s love story with her husband, Isabelle’s love story, Vianne and Isabelle’s rough relationship with their father, the War itself, the life of Jewish people during the war, the life of those who are friends with Jewish people, and many other little side plots that create an epic, war-time drama.

I found this book to be very believable. The entire novel is written in an excellent style and gets better as you read. At first it seemed a little boring, but after a few chapters I was hooked an addicted. The novel shares the feelings of the characters during this rough time, and nothing seems out of place.

As someone who didn’t have a great appreciation for History, I definitely respect anyone who lived or lost during the wars now. While this might be a fictional novel, it gives many examples of what happened to people during the war time. Kristin Hannah did an excellent job showcasing the War in a fictional novel and making it highly believable.

I would suggest this book to anyone who likes: Historical fiction, dramatic novels, novels with a mere splash of romance, war stories, and realistic novels.

Five out of five stars! A truly amazing read that transports you to World War ll in France.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

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I usually do not read this kind of book, but I must say it wow-ed me on so many levels. It started out to slow for my liking, but after about three chapters I was highly addicted and I wanted to know the life story of Ichmad Hamid. This book follws the life of Ichmad Hamid from when he was a child to when he begins an elderly man. You learn of the bright mind that Ichmad has and how he tries to get a better life for his family because of his gifted mind. I learned quite a bit about culture from this book, and I learned an even greater amount of knowledge on racism and hatred. This book centrals around a main concept (at least what I got as the main theme) of family. No matter what happened in this book Ichmad cared greatly about his family and always focused on that. When Ichmad went through school, he made sure to consider his family before every move. Ichmad made sure to think of his family when he started to develop farther in his love life as well.

I only had two problems with this book, and one was what was centered around Nora. She did go along well with the theme of family, but her storyline did break my heart quite a bit.

My second problem was that the book just seemed to end. I didn’t really see a resolution of any form happen, it felt as if the author ran out of words she was allowed to use and ended it. If some form of slowing down or conclusion would have happened, it could have been a much better book.

Either way, I believe it deserves 5 out of 5 stars for the beautiful message it sends.

Side note: I received this book free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: An American Duchess by Sharon Page

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This romantic novel by Sharon Page reminded me how much I loved romance novels.

I hadn’t touched a pure romance book for a while, and when I won this book and decided to read it, I was not let down. This book was beautifully written in a time period that reminded me a lot of “The Great Gatsby” by F Scott Fitzgerald. The book battles some issues including loss, war, love, following your dreams and also focusing on being a time piece rather than a modern day piece.

Following Zoe, who is a headstrong girl who wants to do what she wants and not others was pretty stereotypical, but she was not the stereotypical character other than following the path of many other famous lead characters. She is not your typical lady, since she is willing to be both ladylike, and tomboy-ish and sarcastic.

I could not put this book down and I was glued to every page when I was reading it. The novel featured beautiful descriptions and had a lot of heart put into it. The emotional roller coaster I experienced while reading this book was possible only through the author’s ability to make the characters feel real and have the situations seem realistic.

Beautiful book! Five out of five stars! I cannot praise this book enough!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

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Title: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Date Read: February-September 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes

Introduction: A long time ago I wanted to watch the movie adaption (with Natalie Portman) of this book, but once I rented it and noticed there was a book I decided to not watch the film and try to find the novel. That was way back when the film came out, so it’s been a long time trying to find the book (and forgetting about the book the minute I got to the book store…whoops!). When I finally got to reading it, the book took me months (literally months, look at the date read…) to finish this book. Why? Because it starts off slow and explains every detail you can imagine! But overall, it was a good book and I want to read the rest of them!

A lot of my criticism is based on the historical accuracy, but it is also in how the writer displayed these characters. For example, Anne is said to have been a strong and not evil woman in real life, yet she seemed to be quite spineless and conniving in the novel. I would have loved to see a stronger character, since the one we got doesn’t appear to be as fleshed out as Philippa might have liked.

Quick Summary: Mary and Anne Boleyn are sisters during Henry the VIII’s reign. Mary falls in love with Henry, and begins to enjoy the life of royalty. But what happens when Anne decides to take her place? With both the girls being pawns in their family’s  game, drama sorts to ensue on all levels.

This book was (loosely) based on historical facts – Henry VIII did reign, and both of the women were his lovers. But (obviously) the conversations and exact events that happen in the novel did not happen in real life.

Evaluations: I enjoyed this book once I got closer to the end. I won’t lie and say it was all sunshine and roses all the way through, in fact it started off rather boring for me. All the explaining and slow introduction of the characters made me want to put the book down. But, I was determined to finish this book because I want to watch the movie. Once I got through the first 3/4s of the book, I became totally obsessed. The drama, love triangles, the arguments, the sex scenes, all of it combined made the book suddenly pick up speed and become almost like a historical soap opera.

I did enjoy learning a bit about history through this book. While not all the history is accurate and I fact checked after I read, it gave me an interesting insight (despite the fictional aspects of the story). After reading this, it made me want to research Henry the VIII and all of his wives and children.

Overall, while it was a slow starter, it was very insightful. Philippa Gregory did an incredible job of getting me interested in history!

Plot: The plot was a slow start, as I’ve said numerous times already. It takes a while to get into the book, but once you do you don’t regret it (well, you might. It’s a long book).  The plot follows Mary and Anne Boleyn, with Mary being the first courting the King. This part was not as interesting as Anne’s courting which occurs later in the book. I would have loved Philippa to expand on Mary’s relationship with the King to give the reader a bit more passion and love towards their relationship. Even later in the novel the King acts as if almost nothing happened with Mary, and that left me feeling cheated. The King really threw his women away like that? He never treated his wife Katherine like Mary, just treating her like some commoner. He at least talked to her…
Anne’s courting was far more interesting, and dramatic. The involvement of her brother George also made the reader question what was going on (did they actually sleep together? Was this just comments?).
I found I did not totally like the ending. Suddenly the entire court thought George and Anne had slept together, but the reader never really saw these rumors flying around. I understand that Philippa probably had to finish her book at a certain word count, but the sudden change in plot to the sad ending made me feel cheated as well.

Characters: There were many characters within in novel, but I’m only going to focus on a few.
Mary Boleyn – I liked her better than Anne, but she was definitely not my favourite character in literature. She wasn’t relatable in any sense, even if I was cheering for her over her sister. She reminded me of a “Bella Swan” sort of character (with more emotion and depth). She was there, and you rooted for her, but she could have been a lot better. Throughout the story I felt bad for her constantly – the loss of her relationship with her lover Henry, then the King Henry, then her first husband William, and up until her final marriage to William Stafford, I just felt like the entire story was stacked against her. It was like we were made to feel bad for her, and it wasn’t exactly a choice.

Anne Boleyn – Philippa Gregory must hate Anne Boleyn, because she was the main character and the villain in this novel. She was constantly trying to one up Mary. The woman was conniving, mischievous, she stabbed anyone and everyone in the back to get what she wanted, and it was impossible to like her. After researching, I discovered that most historians say Anne was quite sweet, much like Mary was for the novel. It was disappointing to see a character who I wanted to like to be so evil, but there needed to be a villain in this book. I also found that the book described Anne as being cheerful and witty, yet she never portrayed that. She was often very nasty to her sister and was always expecting to get everything she wanted. Her seduction of the King also seemed very lame in the long run. She had never known a man that she loved like the King? Never even a school girl’s crush? And suddenly she was asking everyone and their Mother how to woo, and seemed to be totally innocent. I doubt the total ignorance on her part. This also made her seem like an odd character – so manipulative and nasty, but a sweet and innocent girl? That didn’t connect well with me.
When you read up about Anne and how she gave birth to the Queen of England (Queen Elizabeth the First) you see how strong she actually was. I would have loved to see her be a stronger character. Her daughter became the Queen! This woman must have an incredible back story, and she does. This book doesn’t show this, and that lets my English heritage down.

Henry VIII – I felt like Henry was a total throwaway character. He was essentially just a means to an end, and not the character he could have been. He was some toy for both the women to sleep with to gain power and he seemed to have less strength than the women. I was always under the impression that the King’s ruled over all and were very strong, but Henry seemed very wimpy. His wife Katherine seemed to have more strength than he did, and that made him quite pathetic.

Themes/Creativity:
Witchcraft was a part of this novel, and it appears out of nowhere (like a lot of things in this novel). It appears to be a way to get rid of George and Anne since they die in real life, so they obviously have to die in the fictional novelization of their lives as well. If this would have been introduced earlier in the novel, even if just in stories and tales told to children, I would have liked this aspect of the book more. It seemed like a cop out.
The incest was also very strange. I understand it was a theory in their live’s made in historical books, but George and Anne suddenly becoming incestuous also seemed weird. It was hinted at, with a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the novel, but it could have been portrayed so much better.
The family issues also could have been made so much better. Anne and Mary constantly fight and try to one up each other, yet Mary does what Anne says and Anne still wants Mary’s help. Two sisters who hate each other as much as these women do wouldn’t help each other out, in my opinion. If they had little spats here and there it would be understandable, but the loyalty and changed in personalities when they need to like each other was incredibly strange.

Uniqueness: Compared to more historical accurate novels, this book is unique! Anne is evil, Mary isn’t strong, there’s incest and witchcraft and drama! It’s unique! It gives a very different spin on this story, which makes Philippa a great novelist. If so many people read this, despite the historical inaccuracy and enjoyed it, she has done a great job! I applaud her for this novel despite it’s troubles. It truly is a beautiful read! Don’t discount the issues I found within it anything other than constructive criticism! Philippa Gregory did a fantastic job making this novel and I want to read more of her books to see how she grew (since this was the first book written in the series).

Strengths: The love stories were a great strength. Philippa should write Harlequin romance novels! This book is almost like a historical Pretty Little Liars or Desperate Housewives! Which seems fitting, since there is a Tudors series on television….

Weaknesses: Character growth. I found these characters stale and their descriptions in accurate. A conniving, evil woman is sweet and virginal? That’s definitely two sets of traits I wouldn’t necessarily put together. A witty and caring woman suddenly becomes wicked towards her sister every time she sees her? Hmm, that doesn’t make much sense either…

Score: 3 out of 5 stars.
I enjoyed this book and I will read the rest of the series (it will probably take me a decade, but I’ll get there), but it had it’s issues.