Tag Archive | historical fiction

2 Reviews : The Musician’s Daughter and Two Moon Princess

Two short reviews today, of two books I enjoyed 🙂

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Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fantasy
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

As a princess, Andrea grew up in a castle with her sisters. Even though she has always dreamed of being a warrior, her family has more “ladylike” plans for her. When she steps through a portal and accidentally lands in modern California, her life is forever changed. Now torn between two worlds, she must face the consequences of her actions – and the war she may very well have started.

My Thoughts : 

Fantasy can be really good or really bad for me; books rarely fall in between and I tend to prefer those that aren’t too inspired by the medieval times. I also really enjoy books with characters randomly landing into a different world, whether it’s time-travel, parallel universe or some other magical mechanic. I was really curious to see where this novel would fall and I am glad to say I enjoyed it.

I have read more stories of characters from “our world” traveling to magical places than the opposite, so I found it interesting to have Andrea land here from a medieval-like world. Her observation of our world was one of my favorite parts, and I liked how the author depicted both places with their strengths and weaknesses; it gave weight to Andrea’s difficult decisions and to their impact.

I only wish I could have connected to Andrea more. I read how she felt, but I can’t say I “felt” it too. However, she was a strong young woman with a lot of determination, and I admired that. She also had a sense of humor, which is always good for someone in her situation (I would think it’s a good defense mechanism when landing into a weird place like ours)! She balanced other less likable characters, mostly people of her family, and it was enough for me to carry through the novel.

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The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

In 18th century Vienna, Theresa is facing the most difficult time of her life; her father has been found dead on Christmas Eve, and all points out to the cause being murder. With her pregnant mom in shock and a younger brother to worry for, Theresa takes on the mission of finding the truth, and it all begins with a missing violin and a mysterious gold pendant…

My Thoughts :

I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.

I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventure, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.

It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate!

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Review : Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days


Bright Young Things
and Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction
Series : Bright Young Things, Book 1 and 2
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The year is 1929.

Letty, Cordelia and Astrid all dream of a better life, a life filled with the glamour and lights only New York can bring. Whether they dream of the stage, a good marriage or finding their family, they will risk anything to reach their goals.

My Thoughts :

This is not a bad 3 stars review; on the contrary, these two novels were exactly what I had been hoping for from the author of The Luxe series. That is, an historical fiction series that would be light on the detailing and allow me to escape quickly to another era. Once again, Godbersen delivers : Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days are filled with romance, drama, mysteries, drama, treason and more drama. Did I mention the drama?

The historical setting feels merely like a pretext to have these young women walking around in pretty outfits. Even more than with The Luxe, I didn’t feel like I really was taken back in time. The details are limited to general ideas, and the girls certainly don’t act or talk in what you would imagine being 1929’s attitude.

I’ll risk repeating myself here to insist this story is, mostly, about the drama. This being said, I had fun reading them both, especially the first one. The second felt very much like a transition, with not much happening, but it certainly kept me reading anyway. Also, I liked the girls enough, whether they were together or against each other. They are balanced with a great variety of secondary characters, with just enough villains to make things interesting.

Godbersen’s novels are, to me, a guilty pleasure I can’t deny myself. Plus, while these covers aren’t as gorgeous as The Luxe ones, I still find them really pretty. I’ll be reading the next book for sure!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Bright Young Things
  2. Beautiful Days
  3. The Lucky Ones (coming September 2012)

Review : Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Pages : 348
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Series : Yes
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Jacob’s grandfather told him many stories about the kids he grew up with, unbelievable ones about children with superpowers and monsters.  Jacob has always thought there was no truth to the old man’s tales, until he travels to Wales and explores Miss Peregrine’s Home, the house where his grandfather spent his younger years. What is there was some truth to it, after all?

My Thoughts :

When Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children first started to appear on blogs last spring, I was, like many other readers, immediately drawn to its creepy cover and intriguing title. The summary begged you to read the book : “A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.” It felt useless to try resisting, so I got myself a copy very early after its release.

Did Miss Peregrine delivered on all of its promises? Not for me, I have to say. Though it was an enjoyable read, it also sent me into one of those states where I felt like I had a split-personality disorder : “I love it! No, no I don’t, I just like it. But I love the pictures! No I don’t. And I don’t enjoy the book at all. Yes I do! And those pictures are a fantastic touch!”

There were two problems for me with this book, that kept me from loving it instead of just liking it. The first was the fact that there are two distinct parts in the book : the first one reads like a dark, almost gothic mystery, that could with a few tweaks end up on the adult literature shelves. The second part reads like a fantasy/historical fiction that would belong on the Young Adult shelves (which is where I have seen this book so far). While I enjoy both genres, it was a strange shift between the two. It wasn’t badly done and I enjoy books that mix genres in a unique, new way, but for a reader who would enjoy gothic novels but not YA fantasy, I’m thinking the change might be disconcerting.

My second problem was the fact that the pictures sometimes felt forced into the story. There are a few instances where I really felt that the author had added a few lines to the story just so he could justify including a picture he found interesting.

That being said, I love, love, love having pictures alongside a story like this, and some did feel like effortless additions that enriched the story. I love the idea of using old photographs that are clearly “photoshopped” the old way, and then turning around and saying “Wait, there’s no trick! These pictures are true!” It brings back that feeling of being a kid, when fiction and reality were one and you felt like magic was there, right under your fingertips. It’s a beautiful feeling!

In the end – wait.

There is no end.

There is NO end!

Because Miss Peregrine’s last pages gives you a few answers, only to tell you “see ya in the next book if you want to know more!”. A book that is planned for 2013. Or something like that. I’m definitely looking forward to it though!

So, I did enjoy the book. It won’t make my 2011 best-of list, but I liked it enough to at least recommend that, if you think you might enjoy part 1 or 2 (and especially 2), you should give it a try! 🙂

‘Tis the Season to Review Books; 4 Reviews of Holidays-Related Books

I read a lot more holiday-related books last year than I did this year, but by the time I was ready to review them, it was January and it felt a little late to post these reviews. So, I’m doing this all at once, reviewing my sole Christmas read of 2011 (which was a disappointment) and last year’s reading (much better!) If you’re looking for a last minute holiday read, maybe these books will inspire you; if not, you can take a look to holidays-related posts for plenty more reviews and suggestions!

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The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
Pages : 266
Genre : Fiction, Holiday
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Gaby has a huge surprise for her kids : she is getting married on this Christmas, to one of the three men in her life – but they won’t know who until the big day! But for Gaby, this special day is also the occasion to celebrate with all of her family again, for the first time since her husband passed away five years ago.

My Thoughts : The Christmas Wedding was meant to be a cute story focused on family, and of course the mystery of Gaby’s wedding. And while I imagine it would make a good movie, the story felt a little rushed for me. There were many characters, each with their story lines, and in the end I felt like I never connected and only got a glimpse of their lives. I was also more interested by Gaby’s children than by the wedding mystery! It wasn’t bad, and for a holiday read, it was quick and had a little heart. So while I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a must-read, I would say borrowing it is a safe bet if you’re not too sure about it either.

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The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Pages : 306
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Holiday, Zombies!
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the book’s cover : ‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit. But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

My Thoughts : There’s no way I could have summarized this book in my words in such a perfect way! Because the book’s summary not only tells you what this fantastic novel is about, it also gives you a great idea of Moore’s voice and humor. The author definitely has a special brand or writing and humor, and I can see now why his books are so popular. The Stupidest Angel is not a cute Christmas tale, nor is it all fluffy and sentimental. It takes the magic of Christmas and turns it on its head, replacing it with silliness and zombies. It’s different, and funny, and while not something everyone would enjoy, it is something that those looking for a different kind of holiday reading will appreciate. The tagline, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, really says it all!

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Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Pages : 166
Genre : Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : A collection of short non-fiction stories, of the author’s personal experiences with the holidays.

My Thoughts : Without a doubt, the star of this too short book is the first essay, SantaLand Diaries, describing with great humor Sedaris’ life as an elf for Macy’s Santa. It was entertaining and memorable and sometimes heartbreaking – which I cannot say of the following stories, I have to sadly say. There are other interesting stories, but the first one is by far the best. Reading this book made me realize one thing though; I’m not sure I’m a Sedaris fan. I remember reading him a while ago and I thought I enjoyed it, but reading Holidays on Ice was a roller-coaster; I sometimes couldn’t let go of the book, and sometimes just couldn’t bother picking it up again. So overall, not great, but really not bad either; certainly worth a try!

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Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
Pages : 285
Genre : Romance, Time-Travel, Historical Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Melody is driving home for Christmas when a man suddenly appears in front of her car, all dressed in what looks like a Revolutionary War-era costume. It’s too late to avoid him, and Melody hits him. When Jakes insists he’s from another time, Melody is sure she hit him a little too hard on the head. Feeling guilty, she brings him home to her parents as a friend, just in time for a very unique Christmas.

My Thoughts : At some point in my blogging life, I’ll have to actually come out of my denial and admit that I do, sometimes, enjoy the occasional romance. I certainly enjoyed this one!

It had the Christmas magic mixed in with the additional time-travel magic. Melody was actually likable and, for a book that was mostly light fun, I was surprised by the fact that she wasn’t too cardboard-like. I like the other characters, too, and the story would make an excellent Christmas movie! It’s sweet, but not excessively sweet, more on the side of romantic-comedy than comedy-comedy, which is probably why I liked it so. I also appreciated the historical aspect.

The R.I.P. challenge and 3 Reviews : The Thirteenth Tale, Virals and Prophecy of the Sisters

Hello hello, all!

First of all, I missed you. It’s crazy how blogging has become such a part of my life that, when  I don’t do it for a while, I feel like there’s a little something missing in my life!

So October came and went (that was a while ago, I know!), and despite a huge blogging slump that has made this space a lot quieter, I did complete my R.I.P. challenge before October ended! I read 4 books, as I had planned, 2 of which had been on my initial list. Not bad!

I reviewed The Lace Reader previously, and it was definitely my favorite of the four. Now is the time to review the three other books I read for the occasion, and I thought it would be fun to review them all together. While I did really enjoy one of them, and thought the other two were okay, I found that I took very few notes and had little to say about them – hence the shorter reviews. Hopefully I’ll be back on top of this blogging thing before the end of the year!

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Pages : 406
Genre : Mystery, Gothic
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : When Margaret gets hired to write the biography of one of Britain’s most popular novelists, she does it mostly out of curiosity. Vida Winter has had a prolific writing life, but the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale is one she has never shared before. Margaret soons find herself captivated by Vida’s tales, as well as facing the missing parts of her own story.

My Thoughts : The Thirteenth Tale was much more intriguing, and much more intricate that I expected it to be – but in a good way! The story within a story is a fascinating one, it’s also one that leaves you wondering; is this true, or not? How reliable is this woman’s narrative, really?

The pace was really slow at times but I didn’t mind, at all. It gave the book time to develop gently, and there were a lot of details to these little pieces of the story, so I was never bored. I enjoyed Setterfield’s writing, and while I never completely connected to Margaret, I loved her as a character. It was definitely a great read for October, and for the R.I.P. challenge.

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Virals by Kathy Reichs
Pages : 452
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Virals, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Tory and her friends are the first surprised when, after rescuing a dog from a laboratory, they witness their bodies reacting differently to the world around them. Now not only do they have to deal with their new abilities, they also got involved in an unresolved murder case.

My Thoughts : In theory, this one had everything to grab my interest : secret laboratory experiments, an almost secluded island, a cold case, etc. But I just couldn’t get into it.

Now, I know that Reichs is quite the popular author, her Bones novels being in every bookstore and the TV series being quite popular, too. But I didn’t like the writing, at all. I didn’t get Tory and worse, I didn’t really want to get to know her more than I already did. So I pushed through the novel and to be honest, I did skim a little. I don’t know whether this is a good sample of Reichs’ writing but based on Virals, it really isn’t for me.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Fallen
  2. Seizure

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Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Pages : 340
Genre : YA
Series : Prophecy of the Sisters, Book 1
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Twin sister Lia and Alice Milthorpe are yoked together in an ancient prophecy that makes them enemies and could destroy them both. If Lia can break this familial curse, she can not only save her relationship with her beloved boyfriend; she can finally resolve the mystery behind her parents’ death.

My Thoughts : Heh. I guess that’s what happens when you get lured by the pretty covers : you take a chance and, sometimes, you get disappointed. While Prophecy of the Sisters wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, either. For me it fell in the forgettable category. I’m not going to follow up on this one, sadly, even though the next covers are equally pretty.

One of the thing that really kept me from enjoying this one was the writing. What I felt was that the author, having set the story at the end of the 19th century, was trying to write in a way that would imitate writers of this time, or what one would think sounds like a 19th century character’s voice. Sadly, the narration was way too modern, and I didn’t buy it at all. It’s a quick read though, so for those who enjoy the genre, I say give it a try!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Prophecy of the Sisters
  2. Guardian of the Gate
  3. Circle of Fire

3 Reviews : Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, The Espressologist and Saving Juliet

I’m back with some mini-reviews, and this time it’s the feel-good edition! All of these three contemporary YA novels had some cute stories told with a lot of heart, that I would recommend if you need a little sunshine in your day 🙂

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Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Pages : 313
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Norrie, Jane and Sassy are in big trouble : it’s Christmas, and their grand-mother just announced that after being deeply offended by a member of the family, she would be cutting everyone from her will, unless she received an apology. In a an effort to repair the damage done, each of the sister then takes pen to paper to write her own confession.

My Thoughts : To be fair, I have to admit that the only reason I’m not writing a solo review for this book is that I read it a year ago. I’m pretty sure I would have had a lot more to say if I had reviewed it then! Fortunately, I still have my notes from then so I can at least give you a general overview of my feelings about it.

I thought the story was a lot of fun and a great way to introduce the readers to three different characters, while making it all very cohesive. The sisters’ stories intersect many times, thus giving the readers the opportunity to see a same event from different angles, so I never felt like I was reading three different stories. There was a lot of heart to it and also some humor, and I still remember the ending with a smile. Standiford made me care about her characters with a story I devoured in one single night.

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The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
Pages : 184
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : By a single look at their drink, Jane can tell a lot about a person. All the while working at Wired Joe’s, she has been taking notes on who drinks what, trying to decipher the code behind coffee orders. When she turns her observations into a talent for matchmaking, Jane becomes the attraction of Wired Joe’s. But can she find her own perfect match?

My Thoughts : The Espressologist was a really quick read, and in a way I think it did the story a disservice : the characters and the romance didn’t really have time to develop, change or show more depth.

But.

The premise is super cute and reading this on the bus back from our trip to Toronto, I was dying of thirst reading the descriptions of all those yummy drinks! Hot and cold, sugary or milky, they all sounded very tasty. I loved to read the descriptions Jane wrote based on the drinks, and how cliché they sometimes were. I could totally see this made into a cute teen movie.

 

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Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors
Pages : 241
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Time Travel
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : All of Mimi’s life has always been about theater. Raised by a family of actors, she’s never had any other choice than being on the scene. Playing Juliet in the popular Shakespearean play, Mimi is stunned when she is magically transported back in time to beautiful Verona, where she meets the very people who inspired the play.

My Thoughts : In all honesty I have never been a fan of Romeo & Juliet, but this take on the play was absolutely adorable. Mimi was a fun character and I really felt for her, not having a choice to do something else with her life even though she wished it.

In a way I was more captivated by her life in the present time than in old Verona, but I loved how Selfors made the story her own. It’s original enough that you don’t feel like you’ve already seen it all, but true enough to the Shakespeare story that you can appreciate those little differences. If you like your time travel done with a touch of magic and a bit of romance, this might be your kind of thing. On a similar theme, I was reminded of the YA novel Prada and Prejudice, and of the adult novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, this one a take on, of course, Jane Austen!