Book Review: The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal
Published by Nan A. Talese on 03.11.2014
Genres: Historical, Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Nan A. Talese

Set in seventeenth-century Holland, an engrossing historical novel that brilliantly imagines the complex story behind one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings

Commissioned by a prominent Amsterdam medical guild, The Anatomical Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp was one of Rembrandt’s first paintings to gain public notice. The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening’s big event, it follows several characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, who is awaiting his turn at the gallows; the twenty-six-year-old Dutch master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about this assignment; Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers; Flora, the woman pregnant with Aris’s child, who hopes to collect her lover’s body for a Christian burial before it’s too late; René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides; and Pia, a contemporary art historian who is examining the painting in the future. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way. Bringing to life the vivid world of Amsterdam in 1632, The Anatomy Lesson offers a rich slice of history and a textured story by a masterful young writer.

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My Review:

I am going to just come out and say this: I’m not an art connoisseur.  I can’t stand for hours staring at a painting, inspecting the textures and colors and brush technique.  Give me a concert hall and a beautiful concerto to listen to or even just a plain piano recital and I will be happy.  My art is printed sheet music and I use my ears (and my fingers) to coax it out once the rough learning with the pages has been done.  Still, there are times every now and then that I pass by a painting or am introduced to some famous work of art and I wonder at the story behind it.  I’ve never understood the fascination with a certain famous woman’s smile, but I do understand some of the dreaminess of Degas and can admire the lifelike figures and shading of Rembrandt.  The Anatomy Lesson takes a look at the first painting that Rembrandt signed just that, a single word, as his signature.  It’s a famous painting of men with a corpse cast into the light and the inner workings of the arm displayed for all to see.

So, having said all of that, trust me when I say you do not have to be an art lover or connoisseur or even slightly knowledgeable about art to understand and love The Anatomy Lesson.  Told from several different points of view – from the head surgeon to the thinker Rene Descartes, to the artist, to the man who procures the dead bodies to be painted and studied all the way to the actual criminal who died in a hanging and a modern day curator, this story looks at a piece of art from every perspective.  It’s thrilling, interesting, and thought-provoking.

What I do recommend during the reading of The Anatomy Lesson is easy access to the internet.  Have the piece of art ready for easy viewing.  I found myself referencing it a number of times (ignore all of the stupid parodies out there on the internet … it’s a strange place out there, folks).  It’s interesting, once you know what to look for, what comes to light.  Siegal’s research and knowledge shines through the story, especially in the sections where the restoration and study of the painting is being described.  Additionally, I’ve rarely come across a book that deals so well with the history, crime system, and laws of Holland – come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve read a historical fiction based in Holland at all.

The Anatomy Lesson is being released in March.  It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air to the historical genre – something completely different from other books that I’ve been reading in the genre.  I recommend this book for not only your own library, but also for those who are searching and requesting something different to add to their shelves.  It transcends the historical fiction genre and becomes a literary, beautiful piece of work.

Have you read The Anatomy Lesson?  Comment below with a link to your review!

Book Review: Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss

Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Delacorte Press
  • Release Date:  11.26.2013
  • One night, two strangers.A damage that cannot be undone.

    For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallholding deep in the English moors. Howard putters with pottery, Deborah dabbles in weaving, and both struggle to tend sheep and chickens and live off the land. But what began with simple dreams of solitude and sunlit picnics in the hills has given way to a harsher reality.

    To help with finances, they decide to turn Stoneyridge into a bed-and-breakfast. But a sudden stroke leaves Howard incapacitated and Deborah overwhelmed. Howard’s world, once so limitless, has shrunk to the confines of their crumbling house; Deborah’s main joy now comes in the form of a brief weekly email from their successful son, who lives abroad.

    Then, late one evening, two men arrive needing a room for the night—and set off a chain of events that uncovers the relics of old tragedies. New wounds are cut deep, betrayals and cruelties intermix with tenderness and love. And through it all, Stoneyridge quietly hides the bitter and transformative truth.

    Evocative, intimately claustrophobic, and psychologically complex, ‘Our Picnics in the Sun’ is a novel of stunning prose and knife-sharp insight. Morag Joss crafts a modern masterpiece of rising tension that binds and releases like a beating heart, propelling readers to a final page that resonates and haunts.One night, two strangers.

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    My Review:

    Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss is a book that focuses on a few important aspects of life and family.  There are three stories happening: the dynamic between Howard and Deborah, the distance communication between Deborah and Adam, and the commentary on the life of a caretaker in a family ill-equipped to handle emergency situations.  Of the three, the one that broke my heart the most was the distance communication between Deborah and Adam, her son – but the combination of the three made for a powerful story, one that I both dreaded and ached to pick up … just so I could find out what happened next.

    Deborah and Howard are an older couple with an adult son.  Free-thinkers, Deborah has always followed Howard’s lead.  Howard is an artist and has some interesting thoughts on everything from bread-baking to where a woman should give birth.  But now, Howard is not able to express those thoughts due to a stroke that has placed him into the care of Deborah full-time.

    Deborah struggles to run (and really, fails is more the right term) a B&B.  She manages to make it into town on Wednesdays – the highlight of that visit being the time she spends in emails to her only son, Adam.  She dotes on her son and lives for his birthday when they can take a picnic out on the moor.  However, the last picnic was held in 2004 – a disastrous event that has resulted in Adam’s refusal to make it home.  Still, Deborah hopes and hopes.

    Our Picnics in the Sun may sound like a title that could be about something happy – my mind brought up images of laughing children and games played after sandwiches and lemonade were consumed.  But Joss has written a book that highlights regret.  The regret of decisions made in the past, of relationships not maintained, of lives not lived.  Joss explores the stress that is placed on caretakers when a medical event occurs that requires all the time and energy of the partner and she really digs deep to portray the despair of both Howard and Deborah in a way that had me almost weeping.

    Although I’m not a fan of vague endings, Joss’s worked well here – because this is not a book that tells a story that has a beginning and an end.  Rather, it’s a book that explores all those messy feelings that happen during life and the effect they have not only on ourselves, but on those around us as well.

Book Review: Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Mandevilla Press
  • Release Date:  11.20.2012

When a beautiful journalist drowns mysteriously off Waikiki, Hawaii, Special Forces veteran Pono Hawkins, now a well-known surfer and international correspondent for surfing magazines, soon gets embroiled in trying to find out why she died. What he quickly learns makes him a target for murder or life in prison as a cabal of powerful corporations, foreign killers and crooked politicians places the blame on him. Haunted by memories of Afghanistan, and determined to protect the Hawaii he loves from dirty politics tied to huge destructive energy developments, Pono turns to Special Forces buddies and his own covert skills to fight his deadly enemies, trying both save himself and find her killers. Alive with the sights, sounds and history of Hawaii, SAVING PARADISE is also a deepy rich portrait of what Pono calls the seamy side of paradise, and an exciting thriller of politics, lies and remorseless murder.

I recommend:

My Review:

Since moving to Hawaii, I have been all about reading books by local authors.  I love immersing myself in the culture and I work to do that through reading, through conversing with my neighbors and friends, and through just living life here on O’ahu.  Mike Bond speaks with knowledge about the island, and life on the island; but he does so with a bit of an attitude that, frankly, turned me off quite a bit as I was trying to push myself through his story.  Saving Paradise is not so much a book about the investigation of a woman’s murder as much as it’s a diatribe against big businesses and the changes occurring on the islands.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am all for the preservation of the beautiful islands and the habitats they boast of.  I’m on the side of the whales, the seals, the sharks – basically the marine life… as well as the natural life that flourishes (and some that doesn’t) on the land.  I hate to see beauty marred by skyscrapers and signs of progression and, I can tell you from personal experience, living on O’ahu is one of the biggest disappointments and thrills of my life.  It’s paradise, but a dirty, sludgy paradise that I share with almost a million people in a 560 sq mile space.

Bond chose to make a novel his platform – railing against real companies and real issues facing the island in recent years.  He loudly speaks out against windfarms and the proposed line that would upset more than a few marine habitats and coral reefs.  He uses derogatory language to speak of current and past presidents and the government – both national and state levels.  And he does all of this through the mouthpiece of his character, Pono Hawkins, a retired special forces veteran.

It was difficult to believe that all of the hate coming out toward the people in power was purely fictional, and since real life was being pushed on me through the pages of Saving Paradise, it was difficult to lose myself in the story.  Instead, it became sort of a game to see who would be attacked next… and the mystery I lost complete interest in.  What I appreciated most about Saving Paradise was not its literary merit (there is none, really), nor it’s riveting story (hardly existed) – what I appreciated was the wealth of information about the islands.  Now I know that instead of visiting Kaua’i, I want to go to Moloka’i.  I want to visit that Chinese restaurant down on King Street here on O’ahu.  I want to experience life like an islander does – to live with the aloha spirit and to hang loose.

So while I am disappointed by not getting a good story, I do appreciate that I walked away from Saving Paradise with more information about my home since May.  I hope that I will come to love Hawai’i with the same passion and learn about my own special places that I can one day then turn around and share with another newcomer.

Book Tour: Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy TLC Tours.
  • Published by:  William Morrow
  • Release Date:  11.19.2013

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need

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My Review:

Have you ever read a book and felt like it was unfolding so perfectly, so exquisitely, that the only thing you can compare it to is watching a rose as its pedals unfurl to greet the sun?  Sounds pretty cheesy, doesn’t it?  And yet – it’s so perfect for Someone Else’s Love Story.  The first chapter of this book was so perfectly paced it made my toes curl with complete love.  The descriptions were so exquisitely painful and pleasurable all at once that my teeth ached.  I wanted to sink into the pages of Jackson’s story and not emerge again until all was revealed and life was returned to its mundane self.

I honestly can’t tell you who I loved more in this story: Shandi or William or Natty – and that’s not even touching on the love I felt for the “best friends” of the group – but I’ll talk about them in a little bit.  Shandi and William try to steal the scene as being some of the most naive, innocent main characters a reader can ask for but then there’s Natty thrown into the mix with his bits of wisdom and his regressions.  The result is a trio of characters so compelling it’s difficult to put the book down because you just need to know more right now.

Then there’s Walcott and Paula – two of the most fantastic supportive characters I’ve seen in a book since… well.. since some of the classics (I’m thinking about Sam in Lord of the Rings right now).  While there is nothing fantasy-related about Someone Else’s Love Story, the power of love and loyalty and devotion rings so true in these two characters that it’s difficult to imagine living life without a best friend of your own, just like one of them.

I am so thrilled I picked this book up.  I was a fan of Jackson’s previous book, Gods in Alabama, so I knew that I would be in for a treat but I had no idea that she would hit it out of the ballpark with Someone Else’s Love Story.  This one comes highly recommended, but be prepared to set aside hours for full immersion.  This love story demands nothing less.

About the Author

Joshilyn Jackson

New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband, Scott, their two children, Sam and Maisy Jane, and two feckless, dog-shaped wastrels who answer to Bagel and Ansley, especially if you are holding bacon. They all serve an orange tom named Mango in various capacities.

She is the author of five novels: gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, twice been a #1 Book Sense Pick, twice won Georgia Author of the Year, and twice been shortlisted for the Townsend prize.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, has made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up Awards from Publisher’s Weekly. In 2012 Jackson began reading the audio versions of books written by other novelists, beginning with Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer.

Her new book, Someone Else’s Love Story, will publish on November 19, 2013. She thinks you should pre-order it.


For more reviews on Someone Else’s Love Story by Jamie Ford, please visit the book tour.

Book Review: Morning Glory by Sarah Jio

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Plume
  • Release Date:  11.26.2013

New York Times bestselling author Sarah Jio imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle’s Lake Union—home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959

Fleeing an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor’s fate, but little suspects that Penny’s mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.

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My Review:

Morning Glory is my first novel by Sarah Jio in spite of having some of her previous books (The Violets of March and The Last Camellia) on my to-be-read list for quite some time.  Name recognition is a big pull for me, so when I picked up Morning Glory I made it a priority – I had to read something by Jio and this is where I would be starting.  The end result is enough pleasure that I am bumping up her other books and looking forward to reading them.  Still, Morning Glory was not quite perfect and in this review I’ll be discussing a few of the things I had a bit of an issue with (although, mind you, it wasn’t enough of an issue for this to be a negative review!)

One of the things I loved about Morning Glory was the sense of history that came attached to the story.  It started with page 1 and just wove its way throughout Penny and Ada’s respective stories.  Tie those stories in to one of the best settings (think Sleepless in Seattle and houseboats) and you have a heck of a story.  It’s not often when there is a split narrative (moving from the present to the past) that I get thoroughly engrossed in both stories, but that definitely happened during my time reading Morning Glory and I anxiously hurdled on to the end of the book, wanting to wrap everything up with a neat, tidy bow.

And everything did get wrapped up – but this is where my bit of a complaint comes in.  I’m so tired of contrived “coincidences.”  You know, those surprise twists that make it so that this person meets that person who was connected to them in this way and they all live happily ever after.  It’s unrealistic and detracts from the story for me and, unfortunately, instead of leaving a good ending where it was Jio chose to take that extra step.  It immediately left a bad taste in my mouth and, instead of feeling satisfied as I put the book down, I rolled my eyes and sighed.

So, if you take out the bit of the ending that caused me to feel as if I’d just read a juvenile piece of fiction, the rest of the book was fantastic.  The mystery was interesting and kept me going, the struggles of both women were ones that I could relate to (and possibly shed a few tears over), and the writing was cozy and immersive, making When we dress in a way that has even the potential to cause a man to lust, we create an unnecessary war against his soul. one of those books that you should probably pick up over your Christmas break for some feel good reads.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Rainy Days and Mondays | Chick Lit Central | Mom With a Book

Book Review: Far Shore by Traci L. Slatton

Far Shore by Traci L. Slatton

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Parvati Press
  • Release Date:  10.10.2013

An old enemy wreaks new havoc at the end of the world…

After the mists’ lethal apocalypse, mankind’s only hope for survival lies broken and battered, the prisoner of a ruthless sociopath who will stop at nothing to hurt him. Emma sets out to rescue him. She faces an ultimatum and must relinquish everything she holds dear. As Arthur teeters on the brink of life and death, Emma’s healing ability fails. Her own despair tests her, and she must grow stronger than she ever dreamt possible as she confronts the truth of her own heart.

In a time of apocalyptic despair, love is put to the test…

A mystical odyssey, a haunting love..

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’ve been following Slatton’s After Series now since the first book was released and, frankly, surprised the heck out of me. The first book in the trilogy, Fallen, had me frantically turning pages and thoroughly enjoying a setting that was not only post-apocalyptic, but also more adult in nature.  When Fallen was provided to me, I had spent so much time reading Young Adult fiction that I had been craving something more mature and Slatton provided that in spades.  Far Shore, the third installment of the trilogy, was no different. Slatton thrusts her readers back into the bleak world and brings all of the major players together in a way that had me wondering just how it would play out.

That being said, there were some things about Far Shore that just didn’t work well for me.  In some ways, I could sense there was a bit of a struggle trying to reconcile relationships that were at odds through the first two books in the series.  The interaction between Emma and Arthur (and, frankly Emma and two other males in her small circle) seemed strained and awkward at times.  Add into the mix the ultimate breaking point for Arthur and the result was a story that was a bit more fragmented and unsettled than I had been used to from Slatton.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story.  If nothing else, Slatton writes in such an addictive way that I could swear there was some sort of addictive substance between the pages.  I know when I pick up one of her books I am not going to want to put it down until I finish it, and Far Shore was no different.  However, maybe things would have been different if she hadn’t been roped into something that was labeled, from the start, a “trilogy.”  I could see how there was more much to be explored, but time and space just wouldn’t allow for it.

Still, this is a worthy trilogy and an exceptionally good entry way point into more hardcore science fiction, for those who are looking to expand their horizons a bit.  There’s a little bit of everything in it – romance, horror, mystery, science-fiction goodness … it’s all there and interesting enough to keep the reader totally immersed.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

SeacoastOnline Blogs | I’d So Rather be Reading | Lunar Haven

Book Review: The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Tor Books
  • Release Date:  011.13.2012

Rector “Wreck ’em” Sherman was orphaned as a toddler in the Blight of 1863, but that was years ago. Wreck has grown up, and on his eighteenth birthday, he’ll be cast out out of the orphanage.

And Wreck’s problems aren’t merely about finding a home. He’s been quietly breaking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own supply of the sap he sells. He’s also pretty sure he’s being haunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know—Zeke Wilkes, who almost certainly died six months ago. Zeke would have every reason to pester Wreck, since Wreck got him inside the walled city of Seattle in the first place, and that was probably what killed him. Maybe it’s only a guilty conscience, but Wreck can’t take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall.

The walled-off wasteland of Seattle is every bit as bad as he’d heard, chock-full of the hungry undead and utterly choked by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there’s the monster. Rector’s pretty certain that whatever attacked him was not at all human—and not a rotter, either. Arms far too long. Posture all strange. Eyes all wild and faintly glowing gold and known to the locals as simply “The Inexplicables.”

In the process of tracking down these creatures, Rector comes across another incursion through the wall — just as bizarre but entirely attributable to human greed. It seems some outsiders have decided there’s gold to be found in the city and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of the pie unless Rector and his posse have anything to do with it.

I also recommend:

My Review:

If there is a series that I am an evangelist for, it’s Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century books.  The moment any friend expresses an interest, passing or intent, the first word out of my mouth is Boneshaker.  I have been reading Priest’s books since Boneshaker was released and while some are stronger than others, each of them is enough to fan my addiction to her writing to an even higher level.  The Inexplicables is no different.

Imagine my delight when I began reading and was immediately transported back to the world of Zeke and Boneshaker.  I knew I recognized the name of Rector “Wreck-em” Sherman and soon it became apparent why.  I may or may not have giggled a bit as I dove back into the dangerous world of Seattle and read about names that I not only know, but know intimately from their stories in the previous novels.  It felt like I was greeting old friends.

I have a habit of putting books by favorite authors aside until they meet one of two criteria.  1. That they have another book out that I can put in the bank for the perfect day, or 2. that I just can’t hold off and desperately need a fix.  Reading The Inexplicables met both of those criteria – but mostly when I saw that Fiddlehead was being released (and it’s the final installment, y’all – I’m heartbroken) I knew it was time to dive in.

Reading the books of The Clockwork Century is an experience.  The pages are soft, the typeface is sepia, there is artwork at each chapterhead and the books are pleasant to hold in the hand.  And then there’s the story.  Rector’s story in The Inexplicables is one of intrigue, addiction, reaching the bottom and climbing up, forming friendships and maintaining them, independence, and finally heroism.  There’s so much action, a touch of romance that had me laughing out loud with delight, and – of course – loads upon loads of steampunk goodness.

I am fairly certain that Priest has infused her books with her own fictional sap because that’s how addicted I’ve become to this world.  I dread saying goodbye to it with Fiddlehead, but in the meantime I’ll continue to crusade for it and bask in the non-fatal, totally normal (right?) afterglow of having read a book by one of my favorite authors.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Val’s Random Comments | Fear My Blog | Wired

Book Review: Revelations by J.A. Souders

Revelations by J.A. Souders

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  TorTeen
  • Release Date:  11.05.2013

Six weeks after her arrival on the Surface, Evelyn Winters is no closer to unlocking the memories lost in her subconscious than she was when she first came. Isolated in a strange new society, Evie has only Gavin Hunter to remind her of who she once was.

But even with a clean slate, it’s easy to see that Evie doesn’t fit in on the Surface. And as her differences make her feel more and more alone, she can’t help but yearn for that place she doesn’t remember: the isolated city hidden in the depths of the ocean. Elysium. Home.

But she can’t exactly tell Gavin what she’s feeling. Not when he’s the one who helped her escape Elysium in the first place, and has the scars to prove it. Though the doctors say otherwise, Gavin believes that Evie just needs time. And if her memories don’t come back, well, maybe she’s better off not remembering her past.

But the decision may be out of their hands when Evie’s ever-elusive memories begin to collide with reality. People and images from her past appear in the most unlikely places, haunting her, provoking her…and making her seem not only strange but dangerous.

Evie and Gavin can’t wait around for her memories to return. They’ll have to journey across the Outlands of the Surface to find help, and in the end, their search may just lead them back to the place it all started…

I also recommend:

My Review:

I received Revelations recently from Tor and was immediately drawn to reading the synopsis based on the cover.  It’s colorful, interesting, and I was really hoping that it was the first book of the series.  It wasn’t.  SO then I thought, maybe I’ll try to jump in – but let me tell you, what I read from the first book had me desperately wanting to get my hands on it.  So I did.  I dove into Renegade that night and, upon finishing it, immediately moved on to Revelations.

I loved Renegade, folks.  It was filled with brainwashing and utopias (or not), and mad escapes, and thrilling moments.  It made me want to walk around my house reading.  I was reminded of what it was like to be reading a really fun, engrossing young adult novel.  I loved it.  So I went into Revelations thinking that would continue.  And, while I might have enjoyed Revelations more had I not read Renegade first (although I would have been seriously lost in the story), I just thought it fell flat of the first book.  Let me explain why.

First – the action. It’s too fast paced.  Too much ground is covered and too much information revealed for just one book in this series.  I cannot be expected to believe in the scaryness and vastness of the world Souders has created if it can be covered in just a few pages.  Furthermore, I cannot be convinced of scary, deadly creatures if they are easily outrun or survived.

Secondly, don’t force a romance issue – even if it’s just to instill a sense of tension and doesn’t really exist.  Not only did the romance between Evie and Gavin feel forced and unnatural (she doesn’t remember anything but somehow manages to be just as in love with him?), but the idea of someone else falling for Evie and barely knowing her just doesn’t work.

I felt like Souders had a great idea with this series and that Renegade was plotted well, but that she just bit off more than she could chew with the follow-up.  Quite a few things could have been removed to make the story more cohesive, but instead – I felt like I got a case of bookish whiplash from all the back and forth traveling in Revelations.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

The Book Life | That Artsy Reader Girl | Jenna Does Books

Book Review: Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by th epublisher.
  • Published by:  Ballantine Books
  • Release Date:  12.03.2013

Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.

Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.

As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.

Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.

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My Review:

I have a fascination with King Richard III.  As many people know, his skeleton was recently found (near a parking garage) and, as a result, we are able to know more today about what this famous man looked like – in addition to knowing more about his deeds.  Richard III was the monarch connected with the two princes, if you have heard that story.  He’s also known as the “Evil Crouchback,” due to his having scoliosis, we have since learned.  Richard III was the last monarch before the uniting of the York and Lancaster Houses – two houses who had been at war for 100 years in the War of the Roses.  But Elizabeth of York is clearly not about Richard III – it’s about Elizabeth.  However, Weir understands that in order to fully understand Elizabeth we have to understand how she grew up, what influenced her, and most importantly, what the evidence has indicated about the person she was.

Elizabeth of York holds a place by proxy to some of the most famous figures in British history.  Her son was Henry VIII.  Her brothers were the famous princes who were murdered (allegedly) by Richard III.  Her mother was the famous Elizabeth Wydeville, the “Slandered Queen,” who supposedly “seduced” Edward IV.  Elizabeth I was also the grandmother to the beloved Queen Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.”  Add on top of that, Elizabeth’s part in uniting the houses of Lancaster and York, as well as having a powerhouse of a mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, and you have quite a group of people surrounding this queen.

But that’s all of the people around Elizabeth.  What about Elizabeth herself?  Her teenage years were fraught with fear, yet she ended up in a marriage that, for all accounts, was not only amiable, but also one of fondness, if not love.  She gave birth to a brood of children, as all good Queens were expected to do, and she managed to be a favorite of the people, placing a face of kindness on the monarchy in spite of her husband, who – while a good King – was also distrustful of most people due to his own upbringing.

Alison Weir does a fantastically thorough job of pulling together all of the research and arranging it in a way that not only makes sense, but lays out a great story in the process.  At times, Weir gets a little wordy and at times a little forward with her assumptions of how certain figures might have felt, but it never goes too far overboard for me and her assumptions make sense.

I loved reading Elizabeth of York and I loved seeing Elizabeth I finally pushed to the forefront.  As a Queen, she was the epitome of grace and beauty and she was able, even while submissive and dealt some really crappy cards in life, to pull off a life that is worth admiring.

Book Review: Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was obtained at my local library.
  • Published by:  HarperTEEN
  • Release Date:  08.20.2013

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

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My Review:

I am a pansy when it comes to scary stories.  I will readily admit that.  The book can be even not well written and I’ll still be pansy.  Add pictures into the mix and yeah, I’ll be sleeping with my light on for at least 2-3 nights after finishing the book (and sometimes during if I just can’t finish the book in one setting).  Asylum was one of those books – I was so tired and haunted by the images in the book that it was a two night read for me…and the result was I spent a few nights restless in my sleep due to having to have my light on.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of an old mental asylum is only second to an abandoned carnival ground on a terror-ranking list.  When I was in my late teens, I accompanied a boyfriend and my sister to an abandoned penitentiary in eastern Wyoming.  It was Halloween and the workers had a blast filling each room with re-enactments of terrible things that may have happened.  Asylum provoked the memory of that experience through the medium of the included photos.  Not to mention – anytime I see a picture with eyes scratched out on it I get massive heebie-jeebies.

That’s not to say that Roux wrote a story that could have creeped me out.  In fact, without the addition of the pictures, I think I might have been a bit bored by the story.  It was a pretty typical one – group of kids get locked up, essentially, in a creepy old building and start investigating its history.  I got some massive Scooby Doo vibes from it.  But Roux did take it a step darker, which was necessary, with the inclusion of the photos.  The photos (and their credits are included at the back of the book) are a story in themselves.  So much horror contained in each, it is worth picking up the book just to examine them.

I don’t know of many kids that could handle the level of creepy that Asylum boasted – the photos might just have been a little over the top.  But I leave that judgment up to the parents.  For me, those photos were enough and I won’t be able to get through a night in the near future without having that one little thought in the back of my mind that something might just happen once I click my light off for the night.