Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Review: 'Victoria' by Daisy Goodwin


Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 22, 2016
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Chick lit, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Summary from Goodreads: 
“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”


In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

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Review:

Princess Alexandrina Victoria knows that one day she will become queen. When a rather complex line of succession has cleared her path to the throne, she can only hope that her ill uncle, the current king, will pass after she has turned eighteen. If her uncle passes away after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria will be able to ascend the throne without the need for a regent - a person appointed to administer a country because a monarch is a minor, absent, or incapacitated. 

The book opens to Princess Alexandrina Victoria before her eighteen birthday. She is living with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her mother's advisor, Sir John Conroy, in Kensington Palace. Wanting to shelter her and keep from society in hopes that of becoming regents. However, the timing of King William IV's death left them both trying to gain power and influence over Victoria herself. 

When Alexandrina Victoria is crowned she takes on a new name, Victoria. As she pulls aways from her mother and Sir John Conroy, she begins to lean heavily upon her prime minister, the scandal ridden and ever charming Lord Melbourne. Victoria's affection towards Lord Melbourne, whom she calls Lord M, grows from a friendship to something much more. But with pressure on the Queen to find a husband and secure her title, since at that time young women were prone to "hysteria" and the only known cure was marriage and motherhood, she knows that being a monarch means that she can not simply marry just anyone. 

Historical fiction has to be one of my top five favourite genres. This book focuses on the first two years of Queen Victoria's reign, mainly her coronation and her engagement. Though not a lot occurs in the novel, that pertains to any historical significance besides the two already addressed above, it does contain a lot about the Queen's personal life and the struggles she may have gone through - family drama, the country watching her every move waiting for her to mess up, her romantic ideas and thoughts towards two important men, and the struggle to become a Queen that she wants to be and her country will be proud of. 

I highly enjoyed Victoria! The characters were so realistically flawed, it made them so unexpectedly human. I have to admit that I didn't like Victoria at times (especially with regarding what happened to Lady Flora) however one has to understand that it is difficult for a teenager, much less one that has never been introduced to society before her reign as Queen, to understand and fulfill her role immediately once a crown is put on her head. 

Well reading this novel, I felt transported back to the nineteenth century. The writing, the characters, and the overall plot of the novel was enough to captivate me. But what really stood out to me was Goodwin's ability to make you feel as if you are a part of the novel. I felt entertained and well informed, and most of all happy to have read this novel. I can tell you right now that I will definitely be watching the show when it airs on January 15th, 2017 on PBS. 

I recommend this book (as well as the show) to anyone that likes England, history, the British monarchy, coming of age stories, as well as love stories. 


Rating:

 ★


About The Author:
DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. That was the year she published her first novel the American Heiress ( My Last Duchess in UK) , followed by The Fortune Hunter and now Victoria. She has also created VICTORIA the PBS/ITV series which starts in January. She has three dogs, two dogs, and one husband.

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Friday, 16 December 2016

Review: 'Wintersong' by S. Jae-Jones


Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Expected Publication Date: by February 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads: 
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
 

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Review:

Dark. Sexy. Beautiful. Painful. 

Liesl, once the little girl that played with a little boy in the woods, has grown and changed since her times in the woods. She continued on with her life, forgetting the boy and instead focusing on her family and the beloved music she composed in the dark wishing for more than she could ever have. But where Liesl moved on from her times in the woods, the boy did not. He still remembered and he still yearned. 

When Liesl's sister, Käthe is taken Underground where the goblins live, she has to find a way to rescue her sister. As new struggles and challenges occur, will she must find her way before the Underground swallows her up whole.


"This was the Goblin King. The abductor of maidens, the punisher of misdeeds, the Lord of Mischief and the Underground."


What initially drew me towards this novel had to have been the fact that it is a retelling of Labyrinth, a film that moved many, including myself. I was also interested in how the author, S. Jae-Jones, would execute it. The pace was quite slow at times and the second half of the novel felt as if the novel was being dragged on. But the tone and writing made up for the slow pace. I was so conflicted on my rating for this book since I absolutely loved the first half of the novel but felt bored with the second half. 

Some people may or may not like Liesl but to me she seemed realistic in many ways. She may seem jealous and at times envious of her siblings but no matter she will always do anything to help them live a happy life. She has stepped into the role of caretaker for her siblings, which leaves her feeling bitter. To be completely honest with you all, I think the bitterness and jealously is what truly makes this character come to life. Many people, having grown up in the shadow of their sibling(s), may understand this character's emotions. Even though she may seem "childish" to some, I believe that she is acting the way any person in her predicament may act. No matter how Liesl may feel, her love and care for her siblings will always triumph her own needs and wants. 

The Goblin King on the other hand is quite a complex character. I don't love him but I don't necessarily hate him either, I mostly just feel bad for him. I feel like this is Heathcliff all over again. Sigh. Does a person through extreme and seemingly never ending loneliness and heavy burdens deserve to feel loved and free, even if it means causing another person misery? Does that exemplify their hurtful and at times cruel ways? It doesn't but you still feel a sense of empathy towards these two characters [The Goblin King and Heathcliff] because of all they have been through and all they have lost. The lines between light and dark begin to blur and live a greyish hue. 


"The kiss is sweeter than sin and fiercer than temptation. I am not gentle, I am not kind; I am rough and wild and savage."


The romance between The Goblin King and Liesl had such great potential but, unfortunately due to the issues they were dealing with, was never fully explored. The romance may be a part of the story but it doesn't overwhelm it. It's obvious that they both want, desire, and crave each other desperately. There are a few descriptive scenes that bend slightly beyond YA but works quite well with the overall story. The ending was a bit underwhelming but nonetheless bittersweet. 

In the end, I did enjoy this dark and intriguing fairytaleIf you love dark fairytales that are wonderfully twisted then I highly recommend you add Wintersong onto your TBR. 



Sidenote: I also ended up receiving a physical copy of Wintersong when I attended TeensRead Winter + Spring 2017 event. 



Rating:



About The Author:
S. Jae-Jones, called JJ, is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and the author of Wintersong, forthcoming from Thomas Dunne in February 2017.

Born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, she lived in New York City for ten years before relocating down to Dixie, where she is comfortably growing fat on grits and barbecue. When not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skydiving, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and dragging her dog on ridiculously long hikes.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BOOK REVIEW: What Light, by: Jay Asher


What Light by Jay Asher
Published by Razorbill on October 18th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Birthday Gift

Summary from Goodreads: 
From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . .
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

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Review:

A cute, light, fluffy romance centred around Christmas. 

Sierra and her family own a Christmas tree farm in Oregon and every Christmas they travel to California to sell their trees on a lot as well as see there family friends. This year is tougher than any other, the family is financially struggling to keep the lot running because people don't buy that many real trees anymore. 

While there, Sierra meets Caleb, a cute, sweet, and charming boy that's damaged. When he was younger, one day he just snapped and lost control of both himself and the situation. The whole town found out and judged him for something that he already judges himself for everyday. Sierra tries to look past Caleb's past, but feels conflicted knowing that in a few weeks she'll be going back to Oregon. 

What Light is such a festive book to read! It really immerses you into the Christmas spirit, the difficulties of living two different lives, as well as the difficulties of growing up and moving on. It is really dramatic, profoundly moving, and heartbreaking. 

I enjoyed reading about Sierra; her different friends, lifestyle, and relationships. The setting was unique and original, the writing kept me captivated from beginning to end, and the characters were absolutely heartwarming. It was, at times, a bit unrealistic but was nonetheless enjoyable to read. 

I definitely recommend reading it during the Christmas season. If you like Christmas, young adult contemporaries, and romance then this is the book for you. 




Rating:



About The Author:
Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Hero, by Donna Grant




The Hero
by Donna Grant
Genres: Romance, Adult, Contemporary
Series: Sons of Texas - Book 1
Release Date: December 6th, 2016 by St. Martin's 

Summary from Goodreads: 
THE HERO’S HOMECOMING
Owen Loughman is a highly-decorated Navy SEAL who has a thirst for action. But there’s one thing he hasn’t been able to forget – his high school sweetheart, Natalie. After over a decade away, Owen is returned home to the ranch in Texas for a dangerous new mission that puts him face-to-face with Natalie and an outside menace that threatens everything he holds dear. He’ll risk it all to keep Natalie safe – and win her heart. . . .

Natalie Dixon has had a lifetime of heartache since Owen was deployed. Fourteen years and one bad marriage later, she finds herself mixed up with the Loughman’s again. With her life on the line against an enemy she can’t fight alone, it’s Owen’s strong shoulders, smoldering eyes, and sensuous smile that she turns to. When danger closes in, she holds close to the only man she’s ever loved…
 
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Buy Links:
AmazonBarnes & NobleKindleNookBAMIndieBoundiBooksKoboTantor Audio

Preorder and Enter to Win:
If you pre-order THE HERO you will be entered for some seriously cool prizes including the entire Dragon King series (Dark Heat – Smoke and Fire – including novellas) signed to you, winner’s choice of a bundle of books, Darkest Flame (signed) and some swag, and swag and a coveted DK t-shirt!

But to be entered, you MUST FILL OUT THE FORM. All pre-orders are acceptable as long as you have an order number from the retailer you purchased from.
Pre-order form to THE HERO: http://bit.ly/TheHeroPO





Summary from Goodreads: 
EVERYTHING’S HOTTER IN TEXAS

When Marine Force Recon captain Cullen Loughman learns that his father’s been kidnapped, he will do whatever it takes to find him. In order to achieve his mission, Cullen will need to team up with the best of the best—someone who just happens to be the most stunning woman he’s ever laid eyes on…

This isn’t the first rodeo for ex—Air Force pilot Mia Carter. Still, Cullen’s bad-boy good looks and charm are distracting her from duty. . .and it appears that the feeling is mutual. As Mia and Cullen make their descent into a dark, dangerous world, their attraction reaches the boiling point. But is their desire worth the risk when a ruthless enemy is waiting in the wings—or will their Lone Star love conquer all?

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If you pre-order THE PROTECTOR you will receive a bonus scene that features Owen and Natalie from THE HERO. The scene will NOT be shared anywhere else. It will be exclusive to those who pre-order THE PROTECTOR and fill out this form:


Pre-order form to THE PROTECTOR: http://bit.ly/TheProtectorPO





About The Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her "totally addictive" and "unique and sensual" stories. Her latest acclaimed series, Dark Kings, features a thrilling combination of dragons, Fae, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children and an assortment of animals in Texas.





AUTHOR CHAT:
Date: Thurs., 12/1/2016
Time: 7pm CST / 8pm EST
Link to the FB Event is https://www.facebook.com/events/267169100347430
Hash Tag: #TheHeroDG





Excerpt: 
Excitement or dread? She wasn’t sure she knew.
This wasn’t the first time she’d been on the ranch since her breakup with Owen. In fact, she’d been there several times since discovering Ragnarok, but this time was different.
This time, Owen could be there.
“I’m close,” Callie said.
The line disconnected. Natalie didn’t see the black fence that lined either side of the drive, or the cows and horses that grazed peacefully.
Her gaze was locked on the white house that drew closer with each second. By the time she parked in front of the two- story ranch home with its wide, wrap- around porch, all she could think about was the dinner she’d had the week before with Callie, Virgil, and Charlotte.
She put the car in park and glanced around. There was no sign that anyone else was there. Since she expected someone to come out at the sound of her car, she assumed Owen and his brothers hadn’t yet made it to the house.
Or perhaps, luck was on her side, and those choppers hadn’t been bringing the brothers.
She got out of her car, but it was more difficult than she imagined making herself go up the steps to the porch. She might be involved in all of this, but she’d never witnessed a murder scene firsthand.
Frankly, she didn’t want to.
But Orrin’s life was on the line. Everything she and Callie could discover only helped their chances of learning who took Orrin and where Ragnarok was.
She reached the front door. At least she wouldn’t have to see Virgil’s and Charlotte’s bodies. They had already been taken away.
That was her last thought as she walked through the doorway and found herself fl at on her back. Natalie knew the instant the large hands grabbed her that it was Owen.
Her heart skipped a beat, even as she instinctively reacted and used her momentum to pull Owen over her head. She got up, but in the next heartbeat, he had her pinned to the wall.
The heat of him was the first thing she felt. Then it was his hard body trapping her. She felt herself softening, needing to feel him after all these years.
She thought he would threaten her. Instead, he knocked off her cap. His dark brown eyes widened in shock.
How she wished her heart didn’t feel like it was about to explode out of her chest. He was . . . breathtaking. She drank in the very sight of him. Sharp, chiseled features that looked as if they had been fashioned from granite stared back at her. Gone was any hint of the teenager she’d known. Before her stood a man in all his masculine glory.
He’d always been tall, his muscles honed at an early age from working on the ranch. Now, however, Owen filled out his wide shoulders. His light tan tee stretched tightly across his chest, molding to every ripple of muscle in his arms and shoulders. The shirt was tucked into camo pants she imagined were for the desert by their sand and khaki color. His hair was longer, the dark strands shoved away from his face in long waves.
Her surprise at having Owen against her was quickly hidden. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted two more figures. How she wished she would’ve waited for Callie.
“Hi, boys,” Natalie said. It was the only thing she could think of. Owen frowned, the irritation clear in his sensual chocolate gaze. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“She’s looking for me.”
At the sound of Callie’s voice, most of the apprehension left Natalie. Now she wouldn’t have to face the Loughman men on her own.
She barely paid attention to anything going on around her. She was too intent on staring into Owen’s eyes. It was obvious that he was irritated to find her there, but he had yet to release her.
And she didn’t remind him of that fact.
Her allowing him to keep her pinned was an indication of how long it had taken her to get over him. And how she hated herself for it. After all she’d suffered, she should be shoving him away.
Her body had other ideas, however. With her blood burning through her and her nipples hard, she ached for his touch.
Yearned for it.
His eyes dropped to her mouth. Her breath hitched, caught in her throat. Yes! She wanted his kiss. It didn’t matter where they were or who was around.
Dimly, she heard Callie and Wyatt talking. Much to her annoyance, Owen released her. She was more hurt than she wanted to admit.
Perhaps it was for the best. She’d sworn off all men. Especially Owen. She quickly moved to stand beside Callie.
“Someone please tell us what’s going on?” Owen demanded. Callie shrugged. “I work here.”
Natalie looked at Owen and said, “I came to help.”
Owen’s breath locked in his lungs as he stared at Natalie’s long, brown hair streaked with strands of copper.
He wanted those deep green eyes of hers to land on him again, to fill with desire . . . again.
She was even more beautiful than he remembered.
The years had transformed her into a seductress who left him breathless and needy.
The girl had become a woman, and what a woman she was. He knew the weight of her breast in his hand, knew how it felt to sink into her body and hear her scream in pleasure.
And yet, the woman before him now held a hint of wariness that hadn’t been there before. What happened to her to take away that lighthearted girl he once knew?

Copyright © 2016 by Donna Grant and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.