Tuesday, December 20, 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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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. 



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, December 16, 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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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. 


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, December 7, 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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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. 


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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