Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella

Synopsis for Twenties Girl:

"Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie—a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance—mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other."

Jenn: I'll admit, I'm a big fan of Sophie Kinsella - her humor and writing style something I enjoy in all of her books. And this book is no different. Lara is your typical, every day girl, just wanting to have something special in her life and have things headed in a good direction; and trying to cope when nothing is. Her back and forths with Sadie are fun and witty, and while at times I got just as frustrated with Sadie as Lara did, when everything finally unfolded, I found her to be an endearing character. And I always love when the struggling herioned manages to find a way to turn everything around somehow. I was a little disappointed with the conclusion of book only in the sense that I felt that Lara's romanctic subplot was left a little unresolved. But other than that, I really liked it. Definitely a good read.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beastly - Alex Flinn

Synopsis for Beastly:

"A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you.

I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly."

Jenn: I actually liked this new twist on Beauty and the Beast, although at times it seemed a little too much to accept. It's set up like a fairy tale, but set in modern times, which is where it got a little tricky. All the characters act as though it's the fairly tale - they even reference it a little bit here and there - even though it's modern day. But that was my only real issue. I liked that it was told from the Beast's perspective, instead of Beauty's. You get a better picture of how he became a beast, his growth as a person, and how he falls in love. And the small inserts of a chat group he joins is actually a pretty funny idea that I enjoyed thoroughly. Overall, I really liked it - a nice, fresh take on an familiar story.

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis for Shiver:

"For years, Grace has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her from its pack when she was a child. Sam, bitten by a wolf as a boy, is that wolf. Long obsessed with each other at a distance, they finally meet after a wolf hunt (inspired by the apparent death of a local teen) sends a wounded and temporarily human Sam into Grace's arms. Their young love is facilitated by Grace's hands-off parents but threatened by two linked crises: the fact that Sam will soon lose the ability to become human and the instability of a new werewolf."

Jenn: Ok, I'll be honest. I LOVED this book. The feeling I got when reading it reminded me a lot of how I felt after reading the Twilight series - which I love. (Yes, I'm one of those people, and proud of it.) The story is really good, with things that seem inconsequential at first popping back up and becoming fairly important. The love story is wonderfully written, since the book switches the narrative between Sam and Grace, and you really understand how much they love each other. The ending was really good, although it ends just as I'm wanting more. But I'll forgive that this time, because there was closure and a sequel is coming in July - a sequel I am deeply anticipating. I definitely recommend this book.

*The series is called The Wolves of Mercy Falls and will consist of 3 books - Shiver (out now), Linger (coming out in July), and an as yet unnamed third book. It has also just had the rights sold to make Shiver into a movie. (Insert girlish squeal here!)

The Queen's Fool - Phillippa Gregory

Synopsis for The Queen's Fool:

"It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires."

Jenn: This book, unlike her others, is narrated by a fictional character put into historical events, but it didn't really detract from the story. It was still very well done, like all her other books. You truly felt for Queen Mary, and the irony of her life is unbelievable. You end up with a love/hate relationship for Elizabeth because she's incredibly selfish, but her determination has to be admired at least a little bit. And the story of the make believe herione is just as interesting, and you have to admire her for wanting to stand up for herself in a time period when that just wasn't allowed. You see her grow and mature and the ending, while left a bit unfinished in terms of the historical characters, is satisfying for the fictional ones. A very good read.

The White Queen - Phillippa Gregory

Synopsis for The White Queen:

"Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown."

Jenn: This book was interesting, because unlike her other books, there was enough fiction to it that at points I'm not sure what is and isn't fact. It was a good story and it's intriguing to read about the history of the royals of England, but the herione who starts out fairly sweet ends up being a bit power hungry at the end, which was a little sad - although probably true. There was a lot of magic woven through this book, since both the herione and her mother were accused of being witches at one point or another. The only problem I had was that it just kind of ended, which I hate. It's going to be a series, so there will be a sequel, but I hate when there's no real resolution until the next installment. But still, overall it was a good read.

The Constant Princess - Phillippa Gregory

Synopsis for The Constant Princess:

"As youngest daughter to the Spanish monarchs and crusaders King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catalina, princess of Wales and of Spain, was promised to the English Prince Arthur when she was three. She leaves Spain at 15 to fulfill her destiny as queen of England, where she finds true love with Arthur (after some initial sourness) as they plot the future of their kingdom together. Arthur dies young, however, leaving Catalina a widow and ineligible for the throne. Before his death, he extracts a promise from his wife to marry his younger brother Henry in order to become queen anyway, have children and rule as they had planned, a situation that can only be if Catalina denies that Arthur was ever her lover."

Jenn: I have to admit I have a fascination with the Tudor court and this book enlightened me on the original Queen to Henry - Katharine of Aragon. Her story is incredibly interesting and intensely heartbreaking. (The things women had to go through!) I have to admit that after reading about her, I can't help but think that Henry was an idiot. She was an amazing woman - especially knowing her later history during the whole Anne Boleyn time period. Like all of Phillippa Gregory's novels, there's a fair amount of speculation - which is why it's historical fiction - but her research comes through so that you can still tell what's fact and what's not. A great read, and one to start with if wanting to dive into that era.