Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson

The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson

Summary: Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters -- the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon. Then a dashing French prisoner of war, cousin to the king of France, is brought to London, and Jane finds she cannot help giving some of her heart -- and more -- to a man she can never marry. But the Tudor court is filled with dangers as well as seductions, and there are mysteries surrounding Jane's birth that have made her deadly enemies. Can she cultivate her beauty and her amorous wiles to guide her along a perilous path and bring her at last to happiness?

Basing her gripping tale on the life of the real Jane Popyncourt, gifted author Kate Emerson brings the Tudor monarchs, their family, and their courtiers to brilliant life in this vibrant new novel.

Review: I'm a sucker for all things Tudor so I decided to read this book because it involves the Tudors. The book deals with Jane Popyncourt who not much is known about so the author takes some creative license, which I don't mind since she explains what is known about Jane in a note after the story.
It's a bit silly, but I found it annoying that the woman on the cover has blonde hair while Jane in the story is described as having brown hair. I also don't think the outfit on the front may not be totally accurate since all parts of a dress had to be tied together. 
There was a good deal of intrigue in this book. It was very interesting and fascinating and somewhat scary to see how kings behaved and what they thought they could get away with because they are kings. Very few rich and/or noble women could live for themselves and Jane was little better than a pawn. I'm glad she got a happy ending, but I can't help but wonder how the real Jane wound up. 
The book moved at a fast clip for the first half of the novel. There was plenty going on with the politics of the king and the court. The pace got a bit slow in the second half of the novel after Jane was no longer part of Mary's household. I was glad that Jane was finally able to find out what happened to her mother and why they fled to France, but she was quite pushy when trying to find out the truth.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to fans of the Tudors, historical fiction involving England and France, the 16th century, royalty, and for people who really love historical fiction. Somewhat who is not an avid fan of historical might find this book a bit boring.

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Since the new year starts on Sunday, I decided to make a post about New Year's resolutions. What is everyone's New Year's resolutions? Mine are mainly book and writing/creating related:

  • Read 250 books
  • Read 2-3 ebooks a month on my Sony Reader
  • Read 1-2 books I have received for review and from Netgalley
  • Attempt to finish more challenges
  • Read at least 50-100 books from my to be read shelf
  • Write at least 250-500 words a week, including one poem a week
  • Write at least one blog post a week that is not a book review
  • Continue to work on and improve my blog
  • Learn how to make a craft (after I finish graduate school in May)
  • Continue to exercise 4-5 days a week
It's a long list and I hope I can do everything on it. Wish me the best of luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Barnes

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Barnes

Summary: Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it.  That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.  

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian's basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents' murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she's shaped?

Review: I am wary of werewolf novels due to the ideas of dominance, dominance to the alpha, and soul mates so I do not read them too often. I did thoroughly enjoy Raised by Wolves despite a few faults.

I found Bryn's situation interesting and unique (it might not be unique in other werewolf novels, but it is to me). She was bound to the pack and could share the bond even though she was not a wolf. She did pretty well for herself while surrounded by wolves. It did irk me that Bryn kept saying that she belonged to Callum, but she wasn't even a werewolf. My favorite character was Devon. I adore him. I can understand Bryn's reaction to the trauma she went through as a kid, but the thoughts about it kept intruding so much upon her mind and it was obvious she wasn't over the trauma yet. No one can ever be fully over a trauma, but you have to move on with your life as best as possible, but obviously Bryn hasn't gotten there yet.

The plot moved at a nice pace. What Callum says and does can be a little odd or confusing until you reach the end of the novel. The ending was a little anti-climatic. I am not sure what Bryn's relationship to Chase is exactly supposed to be. I can see it being a deep friendship turning into love. I also suspect that Callum might become a love interest in future books.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to fans of young adult supernatural novels and werewolf fans.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg

Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg

Summary: On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."
What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.
Review: This book was a quick read and a very sweet and cute book. It does not going into much of the science behind the brain of birds, including Grey parrots, or how Alex's brain was working when he was learning tasks. I had been hoping for a bit more science, but I can read The Alex Studies for more of the science behind Pebberberg's work.

I am a fan of birds and Pepperberg is as well so it made sense to mention her childhood and how her love of birds began. I feel she goes a little too in depth about her childhood. It takes Pepperberg about 50 pages to get into the story. The initial chapter about the outpouring of sympathy and media attention over Alex's death felt a little too long and could have been much shorter without Pebberberg quoting sympathy letters, newspapers, and emails. The work Pepperberg did with Alex and the other birds is very interesting and it does show that birds, and all animals too, have more intelligence then we give them credit for. However, I feel that Alex may very well be a genius among Grey parrots and what Pepperberg learned that Alex could do might not translate to other Grey parrots. And the intelligence of one species says very little about the intelligence of another species.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to a fan of birds or anyone who enjoys lighter memoirs.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Summary: How far will Rose go to keep her promise? 

The recent Strigoi attack at St. Vladimir's Academy was the deadliest ever in the school's history, claiming the lives of Moroi students, teachers, and guardians alike. Even worse, the Strigoi took some of their victims with them. . . including Dimitri. 

He'd rather die than be one of them, and now Rose must abandon her best friend, Lissa-the one she has sworn to protect no matter what-and keep the promise Dimitri begged her to make long ago. But with everything at stake, how can she possibly destroy the person she loves most?

This is the fourth book in the young adult vampire series, Vampire Academy.

Review: I was a bit disappointed by the third book so I was glad when I enjoyed the fourth book more.

The info dump at the beginning of the book was a tad unnecessary. Rose did irk me at the beginning and throughout some of the book. She compared her chest to other people and seemed to think hers was better because the other girl's wasn't as big. She also thought it was vain to think that she looked good. People enjoy looking good. There is nothing wrong with that. Also, what is so wrong with wearing dresses? A person's worth is not based on their clothing. And you can still look sexy in jeans and a t-shirt. Perhaps I didn't notice how obsessed Rose seemed with Dmitri in previous books, but you can certainly see it in Blood Promise.
Honestly, not much happened in the book and the last hundred or so pages contained the most action in the series. That wasn't too much of a bother because even the long drawn out scenes were done well. There were a number of new characters introduced and a new agency. Some will be back in the next two books, but the others won't. While it was part of Rose and Lissa's bond, the ability of Rose to go into Lissa's mind worked as a plot device of sorts. I was glad Lissa had a time to shine and I sensed that she grew as a character. The emotions displayed in the book were genuine. I was glad the book ended how it did and I have hope for the fifth book.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone who has read the series up to this point and I would recommend the series to fans of young adult supernatural novels and vampire fans.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review: Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés 

Summary: Within every woman there is an inner force filled with passion and creativity. Estes teaches women how to access this vital part and free their wild natures.

Review: Sometimes a story is just a story. That is what keeping running through my head as I was reading this book. I chose to read this book for a book challenge on Goodreads. It fit my criteria for a book shelved as feminism, history, and mythology. I suppose I should have paid better attention to the summary.

I honestly thought the book would be about mythological stories and a literary analysis of the women involved within those stories. Women Who Run with the Wolves did deal with mythological stories, but the author used the stories to demonstrate Jungian archetypes and their role in the development of women. I did not realize this book would be dealing with Jungian psychology or else I might not have read it. I'm not a fan of Jungian psychology nor do I believe in archetypes. I also don't believe in women being inherently feminine or men being inherently masculine. I see gender as a social construct and I believe that human beings have a wide range of supposedly masculine and feminine behaviors. So it was a little off putting to be told that I should be looking for my feminine self hidden deep within.

There also was a big focus on being a mother in this book. The author didn't come out and say it directly, but I felt that she believed that a woman wouldn't be complete until she had children and I for one do not want children. Some of my other gripes were the large number of archetypes, men were added almost an afterthought, and generalizes way too much about every woman. The author took a lot of her metaphors too far. I did enjoy the stories that were told, but the analysis was downright boring. There were a few useful pieces of advice in the book such as not bothering with people who don't appreciate you for who you are.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to someone who is very interested in Jungian psychology and archetypes and filled with a desire to find one's creative/inner/wild self.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm a blogger!

It's official. I finally decided to start a blog. Expect anything and everything related to books: new books, old books, ebooks, book giveaways, reviews, book challenges, and more. Expect a bit of grumbling about graduate school and perhaps the odd post about the oh so adorable Uglydolls.