Wednesday, July 31, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Hello lovelies! So I read To Kill a Mockingbird but felt the post would be a bit more at home on my personal blog. Please wander over there to read my post about this amazing book that I read as part of a read-along hosted by Adam of Roof Beam Reader.

You can find my post here!

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

Where my history nerds at? I am a HUGE history buff and my favorite of all favorites would have to be Tudor England. Specifically Anne Boleyn. I have had a huge love affair with Anne Boleyn since I was a little girl and first read a book about her. One book about this amazing woman and I was hooked. I watch all the movies about her that I can, all the TV shows, all the biographies, all the novels. I devour anything I can about her.

Her story never gets old for me and she is definitely my historical hero. Because of my very zealous following of her story and my clear love for her, I have become very picky about how she is portrayed. Almost to a fault picky. I like my Anne to be strong willed and sexy, daring and driven, smart and stubborn. She was devout to her religion and she knew what she wanted. She was injured by the beast that was Henry VIII and unjustly killed. Moral of the story, homegirl is the greatest woman that ever lived. The books I read about her must show her in that light. In my opinion at least. (Which I consider to be awesome. TEAM BOLEYN FOREVER)

I'd been craving some Anne for quite some time when I saw this book peeking out at me.

via Goodreads
This book is about Elizabeth at the start of her reign. She is a young girl of 25, headstrong and proud and ready to finally rule. Her council is urging her to marry so England could finally have a proper ruler in a King. More specifically, a man. One day, an old woman named Lady Sommerville comes to see Elizabeth and tells her that she attended to her mother while she was in the Tower of London awaiting her execution. She reveals a secret diary Anne had kept throughout her courtly life and given to Lady Sommerville on the day of her death to one day give to Elizabeth when she was Queen. 

First lines:

"'God's death!' roared Elizabeth. 'Will you not give me one day's respite from this tiresome pestering? You make my head ache.'
The queen's councillors could hardly keep pace with the extraordinarily tall and slender woman now moving in great strides across Whithall's wide lawn to her waiting mount."

Already liked Elizabeth from the start. She kicks butt.

The book alters between pages from Anne's diary and Elizabeth's life as she becomes more of a Queen and gets to know her mother as well as battles with a love for a childhood friend. Elizabeth finds guidance from her mother's words as well as a new understanding for the woman always portrayed as a great traitor and whore. 

I loved the premise of this book, especially the inclusion of Elizabeth. I've always imagined that Elizabeth would have a fierce love for her mother and defend her, but that's only because I feel that way for Anne. It was very cool to watch her learn more of her mother's life and quest for the crown that would ultimately kill her. It was fascinating to watch Elizabeth go from sort of admiration of her father to disgust at his murder of her mother and madness of his mind. 

I liked watching Elizabeth pull closer to her mother and see the parallels of their worlds connecting. They were both women with power in a man's world. They were women before their time with quick wit and an even quicker tongue. As Lady Sommerville says:

"You have your father's eyes, Elizabeth, but it is your mother's spirit shining through them."
"'I loved your mother,' said Lady Sommerville quite unexpectedly, 'from the first moment I laid eyes on her lonely soul.'"

I loved Anne in this book, which is truly saying a lot from me. She was bright and spunky and very smart. She smelled of spice and had a lilting laugh and I thought she was just lovely. I loved the image of her stealing away during her busy life and writing in her secret diary. It made her feel very real and very vulnerable and isolated from court, which I imagine she was. Even when she was popular in court, she was very alone in her own head, thinking up plots and flirtations and planning the capture of a King. I liked this lonely and melancholic Anne. It made her more strong and more determined to read about her journey in her own stolen words.

She was stylish and sexy at the beginning of her journey starting in 1522 in the diary. Confident and daring, it was no wonder that she would win Henry over.

"I boldly met the French King's eye and held his blatant gaze before dropping the lowest of seductive bows. I arose and knew that all the courtiers were admiring me, caressing me, undressing me."

"I'll have his soul, be that assured. When? How? I cannot know. But Anne Boleyn shall have her day."

"I thought then, Yes, be elusive as the wind and he will seek but never hold me."

GOOD LORD I love Anne Boleyn. She makes me feel sexy and powerful and Robin Maxwell has written an amazing Anne. 

As the years passed on and I began counting the years to her death the transition to scared and defiant felt real. Reading her own words made it very personal and made my heart hurt for this abandoned woman. 

"For all my taunting words and clever teasing I swear I feel no winner, but just a girl in deep water closing o'er my head."

"For men love that which they cannot have, and hate that which they cannot control, I was both to Henry."

Anne grew and the writing changed. She became older with her words and she had learned her lesson about playing with fire. The transition was written beautifully.

The mixing in of Elizabeth's world with Anne's was done very well but I found myself wishing for more Anne. The diary entries jumped years and months, which I understand completely but I do feel the book could have been longer. I felt like we didn't get enough time with the courtship phase of Henry and Anne. I wanted to see him fall more and hear more about how she managed to keep his advances at bay for six long years before finally giving herself to him. More time in the middle entries were spent discussing affairs of state. While those are important, I wanted her personal diary to be filled with personal stories about secret kisses and a Henry before the fat disgusting King I love to hate. I wanted to see them fall for each other and that didn't happen much here. 

Besides that one missing piece, I really enjoyed this book a lot. It pulled at my heartstrings and I loved the mother/daughter relationship. I loved the Anne written in this book almost as much as I love my favorite Anne from The Tudors on Showtime. (Natalie Dormer, am I right? She's unreal and perfect. Get her out of here.) If you are a lover of Tudor England or Anne Boleyn, I think you would really enjoy this book. 4/5 stars. 

Unreal. via fanpop
Until next time, happy reading! I'd love to hear any recommendations you have for me, or your thoughts about anything I've read. Leave your comment below; I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I love historical novels and I especially love World War 2. I was so excited to pick up a copy of this book. Plus. LOOK at this cover!

I also love books that I'm told will make me cry, pretty safe bet with World War 2 books. I've heard a lot about this book this year and I was thrilled to finally pick up a copy at my bookstore. 

This book is about a girl code named "Verity" who parachutes in to Nazi-occupied France during 1943. After making one small error, she is captured by the Gestapo and taken in for questioning. She is offered one choice: tell them the mission she has been give or face execution, an execution that won't be quick or painless. 

The girl who flew her into France is Maddie, her best friend and a female pilot. To reveal the information the Nazi officers want from her, she writes a narrative of the events leading up to her landing, told from the perspective of Maddie. 

Throughout the novel, Verity writes about what happens to her in her prison inside a hotel converted into a Gestapo headquarters as well as the events leading up to her landing. The sharing of both stories made for an interesting and intricate read. 

I was so ready to love this book. I was ready to cry hysterically and be unable to sleep at night because I was up reading. This was not my experience. This book took me so long to read and it was a struggle for me to keep my attention on what was happening. There were so many terms I didn't understand and the majority of the book was made up of planes and mechanical jargon that went right over my head. It made it hard to follow the main points of the story and to watch the friendship between the two girls blossom. I wanted a more intimate look at who these girls were and what this friendship was, but instead it was all military talk with the occasional peak into the minds of the girls. 

From the brief moments the girls got to talk, I loved them. The characters in this book were complex and beautiful. I loved hearing their voices. 

First lines, courtesy of Verity:


I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers- and even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But now I know I am a coward. After the ridiculous deal I made with SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer von Linden, I know I am a coward. And I'm going to give you anything you ask, everything I can remember. Absolutely Every Last Detail."

Verity was strong and determined and I loved her. Maddie was so strong too, but had a quiet strength that was so different from Verity. I loved the little tender moments we got to spend with them, sharing their fears, snuggling in bed after a hard day at work, moments before Verity has to land in France. I wish the novel focused less on the nitty gritty details of how to fly a plane and types of engine and more on these two. 

The ending though was quite amazing! It had a twist that I did not see coming and while I didn't cry, it shook me and definitely made an impact on my mind. The end is how the whole book should have been- deep and electric and moving. 

All in all I would give this book 2 stars out of 5. I liked the characters and I liked where the plot wanted to go, but sadly it read a little bit like a military pilot textbook. I realize it sort of had to be that way since Verity was revealing secrets as she was telling the story, I just feel that more narrative could have been put in to move the plot along faster. 

Until next time, happy reading! I'd love to hear any recommendations you have for me, or your thoughts about anything I've read. Leave your comments below; I'd love to hear from you.