Monday, March 31, 2014

Title: The Queen's Lover: A Novel

Author: Vanora Bennett

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary  :Catherine de Valois, daughter of the French king Charles VI, is born into troubled times. Though she is brought up in a royal court, it is a stormy and unstable environment. Before she is out of her teens, Catherine is married off to England's Henry V as part of a treaty honoring his victory over France. She is terrified at the idea of being married to a man who is a foreigner, an enemy, and a rough soldier, and is forced to leave her home for England.
Within two years she is widowed, and mother to the future King of England and France—even though her brother has laid claim to the French crown for himself. Caught between warring factions of her own family and under threat by the powerful lords of the English court, she must find a way to keep her infant son safe. In Owain Tudor, a childhood friend for whom Catherine has long had affection and who now controls the Royal household, Catherine finds both strength and kinship. As their friendship turns to love, however, she risks not only her life and that of her son but the uneasy balance of power in England and France that will be forever changed.
History comes alive in this lyrical and moving true story of one woman's courage and the inception of one of the most famous royal lineages of all time.

Review: In the novel 'The Queen's Lover' Vanora Bennett explores the world of Catherine de Valois a young French princess born in turbulent times into a family of mistrust, murder, and mental illness, where her next meal is never a guarantee; even while she is surrounded by riches that the peasants around her cannot imagine.  The reader is absorbed into the world of a young woman making her way in a family where mental illness controls the leader of her family; and the ruler of her country; her Father the king.  And while her youngest brother is her confidant as a child time has a way of making even the closest of siblings into something she will not recognize as the years pass.

Catherine has few she can trust one being her childhood friend Owain Tudor, they explore childhood feelings for each other, but when each realizes the societal strings that will keep them tied to their stations they go their separate ways until the dance of life pulls them back together in unexpected ways throughout the next few decades of their lives.  The way in which Bennett was able to build each character profile made it seem as if you were watching each scene unfold right before your eyes; it was the most realistic and gripping historical fiction I've read recently. I could not put it down.  The characters came to life and matured from page to page. I can't wait to read more by this author.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Title: Salem Falls

Author: Jodi Picoult

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: A handsome stranger comes to the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls in hopes of burying his past: Once a teacher at a girls' prep school, Jack St. Bride was destroyed when a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation. Now, washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or-Diner, he slips quietly into his new routine, and Addie finds this unassuming man fitting easily inside her heart. But amid the rustic calm of Salem Falls, a quartet of teenage girls harbor dark secrets -- and they maliciously target Jack with a shattering allegation. Now, at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, Jack is forced once again to proclaim his innocence: to a town searching for answers, to a justice system where truth becomes a slippery concept written in shades of gray, and to the woman who has come to love him.

Review: This book by Picoult is a twist on the Salem Witch trials.  It involves four young teenage girls who are involved with wicca, and are just learning to navigate in the world of adults; and when they don't get what they want from the new stranger in town they aim to show him what 'witches' in todays age can be capable of doing to someone.  Jack has been accused of one false crime and after moving to Salem Falls, falling for the local waitress, and starting the threads of a new life he finds himself involved in a new scandal that might send him to jail for the rest of his natural life if he cannot convince the local populace or perhaps a jury to believe in his innocence.

Salem Falls explores the darker side of sexuality and lies that happen everyday in the lives of teenagers, adults and people around the world; have you ever wished someone ill and then heard they were in a car wreck and wondered just for a moment if your thought could have had some link to it? This book explores the possibilites of magic and how they are still active even in today's society.  Salem Falls, opens your mind to looking closer and listening more to the people around you.  People and events may not always be what they seem.  The book was a pretty quick read; the characters were flatter for me than other Picoult novels but the storyline kept me reading.  It was the plot of the book that I enjoyed more than anything.  I would recommend it but I have other books by this author I've enjoyed more.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Title: Sing You Home

Author: Jodi Picoult

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen. 

Review: I've never read a book that made me think in the way the novel Sing You Home, by author Jodi Picoult has.  It is the story of a couple who after struggling with infertility issues for years, along with the heartbreak of a still birth breaks under the pressure.  Max Zoe's husband files for divorce.  While Max turns to alcohol and ends up turning to a conservative Christian Church; Zoe finds love in an unexpected friendship with Vanessa which blossoms into a love song that changes her life; when the two women decide to have children a storm begins that only faith, love and perhaps the right song can heal and bring some of these broken souls back together to form a family for the child they are all desperately fighting for.

As I read this book it was an eye opener to realize how others might view the Christian faith; and some of our beliefs.  I'm glad I do not attend a church like the one Pastor Clive is head of in this book.  It showed me even more that love should be the center of any faith not hate or judgement.  Each character had their own struggles and even though they choose very different ways of coping with them in the end they were all just fighting for the right to live in the way that they thought was right and was the best choice for them.  The soundtrack and different songs for different chapters was a wonderful addition to the book in my opinion. I connect with music on a very deep level so I loved that aspect and I thought the characters were very alive and easy to connect with.  I haven't read a book by Jodi Picoult yet that I haven't loved or connected with.  I'd recommend this book to anyone especially music lovers.

Cheers! Happy Reading =)


Friday, March 14, 2014

House Rules

House Rules

By: Jodi Picoult

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right. 

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. 

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

Review: House Rules is one of the best novels I have read thus far in 2014.  It delves into the world of a family who are living in the not so black and white world of Asperger's and who have been for the past almost eighteen years.  The oldest son in the family Jacob has been diagnosed with Asperger's (he was diagnosed between two and three) which is a disease that is on the autistic spectrum but in which its suffer's are still able to function, can be very smart, but have a hard time in social situations or being able to feel any type of empathy for others or their feelings, people with asperger's often have obsessions about certain subjects and Jacob's obsession is forensic crime scenes and you can imagine the set up for a great novel.  

The plot is that Jacob's social skill's tutor disappears and he was the last known person to see her, along with a brother who gets lost in the chaos of his brothers disease, a Mother who while fighting fiercely for her son might be losing the other and herself, and a young lawyer who is finding love in the most unexpected places.  This novel was beautifully written and even Jacob at moments when you wanted to shout at him was hard not to root for or just to want to hold in the hardest moments.  I would most definitely recommend this book and will definitely be reading more Jodi Picoult novels in the near future.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 
By: Ken Kesey

Rating <3 <3 <3

Summary: An international bestseller and the basis for a hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was one of the defining works of the 1960s. A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. McMurphy swaggers into the mental ward like a blast of fresh air and turns the place upside down, starting a gambling operation, smuggling in wine and women, and egging on the other patients to join him in open rebellion. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results. With One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey created a work without precedent in American literature, a novel at once comic and tragic that probes the nature of madness and sanity, authority and vitality. Greeted by unanimous acclaim when it was first published, the book has become and enduring favorite of readers. 

Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a novel following the life of a prisoner McMurphy who got himself moved from a working prison to a mental hospital in the 1960's.  It follows the up's and downs of his journey and growing relationships with other patients in the mental ward run by the ultimate villain Nurse Ratchet or 'The Big Nurse' who enjoys using her power in her role as caregiver to employ other sadistic caregivers and to inflict pain and mental, and physical anguish on the patients who are left in her care.  I decided to read this book because I have loved the movie since my early teens, and although the characters were colorful, and the plot was one that you did not want to put down, I did find the writing style confusing and somewhat monotonous throughout the second half and towards the end of the book.  I do think however if you are interested into a look into what psychological treatment might have been like for patients during this point in history (1960's) this might be a good reference to read, or I'd recommend the movie.  As far as the novel itself its not one of my favorites but it was alright.  For me as someone with multiple psychology degrees hearing how the author chose to have the patients describe themselves, and their disorders was very interesting, and hearing how their main caregiver used therapy to manipulate them for her own means to really in a way torture then psychologically was disturbing to me and just makes me want to help people in a positive way even more.