Teaser Tuesday Featuring Eighth Grade Bites

My teaser for this week features Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer:

Maybe it was the hunger that made it easy. Without a glance at Tom’s fist, he whispered, “You’d better hurry, ballerina boy. You wouldn’t want to be late.”

😀 what’s your teaser?


Sunday Salon: Review of Uneasy Lies the Head

Uneasy Lies the HeadI know I’m rather late in discovering Jean Plaidy. I heard about her since I was a kid, and my mom used to read her books (and even reread them whenever she could). It wasn’t until just now that I decided to give the famous Jean Plaidy a try. I now understand what’s so good about her books, and why mom always reread them when she had the chance. They are hard to find though, as I had to do an interlibrary loan on this one that I’ve just finished reading.

Uneasy Lies the Head is the first in the Tudor Saga (ah! how I love reading about the Tudors and it’s been a while since I’ve had my usual “Tudor fix”). It features Henry the VII (mostly) and his reign. Although not all of the story is in his point of view, he does play the central figure and towards the end, it leads upto Henry the VIII.

I have to say, I enjoyed reading this book. At first, it was a little hard for me to get into, as the plot did not grasp at my attention, and there is a slight confusion to all the names being thrown out to you as a reader. Hence why there are detailed family trees in the beginning for your reference. After getting the characters straightened out the plot gets more intriguing and the Tudor court suddenly comes to life. Albeit, not as dashing and charming as you might find in Henry the Eighth’s court, but that’s because his father was a penny pincher. The glamour isn’t there yet, but the intrigue definitely is, and so is the constant plotting to get rid of the Tudors from the English throne.

I really liked the detail and effort Plaidy had put into this novel to made it as historically accurate as possible without really compromising anything. She breathed life into each of the characters so there’s flesh and feeling to them and not just two dimensional things that don’t develop at all, or are just there to take up a page or two. Her writing style is a little different, it’s certainly more descriptive and sets the right moods and tones for the reader. The dialogue is all right and well written, and adds personality to the characters in the book. It was nice to see Katherine and Arthur again albeit for a very short period of time. She gained my sympathy towards the end of the novel for sure.

I also enjoyed how Henry the VII was so worried about these pretenders to the throne, and how he was always on the edge of his seat to defend it. Also, the outcome of the Princes of the Tower was interesting and well written here. What I didn’t really like about this story? Henry was a bit too cold, almost lifeless and void of any real human emotion. He was like a robot. Also, his wife Elizabeth was mentioned but not as much as I hoped. I actually wanted to hear more about the story of both of them and how they got along in their marriage. However on a lighter note, it was nice to see Henry the Eighth, same as usual, arrogant as ever. It’s nice to see some things that don’t change in every Tudor novel I have come across.

Overall, a must read for Tudor fans everywhere. It sets the setting for Henry the Eighth and his court and keeps you wanting more to read.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Musing Monday 3/22

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about tbr books.

Where do you keep the books on the top of the tbr pile? Not the bunk of the mountain, but just the tip of the peak – the ‘almost up to’ books?

– Oh! good question! see, I used to have them on a pile on a chair in our dining room but the hombre didn’t like that (he’s the “wife” of this relationship) so he bought me this nice large wicker box with a lid so I can put all the TBR books I have. 🙂 however, space is limited, and now some of the TBR but “definitely” reading books are on top of it. I’m waiting until he says something about that….will let you guys know if he does. 😀

What are your answers?

Sunday Salon: Review of Kanada

KanadaKanada by Eva Wiseman is the story of a young girl named Jutka, who dreams of going to Canada, where her cousin lives. She currently lives in Hungary during World War II, where, being a Jewish girl, she undergoes a lot of hatred, her friends (and potential romantic interest) turn against her, and school used to be fun until she was forced to leave. Eventually, Jutka gets deported to Auschwitz and ironically, gets put to work in “Kanada”, a storehouse which housed belongings of the dead. When liberation arrives things are still immensely difficult for her and throughout the novel, you follow Jutka through her pain as she dreams about better times and places; especially her dream to go to Canada.

It is very sad to see the world through Jutka’s eyes, especially when she gets separated from her friends and has to stay home as she’s banned from attending school. The hatred from some of the characters just makes you want to seethe in anger at how horribly they’ve treated Jutka and her family. It almost wants you to jump in and throttle these people. It’s very well written in the first person point of view, and Jutka is portrayed as just a normal teenage girl with friends and family she loves with the world turning upside down in a matter of months. The book is somewhat divided into several parts so you go through various stages of her life. It is tragic to read, naturally, yet the chapters are short and detail and the narration is clear and concise. Reading this book won’t take long as it is very interesting, and you want to know the outcomes of some of the people she knew and the fate of Jutka herself.

What I thought was interesting to see is the sudden maturity and development of Jutka the moment she enters the camp and the sudden losses she encounters. I admired her for her struggle to survive, and her ability to speak up when others stayed silent. Throughout the book she constantly dreams, especially dreams of Canada and living there. I believe those dreams were the key to her survival, and they kept her hope alive among the pain and suffering of those around her and the constant threat of death over her shoulder.

I was afraid of what she was planning to do with the rest of her life, but when she came right down to her choice, I was happy for her and agreed with it. I suppose the only problem I have with this book is the outcome of Tamas. He was horrible to Jutka and thought he should have been left to rot. However, that’s just my opinion. I enjoyed the ending. Unlike some of the Holocaust fiction I have read in the past, this one leaves a glimmer of hope for her, albeit bittersweet. The reader can only hope for the best for Jutka.

Overall, it was a good read. It shows a great deal of strength in the face of hopelessness and suffering. We can definitely learn a lot from Jutka and what she’s been through.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Review of Fablehaven

FablehavenI didn’t even know about Fablehaven until I saw it in a book set (containing the first three books) I almost got it, but had to put it aside as there was no price tag (and I hate looking for the price, it’s time consuming and most of the time it’s a price that’s just out of your reach so you’re bound to be disappointed). So, afterwards I forgot about it until I saw the it on the shelf at the library.

Fablehaven is the story of two children named Kendra and Seth who are dropped off by their parents to their Grandfather’s place for two weeks. They discover that Grandpa is the current caretaker of Fablehaven, a sanctuary and refuge for magical creatures both evil and good. There are strict rules to follow, as the sanctuary can be dangerous. Seth, who’s a little too curious for his own good, already has broken some of those rules, but has broken a very important one on Mid Summer’s Eve. Evil has been unleashed and it’s up to Kendra and Seth to fix things right and restore peace to Fablehaven.

I thought to myself after reading this, what a great book! it’s got everything that makes a fantasy readable, enjoyable and a great adventure. You’ll find every sort of mythical creature in Fablehaven (except unicorns and dragons, for now) but fairies are a very important aspect to the sanctuary and they seem to be all over the place. I loved the plot. It was extremely well written and the first few chapters were excellent in drawing the reader into the story and into the magical world of what is Fablehaven.

There is the classic battle of good versus evil, and of course it runs much deeper than there. There are unanswered questions and there is still lots to learn about the sanctuary, but the book does a very good job in introducing the reader to the main story and helps the reader in determining who’s “evil” and who’s “good”. What I’m trying to say is, it’s a great book to introduce the reader as to who is involved, who might be involved, and the potential bigger, badder, battles that might come ahead in the later books to come. Character wise, I’d say I like Kendra the most. I think she’s going to be the most important character in this series. Seth is also important, but he annoyed me a lot (I suppose that was the point of him, he is Kendra’s younger brother). I’d have to say though, my favorite part is at the end, with all the fairies joining in. The writing was well done in this part, and I could picture everything clearly in my head. It had beautiful descriptions which were also concise and clear.

I am definitely going to go ahead and read the rest of the series once I get my hands on them. Best thing is, the final book will be due out in the next few weeks! (Late March of 2010). This is a great series for fans of Harry Potter who need some more magic. True, there are no muggles in this one, there’s no Hogwarts, but you’ll see that Fablehaven provides a wonderful substitute for an instant magic fix.

Overall I give it a 9 out of 10.

Review of The Scarlet Lion

The Scarlet LionThanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for providing me a review copy of The Scarlet Lion. It was much appreciated! From what I know, it’s the sequel to The Greatest Knight which I have not read. However, The Scarlet Lion can be read on its own without having to rely on background information from the previous book. Therefore, this book can be read as a stand alone.

The Scarlet Lion is the story of William Marshal who’s dubbed “The Greatest Knight who ever lived”. After hearing word that King Richard has died, he chooses to back Prince John as King of England. Little did he know that this would cause a lot of trouble for him in the years ahead. They both have a falling out and John takes William’s two sons as hostages while trying to make William’s life an absolute miserable hell. As the years progress, William then finds himself in a position with immense power to be able to do whatever he wants…

To me, this book felt like I was reading one of Sharon Kay Penman’s novels. There were some differences but the writing is almost similar and so is the idea of following a family through several years and how they have evolved through that time. It was an interesting historical read, I have never heard of William Marshal and it was a nice history lesson for me. The plot was well written although not as rich in history as say, for example, Sharon Kay Penman’s When Christ and his Saints Slept. However, this book is a wonderful family saga as it takes you through William and Isabelle’s life with their children, and the historical events surrounding them. There isn’t much court intrigue here that I was expecting but I was willing to accept this, as the book was well written.

The battle scenes are all right, although I expected a little more detail and more action. What was more central to the plot was mainly William and Isabelle’s relationship, their family, and their endless fight against King John and his schemes. King John was every bit the villain here as I expected. He wasn’t the explosive tempermental character that I thought he would have been, but more of a cunning, sly, scheming one that was constantly thinking of plots against his men or to have them turn against each other. It’s a sneaky sly version of King John. An interesting side of him that I have heardly seen. It’s a nice sight to read, as I’m used to seeing a different version of him altogether. I’d have to say, Isabelle is my favorite character. For a woman, and especially one during those times, she’s extraordinarily strong and supportive towards William even when it came to her sons becoming “hostages”. There was a very strong bond between the two and their love never failed. I thought they were both meant for each other, and complimented each other perfectly. My favorite part would be Isabelle holding off a potential invasion in Ireland. It showed her strength and determination to hold onto her beloved homeland.

A few shortfalls do happen in this novel, I thought it was long in some parts, and it seemed to have dragged. It did take me quite a while to finish this book. I guess because it didn’t have the intrigue and constant plotting of court life. I also expected a story rich with historical descriptions and lots of historical detail, but it was more of a family saga set in a historical setting. Nevertheless I do suggest fans of historical fiction to give this a read, I did learn quite a few things here and there, especially of the life of William Marshal. Also, there is an element of romance in the novel, it’s really nothing that explicit. It’s to be expected as William and Isabelle were central to the story.

Overall, a good historical read that centralizes around a family saga. I do recommend this to those who enjoy reading stories of Medieval England.

I give it a 6 out of 10.