Book Blogger Hop 2/25

Book Blogger Hop

Today’s Question is: “Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?”

– Nope! who else would have Okbolover as their blog name??? 😀

If you’re coming in from the hop, Hi! have some chocolate swiss rolls (they’re yummy aren’t they?) have a great weekend!

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Review of The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner

The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret

I got this book as part of The Tudor Secret blog tour by Pump Up Your Book. Thanks! it’s greatly appreciated! I’ve read another one of his books previously; The Last Queen. I do have The Confessions of Catherine de Medici on the TBR pile (waiting to be read soon!)

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies. Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past. A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. (From Amazon.ca)

I have a thing where I love any historical fiction that has a lot of intrigue and mystery. I also love the politics behind the court. I’m fascinated by it. This book has everything you want. Intrigue, mystery, twists and turns, some action, a bit of romance, it’s a mixture of everything! however it’s so well written and well done that it doesn’t feel like it’s been put together sloppily.

The plot flows and the pace is even. What I liked the most is the point of view of the character. Most historical fiction novels take place in the viewpoint of someone who’s Royalty, and almost always it’s a female character. So, seeing the story from Brendan’s eyes is definitely something different and I would say, refreshing. It’s about time we see it from a guy’s point of view! and a ‘nobody’ at that!. I’d have to say I liked him from the start. He’s easily likable and his development throughout the novel was from a young man with an almost childlike naivete to someone who’s well versed in how to behave and act in court, and who’s about to become a double agent (so to speak). I thought the change was very well done. Brendan matured throughout the novel and the transition was smooth.

I’m a huge fan of political intrigue, and this book has a lot of it. I loved the double crossing, the secrets revealed, and the deeds done in the past that are coming back to haunt certain individuals in the book. The Dudleys are as scheming and ruthlessly ambitious as ever (and I still have a strong dislike for Robert Dudley. Always have. Always will). Frances Brandon follows close behind on my hate list. It’s amazing how ambition and greed takes precedence over everything else and brings out the worst in people. It might be a challenge to keep track of all the intrigue however once you get all the characters straightened out, everything does fall into place.

Besides Brendan, I’ve taken a liking to Cecil. Although he’s also a sneaky sly character who uses Brendan, and others to his own purposes and agenda, I like how he underhandedly talks himself out of a tense situation and manages to turn it around. He remains unharmed and still in a powerful position as Elizabeth’s advisor. He’s a very ‘quiet’ character, yet his behind the scenes actions make the plot interesting and makes it move forward with Brendan’s help.

I think it might have helped to have a little family tree chart handy, or at least a list of characters for those that might not be familiar with Tudor history it does get slightly confusing towards the end it takes a bit to straighten out Brendan’s connections and ties with other families. However, those well versed in the history, will have no problem. Other than that, there is no other issue I can think of with this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and as this is the first book in the Spymaster Chronicles, I am waiting for the next one! I loved the intrigue. Absolutely loved it. I definitely recommend this for historical fiction lovers of Tudor history.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Review of A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor

Thank you Tribute Books! for allowing me to read and review this book for the blog tour! it was much appreciated.

It has taken centuries to recognize that all humans possess certain unalienable rights. There will come a time when we have to consider whether others deserve those rights as well. That time will come on July 3rd 1863. When a stranger carrying a shiny,metallic valise steps aboard a train carrying Abraham Lincoln home from a 2 year stint in Congress, everyone stares, wondering about the stranger’s odd clothing and strange footwear with the word Nike emblazoned on them. When the strange man shows up in Lincoln’s office at the White house 14 years later, still wearing the same clothes, carrying the same valise and looking not a day older, the president and his staff know something is odd. But when Edwin Blair opens his valise and projects a 3d image of the Earth on Lincoln’s wall, then proceeds to tell a fanciful tale about time traveling aliens preparing to land at Gettysburg on July 3rd, they are sure they’ve met a lunatic.
Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. (From Goodreads)

It took me a while to get into this book. It’s very different and a little difficult to get the gist on what’s going on. It helps being patient, and then your interest in the book should grow as you go along. It’s most definitely something very interesting to read. It’s a great mix of historical fiction and time travelling, mix that with aliens and it’s a pretty good adventure to read through.

It does help a little if you’re into the history. Unfortunately the American Civil War isn’t my strong point and one of the periods of history that I am the least interested in. So, although I know the names of the big players, the others (Lincoln’s presidential staff, for example) just went over my head. It’s a little frustrating as when reading historical fiction, I prefer knowing who’s who. Besides that, I found Lincoln depicted accurately as someone who is open minded, and intelligent. It’s interesting to see his reaction towards Blair, and the ability to think out of the box and to accept Blair’s explanation was well done. General Lee was also interesting to read as he listens to Blair as well. It took quite a bit of convincing but I thought that was a memorable scene.

This is a great alternate history book, with science fiction mixed into the story. I would probably have liked this book more if I was more interested into this kind of history. However, no regrets on giving this one a try. The writing is great and flows clearly plus the unique storyline is an added bonus. Don’t hesitate to pick this book up. I think it’s definitely worth it.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

Review of The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli

The Wager

The Wager

I really like the cover of this one. It really stood out to me on the library shelf. The red and black combination does stand out especially if it’s sitting on the shelf by itself. Whoever positions these books at the local library really know what they’re doing, because it certainly caught my eye.

Don Giovanni was once the wealthiest and handsomest young man in Messina. Then a tidal wave changed everything. When a well-dressed stranger offers him a magical purse, he knows he shouldn’t take it. Only the devil would offer a deal like this, and only a fool would accept. Don Giovanni is no fool, but he is desperate. He takes the bet: he will not bathe for 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days. Beauty is a small price to pay for worldly wealth, isn’t it? Unless he loses the wager—and with it his soul. (From Amazon.ca)

I thought this book was a great combination between a Faustian deal with a fairy tale mixed in. There is an author’s note provided at the end of the book which explains that the story was based on a Sicilian fairy tale and even goes as far as to summarize the entire fairy tale and what happens to the characters in it. I’d have to say I prefer Napoli’s version of the tale. It’s much more happier and it has a great feel good ending.

The concept of the story was interesting, although it sounded pretty gross that Don Giovanni couldn’t bathe for such a long time.  Naturally as the story progresses, he gets tempted to wash and bathe but stays clear of the temptations. What I liked about the book, was suddenly Giovanni finds himself among the “commoners” and not with his peers (his peers in fact, ignore him or treat him like dirt). It’s an eye opener to him as he had the ego the size of a house in the beginning of the book. This provides great character development where he goes from being a selfish arrogant egotistical noble, to a simple man who develops friendships and acquaintances with villagers, peasants, farmers, and street urchins. That being said, I really did enjoy reading about Giovanni and his character development.

There are graphic depictions of how dirty Giovanni is. I mean really really dirty. Like open sores and pustules dirty. It’s gross, but you could say it’s very well written if it gets a reaction from the reader. However the plot is clear and evenly paced and the descriptions of various scenes are excellent and can be pictured easily. I’d also have to say the little twist in the end, where the mysterious artist appears and their identity was revealed, was a nice little surprise and I thought it added a very nice touch to the ending.

I thought it was a great retelling of an old fairy tale and will be looking for more of Napoli’s works. It’s a wonderful plot, Don Giovanni turns out to be likable and it’s great ‘happily ever after’ story. Give this one a try, it’s unique and different and a very enjoyable read.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Book Blogger Hop 2/11

Book Blogger Hop

Today’s question is an easy one 🙂

“Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!”

– Since I just posted a review on Thursday evening, I’ll choose that link as it was an excellent book and I recommend it (especially to YA readers!)

Review of The Duff by Kody Keplinger

What are your links? let me know! and hi from the Hop! chocolate cupcakes for everybody!!!!

Review of The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The Duff

The Duff

I first heard about this novel through book blogs as I was hopping through. It got pretty rave reviews. When I found out what “DUFF” really meant I thought: Really? only a douche could think of something like that. I was right. Wesley was, and still is, a douche. Anyway more on that later. Onto the review!

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone. (From Amazon.ca)

Bianca is one of the most entertaining characters I have ever read so far. She made me laugh at so many points in the novel and I wrote down so many memorable quotes thanks to her. She’s definitely one of my favorite protagonists of this year. She’s got great wit, and I love her personality. Her insults directed to Wesley are so well done and well written I chuckle even after reading the book. All this being said, I immediately liked Bianca from the beginning. She’s an extremely likable character and grabs the reader’s attention quickly. I also really enjoyed Casey as well. She is the perfect friend every girl should have in their lifetime. Extremely supportive, friendly, funny, and cheerful she was the complete opposite of Bianca but they both complimented each other well. What I really liked is when she pointed out what she found were her physical ‘faults’ and compared herself to Bianca. It was as if she was trying to say there’s a ‘Duff’ in everyone.

The plot was good. Really good. It did catch me off my guard because I wasn’t expecting Bianca and Wesley to have this kind of relationship before. I don’t really quite understand why she would do so with a character like Wesley but it was mentioned that he was “hot”. The theme of being the ‘Duff’ within a group of friends really got to Bianca, and it’s perfectly understandable. Beneath her cynicism and wit, the insult really did get to her and it shows that she’s not just a two dimensional character with only wit and armed with great comebacks. She’s also got this other side of her personality where she’s just really alone and by herself with the issues at home. It’s gotten to the point where it’s so overwhelming for Bianca, that she just needed an outlet. That outlet just happened to be Wesley. Wesley as a character just did not appeal to me.

Although some may not agree with her relationship with Wesley, and the subject matter, I’d have to say, it’s really not any different from how some adults deal with their issues. It might bother some people, or it might not, however I’ll add that because of the subject matter this is really targeted towards older teens. Yet I wish Bianca could have chosen someone different as I really didn’t like Wesley and don’t think I ever will. The ending of the book does tie things nicely yet I wish some things ended in a different way.

I definitely recommend this book to YA readers, or those who want a really good laugh. Bianca is one of those characters that will be hard to forget. Combine this with great writing, and a very engaging and hilarious plot and you’ll get a novel that will want to make you finish it in one sitting.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Side note (spoiler alert!): I really don’t understand this concept of girls falling for the douche. I really don’t. Once a douche, always a douche. Yet douches attract an infinite number of girls/women. Although you can tell Bianca and Toby were just so wrong for each other, you can’t help but ask yourself what would have happened if she went with Toby first instead of douchy Wesley? things just might have been different. Anyway! I’m all for Toby. He’s a sweet guy and I would prefer him instead of Wesley any day. I just don’t like Wesley because he has all the characteristics of what I don’t like in guys, and from what I learned, guys like these never change. So I found Wesley’s “change” in the book a little too optimistic. However this is just my opinion. Perhaps Bianca’s cynicism has now passed onto me. 🙂

Review of Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden

Ah! time for some dystopia! I like YA/juvenile dystopian fiction. Is it just me, or has there been a huge increase in this kind of fiction for a while now? keep it coming. I love this stuff!

Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside. Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows — does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to? (From Chapters Indigo)

For such a thin little book, there was plenty to read. It was a bit of a slow starter at first and you immediately feel for Luke all through the book. Although his family loves him, he’s always been the third wheel in everything. It’s an interesting setting even though nothing really happens until Luke meets Jen (which is a little further along the book.) I’m not sure why it’s a slow start. Perhaps it’s to reflect the dreary monotonous daily life Luke has to go through because he can’t even get out of the house so there’s really not much to do.

When he does meet Jen however, things do pick up and get more exciting to read. I really do admire her enthusiasm and her determination to change the system although it does get predictable as to the outcome of her idea. Nevertheless I liked how the story ended and I am curious as to what Luke is going to do now.

I’d say pick this up for a quick read. It’s not the greatest book I’ve read that covers dystopia, and not the most different (the idea of the Population Police is now pretty commonplace in this kind of literature). Yet because it’s so quick and can be finished within a day, give it a try. Perhaps the books following this one will be better.

I give it a 6 out of 10.