Review: Banished

23385196Title: Banished (Forbidden #2)

Author: Kimberley Griffiths Little

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess.

But the trek to Sariba comes with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her…secrets that will change everything.

Review: What happened? One of the things I loved so much about the first book,Forbidden, was the depiction of settings, due to the way it was able to sweep me into the world and the way of life of nomadic tribes such as Jayden’s. Despite being on a journey through the desert for a majority of the story there was no magic in terms of the setting this time around. Rather than immerse the readers into the world, as she had done before, the author seemed as if she were focused on so many other facets of her plot, And unfortunately I did not think all these new plot points did much to enhance this story.

For example, there are so many new threats to Jayden and Kadesh’s future happiness. Jayden’s betrothed, Horeb, continues to be an ever-looming presence, but in addition to him is a new storyline about idol worship, temples, magicians, priest and priestesses. Kadesh also holds on to far too many secrets for far too long; this was a problem for me because my hope with the end of the first book was that Jayden and Kadesh would come to know each other better so that my mind and emotions could comprehend the love they profess for one another. With so many secrets, however, this could not come to pass, making the dialogue and interactions between them feel very stilted and repetitive.

Jayden also became lost for me in Banished. I had connected with her strongly because of her commitment to her family and faith, as well as her determination to take what she desires in life rather than settle for what had been arranged for her. While she would worry over her sisters, her father, and grandmother, that grounded commitment did not feel as strong. Maybe I would have rather had a book focused upon moving towards someone rather than fleeing from enemies.


 

Be sure to check out the giveaway I have going for my blog’s 3rd anniversary!

Book Club: Princess in Pink

The Princess Diaries Book Club is an ongoing collaboration with my friend Cilla and her blog, Paved with Books. We decided that we would reread this series, at our own pace, and always come back to our blogs and each other to discuss the story and how we feel about it now. If you are interested in joining us, please do!

Title: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries #5) 93731.jpg

Author: Meg Cabot

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: Princess Mia is dreaming about the prom – and contending with a hotel workers’ strike – in the fifth, supremely hilarious episode of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries. This time, Mia’s in the pink about the upcoming Albert Einstein H.S. prom, and she’s crossing her fingers that Michael will ask her to go. (They’re in love, so why wouldn’t he ask her, right?) But during Seven Minutes in Heaven at her b-day party, Mia learns that Michael is not the prom-going type. Good grief, what’s a princess to do?

To make matters worse, Grandmere has gotten a busboy fired due to a mishap with her pooch, Rommel, at a swanky restaurant, so when all of the city’s busboys go on strike, it causes a chain of events that result in Grandmere crashing at Mia’s mom’s place, her pal Lilly Moscovitz picking up a picket sign, and the prom being brought to a screeching halt.

Thankfully, staunch yet boy-wise Grandmere has a plan to change Michael’s mind and put everything back on track, making Mia the happiest “prom princess” on this side of the Atlantic – and readers more starry-eyed than Molly Ringwald in her prettiest pink frock.

Review: Time to admit something: if it were not for audiobooks, it is very likely that I would have to give-up on the Princess Diaries book club. As much as I loved these books when I was in my pre-teens and early teens, there is very little I can relate to with Mia in my current age. While I go through these stories I find myself frustrated with the immaturity of her problems and lack of communication skills.

Mia, if you want to go to the prom, then tell your boyfriend you want to go to the prom. He cannot read your mind, not matter how many times you refer to him as a genius. And please stop using the word “self-actualization,” because going to the prom is not going to help you reach your full potential.

Pros of this book:
1. The escape of Boris
2. Mia laying down the law to Lily in regards to how she will proceed with Boris from here on out
3. The baby’s name – it made me smile

Cons of this book:
1. Lily – her treatment towards her boyfriend and friend is awful
2. Mia’s obsession and research of autism — it made me cringe
3. The repetition of the words prom and self-actualization
4. The lack of communication on behalf of Mia
5. The way Mia’s father’s contract is apparently going to be reneged upon

I am going to continue on, because I figure that Mia has to grow up eventually, and I really want to be there when that happens. Have any of you read Princess in Pink years later? How are you faring with the jarring immaturity of the protagonist if you are much older than she is? Is there any hope that the next book is going to be better?

Review: Why Not Me?

22716447Title: Why Not Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Review: Why not me, indeed. Or more like why am I the only one I know not connecting to this book?

I decided to read this on a lark, not knowing anything about Mindy besides who she is (as a celebrity), but being interested in one day watching her show. But maybe a memoir works better if you have some familiarity with the author?

As it stands, this book just was. The essays went from one to another. I wondered where the continuity was, along with questioning if this book had a concrete theme. Some moments are definitely funny. The essay I enjoyed the most was her telling of a failed love affair with one of Obama’s secret service agents; that is a fantasy I did not even know I had until I read it. Everything else in this book seemed to ramble on and I’m unsure I’ll remember any of her anecdotes a month from now.

Review: The Adventuress

23848104Title: The Adventuress (Lady Emily #10)

Author: Tasha Alexander

Rating: ★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Emily and husband Colin have come to the French Riviera for what should be a joyous occasion – the engagement party of her lifelong friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, and Amity Wells, an American heiress. But the merrymaking is cut short with the shocking death of one of the party in an apparent suicide. Not convinced by the coroner’s verdict, Emily must employ all of her investigative skills to discover the truth and avert another tragedy.

Review: Once upon a time, there was nothing I wanted to read more than a Lady Emily mystery. Here we are, though, on the tenth book in the series, and the latest in a row of disappointing reads, which leads me to wonder if it is time for this series to wrap up.

The best part of the story was the beginning. The suddenness of that first line, as well as the emotional reaction torn from Emily were well done, for all factors created an atmosphere I was riveted to. But too soon, the veneer of reader engagement began to wear off. This is another story in the series in which the murderer and the motivation behind the act is easy to determine within a few pages. I want to read a mystery book and feel a level of suspense. I want to read a mystery book and find myself collecting clues to reach a conclusion along with the main character; for the past few Emily books I have been able to solve the crime before the heroine. (The only plus to this plot is that it felt like it was more worthy of a full length novel; this is significant since I have lamented in the past that the later stories in the series have felt more suited to a novella.)

If a series is to reach a tenth book, then it is always my hope that new dimensions are being revealed within the characters and that circumstances have begun to shift. But has Emily continued to grow? I do not think so. For me, I often find the characters in this series to now be caricatures of themselves rather than the brilliance they once were. So I ask: how do you know when to let a series go? Should I continue to hope for more, for better; or should I call it quits?

ARC Review: Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante

Title: Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante (Maggie Hope Mystery #5) 25191538

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: In this latest riveting mystery from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal, England’s most daring spy, Maggie Hope, travels across the pond to America, where a looming scandal poses a grave threat to the White House and the Allied cause.

December 1941. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C., along with special agent Maggie Hope. Posing as his typist, she is accompanying the prime minister as he meets with President Roosevelt to negotiate the United States’ entry into World War II. When one of the First Lady’s aides is mysteriously murdered, Maggie is quickly drawn into Mrs. Roosevelt’s inner circle—as ER herself is implicated in the crime. Maggie knows she must keep the investigation quiet, so she employs her unparalleled skills at code breaking and espionage to figure out who would target Mrs. Roosevelt, and why. What Maggie uncovers is a shocking conspiracy that could jeopardize American support for the war and leave the fate of the world hanging dangerously in the balance.

Review: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States has finally joined the war effort. In the entourage of Churchill, Maggie returns to America, where she comes to work closely with Mrs. Roosevelt after the mysterious death of the First Lady’s secretary.

I had high hopes for this book since it was to reunite Maggie with Churchill, David and John. But as with its predecessor, there was too much story rather than a centralized focus upon Maggie. Within the story were the days leading up to the scheduled execution of Wendell Cotton, the German’s rocket building effort, the building relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt, and a look into Hollywood commissioned propaganda. But where did all of these other stories leave Maggie?

She, once again, was left with a mystery more suited for a novella. Those responsible for the death and their motivations were explicitly stated very early on, therefore there was no suspense here. In truth, this book is best suited for those interested in minute — as well as often thrown in — details of the White House’s rooms and furnishings during this time.

The end of the story sets up the possibility of the next story being of more interest, since it claims Maggie will receive another mission, but I have begun to grow wary. Every book ends with the promise of more that is never delivered on. Let us get back to Maggie actually working as a spy, as she did in Berlin.

(I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is October 27, 2015.)

Book Club: Princess in the Spotlight and Princess in Love

The Princess Diaries Book Club is an ongoing collaboration with my friend Cilla and her blog, Paved with Books. We decided that we would reread this series, at our own pace, and always come back to our blogs and each other to discuss the story and how we feel about it now. If you are interested in joining us, please do!

439275Title: Princess in the Spotlight (The Princess Diaries #2)

Author: Meg Cabot

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: No one ever said being a princess was easy.

Just when Mia thought she had the whole princess thing under control, things get out of hand, fast. First there’s an unexpected announcement from her mother. Then Grandmère arranges a national primetime interview for the brand-new crown princess of Genovia. On top of that, intriguing, exasperating letters from a secret admirer begin to arrive.

Before she even has the chance to wonder who those letters are from, Mia is swept up in a whirlwind of royal intrigue the likes of which hasn’t been seen since volume I of The Princess Diaries.

Review: Once again, I was fortunate enough to listen to the audiobook version narrated by Anne Hathaway; otherwise, I am not sure that I would have been able to finish this story in my current state. Do not get me wrong — this is a fast read, and there are many moments when I found myself trying to cover up my guffawing at the circumstances as described by Mia.

I think what really gets under my skin about this series thus far are the people around Mia, particularly her so-called best friend, Lily, and her grandmother. These two women are very similar in how they seem to bulldoze over the wishes and presence of those around them. In the case of Lily, she continues to have the most pretentious attitude and to treat those around her with very little regard. It has reached the point where I am actively hoping that eventually Mia will realize she is worthy of receiving much better.

Another question I have with this book concerns continuity. When we were first introduced to Mia she had always been in love with Josh. In this second installment however, she continuously says that she has always been in love with Michael…

 

568609Title: Princess in Love (The Princess Diaries #3)

Author: Meg Cabot

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Princess Mia may seem like the luckiest girl ever.

But the truth is, Mia spends all her time doing one of three things: preparing for her nerve-wracking entrée into Genovian society, slogging through the congestion unique to Manhattan in December, and avoiding further smooches from her hapless boyfriend, Kenny.

For Mia, being a princess and in love is not the fairy tale it’s supposed to be… or is it?

Review: For me, this is the best of the series thus far. And that is because Mia is the most relatable in the trials and tribulations she must encounter in order to tell the one she loves how she feels and discover his own feelings in return. When you are in high school there is nothing more complicated than love. There are the continuous questions in your head about whether he feels the same. There is the fear to be hurt, or to hurt someone else in return, which is why Mia makes certain decisions about Kenny. There is the confusion as multiple events mold together to create illusions that fit the dream, but also do not.

About halfway through listening to Princess in Love, I remembered the ending. But along with the ending I was also able to recall my feelings towards it when I first read this book however many years ago. It is sweet, it is magical, it was everything I wanted to read as a young girl who believed in love and wanted to experience it for herself. All these years later the ending still had the same effect on me; I could not stop smiling as things began to fall into place.

While the previous two books were difficult for me to get through without the aid of Anne Hathaway’s audiobook narration, this one brought back all the nostalgia and feelings of being in love for the first time, which is a testament to Meg Cabot’s handling of the situation. Mia never felt more relatable back then, and she has never felt more real than she does right now.

Review: Marrying Christopher

25292540Title: Marrying Christopher (A Hearthfire Romance #3)

Author: Michele Paige Holmes

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: Having seen both his sisters Grace and Helen happily married, Christopher Thatcher is free to pursue his dream of life in America. With adventure in his heart and mind, he boards one of the first steamships set to cross the Atlantic in the record breaking time of only twenty-five days.

Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own. Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend.

As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.

Review: With his sisters happily settled in marriage, Christopher decides to take her restless spirit off to America, where he hopes to be able to make a name for himself that he is proud of. On the steam ship passage across the Atlantic, he becomes acquainted with, forms a friendship, and falls in love with Marsali Abbot, who is leaving a life of servitude in the home of her aunt for four years as an indentured servant on Virginian soil. With circumstances in her life being as they had been, Marsali’s decision to leave England behind made sense in my mind; Christopher’s did not, and unfortunately this disconnect between character and reader continued.

Saving Grace — the first book of this series — is my favorite because of the way I was able to relate to Grace instantaneously and because the relationship between she and Nicolas developed over a period of time that the reader is witness to. Marrying Christopher did not accomplish what the story of his eldest sister did. I did not feel anything in regards to the relationship between Christopher and Marsali. The two of them could be lost so often to introspection and that did not work for me either. Make me feel that you love each other, don’t tell me.

In this story’s favor, however, is the way the author managed to take what you believe is to happen, then twist the paths of the two main characters in the middle of the story. The twist was good! As was the initial conflict it created. The problem was that far too soon the obstacles in the way of the characters began to drag out. Sooner rather than later the point is reached where you will want the story to reach the conclusion it must and then end.

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)