arc review: jane seymour: the haunted queen (six tudor queens #3) by alison weir

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goodreads summary:

Acclaimed author and historian Alison Weir continues her epic Six Tudor Queens series with this third captivating novel, which brings to life Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII’s most cherished bride and mother of his only male heir.

Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and, as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting for Queen Katherine of Aragon. The devout Katherine shows kindness to all her ladies, almost like a second mother, which makes rumors of Henry’s lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn—who is also lady-in-waiting to the queen—all the more shocking. For Jane, the betrayal triggers memories of a painful incident that shaped her beliefs about marriage.

But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures his new queen—altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favor for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires. Can Jane be the one to give the King his long-sought-after son or will she meet a fate similar to the women who came before her?

Bringing new insight to this compelling story, Weir marries meticulous research with gripping historical fiction to re-create the dramas and intrigues of the most renown court in English history. At its center is a loving and compassionate woman who captures the heart of a king, and whose life will hang in the balance for it.

expected release date: May 3rd 2018

my thoughts:

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen , is the third book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series, and focuses on Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour.  Told from first person perspective, we are given a glimpse into what life was like at the Tudor court during Henry VIII’s reign from the perspective of Jane.

Alison Weir never fails to amaze me with her astounding ability to bring 16th century England to life.  Each time I open up one of her books, I feel as if I have been transported to a different time and place.  Her writing is so rich and vivid, and I always feel as if I am right there in the midst of court life, feeling and seeing everything alongside all of the characters.

I really loved the first two books in the Six Tudor Queen series, and this third installment did not disappoint either.  Although I didn’t love this one quite as much as the first two books in the series, it was still an amazing read. Jane Seymour is not my favorite of King Henry’s six wives, but I still have a certain fascination with her, as there is so much about her life that remains truly unknown, aside from the fact that she was the queen that finally gave Henry what he desired above all else: a son. Because of the fact that so little is known about Jane before she became Henry’s wife, I was eager to see what Alison Weir had to say about her, and as usual, Ms. Weir did not disappoint.

Using her vast knowledge of Tudor history, combined with her imagination, Alison Weir managed to weave together a vivid and richly detailed portrait of Jane Seymour’s life.  Although I found this book to be a bit slower than the previous two, I still managed to be thoroughly engaged from start to finish.  I really felt as if I got to know Jane and the innermost workings of her mind as I was reading, and I feel that I am now more knowledgeable about her, despite the fact that this book is a work of fiction.

The story opens when Jane is ten years old, and jumps forward to when she is eighteen years old.  During Jane’s early years, she is adamant to become a nun, but decides that she doesn’t desire that path in life after all, and instead she goes to London to live at court, where she is first a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, and then later on, to Anne Boleyn.

Jane was very fond of Katherine of Aragon, as well as devout in her Catholic faith and very against the religious reforms taking place at that time, and it is because of those things that she was not so fond of Anne Boleyn, and this grudge continued, even when Anne Boleyn became queen.

As an avid Anne Boleyn fan and supporter, I have to admit that at times my bias got the best of me, and I found myself annoyed at Jane and her thoughts towards Anne throughout the book.  But at the same time, I could see why Jane felt the way she did about Anne, given the circumstances.

This book did drag a bit at times, mostly during during the middle of it.  Still, I continued to be absorbed in the story as Jane tried to fit in and find her place in the intriguing and malicious court life.  It was especially fascinating to read about how Jane, who is so often described as meek and plain, was able to gain the affections of King Henry and ascend to the throne.

Something that has always interested me about Jane is that, despite the fact that she was the queen that gave Henry his most desired wish (a son) and is said to be his favorite wife because of this, she is so often overshadowed by his other wives.  I myself am guilty of not paying much attention to Jane Seymour, but because of this book, I was given the opportunity to gain insight into the life of the queen that I so often overlook.

This book was extremely well written and researched, and I was once again left in awe by Alison Weir’s work.  This was not only a delightful glimpse into the life of Jane Seymour, but yet another remarkable tale of life in the Tudor era.

I truly enjoyed this book, and am very much looking forward to the next book in this series!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2’s

***I was given an arc of this book by the publisher via edelweiss/netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

 

 

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arc review: top ten by katie cotugno

***a copy of this book was provided to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review

top ten

goodreads summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

my thoughts:

As someone who has read and loved all of Katie Cotugno’s previous books, I naturally had a lot of high hopes for this book and expected to love it. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by this one. The premise of the book seemed promising and right up my alley, but did not at all end up meeting my expectations. While there were some things that I did like about this book, I was ultimately left feeling underwhelmed by it as a whole.

This book tells the story of Ryan and Gabby, two best friends who formed an unlikely friendship after meeting at a party during their freshmen year of high school. The lines of their friendship become blurred when they decide to sleep together one night after leaving a high school graduation party.  This decision leads to a fight between them, as they wonder whether sleeping together meant anything.  The timeline then jumps back and forth between the past and the present, as they count down the top ten moments of their friendship.

While I liked the idea of the whole top ten moments countdown, I still had a hard time connecting with the story and didn’t feel any kind of spark between Ryan and Gabby.  I am a sucker for the whole best friends falling in love with each other trope when done right, but I just wasn’t feeling the connection in this particular story.  I found the relationship between Gabby and Ryan to be very bland, and I had a hard time caring about their relationship in general.

All of that aside, there were some important topics included in this book, as well as diversity, that I really appreciated, and which is what made me give this book more than two stars.  Gabby identifies as bisexual, and suffers from severe social anxiety. While I can’t speak for the sexuality representation, I am someone who suffers from anxiety, and I really struggle with it in social situations, just as Gabby does, and I really appreciate how her anxiety was portrayed in this story, as I could deeply relate to her on that level.

Ryan also dealt with some heavy-handed issues in this story, including struggling with some serious injuries, such as concussions and headaches, as a direct result of playing hockey.  There are many books that include jocks as the lead character, but often times the serious and all too real injuries that come with playing sports are overlooked, and I appreciate that Katie Cotugno included the serious repercussions that can come with playing sports that not many other authors think to write about. Student athletes are risking a lot by participating in sports, and I think that this is something that needs to be talked about a lot more in YA books.

Important topics aside, I thought that this book was just okay.  It definitely wasn’t the worst YA book that I have ever read, but I didn’t find it to be on par with Katie Cotugno’s previous books.  Even though this book was a letdown for me, I am still a big fan of Katie Cotugno’s writing, and I am looking forward to her next release!

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 ‘s

 

book review: katherine of aragon, the true queen (six tudor queens #1) by alison weir

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goodreads summary:

Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragón. Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.

A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage – and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.

Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

my thoughts:

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, is the first in a specially commissioned, six book long series, that Alison Weir is set to pen, chronicling the lives of each of King Henry VIII’s six queens. Each book is to be told through the eyes of each queen herself, and naturally, this first book in the series is told from the point of view of Katherine of Aragon, as she was the first of all of Henry VIII’s wives.

I, for one, cannot wait to read each and every book in this series. Alison Weir, who is both an author and historian, is my favorite author when it comes to reading books about the Tudor era, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, as she writes books on both. I have read many books by Alison Weir, and I find something about her work to be so utterly fascinating. She is such a gifted storyteller, and whilst reading this book, as was also the case with other books written by her, I felt as if I was right there in Tudor England alongside Katherine, experiencing everything that she was.

So far I have not read a book of hers that I have not liked, and this book was no exception. When it comes to the Tudor era, I am especially fascinated by the court of king Henry VIII and all of his wives, especially Anne Boleyn in particular. But admittedly, I think I actually loved this book even more than the second book in this series, which focuses on Anne Boleyn. Although Anne still obviously plays a large role in this book (as i’m sure she will in the forthcoming book about Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour) I found that when it came time for my historical favorite to be a part of the story, my attention was drawn away from her and I was instead fully focused on Katherine of Aragon’s captivating story.

When it comes to Katherine, the earlier part of her her story, such as the early years of her marriage to Henry, is often overshadowed by the turbulent years revolving around The King’s Great Matter (in which Henry and Anne fought hard to be rid of Katherine so that they could be married). There was a time in which Katherine and Henry were happily in love (or as in love as a man such as Henry could be) and furthermore, there is so much more to Katherine’s story than just her marriage to Henry, and this book does an excellent job in showcasing that. I thought I knew a lot about Katherine of Aragon, but this book showed me that there was so much more to her life than I ever realized.

Spanning from 1501 to 1536, this book chronicles the life of Katherine up until the time of her death, starting from the time in which she set sail overseas as a homesick young girl from her homeland of Spain, to the foreign land of England to marry Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur Prince of Wales. Katherine marries Arthur, but due to unforeseen tragic circumstances, that marriage ends after a very short period of time and she eventually finds herself married to Henry. Following the time that she first arrived in England as a shy spanish princess up until the day of her death was certainly an experience to behold.

The period between the ending of Katherine’s marriage to Arthur, and the start of her marriage to Henry, was particularly interesting to me, as it really built the foundation in showing just how strong a person Katherine really was. That period of time for her was not an easy one, as she was practically in limbo, as she waited to see whether or not she was even to become Henry’s wife at all. During much of that time she lived in grueling circumstances, as she had no money and had to rely on begging for help from King Henry VII, or send letters to her father overseas pleading for his help, as she had no money to support herself, let alone her household of servants. The drab and dreadful circumstances in which she lived, homesick and uncertain of her future in a strange land still so unfamiliar to her, really made me feel for Katherine. But through it all, she remained strong and held tightly to her belief that her destiny for greatness lay in England, and eventually her faith in her beliefs paid off, as she did indeed become Henry VIII’s wife and the queen of England.

Reading about the marriage of Katherine and Henry was bittersweet. Although it is well known that Henry eventually turned cold (and downright cruel) towards Katherine and set her aside to marry Anne Boleyn, there was a long period of time in which Henry adored his first queen, and continued to adore her even in the midst of one tragic miscarriage after another. It’s no secret that Henry was always hopeful for a male heir, and therefore disappointed whenever Katherine failed to give him what he most desired. My heart broke for katherine through each and every miscarriage that she suffered. The saddest thing of all, was the fact that Katherine continued to remain loyal and steadfast in her love for Henry, despite everything he put her through, especially in the worst of times, and she loved him up until her dying day.

I have always felt a deep sense of empathy for Katherine, but as I read this novel, I came to also admire her for her strength. Despite everything she went through in her life, she always remained the very epitome of strength, and continued to hold her head up high until she took her last breath. Her unwavering love for both Henry, and her only living child, Mary, as well as her devotion to God, was a thing to be marveled at.

The way in which Alison Weir wrote Katherine’s story was as beautiful as it was haunting. I found myself fully immersed in this book from beginning to end. The world of the Tudors is complex and endlessly fascinating, and Alison Weir is a master at bringing this time period to life.

This was an amazing start to Alison Weir’s take on the lives of King Henry the VIII’s wives, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for the rest of the series.

I truly loved everything about this book, and if you love Tudor historical fiction, I highly recommend that you pick this book up!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: the raven’s widow (a novel of jane boleyn) by adrienne dillard

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goodreads summary:

Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.

my thoughts:

this is a beautifully written novel that gives a unique glimpse into the life of jane parker, aka lady rochford, wife of george boleyn.  while little is actually known about jane, she is often portrayed as cruel, jealous, manipulative, and unfaithful in her loyalty, both to her husband and sister-in-law, anne boleyn.  admittedly, when she is portrayed in such a way coldhearted way, her actions are understandable, whether or not they be justifiable, given the way george boleyn, along with anne boleyn, are also often portrayed. but with that being said, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that jane was in fact a woman so wicked in nature. furthermore, there is no way of  knowing how good or bad of a person she was, so this new perspective of her only added to the mystery and intrigue of her true nature.

this novel paints a refreshingly different picture of jane’s life and personality than we are so often presented with, and having so little material to work with, the author did an excellent job in weaving together an intriguing tale of what jane’s life may have been like. as an added bonus, we are also given a fresh perspective on anne boleyn, as well as her brother george.

this story is told through the eyes of jane herself, and begins with jane being taken to the tower of london where she is to be imprisoned, and weaves back and forth between the past and present as she awaits her fate in the tower.  the way in which the story is told is both beautiful and haunting, and because it is told through the eyes of jane, it is easy to feel as if you are right there with her, feeling everything she must have felt being at court in the midst of king henry VIII’s turbulent reign.

adrienne dillard is an extremely gifted writer, and managed to keep me thoroughly engaged in this story from start to finish.  it was so nice to finally read something that not only depicted jane in a positive light, but made her an actual human being with feelings, instead of a coldhearted villian who cared about no one but herself.

i would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction, specifically the tudor era, and to anyone who is interested in learning more about lady rochford.  while this version of jane’s life is crafted straight from the imagination of the author, it is an utterly fascinating version of her story that deserves to be told.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 ‘s

book review: love, life, & the list by kasie west

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goodreads summary:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

my thoughts:

to say I was highly disappointed by this book is an understatement. while i wasn’t expecting this book to be something phenomenal, i was looking forward to it being a cute, swoon worthy, easy read, and it even failed to meet those expectations. before picking up this book, i had previously only read one book by kasie west (the fill-in boyfriend) and i really enjoyed it, but it pains me to say that i can’t say the same for this one at all. i had initially picked this book up not long after it released, and i expected to fly through it, but i found myself putting it down numerous times because it failed to hold my attention. in fact, i was bored throughout a majority of it, and honestly, i almost dnfed it multiple times. while i love the idea of the main character, abby, completing a list of tasks in which she faces doing things that she fears, that particular aspect of the book wasn’t enough to hold my attention. neither she, nor her best friend/love interest, cooper, resonated with me (in fact, i found pretty much all of the characters to be dull and forgettable with the exception of abby’s grandfather), and i found myself annoyed with their relationship, as i felt it lacked any chemistry whatsoever. their entire relationship felt forced, and definitely didn’t give me the kind of feels that i expect to get from a supposed to be cutesy contemporary novel. i really could not stand cooper and his character is one of the main reasons that i found this book to be so unbearable. despite my overall disappointment with this book, i still plan on reading more books by kasie west, as i do find her style of writing to be charming. unfortunately, this particular book by her just did not work for me whatsoever.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️

 

arc review: they both die at the end by adam silvera

***thank you to harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this book via edelweiss in exchange for a review

theybothdieattheend

goodreads summary:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

expected release date: september 5th 2017

my thoughts:

They both Die At The End was as heartbreaking as it was phenomenal. It’s one of those books that reminds me of why I love reading so much, and one that will definitely haunt me.

This book is an emotional roller coaster of a read that will have you tearing up more than once throughout the entirety of the novel. The title alone, for obvious reasons, is enough to make you want to cry, especially after being introduced to the characters, as you already know what lies ahead for them.

Before picking up this book I had been in a major reading slump, but leave it to Adam Silvera to not only get me out of that slump, but to get me to read almost the entire book in one sitting.

This, in my opinion, is Adam Silvera’s best book to date. Although I have enjoyed all of his previous works, I feel that his writing continuously improves. It was such a powerfully thought provoking novel, and I found myself immersed into the world and the lives (although short) of the characters from the very first page. The way in which Silvera writes is compelling, and the voices he gives his characters are so authentic, it makes them that much more real and relatable.

The concept of They Both Die At The End is one of the most unique concepts I have ever read. Even now, after having finished the book, I am left questioning what it would be like to live in a world where people are informed that they are going to die via phone call in the next 24 hours. It caused me to wonder what I would personally do if I were to be on the receiving end of a call from Death-Cast informing me of my impending death. What choices would I make during my final hours? Would I be filled with regret by some of the things I would never get a chance to do, and also be remorseful about some of the choices I had already made in my life before receiving the call? How would I inform my loved ones that i’m dying? It’s questions like this that make this book so haunting, as I am sure that I am not the first, nor will I be the last, reader to be questioning these very things both while reading the book, and after finishing it.

These very questions are the same questions that our two main characters, Mateo and Rufus, are faced with on the day that they are both on the receiving end of the life-changing phone calls from Death-Cast. Although they are both strangers to one another before learning that they are about to die, it is because of the fact that they are both going to die that they ultimately end up crossing paths with each other. The way in which they meet is through yet another interesting concept introduced in this world, and that is through an app called the last friend app. This app is there to aid those in need of a friend to keep them company on their last day on earth, so that they don’t have to be alone in their final hours.

Mateo and Rufus couldn’t be more different from each other, but they are both so precious and special in their own ways, and the relationship that they develop with each other during the short time they have left, and the ways in which they change each other on their journey to make their lives more meaningful to them in some way before they are gone, is absolutely beautiful and makes their fates that much more heartbreaking to read about.

This is very much a character driven novel, and it works very well with this story. I felt like I was right there alongside Mateo and Rufus on their one last great adventure, and after finishing the book I was filled with a deep sense of loss that continues to linger with me because of how much these two characters have come to mean to me.

Not only is this book one of my favorite reads of 2017, but also one of my favorite ya contemporary books, period. Even if you have never read an Adam Silvera book, or are not a fan of his previous works, I highly recommend that you pick this one up and give it a chance. This is one of those rare, remarkable reads that will continue to resonate with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

book review: bad romance by heather demetrios

bad romance.jpg

goodreads summary:

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

my thoughts:

this was such an incredibly important and moving (not to mention beautifully written) book. i want to shove this book into the hands of every teenager, especially those who are currently in, or have been in, a toxic relationship and feel that they are unworthy of being in a loving, healthy relationship.  this book moved me profoundly, and i found myself tearing up more than once while reading it.

heather demetrios’ writing in this novel was utterly compelling, and i was hooked on the story from the start.  the unique thing about this book is that the story is written like a letter from grace, the novel’s protagonist, to her ex-boyfriend gavin, as she chronicles the details of their destructive love story, as well as other things from her life, from the beginning to the end.  this allows us as the readers to experience it all with her first hand- the difficulties she experienced in her home life, her friendships (FYI her friends were amazing and i want to hug them for being so incredibly supportive of grace no matter what), the way in which she met and fell for gavin, and how that relationship ultimately came to its end.  being able to experience these things through grace’s eyes made her story that much more real and relatable.

grace was such a strong character despite her circumstances, and i was fighting alongside her for every step of the way.  her story is a sad one, as her family life is less than idyllic, and so it is easy to see how she would end up falling for a guy like gavin.  hell, even if she didn’t have the life that she did, it would be easy to be charmed by a guy like gavin (fedora wearing and all). i myself have been charmed by tortured bad boys in need of saving, and understand just how intoxicating it can be to be caught up in such a vicious cycle.  i found myself just as swept away by gavin as grace was, and my heart broke alongside hers when his true nature was revealed and everything began falling apart.

this is an incredibly eye opening and moving book that will break your heart and resonate with you long after you turn the last page. i can honestly say that this was one of my favorite reads of 2017, and grace’s story is one that i won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️