The Invisible Queen of Nowhere: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson Book Review

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The Tyrant’s Daughter

By: J.C. Carleson

Released February 11th, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Coming of Age

Length: 304 Pages

Rating: Three Stars

Acquired: via Random House

Two Worlds:  

There- The Middle East: Fifteen year old Laila believes her father is the King before he is killed in a coup orchestrated by his brother, the general; and her family is sent away to a country so different from their own, leaving behind more than just material things

Here: Living in exile in Washington D.C. where the discovery hits: her father wasn’t the king. She was never a queen. He was a dictator. Her family story is a lie. She is the “Invisible Queen of Nowhere”

Throughout the novel, Laila is torn between her two different, complex worlds: the There and Here. There, although war torn, she believed her family was royalty. The only friends she had were crafted by her mother; the countless gatherings of women and girls screened. There was no proper schooling. Here: she has friends she doesn’t know how to keep or be around, one of whom is the bearer of bad news that tells her the truth about her father; or, how other countries viewed her father’s rule. There are boys. Internet access. It is a life she can’t get used to.

There are countless difficulties she faces; including near poverty as her mother refuses to get a job. When she starts to work with the CIA, there are still times there is no money for food or rent. There are men the mother has to do business with from their country that are slightly sketchy and hostile, but with reason. Laila is front and center as she sees her mother try to get her and her family back into power. All the power plays and conniving ways she tries to get her way.

As Laila watches her new life grow and fall in front of her;  her mother tries for one more power play; and, her brother constantly says he’s the King. The relationship between mother and daughter gets challenged as Laila’s mother starts to pull Laila into her plan in a subtle, conniving way that makes Laila sick and torn. In the end, this is a book worth looking at.

Written by a former CIA agent, The Tyrant’s Daughter portrays what it is like for a young teenager in political exile. This isn’t a topic you typically see in young adult fiction. Sure, there are books about immigrants, but none that tackle what it is like being in political exile, learning what you thought you knew about your life was a lie through a technology that was very limited and control in your birth country.

A relatively quick read, Carleson wrote a fresh take on what it’s like to live in the war torn Middle East, but on the inside and outside of it all. Laila’s struggles seemed very realistic to me. I could feel her pain, missing her home; even though she realized how suffocating her life was, she missed the structure. When she told the Middle Eastern version of Cinderella to her friends, I felt her pain when she didn’t understand why her American friends only saw the brutality of it. There was something so raw and true about this story; truly, only someone like Carleson could write.

I liked this book. I didn’t love it. I read it in a couple of sittings, maybe three; but, there wasn’t a lot that truly drew me in. I found it as a good source to understanding the Middle Eastern culture more, and Middle Eastern immigrants especially; regardless if their father was a dictator or not. Would I suggest it as a required reading book in a High School history/world culture class, I have thought about it. There was some love interest in it that makes the book a little more contemporary and less educational. But, I think there is such a disconnect between citizens and immigrants, especially from the Middle East. Their culture is so different from ours. The Cinderella-esque story alone is a good enough reason why I think teachers should think about teaching this book.

There were some technical problems I found, like character development; but, none that were very distracting that I wouldn’t recommend this book. I hope you give this book a once over, at least.

Happy Reading!

 

Greetings from Lost Lake: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen Book Review

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Lost Lake

By: Sarah Addison Allen

Released January 21st, 2014 by St. Martin Press

Length: 302 pages

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

You can never the beginning. But you can always change the end.

That one sentence, said by a somewhat minor character staying for one last summer at Lost Lake echoes throughout the entire novel; although it is said closer to the end, it is true throughout the hole book. Each main character, newly widowed Kate, her daughter Devin, Kate’s estranged, great Aunt Eby, Kate’s old childhood friend she spent one good summer with, Wes, they all are stuck and looking to change their ending–they just don’t know it yet. Even the rather minor characters like Selma, who wears a charm bracelet that allows her to marry eight already married men and she’s on her last charm. And, Bulahdeen, who said that heavy statement; her husband has Alzheimer’s, and as many times as she has read novels, she has tried to change her endings.

This novel isn’t just about Eby selling Lost Lake; or Kate “waking up” after a year since her husband died; or Devin befriended an alligator no one thought was on the property, that could only be seen by her, leaving clues; or, each of the three guests at the lake; or, Wes who never stopped loving Kate. It is about creating your own ending that isn’t an ending after all. It’s more of a “in the mean time”.  A “happily ever right now”. Allen creates characters that are somewhat more than broken in many ways and puts them back together in only ways that she can.

Allen still has her Southern charm. And that magical realism that got me when I read my first Sarah Addison Allen book; and, never stopped. I loved the allegory of the alligator. I won’t give away the reason behind him, but the reason is touching, sweet, and really special. Brings the book together. I loved the theme and idea of creating a new ending for yourself. Not really rejecting the one you had, but doing a do-over. A second chance on our own terms. Allen proved, to me, once again, why she is one of my favorite authors. Her voice is so unique and offers something I don’t normally get from other contemporary authors.

I would highly recommend reading any of Allen’s fabulous books. She is so talented. This book is no exception.

How Nineteenth Century French Impressionists say “I Love You”: I Always Loved You: A Novel by Robin Oliveira Book Review

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I Always Loved You: A Novel

By: Robin Oliveira

Released February 4th, 2014 by Viking Adult

Length: 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction-French, Impressionist Art

Rating: Three Stars

Acquired: Via netgalley

 

Mary Cassatt had admired always admired Degas as an artist; what came after she never expected

It’s 1877 and American artist Mary Cassatt is almost at her wit’s end, living in Paris, rejected by the Salon for the first time. She is becoming broke, with her father telling her to come home. Not knowing what to do, it is when she meets the impressionist painter she admires most that she decides to stay in Paris, until her death many years later. Edgar Degas is difficult, needy, brilliant, and ever the match for Mary. Spanning years, the novel details their tumultuous relationship; the ups- with encouragement, exhibitions, a few kisses, and kind words; and downs- periods of being frozen out, rude comments,not so chivalrous actions, and slight betrayals. The relationship, often hot and cold is hard to decipher on many ends.

Told in third person narrative, Mary Cassatt and Degas’s relationship isn’t the only plot in the novel. Also taking narrative is Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot’s somewhat twisted love affair, as well. There were many famous French Impressionist name drops. However, these two couples were the center points; Degas and  Cassatt taking center stage, with Cassatt’s story the primary focus.

Growing up in a house with posters of Renoir’s and Monet’s’ loving French impressionists, I was excited to read this book. I have always loved the French culture, specifically Paris, having visited there three times. I liked learning about the complicated relationship between Degas and Cassatt;but, mostly learning about her since I did not know much about her. I found Degas, sadly, whiny, immature, rude, and not a nice guy. He would allude to the almost affair Manet was having with his brother’s wife, Berthe; make promises he wouldn’t keep, like an art show and an art journal because it wouldn’t benefit him. He didn’t care it affected other people.

The novel, to me, started off slow. It took me over a hundred pages to really get into it; but, I don’t think I ever was fully immersed in Nineteenth Century Paris as I hoped I would be. The descriptions were there, I just didn’t feel it as much. It did like the narrative; the writing style wasn’t very unique, or vibrant, but had consistency and was enjoyable enough. I wouldn’t highly recommend this book, but if you do like to read historical fiction novels about art, this isn’t a bad novel to choice. It focuses on a love story that isn’t very romantic at all, more platonic than focusing on art techniques; but you as a reader can still learn and appreciate certain aspects about the Impressionist movement in the late Nineteenth Century.

 

New Year, New Reads Readathon End of Month Wrap-up

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This past month I participated in booksfoodsandotherthings New Year, New Reads Readathon for the month of January. My goal was to read about three to six new books, genres, or authors to me. Did I succeed? I forgot to do monthly updates, but believe me I did manage to read some.

I did not reach my stretch goal of six books and/or authors; I did, however, accomplish to read four books by three new authors to me, and one new genre. The first book I read was Eloise by Judy Finnigan, a British mystery I would highly recommend to fans of Gone Girl and mystery, thrillers in general. It wasn’t one of those books that truly kept me on my toes; but there were enough shocks and surprises to satisfy me, even though I’m not a diehard mystery fan. There was a major paranormal feature, as well, which only added, not took away from the book. You can find my review here.

The next book I read was Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger. I was torn whether or not to count her since I read The Time Traveler’s Wife when it first came out; so, she is not a new author, however I have never read a fairy tale like the one she wrote, especially as a graphic-esque novel with only around 80 pages including illustrations she did herself. It was a quick, quirky engrossing read. Nothing typical about it at all. Of course it had all the typical tropes, but not in the traditional sense which I loved. You can find my review here.

 

After that, I took a dip into the young adult pool and read a book about a sixteen year old struggling with the somewhat recent death of her alcoholic brother; and, her budding friendship with an older, homeless drunk that is both a good and bad thing. Stones by Polly Johnson was a great book I would recommend to any teenager, or parent of a teenager. Or, to anyone, maybe. You see all sides of the spectrum in terms of how alcohol use and abuse affects the people around the drinker and the drinker him or herself. You can read my full review here.

For my last book of the month, I read Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott, another new to me author. I have become a fan of hers for sure. Emma is dealing with the reality of her braindead mother being kept on life support to save her unborn child that she tried to conceive for two years;and, was nervous throughout the pregnancy. As Emma starts to withdraw, she falls for a boy. A good, bad boy that will make a girl swoon. I enjoyed this book immensely; reading it in one sitting. You can read my full review here.

I am currently in the process of reading I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. I wanted this book to count towards my reading goal; unfortunately, it has started slow and I have not been able to get into it as much as I wanted to, causing me to fall behind with my reading. I am barely over 100 pages in out of 300+ pages.

In total, I read six books, which included Just One Year by Gayle Forman and Paper Towns by John Green.

I hope you had a great January.

Happy reading!

 

 

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