William Shakespeare like You’ve Never Read; The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

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The Tutor

By: Andrea Chapin

Released: February 5th, 2015 by Riverhead books

Length: 368 Pages

Rating: Three Stars

Acquired: via publisher- firsttoread.com

William Shakespeare was once a mediocre tutor who “fell in love”.

This is the man we never knew.

This novel has marketed itself with the tagline “William Shakespeare like we have never known before.” Something around those lines. I find it funny, and yes, a little fitting. The Shakespeare in this book is a pre famous Shakespeare, who goes to a woman to fix his sonnets. He’s still cocky, but not as so. He was an interesting and fun character to read. There was a realness to him; a weakness and a crack that was nice to see. But, this isn’t his story. Oh no, this is Katherine’s- widow and the one he falls in love with. Told through Katherine’s perspective, you got to see Shakespeare in this different light.

Katherine was an excellent heroine and lover for Shakespeare. She was strong, witty, and smart. She could hold her own in any intellectual conversation, and many times she did. She easily won Shakespeare’s heart from the very beginning when she tried to kick him out of the house, not knowing he was the new tutor for the children living in the house. It was a very funny scene. She continued to challenge him throughout; from questioning his education to critiquing his sonnets until they were perfect. She was a force to be reckoned with.

I really enjoyed their relationship. They had really funny banter. Yes, there was the romance. But, I found myself liking the challenges and banter more. I think Chapin did a great job at crafting a realistic relationship between these two characters. I enjoyed reading the novel. There was some sub plots, including a religious one that involved Queen Elizabeth killing the Catholic Priests and some household affairs, but I didn’t pay much mind to those. It was all Katherine and William for me.

Although this wasn’t a four star book for me, mostly because of the sub plots, I would still recommend it. I think if you are a big fan of either historical fiction or Shakespeare, or both like I am, you will enjoy this book. You may even like the sub plots! Who knows. I just may be picky. Either way, just book should be on your radar for sure.

 

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Blog Tour: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

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The Beautiful American

The Beautiful American

(historical fiction)

by

Jeanne Mackin

Release date: June 3, 2014
at New American Library/Penguin

352 pages

ISBN: 978-0-451-46582-5

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920’s Paris: when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever.

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women. [provided by the author]
For reviewers’ attention: brief, very mild sex and violence

***

My Thoughts

The Beautiful American tells the story of two very different women in the span of over twenty years, from the early 1920s to after the second World War. Nora Tours is not an artist. She follows her photographer, High School sweetheart Jamie from New York all the way to Paris where they meet the celebrated Lee Miller–model, photographer, and surrealist Man Ray’s mistress. There, a foursome is formed. They take the city by storm. Soon, secrets start to pile up. Lee won’t acknowledge the past she shares with Nora that is tainted.  Soon, devastation and secrets revealed shatters the foursome, breaking them up.

This novel was an interesting read. I didn’t love it, as I had hoped to. However, I did like it. I liked the Paris years. Lee was an interesting, selfish, perfectly conceited side character that kept me wanting to read more. Having known a little about Man Ray, I enjoyed learning more about him. I found Nora to be boring, far too love sick for me. She had limited desires to work, make a name for herself, be anyone but Jamie’s girlfriend. Jamie, too, I felt was a flat character. He was a little whiny when he talked. He didn’t add much. I think Nora could have done better. I did feel somewhat bad that he wasn’t given better chances as a photographer, though.

The plot and structure of the story was interesting. The backstory took up a majority of the book, which I wasn’t too happy with. I did enjoy it, for the most part, but would have liked it broken up a bit. It didn’t flow as smoothly as it could if it was broken up better. It was written with the current problem given a chapter in the beginning, then the backstory kicks in for the majority, then the current problem randomly kicks back in. There wasn’t much fluidity to it. It worked okay, but it could have been better. Again, wasn’t a major issue, but did stop me from giving it four or five stars rather than three on goodreads.com.

I thought Mackin did an excellent job historically. I felt I was in Paris during that time period, meeting everyone. She did not slack on the details. She did a great job describing the devastation of the War, as well.  There are a lot of redeeming qualities about this book, but what she misses on, she really misses. I just didn’t feel the connection as deeply as I would have liked. I still would recommend this book as a good historical fiction novel because of the accuracy historically. I think you really feel you are there, in the past. I may just be too picky with the characters. There wasn’t anything immensely wrong with this novel. I hope you do give it a glance at.

Praise for The Beautiful American

Readers will rank [it] right up there with The Paris Wife?. A brilliant, beautifully written literary masterpiece???New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas

Will transport you to expat Paris and from there take you on a journey through the complexities of a friendship. Breathes new life into such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, and, of course, the titular character, Lee Miller, while at the same time offering up a wonderfully human and sympathetic protagonist in Nora Tours.Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

Achingly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing. Sure to appeal to fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda, or indeed to anyone with a taste for impeccably researched and beautifully written historical fiction. Jennifer Robson, author of Somewhere in France

Beautiful.A fascinating account of a little-known woman who was determined to play by her own rules.Historical Novel Society

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne MackinJeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels set in France,
and has earned awards for her journalism
as well as a creative writing fellowship
from the American Antiquarian Society.
She lives in upstate New York with her husband,
cats and herd of deer,
and is still trying to master the French subjunctive.

Visit her website.

Follow Jeanne Mackin on Twitter | Facebook

Buy the book | on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million | Google Play | iBookstore | Indiebound | Powells

Giveaway time!!

***

Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:

Entry-Form

Visit and follow each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!

5 copies:
print for US/Canada residents only.

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, GUEST-POST, EXCERPT

The Beautiful American - banner

This is why I Don’t Get the Flu Shot: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski Book Review

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Don’t Even Think About It

By: Sarah Mlynowski

Released: March 11th, 2014 by Delacorte Press

Length: 336 Pages

Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal-ESP

Rating: 3 Stars

Acquired: via publisher

Getting a flu shot was never rewarding…until 22 sophomores get ESP as a side effect. The results: funny, witty, and down right amusing. But, they already know that.

When the students of homeroom 10b at Bloomberg High School lined up to get their flu shots, none of them expected to get super powers. Sure, there was Pi who had the second highest GPA in her class; and, always wanted to be extraordinary. But, to get ESP after the shot a day later, now that was something. Told as a collective we, Don’t Even Think About It takes place over a week with around 22 floating main characters all trying to deal with their new ability to hear people’s thoughts.

There’s Olivia, who is constantly sick or afraid of getting sick out of habit living with a hypochondriac OCD mother. She now knows the school nurse used to be a stripper and has sex. A lot. Like go on a condom run doing school a lot. Olivia is also afraid of public speaking of any kind; even talking to Lazar, the cute boy who likes her until she can read his mind.

Then there’s Tess and Mackenzie, best friends forever. Until, Mackenzie forgets Tess can read her mind and let’s her thoughts slip to Tess needing to lose weight. And that Mackenzie cheated on Cooper, another ESP, the last one to get it.

There’s also BJ, who hits on Tess in every way possible– through ESP, in person, through text. Sadie, who is the center of Teddy’s mind who is not an ESP but the center of Tess’s mind. Plus, a pair of twins, a guy named Levi, and too many more.

The whole homeroom became a we. They would talk to each other through their thoughts. Cheat in class. Know more secrets, like about Mackenzie cheating on Cooper. Hear everything. And comment on everything. There were italics throughout the whole novel; so many scattered thoughts from too many voices.

Pi takes charge in this novel, but it is Olivia who shines for me. I just adored her. She had her issues with public speaking; maybe even a character flaw or two. But there was so much in her that was likable. She was quirky, adorable, and funny. Kind, considerate, and without even realizing she could, she could stand up for herself.

This novel was a cute and quick read. I’ll be honest. When I first got it, I thought it would be cheesy. The cover wasn’t very promising. The title gives too much away. But, this cynic liked it. Not a lot, but enough. It was funny, witty, and although had way too many featured characters, some of them, when given the time to develop, developed rather nicely; like Olivia, Tess, Pi, and Cooper. When they were given their own time, they showed maturity in situations and choices that were made. The side characters were good. The concept was original. The writing wasn’t juvenile. Although I believe it deserves a three star rating because I simply just liked it, it is a strong three stars. I think if I was at the targeted age, which I am not, I would give it a four, or higher star rating. For an author that writes a lot of series, or has written series in this past, this was a good standalone novel in my opinion.

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!

 

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.

 

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