Top Ten Tuesday – Lunchable Book Characters

This week’s topic brought to you by The Broke and The Bookish is Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table

  1. Gabriel Allon – The ultimate badass from Daniel Silva’s series
  2. Anne Boleyn – I know she’s a historical figure, but she’s also a character in many fiction Tudor books
  3. Hermione Granger – I think we would get along splendidly
  4. Tyler Durden – Because c’mon, Fight Club!
  5. Mark Watney – Any dude who could survive being stranded on Mars for that long would make for great conversation
  7. Henry DeTamble – He’s sexy and can time travel, despite his tragic demise
  8. Lisbeth Salander – Add another badass to the mix, plus she’s a genius anti-hero
  9. Lucy Pevensie – Any girl who is courageous enough to invoke Aslan is admirable
  10. Piscine (Pi) Patel – I really want to pick his brain about his harrowing experience on that lifeboat and talk religion with him

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The Captive Queen by Danny Saunders

captive queenPublished by Createspace, 2014 *

I love good Tudor fiction, but this is by far the worst example I have ever come across. Aside from the deplorable writing, the whole novel read like a history textbook. The narrative is completely devoid of emotion, the dialogue is wooden, and the lack of editing is obvious. Not only are the glaring mistakes distracting and often contradictory, the way the author addresses the characters drove me nuts. Instead of referring to them by their proper names, they were all referred to in an impersonal way (examples for Mary Stuart: the sovereign, the Scotswoman, the Stuarts’ daughter, the Scottish Queen, Elizabeth I’s cousin, the daughter of James V, etc).

Now to the plot… The opening chapter introduces the characters, including Mary’s lady-in-waiting, Charlotte, and hints at the plot that will lead to the title of the book. Then the author decided to spend a few chapters recapping Mary’s birth and early life. It is presented in the most straightforward, matter-of-fact way; it is so utterly dry. Then back to Charlotte and Mary and their relationship. Charlotte herself is vengeful, scheming and unlikeable. Once they are separated when Mary escapes to England, Charlotte’s narrative diverges from her mistress’s and becomes almost an afterthought. The synopsis would have you believe that one of the key plot points is Charlotte being sent to spy on reformist Presbyterian John Knox. It is barely worth noting and nothing resulted from that endeavor.

Overall, there are dozens of Tudor novels that I would recommend before this. If you want an uninspired, textbook reconstruction of Mary’s life devoid of any creativity or skill, by all means, waste your time here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

captive queen hf

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Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

  • My grandpa died last week.  Sad, yes, but he was 95 and had Alzheimer’s, so it was time.  This week we cleaned out his room and I took all of his books.  I saved a small pile for myself (a few history books, one about The Reformation, and a couple I had gifted him over the years).  My grandpa was a very well-read man, primarily U.S. history and a bit of WWII.  He also had a lot of Michener in his collection.  There were a number of books about engineering and surveying as he was a civil engineer and traveled the world overseeing huge engineering projects.  He was a brilliant man and a loving grandpa.
L to R: Grandpa at work, me and Grandpa at my college graduation, me, Grandma, Grandpa and my sister.

L to R: Grandpa at work, me and Grandpa at my college graduation, me, Grandma, Grandpa and my sister.

  • I took a trunk-load of Grandpa’s books over to Half Priced Books and got a whopping $35 for the lot.  With it I bought a new notebook, a cool book about the British Royals, If I Stay (which the Bestie and I are going to Banter about soon since the movie is coming out), and Lost In Tibet: The Untold Story of Five American Airmen, a Doomed Plane, and The Will to Survive.Grandpa2
  • We’re hitting the  road this weekend for our annual Labor Day trip and I’m bringing with me my current read, Gutenberg’s Apprentice, and the new Chuck Palahniuk, Beautiful You, which I scored from The Vine and is sure to be a riot.
  • We did have some happy family news last week:  my little sister got engaged!  So excited for her and her wonderful fiance.

This meme brought to you by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous.


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The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

boleyn reckoningPublished by Ballantine Books, July 2014 ****

The final installment in the alternate Tudor history trilogy offered a lot of conflict and tension. The son of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII is king, and William (Henry IX) has his hands full defending his throne. But the betrayal of his closest friends throws his whole reign into turmoil.

I struggled with the first half of the first book because I didn’t respect Minuette, William’s intended queen, for so blatantly leading him on. The action picked up when William displayed his ruthlessness. He became more like his father when he couldn’t have what he wanted. This book was much darker than the previous two, full of guilt and deceit. If it hadn’t ended the way it did, I would have given it less than four stars. There was a high body count, but I was satisfied with the way things turned out. It was a dramatic end to an intriguing series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

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Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

someone else's love storyPublished by William Morrow, August 2014 ****

I enjoyed this book more than I initially thought I would because it had some surprising twists and turns. When Shandi and her (miraculously conceived) son Natty are held up at gunpoint, she thinks she has fallen in love with another hostage who becomes her unwilling hero. But William has a troubled past of his own. His story is tragic but beautiful and I love the way his autism-spectrum mind works. I was most captivated by his aspect of the story and his unique brilliance. The reason I was originally skeptical about the book was because of Shandi’s first person narrative voice. She comes off as immature and sarcastic. I got used to it eventually, but it didn’t make me any more sympathetic towards her. I understand she is young and naïve, but some of her inflections were downright ridiculous. Despite that, I was engaged by how her circumstances and William’s misfortunes come together to realize the title. All the loose ends were nicely tied up, the characters were well-developed and reached satisfying conclusions, and there were unexpected elements that kept me engaged.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours.



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Bestie Banters – The Death Cure

Welcome back to Bestie Banters.  My BFF Rachel and I wrapped up book 3 in Maze Runner trilogy, The Death Cure, and shared our thoughts via e-mail conversation.  WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Julz: While book 3 was better than 2 and there were a lot of questions answered, I kind of wished Thomas had chosen to regain his memories.  I thought that would have clarified a lot.

Rach: I completely agree.  I really expected them to force it on him or for him to logically choose that option.  Especially after all snip-its of Thomas’ memory that we were exposed to in the previous books, I really thought his memory was the key to figuring everything out and was looking forward to knowing.

Throughout the third book, I had a very hard time remembering that they were just kids. They went through so many horrific trials in all three books and, for the most part, approached them with such logic and poise. I cannot imagine the pressure to rebuild the world resting on their small shoulders – especially since Thomas didn’t even pick up on Brenda’s innuendo near the end when they had escaped!

Julz: OK, who edited this book?  I noticed two glaring mistakes that really bothered me.  On page 52, Thomas is being dragged away by guards, but it says, “His captives yanked him farther into the room.”  Um, it should be CAPTORS.  And then on page 61, same thing.  Their hostage is “Minho’s captor…”  Drove me nuts.

Rach: How perceptive are you!  I did not notice that.

Julz: I was upset about the whole Newt thing.  But I’m also glad Thomas had the courage to fulfill his wish.  As smart as the Gladers were, none of them deserved to descend into madness.

Rach: Newt’s situation just broke my heart.  I thought it was bad enough when they had to leave him behind at the bowling alley, but then to have the confrontation that ultimately allowed him to fulfill the wishes – it was hard to read.

Julz: Did I read right in the afterward by the Chancellor that The Flare was released on purpose as a means of population control?  Why would they need to control the population when the solar flares decimated so much of the world already?

Rach: I absolutely had to go back and read that again when I was finished because I didn’t quite believe it.  For as calculating as WICKED was to run all the trials and scenarios I feel like the recklessness of releasing The Flare does not fit in with their persona.  I also felt like that piece of information should’ve been revealed earlier in the book and worked into the story line instead of just BOOM adding it at the end for you to digest.

Julz: I had a feeling Theresa would die in some sort of heroic act.  I knew the only way she could redeem herself in Thomas’s eyes would be to save his life, even if it meant sacrificing her own.  And am I a bad person because I wasn’t upset that she died?

Rach: Absolutely not – I’m right with you on that one.  I was getting extremely tired of the back and forth and longing glares/glances they were exchanging.

Julz: And where can I get me some Bliss?

Rach: Right?!?  In my head I was trying to picture where everyone was getting the bliss from because they stated how expensive it was, but it sounded like they treated it like a street drug.  I alternated from men almost consumed by The Flare lurking in the alley, to dispensaries, to the munies making money selling it.

It was refreshing to have a YA series end logically and with a sense of satisfaction.  I’m pretty tempted to read the prequel.  It seems like the author felt the need to write it because he didn’t give Thomas his memory back and all the fans are dying to know.  I would imagine we will get the history of WICKED, of Thomas’ childhood before WICKED, and also the solar flare event.

Julz: Well if you do, you’re going to have to come back and tell us all whatcha thought…

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Ahhh, Vacation

hubs on vaca

Now that I’m caught up at home and at work, I thought I’d recap our lakeside retreat in honor of our 11th anniversary…  We had the most relaxing time hanging out at the cabin.  Did we do much?  Nope. When we were hot, we swam; when we were hungry, we grilled.  Nice cool nights were perfect for plenty of campfires.  Just being together without the distractions of civilization was delightful.  I enjoyed laying on a towel next to my darling, browning in the sun and reading great books.  I absolutely adored The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on The Goldfinch.  I also finished an old-school Vine book, The Infinite Tides, and had a funny Twitter conversation with the author.

Despite my best intentions (encouraging i.e. nagging)  The Hubs read all of 3 pages in the novel I recommended for him.  He wasn’t even enticed by Daniel Silva.  Yup, I’m married to David Puddy.  More commentary could certainly be warranted, but  I don’t want to publicly shame him TOO much…puddy

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