Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Ambition's Queen by V.E. Lynn

All I can do is shake my head while thinking of this book.

I know I've read the story of Anne Boleyn a billion and one times, but I will always pick up a new book about her. Most of them come from different perspectives or focus on different parts of her reign, but a lot of them are the exact same story. She seduced Henry, he divorced Katherine, Anne was crowned, had a daughter, miscarried a son, was imprisoned, tried, and died. But Ambition's Queen was told from a maid's perspective during the last few months of her life. So I thought it would be fun and interesting.

God, was I wrong.

As Thomas Cromwell goes through England, closing abbeys and collecting his riches, Bridget Manning is nearly left homeless when her own is closed. Luckily, through a distant blood relation to Queen Anne Boleyn, Bridget is brought on as a maid for the queen during her final tumultuous months alongside King Henry VIII.


The longer I read Ambition's Queen, the more irritated I got. I continued reading for some inexplicable reason, but I was very happy to finish it. In the first 100 pages, I just figured the author was a newer writer. I was willing to forgive that, but eventually I grew annoyed with the way the characters were written.

First, let's get this out of the way: I know historical fiction is exactly that: fiction. But certain characters and events should be altered to improve the story. That was definitely not the case in this book.

In the very beginning, when Bridget is first introduced to the Queen (whom she feels is completely acceptable to refer to as simply "Anne," for whatever reason,) she notes that "the rumors were not true." What rumors you may ask? The rumors that Anne Boleyn had six fingers, a large wren (mole) on her neck and was cross-eyed, as well as that she practiced witchcraft.


Those rumors were started during the reign of Elizabeth I by a Spanish ambassador who was looking to discredit Elizabeth as a bastard, making her ineligible as queen and allowing a Catholic king to reign in her stead. Those rumors were started 25 YEARS LATER, at least. Unfortunately the rumors have continued until today, so many people do assume Anne had six fingers. But Bridget never would have heard anything like that, especially as a maid in an abbey.

Another aspect of Queen Anne that Bridget noticed were her plain looks, with only her eyes being somewhat beautiful. Later on in the book, however, Anne is described as having tear tracks mar her "savage beauty." So is she pretty or not? Consistency is all I ask.

Too be fair, the author is incredibly consistent on other aspects. At least twice, Cromwell's face lit up with a smile that made him look younger. Carew felt "antipathy" towards Anne whenever he was mentioned, and whenever Anne and Princess Elizabeth were together, the author made sure to tell us that Anne would only allow the best clothes for her daughter.

And then there were the characters. Every single one of them were written as if they were 17 years old and incredibly hormonal. I know Anne's rooms were typically very lively and not very chaste, but even the older, incredibly dark, controlling and serious characters were conveyed as childish. All of them fell in love at first site, and none of them were capable of controlling their emotions.

Let's not forget Norfolk, the man who passed judgement on his own niece and condemned her as a witch. This man is considered one of the most conniving, cruel men in history. He was portrayed as such throughout the novel during his few appearances. Yet at Anne's trial, he bursts into tears! And then again during her beheading! If you want to show Norfolk as a man who did have some remorse, that's fine. But don't decide in the eleventh hour that he should suddenly be emotional!

I was also incredibly annoyed by the relationship between Bridget, a maid, and Queen Anne. I confess I don't know much about the relationships between the courtiers of the 1500s (besides distinct marriages/mistresses,) but it seems highly unlikely that a queen would have become such close friends with a simple maid. More likely, the maid would have been present during events, but not having deep discussions with the queen into the night and serving as a confidante. 

This is my curse for wanting to read anything and everything about the Tudors. There are two more books about Bridget Manning, but I have no intention of reading them. Thank God I at least got this one for free.

My recommendation? Do not read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

The first Stephen King book I read was The Shining, and it scared the hell out of me. I'm a night reader- if I don't read before I go to bed, I typically have trouble falling asleep. But it was a mistake to read The Shining at night. I would reach a terrifying part, then continue to read so that something could serve as a buffer between horrifying descriptions of ghost women and my dreams. But of course there was no buffer- the terror kept coming. So I didn't sleep very much during those few days.

And of course I loved the book. Even though I haven't read even a fraction of Stephen King's enormous library, I love most of his books that I pick up. Although he is usually remembered for his horror stories like The Shining and It, his forays into science fiction are wonderful. His literary brilliance traverses the genres wonderfully.


The quaint New England town of Chester's Mill is suddenly engulfed in turmoil when an invisible but powerful dome cuts the town off from the rest of the world. With limited cell phone access and no way to breach the shield, the citizens of the town struggle to adapt to their new world of isolation. Ex-army sergeant Dale "Barbie" Barbara, town selectmen and used car salesman James "Big Jim" Rennie, his son Junior, and newspaper reporter Julia Shumway attempt to avoid political turmoil and potential disaster as the situation grows more and more desperate.


If you've read any of King's books, you know his writing style is very distinct. Regardless of whether you are reading one of his classic tales of horror like Carrie or are enjoying one of his science fiction novels, you're likely to find there are some terrifying moments. Although The Dome isn't about grotesque ghosts roaming around town, the townspeople are horrifyingly evil, particularly Rennie and Junior. Unbelievably evil.

For example, both Junior and Rennie have serious issues with Barbie. Junior (who is admittedly a teeny tiny bit completely insane) attacks Barbie and ends up getting his ass handed to him (cue embarrassment). Right after the dome comes down, Barbie, a former Army sergeant, is promoted to colonel by order of the president. Rennie doesn't handle his potential loss of power too well. Both kill two people, then decide blackmailing Barbie for all four murders is a good way of dealing with the bodies and their simultaneous hatred of Barbie.

Nothing says father-son bonding time like murder and a good frame job! 

And on top of this, Rennie creates additional chaos (such as orchestrating a riot at the local grocery store) so that he can swoop in and save the day/earn more power. He also stocks the police force with local idiots and thugs who are just looking for an excuse to beat up people. This guy definitely has issues.

end of spoilers

Something about these two just drew me out of the book. I still enjoyed it immensely, but the absolute corruption of these two characters always threw me off. I just simply cannot imagine that there are people so power hungry to be in charge of a small town of a couple thousand people that they would do these awful things.

As for the show.

I started watched the show almost immediately after I finished the book. And wow is it different. A lot of the characters have been mashed together or switched or have completely new stories. I really enjoy it because I can watch the show and see how else the story would have played out. Some of the characters are so completely different, but they are a lot more realistic than those in the book.

Ultimately, I love the book and I highly recommend it. Be sure to take it with a grain of salt, though.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck


Fallen Beauty focuses on the relationship between the scandalous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and a young seamstress whose reputation was ruined by a tryst that led to being an unwed mother.

The novel begins with Laura Kelley, a pretty, 18-year-old seamstress out for a (secret) night in the
1920s with a mysterious man simply called "My Lover." Within just a couple of weeks, her entire world is turned upside down as her sister gets engaged, her father passes away, and she discovers that her first and only sexual experience led to a pregnancy.

As her life unravels, the famous bohemian poet, Vinny, to her friends, lives in a large and secluded home just past the small town Laura inhabits. All townspeople are aware of her presence, as she and her husband are wealthy, throw extravagant parties, and of course do not fit into the structured lifestyles of the small-town people.

When the two outcasts meet, they build a roller coaster of a friendship that affects both of them.


I bought this book at a garage sale, simply because I liked the cover. At just a few hundred pages, it's a very quick read and doesn't require much brain power.

All in all, Fallen Beauty is neither literary genius nor a huge bust. I read the book fairly quickly, as it was perfect for taking to the pool or lounging underneath a tree with. Quite befitting of the main character's poetry profession, the novel was written quite beautifully, with very engaging descriptions of costumes, people, houses, and parties.

One thing I was not a fan of was the secrecy of Laura's lover's identity. At one point, about 30 pages in, I thought the author had revealed that the father of her daughter was the local priest (which would have explained why Laura refused to reveal his identity to anyone.) Once the lover was revealed, it was quite underwhelming. Although I was grateful she stopped using the term "lover," because that word just makes me thing of this.

If you're looking for something to take on vacation with you to the beach, this is a good choice.

I'll rate it at 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cheap Books for Cheap People

Books are, unfortunately, quite pricey. I have one six-shelf bookshelf and one three-shelf bookshelf completely full, and I don't even want to imagine how much I've spent on all of those books.

My old go-to store was Barnes & Noble. Borders was fine, but I never felt I could relax in the stores (probably had something to do with the stores impending doom that was bankruptcy.) When I lived in my college town, I could either go to the campus Barnes & Noble or Books-a-million (which was owned by Barnes & Noble.) Clearly I was loyal to the company.

Once I graduated and moved, I discovered so many more places to buy books. Here are the best.


It is crazy what people will give away to Goodwill. I found a brand-new hardback copy of The Help for $1.50. Some stores have larger selections, but most have incredibly popular books in both paperback and hardback.

Garage Sales

Spring and summer are all about the garage sales. Most people who hold them just want to get rid of their stuff, otherwise their tables, TVs, and "gently-loved" mattresses would be on Craigslist. Among the never-used espresso machines and baby clothes, you can usually find some good books.And if they do turn out pretty bad, then you only spent 50 cents, which I'm sure you could find in your couch or car or maybe even last season's clothes.

Used Book Stores

This one is kind of a "duh" place. Half-Priced Books is a great store, and there are quite a few across the country. You can find paperback copies of some classics for a buck, and most other books are between five and seven dollars. The store does have new releases, but those are a bit pricier than the rest of the stock. If you dig through the impressive inventory, you can probably find any book you are looking for. There is even a selection of first-edition copies of classics. And Half-Priced Books also has a vast collection of DVDs, games, comic books, and even VHSs for all of you hipsters out there!

Ebook Library

One of my favorite aspects of having a Kindle is that every month I can borrow a book from Amazon for free, and every day new daily deals are offered, usually just a couple of dollars each. Around holidays, Amazon offers special deals. Sometimes hot sellers, such as Hunger Games, will randomly be $3 or so. Barnes & Noble offers similar deals for the Nook.


I am not a big library-goer, which is probably weird. But if you have an e-reader, you can borrow an ebook just as easily as you would a physical book. Due dates and everything apply, so you can renew a book if you need to. And of course the library has traditional books as well.

I also "borrow" a lot of books from my family. A lot just sit around gathering dust, so I can usually take one back home with me after a visit.

So don't worry about spending all of your money on $30 books when you can just head around the corner and find some new hidden gems. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Problems as a Book Lover

Reading is great when you want to escape your life. Curling up in your favorite reading spot with some hot coffee or tea and living in another world for a few moments can simply make all those big and little problems disappear, if only for an hour or so.

But nothing ruins those moments like:

1) Tiny Books

I understand why small paperback editions of books exist. They are quite convenient for quick airport buys and can fit perfectly into purses. But some huge books should not be made into paperbacks no bigger than my hand. For example, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. I recently borrowed a friend's copy of LotR, but I couldn't read it comfortably because the text was so tiny, the print was all crammed in, and the words are so close to the binding that you have to be an acrobat to properly read.

And while I'm on that subject....

2) Borrowed Books

Living life on the edge with a book near water.
When I borrow a book from someone, I get stressed. I worry about bending pages or dropping them or somehow imbibing the books with negative feelings that will somehow lead to a haunted book. I know some people are really picky about dog-earing  book pages or bending the binding. But when you bought a paperback book, you settled for a cheaper copy that won't last as long.

I could just not borrow books, but I don't want to buy a copy of Lord of the Rings when I'm just desperately trying to like the series.

3) The Kindle/E-book vs. Paper Battle

This debate is really about whether or not you are a book snob. I admit freely that some books I look down upon, but that's about the writing, not the format. I love physical books and I also love my Kindle. Nothing compares to the amazing smell of a book, whether new or old. But have you ever tried holding a giant copy of Under the Dome while laying in bed? I could get some serious carpal tunnel with that five-pound weight.

4) Complaining About the Movie Version

I must be a complete anomaly in the literary world, because I usually enjoy the movie version of books. Of course not all of them are perfect, which I will forgive (or try to forget.) Some books just shouldn't be made into movies. But when people complain about the moving not including every single detail of the book, or not showing a specific scene, I want to yell at them.
Movies and books are two completely different media. Books have the beauty of being able to "show" a character's emotion in a way a movie never can. Books can go into as much detail as they want, and a movie is not typically longer than two hours.

5) Stacks of Books

I freely admit it. I'm addicted. When I get bored, I go to a bookstore and buy a ton of books that will probably take me a year to read. I have stacks of books sitting around my house that I still haven't read, some from five years ago. But I will read them... eventually.

I know I can't be the only person to encounter problems like these.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Feast of Thrones (Or Something Like That)

WARNING: This post contains Game of Thrones

I have zero excuses for ignoring this site for so long. I'm just going to carry on as if I've never left.

The last time I wrote about the books I was reading, I had been reading (and watching) the Game of Thrones series. Well I've read the first four books. I would have no problem buying the fifth one, but I guess it's considered discourteous? rude? self-centered? to buy yourself something weeks before Christmas.

His writing style

I don't think my husband quite likes that I know what's going to happen in the show. I guess gasping out loud and dropping a few choice curse words does indicate that something major is going to happen. But to be fair, it's not like I shouted "Oh my God they killed ROBB" while reading about The Red Wedding.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Game of Thrones is a fantasy series based in the fictional kingdom of Westeros. A king dies, and all of a sudden everybody decides they want to be the king. Then George R.R. Martin kills everyone.

The first and second books were easy to devour. The third book took a bit more work. But the fourth book.

The fourth book. Ugh.


Did you know that the fourth and fifth book both took place at the same time? They just follow different characters. And our pal Georgie added a lot of characters between the first and fourth book. A Feast for Crows follows mostly characters that I can't stand. Here's a rundown for you:

Interesting Characters

Cersei is as always interesting. Yes, she is a conniving evil woman who basically murdered her husband and king. But that makes the slow unraveling of her sanity all the more fun for the reader.

I know I shouldn't say it because Georgie will find this and then kill her, but Arya has always been one of my favorites. She has spunk (old timey descriptions are quite befitting of Arya.) I root for her in whatever situation she is in.
 end of interesting characters
Boring Characters

Jaymie positively bored the daylights out of me. Jaymie's growing dislike of his sister/baby mama leads him to leave the city for whatever reason. He whines about his hand like a toddler whining to watch more Mickey Mouse, and grows increasingly annoyed with everybody. 

Brienne's long walk to nowhere adventure is comparable to the Lord of the Rings movies. She walks a lot. Absolutely nothing happens to her that is important until the last chapter she is in.

Sansa exists, and Baelish is creepy.

Remember Theon Greyjoy? Not in this. But his annoying sister (who thinks a good practical joke involves incest) and his uncles are. And they all want to have a throne, too.

For some reason, the Prince of Dorne and his heirs are introduced as characters. They provide no value besides adding to the whole "heard a rumor there's a dragon."

Sam complains about everything. "Whaa, I'm too fat." "Whaa I want to get laid but I promised a tree I wouldn't." "Whaa Jon was a jerk and sent me back to my daddy."
end of boring characters

He'll end up being the only dragon tamer in Westeros.
The one good thing about A Feast for Crows is that I know those characters won't be in the fifth book. 

I  can't wait to read more about Hodor.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post: A Review of The Surgeons Wife by William H Coles

See? Adorable.
Here is a review from my friend Jaymie. I'm hoping she enjoyed reviewing an adult book, because at Snacks for Max  she reviews kids books (and shares pictures of her adorable son.) 

(From Amazon – and the back of the book)

Mike Boudreaux, as a trauma surgeon Chief of Service, must discipline an impaired surgeon performing unnecessary and dangerous surgery for the obese. He is Boudreaux's former teacher and mentor, and Boudreaux falls in love with his young, beautiful, New-Orleans-socially-prominent wife.

Boudreaux cannot hide the adulterous affair that erodes his career authority and reputation. Family and society reject the woman he loves unconditionally; when she moves in with Boudreaux, her rebellious daughter disappears.

As Boudreaux tries to retrieve and convince the daughter to support her mother, the jealous husband's surgical career declines; a young patient dies; the public is outraged. The crazed husband blames his wife and Boudreaux for his decline and threatens violent revenge. The couple plans marriage and strains to regain pride and confidence amidst the hostility of accusatory taunts of friends, family and society.

Coles is a good writer – especially as he’s describing hospital scenes and setting the reader up to understand complex medical and political issues. I am by no means even an intermediate in these areas, and I think I had a pretty good grasp of what was going on in the book.
My mental love affair with Patrick Dempsey, wherein I watch Grey’s Anatomy religiously and pretend I’m Dempsey’s love interest, probably helped with that understanding.

However, I had a couple of big problems with The Surgeon’s Wife:
The main character, Mike Boudreaux, and his mentor’s wife have a buddy-buddy, friend-of-the-family type relationship throughout the first 17 chapters of the book. Then, right in the middle of the book, she’s all of a sudden in love with him.
It’s not clear whether he loves her back at this point or is just as suddenly in lust, but it only takes the good doctor a day or two to decide Catherine, who he sees every once in a while at hospital events and sometimes a friendly dinner, is more important than his mentor, with whom he interacts every day.

Apparently Boudreaux doesn’t subscribe to the bromantic “Bros before ‘hos” adage.

I know readers are asked to suspend reality in most books, but at least lead me into the love story gently!
What I took to be the main thrust of the book – hospital ethics and mores – is all of a sudden dropped once the affair gets going. WHAT?!

That’s the part I was invested in, not this surprise love between Boudreaux and his mentor’s wife (okay, not surprising factually, since it’s the indication of the title and introduced on the back of the book, but surprising because their feelings for each other are apparently too well hidden in the first half of the book).

If the entire book had concentrated on the surgery for the obese, rather than straying away from this important issue once the adulterous relationship emerged, I would have loved it. Coles could have axed most of the “rebellious daughter” storyline and added more about the professional angle of the story.

As it is? I’m not a huge fan.