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Best Body: Pretty, Miserable, Perfectness
Best Body: Pretty, Miserable, Perfectness
by Jordan Lee Knape
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from $19.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest, Raw Story, August 2, 2015
Be prepared, reader, for Best Body is a no-holds-barred, nothing-held-back, fully honest account of life instead an eating disorder.

And it is not pretty.

Told through vibrant descriptions in a mature voice, author Jordan Knape paints a disturbing yet powerful picture of what it means to have an eating disorder. And, most importantly, Knape is courageous enough to tell her story, to stand up and talk about a very serious issue that no one wants to address, but affects so many young women.

There is so much to unpack here -the emotions, the honesty, the raw exploration of what it means to suffer from an eating disorder, where it comes from -and what it really means to overcome it. And, most importantly, what this book means to you, your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend -to all the women in your life. Because the sad reality is that every woman struggles with body image issues on some level -no matter who they are, what they look like and even how old they may be.

This book is a must-read for every young woman that is dealing with an eating disorder and every parent that wants to understand what suffering from an easting disorder truly means.

The Tudor Vendetta: A Novel (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles)
The Tudor Vendetta: A Novel (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles)
by C. W. Gortner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.51
74 used & new from $0.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Well-Paced Mystery, October 8, 2014
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The Good:
-A fun and well-paced mystery with plenty of intrigue, action and suspense.
-The author has obviously done his research, because the detail of the Tudor period really comes to life here.
-Less wieldy than other historical fiction novels, short and focused.
-I enjoyed the male POV here, which is not common in historical fiction novels these days. It's a nice change.

The Not-So-Good:
-The story can easily be criticized as more fiction than historical, but I this book is not presented as history -it's just a fun what-if scenario that offers some great twists.
-This isn't the first story I've read that offers that same twist about Elizabeth I, so I don't feel that it is incredibly original.

Though I do feel that Gortner's other historical fiction novels are better in quality overall, I have had fun with his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles series (not sure if this is the last one in the series, but it seemed to be). It's a little different for the most part than what's already out there, the stories read quickly and are a lot of fun. Sure, they aren't great literature or the best thing out there in the genre, but I think they offer a fun and enjoyable "breather" between heavier historical fiction novels and a well-paced mystery that will keep you flipping pages.

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle)
Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle)
by Heather Demetrios
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.57
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pacing and Data Dumping Issues Eclipse Unique Concept, September 2, 2014
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The Good:

-Unique Concept: I love the idea of jinni (or, genies), especially since it is something that I have very rarely seen explored in fiction, and never in YA. I have to give the author props for getting out of the box here and getting away from vampires, traditional wizards and other more cliche things (especially in the YA genre).

-Compelling Mythology: I'm a big fan of unique mythologies in novels, and I thought that Exquisite Captive had some very unique and fascinating bits of mythology. It really enriched the world, but at times the mythology felt a little thin.

-Beautiful Writing (Mostly): For the most part, I enjoyed the author's writing style. It flowed fairly well, especially when there was action/movement in the story. The writing truly felt almost poetic at moments, and I thought the writing was better here than the average YA novel.

The Not-So-Good:

-Pacing Issues: This one of the biggest issues with this book. Nothing really happens until well into the novel, and the action was almost constantly being disrupted by random bouts of data dumping, mostly needless flashbacks. The first half-ish of this book is seriously painful to read. (It got better.)

-Boring Characters: I did not care for Nalia or her highly predictable love interest, Raif. Nalia was just a little bit too much of a Mary Sue for me -she is the last of her race, she is the most powerful jinni still alone, she is the uncrowned empress of her people and -to top it all off -she's a little arrogant, not too intelligent and somewhat annoying. Raif, Nalia's love interest is nothing more than a flat stereotype of a freedom fighter with zero character development.

-Data Dumping: If there is a case study out there on "What is 'data dumping' in a novel and why you shouldn't do it," it would be this book. I have never seen such terrible issues with data dumping before -at least in my more recent reads. The action would start to get going, then Nalia would remember something from her previous life, she'd go off on some tangent about how great her race is or we'd get lost in some matter-of-fact history lesson about jinni. Interesting stuff, but this is a terrible way to delivery it.

-Subject Matter Seems Inappropriate For YA: I don't know about you, but when I pick up a YA novel, I have certain expectations about the subject matter. In fact, part of the reason why I have been reading more YA novels lately is because YA is generally cleaner than most other fiction. You can image how surprised I was when I opened up this book to the first chapter and, in the first sentence, there was a curse word. Though this book isn't heavy on cursing, it IS heavy on sexual content and the master/slave relationship. It really feels like this was written as a novel for adults and then edited to squeeze it into the YA market.

VERDICT: While I only read an ARC, it felt like this novel still needed quite a bit more work (mostly in editing) to be ready to publish. I think that there is a lot of potential here, but it really feels like this should be a book for adults or, at best, possibly older teens. Will I read the next book? Not sure, my feelings are still mixed right now.

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady
Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady
by (Novelist) Sally O'Reilly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.98
47 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, but needed some help in execution, July 3, 2014
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I was really engaged by the concept of this book. Aemilia is certainly not a historical fiction that I hear about often, and I know virtually nothing about her. So, an unknown protagonist with the backdrop of the Elizabethan court with heavy emphasis on Shakespeare? This book sounded like it couldn't do any wrong, like it was a sure-fire historical win for me, and I was excited to read it.

Then the book came out. After reading just a handful of pages, I already started to develop mixed feelings about this book. The writing, though well-done, at times felt overdone and overly complex. The setting was wonderfully done and well-researched, but I just wasn't sure about the protagonist. She didn't leap off the page at me, and I just wasn't that excited about her. I also wasn't a big fan of the heavy amount of sex and discussions of sex in this book. It was too much and it was not needed here, and it did not enhance the book at all.

Overall, Dark Aemilia is a decent historical novel that had a lot of potential, part of that potential was reached, but not entirely. For me, the heavy descriptions of highly adult situations was just too much -possibly personal preference, but not really mean thing.

A Triple Knot: A Novel
A Triple Knot: A Novel
by Emma Campion
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.84
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, but unknown, heroine, July 1, 2014
This review is from: A Triple Knot: A Novel (Paperback)
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I'll admit that Joan of Kent has never really been on my radar. I mean, I'm kind of a history nerd and a big reader of historical fiction, and I'm fairly certain that Joan of Kent has been mentioned before in some of the books that I've read, but I haven't really read anything that focused on her or her life. Aside from the fact that she was pretty and English, I didn't know much more before I went into this book.

Joan was presented as a fascinating and highly likeable character that I just wanted to cheer for. I wanted to see her succeed and get what she wanted, because she was such an enjoyable protagonist to read about. Aside from following such a wonderful character, I really enjoyed author Emma Campion's vivid depictions of Medieval life, with fully researched and carefully crafted details that flowed well with the story without breaking it up or slowing it down with too much detail. Campion certainly put a lot of time, research and care into creating this novel, and that's something I really appreciate as a reader and history nerd.

Though I enjoyed the book overall, probably my only small criticism is that it was somewhat slow at the beginning, so slow, in fact, that I nearly put the book down a few times and threatened to stop reading it. I'm so glad that I did, of course, because it did pick up and become much more enjoyable, but it took a little patience to get there.

Fool's Assassin: Book One of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
Fool's Assassin: Book One of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
by Robin Hobb
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.73
33 used & new from $1.61

108 of 138 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very conflicted about this book, but SO glad Fitz is back!, June 18, 2014
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My relationship with Robin Hobb's books in recent years has been spotty at best. I first read her Farseer Trilogy in high school at the suggestion of a friend, and fell in love with the series, especially the character of Fitz. I subsequently read The Liveship Traders series (not as good, but still enjoyable) and, later, The Tawny Man series (better than Liveship Traders, but still not as good as Farseer). Then, I read the first book in the Soldier Son series, and wondered how such an incredibly talented and just incredible author could have just gone so horribly wrong. I barely pulled my way through this book and quickly determined that I didn't want to read anymore. When I saw the Rainwilds series, I recalled being so unhappy with the Solider Son series, that I decided not to bother. Besides, I was at a time in my life where it was becoming difficult to read massive novels, and my free time was really starting to run thin.

Of course, my free time is running even thinning now than it was then, but when I saw the return of Fitz and Fool, I just couldn't say no. I had to read this book, no matter what, and I found myself getting over my previous concerns with Hobb's works. That is, at least until I started reading it. Though I did read the entire book, cover to cover, I was so conflicted about the book for much of time I was reading it.

And here's why:

Pacing, for starters. This book is very, very slow. Though it does include some excellent character development, and it's sort of nice to see Fitz in everyday life, there just wasn't much going on for most of the book. Things started to pick up about halfway through, but even then, it lacked excitement. It wasn't until close to the very end that things started to finally move and, more importantly, the Fool finally showed up.

Lack of editing. At least, it certainly felt like that to me. Many, many things seemed overly drawn out (might I mention that several YEARS pass during the course of this book?) or were slow-moving. I think this harmed the impact of the novel.

Introduction of a new, but not really likeable narrator. I won't spoil this here, but I could have done without the second narrator. Not only was she not a very likeable character, but I found the random changes in narration jarring and annoying. Would have rather we just stuck with Fitz.

While I love the overall idea of returning to Fitz and seeing his new adventures with the Fool, this book was, at times, painful to read. Not much going on, and no Fool until near the very end. Yes, I will be reading the next book, but I truly think that if this was a completely new book (with the names changed, of course) from a completely new author, it would have been difficult to get it published.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2015 8:31 AM PDT

The Miniaturist: A Novel
The Miniaturist: A Novel
by Jessie Burton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.07
154 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to the hype, June 18, 2014
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For a historical fiction novel, The Miniaturist has been pretty hyped. I mean, we're already talking about selling the rights in (I believe) more than 20 languages. It was supposed to be the next big thing in historical fiction, the biggest genre debut of the year...and it just wasn't my thing.

For much of the novel, I was conflicted. There were some excellent elements here, for example the author has incredible writing skills. Her descriptions of 17th century Amsterdam were incredibly detailed, gorgeous and highly believable. I truly felt like this book transported me back in time, and that the author did a lot of very specific research about the clothing, objects and issues of the time. Yet, at times some 21-century-ism started to creep in, enough that it became difficult for me to suspend my belief and just jarring. I'm really surprised that the editors didn't do a better job of cleaning this up.

Throw in a dysfunctional family loaded with juicy secrets and we're sure to have a winner, right?

Not quite. While I loved the idea of the family with secrets, none of the characters were particularly likeable or sympathetic. They just came across as sinister, uninteresting or not particularly intelligent or compelling. It really would have helped me if I had a character to grab on to here, but this book just didn't have that.

Now, let's talk about one of the biggest problem I had with this book: it's slow. It starts slow, and the pace never really picks up. I'm not sure what the problem is -editing or what, but the pacing is a serious issue that made reading this book a slog, rather than something enjoyable.

I had high hopes for this book, but it just didn't meet them. Hopefully some of these issues will be cleaned up in the final version of the book (I read an ARC), but there were so many things that still needed some work. Pass on this one.

Dorothy Must Die
Dorothy Must Die
by Danielle Paige
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.86
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, but a little rough around the edges, April 5, 2014
This review is from: Dorothy Must Die (Hardcover)
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While a title like Dorothy Must Die, how could I resist? Despite the rather dark nature of the title, as opposed to the innocent, positive and just fun nature of the classic movie, it was hard to imagine an Oz where naive, innocent Dorothy would have to die. But, in this unique and imaginative novel from debut author Danielle Paige, readers are introduced to a dark, dystopian vision of Oz that's edgier than anything you've ever seen before.

Incredibly well-written in vivid detail, Dorothy Must Die introduces readers to a compelling main character with real and believable issues, suddenly through into a dark and twisted fairy tale. While I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and the strong details the author included, as well as the fresh ideas, I do feel like this novel had some flaws.

First, at points the action ground to a halt, and it felt like numerous sequences should have been edited down and cut back to be a little more concise. I also felt like there were a few holes in the story that harmed my ability to suspend my belief (I did, however, read an ARC, so hopefully some of this was smoothed out.). But the biggest issue? The lack of a satisfying ending (as well as the fact that the book synopsis promised an all-out assault on all of Dorothy's loyal gang -the Tin Woodsman, the Lion, the Scarcrow -and we didn't really get that). This made it feel like this really should have been one book, not a trilogy.

Though some readers will have trouble reading about cursing goth Munchkins, palace guards with bicycle bodies, a murderous Tin Woodman, a mad scientist scarecrow and a number of other darkly twisted interpretations of Oz, I found the approach highly refreshing. There were truly amazing and thoughtful details in here that I have not ever seen before, and I found the raw creativity of this book to be a breath of compelling fresh air.

Taking risks with a highly creative approach to an old story, Dorothy Must Die is an enjoyable story with some great ideas, but that's still plagued by a few flaws and that's a little rough around the edges.

City of Jasmine
City of Jasmine
by Deanna Raybourn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.29
77 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Deanna Raybourn Novel I've Read, March 28, 2014
This review is from: City of Jasmine (Paperback)
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I have never big much of a Deanna Raybourn fan. Yes, I know, it sounds crazy, but I never really got into her Lady Julia Grey series. I've tried some of her other books, like The Dead Travel Fast, but it wasn't until I tried A Spear of Summer Grass that I really started to give Raybourn's books a chance. While it wasn't my favorite, it was a beautiful novel with vivid characters that just leapt off every page and were so much fun to read about.

And I feel like everything that I liked about Spear of Summer Grass, all the positive ways that Raybourn was going there, is only amplified by City of Jasmine. Packed with humor, exotic locations and vivid characters, I was hooked from the first page. And even though I'm not much of one for romance-centered stories, something about the magic of this book, the very realistic portrayal of romance and the unique approach to the story and characters really grabbed me here. And it certainly didn't hurt that I started hearing unique voices in my head when the characters spoke on the page.

While I do feel like the novelty of the book wore off a little as it went, and it started to get a little dull as it went on, but in the end I enjoyed this book and think that it's the best and more beautiful novel that Raybourn has ever written.

The Blonde
The Blonde
by Anna Godbersen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.29
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Far-fetched, depressing, March 26, 2014
This review is from: The Blonde (Hardcover)
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I had so many mixed feelings going into this one. For starters, I have read all of Anna Godbersen's other novels -The Luxe series and Bright Young Things -and I really enjoyed all of them. I thought Godbersen was an excellent writer who creates vivid characters in compelling settings. Though, of course, they tended to be something of Gossip Girl in a historical context, I still had fun with these books. I wasn't sure when I saw that Godbersen was doing something of a re-imagining of Marilyn Monroe's life, I just wasn't sure about it, but I loved the author's other books so much that I decided to give it a chance.

And I was disappointed. The idea of Marilyn Monroe being a secret Soviet spy was just too far-fetched, too much for me to actually buy into. Even though Godbersen wove in real people, especially the Kennedys, it still just required too much suspension of belief. It was also really difficult for me to find Marilyn likable. While I'm not entirely sure how true to life she was portrayed, she is shown as pretending more naive and dumb than she actually was (while I think this may have some truth to it, it just seemed really exaggerated here). It also bugged me that Marilyn didn't seem to have any trouble with jumping into bed quickly with just about any man in the book -it just seemed too easy. The book was also, overall, not something of a fun "what if?" kind of read, but somewhat depressing and not particularly enjoyable.

While I tried to give this book a chance, it just didn't work for me.

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