Review: The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

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I picked this book up by accident while browsing the public library shelves, as I often do.  For me, there are a few words that, if I spot in a novel’s title, will cause me to pounce.  Some of these are: Tudor, Queen, Tower, Henry VIII…you get the idea.  This time, the word ‘Boleyn’ caught my attention.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially those books loosely based on the War of the Roses, House Tudor, or Elizabethan England.  Though after skimming the back blurb of the novel, I was apprehensive on two accounts:

1)  This book was written by an American author.  Typically most historical fiction about the English monarchs I read are written by Phillippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Hilary Mantel or other British author.  That’s not to say an author born and bred outside of England cannot write about the history of England.  I just didn’t expect it.

2)  I almost re-shelved the book upon learning it is not quite historical fiction, but ‘what-if’ historical fiction.  I had never come across one of its kind before, and perhaps they are few and far between.  The events that transpire in this novel are entirely based on the false premise that Anne Boleyn never miscarried Henry VIII’s son (William, in this book).  I thought to myself, how ludicrous!  How absurd to suggest an erroneous historical fact.  How can one presume to rewrite history?  But hey, it isn’t history — it’s historical fiction.  So I checked the book out, and I’m glad I did.

This story (though so far from fact that it is nearly all fiction and no history) had me so enraptured I couldn’t put it down.  The characters are engaging, the plot and multiple subplots enticing, and Laura Andersen’s writing flows in a simple style lacking pretentiousness.  Historical fiction benefits from a direct, to-the-point writing style rather than ornate, flowery prose.  Andersen has succeeded in mastering this.

Synopsis

As I mentioned, this books is based on the premise that Anne Boleyn’s son survived.  This event saved her marriage — and her life.  The novel begins 17 years after the birth of William, the crown prince of England, while Anne acts as queen regent.  Good ol’ Henry VIII is long dead and Anne is older now — old actually, for those times.  The story however is note so much about Anne but four younger individuals and close friends:  William, his older sister Elizabeth, William’s friend Dominic Courtenay, and Elizabeth’s ward Minuette.  Minuette does stand out as a more central character, and the plots revolve around her the most.  The third person narration switches between these four characters to allow readers to see their thoughts, motives, and true feelings towards each other.

At the opening, William is a year away from being crowned King of England.  He becomes more and more aware of the burden of the position, including pressure to marry, the threat of war with France, and dealing with the Catholic Mary and her supporters — some of who may be within William’s own council.  Minuette meanwhile has attracted the attention of not just Dominic but his best friend William.  Yet Will is no longer just Dominic’s friend and Minuette’s playmate but the soon to be King of England — and very much in need of a queen.  Can Minuette defy him once he is crowned ruler of England?  Where does her loyalty life?  And what of Elizabeth and her beloved Robert Dudley?  Scandals, romance, and murder ensues.

Conclusion

Hypothetical situation or not, this story kept me interested.  I will be reading the sequel The Boleyn Deceit when it comes out this fall 2013.  If you enjoy historical fiction or if you are obsessed with the scandals of the Tudor Court, I highly suggest checking out this book.

Download it on Amazon today!

BLOG TOUR: Spotlight, Review and Giveaway with Lawrence Fisher

“Kill Me Now!” is a book about Lawrence, a man in his late 40s, dodging bullets deep in the dating battlefield while searching for THE ONE, his soulmate, not Neo from the Matrix.

Kill me now

Synopsis:

Kill Me Now! is about Lawrence, a man in his late 40s dodging bullets deep in the dating battlefield while searching for the ONE. In Kill Me Now! Lawrence tries to decode the signals of his enigmatic opponent, often resulting in his hasty retreat. Why is she resting her head on her hand?

Is she bored? Or is she interested? He finds himself in many humorous situations where he has no idea what he is doing and no idea how to maneuver through the skirmish. Trapped in the epicenter of the courting conflict, the motivating thought that sustains him is his strong belief that somewhere out there, she awaits. Join Lawrence as he painfully stumbles through the mating minefield in search for his SOULMATE while silently wishing that he was elsewhere. Be warned, you will laugh!

Excerpt:

February 2: A Steep Learning Curve

No date again, woe is me! How many of us have sat at home wondering why we don’t have a date? How many of us have gone to a bar to look for a girl, found someone interesting and just froze? What should we say to her? What is a good pick up line? Questions, questions, questions! Help!

Those of us who know how to use the internet instinctively say, “Google it!” In the search tab, you type in, “how to pick up girls” and hope for the best. You then receive a plethora of websites offering you information from the best of the best. THE experts! Or so you assume. One site says there are plenty of people who are good at picking up girls, but cannot explain their art. If they cannot explain, then what good are they to us? Do they describe which girls are they trying to pick up? What kind of girls were these, real or imaginary?

One night, I decided to try a line from one of those websites. Me, myself and I, the holy trio, decided to go to a bar. A stunning brunette caught my attention as she eyed the crowd. Somehow she managed to avoid eye contact with me. I walked up to the lady, took out my iPhone, and hoped it impressed her.

I read off my iPhone, “Baby, I’m no Fred Flintstone but I can make your Bedrock.” OK, I agree with you. That is a lame line.

She leaned toward me seductively and said, “Go Google again!” Was she being rude to me or not? I still have no idea. I think she had learned the true art of diplomacy, which is the ability to tell someone to go to hell so that he actually looks forward to the trip.

It is very important to make a good first impression. The first impression is vital. It is difficult to correct a bad first impression. Oh, the pressure, the pressure. There is only one chance to do it right!

Going up to a girl at a bar saying, “What is a girl like you doing in a place like this?” will probably earn you a smirk. Not only is the line antiquated, but it seems to work only in the movies, and sometimes not even there. The only time I tried that line, the girl said it was her bar and that I should not refer to it as “such a place”.

Oh, what should I do? What should I do?

The internet provides contradicting information. What’s new? When we search for something in our field of expertise, we understand whether it sounds right or not. But if our understanding is close to zero, how can we define what is right and what is not?

Somehow I need to hone my non-existent skills. Somehow I need more practice. Somehow I need experienced friends.

Looking at my friends and hearing their stories, I wonder, does experience really help?

Oh, crap! Kill me now!

Review:   owl-book-hiowl-book-hiowl-book-hiowl-book-hi 

When I started reading this book, I hadn’t read any background about the author.  After a few chapters of laughing over Lawrence’s dating woes, I assumed he was an American.  Hearing similar stories  (if not articulated with the hilarity Fisher possesses) of dating nightmares from friends all living nearby in small town New Jersey, I simply assumed Lawrence must live — well, around the corner.  Because how could dating be as onerous and terrible in other parts of the world?

Well, I was shocked when I checked out Fisher’s website and saw that he lived not in America–not even in Canada, but in Israel!  What?  I couldn’t believe it.  But perhaps that’s my own ignorance, my belief in the erroneous notion that life is better somewhere else.  If anything, Lawrence Fisher has taught me that is not true, and no matter where you live in the world, entering the dating world single and middle-aged is tough, tiring, and shockingly hurtful at times.

But it’s not all terrible.  Fisher has managed to transform his humiliating, arduous experiences into something positive.  A book, that is nothing short of laugh-out-loud moments and overall amusement in which Lawrence takes us through horrifying encounter after encounter with women all over his country ranging from the ugly to the insane to the just plain rude.

It’s hard not to feel Fisher’s pain and suffering through his experiences, but his determination is endearing and should inspire any single middle-aged men in his situation, which I expect is more people than I can imagine.  I found it particularly easy to connect to Fisher after reading his introduction, which explains what events had unfolded in his life to trigger him to suck it up and start searching for his soul mate.  After all, nobody wants to grow old all alone.

In conclusion, I truly believe this book could be picked up and enjoyed by just about anyone.  If you are looking especially for a comedic read, buy a copy of Kill Me Now and laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of Fisher’s dating experiences as I did.  Bravo, Lawrence Fisher, for sharing what other people are too embarrassed to.

About the Author:

LawrenceLawrence has been out on countless dates in search of his soulmate. Like most people he has found himself in many strange situations. However, he found that he could see the humor in each situation. Lawrence is a single guy in his late 40s. He has worked in computers and education for about 25 years and also holds a personal fitness trainer certification. He currently lives in Tel Aviv, Israel. Lawrence Fisher spends his days writing software tutorials and his nights in the endless search for the ONE. Will he find her? Or will there be book two out?

Author Contact Details:

website_buttonhttp://KillMeNow.org

Facebookhttp://facebook.com/KMNow

twitterhttp://twitter.com/lbigfoot

goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15712738-kill-me-now

amazon-buttonhttp://goo.gl/i3clZ

giveaway

Lawrence is giving away two copies of Kill Me Now on his blog tour!  Click on ‘Giveaway’ above to enter!
 
 

Review: So Many Reasons Why (So Many Reasons #1) by Missy Johnson

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First, I’d like to thank Missy Johnson for gifting the book to me.  The central character of this story has been the victim of a brutal sexual assault at the age of 10.  Tragedy is an essential component of fiction; without it we’d be forced to read fluff chick lit all the time.  Yet it is a form of drama that is not always handled correctly.  Some authors delve too deep towards the depressing, a tactic that will lose readers fast.  But Missy Johnson avoided this path.  She’s not only a fluid writer but she makes it evident this story is about the protagonist’s healing process and road to recovery.

A Brief Synopsis

Twenty year old Emma is not your typical college student living in New York City.  She suffered a brutal attack at the tender age of 10 and bears not only permanent physical wounds but also psychological damage.  Her two best friends have created a support system for her, but it’s not enough to fight off her severe agoraphobia and the recurring nightmares from the incident.  When an email to her professor asking about an assignment turns into a flirtatious banter, Emma begins to forget that her attacker has been released on parole.  As the beautiful and hotly pursued professor Simon gets to know Emma, she wonders if he’s just the one to help her forget her past and finally move on.

Now Let’s Break It Down

I’ll admit I was uneasy reading this book in the beginning because of the subject matter.  I’m sure others feel this way too:  When I hear about rape incidents in the news, it disturbs me more than the stray murder here and there.  I never can comprehend why any one in their right mind would want to attack anyone — especially a young child — in this way.  But that’s just it.  They’re not in their right mind.  Usually they are a sociopath with a psychological disorder, like the protagonist’s attacker in this book.

I felt very immersed in this story from the beginning.  Missy Johnson painted a very realistic portrait of what it’s like to be a sexual assault victim tormented years after the incident.  Emma did not experience a typical assault; she was held captive for three long days, the reason she suffers from agoraphobia — an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer perceives their environment as one where they are unable to escape or get help.  For this reason she never leaves her apartment, a restriction that seriously impedes her college experience and life in general.

Emma undergoes a huge transformation in this book, and (without trying to give away any details) I was surprised by how brave she became near the end.  The book ends with a cliffhanger, but it’s not one of those ‘sudden’ ones that comes out of nowhere.  It  sets up for the sequel nicely.

One thing I thought was a bit strange was how fast the romance between Emma and Simon progressed.  I was expecting it to be more drawn out with Emma taking more time to get close to Simon, provided her traumatic experience.  I think the story would have been a bit stronger and more suspenseful if there were more tense, dramatic, frustrating moments between the two before they became obviously a couple.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic professor-student romance mixed with tragedy.  The story flowed almost seamlessly, excluding a handful of grammatical errors and some unusual slang. In the end it’s a beautiful story of hope and moving on from anguish towards contentment.

Order this book on Amazon.

My 5 Favorite Fiction Novels…So Far

This past week I got sidetracked from my book reviewing schedule.  For several weeks now, I had been simultaneously reading Wuthering Heights along with whatever book I was supposed to be reading for a review.  While I enjoy reading new authors’ books, I always like to be reading one of the classics.  TIME Magazine has a great list of the 100  Best Novels of All Time; there’s also a site called thegreatestbooks.org I reference when perusing for the next ‘essential’ book.

There’s no way I will get through all of TIME’s 100 novels in my lifetime, and I don’t mean to.  Wuthering Heights had always been on my British lit list of must-reads, and this past week the story pulled me in.  After finishing it last night, I became inspired to make a list of my 10 favorite books of all time.  Well, so far.  Keep in mind I’m 25 now, and if I’ve left out one of your favorites, it’s very possible I haven’t gotten to it yet!

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë6185

I can only say I can’t believe I hadn’t read this sooner.  I always believed Pride & Prejudice was the quintessential love story, and yes, I am very fond of Jane Austen.  Wuthering Heights however is about a love so maddening, so powerful, it’s stronger than death.  I do not comprehend the distasteful reviews of this book on Goodreads.  Yes, the character Heathcliff is at times unlikable but I’m assuming these readers didn’t really ‘get’ this story.

2.  A Secret History by Donna Tartt29044

This is a fascinating tale about a group of rich students at an New England college.  This elite group is not only unapproachable because of their over-priveleged snob status, but also because they are knowledgable worldly Greek scholars.  When a new student is invited into the group, he uncovers the real reason these five students tend to keep to themselves.  Ancient rituals, murder, and scandal ensues.

3.  The Razor’s Edge by William Somerset Maugham31196

The fact that The Razor’s Edge is number three here is irrelevant; this is still my all-time favorite story ever since I read it freshman year of high school.  I don’t know if it’s Maugham’s prose, or the enchanting characters, or the fact that setting himself in the story as the narrator, or if all three of these aspects of the novel together make it so endearing and uniquely diverting.  The Razor’s edge is an illustrious work of writing without needing to be action-packed; I think that’s why I love it so much.

4.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald4671

This is NOT on my list because the move is soon to be released (and I love the idea of Leo as Gatsby).  Typically, I am drawn to any book set in the 1920’s Jazz Age, because I think I would have loved to live in New York during that time.  And gone to one of Gatsby’s Long Island parties.  Fitgzerald is also one my favorites; This Side of Paradise, Franny & Zooey, etc.

5.  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien34

I am a Tolkien-ite, and though I love everything he has written related to Lord of The Rings (even the Silmarillion, the Appendices) the first book in the trilogy is my favorite.  I’m not sure why — perhaps because it’s the beginning of Frodo’s journey, and the only book in which the Fellowship is unbroken.  Maybe I just want to live in the Shire.  (That’s probably true, but unrelated to my preference for this book over the other two).

If I had to make a top 10 list, these would be the other 5:

6.  Candide by Voltaire

7.  The Odyssey by Homer

8.  A Room with A View by E. M. Forster

9.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

10.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Are any of these your favorites?  What other books should I include on my must-read list?

Review: Seeing Red by Sidney Halston

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I couldn’t decide between three or four owl rating for this book, as you can see.  About 75% of the way through I was almost set on a four owl rating, but then the cliffhanger at the end threw me off a bit along with the words “Coming Soon — Book 2 of Seeing Red Series.”  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book.  It just didn’t expect this book to turn into a series, and I can’t conceive what the sequel would be about.  Still, this was without a doubt a page turner, filled with suspense, intrigue, and LOTS of sexual tension.

A Brief Synopsis:

Jillian Stone, Oliver and Alexander Jacobs are an unusual group of 22-year-olds.  They were raised on a deserted island under the guardianship of a woman named Helen.  After twelve years they’re rescued and go their separate ways, only to be reunited years later at the funeral of their beloved Helen.  A love triangle erupts between them.  Jillian struggles with the decision of which of the twins she should be with, all the while trying to comprehend her psychic abilities that resurfaced from her time living on the island.  At the same time, a mystery unravels through Helen’s old journals.  Jill begins to uncover why she ended up on the island in the first place and whether she’s in danger now back in the real world.

Now Let’s Break It Down

Despite its categorization under ‘paranormal romance’ on Amazon, I personally would define Seeing Red as a romance with a mystery twist.  Unlike most romance novels, there are two main story lines in this book:  a love triangle (and for a hot second a love square) plus an added level of mystery, distinguishing this book from your typical love story.  Each story line integrates a level of suspense into the novel.  The intense love triangle is one reason you want to keep reading — to find out who Jillian will choose.  The perpetual question going through my head was, is it going to be Oliver?  Alexander?  Halston sure knows how to build sexual tension well.  There are so many hot and cold moments between the characters, especially Jillian and Alexander.

There isn’t really one main character in this story, as it rotates between three points of view:  Jillian and the twins Oliver and Alexander.  Despite this, Jillian still feels like the protagonist as she is the target of every male character’s affections and the individual the mystery revolves around.  That said, I loved every character except for hers.  Especially next to her kind, generous, selfless, good-natured southern belle of a roommate Heather, Jillian comes across as very selfish woman.  She’s entirely too comfortable leading on three men at the same time, two of whom genuinely worship her.

This is when the love triangle starts to get on my nerves as much as it keeps me hooked.  At halfway through the book, Jill’s mind had gone back and forth between the guys so often she began to drive me mad.  Can anyone be more indecisive?  Or dissect a situation more?  Just pick a guy already and take everyone out of their misery!  But still I kept reading through Jill’s long-winded rants and rationalizations because in the end, she does pick a man.  The reader isn’t left hanging — in regards to the romantic story line.

My only other complaint aside from Jill’s frustrating character is how slow the book starts off.  The first few chapters feel more like a memoir simply because there’s a lot of telling over showing, a lot of listing “Then this, then that.”  This type of writing is almost unavoidable when catching the reader up on a character’s background, or to convey long periods of time passing.  Once the book gets going however, the pace picks up and the slow start is history.

Conclusion

I truly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good romance and occasional mystery.  Sure there are a few typos and the writing isn’t too eloquent at times but that’s not why you would read this book anyway. If that’s the reading experience you seek, I suggest you pick up a Brontë novel.

Review: Prophecy of the Flame by Lynn Hardy

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The difficulty with deciding to purchase a self-published book is that you’re taking a gamble both with your money and your time (if the book was free.)  Life is short–you don’t want to spend hours reading a poorly written, dull story.  And if you, like me, have strict yet at times irritating reading principles ingrained in you then you also will hate not finishing a book.  Thankfully, my reading principles weren’t compromised with Prophecy of the Flame.

First and foremost the cover of this book caught my attention.  It’s not overly detailed, a trait I come across perusing Amazon books which shamefully will cause me to dismiss a potentially good read.  The image of a solitary, red-headed female clad in a blue-silver cloak had an air about her that screamed bad-ass warrior.  I normally am more partial to male protagonists when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi.  But from the first chapter I knew Archmage Reba, the lead in this work, was a heroine of a different flavor.
I don’t believe in giving away plot details in a book review.  All you need to know is that the plot premise is simple yet imaginative.  Five characters including Reba (Rebecca while still on earth) are initially still on earth in a hotel at a Live Action Role Playing convention.  In a flash of light, they are summoned to a parallel universe–a kingdom called Cuthburan that is in grave need of the services from these newly transformed warriors.
While Reba is the only woman among the company, she isn’t 100% warrior like her male peers.  She has a definite feminine side the author brings out, describing Reba’s inner conflict of remaining faithful to her husband who is back on earth while being immersed in a new culture where nobody gives a second thought to infidelity or promiscuity.  I believe women who enjoy fantasy/paranormal romance novels would identify with this character and her struggles that are similar to that of many women in today’s world.  Reba struggles to remain in check while being constantly pursued by a crown prince she finds physically irresistible if not personably.  All the while the crown prince’s brother provides a relief to the reader as a more likable character and match for Reba, even if she isn’t taking the bait.  At the end of Book 1 we still don’t know how this game of cat and mouse ends up, but luckily the next two books are already available on Amazon.

While I am not a religious person and usually shy away from novels with any mention of religion, the Christian undertones in this book were subtle and did not mess with the plot.  There is enough romance in this book that is enjoyable without the graphic sex scenes that can be irritating and feel out of place and sometimes take over the plot entirely.  To conclude, this book was a quick read and I found myself wanting to find out what happens next which is the ideal reading experience, I think most readers can agree.  I highly recommend this novel for fantasy readers, especially females who love a good, strong ass-kicking heroine like Archmage Reba.