Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, January 31, 2011

On Hiatus

Let's just make this official: I'm on a blog hiatus.  Winter seems to be a crazy busy time of year at my house, what with Kiddo's hockey games, big Scouting events, missing school for snow, and illnesses that don't seem to want to go away.  Plus I haven't really been motivated to read much lately.  So rather than ignoring my blog I'm going to take an official break until sometime in Feb. (or maybe March?).  I'm still reading blogs whenever I can so even if you don't see me commenting I AM still around.  Happy winter to everyone!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prisoners in the Palace

by Micheala MacColl
368 pages

*** About the Book *** 
Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

Young Liza is about to make her entrance into London society when her parents are killed in a tragic accident.  She suddenly finds herself without money and without family of any kind to support her.  When the opportunity to work in Princess Victoria's household Liza considers herself lucky to be given a chance to support herself.  But what she finds is a lonely young girl living a confusing and extremely sheltered life and adults who are conniving to gain control over the future queen.

*** Why I Read It ***

I have to be honest ... it was because of the cover! This book is absolutely gorgeous.  The dust jacket has shimmery effects that really attract the eye, the cover itself is a beautiful grey and white paisley pattern, and each new chapter starts off with a decorative page.  Of course, the idea of reading about Queen Victoria as a young woman was quite appealing as well.

I received this book for review from the publisher.

*** My Thoughts ***

I really enjoyed this book.  It is a Young Adult historical novel and is very well written and engaging.  I loved the historical details that were included and especially appreciated the detailed authors note explaining what was taken directly from history and what was embellished.  The life of the young princess Victoria was so horribly sheltered that it is amazing she became the queen that she did. 

I liked this book so much that I had to learn more about Queen Victoria so I rented the movie The Young Victoria.  It was a great film and agreed with the book on most points.  When multiple productions (books, movies, etc.) agree on the basic details it makes me more confident that the authors got things right, so I felt even better about the book after watching the movie. 

After the book and the movie I was STILL interested in learning more so went to the library and got a DVD called Queen Victoria's Empire.  This documentary showed what happened after Victoria became queen and provided a great follow-up to the book and movie.

So, when a book inspires me to learn more (and more) I feel quite good about that book.  I've already recommended it to a friend who teaches high school - I think her students would be attracted to the cover and would really enjoy the book as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2 audiobook reviews: The Call of the Wild, and A Brief History of Time

The Call of the Wild, with eBook (Tantor Unabridged Classics)The Call of the Wild, by Jack London - narrated by Patrick Lawlor (3.32 hours) - I loved this book as a child and really wanted to revisit it ... which ended up not being the best idea.  It is still a wonderful book but it is much simpler (and shorter!) of a story than I remembered, and the theme is very, VERY obvious ... almost too obvious.  Still, I do want to continue reading/listening to London's work, especially those stories that are new to me.

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to the Black HolesA Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking - narrated by Michael Jackson (5.75 hours) - I'm not a science person by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy learning about science in layman's terms.  The start of this book was great - I could follow along and felt like I was learning a great deal.  Then it got more and more complicated and by the end I had no idea what the heck the author was talking about.  Ah well, that's how it goes. Of course it was only after I finished that I discovered A Briefer History of Time - it seems that I wasn't the only one to be confused by the first book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blogiversary and Secret Santa

It almost slipped my passed my notice that today is my blogiversary! I started this blog on this date in 2008 - it seems like forever ago.  Thank you to all my wonderful readers who've stuck with me, especially over the past few weeks of sporadic posting. You all are wonderful! *hugs*

Also wonderful is the gift I got my from my Secret Blog Santa this year.  I saved it to open on Christmas day and it was a real treat.  Here's a look at what I received ...

The gift included a bag of Hershey's Kisses, a bookmark, a book thong, note cards, Christmas socks (which are currently in the laundry and hence not in the picture), and - the coolest thing ever - Mad Hatter Tea from Disney! I'm a tea fanatic and a Disney fanatic so this was the perfect gift for me.

A huge thank you to Christi the Teen Librarian for doing such a great job as my Secret Santa!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Uncommon Reader (mini review)

by Alan Bennett
120 pages

The Uncommon Reader: A NovellaI picked up this short book because I was in need of something simple and quick to read, something that didn't require any real thought in order to enjoy it.  This was the perfect book for that.

In this unlikely story the aging Queen of England picks up a sudden interest in reading, an interest in which her family and advisers do not approve.  The fun part of this book is seeing how this slight interest turns into a burning desire and then into a passion, a progression which a book lover like me can easily identify with.

The story isn't particularly believable but is isn't exactly far-fetched either. Don't expect tons of character development or plot progression - pick it up when you need a quick getaway.  It will remind you of why you fell in love with books all those years ago.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lily of the Nile

by Stephanie Dray
368 pages

Lily of the Nile*** About the Book *** 

This historical fiction novel traces the life of Selene, daughter of Cleopatra, brought to Rome after the death of her mother and adopted into Ceasar's household.  Will Selene be able to cling to her mother's legacy of power and to her Egyptian gods or will she be Romanized?  Will she allow Ceasar to use her for his own ends or will she find a way to use him?

*** Why I Read It ***

I received this book (by request) directly from the author.  I was intrigued by the historical story especially since I'd read another version of it exactly a year ago.  And when Stephanie did a guest post on my blog her topic made me even more excited to read the book.

*** My Thoughts ***

I really enjoyed this book!  I read it over a month ago and much of it is still fresh in my mind - it's really stuck with me so far.

From the first few pages the author captured my attention by bringing in an unexpected twist: the story of wise men seeking a prophesied child.  Sound familiar?  A bit like the Christmas story maybe?  This aspect of the story gave the whole book a slightly different feel than I expected, and I liked it.

I also appreciated the inclusion of Isis worship in this book.  The author readily admits that much details of this historical worship of Isis have been lost but she creates a convincing religious atmosphere all the same.  I loved following the theme of religion throughout Selene's story.

And of course there are the wonderful historical characters who make up Cleopatra's and Ceasar's courts.  I found myself comparing Dray's characters to those created by Michelle Moran in Cleopatra's Daughter and also to those in the HBO series Rome (here's a clip if you never saw it).  Each time these characters are portrayed there are slight differences but there are also many similarities; that makes me feel much better about each book (or show) because I feel like the authors are pulling as much from the historical documents as they can.

For those of you who read and enjoyed Cleopatra's Daughter, this story is different enough to be worth reading - I think you'll really enjoy it.  And for those who are new to the story of Selene, definitely pick up a copy of Lily of the Nile!
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