Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Published by Berkley on April 7, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, LGTBQ, Historical
Pages: 270 : Paperback edition
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

I’ve come to the realization recently that I have series phobia. On top of that I’ve been adverse to hype ever since I was extremely let down by Looking for Alaska and The Hunger Games in high school. So, when this slowly started filtering onto my radar the past couple months on Tumblr, I questioned if it was really THAT good.

And IT IS. Whatever hype you’ve heard about it? It’s true. I flew through this (total) in probably just a few hours, and only stopped reading because school, work, and sleep got in the way. I haven’t been this sucked into a book in such a long time and it felt great.

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A pretty accurate representation of how I felt upon finishing Captive Prince.

There’s so many compelling things going on within these first 270 pages (I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the rest of the series), but above all you’ll find political strife, gay/lesbian/bisexual relationships, a historical aspect that lends a hand to some really excellent fanart, and a writing style that sort of slaps you in the face in its simplicity, yet complexity.

There were a few times I would put this down and just kind of stare into space like “what the hell did I just read? How does C.S. Pascat do that with her words?” And the rest of the time I was just left gaping at the page, shocked that anything could be that good.

Long story short? Buy this series right now. Buy the whole thing. I’m serious, you’re not going to want to make the mistake I did of not having the sequel right next to you to pick up immediately. Need more convincing? Check out my status updates on Goodreads while I was reading this:

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Series: To Kill a Mockingbird #2
Published by Harper on July 14, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Adult
Pages: 278 : Hardcover edition
Source: Purchased on Amazon
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Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

I’ve read a lot of reviews where people are either enraged over the content of Harper Lee’s sequel, angered about how the book even came about to being published, or delighted that there is a sequel to be published in the first place and giving it rave reviews. When I was reading Go Set a Watchman, however, I didn’t really fall into any of these categories.

You know what I felt? I felt sad. I felt sad the entire time I was reading it. It was like we were given this book, but something was also being taken away. I kept thinking about To Kill a Mockingbird (obviously since this is its sequel) and while I did read that when I was younger (my freshman year of high school, so about 6 years ago) I felt that the nostalgia of that book was taken away with the addition of this one. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being so tremendously sad. FullSizeRender-1

That being said, I couldn’t put the book down either. Once I fell into it, I would resurface an hour or so later having read 50 or so pages and in this strange state of melancholy. Maybe it’s because of the way Scout/Jean Louise talks about her town, herself, and her father that she too, is seeing everything from a different perspective. She’s not a child anymore; she’s a young woman who is coming home to a rude awakening, so to speak.

Think about her name itself; Jean Louise. No one calls her Scout anymore (only her father and that’s pretty rare). The loss of her childhood nickname truly showed, to me, how much things have changed for her. Additionally, and by now I think a lot of people know this, when Jean Louise see’s her father at a community meeting (basically a KKK meeting) she is absolutely stunned and horrified. So much so, that she literally throws up from the horror of it. She is seeing her father in unaltered way. In other words, not through the lens of a child. Atticus is not the hero anymore; he has become a man and a regular human to Jean Louise. And I think this is why so many people were upset about it too; because we saw everything the way that Scout did and now we’re seeing everything the way that Jean Louise is seeing it, and it makes us sad, angry, etc.

To take something like To Kill a Mockingbird and turn its entire racial and social premise on its head through one 258 page novel is amazing. And that’s exactly what Go Set a Watchman did and it’s compelling, maddening, and depressing. Did Go Set a Watchman change my opinion of its characters? Yes; I’d be stupid not to think that. Do I still think To Kill a Mockingbird is still one of the greatest novels I have ever had the privilege of reading? Yes, because it is a privilege. It’s a privilege that we, as readers, are overlooking that we even have the ability to read both novels and analyze them (considering Go Set a Watchman was locked away for so many years for a reason).

FullSizeRender-2At the end of the day, I still love To Kill a Mockingbird and I really like Go Set a Watchman. I think they both have their merits and faults, but Harper Lee created this world that would have never existed otherwise, and has given life to real characters. Characters that are not perfect, don’t fit into any specific mold, and go through very real, complex, circumstances, making them more like us than we realize. As Jean Louise puts it, we’re all seeing them as human now.

And while I don’t think the book was excellent (not like its predecessor) I do think it was very good. It will have to stand the test of time and while I don’t think it will ever reach the level of To Kill a Mockingbird, at the end of the day, I still enjoyed it immensely.

Here’s a Tweet, because I forgot to talk about Boo. But seriously, why was he not even mentioned once??

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Series: N/A
Published by Scholastic on February 6, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, YA
Pages: 336 : Paperback edition
Source: Purchased at a Scholastic Warehouse sale
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When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?

TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master’s injured gladiators. But his warrior’s heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.

LUCIA is the daughter of Tag’s owner, doomed by her father’s greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she’s been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . .

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them — to Lucia’s father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

This is the second YA historical fiction book by Vicky Alvear Shecter (the first being Cleopatra’s Moon) and I love the way she interweaves fiction with history to tell a fascinating and complex story. As you can tell by the title, this one focuses on the tragedy of Pompeii and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvias. Ever since I was little, I had been fascinated with the events of Pompeii (not 100% sure why) and when I saw this I just had to pick it up.

Our story focuses around two main characters, Lucia (a rich daughter of a man who owns and trains gladiator fighters) and Tages, aka Tag (a poor slave who is owned by Lucia’s father and was childhood friends with Lucia). I love that Ms. Shecter created Lucia as a character who, in a patriarchal society, she remained strong in her scientific beliefs and had a mind of her own. She defied a lot of what was considered “proper” and stood up for herself, sometimes a rare thing to find in even characters of this century. Tag was also a strong character and he went through quite a bit of development, even right up until the very last page.

I loved seeing not only their interactions, but their journey leading up to the eruption. The last quarter of the book moved along at quite a fast pace which I liked because it kept up with the confusion surrounding the post-eruption. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the first three quarters of the book; quite the contrary! Again, Ms. Shecter did an excellent job of transporting me to this ancient city/world and integrating and explaining different facets of life while also progressing through the characters own plots. Overall, just a really fantastic read and, as usual, I look forward to when she releases another historical fiction novel

Series Review: Emma (Volume 1-7) by Kaoru Mori

Emma (Volume 1-7) by Kaoru Mori
Series: Emma
Published by CMX from 2006-2008 (Complete)
Genres: Love, Romance, Historical
Pages: Approx. 180-270 : Paperback edition
Source: Checked out from my local library
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An upstairs gentleman and a downstairs servant share a secret love. The saga begins. In Victorian England, a young girl named Emma is rescued from a life of destitution and raised to become a proper British maid. When she meets William, the eldest son of a wealthy family, their love seems destined. But in this world, even matters of the heart are ruled by class distinctions.

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This is the second manga series by Kaoru Mori I’ve picked up and once again I’m glad I did! Her drawings are so unique and intricate that I just can’t stop staring at them. She doesn’t gloss over any details and puts as much delicacy into each page as she can (I can’t even imagine how long it must take her to draw all of that out!).

Emma was so good! I love tales of an upstairs/downstairs type romance in regency London (think Downton Abbey) so this was right up my alley. However, I found myself wishing that Emma would end up with a different character and was actually kind of disappointed when that didn’t happen. Though, I guess the whole point of the story would have gone caput at that point.

Either way I loved the story nonetheless. So many different twists and turns and just when you think things are going to work out, or not, something else comes along to sweep you away. It was really a thrilling tale. There are also apparently three other books after these, but those are just side stories of other characters, and since my library doesn’t carry them and I can’t find them for cheap online, I’ll have to hold off on reading those for now.

This series on it’s own though is so good and I definitely recommend picking this up!

Series Review: A Bride’s Story (Volume 1-5) by Kaoru Mori

A Bride’s Story (Volume 1-5) by Kaoru Mori
Series: Otoyomegatari/A Bride’s Story
Published by Yen Press from 2009-present (ongoing)
Genres: Love, Romance, Historical
Pages: Approx. 180-200 : Hardcover edition
Source: Checked out from my local library
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Amir is twenty years old when she marries her husband, a boy named Karluk from a neighbouring village. Adjusting to life in a new household can be trying for any young bride, and Amira’s husband is eight years her junior. Amira was a strong, sophisticated hunter and horsewoman in her village, but though their villages were next to each other, their customs are very different. As Amira introduces Karluk to the foods and pastimes that were popular among her comrades back home, the warmth she feels for her young husband grows.

  

I think I first saw this series in one of my suggested lists on Goodreads and figured I’d pick it up from the library and try it out and I’m so glad I did! This is hands down the most beautiful and detailed drawn manga that I’ve ever read. I cannot believe how much work must go into each page even if there’s no writing on it! This series is certainly an unparalleled force to be reckoned with in the graphic novel/manga genre.

All the characters are so vibrant and with each book you almost seem to get a mini history lesson as you learn about these nomads ways of life and how they interact with each other’s families. For example the 5th novel deals a lot with marriage processes while the first novel covers hunting and arranged marriages. I think the second novel is my favorite though because it discusses the embroidery of rugs and everything is so beautifully drawn.

 I definitely cannot wait to get my hands on the sixth novel and hope this series continues on for a long time! Definitely something to pick up if you like history, romance, and easy reading!

Cinders and Sapphires (At Somerton #1) by Leila Rasheed

Synopsis from Goodreads.comRose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.



Number of pages: 389
My review: Want to hear the shortest review ever of this book? If you love Downton Abbey you will love this book.
BAM! Done! But seriously, if you like Downton Abbey then this is the perfect book for you. Cinders and Sapphires has just as much drama as Downton along with the switching viewpoints of the upstairs house guests and the downstairs staff (which can I just say I love that concept so much).
There is a huge variety of people to keep track of, and I have to admit that at first I was a little confused, but after a short while you really start to figure out who’s who, and start to enjoy the novel for all that it is worth  The two main characters that you really follow though, are Lady Ava (upstairs) and her personal maid, Rose (downstairs). Both characters get into all sorts of shennanigans and mishaps and it truly feels like you’re going on a fast paced adventure while you’re reading this. 
I loved almost all the characters and felt for them when they got into trouble or some sort of scrape. However, I felt the so-called “villains” or protagonists could have been meaner or somewhat more spiteful. I just felt a little…sympathetic towards them I guess. Their passion for their evil deeds could have run a little deeper, and I felt that if/when the next book comes out they could be persuaded easily to become a better person again. I guess we’ll have to wait and see though!
Also, I really hate the cover of the U.S. version. It doesn’t seem accurate somehow for they type of things girls in that time would wear (especially the way their hair is styled). And it just looks so incredibely fake and posed.
I completely recommend this to anyone who loves historical fiction, romance, adventure, and of course, Downton Abbey. This book definitely made me go through Downton Abbey withdrawls (in the U.S. we have to wait a whole more year before we see our beloved characters again!) Definitely check this out, it’s super easy reading and if there is a next book coming out (I could see how there might be since the ending could definitely lead the way to another novel) I will definitely be picking it up!
See you soon!
P.S. This picture pretty much sums up the whole book nicely (for the rest of that review click here!)

The Husband List by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly

The Husband ListSynopsis from Goodreads.comBased on the family from the bestselling Love In A Nutshell, the story of an heiress longing to marry for love or not at all

From The New York Times bestselling writing duo Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly, comes the story of a young woman’s search for true love. Caroline Maxwell would like nothing more than to join her brother, Eddie, and his friend, Jack Culhane, on their adventures. While Jack and Eddie are off seeing the world, buying up businesses and building wildly successful careers, Caroline’s stuck at home frightening off the men her mother hopes will ask for her hand in marriage.  When her mother sets her sights on the questionable Lord Bremerton as a possible suitor, Caroline struggles with her instincts and the true nature of her heart.  She longs for adventure, passion, love, and most of all . . . Jack Culhane, an unconventional Irish-American bachelor with new money and no title. A completely unacceptable suitor in the eyes of Caroline’s mother. But Caroline’s dark hair, brilliant eyes and quick wit have Jack understanding just why it is people fall in love and get married.

Set in New York City in 1894, The Husband List is an American gilded age romantic mystery. It evokes memories of the lavish lifestyles and social expectations of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers—a time when new money from the Americas married Old World social prestige and privilege. Dresses by Worth, transcontinental ocean voyages, lavish parties, a little intrigue, and a lot of romance await in, The Husband List.



Number of pages: 309
My review: When I read the synopsis of this, I thought it would be something along the lines of The Luxe series (they sound a LOT alike) but once I started reading I realized just how wrong I was. 
While The Luxe series has good quality writing, and plot and character build up, The Husband List completely lacked in all aspects. It was just so bland. What surprised me most was I typically really like historical fiction, especially stories like these, but it just had no build up. From the very beginning it was so boring and I kept thinking, “Just keep reading it will get better.” It didn’t. 
Do I feel that everyone would dislike this book? No. I think people who really enjoy Harlequin romances would like The Husband List extremely. Me on the other hand? It just wasn’t working. And even my mom read the book and I asked her a couple of times if it would ever get better and she kept saying no that it stays the same and is so predictable. 
To be honest, I didn’t even read the whole book. I got to about page 60 and gave up and read the last couple of chapters and pretty much pieced the rest of the story together myself. My mom called the middle of the book “fluff.” It was only there to make the story longer and to attempt to make it more interesting. 
This is considered an adult book (or I guess now it would be “New Adult,” a name which I just abhor, but that’s something I’ll save for another post) but I can still see older teens reading this and maybe enjoying it. It all really depends on your different tastes and preferences. 
So I would say try it for yourself and see but don’t put a lot of faith in it.
See you soon!