Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Wrap-Up!

Omg I can't believe March is already here! I have too many books to read and too little time to read them, but I did read a good amount this month. I'm pretty happy with my progress this month and all the posts that I wrote towards my Historical Fiction February event.

Books I Read




Audiobooks




I also started reading comics again and I listened to some more audiobooks of books I hadn't read this month. I'm not running an event for March but I am starting to think about doing more events in the future. We shall see!


Challenge Progress

I have to admit, I didn't do much in the way of my challenges this month. When I did it was only because that challenge overlapped with my February event.

TBR Pile Challenge:

I read book number two out of the ten I pledged to read for this challenge by reading the Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. I am currently reading book number three towards this challenge so I hope I am making headway with this.

Fairytale Challenge:

I only got through one of the books for this list and only at the very end of the month when I finished The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson. I don't have anything in my current pile for this challenge but it's still on my radar.

Finish That Series Challenge:

Ha ha ha. So since I decided to break up with Philippa Gregory I'm cutting this down to only two series. I did; however finish the Leviathan Series early in the month when I finished Goliath. I'm hoping to finish the Lunar Chronicles and overlap it with the Fairytale Challenge, but looking at the current pile of books on my desk I might not get to them in March. 

Historical Fiction February

For the month of February I also ran my own event-- Historical Fiction February. I read primarily historical fiction books and hosted a giveaway. Which you still have a day left to enter if you are still interested! It was fun to do another themed month, I'm not sure if anyone cared about it but I really enjoyed doing it. I would like to do some more in the future but I think I need to figure how to get other blogs involved.




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Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Historical Fiction February: The Mirk and Midnight Hour ARC Review



The Daily Prophecy

My Rating:

★★★

Hmm...so maybe it's because I'm a damn Yankee, but I don't think Jane Nickerson's southern gothic fairytale retellings are for me. Maybe some people like them, but I don't think I'm a fan.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour is a somewhat sequel to Strands of Bronze and Gold, but even though I hated the author's first novel I thought I would give her a second chance. Plus I've had the arc sitting on my shelf forever! This book is actually one of the one's I pledged to read for the Fairytale Challenge, but due to the historical context in it I'm also making it apart of my Historical Fiction February event. Who doesn't love killing two birds with one stone?

This novel is supposed to be a retelling of the Scottish Tam Lin myth. I'm not that familiar with the myth, but I don't understand why Nickerson would want to move it from Scotland to the American South during the Civil War. It's not really a time period I particularly care about, so that might be a major factor in why I wasn't a big fan of this novel.

Not liking the setting aside, the thing that really bothered me about this novel was that I felt like there was a lot of filler. I found the first 150 pages to be a little boring, similar to Strands of Bronze and Gold where there was just chapters and chapters of the main character doing nothing. The second novel wasn't as bad in this regard, but you didn't even meet the injured solider until after page 150. I really think about 100 pages should have been cut from this novel.

Another thing that bothered me was that it felt like the novel struggled to know the plot. I think the myth itself was bogged down by the family drama. Honestly it would have been a better book if the Sunny/Dorian subplot didn't exist. I think it would have been better if those characters didn't even exist and the plot focused more on the myth itself. For me it just felt like there was a lot of unnecessary subplots that didn't need to be in the book.

Okay, so it probably seems like I really hated this book, right? Well I didn't hate it as much as the author's first book, I thought it was okay but there were a lot of things I didn't like about it. I did like that Violet seemed like a well-rounded character with a good head on her shoulders. She really thought about things before she acted. I also really liked the relationship between her and her younger cousin Seeley. I also liked that she did question things about southern society and why they were fighting the war, without making her out to be a white savior. I kind of wished it had gone into that discourse more rather than dealing with the family drama.

So overall this book was just okay. I'm not going to go out of my way to recommend it, but I don't think it was completely terrible, I just think the plot was problematic.

What did you think of this book?


Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Agent Carter Review


The first season of Agent Carter wrapped up last night, and I will not be satisfied with only one season of this show!

I was on board with this show from the very first episode. Peggy Carter was exactly the type of hero we needed. Instead of being the damsel in distress, Peggy shoots her way out of bad situations and uses her femininity to get shit done. The hairstyles and costumes alone make the show amazing, but I think the premise at it's core is so awesome.

Marvel fans know Peggy as the love interest from the first Captain America movie, but in this 8-episode arc of her life after the war we learn so much more about her. Here is the love interest of a hero that has to go on after his "death" but in the end she becomes the hero. I think that is the theme that I loved about this show.

The finale had a Peggy and Dottie showdown with Dottie getting away, but Doctor Fenhoff does not get away so we do get a little justice in the end. The episode was really good, but I have to agree with other reviewers that it needed more Peggy and less Howard. I know that Howard's inventions and finding all of them was important, but Peggy has to spend the whole episode saving his dumb ass. 

I think the series is likely to have a second season, as there are still a lot of questions unanswered. Will they ever capture Dottie? Who was really behind the Black Widow program? There are a lot of things that the show could pull out in another season and I would really like to see where they would go with it. I really enjoyed this show, but I just want to see more!

What did you think of Agent Carter?


Happy Reads Everyone!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Turn: Washington's Spies Episode 1 Review


Another historical fiction show I have been meaning to get to is AMC's Turn: Washington's Spies. I mean it has Jamie Bell in it and I love him, so I don't know why it took me this long to start the first episode. AMC puts out amazing shows so I really don't know why I haven't watched every single thing they have produced yet.

My initial reaction was, "Hey that British jerk is Burn Gorman, why does he always play such asshat characters?" For real this is the same dude that was drinking from a skull in Game of Thrones and was that shady character in The Hour. No surprise here that he is playing one of the big baddies here. 

Turn does a good job of showing the violence and hostility between the rebels and the British troops. Since I am also watching Outlander right now I can see a lot of parallels between how the British treated the Scottish Tribes and how they treat the rebels during the Revolutionary Era. 

I think it is an interesting concept that Jamie Bell's character Abraham Woodhull is basically coerced into becoming a spy since he is a down and out farmer with unsuccessful crops. I did really enjoy the end scene where they cross cut a successful rebel battle and Woodhull swearing his allegiance to The King of England. I love scenes like that and it was nicely done here.

I am very intrigued by this show and I definitely want to continue watching. This time period is a tricky subject so I am interested to see if they will touch on any of the other social issues of the time period, like how the native people's were kicked off their land and slavery. I think this is going to be a slow burning type of show but so far I like what I see. 

My Rating:
★★★★


Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Top 5 Black History Month Books

When I started to plan out this historical fiction event I wasn't even thinking about February being Black History Month. I took a Civil Rights Era seminar in college so I have read a decent chunk of books dealing with the subject so I have a few books I want to highlight and recommend.

Please feel free to leave me any other suggestions in the comments.



Beloved By Toni Morrison

I read this book in AP English in high school and I have to admit that at first glance this novel frustrated me. I think the reason for that is that it is such a disturbing yet real novel about what life was like for escaped slaves and the sacrifices they made. This book also gets into somewhat magical realism when the character of Beloved shows up. I didn't know this was a part of a trilogy, but I think this is a powerful novel that is hard to swallow.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Alice Walker's novel is another novel about women of color that is hard to swallow. There is a lot of graphic abuse in this novel, so if you are going to read it I think you might want that warning beforehand. The novel is set in 1930s Georgia but it really shows that even though slavery was gone the prejudice and social unjust was still very prevalent.


Bud, Not Buddy By Christopher Paul Curtis

I read this novel about Bud, an orphaned African American boy in 1930s America when I was in the fifth grade and it's just one of those novels that has stuck with me over the years. Like the previous book I featured, this one also shows a lot of racial tension that was still heavily entrenched in society, but this one is set in a child's perspective. I think it's important to see this time period in both the adult and child's perspective. 


To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee

I was a little hesitant to include Harper Lee's novel because although it is one of my favorite novels, I think it does utilize the white savior narrative too much. I do still think the novel has merit and I think it is an important piece to look at.


Long George Alley By Richard Hall

I tried to write my final paper in my seminar on this novel, but I struggled because there was not a lot of peer review on it. I don't know where my professor dug up this novel because there are barely any reviews on Good Reads either. This is a novel told in multiple perspective during the height of the civil rights movement so I think it's an essential book to add to your pile. I just wish there had been more criticism and discussion on this book. 

So these are just a few good books I selected to highlight for black history month. These are five books I have read and enjoyed, but I want to hear from you. Do you have any book suggestions for black history month?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Code Name Verity Review



My Rating:

★★★★★

It's a rarity for me to give a book a five star rating as I'm a pretty critical reader. So a book has to be really good in order for me to give it such a high rating. Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity deserves that five-star rating.

The novel is told in two parts by Verity and her friend Maddie later on. I'm a fan of multiple perspective so I really enjoyed that the book was written in this way. When I started reading it in Verity's perspective I couldn't help but want to compare this sassy Scottish lass with Deryn Sharp from The Leviathan Trilogy. I actually so much as did the math and convinced myself that Deryn was her mother. Haha. Not really but Verity reminded me of Deryn a lot, so I loved reading from her perspective. She was just so brazen and fierce, even though she was still so scared since she knew what her fate would be.

When the book switched to Maddie's perspective I really liked that too because Maddie wasn't as confident as Verity. I think it was important to show how the war affected people differently this way. Maddie was scared all the time and I think if I was in this situation I would react a lot like her. It was really nice to read about these two girls that were so different but yet had such a strong bond of friendship.

Let me forewarn you about this book before you decide to read it. It's about world war two, so it's also about a lot of sacrifice and loss. The material gets heavy at times and it doesn't necessarily have a happy ending. It's a book that will rip your heart out, but I think it has some important things to say.

I would highly recommend this one!


Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Historical Fiction February: The Tudors- Episode 1 Review


You may have read my Top 5 Historical Fiction TV Shows post and wondered why a particular show was not on that list. Here's why:



So I finally started The Tudors, it's only been sitting in my Netflix queue since I signed up. I really should have started the show earlier in the month but I didn't really think about watching it until earlier this week. So I have since watched the first episode and I wanted to give a review of my first impressions of the show.

First of all, Henry did NOT look like that. I mean if he did no wonder all these girls are going to his bed so willingly. I know that Showtime was going for the sexy Tudors by casting Jonathan Rhys Meyers but I think Mark Addy's Robert Baratheon would have been more accurate to history. I mean have you seen the portraits of Henry? He did not look like Meyers at all.

I think the first episode starts off strong with a murder in the first five minutes. I think it really sets the stage for the fight for power that will be a major plot point going forward. The second scene is of Henry sleeping with a woman whom is not his wife, so I think it really played into the idea that he was a womanizer. And an asshole. They really show him as an asshole for the rest of the episode and probably for the rest of the show. Which I guess makes sense because this is the dude whom kept on killing his wives.

I can't really stand Henry and Meyers has a face I just want to punch, but like a train wreck I can't stop watching it. I'm going to try to see how far I can watch the first season before the month is out. Hopefully I will have a season one review later. So far I am liking the show and I think the first episode really honed in on what it is all about. Murder and sex.

My Rating:

★★★1/2

What did you think about The Tudors?



Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Why do we love World War II?


Personally I know the answer to this question. I've always been obsessed with 1940s and 1950s fashion and hairstyles. So no wonder Agent Carter gives me so much joy. I only wish I had the time and patience to do awesome things to my hair like that. Or if my fine hair would cooperate and hold a hairstyle. I admire the time period during the war so much because of the fashion.

Peggy is fierce AF

Another reason why people love WWII is because of the emergence of aviation battles. I had a friend in high school that became obsessed with aviation and later with space exploration after we read Catch 22 in AP English. I think Band of Brothers also had something to do with it. (Side note: why was that not on my top 5 historical fiction tv shows list? Because of forgot about it...) I think a lot of people love this time period because of the battles and the progression of flight during this war. 

But I don't think these reasons are solely why WWII history has such a mass market appeal. So why do we as a culture obsessed over this time period?

Wealth of materials.

What I mean by that is that so many countries were affected by this war that there are just so many different stories and angles to retell what happened during this time period. This global conflict was not the only one that some countries were fighting in at the time. Some countries fought a war on the global front and in their homeland. During the war Italy was also going through a civil war while occupied by the Nazis. Finland was also so terrified of Stalin's reign and the amount of people he was killing that they sided with Hitler just to save themselves. There are so many stories that are still being told about this war that I think we won't tire of it until every voice is heard.

I think that since it was a war that was fought on a global scale and almost every country played a part in it, allows us to understand all parties on different levels. It's also a war that we are constantly talking about now that survivors are dying off. It makes us want to hear their stories more. We want to know everything that happened. There are so many more stories to tell, and so many stories to warn us not to let this happen again.

I'm really intrigued by the WWII era in history, and I think it is one of my favorite past eras to delve into. What is one of your favorite time periods to revisit? Or why do you think we as a culture are still fascinated by WWII?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Chronology Discussion



If you read my last review you probably noticed that I decided to break up with Philippa Gregory. Although two of the main reasons were because of her textbook-esque writing style and her insufferable characters, there is also another minor reason.

She does not write her novels in chronological order.

I think in the historical fiction genre consistency and chronology are a key thing to have, and when a writer of the genre does not write the books in the order that the events take place it is extremely frustrating. At least for me.

It just doesn't make sense to me for a writer of the genre to want to write about a period of time in history but then they write the books all out of order. Why???

So let's talk about my example with Gregory for a second. In her Cousins' War series she started it with Elizabeth of Woodville's story, and then Margaret of Beaufort's story. Their timeline's do cross over a lot so I was okay with this and think Woodville's story should come first; however the third book in the series is about Woodville's mother when she was a young lady. Why? Why would you write like that?

If you're reading the series as it is released I think that makes for a frustrated reader. Luckily for me I tend to read series after they are finished so this is an easy fix by just looking up the correct chronological order. But still, it's something about the historical fiction genre that really annoys me.

C.S. Lewis also did this with the Chronicles of Narnia, so it is not just this genre that writes books out of order. It really frustrates me and is probably one of my biggest pet peeves in literature.

What do you think? Do you get frustrated when an author does not use chronology in their work?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Historical Fiction February: The White Queen Review


My Rating:
★★1/2

I've read four of Philippa Gregory's books and I think The White Queen is where I say, "Okay, I think I've had enough." After this one I think Philippa and I are breaking up, it's not me, it's you.

Her textbook like style of writing makes her novels drag for me and I think it is because of this style that I really shied away from the historical fiction genre for so long. Like The Red Queen, Gregory's story about Elizabeth of Woodville did not wow me at all. In fact I felt like it was a bland retelling of her story and made me remember why I dislike politics so much.

I read a lot of reviews that were mad that Elizabeth's influence on King Edward was regulated to her "magic" but if that wasn't in this book it would have been more boring than I thought it was. The plus side to this novel was that unlike the previous one, I actually liked the character. I felt for Elizabeth's plight when she was deprived of her role as Queen, but towards the end of the novel I just didn't care anymore. I didn't care. They all were conniving assholes and Gregory somehow made a story that should have been really interesting and wrote in the most boring prose I've ever read. I constantly had to remind myself that I wasn't in fact reading a high school history textbook.

I feel like I'm being really harsh with this review, but I just could not get into this novel, and I don't think I'm going to continue with this series. It's been real, not real great, but I think this is where I abandon the Cousins' War and the Tudor Court novels. I would not recommend this book.

Have you read any of Gregory's novels? What did you think?


Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Casablanca Discussion


Oh my god, I can't believe I wrote a post about my Top Ten Historical Fiction Movies, and I didn't include Casablanca. That is my favorite movie! I think initially I was going to include it but since it is my ultimate favorite movie I decided to give it a post all it's own. Okay maybe I just forgot about it, don't judge me!

A lot of people don't know that I had a major obsession with pin-up photography and 1940s-1950s fashion styles when I was in high school. Which probably explains why I love Agent Carter so much. I listened to a lot of retro rockabilly at the time too, and I got really into classic movies. That's how I came to discover that Casablanca was my favorite movie and eventually I started to love Humphrey Bogart. For real, he is still my favorite actor. 

I actually have that poster in my cube at work and only one person has ever made a comment about it. As Time Goes By is actually one of my favorite songs as well. 



Casablanca is heavily entrenched in WWII history. The film is set in unoccupied Morocco during the height of the war where the protagonist Rick Blaine is delivered letters of transit that he needs to hide from the Nazis. The plot deals a lot with the desperation of people whom are trying to escape the horrors of the war, and shows how although Rick is no longer a freedom fighter he is still fighting against the war in his own way. He just didn't know that his one true love Ilsa Lund would show up looking for the letters. 

I love this movie, and although it is a very historical movie, I think at its core it is really about the love story between Rick and Ilsa. It's not a happy love story, but rather a story about how a man loves a woman so much that he is willing to let her go because he thinks it's the right thing to do. It's a tragedy, but who doesn't love those?



I adore this movie so much, and it's just one of those classics movies that I will never get bored of. I think it has also been on a lot of those "Best Movie of All Time" lists a few times.

Do you adore any classic movies from before your time?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Why I love Historical Fiction


Perhaps I really should have I kicked off my Historical Fiction February event with the answer to this question: Why do I love historical fiction? The reason I haven't answered that question until now is because...well frankly I didn't have an answer for that question. But now I do...I think.

I wrote before about how Number The Stars was the book that piqued my interest in the genre, and for a while after reading that book I read a few good historical fiction books set in America during the Civil War and one in the perspective of an Irish immigrant. I'm not sure what happened but along the way I lost my interest in the genre and for awhile I didn't really read much historical fiction. Maybe because for the majority of my teens I was reading a lot of Meg Cabot and Star Wars novels. I don't think I started reading historical fiction again until college and it wasn't until I finished Outlander over Christmas that I realized, "Oh...I really like historical fiction."

Okay, so I realize I'm skirting the question, so why do I like historical fiction? I think it is for the same reason that History was always my second favorite class in school. I like history because they are stories that we can learn from. History can get bonged down by boring facts, but when you put a character in the setting you can learn so much from that time period and what the world was like back then. It's also interesting to just put a character in a time period but what happened in that time is just a backdrop to give you context, and the story is really about that character's thoughts and feelings. I much rather read that then memorize a bunch of dates. 

I also think I like to read historical fiction to transplant myself into another time period. I think part of my desire to do this is to reassure myself that even though there are a lot of problems in the world, there was a time when things were worse. It allows us to see how far we have come as a society, and I think it also poses another question: are we better off? I think historical fiction allows us to look back and discover things about ourselves that we wouldn't have thought of before.

So why do you like historical fiction? 


Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Historical Fiction February: Top Ten Historical Movies

I hope you've been enjoying the posts I've been bringing to you for Historical Fiction February. Last week I broke down my Top 5 Historical Fiction TV Shows and this week I'm breaking down my Top Ten Movies of the genre. These are clearly not in chronological order and I probably missed a lot of great ones but these are all ones that have meant a lot to me.


Miracle

I don't know if any of my readers know I used to be a hockey blogger, I even worked part-time for Philly.com sports, but if you follow me on other social media platforms you have to know I'm a diehard hockey fan. So of course Miracle is one of the top movies on my list. 


You might be thinking a sports movie doesn't have a lot to do with history, but Miracle does as it took place during the tail end of the Cold War when Herb Brooks led the USA men's hockey team to victory over the Soviet Union men's team. It was a big deal of nation pride back then and it's a pretty awesome hockey movie. At least in my opinion.


Good Morning Vietnam

I'm still upset over Robin Williams you guys, so upset. We recently watched this movie and I think it has the best of Williams acting chops in it. He's equal parts funny and serious in this movie about a shock radio jockey sent to Vietnam. It deals with the conflict itself but also shows the cultural differences and struggles between the American soldiers and the Vietnam citizens. 


Gangs of New York

This is another great historical movie that I hadn't seen until recently. I also started watching Copper immediately after this and I didn't realize they were the same setting. I didn't know too much about the five points in New York during this time period, but come on Daniel Day-Lewis is in it so you know it's got to be good.


Hotel Rwanda

In high school they made everyone watch this movie and/ or Blood Diamond. I liked this movie because it's not something they teach a lot about in American history classrooms. I also think it makes us realize the plight of other people in the world. Some people have war in their countries and they constantly live in fear of that, sometimes I think us Americans lose sight of that.




The Other Boleyn Girl

Adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel, this movie is a historical fiction piece about one of our favorite time periods in England. The reign of Henry VII, you know the one with eight wives whom definitely did NOT look like Eric Bana, let's be honest. I read this book a long time ago, but of the three I've read from the author this was my favorite. It's been a long time since I've seen it but I think the movie version did the book justice.


Braveheart 

Okay, I actually wasn't sure if I should add Braveheart to this list. Why? Because although this movie is such a great epic movie, it's known as being one of the most historical inaccurate movies of all time. Love it for what it is, but for the love of god do your own research on William Wallace. 


The King's Speech

This is another World War II movie, but it's less about the actual start of the war and more about the man that eventually led England to their victory. It was more a personal piece about King George and how he had to fight his demons to led England through the war. Colin Firth is awesome in it.


Schindler's List

This movie moved most of my world history class to tears back in high school. This is powerful piece that really helps you understand just how inhumane the Nazi party was. It's a hard film to swallow but I think everyone needs to see it.



The Wind That Shakes The Barley

If you don't know anything about the Irish Conflict--which is still going on today--go watch The Wind That Shakes The Barley. I watched this movie in my Irish Literature class and it really stuck with me. Plus Cillian Murphy is in it!


Dazed and Confused

Let's end on a lighter note. Dazed and Confused is a light-hearted funny period piece about what it was like growing up in the seventies. Not to be confused with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is another great one. All of your stoner friends in college probably loved this one. Now say it with me...

What are your favorite historical movies? 


Happy Reads Everyone!