Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jenn's Review: AWAKE

AwakeSummary:  Adisa and Micah's saga continues as the young couple try to heal Micah on their own. Their repeated failures drive Adisa into a desperate but secret alliance with Micah's father and place a strain on the young couple's relationship that may drive them apart permanently. Adisa learns more about the super world, revealing just how alien they are, like their curious bathroom habits and disdain for earthbounds, which leads her to question if a life with Micah is possible. Victor, Micah's super twin, continues his pursuit of Adisa in hopes of fulfilling a prophecy predicting their union is the only way to save Micah's life.

As Adisa deals with the mounting challenges, threatening her relationship with Micah, she discovers her birth parents are alive and want to see her. Pearl, her earthbound mother, and Cyrus, the greatest super being in modern times, have been absent from Adisa's life since they abandoned her in a cotton field when she was only three years old. Does Adisa's reunion with her birth parents hold the key to Micah's cure or will it lead to his death?

Review:  Wow.  Just wow.  If I had any inclinations as to where things were headed after ASLEEP, McNair completely blew me out of the water.  I tried to read through this one slowly, to savour it, but it got to a point where I just couldn't put it down and I was racing to find out what was going to happen.

It's time for Adisa to grow up, and she as some hard lessons to learn.  Some of her emotional upheaval comes from normal things.  She has her first serious boyfriend and she has to learn balance and responsibility when it comes to her family and friends.  She has just realized that her college attending sisters' moral code is not quite the same as the conservative one instilled in them by their parents and she must reconcile the fact that her sisters are old enough to make their own decisions.  She also just recently found out she was adopted.  Then there are some not so normal things, such as the cultural differences between the super being (Sp) world and the earthbound one, the manifestation of  her super powers, the realization that she is the only one who can save her boyfriends life.  Everyone has an agenda for Adisa, all of them have different motives.  The pressure is on, and she is bound to make mistakes along the way, hopefully they won't be too serious to repair.

Because of the cultural differences between the earthbound and Sp world, both Micha and Adisa make unfounded assumptions that could cost them everything. If Micha had taken time to teach Adisa, or had Adisa taken time to ask, more about the Sp world, Adisa would have made more informed decisions. But here I am talking about what the character's should have done, not the author.  That's because, once again, Wendy Raven McNair has brilliantly blurred the lines of reality and supernatural.  Her heartfelt characters are so realistic, that she truly brings the reader into the story.  I read lots of YA fantasy and paranormal but none that is so firmly planted in reality that it's almost ...tangible.

When the book ends Adisa has finally come into her own, though the process was grueling.  It ends openly, but not on a gut-wrenching cliffhanger, leaving McNair plenty of Sp world for Adisa to discover and much still to be resolved. 

If you love YA, I beg you to check out this trilogy, starting with ASLEEP (my review).   It's a beautiful story, expetly told and magnificently written.  I think it's truly an incredible series like nothing I've ever read. I am anxiously awaiting the third and final book, ASCEND.

Final Take: 5/5


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Julie's Review: Blood Game

Summary: Bestseller Johansen's latest Eve Duncan forensics thriller features an all-too-mortal vampire. Fresh off a multiple child homicide case (Quicksand), Eve discovers a blood-stained goblet in her refrigerator. The goblet closely resembles one found with the bloodless body of Nancy Jo Norris, a U.S. senator's 19-year-old daughter, the victim of a wannabe Dracula who ultimately thirsts for Eve. In a paranormal twist, Joe Quinn, Eve's FBI love interest, appears to have contracted psychic powers from Megan Blair, introduced in Pandora's Daughter, and can now see dead people—Nancy Jo and Eve's daughter, Bonnie, to be exact. The ghosts guide the search for the serial sucker, complete with corny gothic monologues. Johansen risks alienating some readers as the series slips deeper into the supernatural, but diehards will be pleased Eve at last finds some peace in her ever-growing bond with

Review: Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows that I am not caught up in the latest Vampire or Paranormal craze, so you can imagine my dismay when one of my favorite authors has decided to take a foray into these genres...together. I love Eve Duncan, Joe and Jane so I was excited to get to this book until I read the book flap. I tried to keep an open mind during the book but yeah I just couldn't. WARNING: Review might contain spoilers for those who are not as far in the series.

Blood Game brings us back to Eve after Quicksand asthe continuous search for her daughter Bonnie, who went missing many years before. Eve is continually on the hunt for the person who abducted and presumably murdered her daughter. Eve is at her best when she is working on her forensic sculpting to help bring home lost souls who need identifying when no other way can be used.

Unfortunately in Blood Game, we are moved away from this core. We are introduced to a murderer who thinks he's on the path to enlightenment by drinking the blood of women. Yup, he thinks he's a vampire. We are also introduced to Seth Caleb, who has made it his life mission to track Jelak. So we have a vampire and a vampire hunter. (This is just soo not my thing). Of course, Jelak thinks that Eve is the ultimate sacrifice and her blood will give him the power he hungers for.

Things are also not going well for Joe and Eve at the start of this book. Joe is on edge and has growing concerns about his sanity. After the last book he now has the ability to see dead people. This of course helps and hampers him during this investigation. The job has always been personal for Joe but to see the victims adds a whole different level to the job.

With each new Eve Duncan book, she introduces us to a new character and that character ends up sticking around. Not necessarily a bad thing for a series that has had the same set of characters for a while.

All in all, I'm not sure if this new direction is a blip in the series or if it's a permanent change. I'm not ready to give up on this series or Iris Johansen yet, but if she keeps on this path I will hang up the series.

Final Take: 3/5


Monday, November 22, 2010

Book to Movie Group Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Jenn's Review:  I know many people were unhappy with the last movie.  I wasn't one of them.  I thought Half Blood Prince captured the spirit of the book, even though so much had been cut, which is something I found lacking in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.  This movie blew me away though.  So much so that I was ready to go back to the theatres the next day and see it again just to take in any details I might have missed.  Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is the closest any of the movies have stuck to the book since Philosopher's Stone.

Even the dialogue is as close if not closer than ever before including some of my favorite lines, "Always the tone of surprise," and some new gems, "Dobby didn't mean to kill anyone. Dobby only meant to maim or seriously injure."

It started with the Dursley's leaving, and though I missed the awkward goodbye scene with Dudley, it was a small thing.  Lupin's self doubt was omitted as was Potter Watch, but not to the detriment of the film in any way.  The only part that was slightly awkward for me was that they threw Bill Weasley in, when, for six movies, they've ignored his and Charlie's existence.  But it was a quick introduction and it was forgiven as soon as the action started. 

And did it ever!  The cinematography was brilliant.  From seven Harry's, to mid air fight/flight scenes, to the conflict in Godric's Hollow, to Horcrux destruction. I also enjoyed the way they brought the story of the hallows to life on screen.  It would have been boring to sit around watching Hermione read from a book.  This was an elegant illustration without detracting from the overall arch.

It is wonderful to see how much the actors and the characters have grown.  They obviously enjoy each others company and it translates to the screen.  Character-wise, it was good to finally see Ron take charge and to see Hermione's vulnerabilities.  The tenderness between both couples has blossomed and was beautifully portrayed.

The split was perfect.  I was concerned it was too far along, but picking up the book today, I realized it was only a little past the halfway mark.  With what was left out of the last movie, I'm still not sure how they will know what they are looking for in the next movie, but having seen this one, I have complete faith, they'll do it justice.  This was the best film since Chris Columbus was working on them.  I can't wait to see it again!

Book To Movie Final Take:  4.9/5.0

Julie's Review: I'm not a re-reader and sometimes I think that does me good and other times I think it puts me at a disadvantage. I will admit, other than the end of the Deathly Hallows I really don't recall much. After all it was 3 years ago. Now all of that being said, the movie blew me away.

I love how the director caught the complexities of the friendships in the movies, especially between Ron and Harry. I loved the line when Ron told him that it's not just about Harry, that it is bigger than him. In ways, Ron is correct but it is ultimately about the fight between Voldemort and Harry. Good vs. Evil.

The movie kept along at a nice pace but I kept wondering where they would end it. And in my opinion (and my Brother-In-Laws) they ended it perfectly! It only sucks that we have to wait until July 2011 to see the ending. Maybe I'll go back and re-read it? Probably not.

I loved how they made the story of The Three Brothers come to life in a cartoon like sketch. It was a pivotal moment in the movie. I loved seeing Ron have a bit of fire in his belly and speaking his mind.

There was definitely a sense of foreboding in this movie unlike the others in the series. Sure the movies have gotten darker as they have grown up but I just kept waiting for something awful to happen in this movie.

I cried twice in the movie, in the beginning when Hedwig died and of course when Dobby saved Harry and the gang from Bellatrix.

My brother-in-law and I were talking about the Malfoy's on the way home and we can't quite figure out what they did to piss off Voldemort, but they are definitely not in his good graces (you know if he has them). These are probably the details that I'm forgetting.

All in all a great addition to the Harry Potter family and I'm ready for the final installment to get here and yet I will be extremely sad to see it end. Just like I was bawling when I finished the book.

Book To Movie Final Take: 4.75/5


Saturday, November 20, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Laura Lanik for winning our Kate Morton 3 book giveaway!! You won: The House at Riverton , Forgotten Garden, and The Distant Hours. You are in for some heavenly reading!

Please send Julie your mailing address so we can send the books off to you as soon as possible.

Thanks to all of you for participating. Girls Just Reading uses to produce the winner.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Julie's Review: 206 Bones

Summary: At the start of bestseller Reichs's outstanding 12th thriller to feature Dr. Temperance Brennan (after Devil Bones), Brennan finds herself bound and injured in an underground tomb. In flashbacks, Reichs fills in the how and why of the forensic anthropologist's deadly predicament. When Brennan and Andrew Ryan of the Sûreté du Québec arrive in Chicago on business, she's accused of botching the autopsy of Rose Jurmain, a Canadian heiress. Knowing only that an anonymous caller instigated the investigation, Brennan is determined to uncover who's out to sabotage her. Back in her Montreal lab, Brennan soon realizes that not only is Jurmain's death possibly linked to the brutal murders of other elderly women but that whoever is out to tarnish her reputation refuses to back off. With her usual blend of cutting-edge forensic science and a stubborn, compelling heroine, Reichs manages to juggle several story lines without losing an ounce of momentum.

It's been a while since I've visited with Tempe Brennan and I missed her. While 206 Bones is a solid installment in the series, it's definitely not the strongest. I found this case to be particularly disturbing as it involved the murder of elderly ladies. Yet, while I found it disturbing it wasn't my focus for this novel or Ms. Reichs'. The real focus was the other plot; who buried Tempe alive and trying to kill her? Is it some disgruntled criminal who's been released? Where is she? Notice one of my questions, isn't will she live? Yeah, that's pretty much a given. I seriously doubt that Ms. Reichs would end the series with Tempe buried alive.

Now, Jenn said she had it figured out pretty early who the culprit was that accosted Tempe. I will admit, it took me a little while to put the puzzle pieces together. Once I did, it all made sense.

I'm happy to see that if Andrew Ryan (aka Ryan) and Tempe aren't together, they are at least on speaking terms besides talking about cases. I do like that Tempe isn't waiting for Ryan to come around and is still dating Charlie Hunt, albeit very casually.

I also missed LaManche in this book. I think Tempe and him work well together.

While this isn't the best in the series, it does move the characters forward instead of at a standstill.

I'm looking forward to the next in the series, Spider Bones.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Jenn's Review: 206 Bones


Saturday, November 13, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Adam at Roof Beam Reader for winning a copy of C.M. Mayo's The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire!

Please send Julie your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible.

Thanks to all of you for participating. Girls Just Reading uses to produce the winner.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Julie's Review: One Day

Summary: ‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’ He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’ 15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows? One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.

Review: One Day is a chick lit book written by a guy and he does it very well. Mr. Nicholls captured the essence of a female in Emma Morley and not once did I recall it was a guy writing it. Hey, now that's not saying that I don't think a guy can write a romance because they can, I'm sure they write a lot of romantic screenplays but to get the voice of a woman in a romance book, isn't easy.

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew hook up on the night of graduation in 1988. Emma is set to go about saving the world in whatever manner she can. While Dex wants to travel and have a good time. Opposites attract, right? This starts a 20 year friendship/courtship/relationship. The book goes through the years by visiting each character on the same day each year; 15th July or otherwise known as St. Swithin Day. Emma and Dex don't necessarily see each other every year but we see them and where they are at in their lives.

I'll be honest, I didn't care for Dexter at all, even really at the end. He grew up but only smidge but I'm not sure if I was supposed to like him. Sure he was funny at times but he was a raging alcoholic, even in the end. He thought a lot of himself and never really tried to be good at anything. He was good looking so he ended up on TV but he never had a passion for something other than a good time. It was evident to me that he was always in love with Emma but never felt that she was up to his standards or his type.

Emma was another story. She knew what she wanted to do but she didn't have the gumption to go for it until later in her life. Once she did, her life went the way she had always dreamed. Of course, we know from the start that Emma had a massive crush on Dex all during university, so it's no surprise that she's desperately in love with him all during the novel.

The novel went along at a good pace and not once did I want to throw the book because the characters were driving me nuts, which can happen with these books. (For example, when one of them does something so completely idiotic and the other forgives them.)

Now the ending, yeah that's another story. Me = NOT HAPPY! Seriously. I had to read it over again to make sure I knew what hit me. Let's just say I was looking for happily ever after here. I didn't get it. Although, I don't know why I would think it would end the way I wanted it to. I wouldn't even say the ending was realistic, more like cruel.

Overall, it was a great read for a holiday or beach but the only thing new about it was the style it was written in. I do think it will make a fantastic movie, which I hear is in the works. I really liked the idea of seeing their lives once a year and this would transfer to film very well.

If you are looking for a quick read that will keep you guessing "Will they or won't they?" then definitely pick up One Day.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jenn's Review: Bury Your Dead

Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novels)Summary:  It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society— where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?
Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn't make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn't do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.

Review: This book was sent to me as an ARC via Library Thing's Early Reviewers, and if I hadn't felt an obligation to review it, I might not have finished it. This was a difficult read for me for several reasons. First and foremost, it is the sixth book of the series and I didn't feel that Louise Penny made much of an attempt to engage first time readers with her characters. Of course it didn't help that there were three stories, two evolving concurrently, and the third, a case that keeps being relived, which gravely injured both Gamache and his second in command, Beauvoir. Both are currently on medical leave and neither can let go of the failed rescue mission that nearly killed them. It is this past case that is probably the most interesting part of the entire book.
Unfortunately, Penny chooses to painfully drag this story out as both characters deal with the aftermath differently. The combination of stories creates multitudes of characters and case details of which the reader needs to keep track.

Secondly, there is a lot of political unrest in this novel. I hate political bickering of any kind, but this struck me more so. There isn't a Canadian who doesn't have an opinion on the Anglo/Franco situation in Quebec, and I am no different. (If you are unfamiliar with the politics of Quebec, think Northern Ireland minus the violence, we're Canadians, after all.) Yes, I knew the storyline of the book was centralized in Quebec when I volunteered to review it, but so are many of Kathy Reichs' books, and I have no issue with those. My opinions aside, I hate power struggles, so the political diatribe of the storyline truly ate at me.
Louise Penny's writing style is often compared to Agatha Christie, and I see the comparison, but not necessarily in a good way. She has a florid style of writing that seems too whimsical for a thriller genre. For example, "She was grateful he hadn't said murder. It was too shocking a word. She'd been testing it out in the safety of her own head, but wasn't yet ready to take it out in public."~ (pg 35) Does anyone really think like that?!? To me the elegance comes across as unnatural and dated. Penny also has a habit of jumping points of view from character to character. Most authors reserve those kinds of shifts for chapter breaks, but Penny will do it several times a page, sometimes within the same paragraph. It's tiring.

I also found some of the plot points outlandish. I understand that Gamache would be asked to assist with the case as a courtesy, but to let him single-handedly conduct his own investigation while never checking in with the lead investigator on the case? That sounds a little bizarre. I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to prove me wrong, but the resolution of this mystery was fairly straight forward and not horribly mysterious.  There is also tons of history entrenched in this storyline which, while well researched, bogged down an already over laden story.

The secondary story is actually the central case of book five in the series. There was some disappointment in it's resolution among her fans, and perhaps with the author herself because she has Gamache send Beauvoir, to unofficially reopen the case. Beauvoir is also on medical leave and this angle seems a little farfetched as well. I believe that Beauvoir would do anything the chief asked, but I can't fathom how far things went without going through official channels. Both Beauvoir and Gamache seem to like to grandstand their case results in front of an audience of suspects too (very Agatha Christie). I can see this as plausible in some situations to draw a suspect out, but the long speeches seemed a little cliché.

I cannot speak for the rest of the Gamache series, not having read it, I can only speak for this as a standalone novel. This book tried to be too many things: an history lesson, a psychological profile, a rewrite, a mystery, an example of elegant prose.  I can see where this award winning author's work would have a solid fan base. However, I don't think I'm her target audience.

Final Take:  2.5/5


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Giveaway: Kate Morton's Novels

I am so excited to be giving away THREE books from a favorite author, Kate Morton!

I love her novels so much, that I'm buying her first two (The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden) to share with one of our readers. In addition, Atria Books is generously allowing us to giveaway a copy of Ms. Morton's most recent novel The Distant Hours.

In order to qualify for all three of these wonderful books, you need to do the following:
  • Be a resident of the US.
  • Enter the contest before November 19th at Midnight EST.
  • Fill out the form below.

Good Luck!!

Reviews of Kate Morton's books on GJR:

Julie's Review: The Forgotten Garden

Lisa's Review: The Forgotten Garden

Julie's Review: The House at Riverton

Lisa's Review: The House at Riverton


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Julie's Review: The Distant Hours

Summary: A letter posted in 1941 finally reaches its destination in 1992 with powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a London book editor, in this enthralling romantic thriller from Australian author Morton (The Forgotten Garden). At crumbling Milderhurst Castle live elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three eccentric spinster daughters of the late Raymond Blythe, author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic Edie adores. Juniper addressed the letter to Meredith, Edie's mother, then a young teen evacuated to Milderhurst during the Blitz. Edie, who's later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond's masterpiece, visits the seedily alluring castle in search of answers. Why was her mother so shattered by the contents of a letter sent 51 years earlier? And what happened to soldier Thomas Cavill, Juniper's long-missing fiancé and Meredith's former teacher? Despite the many competing narratives, the answers will stun readers.

Review: You know how you love a book so much but then have trouble putting into words why you loved it? That's me with The Distant Hours. I have read all three of Ms. Morton's books and this is my favorite. Her writing has gotten much more crisp since the release of The House at Riverton. Ms. Morton does a fantastic job of weaving the present day (1992) and the past (1939-1941) into a seamless story that slowly unwinds itself.

The novel opens with an excerpt from The True Story of the Mud Man by Raymond Blythe
and then segues into Edie Burchill, her mother and a long lost letter. The letter is the catalyst for the whole novel. We quickly find out that Edie's mom was sent to the countryside to avoid the bombings in London. The recently delivered letter upsets her mom so much that while on a business trip, Edie happens across Milderhurst Castle. Really, do things like this just happen randomly? Nope, I don't think so either. And so Edie's research into her mom and the Blythe family's past collides.

The book is centered around one fateful night in 1941 when the youngest Blythe sister, Juniper, was waiting for her fiance to show up. Only he never does and this plunges Juniper into madness. While the book hinges on what happened that night, there are many stories that lead up to the climax.

While I loved getting to know Persephone (Percy), Seraphina (Saffy) and Juniper (June), the character that really came to life for me was Meredith, Edie's mom. From the moment she receives the letter you know she's an integral part of the story, but it was just not in the way I had set up in my mind.

What I loved most about The Distant Hours is that we learned the story from every one's point of view. By writing it this way not only did we learn about that character but they each unraveled a part of the mystery. It wasn't through the eyes of one protagonist. What's brilliant is all the pieces of the puzzle are put together at the end. I was worried that there were a couple of small plot points that were not going to wrapped up but I didn't have to worry, they were and in way that wasn't as an after thought. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, another piece of the puzzle was revealed to throw my theory out the window. I LOVE it when authors do that but more importantly, when it is done successfully.

All the characters were well written and fully developed. I wanted to read and savor every word on the pages of this book.

The book is about family and how far we'll go to protect those we love. It's also about knowing where you come from and understanding those you love. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to know your parents; their lives aren't always open books.

I'm afraid I'm not doing this book any justice, so you just have to go read it for yourself. It's part romance, part historical fiction, part mystery. So, it has something for everyone.

So now that I've read Ms. Morton's newest book, I'll have to patiently wait for her next one. I think this is the third time I'm saying this but my thanks go to Lisa for giving me The House at Riverton to read 2 years ago.

If you are looking for a "new to me" author I highly recommend Kate Morton. You can't go wrong with any of her books.

Final Take: 5/5

Thanks to Atria Books for graciously sending me an ARC of this novel.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

And The Winner Is....

Pretty Little Things Congratulations to Karmen Frlan for winning a copy of
Jilliane Hoffman's Pretty Little Things!

Please email Alice your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for participating.

Girls Just Reading uses to produce the winner.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Giveaway: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

Earlier today, author C.M. Mayo did a wonderful guest blog for us We are lucky enough to have a copy of her novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire to giveaway.

In order to qualify for this interesting book, you need to do the following:

  • Be a resident of the US or Canada
  • Enter the contest by November 12th at Midnight EST.
  • Fill out the form below

Good Luck!


Guest Blog: C.M. Mayo

Photobucket Yesterday I reviewed the Mexican historical novel, The The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire and today I am excited to have the author, C.M. Mayo join us for a guest blog!

The Story of the Story of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Once upon a time or, I should say, more years ago that I would like to count, I was invited to a lunch in Mexico City. There in the dining room was an unusually handsome antique portrait of a youth—  perhaps English?— cradling a rifle. The scenery included a nopal cactus and, upon a hill in the background, as in a Renaissance portrait...
            Was that Chapultepec Castle?
            Yes, my hostess told me as our bowl of salad came out in the arms of the muchacha.
            And who was the boy?
            Agustín de Iturbide y Green, the Prince of Mexico.
            I had never heard of him. This bothered me, for I was not only recently married to a Mexican, but I considered myself well-educated. I realize now that we supposedly well-educated Americans, who may be able to recite every this-and-that about Europe, rarely open our minds to the rich complexities of our southern neighbor and this, in part, because we are lulled into an illusion that we “know” Mexico. Our media drench us with images: the wet-back; the bandido and the bull-fighter and the mariachi; the narco-trafficker; the corrupt official with his Rolex, his yacht, his weekends in Vegas; the pobres in their sombreros and huaraches; the ubiquitous unibrowed Frida, and those sugar-sand beaches bereft of people other than, perhaps, long-limbed blondes in bikinis.
            A prince! This meant an aristocracy, a theater for power: social, political, financial, economic, military. Certainly, revolutions have erupted in opposition to the idea, but it can be said that, for many people, a monarch and, by extension, the royal family, serve as a focal point for the identity and unity of a nation. To most Americans and Mexicans today, this idea is absurd. But as I write these lines, Belgium still has its king and the United Kingdom its queen.
            These days, usually, one can satisfy one’s idle curiosity with an Internet search, but back then, a search yielded nothing.
            A few months later, half way through reading Jasper Ridley’s Maximilian and Juárez, covering the period of the 1860s known as the Second Mexican Empire or "French Intervention,"  I came upon the chapter about the prince's American mother, “Alice Iturbide.”  In 1865, she and her husband, a son of Mexico's first emperor, Agustin de Iturbide, had signed a contract with the Emperor Maximilian (ex-Archduke of Austria) to hand over their son in exchange for titles and pensions. Almost at once, heart-broken, nearly mad with grief, the mother repented, but Maximilian refused to return the child. She then went to Washington and Paris and stirred up what became, at the highest levels, an international scandal.
My surprise at finding my own countrywoman at the apex of this long ago Mexican aristocracy, both antagonist and victim, motivated and blinded by who knew what medley of ambition, avarice, love, borrowed patriotism or naiveté, so intrigued me, I knew at once that I wanted to explore and expand it into a novel.

For more information on The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire or author C.M. Mayo, you can check out any of the following links:

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire(Unbridled Books, paperback, 2010)

Book trailer for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

C.M. Mayo

Reader's Guide for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

Agustin de Iturbide y Green (b. 1863) carte-de-visite

Podcast:C.M. Mayo's Lecture at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, about the research behind the The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, the novel based on the true story.

Thanks so much to C.M. Mayo for taking the time to do a guest blog for us!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Julie's Review: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

Summary: Epic in scope, Mayo's impressively researched novel set in mid-19th century Mexico City mines the true story of the short turbulent reign of the archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Hapsburg, who was made emperor of Mexico in 1864. Childless and desperate for an heir, the emperor makes substantial monetary promises to the parents of a young boy named Agustin. With much trepidation, they agree to give over the boy, who becomes a pawn in a custody battle that begins when Maximilian adopts the two-year-old Agustin with the hopes of having him inherit the throne. Agustin's American mother, Madame de Iturbide (née Alice Green), soon becomes dissatisfied with the arrangement and pleads with Maximilian to return her son. Maximilian has Alice deported, which sets off an international brawl. Maximilian finally concedes as Mexico devolves into bankruptcy and lawlessness and Maximilian's wife, Carlota, becomes increasingly unmoored. Lengthy, expository, meandering and grandiose, Mayo's reanimation of a crucial period in Mexican history should satisfy history buffs and those in the mood for an engaging story brimming with majestic ambition.

Review: Let me be honest, I do not know much about history...well Mexican history. I pretty much know we stole Texas from them but that's a bout it. :) So when I was offered the chance to read a book focusing on a period in their history I jumped on it. Read and learn something new? Count me in!

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a sweeping novel that shows how messed up politics have always been and how monarchs tried to build empires any where they saw fit. In the last 1800s when America was going through our Civil War, Mexico was at a state of unrest as well. The French had come in and taken over and were now at war with various factions of bandits throughout the country. Enter the Austrian's and Maximilian von Hapsburg. It always amazes me at how incestuous the royal families are. Via marriage the Hapsburg's are related to the French Monarchy and this has a huge influence on how things are handled. Essentially, Maximilian was forced to go and be the Emperor of Mexico and give up his crown in Austria. There always seems to be a lot of in fighting in a monarchy and what better way to get rid of competition then to send him across the ocean. While the story takes place during Maximilian's reign, it is really the story of the Itrubide's that move the book along.

The main story for me, was the Itrubide's longing for power in Mexico. Their longing to be recognized for what their father did for the country by uniting all of them in one country. They returned from exile in the U.S. hopeful that the country would be returned to them but it was only a matter of time until they were pushed into exile again.

Emperor Maximilian wants to claim the youngest Itrubide as the heir apparent to the thrown and by doing this will ensure that the boy has an excellent upbringing and education. In order to do that, his parents must flee the country and vow never to return. Of course, they receive a "pension" (aka bribe) to do so.

Nothing can stop a mother's love and after a while Alicia Itrubide decided that she didn't want to be without her son, Agustin. She goes back to Mexico to plead with Maximilian to let her have her son back. I won't go into the details about what goes on during this time.
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a novel about family and what it means to love your child/children. How one decision that seems right at the time, turns out to not be the right one and how do you turn the course to make it right?

I enjoyed the familial aspect of the novel. Since I have very limited knowledge on Mexican history, I did find the novel confusing at times. There are a lot of different players in the book and they are hard to keep straight. I felt that maybe a family tree or some kind of flow chart would have been helpful. I have seen this done in other historical fiction novels (e.g. Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen).

There is no doubt in my mind that C.M. Mayo has tremendous knowledge of Mexico and that she loves that country fiercely. She's a gifted writer and definitely knows how to spin history with an interesting fictional story.

If you are looking for a historical fiction book that doesn't take place in Europe, then
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is the novel for you.

Final Take: 3.25/5


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Release Today: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Just wanted to remind everyone that the first novel in Kathy Reichs' new YA series, Virals, is out today.  It's a little paranormal, a little forensic, a little thriller... a lot of fantastic. (My review)

I will be heading out to buy it in hardcover today. Yes, I have a paperback ARC, that I begged off a fellow blogger, but this one's a keeper! ...So I wanted to take a minute and encourage you to do the same.   Really, it's worth it!

Summary: Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As Tory and her friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their new found physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot –if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends: they're a pack. They are Virals.


Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: National Novel Writing Month

I'm a reader not a writer, although sometimes I think I'd like to write a novel but I'm not sure I have one original idea.

So, in honor of those who do want to write, November is National Novel Writing Month. Apparently you are supposed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That seems like a lot to me, but what the heck do I know!

So to all you budding novelist out there, maybe National Novel Writing Month will give you the challenge you need to write your book.

Our own Alice is participating this year! I know I can't wait to read what she pulls together! So I wouldn't be expecting any reviews from her this month. :)

Click here for the website.

Are any of you going to participate? Will it be your first attempt at writing a novel?