Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a new weekly event started by Dani at Pen to Paper, another great book blog for those of you who like YA. Every Wednesday, I`ll be posting about a book that's on my wishlist. Please leave a comment with your thoughts if you've read the book! I always love to hear from you.

Right now, I'm dying to get my hands on Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction (if you couldn't tell already!) so I adore that this story is focused on 18th century Austria, a setting that appeals to my romantic tendencies and lights up my imagination. Not to mention the gorgeous cover photo: that beautiful blue dress contrasted against the frozen white landscape seems so mysterious and suspenseful.

Here's the plot synopsis from Goodreads:

Award-winning author Matt Rees takes readers to 18th century Austria, where Mozart’s estranged sister Nannerl stumbles into a world of ambition, conspiracy, and immortal music while attempting to uncover the truth about her brother’s suspicious death. Did Mozart’s life end in murder? Nannerl must brave dire circumstances to find out, running afoul of the secret police, the freemasons, and even the Austrian Emperor himself as she delves into a scandal greater than she had ever imagined.
Expect a review on this one in the future!

Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees will be released on November 1st, 2011.

To connect to the Goodreads page, click here
To connect to the author's website, click here

NEXT UP: Review of The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Kitchen House (Kathleen Grissom, 2010)


The Heroine: Lavinia, an orphaned indentured servant from Ireland that ends up working in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation in 18th century Virginia. The story follows Lavinia through her childhood as the only white slave among a close-knit family of black servants that adopt her as their own. The issues of race and social class become prominent as Lavinia blossoms into a beautiful, caring and often tragically naive young woman, precariously straddling the line dividing her family and her place in society.

The Highs: Beautifully written, this book weaves an intricate web of sub-plots with perfect clarity and wonderful prose. The narration, split between Lavinia and Belle (a half-white slave that becomes Lavinia's caretaker), unravels quickly without any lulls in the action. This book immediately wraps you in and refuses to let you go. The Kitchen House has what I call "the domino effect": each event unfolds easily into the next, picking up the pace as the plot heads seamlessly towards the climax.

The diverse cast of characters are all portrayed with striking realism, from Miss Martha, the opium-addicted lady of the house, to Mama Mae, the matriarch of the servant quarters. Each character is in possession of their own personality, motives and values. I was shocked by how thoroughly each character is developed, unusual for a novel with such a large ensemble.

Certain themes in this novel really touched my heart, especially the various types of mother-child relationships between the characters. The bond of family is such a prevailing idea in the story, touching every character in a different way and overcoming every obstacle in its way. I found it very inspiring; it made me want to call up my own mother and tell her I love her!

The Lows: There are many difficult themes touched on in the story, including racism, rape, murder, incest, mental illness and drug addiction. I personally felt all these topics were dealt with tactfully and in a way appropriate to the narrating character, but just consider this a warning for more sensitive readers. Either way, this book will reduce you to tears!

I would have loved more detail on what happens to the characters at the end of the novel. I'm very curious about what happened to Lavinia, her relationship with Will and especially other minor characters, like Meg, Sukey and Elly.

As well, though there are many romantic relationships between the characters, I would never call this book a romantic read. I would have appreciated more detail on the intimate relationships, but the book is so good that the lack of romance is only an after-thought.

Final Thoughts: I devoured this book in a period of 24-hours. I would definitely recommend this book!

Rating: The Kitchen House earns nine opium drops out of ten.

Buy "The Kitchen House" on Amazon here
Connect with the author, Kathleen Grissom, here

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Beauty Chorus (Kate Lord Brown, 2011)

The Heroine: Evie Chase, a wealthy debutante with a passion for flying airplanes. At the beginning of World War II, she decides to join "the beauty chorus" – a group of female pilots working with the British army to ferry supplies to bases across England. Evie is witty, sharp, stubborn and surprisingly steadfast; she sticks to her guns and faces the world with a "come-and-get-it" attitude that I wish I could harness. Evie is not the stereo-typical rich girl in most novels, which is so refreshing.

The Highs: I really enjoyed the different perspectives provided in this novel, through the other female pilots, Stella and Megan. I liked how the author discusses issues important to women, like post-partum depression and inheriting/running a business, through these characters. I found that between Evie, Stella and Megan, there is a personality that everyone can relate to.

The romance between Evie and her commander, Beau, recalls the Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy love story. I personally adore love/hate relationships, as I think it gives sexual tension and suspense to a story. I'm also a sucker for military men!

The Lows: I didn't like the third-person omniscient POV, as sometimes the author randomly slipped in bits of information that the characters didn't know about each other. I found it confusing and odd. I also didn't appreciate the abundant amount of sub-plots; most of them seemed unnecessary and as a result, I am unable to deduct any real meaning from the novel that reads like a biography.

The random interjections by Amy Johnson at the beginning of the book seemed really pointless and it was never made clear why they were included. I think the book probably would have been better if it was based exclusively on the life of Amy Johnson!

As well, I found the writing style bland and boring. There was a definite lack of description, a big reason I didn't feel pulled into the world of "The Beauty Chorus". I also didn't feel like the emotions of the characters were poignant and real enough to influence my own emotional state, leaving me neutral and cold.

I also didn't find enough substance to the relationship between the woman and especially between Evie and Beau. Perhaps its just me, being a romance junkie, but I need those moments of love between a couple in order to believe it and, frankly, to stay interested.

The novel also leaves A LOT of loose ends. The novel ends really suddenly with no hint to the outcome of the characters.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed reading the book, but I don't think it was worth the twenty dollars or so that it cost me at Chapters. After reading, I feel like I gained nothing and lost nothing – it basically made little impression on me.

Rating: "The Beauty Chorus" only earns five wings out of ten.

To buy the book on Amazon, click here
To connect with the author, click here
Photos from here

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ruth Hall (Fanny Fern, 1855)


The Heroine: Ruth Hall, a spirited and intelligent woman atypical of the time period. Happily married with three little girls, Ruth's sunny world crashes down on her when her husband dies and leaves her with nothing. Turned away by her family, Ruth is forced to find a way to support her children and herself, without any help from a man. Written as an autobiography of the author, Fanny Fern (the first weekly newspaper columnist in America, male or female!), the story is just as relevant today as it was during the 1800s.

The Highs: I have so much admiration for Ruth. Not only does she overcome poverty, ridicule, starvation, and alienation, but she does so with her faith and good spirits in tact. I love the tender way Fanny Fern writes about motherhood: it is treated much more emotionally than in most period novels, where the bond between parent and child usually seems more like one between owner and pet.

I also love that the book focuses on Ruth providing for herself, not searching for a husband to provide for her. This makes the story and character so much more relevant for modern days, where the trend of marrying for money is generally over. Ruth's do-it-yourself attitude is so inspirational. If Ruth Hall could become free and independent back in 1855, I'm surely capable of it here in 2011.

The writing is very modern, so no need to worry that the author's meaning will get lost in translation. Not to mention the hilarious minor characters to bring on the laughs!

The Lows: There is one chapter on phrenology that I found quite random. It didn't really fit in with the rest of the story, almost as if someone had just slotted it in there after the fact. There are also some loose ends left dangling that might irk at some curious minds (what was that whir-whir-whir noise from the attic?? If anyone knows, fill me in!)

As well, this isn't the book for you if you're looking for a great love story. Ruth's husband, her one true love, dies early on and the rest of the story is devoid of romantic interludes.

Final Thoughts: I read it over the course of a day because I found it so fascinating, given the historical context. I hadn't heard of Fanny Fern before I picked up this book, but now I think I'll have to add her to the list of Most Inspirational Women of All Time.

Rating: I'll rate it seven bouquets of wildflowers out of ten.

To buy Ruth Hall on Amazon, click here
To learn more about Fanny Fern, click here
Photo from here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wide World of Bookies


Since starting my own book blog, I've definitely been exposed to the world of online bookies. I thought I'd share some cool resources I've discovered (though they are nowhere near new to the rest of the community) with my friends here at Books Are My Heroine.

Goodreads is basically the motherload of all websites for the book-obsessed. Like an exclusive Facebook for book lovers, you can create your own profile, adding books to your "shelves" that you've read, are currently reading, or want to read next. From there you can connect with other readers via groups, meet authors on their Goodreads pages, create lists of your "must-reads" and read reviews on thousands of books. You can find me under Heroine Addict -- send me a friend request!

Crazy For Books is also another good resource for thorough reviews and ideas for what to read next. Its also the home of a great network of "Blog Hops", for any of you fellow bloggers. The idea is that, much like a bar hop (oh-so familiar here on campus...), you connect with other bloggers by reading each other's blogs. Crazy For Books hosts them each week, I believe, but as I've learned, sign up early for a spot.

I'm slowly learning to navigate the new world of blogging, so bear with me!

NEXT UP: Review of Ruth Hall by Fanny Fern

Photo from A Pretty Book

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Bronze Horseman (Paullina Simons, 2001)



The Heroine: Tatiana Metanova, a young Russian girl coming of age at the moment the Soviet Union enters into World War II against Hitler. Smart, vivacious and so lovely you can't help but adore her, she becomes enamored with her sister's boyfriend, a soldier named Alexander. Her evolution from niave girl to freociously brave, independent woman as she struggles to keep her family alive during the German blockade and find a way to be with her soldier, is beautifully written and feels poignantly real.

The Highs: Tatiana is a force to be reckoned with, the kind of tiger woman that charges (literally) into the line of fire for someone she loves. There are so many moments when Tatiana acts so selflessly brave that I was brought to tears, not mentioning the gorgeous descriptions of the love between Tatiana and Alexander and the heart-wrenching dialogue.
For a history and travel buff like me, Leningrad (today, St. Petersburg) during World War II is a fantastic and unique setting. I wasn't surprised to find out the author was originally raised in Russia, due to the amount of rich detail provided (sawdust bread, anyone?). The Summer Gardens, white nights, the Neva river...so romantic. I have now added St. Petersburg to the list of places I MUST see before I die. Preferably with a man as hot as Alexander by my side!

And then there's Alexander. Sigh. While this blog is meant to be focused on female characters, I have to give a mention to the strongest, sexiest, swoon-worthy hero I have ever come across. You'll be in love by the time you've finished reading this book.
The Lows: Chalk it up to the lack of Russian history on the Canadian school cirriculum, but I was mostly ignorant to the hardships endured by the Soviets during communism and especially during World War II. Reading about Tatiana's life during the blockade, crafted so realistically by the author, broke my heart. This book prompted further research into the subject and, unfortunately, I was sad to find out that the conditions displayed in the book are all true to history.

I also wouldn't recommend this book if you're squeamish about scenes of a sexual nature. There is quite A LOT of sexy time going down.

Final Thoughts: The Bronze Horseman is one of my favourite books of all time. Its some of the most tender and emotionally-charged writing I've come across and you can't helped but be completely absorbed into Tatiana's world.

Rating: I give it ten vodka shots out of ten. To Mother Russia!


Buy The Bronze Horseman here on Amazon.
Connect to the author, Paullina Simons here at her website.
Photo from Enyaw Wetterhorn's blog.


Welcome to Books Are My Heroine!



Welcome to Books Are My Heroine, a blog dedicated to girl-centric literature with strong female leads. While I'm a self-admitted sucker for a good romance, the books I love most are stories where women conquer the obstacles, whether it be a cheating boyfriend or enemy gunfire. Specifically, the kind of books that make me proud to be a woman.

To introduce myself, I'm HeroineAddict. I'm a nineteen year old student studying English Literature and Art History at one of the greatest universities in Canada (Cha Gheill!). I love all things feminine, from nail polish to stilettos to sparkly eyeliner. And, obviously, I love to read.

Anyway, I hope you find my book reviews helpful, informative and entertaining. Feel free to contact me with suggestions, comments, compliants or even just to say hey here at heroineaddict@hotmail.com. And, finally, a shout-out to my friend Little J for all her advice.

Cheers, guys!

Photo from Weddingbee Classifieds, by macemoose.
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