Due to an extremely busy work schedule, I've decided this year to post mini-reviews on books that I read for pleasure, or worded differently, books that I've chosen myself and were not sent by a publisher or an author. I found myself focusing too much on reviews books last year that I was relegating books that I really wanted to read to a TBR pile and regretted it. So this year I will be reading at least one book for every two that I review from my own pile of books. Here are some of those books:
I chose Ruined by Paula Morris because the idea of its being a ghost story set in New Orleans seemed rather intriguing. Rebecca is sent to live in New Orleans for six months with her 'aunt' while her father travels to China on business and finds herself caught in the center of a mysterious curse that somehow involves her and her family, although she has no idea how or why. Living in a creepy old house, attending an exclusive girls' academy, and surrounded by centuries of tradition, Rebecca is treated like an outsider and an outcast until she meets her one and only friend, a girl named Lisette, who also happens to be a ghost. Thrust into scenarios she doesn't understand, everything meets one night as Rebecca finally realizes her life is in grave danger and she must unravel the secrets in order to survive. This was an interesting story and I was fascinated by the culture and traditions of New Orleans as I love that city. While the ending didn't quite live up to the hype and suspense that I thought it would and the ghost story was a little predictable, I found the characters quirky and fun, and the storyline to be interesting nonetheless. I have always been a sucker for a ghost story!!
As usual, Buckingham Palace Gardens (Book 25, Thomas Pitt Series) by Anne Perry, delivered its usual twists and turns as Pitt, now working for Special Branch, tries to discover who murdered a prostitute after a party in Buckingham Palace with His Royal Highness. Due to the sensitive nature of the case, and the involvement of the Prince, Pitt and Narraway are forced to use all of their resources and their skills to solve the sensitive case quickly. I was a little disappointed that Charlotte's involvement in the story was almost at a minimum, but I adore Gracie and as she has matured and grown throughout the novels, her roles have become more daring and dangerous. One of the things I love about Anne Perry's novels is the amazing character development and the breaking of idealization and both Pitt and Gracie have to grapple with the realization that their own ideals of the monarchy are completely flawed. Pitt has to weigh justice very carefully in this novel and has to make some very difficult decisions: Is justice always the most important thing, or should one ruin himself in the face of justice? And could he ever look Charlotte in the eye again if he chose not to do the right thing?
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is probably one of the best books I've read this year. Sam Kingston, after dying in a car accident, relives the last day of her life over and over again, trying to figure out what she has to do right and is given a second chance to discover the mystery surrounding her death. As she relives each day over and over, she unmasks the truth one step at a time until she discovers what really matters in her life. I pretty much devoured this book in one sitting, and fell in love with the characters, their flaws, and the story. It really made me reflect on my own life and what legacy I would leave behind if I were to die tomorrow; it definitely was not a pleasant thought and I've been thinking a lot about how I can change my own life and how I treat others in a more benevolent way since I've finished the book. This book is so beautifully written, with a very complex message, even knowing the outcome, you can't help but feel good about the ending. It's just such a heartbreakingly beautiful story that I wish never ended.
I learned a lot about William Shakespeare in the novel Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper. An avid historian and former college and high school English instructor who also wrote her master's thesis about one of Shakespeare's plays, All's Well That Ends Well, Karen Harper brings the Tudor era vividly to life as she portrays Shakespeare's life through the eyes of his mistress, Anne Whateley. Ms. Harper plays on the long-held controversy as to who was Shakespeare's muse and who was his real wife as the records are sketchy and unclear. Personally, I really enjoyed the descriptions of life during the Tudor era in this novel and enjoyed reading about Shakespeare's life; the playhouse scenes, the village scenes, the descriptions of everyday life, the sad truth about childbirth and childrearing, his family life, about Stratford, and everything about daily life. Mix all this in with the court intrigues of the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Southampton and the various other intrigues that happen daily at court, and you have a story rich with suspense and intrigue, romance and passion, and thrills and desires. I found all of the characters and their various passions and triumphs to be absolutely fascinating and it definitely sent me to the Internet a few times to look up some historical facts I needed to know. I am looking forward to reading more novels during this time period, something that used to be a real passion of mime, but something that I have long neglected. This time period is just so fascinating!!!