Tag Archives: princess

Book Discussion: Otherbound

16081758Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Amara is never alone – but she doesn’t know it until Nolan finally manages to push his way into controlling her body.

Nolan has always lived in two worlds; his own, struggling to focus on his school work and his family, and Amara’s, seeing flashes of her life as he blinks through his own.

When they finally realize they’re truly connected, both of their worlds are transformed by political intrigue and the race to keep Princess Cilla alive.

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heartRomance Score: Good Effort

Three relationships develop throughout the story. Amara and her fellow servant/slave Maart is the most established. It’s obvious there is true affection and love, but I do sort of wonder if it’s a relationship and love borne out of the dire and lonely circumstances that the two found themselves in. Amara and…the person from the end is a little surprising and there are hints of it throughout the book, but it’s interesting to see how it plays out once the politics are out of the way because of the previous power dynamics. Nolan and his flirtation are very cute and show that Nolan is finally fighting for his own world alongside Amara’s.

Rosie

Feminist Score: Between Good Effort and A+ Success

Amara and Cilla are doing what they must to survive. If that isn’t the feminist story right there, what is. They fight for what they believe in and for each other. It’s interesting that Cilla doesn’t see her privilege and that Amara must maneuver through the power imbalance to make things work. I see a lot of echoes of the troubles in the feminist movement (white feminism vs inclusive feminism) here, although the skin colors don’t correlate (also, echoes of pretty much any system that privileges people in our world). I liked that all the women in this story are whole characters – even when you only get small bits of their lives (like the Captain’s) you still see them as more than just an empty vessel to move the plot.

I don’t give full points because I do feel like it’s tough when a male character is forcing his way into a woman character’s head and controlling her body – while I know that Nolan wasn’t necessarily doing it on purpose (all the time), it still feels like a kind of mental rape in some sense.

diversity people circle icon Diversity Score: A+ Success

There is a lot of ground covered in this book. Nolan is suffering from what looks like epilepsy in our world and Cilla has curse-created hemophilia. Nolan is missing a foot and uses a prosthetic; he is also probably depressed since he can’t fully function in any world, but he also can’t leave either behind. I do find it interesting when what is considered a disability in our world has a magical explanation – since we find that Nolan has never had epilepsy, that’s just the our-world diagnosis for a magical malady, I think it somewhat avoids the “magical cure.” BUT, it’s a difficult thing to maneuver.

Nolan is of Mexican-descent. His family speaks Spanish or Nahuatl at home and when they cook a “real” meal he has to call Grandma Pérez for instructions. Plus, his family is financially struggling, something you don’t often see in YA and underscoring the deep problems with healthcare and health-related expenses in our world.

Princess Cilla is dark skinned and there is a wide variety of skin colors in other characters in Amara’s world. As we move through the story, we learn that Amara is bisexual (#ownvoices story) and find what looks like a happy ending with someone. All in all, there is a lot here that gets pulled into the story while always feeling like it has a purpose to the characters and plot.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort

I really liked the premise of the book and the story. I thought it was an interesting idea and I love parallel universe/magic worlds! I thought the characters and their stories were intriguing and I was pulled in. I loved seeing such a diverse group of characters going along without that being key to the story.

There was a lot of build up to the climax of the story – action happened at the very end and, while it was all really good, it felt like everything happened really quickly. I also feel that some of the things lacked explanation: what exactly pulled the travelers into Amara’s world? why was Nolan only able to “watch” for so long? what made him weak when the other travelers were strong and able to control their “hosts”? I want to know more about the mechanisms!


Favorite Character

Amara – She’s resourceful and dedicated to what she believes is right and wrong. I appreciated her desire to escape servitude coupled with her understanding of the difficult blurring of friendship and servant/master relationships.

Favorite Line

“Amara had chosen to love the Maart of yesterday and today. She couldn’t look beyond that…Amara knew he’d already chosen every version of her.”

The idea of this kind of love = swoon.

Is this worth a book hangover?

This is definitely a more character driven story. The world is built on small details with little things pulled in to add to it – like not saying someone’s name after they die – that help underscore the differences between Nolan and Amara’s worlds. The action comes close to the end and, while it’s not as big a climax as you might expect for the length, it’s still good.

Fun Author Fact

Duyvis is one of the co-runners of Disability in KidLit, a site we absolutely recommend. She is also autistic and bisexual and champions the #ownvoices cause in books.

Read These Next

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for another full cast of folks that represent the real world,  Adaptation by Malinda Lo for a more sci-fi thriller in our world, or  The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie for more fantasy with pirates, sea monsters, and lady-lady action.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: The Royal We

the royal we

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Summary

Rebecca Porter did not dream of being a princess.

When Rebecca (Bex) leaves Cornell to study abroad at Oxford for a semester, she did not expect to be placed in the same dorm as Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king and the most eligible bachelor. Nor did she expect to be part of his social circle, have similar interests, and eventually, fall in love with him.

But life as a royal’s girlfriend is not all glamour. Bex finds herself in the middle of complex royal family relations, untrustworthy colleagues and friends, and the ruthless paparazzi, who will stop at nothing to get the scoop on her. Nick and Bex have to maneuver their relationship, and decide on their future (together or apart) in the public eye.

The Royal We tells the Will-and-Kate story from Kate’s point of view. If, of course, Kate was American.

Aubrey

heartRomance Score: Good Efforts 

Despite the somewhat silly premise, the romance between Nick and Bex is well-built. Bex first earns the trust of Nick and then falls in love in the best way possible: while binge-watching awesome television together. Their relationship is complicated – Nick has concerns about marrying young and of course, the press want to know everything about their relationship. I liked how real it seemed, despite all the craziness of princes and royalty.

Feminist Score:  Good Effort   Rosie

Bex works hard to remain her own person despite all the restrictions of being the girlfriend of the heir to the British throne. She’s a supportive partner to be sure – but she also works to make a life for herself outside Nick. She has a harder time standing up to her sister (her best friend), but their relationship perfectly explained the tension between your love of your closest sibling and your significant other.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score:  Not A Bit

I was pretty disappointed with the lack of diversity in this book. It pretty closely follows the Kate-Will story, but all the characters are rich and white. Even Bex, the “outsider,” is from a rich, well-educated family. This is a story about the British royals, who are … rich and white, but I wish we could have seen a peek into something else. There’s a bit of discussion about mental illness, but the topic isn’t discussed deeply enough to warrant a higher score.

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Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I really enjoyed this book – it was a quick, fun read with a deeper message about relationships, sacrifice, and balance. But despite enjoying it, I couldn’t rate it any higher with the blatant lack of diversity.


Favorite Character

Nick. He’s a swoon-worthy prince in many respects. He wants what’s best for Bex, and works hard to make sure she fully understands what it means to be attached to him.

Favorite Line

“Long ago, I reminded Nick that he had the power to turn a life of being in-waiting into a life he wanted to live – that he could still be in charge of himself. So could I , and so could Freddie, and running away was not taking charge; it was just running. Besides, if I’d ever really wanted to leave, I wouldn’t have needed Freddie to open the door. I would have saved myself.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially for those of us with an interest (cough obsession) with the royal family. If you also refreshed CNN nine times an hour when Princess Charlotte was born, or woke up at 5 a.m. and Skyped with your mom during the royal wedding, you will love this book. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks are die-hard royalists, and run a blog called Go Fug Yourself , which covers celebrity gossip and, of course, the royals.

Read This Next

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield. American Wife is based on the life of Laura Bush, told from the point of view of Laura from childhood through her time in the White House. And while this book is purely fiction, it is a very interesting take on a First Lady.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Adventure, Contemporary, Romance

Book Discussion: The Second Empress

Empress

Anisha’s Note: I’ve been on a bit of a Michelle Moran kick lately! I recently reviewed The Rebel Queen and reread Cleopatra’s Daughter. I promise I read new books as well, but I believe Gretchen Rubin’s principle that re-reading is the best reading.  

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Summary

Napoleon Bonaparte, the undeniable ruler of France and perhaps soon all of Europe, is looking for a wife. Not just any wife, but one who is young, fertile, and most importantly, with clear lineage to the throne of France. And when Napoleon sets his sights on something, he gets it. When Napoleon decides that he wants to marry Maria Lucia, the eldest daughter of Francis II of Austria, she is forced to leave behind her home, family, and even her precious puppy to help save her homeland. Can Maria Lucia find happiness in her new home under the reign of Napoleon?

The Second Empress is a fictional take on the life of Maria Lucia, the Archduchess of Austria and second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The story chronicles the later reign of Napoleon through the eyes of three unique characters: Maria Lucia, Napoleon’s disillusioned sister Pauline, and a Haitian servant named Paul. It’s a well-told, enjoyable piece of historical fiction.

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I did enjoy the story of Maria Lucia and her romantic interest. It is a bit simplified, and a bit of a princess-in-need-of-saving, but still sweet and light. It was a nice contrast to some of the darker parts of the relationship between Maria Lucia and Napoleon.

Feminist Score: Between You’re Trying and Good EffortRosie

On one hand, Maria Lucia is characterized as weak, meek, and unable to stand up to her husband. However, that husband happens to be Napoleon Bonaparte, so perhaps we can give her a little grace here. Still, I wish we had seen a little more of Maria Lucia’s personality (and standing up for herself) throughout the story. At best, she’s portrayed as the sacrificial lamb given to Napoleon to allow her country to remain free.
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Diversity Score: Good Effort

As mentioned above, this story is told from three perspectives, including Paul, a young Haitian servant who lives in France and serves the Bonaparte family. I was really impressed with Paul’s portrayal, and really enjoyed the descriptions of Haiti, his internal struggles about heritage and home, and his decisions in the book. This is only one character, but in a book focused on only a few (real) people, I was impressed with this fictional addition.

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Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

This book is an enjoyable, quick read, but it’s not perfect. My biggest qualm (and my qualm with historical fiction at large) is that it mixes fact and fiction. While the main characters are based on real people in history, Moran takes liberties with new characters, dates, and specific events to make a more romanticized plot.

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Favorite Character

Paul, the Haitian servant living in France. His unique perspective on the events (and people) around him are a wonderful addition to the story.

Favorite Line

“No shame in crying” he tells me. “If we don’t cry for the dead, then what will we cry for?” 

Is this worth a book hangover?

I think it’s a fun read, especially if you enjoy historical fiction, but I don’t think it’s quite hangover worthy.

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Michelle Moran was inspired to write The Second Empress while researching her fourth novel,  Madame Tussaud.  She spent extensive time in France both for personal travel and to research the book.

Read This Next

Beneath the Marble Sky by John Shors. Beneath the Marble Sky is the fictionalized story of the life of Princess Jahanara, daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum (the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built).

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Historical

Book Discussion: Beneath a Marble Sky

Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

Summary

When many people think of India, they think of the Taj Mahal. Most have vaguely heard of the story — how the magnificent white tomb was built by a grieving husband for his deceased wife. But how many have wondered beyond the building of the moment, and to the lives of those involved in the events that took place in 17th century India?

Beneath the Marble Sky is the fictionalized story of the life of Princess Jahanara, daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum. Jahanara lives the privileged life as the favorite daughter of the Emperor, watching her parents rule India and spending time with her brothers. But after her mother dies, and her father begins a downward spiral of grief, Jahanara is forced to grow up quickly. She must help her father rule, and deal with increasingly dangerous power battles with her brother, Auragzeb. Auragzeb, a religious fanatic who twists the words of the Quran to support his cause, is determined to seize the throne, even if it means overthrowing his peace-seeking older brother. Jahanara must decide how to balance her love and duty to her family with her own safety and happiness.

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

I really enjoyed the romance in this story because it was not all-consuming. Jahanara and her partner are both deeply devoted to their work, and realize the importance of duty as well as their own personal happiness. I’ll admit that it’s a little too picture-perfect, especially for that time period, but I really fell in love with both characters and enjoyed watching them together.

FRosieeminist Score: Good Effort 

Beneath the Marble Sky takes place in 17th century India, where the role of women (even the imperial royal princess) was fairly limited. Jahanara navigates tricky political and social constructs to be an effective ruler in a male-ruled society. This story surely takes some liberties with the historical context, and the freedoms Jahanara is allowed, but it was well worth it.

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Diversity Score: Good Effort 

One of the best parts of Beneath the Marble Sky are the references to Islam. Through Jahanara’s eyes, we see both the peace and beauty of the religion, as well as as how power-seeking individuals will use “religious” justification to convince people to follow them. Every time Aurangzeb tries to use the Quran to justify violence, Jahanara counters him with other verses. Too many books focus on Islam as the justification for evil, rather than recognize that every written word can be twisted for political gain.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

This has been one of my favorite historical fiction stories since high school. I’ve always been pulled in by the fast-moving plot, and the language is beautiful. I’m always (unfairly) a little wary of authors who write about an unfamiliar culture — e.g. a white man writing about a Muslim-Indian teenage princess. But John Shors writes respectfully and compassionately, and doesn’t try to generalize an entire society by one particular viewpoint.


Favorite Character

Jahanara. She is determined to help her father and brothers, even at the expense of her own happiness.

Favorite Line

“The Qur’an is a book of many faces. As much as Aurangzeb liked to quote its passages concerning revenge, misdeeds, and hellfire, it is also a text that speaks often of forgiveness, charity and goodwill. Unlike my brother, I always found these verses to be most profound. They comforted me tremendously.” 

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially if you like historical fiction! 

Fun Author Fact

According to his Twitter, John Shors plans literary tours to the settings of his novels. I would love to visit the Taj Mahal with him, and understand what drew him to write particular parts of the novel.

Read This Next
Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran. If you enjoy well-told historical fiction, Michelle Moran’s books are always great reads. While Cleopatra’s Daughter is my favorite, I’ve also enjoyed The Second Empress, the story of Napolean’s reluctant second wife.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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