Review: All For One - Melissa de la Cruz

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“He in midnight-blue wool, she in dark rose silk with pink and chocolate accents - they were the picture of urbane, young New York society, and she noticed more than one set of eyes glancing at them both approvingly and enviously.”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 17 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

1785. New York, New York.

As a young nation begins to take shape, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler are on top of the world. They’re the toast of the town, keeping New York City buzzing with tales of their lavish parties, of Eliza’s legendary wit, and of Alex’s brilliant legal mind.

But new additions to Alex & Eliza’s little family mean change is afoot in the Hamilton household. When they agree to take in an orphaned teenage girl along with Eliza’s oldest brother, John Schuyler, Eliza can’t help but attempt a match. It’s not long before sparks start to fly…if only Eliza can keep herself from interfering too much in the course of true love. After all, she and Alex have an arrival of their own to plan for, though Alex’s latest case brings a perilous threat that may destroy everything.

The sweeping love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler comes to a close in All for One, the riveting final instalment of the New York Times bestselling Alex & Eliza trilogy.

My Thoughts —

Whew. Okay. I’ve got a lot to say about this third and final instalment of the Alex and Eliza series, so let’s just jump right in.

As you guys may remember, I read the first book of this Young Adults’ series last October and then read the sequel very shortly after. For me, it was sort of a way to tide myself over until the Hamilton musical makes its way on up to Toronto in 2020. I didn’t really have the time to devote to Ron Chernow’s biography on the Founding Father - the one that Lin-Manuel Miranda based the musical on. So I thought that this YA series would be a great start.

Although I really enjoyed the first book, the sequel fell a little flat for me and this final book really disappointed me, and here’s why.

One of the things I noticed throughout this series is that there are quite a few historical inaccuracies. For the most part, this is pretty understandable because a) historical fiction as a genre leaves a lot of room for interpretation and b) this is a series meant for teens and some of the content of Alexander Hamilton’s history is ummmmm questionable? To say the least lol. I just looked past these little artistic licenses in the past. But in All For One, I honestly just couldn’t.

As the plot of the novel is set-up, we almost immediately find out that Eliza Hamilton is pregnant. Which is super odd because the main chunk of the novel is set during the year of 1785, while Eliza’s first child was actually born in 1782… Strange, right? It gets even weirder when a new, dangerous character called Maria Reynolds is introduced - remember her? If you know the story of the Reynolds affair, you’ll know that it didn’t even happen until 1791. So I’m not sure what the reasoning behind overlapping all of these stories was, but that’s what the author chose to do. I guess it sort of made it seem more dramatic to have all this chaos happening at once? But honestly, I think that the reality was far more tragic. There was a number of other changes made throughout the novel, some small and some consequential that I can’t mention without spoiling. But it just seemed odd and unnecessary and really bugged me.

Another thing that I took issue with in regards to this novel was the fact that it felt a lot like a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. Don’t get me wrong - Emma is one of my favourite Austen novels and even of my favourite novels ever. But I didn’t sign-up for a remake. And the Hamilton’s lives didn’t follow the same structure of that novel either. It felt like it was just an easy association to make between the two because they’re set in relatively the same time period and had the same social class dynamic. But then again, the characters that made up this portion of All For One - namely Emma Trask, the young girl that Eliza takes in as a ward/lady’s maid hybrid - weren’t a part of the Hamilton’s lives at all. It was just a strange deviation from the historical aspect of the novel and it made the story of All For One feel a little lacklustre to me.

Personally, as a whole, this series seemed to be geared more towards young teens - like preteens. But then again, the language was very complex for young readers. Although at times there were misplaced modern phrases used (“matchy-matchy” for instance), for the most part, the author chose to use elaborate language that felt like a mix of modern day and 18th century language. I wouldn’t compare the language of this novel to that used in Austen’s novels as this would be probably easier to comprehend for a young reader. But it’s worth mentioning for sure!

If you’re interested in reading these novels or having your kid or another young teen read these novels, I’d suggest taking the historical content with a grain of salt. This isn’t the place to go for a factual retelling of the Hamilton’s story. Consider it as The Other Boleyn Girl film adaptation of Young Adult novels lol.

Have you read a really good Hamilton historical fiction? Let me know in the comments!

Felicia x

Review: Love & War - Melissa De La Cruz

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“We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 32 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

As the war for American Independence carries on, two newlyweds are settling into their new adventure: marriage. But the honeymoon's over, and Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler are learning firsthand just how tricky wedded life can be. Alex is still General George Washington's right-hand man and his attention these days is nothing if not divided--much like the colonies' interests as the end of the Revolution draws near. Alex & Eliza's relationship is tested further by lingering jealousies and family drama.

My Thoughts —

If you haven’t read my review of the first book in this trilogy, go ahead and give that a read here first!

I’m gonna come right out and say it. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the first book, Alex & Eliza. I felt like this took a really different approach to the Hamiltons’ story than I was expecting. I get that it’s a YA series, so it may not deal with a lot of the more mature themes of their marriage (i.e. death, infidelity, etc.). But it just seemed a bit too light-hearted, if that makes sense? Even the conflicts they faced seemed to be solved almost immediately. It just seemed like they were living their own fairytale which, if you know the true history, you’ll know is not realistic.

I really hope that the final book of the trilogy, All For One (which is scheduled to be published in spring 2019) will be closer to the Hamiltons’ story. I just found that this novel was a lot more fiction than it was historical fiction. Sort of like Reign, but maybe even more far-fetched?

Have you read Love & War? What did you think?

Felicia x

Review: Alex and Eliza: A Love Story - Melissa De La Cruz

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“And you, Colonel Hamilton, are mine, and I am yours always.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 30 out of 50

My Thoughts —

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

My Thoughts —

Recently, I’ve become super obsessed with the musical, Hamilton. I’ve been in love with it for a few years now for whatever reason, my obsession has skyrocketed in the past few months. Sadly, I’ve not yet had the chance to see it. My boyfriend tried to get tickets for the two of us to see it in NYC last year, but they came out to about $2,000 US!! So that was NOT happening. Since it won’t be coming to Toronto until the 2019/2020 season, I’ve had to find other ways to fuel my addition - like reading Hamilton-inspired lit apparently.

Melissa De La Cruz was actually one of my fav authors when I was a preteen, back when Girl Stays in the Picture came out (THE THROWBACK). When my reading tastes changed, I moved on from her books. But I was excited to read another one of her books again after all these years and see what I’d been missing.

I loved this book!! As you may know, I’m a huge YA fan. This is so up my alley that it’s crazy. The love between Alex and Eliza was palpable and I think it really was the perfect kickoff for the long history of the Hamiltons. I thought this novel read a lot like a modern-day Jane Austen novel. Not even just because it was set in the 18th century, but because it has a romantic storyline with a strong heroine lead and it ends in a wedding. I loved the Austen-esque elements and although I’m not sure if the author intended to include them, I think they were pretty perfect!

I also thought it was quite interesting how the novel was told from both the perspectives of Alex and Eliza. Especially since there was a fair chunk of the novel where Alex was off doing war-related things. It was pretty cool because then you got to see both sides of the story. It also gave readers the opportunity to be introduced to other key historical figures such as the Sons of Liberty. I’m very 50/50 when it comes to dual narratives, but when they’re done effectively I’m quite keen on them and I think it was done very well in Alex & Eliza!

There were obviously a ton of differences between this novel and Hamilton which I think ultimately comes down to picking and choosing which details to include and which to omit. For instance, in the musical, a lot of details were excluded or altered to work with the storyline - this was also done with Alex & Eliza. I did find that with Alex & Eliza, everything was a lot more fluffy which makes sense as it’s a YA novel. So if you’re looking for a hard-hitting, authentic Revolutionary War retelling, maybe look elsewhere.

I’m really interested to see how this series progresses throughout the next couple books! I already started Love & War which is the sequel, but the third and final book isn’t being released until April 2019 - so I have a bit of time left until that one! Until then, keep an eye out for my Love & War review!

Are you a Hamilton fan?

Felicia x

Hamilton Waterfront

Ever since I've started attending school in Hamilton, I've wanted to go and explore the area. Knowing that I'll be here for at least the four years of my undergraduate program (and hopefully another year for my graduate studies!), I have really felt like I should be connected to not only the university but also the community which surrounds it.

This past weekend, my parents, my boyfriend, and I took a trip out to Hamilton's waterfront area to explore and get to know the area better. I was completely amazed at how such a beautiful area could be such a short jaunt from where I having been taking classes every day for four weeks now. In this little nook of Lake Ontario, there is a beautiful harbour where countless boats are docked, with a few lookout points with rocky pathways lined by trees and a massive outdoor playground where dozens of kids were enjoying the day. Just a few minutes walk down the way, our trail ended up at Bayfront Park which is just this amazing luscious area where people were biking, walking their dogs, and playing sports. It was so nice to see families gathered here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, spending the day away from hectic work schedules or homework or the tv just to spend time together.

I also absolutely loved that there is a old-fashioned trolley that goes along the waterfront, stopping periodically along the way. I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing, I pretty much talked about it for the rest of the day! haha

It is so nice to know that I'm attending university in such a wonderful, family-friendly area, one I could see myself in long after my studies are complete. Walking (and driving) around, seeing a bit of what Hamilton has to offer, really helped to reinforce the thought that I have definitely picked the perfect university for myself.

Exploring McMaster University

Happy Saturday, everybody! I'm not sure how the weather is worldwide as of today, though I do know for certain that here in Southern Ontario the weather is quite poor today. Especially in Hamilton, where I spent my morning and early afternoon.

Currently, I am just about to hit the point of my senior year where I begin applying to universities then spending the subsequent months crossing my fingers and praying to receive acceptance letters. Before I start applying, however, I thought it might be best to get an idea of what I'm getting myself into. By that I mean attending the Fall Preview for my top university choice: McMaster University.

I've been on a constant back and forth, up and down rollercoaster when it comes to my program of interest. I started with Creative Writing, then realized how unrealistic it is to become the next J.K. Rowling meanwhile having no job to support me. Then I switched over to Journalism and later changed my mind. I also went through English, History and Child & Youth Care, before settling on my current choice: Psychology. And out of every school, McMaster's Social Science faculty has reigned superior to me.

I travelled out to McMaster early this morning, with my parents, my boyfriend and his parents. Coincidently enough, McMaster is also my boyfriend's first choice, instead for him it's Life Sciences. After parking in the visitor's lot and taking a school bus - yup, a big yellow one - to the heart of campus, our day began.

We started at McMaster University Student Centre, where we met up with a lovely British woman in her fourth year at Mac who led a group of us through a 45-minute campus tour. It was absolutely pouring rain as we did the mostly outdoor tour though all we could do was grin and bear it. Despite the dreary weather, I was excited and eager to learn about the campus. She took us inside the Life Sciences building, past the construction site which will soon be home to the L.R. Wilson Hall - the new Liberal Arts/Social Sciences building - and inside one of the libraries as well as the on-campus athletic centre.

Afterwards, my parents and I left my boyfriend - who headed to one of the residency tours - and we went to Gilmour Hall for an information session on the Social Sciences faculty. Also around 45-minutes long, it was so informative and really helped me to get a better idea of what each program really can offer. I also learned of some really incredible opportunities such as the interdisciplinary programs - meaning combining different programs to create one completely unique to your own interests and career goals - and the paid internships they offer to help give you experience before you graduate.

They also spoke about a particular research program they are doing for the Social Sciences faculty which sparked my interest. Dogs at Mac is a program where the bond between humans and animals, and the canine's affect on humans during stressful situations is examined. This is done by using three trained therapy dogs - Lily, Liam, and Scout - to release tension due to coursework and exams in students. I absolutely love dogs and this program sold me on McMaster haha

Afterwards, my boyfriend was at an information session for Life Sciences so my parents and I headed to Starbucks. As you do. We ended up sitting down for about 20-minutes, chatting about the school and my program. I ultimately have decided I want to integrate Social Psychology and Social Work, to form my ideal program. Once I'd finished my White Chocolate Mocha & croissant, we went to the info booths for Social Psych and Social Work, plus the Financial Aid and I also got to meet Lily, one of the therapy dogs, who was the sweetest little thing ever.

We ended our day at the Campus Store. Wow. It's huge and full of incredible little goodies. I was in McMaster merch heaven. My boyfriend's family and mine regrouped and headed out, but not before I bought myself a super cute maroon (their school colour) McMaster t-shirt.

After today, I feel like a huge weight of uncertainty and stress about what to expect for university has been lifted. Now, I'm just super excited to get on with this part of my life and start applying!!

If anyone goes to McMaster or knows someone who goes there or just is applying to any other university, leave me a comment and let me know how it's going! Hope everyone has an incredible rest of their weekend :)

Felicia x