Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book Review of Fate's Mistress by Laura Du Pre

Goodreads Summary: Cousins to the King of Navarre, the Cleves sisters, witness the glamour and danger of the French royal court firsthand. Middle sister, Catherine, is married to the Duc de Guise, the most rabid Catholic in France. Ambitious and well-connected, Guise is the main rival for the French throne, which is currently occupied by an unpopular Henri III.

Guise managed to win concessions from Henri, but concessions come with a steep price on his head. As his Duchesse, Catherine is in a dangerous position of her own. Determined to play her part in bringing about the downfall of the Valois and the rise of the Guise, Catherine will risk her own safety.

But is the risk worth the rewards? Will either of them escape with their lives? Catherine has to take a chance for herself, and the consequences will change French history.

Based on a true story

The Cleves sisters' story concludes with Catherine, who stands in the middle of court politics in France of the 1500s. Like most great noble families of the period, the web of intermarriages and alliances made enemies out of blood relatives. It also meant that the stories of the people who served the Valois monarchs were as intertwined and as complicated as their marriages.

Led by the ever-vigilant Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France and a force of nature, the members of the court shaped the political and religious future of France of the Sixteenth Century. In the trilogy, you'll meet the often- derided Charlotte, Madame de Sauve, and enough royal mistresses to satisfy your need for scandal.

˃˃˃ Don't miss out!

France will never be the same by the time Catherine's story ends. You'll instantly be front and center at the world of the Valois court and all of the danger and splendor of Renaissance France!

Goodreads Rating: 3.63 stars with under 100 ratings
Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, French Culture 
Get the book: Amazon
Goodreads Challenge: 5/30


Fate's Mistress is the final book in the Three Grace's trilogy. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a category to put it in for the 2018 Book Challenge. The third book follows the oldest of the Cleves sisters, Catherine. Where the first two books overlap, I believe this one takes place right after the second in the trilogy. 

At first, I really enjoyed reading Catherine's story. Like the other two books, Fate's Mistress is under 150 pages. I couldn't say where exactly, but towards the end of the book I started to lose interest in it. I felt like it needed a lot of editing work done. The entire series needed it, but this book especially needed it. I felt like a lot of minor details weren't consistent in the story.  Things like how many children Catherine and Henri had as well as their names seemed to change quite a few times. 

I think that Fate's Mistress covered quite a few more years than the other books did, which made it kind of keep track of. I found most of the details somewhat forgettable, and am struggling to get my thoughts out about it. The ending felt anti-climatic. It was more or less a bunch of battles for change, but nothing actually changed except for a few key players. Overall, I really enjoyed the first two books of the series, but Fate's Mistress fell short for me. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review of Lady of The Court by Laura Du Pre

Goodreads Summary: Cousins to the King of Navarre, the Cleves sisters witness the glamour and danger of the French royal court firsthand. Middle sister, Henriette, sits at the apex of the royal court, wife to one of King Henri III's most trusted advisors

In a country torn apart by religious war, things can change in an instant, and no one in France is safe. Henriette is desperate to hold onto her life and hand it on to the next generation. To do so, she must have an heir, something that she has so far failed to do.

Based on a true story

The Cleves sisters' story starts with Marie, the youngest sister introduces you to the world of court politics in France of the 1500s. Like most great noble families of the period, the web of intermarriages and alliances made enemies out of blood relatives. It also meant that the stories of the people who served the Valois monarchs were as intertwined and as complicated as their marriages.

Led by the ever-vigilant Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France and a force of nature, the members of the court shaped the political and religious future of France of the Sixteenth Century. In upcoming novels, you'll meet the often- derided Charlotte, Madame de Sauve, and enough royal mistresses to satisfy your need for scandal.

Goodreads Rating: 3.47 stars with under 100 reviews

Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, French Culture

Get the book: Amazon

Goodreads Challenge: 4/30

2018 Reading Challenge: #8, A book under 300 pages (Challenge can be found here.)

Previous reviews of the series:  Almost a Queen by Laura Du Pre - the first book in the Three Grace's Trilogy

Book Review:

I read Almost a Queen by Laura Du Pre in 2017, and I really enjoyed it. Lady of the Court follows middle Cleve's sister Henriette. The second story has some overlap to Almost a Queen as it takes place towards the end of Marie's story. Because of the overlap in events, I highly reading these two books close together. Each of the books is under 200 pages, and because of that, I spent a good portion of Lady of the Court trying to remember who was who, and what happened. Once I got past that, I really enjoyed Lady of the Court.

Laura Du Pre has a fantastic gift of telling a very detailed historical fiction in very few pages. Her books are concise but enjoyable. I'm amazed that she was able to tell a story that spanned several years in just 150 some pages. That being said, thus far I feel like the two books could have been combined into one since it has the same characters and overlaps in events. I think it would work well as one book.

Even though she was more the best friend type character of Henriette, I really liked Margot's character. She enjoyed the games of court and the scheming. I would love to read a story on her if depicted the same level of conniving as Du Pre's version of the Navarre Queen did. These books and similar ones are making me want to research dissolved nations. Weird, I know.

My main issue with this book is the editing and formatting. It wasn't anything significant, but the frequency of extra spaces and punctuation was distracting. I'm not sure if it was my kindle or the book, but at the start, there were some pages that were duplicated, and it made it hard to follow along. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story, and as soon as I finished it I went straight into the third book Fate's Mistress.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Book Review of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Goodreads Summary: Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie's famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children--Wendy, John, and Michael--who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.
Goodreads Rating: 4.1 with over 200,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Children's book, Adventure
Get the book: AmazonBook Depository
Goodreads Challenge: 3/30
2018 Reading Challenge: 1. A book from Project Gutenberg (You can find the 2018 reading challenge list here.)

Book Review:

First things first, a little info on the challenge topic for this one. If you've never heard of Project Gutenberg, I highly recommend you check it out. You can do so by visiting Project Gutenberg is mostly running on donations and volunteer work where they digitalize, proofread, and catalog works with expired copyrights so that users can obtain them for free. I believe they have audiobooks as well as e-books on their massive online library. Be sure to give them some love for the fantastic work they do! 

I decided to go with Peter Pan because I know the story (Thanks, Disney!), so I thought it'd be easier to get through. I'm really not big on classics. I have a tough time reading them. I'm not sure if it's the language used, or what. I try to read one a year, but it doesn't always happen. I can see why Peter Pan is a classic though. For the most part, I really enjoyed the story. However, I'm not sure if it's because I already loved the story through various movies or not. Hook is one of my all-time favorite movies, seriously. Looking back, they actually did an excellent job of tying it into the original story. 

So, I had no idea that this was initially a play. I may be living under a rock. I know that plays of Peter Pan had been made, but I guess I always assumed it was a book and plays were adapted from it, not the other way around. Knowing that, makes sense of what I thought to be a weird style of narration for the story. I enjoyed it, it was whimsical, and I liked how everything had a personality, but there were times where I felt like it rambled on and lost me. For it being a children's story there were a lot of times where I had no idea what was going on because of this narration. 

Speaking of it being a children's story, this is actually really dark when you get into it. There's a meme going around, and when I first saw it, I thought oh that kind of makes sense. I've posted it below, but in a way, it's kind of true. I don't necessarily believe that the lost boys were dead because they eventually grow up. But I'm pretty sure that Peter Pan is actually dead in it. It doesn't really say it, but I definitely felt like it was implied throughout the story. Sorry to for the spoiler and for any childhoods I just ruined. 

Image found on Google

Despite being dark and creepy, part of me kind of wants to dive into the psychology of Peter Pan. The main character is (probably) dead and is flying around getting other children to follow him because he's lonely. He can fly and take them to a magical world both of which stop happening when they get older and stop believing. He forgets everything all of the time, has no concept of time, can sustain on make-believe food, and is desperate to find a mother that he believes he ran away from. In all actuality I think it mentioned he fell and cracked his head, furthering my opinion that he actually died. I just made a comment to my husband that Classic Children's stories are creepy, and he said they were told to terrify children. Not sure if it's actually true or not, but I'd believe it.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story, once you get past the whole narrative rambling and creepy dead main character thing. I actually thought that that Neverland was whimsical, and I liked Tinkerbell and Nana's characters. Is it a classic I'm going to read over and over again? No probably not, but it is one more book I can say that I've read in my life, and probably a classic everyone should read. I can't say that I loved it by any means, but it was entertaining. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review of Rookery by Emily Organ

Goodreads Summary: London 1884. When a thief robs Fleet Street reporter Penny Green, she finds herself caught up in a horrifying murder.
Someone is terrorizing the residents of St Giles Rookery and Scotland Yard sends Inspector James Blakely to investigate. When the serial killer claims a victim outside the slums, Victorian London is sent into panic.

Can Penny’s friendship with the people of St Giles uncover the culprit? She and James must overcome their complicated relationship to work together, but each new murder threatens to derail their work for good.

If you like historical murder mysteries, then you must read this second book in the Penny Green Series. The books can be read in any order.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars with 260 reviews
Genre Listing: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Get the book: Amazon
Goodreads Challenge: 2/30
2018 Reading Challenge: #33 A book that takes place before 1900 (Find the challenge here.)
Previous review of the series: Limelight (Penny Green #1)

Book Review:

The Rookery is the second book in the Penny Green series by Emily Organ. It takes place shortly after Limelight ends, with Penny in a sling from being shot while trying to solve the murder of her friend Lizzie Dixie. In The Rookery, Penny finds herself being robbed while walking past St. Giles, a rough area of Victorian London. Inspector James Blakely comes in to take over the case, and Penny gets the first-hand news for her paper. The killer alludes them both on multiple occasions and ends up wreaking havoc in St Giles before being caught. 

I liked the Rookery, but not as much as I did Limelight. The story was good, and it kept me interested. I appreciate that there's a mystery within a mystery regarding what happened to her father. I hope that the third book shows more of that as well. I was also excited that we kind of got to see a motherly side of Penny as well as see her as an aunt. I predict there may be the start of a romance for Penny in the next book. Curious to know where that goes, because I think there's a couple of viable options.

While I did enjoy The Rookery, there are somethings that I wish would have been done a little differently. Emily Organ continued with giving quite a few suspects which was a nice touch, however, the pseudonym made it pretty easy to figure out once it was shown shortly before the characters full name. Also, both Limelight and The Rookery had secret letters with mysterious handwriting. It was interesting in the first book, but seeing something similar in the second was a little underwhelming.  I feel like there was also a similarity with the way the killers in both books dressed and lurked around at the funerals. These similarities made it feel like the author was following a set formula for the mystery.

While the identity of the killer didn't come as a surprise to me, the motive did. I liked how it turned him into a serial killer, and it made me want to dive into the psychology of it. It also gave off a Jack the Ripper vibe to me.  I also really liked the imagery that Emily Organ created for St. Giles. I could really imagine a dingy poverty-stricken area with a maze of streets and bad lighting.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Rookery, and I'm going to continue on with the series. I just wish there was a little more creativity with the mystery and that it differed from the first book. I believe each of the books is under $5.00 as well as on Kindle Unlimited. If you go for the option to buy one, it'll make a nice addition for #2 on the reading challenge list, which is a book under $5. Side note, the summary says it can be read out of order, but I don't beleive that's true. I highly recommend reading Limelight first.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Book Review of Limelight by Emily Organ

Goodreads Summary:  London, 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames, so how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery?
Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie’s, and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie’s mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen, and politicians in search of the truth.

But who is following her? And who is sending her threatening letters?

Penny is about to discover that Lizzie’s life was more complicated, and dangerous than she could ever have imagined.

Goodreads Rating: 3.79 with 756 ratings

Genre Listing: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Victorian

Get the Book: Amazon

2018 Reading Challenge: #10 - A book with a one-word title - Reading Challenge

Reading goal: 1/30


Woohoo! The first review of 2018. I've decided that for the 2018 reading challenge I'll be skipping around. I had initially thought I'd try to work the levels one at a time, but I tend to binge read things that may not fit into the levels. The hard part is going to be to make myself read certain ones. 

I've been eying Limelight by Emily Organ for a month or two now, and I'm glad I finally decided to give it a go. I had a hard time putting it down. I liked how Penny was somewhat odd for her time, seemingly comfortable being alone, bookish, working when most women were at home with children. I felt like she seemed mildly indifferent to the sexism around her. I got the impression I got was she expected it because of the times but didn't really let it negatively affect her.

I was really intrigued by the Woman's society Penny's sister Eliza was apart of. I'm obsessed with different periods fashion trends. I loved how they discussed reforming their dress, and even designed unique skirts to ride bicycles, and how it was somewhat of a scandal. I also appreciated the style of writing and inclusion of slang. I feel like some of the dialect is how people would actually speak in 1883.

As far as the mystery goes, I really like how Organ provided multiple suspects. I feel like a lot of mysteries give you one or two suspects, and then the murderer may or may not be one of those suspects. I feel like at any given time Emily Organ provided readers with four or five likely suspects. It was nice because I didn't really know where the ending was going to go, but it was one that wasn't so farfetched based on the case presented.

I'll be honest, I was not expecting much from Limelight, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I downloaded Rookery, the second in the series right after I finished it. That's already proving to be excellent as well. I definitely recommend Limelight to anyone who wants a decent 'Who done it?' with a Victorian flare.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017: A year in review

Happy New Years, Readers!  I hope everyone had a safe and happy end to their 2017. Here's a look at everything I read for 2017.

As always, I did the Goodreads reading challenge. I set a goal of 50, but only read 25 books. I think I may have set my ambitions way too high last year. I had put the goal at 50 because that's how many books were in my reading challenge. A link to 2017's challenge can be found here. In hindsight, this challenge was a good start to creating challenges, but too specific and unobtainable in a lot of places. It did lead to the creation of a mega challenge for 2018, however. The post for this can be found here. I'm really excited about this, as it is a collaboration with one of my dear friends, and a lot of fellow bloggers are jumping on it!

Enough about the 2018 challenge, however. Here's a look at what I read for 2017, with links to the reviews.

First up, the books I read at the request of their authors.

A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf- Review
The King's Peace by Kevin Hammond-Review
Aaru by David Meredith- Review

The Book I reread (According to Goodreads, I reread Betrayed, but I don't think I actually finished it... It also said I read Flyte twice, but that didn't actually happen.)
Marked by PC and Kristen Cast - Review

The Books I read for the 2017 challenge:

2.) A book in a series you've yet to finish -The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A.R. Kahler
3.) A free book you found on Amazon- One Tequila by Tricia O'Malley
6.) A book that's considered a classic- 1984 by George Orwell
8.) A book about royalty- The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson
13.) The first book in a series you've meant to start- Magyk by Angie Sage
15.) A book about magic- The Immortal Circus: Final Act by A.R. Kahler
16.) A Historical Fiction- Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
19.) A Book you picked out because of the cover- The Merciless by Danielle Vega
28.) A book with a green cover- Flyte by Angie Sage
31.) A book recommended to you on Social Media- Storm Front by Jim Butcher
35.) A book that takes you somewhere you would like to live - The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
38.) A Book That's been made into a movie/tv show- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitts
40.) A Dystopian Novel- Scythe by Neal Shusterman
45.) A book that takes place in another country- Almost a Queen by Laura Du Pre
46.) A Romance Novel- Public Secrets by Nora Roberts
48.) A Young Adult Book- The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Books that didn't really fit anywhere else:
The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane by Colin Falconer (I may have this on the challenge, but I have my notes mixed up on if the challenge was supposed to be a book published in 1917 or 2017. It fits for 2017.)- Review
The Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood- Review
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette- Review

I will say that this year I plan to read a lot more. I set my Goodreads goal at 30, but I think with the challenge if I plan ahead I'll do way more than that. I think by far my favorite book that I've read this year was Scythe by Neal Shusterman. There's a few of them that are a toss-up for the worst, but I'm not going to list them here.

Feel free to let me know what book was your favorite read of 2017 in the comments!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Review of the Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

Goodreads Summary: Imagine that, on the night before she is to die under the blade of the guillotine, Marie Antoinette leaves behind in her prison cell a diary telling the story of her life--from her privileged childhood as Austrian Archduchess to her years as glamorous mistress of Versailles to the heartbreak of imprisonment and humiliation during the French Revolution.
Carolly Erickson takes the reader deep into the psyche of France's doomed queen: her love affair with handsome Swedish diplomat Count Axel Fersen, who risked his life to save her; her fears on the terrifying night the Parisian mob broke into her palace bedroom intent on murdering her and her family; her harrowing attempted flight from France in disguise; her recapture and the grim months of harsh captivity; her agony when her beloved husband was guillotined, and her young son was torn from her arms, never to be seen again.

Erickson brilliantly captures the queen's voice, her hopes, her dreads, and her suffering. We follow, mesmerized, as she reveals every detail of her remarkable, eventful life--from her teenage years when she began keeping a diary to her final days when she awaited her own bloody appointment with the guillotine.

Goodreads Rating: 3.61 with over 5,000 ratings

Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, French Culture

Get the Book: AmazonBook Depository

Book Review:

Hello, Readers! I hope that everyone is enjoying their holiday season! I actually finished The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette about a week ago, but I'm really behind on the doing of things. Marie Antoinette is regrettably a queen I've not read much on. I'm trying to branch out into reading about different historical figures.

I really enjoyed The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson. I felt that Erickson's depiction of Marie Antoinette was an interesting one. I found myself both hating Marie and feeling sorry for her. What little I knew of her definitely made her seem like a vain child, and I think that was shown really well here through her love of fashion and parties. On the other side of that, Marie Antoinette is depicted as trying to offer some sort of assistance to her people. I think that Erickson's version of Marie Antoinette's life shows a young queen trying to do what she can, but hindered by her husband's inability to rule.

Based on this book, I'm inclined to believe that Louis had some severe anxiety issues, which led to his failure as a king and ruler. I'm wondering how true this actually was, or if it was just invented for the sake of this story. I did appreciate that even though Marie Antoinette obviously was not in love with him, she came across in the story as having a fondness for him and friendship with him. I also thought it was interesting how Marie's affair was depicted and how it sort of made her a tiny bit less shallow, and in a way was what led her to try and do more for her people (in her own way).

I'm having a love/hate relationship with the book being in diary style. On the one hand, it made it much easier to read, and quick to get through. On the other hand, some of the scenes didn't seem plausible for her to have her diary with her let alone write in it. I realize I'm being petty, and I mostly enjoyed the style so I won't overthink it. I do feel that it gave the story a more personal feel, I'd be curious to read more historical fictions in this setup.  I know that Carolly Erickson has several other Historical Fiction works, and I'm probably going to add most of them to my want to read list. I'd also be interested in reading a story following Marie and Louis's daughter after their deaths.