The Taming of the Queen
by Philippa Gregory Published by Simon and Schuster
on August 25th 2015 Genres: Fiction
, Romance Pages:
Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him.
Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn's trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent.
But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry's dangerous gaze turns on her. The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy - the punishment is death by fire and the king's name is on the warrant...
His last wife. The luckiest of them all. Kateryn Parr, Queen of England.
I wasn’t a big fan of the last two Philippa Gregory books I read (one of them being a DNF if I can remember). In fact, I was about to quit reading her works altogether because they didn’t seem to catch my interest anymore. But I gave her another shot.
The Taming of the Queen follows Kateryn’s rise to the throne and the turmoil of life being married to a man of many thunderous moods. She’s the wife I know the least about and I enjoyed reading about her life. But my biggest issue, what kept me from really loving the book, was that Kateryn was being overshadowed by her passion for Thomas Seymour. I felt her desire for learning, scholarship, reformation was underwritten compared to the longing for Thomas’ love and safety. I get it. She loved him. But to reduce her to that…I don’t know. *shrug*
Three Sisters, Three Queens
by Philippa Gregory Published by Touchstone
on August 9th 2016 Genres: Fiction
, Thrillers Pages:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, the little-known story of three Tudor women who are united in sisterhood and yet compelled to be rivals when they fulfill their destinies as queens.As sisters they share an everlasting bond; as queens they can break each other’s hearts… When Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a unique sisterhood. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France. United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret’s proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.
Three Sisters, Three Queens follows the stories of three women as they live and fight through life-shattering ordeals of love, loss, and the whims of powerful men. Queen Katherine, Queen Margaret, and Queen Mary shared many things in common, but their fates proved much different.
I think I’m completely burned out on Philippa Gregory’s books. They’re not as good as I remember. And this one was, admittingly, a challenge to finish. It was so long and dull. I wasn’t a fan of how Margaret was written. She was insufferable. Actually, there weren’t many characters who weren’t annoying in some way. Her first husband was the most interesting.
I know the book is supposed to show their bond as sisters and queens, but I didn’t get that impression. Katherine is put on a pedestal of sorts (in Margaret’s mind) while Margaret spends most of the book trying to prove herself and be better than Katherine solely for her own satisfaction. And Mary was mostly a nonentity, spending frivolous letters to Margaret. It felt like a waste of time.
Hate to say it…but Wikipedia has a lot more spunk. I haven’t given up on PG’s books yet, but I still can’t help but be hesitant.
The Song Rising
by Samantha Shannon Published by Bloomsbury USA
on March 7th 2017 Genres: Fantasy
, Fantasy & Magic
, Young Adult Pages:
The magnificent new book in the New York Times-bestselling series: a fantastic tale of rebellion and courage against enormous odds.Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London's criminal population. But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilizing the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging. Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it . . .
It feels like a lifetime ago since The Bone Season and The Mime Order were released. Admittedly, I have forgotten a lot of details in the story and I have no willpower to go back and do a reread. Even if I had, I’m not confident it would have changed my enjoyment or lack thereof. The Song Rising, I feel, is the weakest of this series so far. And certainly, the most boring.
The writing still has its brand of uniqueness, but I think the biggest issue was that Paige kept making predictable mistakes over and over again. I get that she’s young and inexperienced compared to everyone else—but does it get old…yes, it does. Her back and forth with Warden also is getting very tiring. Not only that, I don’t see how she manages to stay on her feet from so little rest and countless injuries. I felt so disenchanted enough to just ask, “Are you going to die yet or what?”
The last twenty percent was the most interesting. I feel this will be a series where only the last few chapters are exciting enough to keep readers or at least me curious enough for the next book.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence
by Alyssa Palombo Published by St. Martin's Press
on April 25th 2017 Genres: Ancient World
, Romance Pages:
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence follows Simonetta Vespucci through her life’s triumphs, trials, and associations with the Medici family. Simonetta, a famed beauty of her time, arrives in Florence—a citadel of learning and art—with great hopes pertaining to her marriage and future. What she finds there, instead, was more than she had ever expected. Upon meeting Sandro Botticelli, an artist, she makes a simple choice which later becomes her most famous legacy.
I’m fairly certain most of us have seen the painting, The Birth of Venus, but I’ve never heard of the woman who might have been the muse. Though much is not known of her life, Simonetta was a great beauty of her time and is depicted as an intelligent woman in this story. Strong, capable, and in love with a man she can’t have because she is both married and not his equal. The best parts of the story were when she wasn’t pining over Botticelli. I didn’t care for them as a couple. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m in a really unromantic mood and didn’t care about Simonetta and Sandro for that reason. I loved Simonetta and Clarice’s friendship though. I wish there were more scenes of them.
(+) Good storytelling.
(+) Interesting setting.
(+) Well-rounded characters
(-) Romance I couldn’t get behind.
The Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green Published by Bethany House
on January 3rd 2017 Genres: Christian
, Religious Pages:
Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent. After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.
In order to regain her freedom, Julianne chooses to be one of many exiled from France to the colony of Louisiana, but even such a promising choice comes with unforeseen consequences and heartbreaks along the way even after settling into New Orleans—a place of turmoil and lawlessness. Already forced to marry a stranger before leaving the shores of France, Julianne must face one trial after another.
I was surprised with The Mark of the King because the writing did not flinch away from the attitudes and particularly vile actions of men in those times (the barn thing and Pascal in general). I haven’t read much of the French colonies, so I found Julianne’s journey interesting. Julianne, despite everything that kept happening, proved herself to be a strong, persistent woman when any other might have just called it quits. I’m glad everything worked out at the end—even if it turned out to be bittersweet.
And though I liked the story, I’m not completely satisfied with the storyline surrounding Julianne’s brother. It was just meh and not enough for me to care about, even though everything else was good.
Milk and Honey
by Rupi Kaur Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
on October 6th 2015 Genres: Body, Mind & Spirit
, Romance Pages:
The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
When it comes to Milk and Honey, I’m clearly in the minority of not really feeling anything special towards this collection of tumblr poetry. I felt like the poems were not very original or even well-written. I’ve heard and seen these messages all before. I’ve seen better unpublished work on tumblr and in bathroom stalls that have moved me more.
You’re probably thinking, ‘well, you probably never experienced pain before so you can’t understand…’ But let me tell you that’s not true. I just felt meh overall about this collection. I can understand why people love Milk and Honey. It’s simplistic and has the aesthetic appeal many love.
The style was something I didn’t care for. You could take any kind of slogan and make it into a deep or fake deep poem just by breaking up the words.
One poem I felt was recycled from everything already out there:
salt for sugar
if he wants to
be with you
it’s that simple
Seriously, I’ve heard this all my life. It’s just…duh.
There were a few that I thought were okay, but nothing I really care to share.
The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo Published by William Morrow
on August 6th 2013 Genres: Fiction
, Historical Pages:
Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists. Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price? Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family. Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.
The Ghost Bride is one of those books that I can’t even begin to describe just how beautiful, how perfect it is. The setting, both of the living and the dead, felt so real and enticing. I almost want to cross over the Plains of the Dead myself (no, actually that’s scary).
It is not, by all means, a fast paced story with tons of action or heightened drama around every corner. And it was not at all what I was expecting when I read the synopsis (I thought there was going to be a heavier romance aspect when it came to the ‘groom’). Though my suspicions were incorrect, I adored everything about The Ghost Bride. There’s such beauty in the subtleness of how the story is written, with no lack of suspense and the showcase of vivid emotions of the characters.
I was genuinely worried for Li Lan throughout the book because there was never that sense of “well, she’s obviously going to be fine.” The Ghost Bride tells us and Li Lan learns that in life and even in death there is tragedy. And in the end, Li Lan has to make a choice. One that I happily agree with!
While the book is perfect how it is, I’d love a sequel.
Mad Miss Mimic
I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion or the content of my review.
by Sarah Henstra Published by RazorBill Canada
on January 3rd 2017 Genres: Europe
, Love & Romance
, Young Adult Fiction Pages:
Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people's voices flawlessly.
Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back... and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo...but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations - but to do so, she must first find her voice.
Leo can hardly talk for stuttering and stumbling over her words but when Mad Miss Mimic, an unusual habit, takes over her tongue she can mimic voices of other real men and women alike. It has caused her trouble in the past but it may just be her savior yet. With the shady business of opium, dashing lords, and humble lock picks, Mad Miss Mimic makes for an interesting historical tale.
The pace of the story moves swiftly and smoothly. We get to know Leo quite well and a good understanding of most of the other characters like Tom and the members of Leo’s family and their respective motives. The villain was typical and his moves predictable (should have been dealt with more seriously in the end—but I can let that go). The only other issue I had was with the believability of Leo’s love for a certain someone. It seemed really sudden since at the time of her realization she only had limited contact with him and even fewer comprehensive conversations (though there were cute-ish moments later).
Despite my minor issues, I thought Mad Miss Mimic was fun and quick to read. Everything wrapped up nicely (with some room for a sequel).
The Imperial Wife
by Irina Reyn Published by Thomas Dunne Books
on July 19th 2016 Genres: Contemporary Women
, Historical Pages:
Two women's lives collide when a priceless Russian artifact comes to light. Tanya Kagan, a rising specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband. As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century empress who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life. Suspenseful and beautifully written, The Imperial Wife asks whether we view female ambition any differently today than we did in the past. Can a contemporary marriage withstand an “Imperial Wife”?
The Imperial Wife follows the perspective of two women, a modern woman named Tanya and the Empress of Russia, famously called Catherine the Great, in their struggles with both marriage and becoming something more than an outsider in the world they inhabit. Catherine wore her Order long ago, but now it rests in Tanya’s hands to sell to the highest bidder. Tanya must make decisions for what she thinks is best for the Order and for herself.
I found The Imperial Wife to be a little underwhelming. There were certain things I found annoying, such as Carl. Actually, he was the biggest issue for me. I don’t understand what Tanya saw in him or why she continued to want him to return home. He seemed like he only married her because he’s a huge Russophile. His behavior was inexcusable and at a certain reveal, it’s even worse. Tanya deserves a lot better. The ending is frustrating and offers her no guarantees.
Catherine’s perspective was much more enjoyable, even though her outlook isn’t much better than Tanya’s. But I still felt like it was missing something. Her last chapter didn’t really satisfy me, similarly again with Tanya.
Despite its shortcomings, it was quick and at times interesting to read.
A Flight of Arrows
by Lori Benton Published by WATERBROOK Press
on April 19th 2016 Genres: Christian
, Romance Pages:
Hearts are Divided Loyalties Will Be Tested The Fates of Two Families Hang in the Balance Twenty years past, in 1757, a young Redcoat, Reginald Aubrey stole a newborn boy—the lighter-skinned of Oneida twins— during the devastating fall of Fort William Henry and raised him as his own. No one connected to Reginald escaped unscathed from this crime. Not his adopted daughter Anna. Not Stone Thrower, the Native American father determined to get his son back. Not Two Hawks, William’s twin brother separated since birth, living in the shadow of his absence and hoping to build a future with Anna. Nor Lydia, who longs for Reginald to be free from his self-imposed emotional prison and embrace God’s forgiveness— and her love. Now William, whose identity has been shattered after discovering the truth of his birth, hides in the ranks of an increasingly aggressive British army. The Redcoats prepare to attack frontier New York and the Continentals, aided by Oneida warriors including Two Hawks, rally to defend it. As the Revolutionary War penetrates the Mohawk Valley, two families separated by culture, united by love and faith, must find a way to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.
Check out my review of book one The Wood’s Edge.
A Flight of Arrows is no less emotional and no less heartbreaking than the first book The Wood’s Edge. Told in a troubling time period of Americans vs the British and the Native Peoples between the struggle, the saga of a lost son, a longing brother, and two fathers wanting to make things right continues. Bonds will be formed and others will be tested. The fight for a country is nothing like the fight for a family.
I enjoyed The Wood’s Edge and of course the sequel is no exception, but my favorite of the two remains The Wood’s Edge. I felt like A Flight of Arrows dragged in some places (the pacing in no hurry at all), and I took a really long time to finish reading it. Despite that, I’m mostly satisfied with how the story wrapped up. At least if I ignored how I got a little teary-eyed about something in particular.
Aubrey, Lydia, Two Hawks, William, Good Voice, Stone Thrower, and a great number of other characters were just as interesting this time around and I’m a little sad to let them go. The only character that got on my nerves, a few times, was Anna. I kept thinking, “I get it, Anna, you miss Two Hawks. You don’t have to keep saying it and you don’t need to obsess over him all the time.” She did work on her selfishness, so I suppose that’s all fine.