Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Reviews: Wars of the Roses Round Up

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Pages: 206
Received: Library, own
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I read this book in bed while recovering from a cold, which is the best way to read this book as main character Inspector Alan Grant spends the whole book bedridden recovering from a broken leg. Being in a similar situation made me feel even more connected with the story.

Grant spent his time researching through history books and applying his detective's mind to unraveling the mystery surrounding Richard III, Henry VII, and the murder of the princes in the tower and I happily sleuthed alongside him.

I am still so pleasantly surprised by how absolutely enthralled I was by The Daughter of Time. It's a pretty straight forward book and there's a ton of "telling," so much so that it almost feels like I spent the day chatting with a historian rather than reading a fictional story. The chapters move along pretty quickly and are usually only about ten pages or fewer.

For me, the jury is still out on who did in the lost princes in the tower, but I tend to lean on the side of sympathy toward Richard and blame to Henry. I'm ok with reading the "blame Richard" side, but I definitely appreciated Josephine Tey's take instead. Her explanation seems reasonable, and even if historically we may never know, story-wise she wrote a compelling narrative.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy Wars of the Roses and Tudor history, though the anti-Ricardian may struggle.

The Lost King by Alison Prince
Pages: 96
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Wow. This book is...not very good at all. It's super short and the chapters are usually only a few pages long, but that's about the only positive thing I can say.

The story is narrated by a fictional "observer" character in the form of a servant. This is a narrative device I usually don't like, and in such a short book it felt even more useless. We even get a few bits and pieces from her personal life, but this felt even more pointless considering how much of a non-character the narrator turned out to be.

But, whatever, if that was the worst thing then it wouldn't have bothered me that much. No, the reason this book gets such a low rating stems entirely from its historical inaccuracies. Simple things that could be found on the Wikipedia page aren't even correct! What is accurate is presented in such an abridged way that readers with little to no knowledge of the time will likely come away with an inaccurate understanding of people and events.

Definitely not recommended.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Pages: 208
Published: 2009
Received: Library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

*sigh* I was so hoping to love this one. I don't remember if I had added this to my TBR before or after reading Leah's review, but either way her review upped my expectations and excitement a lot. Hate turned love romance, historical setting, so much of this was calling my name.

Unfortunately, I read Lord Fenton's Folly before I read A Matter of Class and the former must have been heavily inspired by the latter. I felt like I was reading a rehash of a story I already read. That isn't a total dealbreaker (let's face it, I'm the type of reader that has no problem reading the same story over and my Tudor, Arthurian, and Wars of the Roses reading list can attest), but the insubstantial characters did nothing to capture my interest.

It's kind of hard to get invested in a story when the only thing it has going for it is a romance with a plot I've already read and characters for which I can't muster up a care. The final blow was the fact that the book it so reminds me of is not one I particularly enjoyed, so my associated feelings were doing this story no favors.

My overall impression? A lukewarm meh.

It's a shame, because I feel like I probably would have enjoyed A Matter of Class much more had I not read Lord Fenton's Folly first. I don't think I ever would have loved it, but I probably would have liked it more. Oh well. It's funny how an experience with a book can be so affected by previous reading adventures.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Pages: 233
Published: 1998
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This series was super popular when I worked in my public library in New York (over five years ago! Time flies!) but I had always kind of shrugged it off as "not my thing." Which is funny, because I apparently had a completely inaccurate idea of what this book was even about (I thought it took place in England. Or America.)

That said, over five years ago this probably really wasn't my thing. My thing was mostly YA and middle grade, usually focused on fairy tale retelling, fantasy, and magic. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is none of those things. It's a book about an adult woman in Botswana, Africa and the narrative meanders through multiple little mysteries while providing a local flavor and sense of place.

Honestly, while my reading focus has definitely shifted lately, I'm still not sure if this subject is my thing. But this book? Definitely my thing. Main character Precious Ramotswe has such an appealing voice and I had such a nice, relaxing time following along with her as she went about her life and investigated different mysteries. Precious is adept at coming up with clever ways to ferret out the truth of a situation and I was continually amused by her approach. I even shared a few of the stories with my husband.

A significant part of the book focuses first on Precious's childhood and father, meandering through this time period without much focus. I normally would have been bored and frustrated, but I liked the writing style and characters enough that I was actually really into it. The characters all come alive and it's easy to love and hate them as appropriate. It was also fun getting a glimpse into a culture and country I don't often read about. Eventually it gets to the mysteries and these read like multiple short stories rather than one overarching mystery.

Everything was wrapped up at the end, so if you want to read it as a standalone that's totally fine. I haven't read the other books in the series yet, but I do plan on reading at least one or two more. I don't know that I'd read the entire series (it's really long!) but I can see myself picking up another one when I'm looking for something like and sweet. I picked this one up completely unplanned, much like a checkout line impulse buy, directly after reading Helen's review, and I'm very glad I did.

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