Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: Seven Kings of England by Geoffrey Trease

Pages: 164
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Released: Originally published 1955, re-released 2017
Received: Netgalley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I like non-fiction history books that are broken up into snippets that focus on different historical figures. I also like non-fiction that reads practically like a novel. I also like books with nice covers.

Well, two out of three isn't bad, and clearly it's the nice cover that Seven Kings of England lacks. I almost didn't download this from Netgally but then I saw that little "read now" button and for some reason the fact that I didn't need to wait was the final push I needed to commit to an impulse read.

I'm glad I did. His writing style was easy, enjoyable, and fun. Each section focuses on a different king, and they seemed to be chosen randomly based on the author's liking of them. The focus of each section was also random, though the flavor of each king's life was generally communicated with a linear narrative that highlighted selected facets of their lives. Nothing is super in depth, but it was all pleasant to read. There really wasn't a section I didn't enjoy.

I'm mentally adding Geoffrey Trease to my small but beloved group of historical non-fiction authors who I enjoy reading just as much as fiction (joining Thomas B. Costain, Robert Lacey, Carolyn Weber, and Dan Jones). He has a book about queens (or two books? It's not clear if it's a re-issue of the same book or two separate books) that I wish was available, though as of now I can't locate a copy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mini Reviews: Fluffy YA history and fashion

Confederates Don't Wear Couture by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Rating: 3.5 stars

Fun, fun, fun. This book had all the ingredients I needed for a light, fluffy, pick-me-up kind of book. I enjoyed the first book Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, but I think this one might have been even better. You also don't need to read the first book to enjoy the second (the only spoiler for the first book is who Libby ends up with romantically, and it's really no surprise in the first book).

Sassy gay best friend Dev is pretty much the reason for most of my enjoyment. He spends the entire book joyously reveling in crafting period-appropriate fancy dresses, appreciating the southern gentlemen in uniform, pining for quality coffee,  squealing in terror at the ghost, and coming to Libby's rescue repeatedly with sarcastic sympathy and pretty clothing. He was a delight.

I would happily read more books in this series, as long as Dev continues to steal the spotlight. Alas, I don't think more are planned.

The Time-Traveling Fashionista: On Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky
Rating: 3 stars

Overall, I liked this book and I plan on reading the sequels. I figured I should get that out right up front because there were a few things I was kind of meh on, but they clearly weren't deal breakers. So, the things I didn't love:

The pictures were...I don't know, kind of blah? So was the main character. She felt kind of distant, and I think that's because the writing just wasn't that great. There also wasn't any sense of urgency with the plot, which kind of just meandered along.

But, the pictures were also interesting to look at and they made for a really fast read because almost every other page has a picture of some sort on it. The chapters are also really tiny, so, again, super fast read. There were two side characters that really didn't play much of a role but I'm a sucker for the witchy, eccentric lady duo (think Hilda and Zelda in Sabrina the Teenage Witch or the two witchy aunts in Practical Magic) and these were fun. I wish they had more page time, but hopefully they will in the sequels.

I also learned a lot I didn't know about the Titanic, the famous people on the ship, and the fashions of the time. This in turn inspired an hours-long internet research binge after I had finished the book. Always a plus.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

#1 in the Royal Bastards series
Pages: 352
Released: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Disney
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a court story with a bunch of anachronistic and hard to like royal bastards. I was fully expecting to DNF after a few chapters of drunken lazying about with big chips on our shoulders. I even thought this was historical fiction with a ton of liberties.

Apparently I didn't pay much attention to the blurb? This is pure fantasy. There's about one chapter of the above before very quickly diving into murder, magic, mayhem and perilous flight. The entire book is spent on the road trying to get to a royal city while being pursued by murderous bad guys and running across creepy, deadly wildlife. Basically, it was non-stop action and the pages flew by.

The bratty bastards were also not what I was expecting. They were actually likable. Sure, they're very tropey (tough girl with a soft heart, geeky smart guy, good looking quiet warrior, guy-next-door, and kind princess who is more than she seems), but they were likable tropes. I enjoyed reading about all of them and I cared what happened to them. Plus, there's romance and it hit at all the right spots.  There were a few surprisingly emotional moments that added a level of depth.

The world building is pretty standard fare for medieval-ish fantasy. There aren't orcs and elves, but there are taverns, magic-users, and battles. There's a conquering history that has laid the groundwork for the current rebellion and while it's fairly thin on substance, it gets the job done. The magic is interesting enough and the Narnia-ish turn-people-to-stone magic is suitably horrifying. I liked the inclusion of the gross fantasy creature and I don't think you can go wrong with giant magic explosions (of which there were several). 

I'm wavering between a 3.5 and a 4 and I suspect that in a few months I'll have forgotten most of what happened, but I'm bumping it to a 4 because it was just plain fun. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

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