Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Review: Isabella by Colin Falconer



Pages: 298
Released: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Lake Union
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Sometimes when I can't decide what to read next I pick a handful of books and do the "first chapter" test where I read the first chapter of each book and see which one hooks me. Isabella won out. I'm not even sure why, though it's possible the super short chapters helped (it's always easier for me to read a book with short chapters). I was also in the mood to read something historical, and I haven't read too many books yet on Edward II and Isabella so I was curious to learn more about them and their era of history.

I say I'm not even sure why because objectively this book is...not great. The writing style is strange and somewhat off-putting. It reads like an awkward translation with strange sentences and stilted writing. The characters are also thinly drawn and hard to connect with as a result. Most are barely there and interchangeable and I found myself keeping the barons straight by tagging on superficial reminders (oh yeah, he's the one who was nice that time, or he's the one whose her uncle). The main characters like Isabella and Edward were more fleshed out, but I think this was mostly due to the fact that we get to spend more time with them than because they're particularly deep or developed.

But, despite this, I was drawn in right away and continued to feel this way throughout the book. It kept my interest and I kept finding myself pulled back to it. 

As far as history goes, it all seemed pretty accurate. We trot through all the main events without ever going into much detail or complexity. But, it was a good surface-level run through of events and easy to follow, which isn't a bad thing.

Of course, with history like this, it's always colored by how the author chooses to interpret the characters and their motivations, personalities, and the "rightness" of their situations. In this case, Roger Mortimer is a one-note villain and very disappointing. Isabella and Edward, though, were both portrayed in a sympathetic though realistic light, which I found pleasantly surprising. Neither were pure heroes, and nor were they villains. They were both just people, flawed in ways, respectable in others, and both, in their own ways, likeable.

Perhaps this was the real strength of the book. Even though the writing made things distant and I still wouldn't exactly say there was great character depth in that they came alive off the page, their situations and feelings were told in such a way that I really felt for them both.

It was kind of like watching those docudramas where the narrator says things like, "It must have been terribly sad for Isabella..." or "We can only imagine how conflicted Edward must have felt..." (on a side note, I've been loving the docudramas narrated by the historical writers Suzannah Lipscomb and Dan Jones). Isabella's painful unrequited love and Edward's raw loss and unapologetic sympathy for Isabella took this book beyond the weird writing style, giving it a humanity and nuance that makes it stand out as among the better books I've read about these two people.



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Review: Mother Knows Best by Serena Valentino


Pages: 400
Released: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Disney
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

These books are wacky. I've now read three of these Disney Villain origin stories (Ursula, The Queen from Snow White) and I'm noticing a pretty consistent pattern. Basically:

Intriguing plot. I get hooked by these stories. I want to know what happens next. I wouldn't say they're well-plotted stories, since they're actually pretty ridiculous. But I can't help enjoying them.

So-so writing. The writing is pretty stilted. The dialogue is sometimes painful. I feel like I'm reading fan fiction.

Sympathetic villain. The origin stories turn the villains into saccharine sweet victims of horrible circumstances. It's a little much, but it's also pretty effective. I liked Gothel, I wanted her to win, and my heart broke for her every time her situation got worse and worse.

Side characters. There's usually at least one side character that's, if not fully developed, they're written in such a way that I care for them and enjoy reading about them.

Background story.  Serena Valentino has created three new characters that appear in each of these books. They're interesting, a little annoying, and I feel like I want to dislike them but can't help being intrigued by their side story. I want to trust them and like them, and I do, but then they go and do something that makes me question how good and trustworthy they actually are. I just want to know! We get glimpses into what they're up to and I just want to shake them and get them to tell me what's going on already (which is usually how the main villain character feels about them, too).

Bottom line?

I like these books. I roll my eyes and feel ridiculous and then I gobble them up. I'll keep reading this series.


 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Book Review: Titans of History by Simon Sebag Montefiore


Pages: 640
Publisher: Vintage (Penguin Random House)
Released: October 16, 2018
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 our of 5 stars
Goodreads

I adore books like this: short chapters (2-4 pages) focused on different people throughout history in a roughly linear romp through time. Filled with facts, bite-sized enough to easily speed through a few at a time, yet also short enough not to bog down or require commitment.

Surprisingly, good versions of these types of books are fairly hard to come by. Sure, you can grab a million different "short history snippet" type books, but so many fall into one or more of the following pitfalls:

1. The author is trying too hard to be funny, usually resulting in slightly mocking writing that puts down those who tend to like history while failing to be witty enough to entertain those who don't like history.

2. The snippets are so short and the author leaves out crucial information or lumps everyone into caricatures that leaves the reader with a complete misunderstanding of people and events.

3. Overblown sensationalism.

4. Not enough meat to the chapters, so they end up making little sense unless you already know the historical figures or events.

Simon Sebag Montefiore managed to avoid all of these pitfalls. Not only that, but he also made each chapter interesting and engaging. Multiple times I'd get to a historical figure and I'd think, "I don't think I care about this person enough to bother reading their chapter," but then the "it's only 3 pages" voice would chime in and I'd give in and read the chapter. And I'd find myself fully enthralled and wanting to jump to Google and start searching for more information on the historical figure and their time period. Which, really, is what this type of book is supposed to do.

This is the first printing in the US, but was previously published in the UK. Some new chapters have been added and some chapters removed for this US version. Looking at the UK version, there may be more removed than added, but I'm not positive. I do miss some of the missing chapters and I wonder why they were slated for removal. As with all of these types of books, some of my favorites in history weren't included, whereas others I wouldn't have necessarily picked were included. Not a big deal either way. Some author bias also comes through (he asserts in no uncertain terms that Richard III did indeed murder his nephews), but, again, it's not awful.

While I tend to prefer reading about Western figures, there are a number of Middle Eastern and Asian "titans" included, which admittedly did help broaden the scope of history and put all of those European doings into a greater world context (ala "meanwhile, in China..."). 

Bottom line

Nicely done, Mr. Montefiore. Nicely done.

Now, let's work on getting a better cover, please.


 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Bright Burns the Night by Sara B. Larson


Pages: 307
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: May 29, 2018
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

So, technically this is book 2 in a duology and I have not read book 1. I don't think that really matters, and it's not the reason why I ended up dropping so many stars.

Up until about two thirds of the way through this was a solid 3.5 star read. Nothing amazing, but it had that something special with the characters that made me care about seeing what happened to them. The romance had all the right sparks (hate turned love) and there was enough treachery and menace to the world to keep my heart pounding.

Until it didn't. The final third of the book saw the characters leaving the slow-build safety of their castle and venturing out on a quest. Should be awesome, right? Except, no. It felt like the first two thirds were fully fleshed out and, if not well-written, at least written in a way that was engaging and fun. I felt nostalgic for the good old days of YA paranormal/fantasy romance.

That final third, though. It felt like the author ran up against a deadline and needed to wrap things up STAT. Everything went off the rails ridiculous, which I could have even tolerated, but it was all so thin. I felt like I was reading a framework of a story instead of the actual published book.

Bottom line

I would have enjoyed this so much more had the ending not rushed everything and fallen apart in the process. What a shame.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Review: The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece by Jonathan W. Stokes


Pages: 144
Publisher: Viking
Released: September 11, 2018
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

This marks the third edition in the Thrifty Guide series, with each book focusing on a different era in history. So far I'm 2/3 with this series (I didn't like the American Revolution one very much), which isn't too bad. I still don't care for the time travel gimmick, but this time I pretty much just skipped over reading any of those parts and I didn't miss anything.

The rest is pretty much straight non-fiction, exploring everything from famous people, aspects of culture, major achievements, and significant events. So many facts were crammed into this slim book, but it was never bogged down or boring. Each fact is broken up into bite-sized pieces and described in an easy-breezy way that made for light, fun reading. For all the time it took me to read the book (not much time at all) I learned or brushed up on a whole lot of information.

Recommended. I'm looking forward to the next installment: Medieval Times!


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Book Review: Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham


Pages: 323
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Released: June 1, 2012
Received: Own
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I enjoy Susan Higginbotham's novels. In this one, we get to see the events surrounding Edward VI's reign and death, Jane Grey's short-lived reign, and Mary I's rise to the throne. I've read about this period before, but never through the eyes of Jane Dudley and Frances Grey, the mothers of the ill-fated Guilford Dudley and Jane Grey. Chapters alternate between these perspectives, breathing new life into this period of history and definitely contributing to my enjoyment of the book.

Were they both as innocent of social climbing as Susan Higginbotham makes them out to be? Maybe. Their treatment by Mary seems to imply that they weren't the schemers many books make them out to be.

While both of the mothers were sympathetic, it was hard to like Jane Grey. I've seen her portrayed as an innocent victim and as a snooty religious fanatic, and her portrayal here is sort of a mix between the two. Her youth is frequently brought up and it is important to remember how she was still young and learning. But, she's still really annoying. Almost so annoying that when she died it was all I could do not to feel happy about that.

I also liked how Susan Higginbotham didn't cast either Mary or Elizabeth as a villain. Both women were made out to be good-hearted, if not always making the best choices. Elizabeth plays a very, very minor role, but Mary has several scenes and I found myself looking forward to reading them. I'd enjoy reading a Mary-focused book, if the author ever chose to write one.

What I like about the books like this that focus on a real person, but not one of the Major Players is that I tend to connect even more dots between historical figures. The relationships and social positions of the wives, their husbands, their rivals, and their children helped flesh out my understanding of how all of these people were connected and influenced events. I definitely feel like I've deepened my understanding of this time period.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Series Reviews: The Poor Relation & The Six Sisters

The Poor Relation Series
by M.C. Beaton (Marion Chesney)
5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf
Goodreads

I adored every minute of this series! Each book focuses on a different poor relation giving the reader the opportunity to get to know the character in a deeper way while giving the character the opportunity to learn and grow. While there is a sweet and swoony romance in each book, the romance is not always the main character's romance, and this kept the stories fresh and interesting. Each story also has a mystery that is fun, inventive, and not wholly predictable. While many of the romantic leads were somewhat one-note (though, it was a pleasant note), the Poor Relations were all fully fleshed out and enjoyable to read about (particularly Miss Tonks and Sir Phillip). I also consider it a plus that each book is only about 200 pages long, so they're super fast reads.


The Six Sisters Series
By M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney)
5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf
Goodreads

While I'd rate this series below The Poor Relation series, it's only a teeny, tiny little bit lower. The romantic leads have a little bit more personality than in The Poor Relation series, but only some of them and only so much. That's fine, but after reading 12 books like that, I was starting to get a little over it. That aside, the romances were still enjoyable and the storylines were engaging. There are three side characters who make appearances throughout the series and each were charming and amusing in ways that I found myself looking forward to their almost comforting appearances.

Both of these series are total cozy comfort reads that are easy to breeze through and sink into at the same time. I love that the books are small as it allows each story to be told in just the right amount of time without getting tedious, but the overarching series allowed me to really get to know the characters and their worlds. I was surprised but super pleased at how the author seems to delight in inserting historical details throughout the stories. This added an extra layer of depth I wasn't expecting from cozy comfort reads by teaching me historical things I didn't know in a way that felt like I was geeking out with a fellow history lover.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Book Reviews: Two Pooh-ish Books


The Little Book of Pooh-isms 
Pages: 216
Publisher: Disney Press
Released: July 3, 2018
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

It's hard to go wrong with Pooh, and this book is no exception. Though, it didn't exactly go right either. It's just kind of there. The book is separated into sections with themes like "Honey," and "Weather" and then each section is filled with quotes that are somewhat related to the theme. The quotes are nice enough, though a number of them did make me wonder why, of all the possible quotes, they chose to include those particular quotes. A number of them didn't stand very well on their own without any context, though taken together and especially with the nice illustrations the whole book does have that sweet, calm, whimsical feeling that Winnie the Pooh often evokes. There are also little one line comments underneath most of the quotes that add a little more depth, but still nothing profound.

There's an appendix in the back that tells you the original source material for the quotes. About 80% of the quotes come from the new movie, so it's pretty clear that this book is mostly just a cash grab on the franchise and a not-so-subtle advertisement for the new movie. I'm not sure how children would respond to the book and if they'd find it interesting. For adults looking for inspiring quotes, they're likely not going to find profound wisdom or quotes to savor and meditate on. It's mostly just a nice but forgettable book that could have been better had Disney put more effort into selecting the quotes. The book itself is pretty.
 

A Walk in the Wood by Dr. Joseph Parent & Nancy Parent
Pages: 185
Publisher: Disney
Released: July 10, 2018
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Pooh is surprisingly well suited to mindfulness, though at times the book felt forced. The book is broken into chapters, with each chapter having two sections: a section about Pooh going through his daily activities with a mindfulness spin, and a section that gives advice on how you can follow Pooh's actions and apply mindfulness in your own life.

The Pooh parts were nice. I could easily picture Pooh going about his business and for the most part these sections were easy to become immersed in. They were calming and inspiring and the Pooh connection was used to good effect. The "real life" parts were less well done and I could have done without them entirely. They're especially jarring at times when you jump from reading the Pooh parts that feel timeless to reading the "real life" parts with advice on how to select your trail mix if you have nut allergies and other very modern things that didn't really fit in with the mindfulness theme (perhaps the author found their thoughts wandering and they need to gently bring their attention back to mindfulness).

I couldn't help but feel like this was another cash grab because mindfulness is "in" and there's a new Pooh movie coming out soon. But, it also kind of worked, so there's that. What it also did was make me appreciate the original Pooh books even more.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review: The League of the Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant


Pages: 320
Released: April 28, 2017
Publisher: Random House
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: DNF at page 160 (50%)
Goodreads

Well, I really wanted to like this book. I'd convinced myself that I would like this book because the cover art and the title were just so darn charming. Color me disappointed when the first half of the book was almost charming and almost engaging, but never quite got there. The main character was a sketch of someone I could care about, and the aunts were sketches of people I could find menacing and creepy, and the house was something I could almost find intriguing, but none of these things went past the potential for greatness into actually achieving greatness.

And then.

Then supernatural elements were randomly introduced about halfway through and the plot took a turn and I just wasn't prepared to get on board with this new direction. Maybe if I was already invested, or if there had been more to prepare me for those twists, but none of that was the case. The twists also weren't the type of twists that surprise, but rather just a totally different direction. I don't know, maybe it's just me (I don't like it when Plans Change), but it all seemed to come out of nowhere which made it feel tacked on and not like a cohesive story.

Sadly, this one isn't for me. I had such high hopes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Reviews: Cashelmara and Penmarric by Susan Howatch

Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
Pages: 720
Released:  1974
Received: Library, own
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Wow. Ok, so, on one level this book is set in the 1800s through 1900s and follows the de Salis family through three generations in both England and the United States. But, all of these characters and the events of their lives are a retelling of the lives of Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III. The surface level story is engaging, but what made me love this book was the historical parallel and seeing how Susan Howatch retold history in a way that created a full and original story but still stayed true to the events and characters of history.

Some scenes are searingly evocative (god, that starvation scene), but what really stood out to me were the characters. I felt for them, raged with them, despaired with them, and triumphed with them.  Historical events were reimagined in convincing and, while different, very similar ways. It almost felt like reincarnation where the events of the past are destined to replay themselves again and again.

This is a long book. The chapters are huge. Narration is first person, but the book is broken up into multiple sections and each section is narrated by a different character. The writing is, on the surface, just ok. But. I can't put my finger on exactly when or how, but all of a sudden I went from "This is nice and I'm interested in reading more" to "OHMYGOSH I'M INVESTED!" It's a slower build, but it does build into an all-encompassing powerhouse. Highly recommended.


Penmarric by Susan Howatch

Pages: 702
Released:  1971
Received: Library, own
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Most of everything I said about Cashelmara can be said about Penmarric. The writing is rich, the characters are real, and the parallels between the surface story and the history it retells are fascinating individually and together. Chapters again are large and narration again switches from one character to another.

Instead of the 1300s, the historical parallel here is Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their "devil's brood," including Richard the Lionheart and the evil King John. And, perhaps that was part of the problem for me. I entered this book with far more investment and knowledge of the historical time period than I did with Cashelmara. The characters here felt close to their historical counterparts, but less seamless. Janna as Eleanor was close, but not quite Eleanor. The nod to the Anarchy fell flat, as inheriting an estate after legal disputes just doesn't have the same level of flair and gravitas as fighting a civil war that tore apart England for over a decade has. Philip's obsession with his tin mines, while an interesting parallel, felt like a bit of a stretch from Richard's famous crusades. Events were also not quite as lockstep with history.

That said, I waver, because as much as I can't deny a sense of disappointment with all that, I still adored the book. As much as I might have felt disappointed with tin mines replacing crusades, I spent so much time pondering the historical nuances in the context of Susan Howatch's story that I gained an even greater appreciation for and understanding of those events in history. Her portrayal of John is, shockingly, one of the best and most humanizing portrayals of him I've ever read. He certainly wasn't likable, but finally he was no longer the two dimensional villain history usually portrays him to be (though Mark as Henry II felt far too villainous and without nuance or redeeming features).

So, again, it may not be quite right, but it did make me think about the real historical events and people with a greater depth. Even with my quibbles, I still thoroughly enjoyed Penmarric and highly recommend it.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Reviews: King Tut's Tomb


The Visitors by Sally Beauman
Pages: 529
Publisher: Harper
Released: July 18, 2014
Received: Library, now own
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

I can't pinpoint exactly what it was I found so enthralling about this book, but enthralled I undeniably was. The story is told through the eyes of a crotchety old woman remembering her days as a withdrawn young girl convalescing in Egypt with a wallflower view of Howard Carter's infamous discovery of King Tut's tomb. While our narrator is a fictional character, most of the other characters are real people, and their stories are all fascinating. Sally Beauman's immersive writing made the people, locations, and time period feel palpably real and I was fully invested in their lives. I spent hours and hours after finishing this book scouring the Internet for books, movies, and articles about the people, time period, and discovery. It's a shame I have little interest in the other books Sally Beauman has written, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


Valley of the Kings by Cecelia Holland
Pages: 215
Released: January 1, 1977
Received: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

This was such a bizarre book. The first half follows Howard Carter in the years leading up to and through his discovery of King Tut's tomb. This part is ok, and considering its short length I felt it was time well enough spent. Put this in context, though: I'd just come off the high of reading The Visitors and I was desperate to read more about this subject. Had that not been the case, I don't think I would have been very impressed. As it was, the two stars come from this section of the book, and they are a generous two stars.

The second half of the book abruptly throws the reader back in time. We entirely abandon Howard Carter, never to return to his story. Instead, the rest of the book is an incredibly fictionalized and sensationalized account of King Tut's reign. This section is oddly sexual, filled with murder, and, while mildly entertaining due to its sheer absurdity, was largely off putting. I only finished this because it was so short and, honestly, it evoked a morbid curiosity in me to see what in the world the author was going to write next.

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe


Pages: 400
Released: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Disney
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Ok, this may be dating myself, but when Dawson's Creek first came out there was all this buzz about how the characters all talked using this ridiculous vocabulary and convoluted, overly-pretentious sentences and sounded like pretty much no teenager ever. And it wasn't just the teenage characters, it was all the characters. They all spoke with one voice, and that voice was absurdly unrealistic.

And it was also kind of cool and part of Dawson's Creek's charm.

The same thing happens here. Every single character is an incredibly witty wordsmith and they all speak in exactly the same way. It's so far from realistic, but it's also a big part of why I started and continued reading. If the book hadn't been written in this style, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading it.

The second reason I enjoyed the book is the equally ridiculous 1990s teenage movie vibe where the characters have a mission and the whole school kumbayas in the end. There's even something called a Sermon Showdown. And the whole school gets in on it and it is drop-the-mic epic like when Kat reads her poem about the 10 reasons she hates Heath Ledger or when Laney Boggs walks down the stairs. Yeah. I'm simultaneously appalled and enthralled.

There were some pretty heavy topics like suicide and abusive relationships and drug use and, wow, yeah, now that I think about it this book is stuffed with a whole host of Very Special Episode topics. And it works about as well as it did when TGIF tried to smush together levity and Serious Issues. It works, and it also doesn't work at all. What did work for me were the very contrived but very aw-inducing friendships that were formed between the jock and the nerd and the jock, nerd, and curmudgeonly old man. See what I mean? Sooo predictable, trite, and ridiculous, but also, well, it works. 

I don't really know who this book is written for. It's filled with references and elements to totally resonate with someone who grew up in the 1990s (they even go to a video store), but does that work for actual teens now? I don't know.

Bottom line

If you're looking to fill that 90s teen rom-com void, then Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is a good pick. It's super long, but short chapters, punchy writing, and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink jammed in makes for a fast read. I enjoyed reading it, but I don't know that I'd reread it.






Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Book Review: The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods


Pages: 208
Publisher: Philomel
Released: May 15, 2018
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf
Goodreads

There are some books that are just magical, and this is one of them. Fairy tales can have this effect, if done right, where even though the story is short, the characterization is minimal, and every aspect of the plot doesn't always make perfect sense, there's just a special something that makes the story tug at my heartstrings and stay with me in a meaningful way. I care about the characters from page one in a hugely protective, almost visceral way. I'm invested in their story. The messages hit me in a deeply personal way. The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker has that magical quality.

It also doesn't hurt that the chapters are super tiny and every page is beautifully illustrated.

Highly recommended.


BOOK DESCRIPTION

Friendship and magical realism sparkle on the page in this heartwarming, delightfully eccentric illustrated middle-grade gem from an extraordinary new literary voice. Perfect for fans of A Snicker of Magic and The Penderwicks.

Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora's people.

Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto's kitchen, a door in the old man's heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too--but he's also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?

With a tender bond that calls to mind The Girl Who Drank the Moon, charming characters reminiscent of The Penderwicks, and the whimsy of A Snicker of Magic, this is a novel to curl up with, an extraordinary work of magical realism that makes the world feel like a warmer and happier place. Complete with dazzling interior illustrations, a gem from start to finish.


AUTHOR BIO

Matilda Woods (www.matildawoods.com) grew up in the small town of Southern Tablelands, Australia. She graduated from Monash University with a Masters of Social Work. Matilda splits her time between writing middle grade fiction and working as a youth social worker. The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker is her debut novel. She currently lives in the same small town where she grew up, with her four chickens, three dogs, two cats and one bird.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: Freya and the Magic Jewel

Freya and the Magic Jewel by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
#1 in the Thunder Girls series
Pages: 272
Publisher: Aladdin
Released: May 1, 2018
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I've been a long-time fan of Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams' Goddess Girls series and I've sampled a number of their other series. While I enjoyed their Grimmtastic Girls series, it wasn't quite at Goddess Girls levels and I only toe-dipped in their Heroes in Training series (for a slightly younger audience). That isn't to say the other series aren't good, but rather to say how awesome the Goddess Girls series is.

And now we have the Thunder Girls series, focusing on Norse mythology instead of Greek. I knew I would like these books, but even my expectations were blown away and I adore this series! It's right up there with the best Goddess Girls books and I hope we see just as many books in this series (20+ and counting) because I will read every one of them and hand them out to all my little library patrons.

This first book in the series focuses on Freya as she starts a new school. Coming from a different land, Freya has a tough time settling in and making friends. Homesickness, feeling different, worrying about fitting in, and so on, her feelings are easy to relate to at any age and developed in a realistic way throughout the story. Freya's quest to find her missing necklace added in a dash of adventure.

As in the Goddess Girls series, the world created her is inventive and reading about the magical charms, school, and daily life are highly entertaining, especially if you're a reader who likes world building. It was fun, particularly in this first book, getting to know all the new characters, seeing their personalities unfold, and wondering what parts they'll play in future stories.  

Highly recommended for fans of Goddess Girls, Norse mythology, and sweet books with a happy mix of friendship, inventive mythology adaptations, a smidge of romance, and a big helping of adorableness. Readers who are already fans of Goddess Girls can safely add this series to their auto-buy lists.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Pages: 320
Released: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Penguin
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

I was hoping for a spooky, twisty Gothic thriller and that's exactly what I got. Creeping, menacing supernatural happenings stalk Elsie and the terror builds steadily until the shattering climax and the final, horrifying ending. This is in no way a feel-good book, but it is a fabulous read for chilly winter nights or Halloween.

The story alternates between three different time periods: Elsie after the climax, Elsie leading up to the climax (both in the 1800s), and an older series of events set in the 1600s that provide insight into the supernatural happenings Elsie battles against. All three sections were gripping and the slow unraveling of information was well spun across these sections.

A part of me does wish everything had been explained a little more. In the broad strokes, the story is immersive, gripping, and satisfying. If I start to think more deeply on events, however, I come away with questions and some events that are only tenuously explained. But, really, that doesn't matter and didn't impact my enjoyment at all. I don't mind a little unexplained happenings in supernatural stories, and that does seem to be par for the course in Gothic novels to an extent.

Bottom line

Highly enjoyable. I am looking forward to reading more from Laura Purcell.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis

Pages: 368
Released: October 1, 2013
Publisher: NAL (Penguin)
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

A dual era mystery with touches of romance and long-hidden family secrets should have been the perfect book, but perhaps suffers in comparison to books I've read previously. The Secrets She Carried had so many elements in common with my beloved Tradd Street series (Southern setting, the gorgeous writer male lead, and the prickly female lead) and I think that worked against it. I couldn't help but compare the two, and Secrets just didn't measure up.

The mystery was extremely predictable, and so the unraveling of it had less desperate "I need to find out what happened!" and a lot more "finally" when it was all revealed. Still, it's a dual era mystery with shades of history and a slower burn romance, so despite my frustrations with the similarities and less-than-inspiring mystery, I did still enjoy it.

As often is the case for me, I liked the historical sections more than the modern sections, though I think in this case part of that had to do with the way each section was written. The modern sections are third-person past-tense, whereas the past sections are first-person present-tense. I wish they had both been first-person past-tense and I think the writing style hindered my immersion and enjoyment. The characterizations in the historical sections were a lot richer and it was easier to become invested in the heroine and loathe the villainess.

Bottom line

I'd give it a solid good. I'll probably find myself picking up another book by this author at some point.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Book Review: My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley


Pages: 372
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Candlewick
Released: February 8, 2018/May 8, 2018
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Here's the thing, I really don't like reading about Queen Victoria. There are certain historical figures I adore and just click with (Marie Antoinette, Mary I, Cleopatra), and others that I have a really hard time getting on board with. Victoria falls solidly in the latter camp. Even Carolyn Meyer couldn't get me to like her.

So Lucy Worsley has done what I had previously believed was impossible and made me actually like Victoria. Or, well, not quiet. But she wrote a book about Victoria that I was able to really like. I still don't like Victoria.

How did she pull it off? In part because of a narrative approach I usually dislike: the "through the eyes of a servant" narration. More points to you, Ms. Worsley. In this case it really worked. Victoria's irritating personality was tempered by the fact that she wasn't the main character and that Miss V is fully aware of how annoying Victoria can be.

And, finally, for the third "usually I hate this, but Lucy Worsley made me like it" thing that happened...well, I can't tell you about it. It would be a spoiler. I'll say there's a historical twist that isn't true, but gosh do I wish it was. I imagine this is something that readers are either going to love or hate. Usually I would hate it because It's Not Real, but I wish it was real so much that I'm giving it a pass.

Anyway, chapters are short, the narrative is easy breezy, and the characters are sufficiently real that I cared about them. Miss V slowly comes to realize and come to terms with the people surrounding her and all their shades of grey. I really enjoyed this aspect and my heart broke for her as the people around her were hurt by the system or orchestrated the system. Miss V's shifting feelings regarding her father, his role, and his character was devastating. 

I appreciated the small details that were added in that gave the story depth and a sense of place and people. I didn't know until after I had finished the book that Lucy Worsley is a historian, and a fun one at that. A ton of her documentaries are available on Youtube and I've since spent many happy hours watching them.



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review: Two Modern Austen-Inspired Stories

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Pages: 320
Released: December 2009
Publisher: Egmont
Received: Library
Age: Middle Grade
Rating: 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was light, fun, sweet, charming...all those words that describe that kind of book I seek out when I just want something nice to read. There was just enough relationship drama (friendships, family) to make this engaging and touching without being annoying.

Polly's love of all the classic kindred spirit books (think Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen's hits, etc.) made everything extra endearing and I loved every reference she made to all my own well-worn favorites. Her tendency to ape the social norms and ways of speaking during those times was spot on and definitely one of the things I loved about this book. The fact that she works in a family-owned bakery was icing on the cake (yes, yes, I know, that's a terrible pun but I just couldn't avoid it). Highly recommended, especially if you love books like The Penderwicks, any of the above mentioned classics, Keeping the Castle, or Stephanie Kate Strohm's books.

  
Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
Pages: 286
Released: June 2009
Publisher: Razorbill
Received: Library
Age: Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I'm mixed on this one. On one hand, the main character was super annoying and could not stop pushing her modern ways of thinking on everyone and then getting hugely offended with them when they held beliefs in line with their time period. The pride, prejudice, and jumping to assumed conclusions that Jane Austen cautioned about in her original story were definitely Lessons to Learn for Callie. She was just behaving so stupidly and rudely, and even if she was ultimately right in some ways, her methods made her wrong, wrong, wrong.  It was painful to watch her blunder around like a bull in a china shop.

And yet, this was still a fun, light time travel story with romance and balls and dresses and endearing friendships and a hint of sweet romance. So. I'm a sucker for all that and despite Callie's groan-inducing moments, overall this was exactly the light, sweet, forgettable-but-enjoyable romp I was hoping it would be.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

DNF Explanation: Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Pages: 313
Released: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books (Penguin Random House)
Received: E-ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
DNF: 31%

Jennifer Ashley is probably better known for her romance novels, but she does branch off occasionally and that's when she piques my interest. My one experience with her was her historical fiction take on Elizabeth I and I was pretty impressed with her storytelling, characterizations, and historical detail. So I had high hopes for Death Below Stairs.

The good? Just like in her Elizabeth book, Jennifer Ashley focuses on a historical craft and brings it wholly to life. In the Elizabeth book it was fashion and sewing, but in Death Below Stairs it's all about the food. The main character serves as the cook in a fancy British house ala Downton Abbey and the descriptions of the dishes she makes are detailed and divine. Honestly, I would have enjoyed the book if it was entirely about the cooking. The Downton Abbey feel of the upstairs, downstairs relationships and the big house was charming and thoroughly enjoyable.

So why the DNF? Mainly two reasons: I didn't like the main character and I didn't like her romance. The character of the main character didn't ring true to me and she was far too Strong Female Character for her own good. In an early scene she boldly sasses the master of the house while standing in defense of one of the servant girls who he occasionally likes to get handsy with. Now, don't get me wrong, she was in the right and the master of the house was very much portrayed as the Villain of the Piece, but it all felt so contrived. She also ran off half-cocked, which is behavior that would be more likely to get her fired than not. Which, a woman in her position would know and therefore not likely behave in such an eye-roll-inducing way. I know these traits are supposed to make us root for her, but it really just made me shake my head at her and find her off-putting and not realistic.

And then there's the romantic lead. He's a scoundrelly guy with Secrets who engages in work that isn't exactly above board. He has a network of spies and secret handshakes and disguises and he felt like such a contrived caricature and I just could not care less about him. He and the main character apparently have a history together, which is hinted at very strongly (which, really, the purpose was to hamfistedly direct the reader to the prequel novella) and yet he keeps so many secrets from her. I imagine this is supposed to make him seem dangerous and mysterious and therefore alluring, but I feel like I'm too old for that crap and I just want him to cut the childish games and be trustworthy, honest, and stable for her.

To be fair, much of this is simply a case of "wrong reader" as opposed to any real flaw in the book. The romantic lead is very much the adult version of the Dickensian street scamp, and that's a character I tend not to like very much.

Anyway, then, underneath all this, there is a murder mystery. I was interested in following this part of the story, but between the unappealing main characters and historically unrealistic vibe, I found it hard to stick with the story.

Bottom line

Readers who click with the main character and romantic lead should find enjoyment with Death Below Stairs. There are a lot of elements here I can get on board with and I want to love this series, but I think it's probably just not for me.




Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Reviews: Merrie Haskell

I reread The Princess Curse at the end of 2017 and I remembered how much I loved the book and how I had shunned Merrie Haskell's two follow up books because they weren't the longed-for sequels to The Princess Curse. I know, I make strange reading decisions.

I decided to suck up my disappointment that they weren't sequels and give them a shot in their own right. And now I'm sad that they don't have sequels and that I don't have anymore Merrie Haskell books to read. At this point, she's an auto-buy author for me.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers 
Pages: 336
Released: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Let's see...beautiful imagery, a scrappy band of friends, dragons, legends, subtle nods to The Princess Curse and touching lessons learned. Plus, magical horses. And a creepy dash of Blue Beard. There's so much packed into this slim book that it's hard to describe everything and do it justice. Merrie Haskell has a knack for referencing a zillion different stories while creating a story that is wholly her own. The result is a multi-layered treasure hunt and a story with texture and depth. Highly recommended.
 

The Castle Behind Thorns
Pages: 332
Released: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I put this book off because I thought it would be boring. And, granted, it is a slower book. There isn't a ton of action. There's a lot of slow unraveling. The slower pace is a positive thing though and it isn't a boring kind of slow. It's a quiet, peaceful kind of slow. More like Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood. The characters in this book needed to heal, and that is a process that takes time. The emotional healing of the characters ran parallel with the slow mending of the broken castle and made for a lovely, touching story. A book to sink into, savor, and let it work its slow-burn magic.

 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DNF Explanations: Path of Fate and Haven

Path of Fate by Diana Pharoah Francis
ARC from NetGalley
Goodreads

I originally added this series to my TBR because it was recommended for readers who like the Firekeeper series by Jane Lindskold. Mostly I'm guessing the link between the two is because they both have human main characters who are able to speak to animals. Maybe there's more of a connection?

What I do know is that the political system of the Firekeeper series is interesting, and the political system in Path of Fate was annoying. Firekeeper's felt like the world was created for the story. Path of Fate feels like the world and story were created for the author to send a thinly veiled message about the real world. And I don't want that. So, DNF.

Haven by Mary Lindsey
Finished copy from publisher
Goodreads

I feel guilty about DNF-ing this book. It came, unexpectedly, with a fancy package filled with confetti, a mug, candy, and other treats. So, in deference to materialism, of which I am always a sucker, I dropped everything and started reading Haven.

Unfortunately, Haven was written a few years too late for me. Had this been written during the Twilight craze, Haven would have been a smash hit. The characters are generally good people and it was easy to care about them. There's a heavy dose of "lost puppy, adoptive loving family" syndrome, and I'm a sucker for that. The paranormal aspects were typical, but in a good way. The teen angst was heavy, including a fairly prominent romance that would have likely had me swooning ten years ago.

Maybe I'm too old for this story. Maybe the Twilight craze is too far in the past. Whatever the reason, Haven seemed like a good book that I have generally positive feelings for and very little interest in actually reading at this point in my life. Readers who are still searching for the next Twilight should definitely check out Haven.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

DNF Explanations: YA and MG


Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie
Released: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 62 of 360 pages
Goodreads

Well, I'm not sure if I'm disappointed I won't be reading more of this book or relieved that I found out now and not after more hours of reading.

I flew through the first 62 pages and I had every intention of finishing the book. I figured it would be a solid 3 or 3.5 star read: good, enjoyable, but nothing spectacular or something I'd reread. Still, I was enjoying the pacing and tension of uncovering the mystery.

And then I came across some low star Goodreads reviews with spoiler tags. And I clicked on them. And...I decided to DNF. The big reveal just seemed disappointing and not something I'd like, which makes the time spent with the book not really worthwhile. I can deal with a meh reveal if the characters and story leading up to that are still engaging and stand on their own, but after 62 pages, my impression of the characters was that they weren't going to become anything more than a vehicle for the mystery.

So, DNF.


The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Released: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 6 of 320 pages
Goodreads 

Chalk this one up to wrong book, wrong reader. I had high hopes: cute cover, fun premise, middle-grade adventuring...recipe for success. I didn't expect a writing style that grated on my nerves enough to make me put the book down with only a microscopic smidgen of regret. The characters and story felt stock, the writing serviceable at best, and everything had a very phoned in, paint-by-numbers kind of feel. No heart. Oh well, c'est la vie. Onto the next book!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn


Pages: 419
Released: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Received: Own, won
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I've carted this book through three moves and before moving a fourth time I figured it'd be in my back's best interest to decide if this was worth schlepping again.

So is it? Eh, yes and no. I have access to e-copies through the library, and that's enough "ownership" for me. Now that I've read my paper copy, I think I'll trade it in at the local used bookstore for something else.

But that isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book. The premise is so different and engaging. I was hooked over the entire 400+ pages. The chapters are also tiny, which always helps. 

The mystery starts out with trying to figure out what happened to Annaliese, why she disappeared for a year and where she spent that year since her memories of that time are gone. Once that mystery starts unfolding, then another more paranormal mystery takes shape. Then as that mystery starts revealing itself, the mystery of what is Annaliese going to decide to do captured my interest. Each mystery was engaging and flowed seamlessly into one another, which kept the momentum of the overall story up and my interest never flagged.

While that is a lot of stuff and makes up for a good bit of the massive 400+ pages, there's also a lot of people drama mixed in filling up a lot of those pages. The parts with Annaliese's family had me hook, line, and sinker. Probably because I'm a sucker for heart-felt family stuff that feels secure and fluffy and loving. There a fierce love that felt palpable and gut-wrenching and good.

And then there was the romance, and that paled in comparison. It felt tacked on as the Required YA Romance, and while I fully admit I'm the kind of reader who generally wants a touch of romance in everything and whines when it's not there...I could have done without it here. Also, the teenage high school drama (friendship, mean girl, ex-boyfriend, new boyfriend, yada yada) was boring.

Part of me thinks this is because I'm old and not a teenager, and therefore also not the target audience. Part of me thinks it's because those sections were more filler and slowed down and interrupted the paranormal and mystery aspects of the storyline. Part of me thinks they were kinda necessary too though. So, maybe it would have been better if they had been kept in, but trimmed a little.

Bottom line

At one point I was tempted to just give this book away without reading it (cover judged it, still don't like the cover), but I'm glad I didn't do that. I'm glad I read this book. It was different, engaging, and touching. The paranormal bits weren't the typical thing, and I was overall satisfied with them. But, now that the mysteries are over, I'm ok with letting it go.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Reviews: Thrifty Time Travelers series by Jonathan Stokes



The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome 
Pages: 127
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Released: January 30, 2018
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

Let's see...
  • Fast paced
  • Short chapters
  • Ancient Rome
  • Tons of facts
Yep, this is a perfect book for me. It was no surprise that I loved this book. It really is a nice guide, touching on everything from dress, to technology, inventions, roads, politics, major events, people, places, problems and entertainment. Some things were a little cleaned up (it's hard to do Caligula for middle grade readers without leaving stuff out), but I don't think that gave a skewed impression of anything.

There's some light humor and everything is themed around the "thrifty guide" idea. This book is supposed to be a time travel guide produced in the future where a pretty shady sounding overlord runs the world and sells time travel packages. It's zany, kind of cute, kind of annoying, and easy to ignore if you just want to focus on history.

The book is interspersed with various asides (like pictures showing what you should wear if you want to blend in) that were enjoyable and helped create that "I'll read just one more section" feeling that I love. This was a fun book to introduce kids to ancient Rome, but also fun for me as an adult already familiar with ancient Rome. Recommended. 

*I need to take a moment to rave again about Jonathan Stokes' Addison Cooke series. It's funny, fast, filled with adventure, and just plain fun.


PUBLISHER'S BOOK DESCRIPTION

THRIFTY GUIDE TO ANCIENT ROME
 
Like a middle-grade Magic School Bus, the Thrifty Guides take readers on funny and informative trips to the greatest moments in history!
The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:
  •     Where can I find a decent hotel room in ancient Rome for under five sesterces a day? Is horse parking included?
  •     What do I do if I'm attacked by barbarians?
  •     What are my legal options if I'm fed to the lions at the Colosseum?
Designed as a parody of Fodor's, complete with humorous maps, reviews of top attractions (Julius Caesar's assassination is a must-see!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Hannibal, assuming he doesn't kill you). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.



The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution
Pages: 160
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Released: January 30, 2018
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: DNF
Goodreads 

Yikes! Well, there's only so many mistakes and inaccuracies I can take. So, DNF.

PUBLISHER'S BOOK DESCRIPTION

THRIFTY GUIDE TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION


Like a middle-grade Magic School Bus, the Thrifty Guides take readers on funny and informative trips to the greatest moments in history!

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:
  •     Where can I find a decent hotel room in colonial New England? Are credit cards accepted?
  •     How can I join the Boston Tea Party without winding up in a British prison?
  •     What do I do if I'm being shot at by a cannon?
Designed as a parody of Fodor's, complete with humorous maps, reviews of places to stay and top attractions (Don't miss Paul Revere's midnight ride!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Alexander Hamilton, naturally). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.



AUTHOR BIO

Jonathan Stokes (www.jonathanwstokes.com) is a former teacher who is now a rising star as a Hollywood screenwriter. He has written screenplays on assignment for Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, Paramount, New Line, and Sony/Columbia. Inspired by a childhood love of The Goonies and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jonathan wrote his first novel, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas, published by Philomel in 2016. Born in Manhattan, he currently resides in Los Angeles, where he can be found showing off his incredible taste in dishware and impressive 96% accuracy with high fives.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


#2 in the Winternight Trilogy
Pages: 363
Publisher: Del Rey
Released: December 5, 2017
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I love it when a sequel lives up to the level of the first book in the series. I adored The Bear and the Nightingale, and while there were a few loose ends, it could have easily ended as a standalone. So, when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I sighed and kind of wished the publisher would leave well enough alone. I was expecting the sequel to be a pale imitation and leave me wishing I too had just left well enough alone and stopped reading after the first book.

Thankfully, my worries were for nothing. The Girl in the Tower has the same magic and storytelling charm and I am so, so glad I picked it up. The same blend of fantasy, folklore, and history that worked so well in the first book continues to work well here. The chapters continue to be on the longish side, but that is also still not a problem for me. I flew through this book and had to force myself to read slower and savor the story. The characters continue to be likable, and while they still aren't hugely deep (fairy tale!), Vasya's storyline allows for more depth of character as we watch her try to come to terms with who she is and what she wants, and does not want, from life. 

Bottom line

Readers who enjoyed the first book should enjoy the sequel just as much. Katherine Arden has a gift for storytelling and her words and tales are enchanting. I cannot wait for the third book.








Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 Library Challenge



Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2018 Snagged at the Library Challenge
Previous Hosts: Geeky Blogger's Book Blog (in 2016)
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: Books from my libraries 


Why I'm Interested:  

I recognize that there's a use it or lose it factor to libraries, and while I want to focus some attention on these books, I don't mind if they don't make up the bulk of my reading. Still, I'd like to participate in this challenge to bring some awareness to the books I have available to me through my library.



Books Completed:

5.
4.
3.
2. Queens of England by Norah Lofts
1. The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals by Jordan Stratford (audio)



Books DNF'ed:

2.
1.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Read My Own Books Challenge


26/12 books


Challenge Basics: 
Name: Read My Own Damn Books Challenge
Previous Hosts: Estella's Revenge
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: Books you own prior to 2018.
Levels: I'm going to try to read and/or DNF and get rid of 12 books I own.

Why I'm Interested:  

I seriously have too many books and they keep sitting on my shelves unread. I did this challenge in 2015 and ended up getting rid of almost all the books I read for the challenge, which means I've carted around and found room for all those books that I didn't even end up liking. Before I move again, I need to reevaluate the books I'm bringing with me and make sure they're books I actually want.

Some books I'm considering: 

Anything on my Own-Unread shelf that I acquired prior to 2018.

At the start of 2018, here's where I stand as far as what books I own and what percentage of them I've read:

31% Acquired in 2016
17% Acquired in 2015
32% Acquired in 2014
50% Acquired in 2013
39% Acquired in 2012
75% Acquired in 2010-2011
83% Acquired in 2008-2009
85% Acquired in 2003-2007
96% Acquired in 2002 and earlier


Books Completed:

23. The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham (2013)
22. When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (2013)
21. Queen Defiant by Anne O'Brien (2016)
20. Her Highness the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham (2016)
19. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (2017)
18. Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley (2017)
17. A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody (2016)
16. Amy Snow by Tracy Rees (2017)
15. Valley of the Kings by Cecelia Holland (2017)
14. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (2017)
13. The Magic Mirror by Susan Hill Long (2017)
12. The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley (2017)
11. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (2017)
10. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (2017)
9. The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy (2015)
8. Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede (2016)
7. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard (2017)
6. Penmarric by Susan Howatch (2017)
5. Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn (2012)
4. Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy (2015)
3. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (2017)
2. The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stokes (2017)
1. My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley (2017)



Books DNF'ed:

4. The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant (2015)
3. The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark (2017)
2. Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie (2016)
1. The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes (2017)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge


42/15 books

Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Hosts: Passages to the Past
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: YA and adult historical fiction books. Non-fiction included.
Levels: I am going to try for 15 books

Why I'm Interested:  

Historical Bio: These are the weightier, meatier books that I want to make top priority. They go into detail about actual people and events and I'll learn the most from them. I've thrown in the non-fiction books onto this shelf, too. I've been toe-dipping into non-fiction, and I'd like to continue that toe-dip.

Historical Fantasy: These vary as far as actual historical learning goes. Some have a ton of historical detail, but most just use a historical setting. Some of my favorite books come from this shelf and I don't want to neglect them just because they're not heavy historical fiction.

Historical Lite: These are a lot like the books on my Historical Fantasy shelf, just without the fantasy elements. Usually they're mysteries or romances set with a historical backdrop of varying degrees of detail. They're often easy breezy, fun books and I want to make sure I read them as well.


Books Completed:

Historical Non-Fiction

5.
4. The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece by Jonathan Stokes
3. Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll
2. Queens of England by Norah Lofts
1. The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stokes

Historical Bio (fiction):

12. Death of a King by P. C. Doherty
11. Isabella by Colin Falconer
10. The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
9. When Christ and his Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
8. Queen Defiant by Anne O'Brien
7. Her Highness the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
6. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
5. Valley of the Kings by Cecelia Holland
4. The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy
3. Penmarric by Susan Howatch
2. Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy
1. My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Historical Fantasy:

2.
1.

Historical Lite:

26. Deborah Goes to Dover by Marion Chesney
25. Penelope Goes to Portsmouth by Marion Chesney
24. A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander
23. A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
22. Belinda Goes to Bath by Marion Chesney
21. Emily Goes to Exeter by Marion Chesney
20. Frederica in Fashion by Marion Chesney
19. Diana the Huntress by Marion Chesney
18. Daphne by Marion Chesney
17. Dierdre and Desire by Marion Chesney
16. The Taming of Annabelle by Marion Chesney
15. Minerva by Marion Chesney
14. Back in Society by Marion Chesney
13. Colonel Sandhurst to the Rescue by Marion Chesney
12. Sir Philip's Folly by Marion Chesney
11. Mrs Budley Falls from Grace by Marion Chesney
10. Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by Marion Chesney
9. Lady Fortescue Steps Out by Marion Chesney
8. Camille's Story, 1910 by Adele Whitby
7. Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer
6. Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
5. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
4. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
3. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
2. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
1.The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley


DNF:

1.The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes

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