Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mini Review: Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer

Release Date: January 1, 2002
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers 
Pages: 240
Received: Library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

I'll declare my allegiance here and now, I am 100% Team Katherine. I loathe Anne (even if she does spell it with an e). I can't help but feel a sense of smug righteousness whenever it comes time for Anne to lose her head in whatever story I'm reading or watching (including this one).

Carolyn Meyer wrote Anne in a way where even my hard heart softened for her enough to feel a smidgen of pity. The girl sure did have a crappy family. Plus, I couldn't help but admire her drive to set the bar high and make it happen. But even a first person narrative (albeit a distant, cool, and not particularly exciting first person narrative) could not make me come around to Team Anne.

This account is short, (not so) sweet, and to the point. Anne talks a lot about wanting to be queen and she does sound determined, but there isn't a whole lot of meat to this tale and Carolyn Meyer really doesn't dig into the politics of the time. It's a good introduction and it's so short that Tudor fans really can't lose by adding this to their TBR.

As for the Young Royals series, this isn't a terrible addition, but it is by no means the best (check out The Bad Queen about Marie Antoinette for my personal favorite).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Have you read any sympathetic books about Anne? 

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mini Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Bantam 
Pages: 444
Received: Bought
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars overall with 4 stars for the end

The Winter Palace takes the "fly on the wall" approach to historical fiction storytelling. Instead of following Catherine the Great, I got to follow a fictional character whose life intersected with Catherine's. I'm not a big fan of this style, mostly because I want to read historical fiction from the perspective of interesting real people. I don't care about an author's fictional maid.

And Barbara was not a particularly interesting person. She wasn't very likable and her story wandered around, occasionally taking digressions I didn't care about at all. This made the book feel slower and dragging at points.

Barbara opens her tale with a bold statement about being a super spy, but I was never impressed with her spying capabilities. She seemed incredibly naive and not at all able to keep up with the political machinations of the real historical figures. Most of the book skirted around the periphery of Catherine, Russian politics, and her rise to power. I felt left out of a lot of the meat of Catherine's story.

As far as a history lesson cheat sheet, The Winter Palace was decent, but not spectacular. I definitely felt the difference between the Russian court and other European courts I've read about (mostly English and French). I don't feel like Eva Stachniak dug as deep into the nitty gritty details I want out of historical fiction, but this was a good foundation. Knowing little, I learned a lot. Had I known more though, I think the details would have felt pretty sparse. 

All that said, The Winter Palace is the type of book I needed to read to the end in order to get the full impact. It wasn't until the end, when Barbara came to an huge realization, that I realized just what the author had done and how powerfully she had managed to convey the ruthlessness, calculation, and cruel genius of Catherine. I don't think this would have hit so strongly had she chosen a first person narrative through Catherine's perspective. It reminded me a lot of the narrative trick Megan Whalen Turner pulls off in The King of Attolia.

Bottom line

So, while The Winter Palace was in some ways a big disappointment, in other ways it was a huge triumph. I'm very glad I read it, even though I still feel like I want to find a book to get to know Catherine better.

The book covers Catherine's earlier years before she became Empress and ends right as she gains power. There is a sequel, but The Winter Palace ends just fine as a standalone and I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel (BAD reviews).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tiny Reviews: Goose Girl & Keeping the Castle

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I'll say this knowing I'm eliciting gasps of horror: I did not love this book. I wanted to, very much, but I just liked it. I blame part of that because I listened to it on audiobook and, though it was a GREAT performance, listening to only 20 minutes a day during my commute made it feel sloooooow (much slower than it actually was, I'm sure, but we all know how I get along with slow books).

I'd like to try to re-read it at some point (read, not listen), because thinking on the story I did like it a whole lot and was invested and emotional in ways a person driving a car should perhaps try to avoid (Falada! *sob* Selia! Agh HATE HER!).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

I LOVED this book! Maybe not *quite* Special Shelf love, but pretty darn close (a toe on the Special Shelf?). It's a semi-spoofy semi-serious comedy of manners with a Gothic ribbon running throughout. At times Northanger Abbey-ish (my personal favorite Austen) and at times very Pride and Prejudicey, but always wholly its own. I adore the characters, the fluffy romance, the hilarious scenes, and the decrepit house. I want to do a re-read just thinking about it!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Have you read any of these books? 
What did you think of them?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tiny Reviews: Warrior & All Our Yesterdays

Sometimes I read a book and, love it or hate it, I just don't have all that much to say about it. I don't really like the idea of putting multiple reviews in one post (mostly because I feel like it makes my review index and post titles messy and I'm an obsessive stickler for organization), but I'm going to give it a shot now. 

Warrior by Marie Brennan

I immediately sought out more Marie Brennan books as soon as I finished A Natural History of Dragons (LOVE) and Warrior topped my list of "Want To Read." The blurb described it as basically two doppelgangers, one a witch and the other an assassin, living in a world where There Can Be Only One and so they need to try to kill each other. Awesome!

The book was good, but not as epically awesome as I was expecting based on that premise. The characters were likable, but flat. The action was promising, but never delivered any truly pulse pounding scenes. There was no romance, which is fine, but also a letdown. The world building was fascinating, though, and my favorite part by far. 

This is the first book in a duology, but it ends pretty well as a standalone. I like where things ended here and I'm content to leave it at that. 

Rating: 3 out of 5


All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

I DNF-ed this one at the 120 page mark and just barely had to hold back from tossing it across the room. The opening chapter was gripping and I had SUCH high hopes, but it was a downhill crash from there. Stereotypical characters abound and I am SO TIRED of authors who rely on shallow tropes. The time travel explanations were mushy at best, but I could let that slide. What I couldn't let slide was the tiresome, repetitive stupidity of the main character. The final straw was the author's "twists" that were at best amateurish and at worst almost insultingly obvious.  

Rating: DNF

Have you read any of these books? 
What did you think of them?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Books I Got

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for some of the books I've gotten in the past LONG TIME or so.

For Review

Shadow Throne
by Jennifer A. Nielsen

It's here!!! I'm so excited to read this book, but also super scared. It's the final book in the trilogy, so I really, really hope it ends on a high note. I LOVED the first book, but its follow up The Runaway King was a little bit of a let down. Fingers crossed The Shadow Throne brings back the magic.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

Killer Frost
by Jennifer Estep

I'm in a similar place with Killer Frost. It's the final book in a series that, while a favorite overall, was falling short in its penultimate installment. Either way though, I'm looking forward to spending more time with Gwen and co.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
by Karen Foxlee

This was such a surprise! It's a middle grade retelling of the Snow Queen. Usually I don't click with Snow Queen retellings, much as I always want to, but I loved this book.

Sent from Shelf Awareness



The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson

I've read this book already, but I read it before it came out and so by now I don't remember much outside of the broad strokes. I liked it a lot though, and I've been meaning to finish reading the series but time slipped away and then I didn't remember enough and then, well, now I need to re-read this book so I can finish the series.

I started my re-read and I'm about halfway through (for those who know, Elisa is hiding in that crevasse), but I've sort of stalled out. I'm still totally enjoying it, as much if not more than when I first read it, but I want to read something new and so I feel less invested.

So, are books two and three totally worth pushing through this reread?

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?

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