Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: “The Red Queen”

This month’s reading theme, “Month of Women,” has been exceptionally interesting, and introduced me to a lot of new female authors, books, and characters. The idea was, in honor of National Women’s Month, to read books for women, by women, about women. This week, I read Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction novel, The Red Queen.

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The Red Queen is the second in Gregory’s “The Cousin’s War” series, which follow characters throughout the infamous Cousin’s War in England in the Middle Ages. We read the first book, The White Queen, in January, and it was one of my favorite books of the challenge. The Red Queen had a lot to live up to, in my opinion, but Gregory hit a home run with her second book in the series! Where The White Queen followed the York queen Elizabeth Woodville, The Red Queen followed the founding mother of the opposing family, the Lancasters. Born as a cousin to the King of England, Margaret Beaufort was raised as a pious, regal young woman. She was forced married to a Tudor, and at the ripe old age of 13 birthed her only child, Henry Tudor, who would become heir to the throne of England. With usurpers and decades of battle, Margaret grows from a young mother dedicated to her “true king,” to a queen mother on the warpath to win her son the throne.

The Red Queen is absolutely fascinating. Margaret is a really powerful female lead, and one can’t help but allow their heart to go out to the woman who faces every misfortune on her rise to power. Unlike Elizabeth in The White Queenwho lives a rather fortunate life on her way to power, and needs to face a downfall, Margaret takes the opposite journey – struggling and desperate on her rise to power (or her son’s power), and finally successful later in her life. Gregory weaves a very successful and exceptionally interesting story, allowing readers to related to the character, feel for her disappointments, and enjoy her successes.

I found myself a bit distracted when reading this novel, trying to match up the timeline to that of Elizabeth’s story in The White Queen. Their stories run parallel to one another, and I feel like I can better understand parts of Elizabeth’s story by understanding Margaret’s. These novels tie together so neatly. Gregory’s historical edge is captivating. I am a fan of historical fiction, and her novels remind me of why. While reading her novels, I feel inspired to research the era and the families more completely. Elizabeth and Margaret are the grandmothers of the infamous king, Henry VIII, and great grandmothers to Elizabeth I. Margaret was the matriarch of the famous Tudor dynasty. I love that I learn while reading these novels, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

We’ve read the first of a few series during this book challenge, but this is the only time we’ve picked up a second book from a series. There is a reason – I have really enjoyed these novels, and find myself thinking about them well after they’re done (I even had a dream that I was watching the final battle of The Red Queen take place), and inspired to learn more.

So how about you? Did you read along? Have you read The White Queen or The Red Queen? Are you a Gregory fan? Share your thoughts about this novel!

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Week 30 Reading: “The Red Queen”

Wow! I can’t believe we’re onto our 30th book in the challenge! Even if you’re only reading along periodically, or simply collecting recommendations for future reading, I thank you for taking part in this reading adventure! This week we’re keeping with our “Month of Women” theme (book for women, by women, about women), and picking up Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen.

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The Red Queen is the second in Gregory’s The Cousin’s War series. We read the first book back in January (see: Book Review: “The White Queen”). If you haven’t read that one yet, I recommend you pick it up and catch up with the story before picking up The Red Queen

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished The White Queen in January!! Gregory has a way with storytelling, and infuses just the right amount of mystery, history, and magic in her historical fiction series. I hope The Red Queen continues on the path of excellence Gregory started with her first novel in the series! This novel follows the same story line told through a different point of view, and I just can’t wait to crack it open and get more of this series!

I hope you’ll join me this week! Remember, at the end of the week, you are encouraged to share your thoughts, arguments, criticism, or giddy feelings about any of the readings (and if you hate my opinions, you are free to let me know). We’re going for a “book club” atmosphere, and I hope you’ll join in the fun!

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “Paper Woman”

Well, this week was a lovely one spent visiting family, reading by the pool in the Florida sunshine while my parents chased my kids around, and feeling generally well rested and refreshed on some much needed vitamin-D (it’s been a long, gray, dreary winter). Speaking of reading by the pool…

In keeping with March’s “Month of Women” theme for March, this week I read Suzanne Adair’s historical fiction novel, Paper Woman.

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Paper Woman follows Sophie – a 33 year old widow living in Georgia during the American Revolution – as she faces redcoats, rebels, Native Americans, and dangerous Spaniards on an exciting journey from Georgia to St. Augustine, where she hopes to find the man who murdered her father. Sophie comes face-to-face with fear, love, and her true self, all while keeping herself, and her companions, alive.

What a great novel! Not only is it exceptionally well-written and a real page turner (I had a hard time putting it down), but Sophie is, quite possibly, my new favorite female heroine in a newer book. Contemporary authors have this desire to make their female characters either wilting flowers, or infallible, rough, tough women, and I always have a hard time relating to one or the other. Sophie is a wonderfully balanced combination of both. She is strong, determined, stubborn, and smart, but also sensitive and full of faults – characteristics I feel that any real woman can relate to. The supporting cast of mostly male characters are richly described and just as realistic, contributing to Paper Woman being one of those historical fiction novels that you can picture being based on real people and real events. They seem to come out of a journal entry, rather than a work of fiction.

Adair surely does her research. The historical backdrop is so acutely tuned and deeply developed – you feel like you have been there – seen the sights, smelled the smells, experienced the action first hand. The characterization of Sophie and her comrades, coupled with Adair’s well-defined setting makes this novel a joy to read. I may be a little partial to this novel – it has a great female lead, is about one of the most fascinating (in my opinion) periods in American history, and is historical fiction (my favorite genre) – but I think this one is a must read for sure. There’s enough romance for the romance readers, loads of history for the historian, and a female character that will make you either fall in love or feel empowered. The book is exciting to no end, and a wonderful way to learn facts about American history you didn’t know before (for example: I had no idea the Spanish were involved in the American Revolution – shame on me)! The best part, however, is that this book is the first in a series. You can count on seeing another of Adair’s Mysteries of the American Revolution Trilogy.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you can find this book in a really well formatted eBook version at the following sites (just click the links). You might also find a hard copy on one of these sites if you prefer a book in your hands (I usually do).

Amazon  |  Smashwords  |  Barnes and Noble  |  iTunes  |  Kobo

If you’re interested in learning more about the author, visit her website: http://www.suzanneadair.net – her blog is updated frequently, and her posts are always interesting, informative posts about the American Revolution (generally), and give an insight into her research process!

So what about you? Have you read any of Adair’s books? What are your thoughts? Do you appreciate a well-written female lead? Do you like American Revolution novels? Mysteries?

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Week 28 Reading: “Paper Woman”

Well, folks… it finally happened – I didn’t read a book in a week. With a final, two midterms, and traveling this week, I have gotten only about half way through Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale – and NOT because I haven’t found it interesting. It is a wonderful book, but I just ran of out time this week. Lame excuse, I know, but… it’s the truth.

I wouldn’t skip the ending if it weren’t for the situation surrounding the reading I had selected for this week. This week, I had planned to read a historical fiction book called Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair.

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This book was given to me by the author herself, award winning author Suzanne Adair! Because it was personally passed on to me, I want to put The Thirteenth Tale on the back burner to tackle this book. Paper Woman is a historical fiction mystery novel following a female character through the American Revolution, and fits in wonderfully with our “Month of Women” theme for March.

I hope you’ll read along! You can find the ebook version online at Smashwords.

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Book Review: “Justine”

I’m a little late with this review, having spent the weekend on a little mini-vacation in Maryland. This week, we finished up our February “Month of Romance” themed reading with Lawrence Durrell’s novel Justine.

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I’m not exactly sure what to say about this novel. It was… breathtaking. Durrell’s grasp on storytelling – on his characters and on the reader – make Justine a truly beautiful story, and a pleasure to read.

Justine follows a young writer living in Alexandria, Egypt in the 1930s. Though he is poor, he catches the attention, and love, of infamous socialite, Justine. His experiences with her, her husband, and his other (former? current?) lover Melissa tell such a mesmerizing story. More than the plot line, however, it is the way the story is told that makes it so captivating.

I have never read any author quite like Durrell. His words are beyond poetic – lyric and fluid, making me feel like I was floating through this novel, rather than reading it. Durrell’s writing brings to mind the feeling of sweltering in the hazy heat of summer, really setting the scene of Alexandria. You can hear the people on the street, and feel the heat wafting in the windows, and seem to sink into the sheets of the narrator’s bed. My memory of the book is almost like that of a vacation – lazy, fuzzy around the corners, like a lucid dream where you need to remind yourself that you are reading, not reminiscing.

This is a novel that I wish I had taken more time with. Because of my goal to read a book a week, I felt like I was rushing through the story, not giving myself enough time to truly absorb all the sights, smells, sounds, and sentiments of Durrell’s Alexandria. Had I more time, I would have read only a few pages in each sitting, then given myself time to process it, to steep in the incense that is Justine. Rushing through made me unable to give this book the justice I wanted to, and left me feeling like I owed the novel more than a quick read. When the time is afforded to me, I will work my way through the rest of The Alexandria Quartet. It is hard to describe what this book is about – it’s more about experiencing the emotions and sensations that go along with with Durrell’s words.

If you’re confused by this review, and think it leaves you lacking for a description, that is probably because this book needs to be felt, rather than told. I would urge anyone with need of a vacation to simply sink into Justine, and float along on Durrell’s story. Simply put: I loved this novel, and can’t wait to escape reality with Durrell again.

Well, how about you? Did you read along? Have you read any of Durrell’s novels before? What were your thoughts (or “feelings” might be a better word)?

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March Reading List

I can’t believe it’s time to release the March reading list!! 2014 seems to be flying by!

March’s theme is “Month of Women,” so we will be tackling books by women, for women, about women. I chose this theme in honor of the National Women’s History Month which takes place each year in March. I think we have a good selection, and I hope you’ll pick at least one (and hopefully more) to read along with me!

March 2 – 8: The Thirteenth Tale – Dianne Sutterfield

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The Thirteenth Tale came as a recommendation from my great friend Alyssa! The book is our fiction selection for the month, and the book description suggests that there is a mysterious story-within-a-story. The story follows two women authors, and will prove to be an excellent selection for our “Month of Women” theme. I bought this book at the used book store a few months, and have been anxiously waiting to crack it open!

 

March 9 – 15: The Paper Woman – Suzanne Adair

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The Paper Woman is a book I am very excited to read! I was given an ebook copy of the novel personally by the award winning author – Suzanne Adair (hi Suzanne!) – who is a very kind and interesting woman. The novel takes place during the American Revolution, and is the first in a series called the “Mysteries of the American Revolution Trilogy.” Historical fiction is my favorite reading genre, and a good mystery is great way to make history even more interesting! You may have a hard time finding this book, but you can easily get your hands on an ebook copy at Smashwords.

 

March 16 – 22: One for the Money – Janet Evanovich

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This book was given to me years ago by a good friend (who actually shares one character’s name: Joe Morelli). One for the Money is the first of a series about a female bounty hunter – Stephanie Plum – and is written by a bestselling female author – Janet Evanovich. It’s about time I read this novel, which has been sitting pretty on my shelf for over four years!

 

March 23-29: The Red Queen – Philipa Gregory

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The Red Queen is the second of the “Cousin’s Wars” series, the first of which we read in January (see: The White Woman). This is the first time we have read a book that is the second in a series, and I have to admit, I loved Gregory’s writing and story enough to want to pick up the second book! Another bestselling female author, writing historical fiction about a strong female character!

 

March 30 – April 5: Bossypants – Tina Fey

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Bossypants meets the themes for both March and April – it is a book by a woman (Tina Fey), and a comedy novel by a very funny woman (April’s theme is “Month of Humor”). I am a big fan of Tina Fey, and am very much looking forward to being entertained by her again through her book. I would watch anything Fey touches, and will certainly read her book!!

So there you have it, our “Month of Women” reading list! I hope you’ll choose one – or more – of the selections, and join in every week to not only read my reviews, but discuss your opinions and thoughts about the reading!

Happy reading!

 

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Week 26 Reading: “Justine”

This year is a bit of a milestone for My Year in Book Reviews! This week we are reading our last book for February’s “Month of Romance” theme, but it also brings about our 26th book – bringing us to the halfway point to tackling our goal of 52 books in 52 weeks!!

Congrats to everyone reading along!! We’ve had some great reads so far, and I’ve really enjoyed discussing the books with you! I look forward to 26 more excellent reads (well… 27 including this week’s book)! Thank you for reading along, and for visiting my blog and inspiring me to keep up with my goal!

ANYWAY….

This week we are tackling our final “Month of Romance” book, Justine by Lawrence Durrell.

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This book came as a recommendation from my mom, who gifted be with this entire series (the Alexandria Quartet) of lovely books about three years ago! This book is the perfect example of why I needed this book challenge – they sat on my shelves, untouched, for three years, while I focused on schoolwork and fueling my Netflix addiction (don’t judge me – I’m in recovery).

Justine is the first in the Alexandria Quartet, which are historical fiction novels. Here is the write up on the back of the book:

The time is the eve of the World War II. The place is Alexandria, an Egyptian city that once housed the world’s greatest library and whose inhabitants are dedicated to knowledge. But for the obsessed characters in this mesmerizing novel, their pursuits lead only to bedrooms in which each seeks to know—and possess—the other. Since its publication in 1957, Justine has inspired an almost religious devotion among readers and critics alike.

Sounds absolutely excellent! Great libraries, historical fiction, Egypt, WWII, possessing each other in bedrooms?? Seems like Justine will make a great closure to our “Month of Romance” and lead seamlessly into our “Month of Women” theme for March!

I hope you are reading along with me!

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February Reading List

Hey there, friends! I just finished off the February reading list, and wanted to release it so you had time to request books from the library, find books at the used book store, or get your ebook copies! February’s theme is “Month of Romance” (in honor of Valentine’s Day), and I think I’ve put together a great selection of books to get us in the romantic mood!

Feb. 2 – 8 – I Love You, Ronnie – by Nancy Reagan

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We’re going to kick off this romantic month with a recommendation. My amazing friend Haley recommended this book, which includes letters written by Ronald Reagan to his wife, Nancy. The book covers the breadth of their relationship – from the acting days, to the presidency, and beyond. Haley claims Ronald Reagan is “the most romantic man ever.” It will be fascinating to see more into this historic American’s life, as well as his long relationship with his wife. I can’t wait to tackle this book, and I hope you’ll read it with me! This bit of biographical literature will be a wonderful way to get us in the romantic mood!

 

Feb. 9 – 15 – Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

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This book is another recommendation, from my lovely friend Alyssa. I have, to my shame, never read Anne of Green Gables, although I was a very big reader as a child. This book is considered a youth fiction, but also falls under the category of romance – and I can’t wait to find out why. With two daughters, I’m always on the search for youth-appropriate, classic literature, and Anne of Green Gables could possibly be a winner. Add to that that Alyssa and I have always had the same taste in books, and this is bound to be a great selection for this month!

 

Feb. 16 – 22 – Forgiven – Rebecca Brooke

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Well, you might have a hard time finding this book. I was actually given this book along with the opportunity to have my review shared on a book promotions Web site (time to broaden my reading horizons), but you may be able to find an e-copy of it on the Web (try Amazon). This is a contemporary romance, and seems to be a promising addition to our reading list. I hope you’ll find a copy and read along!!

 

Feb. 23 – March 1 – Justine – Lawrence Durrell

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I have a little confession to make… my mom (HI MOM) got me this book, and the other Alexandria Quartet books, for Christmas about two years ago, and they have been sitting on my shelves, unread. I normally read everything my mom hands me, and I trust her judgment 100%, so I finally dug this one out! This blog has given me an excuse to tackle books that have been collecting dust for a while! Justine is the first in the Alexandria Quartet, and is our historical fiction novel for the month. From the brief research I’ve done about it, I’ve found the words “romance,” “erotic,” and “religious following” thrown around on more than one occasion… sounds promising! I hope you’ll pick this one up, and read with me!

Well, there you have it! Our reading list for February, our “Month of Romance.” It’s going to be a great month of reading, and I hope you’ll join me. You’ll notice I avoided the “trashy romance novel” genre for this month… and you’re probably surprised. I thought it was just a little obvious and… well… you know I hate them. I hope you’ll read at least one (and hopefully more) of these books with me! Remember, we’re looking for a “book club” feel, and I want to know what you think!!

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Book Review: “The White Queen”

Well, normally I take the whole week to read a book, but this week I had a few things working in my favor. Firstly, I’m still on school break (until Monday, when “The Aurthurian Legend” class begins); secondly, my husband is finally back at work – meaning I’m back into a daily routine of housework, schoolwork (with the pre-K munchkins), and downtime (from having no homework to do). Add that to a book I had a hard time putting down, and the book got finished very quickly.

This week’s reading was the first of our “New” reading of January (note: this book is “new to me”), The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

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What a great book! I have never read a book by Gregory, and I am so pleased I picked this one up – and am fully inspired to pick up another of her novels. The White Queen follows one of England’s most fascinating monarchs – Elizabeth Woodville – in one of England’s most trying times – The Cousin’s War of the late 15th Century. Elizabeth, a commoner who captures the heart of a usurper king on his ascent to power, helps shape a country in trouble, and forever changes the face of the Royal Family.

I loved this read! I had a really hard time putting it down (just as my husband, who had to suffer through the light being on in our bedroom until midnight). Gregory has a very strong voice, and tells a fascinating story through the eyes of Elizabeth, a passionate lover, powerful queen, desperate mother, and “daughter” of a legendary water goddess. Readers follow Elizabeth through her secret marriage, the ebb and flow of her rule, and her many heartaches over the 20+ years this story covers.

Gregory certainly did her historical research when preparing for this book! Her “Author’s Notes” are just as interesting as the story, and outline her research process and how she pieced her story together. She throws in a delicate balance of fact, fiction, mystery, and magic – a cocktail for a successful, intriguing, and inspiring story. While reading the book, I found myself putting it down, opening up my laptop, and researching the Cousin’s War, and Elizabeth’s family. I realized I had no idea how little I knew about the monarchs of Renaissance England. Elizabeth was grandmother to the infamous Henry VIII, great-grandmother to the “Virgin Queen,” Queen Elizabeth I, and grandmother to the scandalous “9 Day Queen,” Lady Jane Grey (her grandmother through her son, Thomas Grey, from her first marriage).

Gregory helped me pinpoint exactly what it is I love about historical fiction – the opportunity to learn the facts and legends surrounding people and times I know very little about. Historical fiction inspires me to learn more about history, and allows me to do that in a way that is more exciting and interesting than simply reading a text book. To feel a connection with the characters, and to history, is, in my opinion, the sign of a well written piece of literature.

The book started a little slowly, and seemed to be more of a glorified romance novel, following the standard structure of the genre (which you know I’m not a huge fan of)- unhappy, desperate widow meets a rising king with a reputation for enjoying the ladies… she tries to resist him, but she can’t… and he can’t resist loving her, despite her being stations below him… blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and thinking “this is just a 408 page romance.” I’m glad I kept reading, because the story became much more interesting once Elizabeth becomes the “White Queen,” and raises herself, and her family, to power. I wish the beginning of the book didn’t seem like the stereotypical romance novel, but I can easily forgive Gregory when the rest of her novel turns out to be exceptionally interesting.

The White Queen is a great piece of historical fiction, and contains a little something for everyone – a glimpse at the monarchs of the Renaissance for the historian, a beautiful love story for the romantic, terrifying battles for the warrior, magic for the fantasy fans, and a great female lead who will open your heart to her family and her country. I can’t wait to pass this beautiful book on to a friend or loved one, who can enjoy it as much as I have.

Your turn. Did you enjoy The White Queen? Have you read any of Gregory’s books (and if you did, do you have any recommendations for me)? What did you think about Elizabeth Woodville (York), the White Queen? Was she brave in the face of adversity, or was she power hungry?!

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Week 19 Reading: “The White Queen”

January’s reading theme is “New,” and this week we are picking up a book that is “new to me” – The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

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Okay, this book isn’t technically “new,” but before you point the accusatory finger, the book is exceptionally new to me. My sister received it as a gift on Christmas morning, and having already read it, she immediately handed it to me so I could read it for my book challenge. So the book is brand-spanking-new – and there are few things I love more than cracking a book open for the first time… feeling the binding bend and that glue snap a little… carefully removing the cover because there’s nothing worse than a wrinkled book cover (YES – I know it’s meant to protect the book, but in my opinion it is meant to look pretty on the shelves!). But I digress…

I have heard a lot of great things about The White Queen. It has been recommended to me by my sister and my friend Dee (Hi Tanya, Hi Dee!). It has also been made into a TV show this past year, and gotten rave reviews (I’ll have to look for it after I read the book). Lastly, it is written by the same author who wrote another wonderful piece of regency historical fiction, The Other Boleyn Girl

I’m really looking forward to this week’s reading! I’m a huge historical fiction fan, and I always love a good, strong female lead! I hope you’ll read along with me, and kick off the new year with a great new book!

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