The Inquisitor’s Wife ~ Jeanne Kalogridis

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 400
Year: 2012
Rating: ««½

Book Blurb:
In 1480 Seville, Marisol, a fearful young conversa (descendant of Spanish Jews forced to convert to Christianity), is ashamed of her Jewish blood. Forced into a sham marriage with a prosecutor for the new Inquisition, Marisol soon discovers that her childhood sweetheart, Antonio, has just returned to Seville and is also working for the inquisitors. When Marisol’s father is arrested and tortured during Spain’s first auto da fe, Marisol comes to value her Jewish heritage and vows to fight the Inquisition. When she discovers that her beloved Antonio is working to smuggle conversos safely out of Spain, she joins him and risks her life on behalf of her people; a passionate romance follows.

Unfortunately, Marisol does not realize that her supposedly kind and gentle inquisitor-husband has been using her all along to lead Antonio and her fellow conversos to their doom.

My thoughts:
I have to say that I was disappointed with this novel. I am normally a huge fan of Ms. Kalogridis’ work, but I definitely think that there was so much wasted potential. There were times where I found myself dozing off during the novel – it was so slow moving. There were also times where I found myself skipping sections because the story wasn’t holding my attention, and then I would have to go back and re-read the same section again. That being said, there were also parts where I felt that a more in-depth explanations and where dialogues felt unfinished.  I was hoping for so much more.

Characters were also a problem for me. I really did not like Marisol a whole lot – I found that I was not able to connect with her. I felt that she was a very one-dimensional character and quite frankly, she really didn’t have a winning personality. The other character who I had an issue with was Marisol’s husband Gabriel. The book description describes him as being “kind and gentle”, meanwhile in the book he is anything but that. Honestly, pretty much all the characters were under developed and flat.  

All of my negativity aside … there were some pretty good parts. The settings were beautifully described. There was also clearly a lot of research that went into the writing of this novel. There is a lot of interesting and informative information woven throughout the story.

The French Mistress ~ Susan Holloway Scott

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 377
Year: 2009
Rating: «««

Book Blurb:
The daughter of a poor nobleman, Louise leaves the French countryside for the court of King Louis XIV, where she must not only please the tastes of the jaded king, but serve as a spy for France. With few friends, many rivals, and ever-shifting loyalties, Louise learns the perils of her new role. Yet she is too ambitious to be a pawn in the intrigues of others. With the promise of riches, power, and even the love of a king, Louise creates her own destiny in a dance of intrigue between two monarchs-and two countries.

Louise de Keroualle is the daughter of an impoverished French nobleman, who leaves her families country chateau to serve in the house of Madame D’Orleans, who also happens to be the beloved sister of King Charles II of England. She also happens to be the wife of the sadistic, cruel brother of King Louis XIV of France. Louise is depicted as a virtuous young lady, a rare commodity in Louis XIV’s court, who is dedicated to not only protecting her virtue but also protecting her mistress, Henriette from her evil husband.  Louise and Henriette form a close bond – a bond that resulted in a trip to the English court for Louise with Henriette to visit her brother the King. Upon their return to France, Henriette dies suddenly and mysteriously. Louise is ultimately sent back to the English court by Louis himself where she becomes maîtresse en titre to the King.

My thoughts:
This was not only my first novel written by Susan Holloway Scott, but it was also my first novel revolving around the life of Charles II of England. I had no idea that this in fact is a part of a series about Charles II’s mistresses.

I found the story to be well written and definitely an interesting read. I really enjoyed the first part of the book, Louise’s life at the French court and hers and Henriette’s trip to the English court, however after that … it started to die.

There were a few problems that I had with this book, and both occur once Louise returned to England after Henriette’s death.  First, it dragged . . . it took forever for Louise to finally succumb to King Charles II’s wills to become his mistress, and then the last 100 pages where Louise recounts Charles’ seamlessly endless problems with parliament never seemed to end.

Second, I really was not a fan of Louise once she returns to England. She all of a sudden became self-righteous, smug . . . and she wondered why nobody liked her – she thought she was better than them because she was French, and Catholic, and they were simply English and Protestant. Not to mention that she was extremely annoying, crying all of the time when things didn’t go her way. Plus SHE WAS A SPY!!! Seriously!!!

All of my complaining aside, the first half was great – a dazzling account of life in the French court and the English court as well (at least the first time Louise was there…). I loved the relationship between Henriette and Louise. There were detailed scenes and emotional dialogues. I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend this book, at least not very highly. I am going to give the author another chance. Hopefully her other books are more like the first half of this one. 


New Year . . . New Blog

So it appears that I have neglected my blog over the past year, and for that I am extremely sorry. I started this blog a few years ago, and my life was very different back then. 

I initially started this blog while I was in Teacher's College, back when I was living by myself, with my cat in a bachelorette apartment, going to school and working a part-time job. Other than my classes and assignments, a few shifts a week and the occasional get together with friends... I had A LOT of free time on my hands. Free time that I spent reading and blogging. 

After I graduated, I got hired by the school board where I grew up as a supply teacher. Again, other than supplying 4-5 days a week, with no planning, no marking and again a lot of free time to read and blog. Then I got a long-term supply job that involved planning and marking ... that's when the blogging began to slow down.

And then I met a guy. A wonderful guy. Now I'm not saying that he was the problem, because he definitely was not, but my free time was no longer spent curled up with a book, but rather hanging out with him. 

And then I got a full time, permanent teaching position. Along with the planning, and the marking, I happen to teach French - that means creating a whole lot of resources for my kiddos. Not that I don't enjoy creating wonderful things to help my little guys learn a new language, it just takes up a lot of my free time. And so I had to cut something - I wasn't cutting my friends or my family and definitely not my boyfriend so blogging unfortunately took the hit. 

Well things have changed since then. I still have my wonderful boyfriend, however now he goes by the term fiancé, and in another 6 months he will be my husband. I am still a full time, permanent French teacher, however with a few years under my belt, I am starting to learn that everything does not have to be perfect. I have also made the conscious decision that I need to get back to doing the things that I love. I have missed reading. I have missed blogging. 

Now, I'm not saying that I will be posting like have in the past. I have decided to change the format a bit on this blog. I will still post reviews of books that I have read and I will occasionally post about upcoming and new releases, depending on how busy life is of course.

Things might look a little different but it's a compromise that I am willing to make. 

The Kingmaker’s Daughter ~ Philippa Gregory

Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 417
Year: 2012
Rating: ««««

Book Blurb:
Spies, poison, and curses surround her...

Is there anyone she can trust?

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the "Kingmaker," Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters, Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker's daughter will achieve her father's greatest ambition.

My thoughts:
As much as I like to think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable when it comes to European history, especially where it concerns the royal families, I have to admit that I really did not know much about Anne Neville before I read The Kingmaker’s Daughter. I have to say that Anne Neville is a very interesting character and her prospective of this tumultuous time was refreshing.

I am (and have been for years) a HUGE fan of Philippa Gregory. I love how she is able to take an event, such as the War of the Roses, which can potentially be a tedious subject full of politics and make it into something intriguing and exciting to read. I love how she is able to weave in court life and the fashions in with political scandals and betrayals, all well making the story realistic and plausible.

The relationship between the Neville girls, Anne and Isabelle, was reminiscent of the relationship between another set of sisters in a previous Gregory novel – the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne, in Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl (which, coincidentally was the book that got me hooked…). Clearly, the sisters love each other, but neither one of them even hesitated to turn on the other to further herself or her own cause. Speaking of characters, I actually found myself to like Richard III in this novel. Normally, I cannot stand him but here he is portrayed in a sympathetic light, as a caring husband who truly loves his wife Anne but he is still a calculating politician.

Once again, any amazing novel from Ms. Gregory. Can’t wait to read The White Princess, the next novel in the Cousin’s War series. 

The Boleyn Deceit ~ Laura Andersen

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 2013
Pages: 416
Rating: ««««

Book Blurb:
Henry IX, known as William, is the son of Anne Boleyn and now the leader of England, his regency period finally at an end. His newfound power, however, comes with the looming specter of war with the other major powers of Europe, with strategic alliances that must be forged on both the battlefield and in the bedroom, and with a court, severed by religion, rife with plots to take over the throne. Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. But as the pressure rises alongside the threat to his life, even they William must begin to question-and to fear.

My thoughts:
So this is the second book in the trilogy, the first being The Boleyn King and the third The Boleyn Reckoning (due out in 2014). The Boleyn Deceit picks up where The Boleyn King ends. I would STRONGLY recommend, nay INSIST that you read The Boleyn King before you read this book. It is most certainly not a stand-alone novel.

I really enjoyed this novel, however I honestly have to say that it just wasn’t quite as good as the first book. I found that there was a lot more politics in this book (not necessarily a bad thing) and the love story … oh the love story … It occasionally got on my nerves in the first book but OMG … Half way through the book I wanted to reach in an literally punch William and Minuette in their faces (I couldn’t do it to Dominic, I have a soft spot for him). Speaking of William – I am really, really beginning to dislike him. A lot. Even sweet Minuette began to get on my nerves.

There were some redeeming parts of the book – I really enjoyed the political intrigue, and the reveal of the mystery from the first book, but it was a duo of new characters and one of the holy quartet who made the book for me. I loved the introduction of Dr. John Dee and of Francis Walsingham, and of course Elizabeth. I wanted more of Elizabeth!!! She is such a fiery personality and she is an absolutely fascinating personality.

As for the ending …. GRRRR!!! I hate cliff-hangers! I cannot wait to get my hands on the third installment to see how the rest of the story plays out. I definitely hope that Elizabeth gets a larger role.  

Side note ... Yet another gorgeous cover. Love it :)

The Boleyn King ~ Laura Andersen

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 2013
Pages: 358
Rating: «««« ½

Book Blurb:
The Boleyn King is the first novel in an enthralling new trilogy. Reimagining history in sumptuous detail, Laura Anderssen takes readers back to the deadly intrigue, turbulent affairs, and treacherous passions of Tudor England - and answers the compelling question What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted?

Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William's mother, Anne Boleyn.

Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king's desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England's fortunes forever. 

My thoughts:
I was honestly intrigued with the premise of the novel: Anne Boleyn’s son survives and becomes King of England?  I will admit that it took some internal persuading to pick up this novel. The idea of “what if” totally fascinates me however that being said I am a stickler for historical accuracy. In the end (obviously), I decided to take the plunge. And am I ever glad that I did.

The story revolves around a group of four teenagers in Tudor-style England; William, the son of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII; Princess Elizabeth; Dominic, a close friend of William whose role is to act as the young King’s conscious; and Genevieve (aka Minuette), an orphan who was raised alongside the Princess as a royal ward. The story itself is told from the point of view of four different characters. As I have said in the past, I am typically not a fan of this. There were definitely times during this novel where I was somewhat lost or confused as to whom was speaking, often confusing when it was William and when it was Dominic. I am very happy with Andersen’s portrayal of Princess Elizabeth, the only character who actually existed, as she is still fiercely independent and extremely intelligent.

Upon reading other reviews of this novel I have to say that I am a little surprised – only a handful touched on the evident research that Andersen must have done prior to writing this novel. There is so much more to this story than a simple, what if. As far as I can tell, there is really only one real change to history – albeit it was a MAJOR change, allowing Anne’s son to survive. Yes, this prompted other changes, Anne was not beheaded and wives 3 through 6 did not exist … but even in Andersen’s alternative world, certain parallels still exist. Jane Grey is still being thrown at the feet of a Tudor King, George Boleyn is still a shady character who is still wed to an embittered Jane Parker, and Princess Elizabeth is still infatuated with a very married Robert Dudley. Andersen clearly attempted to maintain some degree of authenticity.

That’s not to say that there are not a few things that were missing. One glaring omission in my opinion was that of Katherine Howard. Obviously in this universe, she would have never caught the eye of Henry VII let alone become wife #5, but considering that the Howard family plays a critical role in the story, I was surprised that she wasn’t a part of it, or even mentioned. I also felt that due to the love triangle (which honestly at times really irritated me) and Minuette’s personality, the story read more like a YA historical fiction. Not that I really have a problem with that, I often quite enjoy them, however I would have preferred it to be marketed as such. Just a little bit of a let down there.

With all that being said, The Boleyn King seems to have it all. There’s intrigue, romance, mystery, suspense . . . Andersen definitely does not disappoint! Even though the premise of the story is completely imaginary, Andersen seamlessly creates an amazing alternative universe that seems totally plausible … if only. I would absolutely recommend this novel to Tudor fans. 


The Crown ~ Nancy Bilyeau

Publisher: Touchstone
Year: 2012
Pages: 448
Rating: «««««

Ok, let’s be honest. When I first picked up this book I was a little skeptical. I mean, really, how interesting or exciting is a book about a nun going to be? Well I am extremely happy to announce that I was totally wrong. This book was fantastic! There was mystery, suspense, espionage, deceit, treachery, vengeance, blackmail … and some nuns and friars.

A mystery set in the time King Henry VIII’s reign, during his marriage to Jane Seymour, amidst a world of religious peril. Joanna Stafford is a Dominican novice who, really doesn't seem to have the personality, despite her devotion and her beliefs, to be a nun. She was raided to be a lady of the court before her family’s downfall. She is educated, rebellious, opinionated, and quite frankly, she doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. Great qualities for a heroine, not so great for a nun.

The plot was exciting with great twists and turns as they search for Athelstan’s crown, an ancient crown said to be hidden in Joanna’s priory. The crown is said to have powers that would be extremely dangerous if it happened to fall into the wrong hands. The book as an essence of The Da Vinci Code as they search for the crown throughout England’s monasteries.

I cannot wait to read the sequel The Chalice which is the continuation of Joanna Stafford’s life, which is good considering The Crown had one of those … WHAT?!?! That’s how it ends?? endings. 

The Ghost Bride ~ Yangsze Choo

Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 368
Year: 2013
Rating: «««« ½

It is 1893 Malaysia (or as it was known then, Malaya) where you are about to enter a mystical world of ghosts and spirits. The Ghost Bride is a novel of suspense, mystery, betrayal and love. Despite the fact that the setting is a very real place, Yangsze Choo was able to create a very vivid and haunting world of her own based on ancient Chinese/Malaysian mythology. I absolutely LOVED the setting of this novel. It was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful – the background, the history, the superstition and the traditional beliefs of turn-of-the-century Malaysia was wonderful.

The story is centered around gorgeous 17-year old Li Lan, a young woman from an old, respected family of Chinese decent in Malaya, who is hidden away with her mentally-absent, opium-addicted father and her Amah, when at her age and her position, she should be out socializing to secure a place for her future. As her father falls deeper and deeper into his opium addiction, he begins to run out of money, soon the family will have nothing. An old business associate of her father soon presents him with a proposal – a marriage proposal for Li Lan to his son Lim Tian Chiang. There is a catch however, Lim Tian Chiang is dead. The proposal is of a rare form – he wants Li Lan to become a ghost bride and marry the spirit of his deceased son.

Some of the best parts of the book were Li Lan’s dreams where she is pulled into the spirit world. They are realistic and stunningly portrayed – they feel like dreams one could have and nightmares that would scare most anyone. Due to these nightmares, Li Lan makes a desperate decision and as result she becomes a shadow, a living ghost. Forced into the parallel ghostly underworld, she must solve a number of mysteries before it is too late and she will be trapped there forever.

Loved the story. Loved the setting. Loved the characters. My one criticism of the story was that it sometimes dragged on . . . and on . . . and on . . . Still, I would highly recommend it for sure. 

The Agincourt Bride ~ Joanna Hickson

Publisher: HarperCollins (UK)
Pages: 578
Year: 2013
Rating: ««««

This is the story of the woman who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid, Mette. When Mette’s own child is still-born, she is sent into service as a wet-nurse for Charles VI’s new daughter Catherine. Mette and Catherine form a close bond – a bond that will last throughout Catherine’s life time.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Agincourt Bride. Richly detailed, it was full of deception and intrigue. You gain a truly realistic sense of the period and the turbulent times. Never does Hickson soften the violence of the era nor the emotions of those affected by such.

I loved how Catherine was portrayed in this novel – she is a true heroine. She is depicted as being a stunning beauty with a fiery passion and very courageous. She is definitely depicted as the strong female who helped change the course of history.

A scrupulously enjoyable historical fiction. I can’t wait for the sequel, The Tudor Bride