An interesting tidbit came across my news feed on Facebook today.
I'm not exactly the world's biggest Charlaine Harris fan. I have read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. I was thrilled with the series until about book four. After book four, Harris made it clear she was in it for the money, not the reader. It was the same story book after book. Sookie washed her hair. Then Sookie tanned. Then Sookie had sex. Somewhere in between somebody probably died. I decided to give the television series, True Blood a chance. The combination of Alexander Skarsgård and Joe Manganiello couldn't keep me interested past season three.
So when I saw a news release saying another of Harris' series was getting a television show, I quickly scrolled by. Then I saw this:
You had me at François Arnaud. Damn you NBC. I almost have time for a television show this summer. I guess as long as I have reliable internet at swimming lessons I can stay caught up.
I really wanted to like this book. I really did. If I hadn't committed myself to reading this book for Historical Mystery Monopoly, I would have given up about half way in. I had promised myself this was going to be the year I worked on my inability to put aside books that don't hold my interest. In my defense, this is really the first book I've read all year that I finished while wondering why I continued to torture myself.
I've seen so many other reviews that paint the protagonist, Luciana, as some sort of wondrous heroine and a breath of fresh air. I even read reviews that applauded her constant desire for sex as honest and welcoming. Maybe I read a different book. The Luciana I saw was a brainless, silly girl. She had to be completely brainless to allow for Brother Guido to step in and throw countless, drawn out information drops and conspiracy theories at the reader.
I will give the author credit for her research and creativity. The plot is creative. The theory surrounding Botticelli's secret message within the painting is nothing short of brilliant. However, the reader never really gets a chance to feel like they are knee deep in some sort of Renaissance Dan Brown concoction. Before you have a chance to work things out on your own, Brother Guido is off on yet another boring monologue, spoon-feeding the reader everything.
This review may come off to some as a little harsh and it probably is. I feel my disappointment with the novel matches the tone of my review. The Medici family by itself is fascinating enough on its own. Throw in the constant plotting by the church and various other Italian families against the Medici and you have enough intrigue to fill a library. (Side note: This is exactly what makes me such a huge fan of Ezio Auditore and the Assassin's Creed games) This book offered me none of the atmosphere of intrigue and scandal I am accustomed to when it comes to Renaissance Italy.
While Victorian England is not generally my go-to time period (Usually I am a sucker for anything Tudor-Era or Dark Ages), one Miss Veronica Speedwell is quickly making me think I should venture out of my bubble more often. This is the second novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It is just as much fun as the first. Hopefully there will be many more adventures to follow.
The mystery wasn't anything overly complicated and shocking. I had most of it figured out rather quickly. The characters are what sell. Veronica borders on anachronistic at times but her snark and wit are enough for me to forgive the offense. Stoker hits just about every point on my literary boyfriend checklist. The eye patch is just a delicious bonus. I imagine him to be much like Alan Van Sprang's Sir Francis Bryan from The Tudors. Just in Victorian dress. Lady Wellie was a fantastic addition to the ever growing cast of characters.
In addition to getting to know Veronica and Stoker better, I was also introduced to how to say dildo in a variety of languages. Seriously, I don't think I've seen the word phallus so many times in a book since the textbook I had for a college class on Human Sexuality. If that isn't enough to peak your interest, I'm not really sure what more I can offer. I can't recommend this series enough for people interesting in taking a quick romp through Victorian England. And really, how can you say no to that cover?
"Dil-No, I can't. I can tell you in Greek. These are olisboi. Or if you prefer, in Spanish, consoladores."
"Consolers? But how could they console...oh. Oh!"
Because a person always needs to learn how to say dildo in three different languages. I guess I didn't realize the word even existed in 1887. I would look up the origins by myself but this device was provided to me by the school I work for. And, the other adult in my house is the person who gets notifications when people type strange things into Google.
I love that the sole reason for Luciana's lack of brains is to provide Guido with the opportunity to supply the reader with unnecessary information dumps.
If nothing else after reading, I will know how to count to three in Italian.
I'm about two chapters into Isabelle and I'm calling it quits. I'm a little disappointed. Other like minded readers seem to think so highly of this book. So far I don't think it lives up to its title at all. I just don't get the feeling the women are the focus of this book. Most of the information seems to be the same old basics tossed about in college history classes. I'm trying really hard to call it quits on books that just don't do it for me. Life is too short for books you don't like.
I'm only a week late. Actually, there's nobody keeping me to a dedicated time line. So really, I'm not late at all. Anyway, I finally got around to writing about my Dr. Seuss decorations.
At this point, I've read two chapters about Matilda and completely skipped over Eleanor. I'm on to Isabelle of France. When the first part focusing on Matilda, offered me nothing new, I jumped to the conclusion that Eleanor would offer me nothing new. The section on Matilda was quite disappointing. Most of the focus was on Stephen and his coup to take the crown. For a book that is suppose to be about the women of the various eras, there is very little type dedicated to the women themselves.
Nobody is more surprised than I am at my start to the reading year. After the way I finished 2016, I thought for sure 2017 was going to be the same struggle. Fortunately I have found some excellent new authors and characters to keep me motivated to read in 2017. February was another month of discoveries and fantastic reading.
I did not quite meet all of my set February goals but considering I had less reading time, I think I still did pretty well.
-I have most of Rory Clements' John Shakespeare (Yes, that Shakespeare but not that Shakespeare.) in my Kindle library. They tend to come up on monthly deals quite a bit. I may have said this before but I'm going to say it again. Rarely do I really like the first novel in a series. This novel was a rare exception. I'm always on the lookout for something comparable to C.J. Sansom's Shardlake novels. I like Tudor-era mysteries that gloss over the glitz and glamour of court life and immerse the reader in the gritty back alley politics. Clements manages to capture that atmosphere with his slightly naive Shakespeare. I look forward to spending more time getting to know Shakespeare and wandering around in his Elizabethan world.
-I don't even know where to begin with this wonderful Victorian "spinster". From the first few pages where Amelia is referring to typhoid as a disease weak minded people get to the end where she is running around planning on how she is going to get her hands on a pair of pants, Amelia had me in stitches. I am going to need to make space on a bookshelf for more adventures from Amelia and friends.
- For the Most Beautiful is one of the best books I have read all year. It is going to take some pretty intense competition to bump this book off of my end of the year top 10. Like the title suggests, this book was beautiful. Hauser takes the battle of Troy and tells the story from the perspective of the women on the front lines. I knew within 20 pages, this was a book meant to be devoured in one sitting. By the end I was crying. Crying because of the inevitable fates of many of the characters. Crying because it was over. Crying because I have to wait until June to read any more of Hauser's work.
-Several of my reading friends have suggested that The Splendour Falls is one of Kearsley's weakest novels. If this is what Kearsley's worst looks like, I'm dying to see what her best is like. Again, I think I'm going to need more bookshelf space.
-The latest collection of published short stories by J.K. Rowling found its way to my Kindle this month. I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. I am not-so-patiently waiting for the day my girls are finally big enough to have Harry Potter buddy reads with me. Any time J.K. Rowling announces she has released new writing, I am like a kid a Christmas. My excitement really needs to stop. I was terribly disappointed in The Cursed Child. My levels of disappointment with these short stories was not on that level, but I was disappointed none the less. These stories are advertised as delving deeper into the world of Harry Potter. That might be the case for the casual fan. However, for avid Harry Potter fans, the stories don't really add anything to the existing Harry Potter universe. The one thing I found interesting in these short stories was Rowling's own commentary. I really enjoyed the inside look at what went into Rowling's writing. She didn't just make up words. There was a reason for everything word she wrote.
Hopefully March provides me with more quality reading!
My hopes of getting a Dr. Seuss themed blog post today went out the window when one of my four year olds decided she wanted to go to the emergency room. Of course this is what happens when the other adult leaves home. Thankfully grandma lives close by.
The child is fine. She decided we are again struggling to tell her and her twin apart. To remedy this she decided to allow the pavement to take a bite out of her forehead. So two and a half hours, eight stickers, two granola bars, one troll doll, and ten stitches later, Twin A now has insured that everyone will know who she is. At least for the next ten days until the stitches come out. Once the stitches are out, there should be a scar to rival Harry Potter.
So the other adult in my house is away this weekend. He's at some brain-crush, brain-wave, brain-something-or-other Apple training. He won't be back until Tuesday. What's a girl to do?
Well, tonight, this girl is going to binge watch some Tudors (If you can't share your bedroom with your husband, you might as well share it with Henry Cavill, right?) and eat some Ben and Jerry's. I have to save the red wine. I forgot to replenish my stock the last time I went grocery shopping and Minnesota still has laws about Sunday liquor sales (maybe not for long).
Tomorrow I am hoping to get some free time to get ready for Read Across America next week. Hopefully that free time will involve me updating my blog with some pictures of the Dr. Seuss projects I helped put up at my elementary school. Read Across America week just might be my favorite week of the year!
Stay tuned! Lots of rhymes and nonsensical words are coming soon! While you are waiting on pin and needles for my next installment, what is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? As a kid I was a huge fan of Green Eggs and Ham. As a mother of twins, I'm a pretty big fan of Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat In the Hat. My eight year-old loves making all of the funny noises that come with Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? My four year olds are big fans of reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas no matter what time of year it is.
I wanted to review this book as soon as I finished it. However, I still had two hours left in a vehicle and no desire to write a full review of a book using only my iPhone. There are still some things I need to do the old fashioned way. By old fashioned, I mean actually put thoughts to paper before typing them out.
Last weekend, the other adult and I, ran away from home. It was a bank holiday. My mother-in-law happens to work for a bank. She asked if she could entertain my little people for the day to which I responded, "How about for the weekend?" It was a hard sell but in the end, I think both parties came away happy. What does any of that have to do with this book? Nothing really, except that this was one of the books I picked to accompany me during the 6+ I was going to be spending in a vehicle. What do you expect me to do? Have a conversation with the person driving? I don't think so.
Anyway, enough with that. I knew 20 pages into this book, it was the type of book that begs to be devoured in one sitting. Luckily for me, I had all kinds of time.
This books opens with two women who will inevitably have a front seat for one history's greatest battles. They are just your typical women who spend their days wondering about weddings, prophecies, getting caught in bed with men they shouldn't be in bed with, and how they can rebel against their father. Just another day in ancient Troy. The story quickly builds to the arrival of the Greeks on Trojan beaches. From there the reader is drawn into what becomes of these two women as they are thrown into the chaos that becomes the Trojan war.
I loved nearly everything about this book. I thought the writing was as beautiful as the women of Troy. I developed a slight crush on Achilles. I'm not sure if that was due to this book or the fact that since the movie Troy, Brad Pitt has always been Achilles in my head. I would have liked to seen a little more development out of Achilles but this novel was never meant to be about the men involved in this war.
My favorite parts (and based on other reviews, I seem to be in the minority here), were the interspersed scenes featuring the gods watching from on high. If this author would have written a book about Troy told entirely from the point of view of the gods, I would have devoured it just as quickly. I know there is a great deal of research and discovery that lends us several facts about the fall of Troy. To me there is just something about the myth of Troy that fascinates me. Whether it's the demi-god warrior or the divinely inspired prince who fires a shot heard around the ancient world. All of the mythical elements just add a little something extra to the story of Troy. I really enjoyed the imagery provided by the scenes where the gods are lounging about watching Trojan cloud television.
The one thing that I didn't really like about this book was the way in which certain events were glossed over. I won't preface this with a spoiler since I feel anyone who knows anything about Troy knows Achilles and Hector both die before the war is over. The deaths of these two Goliaths was never given the attention and detail you would think a novel of Troy would dedicate to such events. Instead it was just briefly mentioned. "Oh by the way, Hector and Achilles are both dead. Moving on." Again, as I mentioned before, I understand this novel was meant to be from the perspective of the women, not the warriors. I just felt like these deaths would have had a greater impact on the women featured. Especially when one considers the Briseis/Achilles relationship.
That aside, by the end of this novel, I was ugly crying. The manner in which the novel ended combined with the reality that there was no more to read did me in. Without spoiling too much, I have to admit the ugly cry might have had more to do with one of the final scenes plus Adele belting out "Hello" in the background. I look forward to continuing with this trilogy. This might even be one of the rare occasions where I pre-order the next book available in June.
I know it's still kind of early but this book is already on my list of best books of 2017.
The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge: the innocent Lady must suffer for her Father's fault; for if her Father the Duke of Suffolk, had not this second time made shipwreck of his loyalty, his Daughter perhaps had never tasted the salt-waters of the Queen's displeasure.
-If I stop reading, she will live right? Like that episode of Friends where Joey puts Little Women in the freezer so Beth won't die?
I have read other reviews by people who love Kearsley's work that suggest this is the weakest of her novels. If that's true, then the only thing stopping me from running out to find the rest of her work is the sick, sleeping child on my couch.
If I my bank account would allow it, I would be booking the next flight to France. Upon arrival I'm making a beeline to Chinon and staying for a week, maybe two. Kearsley sells the town better than any travel agent could.
It was the atmosphere Kearsley created that kept me reading. The story was a little slow moving. A lot of time was spent building up to the final four or five chapters. I have no idea how far along I was when I felt the story picked up. I was reading an e-book I loaned through my local library system and the only way I could read was through a web browser on my iPad. I did not get page numbers or percentage. It was slightly annoying. None of that is the book's fault.
This novel had quite the character list. Normally I don't care for novels with such a cast of characters. I feel most authors have a hard time pulling off any real development when there are so many people to focus on. In this case, everyone had a part to play in the end. The characters were all brought together quite nicely. Even the animals helped to pull things together.
Despite the fact that I sense Kearsley heaps on the romance a little more than I generally care for, I am excited to read more from her.
The e-book version I have borrowed from the library was only available to read online through a web browser. I'm slightly annoyed with the fact that there is no way for me to chart my progress in this format.
That being said, I sense a love triangle coming. Love triangles are my least favorite shapes.