I am a former stay-at-home mom who has given up her hopes and dreams of becoming a professional reader. I now spend my days showing small children how to play games on computers. Right now I'm living vicariously through my 9 year-old who is reading everything she can get her hands on.
When I first stumbled upon Martyr, I was looking for something to replace C.J. Sansom's Mathew Shardlake series. Honestly, I wasn't expecting to ever find something. The Shardlake series is a rarity when it comes to Tudor-era fiction. Clements has been more than up to the task with his John Shakespeare series. They have a gritty, edge to them that is very comparable to Sansom's work.
There is a but here. It's going to be a fancy but (Friends reference anyone?). However, Sansom's characters are just a little bit more compelling. John is not a bad guy. His only fault is he is incredibly naive. For someone who works for one of the biggest spymasters in history, he sure doesn't play the game very well. I think that changes after the tragedy suffered in this novel. John's sidekick, Boltfoot Cooper, seems to be the one who suffers the most from his bosses inability to figure things out.
Currently this is a seven book series so one could assume that being this is only book three, there's time for John Shakespeare to develop in to a cold, calculating agent working for the good of Her Majesty's realm. We all know what happens when you assume things. This book isn't actually the third book in a seven book series. It's more like the fifth book in a seven book series. See this series has two different orders. One order is the publication order. The other is the chronological order within the books. Books six and seven are actually books one and two. Normally, this wouldn't bother me. At least I don't think it would. I can't actually recall reading a series where the author suddenly decides mid-series to go back to the beginning. It annoys me just a little bit to think that this had to be the author's plan from the beginning. I had to stop reading Prince at about the 10-15% mark. There were so many references to previous cases that I couldn't keep up. I had to stop reading and go order books six and seven which are the books in which these previous cases are addressed. Confused yet?
I promise I have a point with this review. I'm getting there. Just kidding, I'm there. My point is if you want to read these novels (which I do recommend), read them in the chronological order, not the published order.
Here's the difference-
The Man in the Snow (Short Story)
The Queen's Man
Chronological Order (per book events)
The Queen's Man
The Man in the Snow (Short Story)
I highly recommend the chronological order. Personally, I'm planning a re-read of the entire series just so I can better appreciate the chain of events.
I'm getting a little long winded here and I've not really mentioned anything about this specific book. I don't have much to add on that front. As pointed out in a previous post, I found the book's commentary on immigration in Tudor England to be rather enlightening. The fact that as a society we haven't actually changed much over the centuries actually gives me a little hope for the future. I mean if we've made it this far being horribly ignorant and unwilling to accept blame for our own failures, I guess there's no reason to believe future generations can't survive. Right? *eye roll*
A huge plot throughout this novel so far has been the English people's irritation with foreigners. Apparently people from the Netherlands (Low Countries), France, and other places are just sweeping in and stealing jobs from hardworking English citizens.
This all seems eerily familiar. What's that they say about the more things change?
I am not going to be participating in this round of Booklikes-opoly. Instead I'm going to be participating in a summer challenge with a historical fiction group I moderate for. The goal is to read 50 books over the course of the summer. We create our lists and lock them on June 1st. The goal is to read all 50 books on the list and earn points. There are opportunities to change things around twice during the summer. If you'd like more information or to participate, I'll post a link in the comments. Be warned, it is a Goodreads group. I promise, we aren't overly "Goodreads-ish".
This post is going to serve as my tracking post.
50.) Here Be Dragons- Sharon Kay Penman
49.)The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
48.) Red Rising - Pierre Brown
47.) Traitor - Rory Clements
46.) Empress Orchid - Anchee Min
45.) Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourn
44.) The Huntress - Kate Quinn
43.) The Witches of St. Petersburg - Imogen Edwards Jones
42.) Bethlehem Road - Anne Perry
41.) When Gods Die - C.S Harris
40.) The Leopard's Prey - Suzanne Arrunda
39.) Murder, Most Royal - Jean Plaidy
38.)Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen
37.) A Breath of Promise - Anne Perry
36.) The Serpent's Daughter - Suzanne Arrunda
35.) Silent in the Sanctuary - Deanna Raybourn
34.) The White Mirror - Elsa Hart
33.) Prince - Rory Clements
32.) The Samurai's Wife - Laura Joh Rowland
31.) The Iona Sanction - Gary Colby
30.) Gods of Gotham - Lyndsay Faye
29.) American Princess - Stephanie Thornton
28.) Rough Music - Robert Blake
27.) The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
26.) Weighed in the Balance - Anne Perry
25.) The Prisoner in the Castle - Susan Elia MacNeal
24.) Woman 99 - Greer Macalister
23.) The Pericles Commission - Gary Colby
22.) Forever Amber - Kathleen Winsor
21.) Eye of the Red Tsar - Sam Eastland
20.) Watch the Lady - Elizabeth Fremantle
19.) Highgate Rise - Anne Perry
18.) A Trail of Ink - Melvin R. Starr
17.) To Die But Once - Jacquline Winspear
16.) The Winter King Bernard Cornwell
15.) The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith
14.) Ravenspur - Conn Iggulden
13.) Remedy for Treason - Cardine Roe
12.) The Heretics - Rory Clements
11.) The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman
10.) The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl
9.) Belgrave Square - Anne Perry
8.) The American Agent - Jacquline Winspear
7.) The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin
6.) We Are Water - Wally Lamb
5.) Jade Dragon Mountain - Elsa Hart
4.) The Temple of the Muses - John Maddox Roberts
3.)The Silent Cry - Anne Perry
2.) The Concubine's Tattoo - Laura Joh Rowland
1.) Pope Joan - Donna Woolfolk Cross
I've been sick for the last four (maybe five) days. I'm on my second of potentially 10 days home from work. At this rate, I will not be finishing the school year. It's a good thing I have three years worth of banked sick time. I've used way too much of it this year.
Anyway. I decided to go down the series rabbit hole. I made a list of all the series I have started. I read a lot of mysteries so this list got a little out of control. I had to add a couple of qualifiers-
1.) A series is defined as having more that four published books.
2.) I did not count a series if there are plans for several more published works (more than two)
With the qualifiers in place, I still had quite the list. I won't list all of the series in this post. I need to pace myself.
As it stands right now -
43 series started and not finished
19 series started and not going to finish
As mentioned above, I read a lot of mysteries. I'm in a GRs group dedicated specifically to historical mysteries. This list is far from complete.
This was a DNF at chapter 16.
I was intrigued by the plot and the fact that so many people raved about this book. One of these days I will stop being fooled by books people rave about.
This book just didn't do it for me. At 16 chapters in, if nothing is happening, I'm not sticking around. I was bored. Plain and simple.
This is easily the most upsetting thing on the internet right now.
In related news, I need to figure out how to change my links. I need to figure out how to do a lot of things on this site. Or just with my life in general. Summer is coming.
I have come to love this series because the books are quick reads. They are dramatic. The mysteries are intriguing.
Here comes the but. However (that's just a fancy but), the characters are getting a little outrageous. In this novel, Emily goes from being the widowed wife of a Lord to taking a position as a lady's maid. I'm suppose to believe that society girl, Emily, would pass off as a lady's maid? Seriously? And how have we gotten to this point with Charlotte? She spends more time in society houses than her own house. And yet, society hasn't figured out who she is yet? Nobody realizes that this woman magically appears every time there's a scandal? For as much tea room gossip as there seems to be, I find it hard to believe nobody has yet realized that while Charlotte is the sister of the well-connected Emily, she's also the wife of the police officer who is constantly at their door.
All of that being said, I'm still going to devour the next book in the series.
My quest to read outside my bubble continues. I've dabbled in sci-fi. I've tried fantasy. I've even recently finished a few YA novels. Virgil Wander brings me something completely different. Very, very rarely do I read anything with a contemporary label. The book club label is a huge deal breaker for me. While this book checked both of those boxes, I found myself drawn to it. For starters, I've read Peace Like a River by the same author. I highly recommend it. Secondly, the book is set along the North Shore in Minnesota. Typically I stay away from books set in my home state of Minnesota. Minnesotans tend to be over stereotyped and given a cartoon-like treatment no thanks to Fargo. The North Shore setting called to me. If you've never been to the North Shore (i.e. Duluth), make the trip. Make it four times so you can experience each of the season.
The title suggests this book is about one man, Virgil Wander. However, Virgil Wander is just one man. The town of Greenstone is the real star of this book. The book opens with Virgil being released from the hospital after driving his car over a cliff in an accident that should have killed him. Instead, he is back living above his old movie theater, trying to establish some normalcy (and language skills). Shortly after Virgil returns to town, a stranger appears bringing with him an old VW van and an assortment of kites. Virgil and the town take the stranger in. Rune becomes sort of a rock star in Greenstone.
Greenstone is a fictional town. Anyone who lives in Minnesota or is familiar with the area would tell you it feels real. You could drive along the North Shore and find ten towns just like the fictional Greenstone. A quick Google search tells me there is a Greenstone Lake near Ely, Minesota. That's not surprising considering Minnesota is the land of 10,000 (actually more) lakes. They can't all be named Round Lake or Long Lake.
It seems a little cheesy to say the story that follows Rune's arrival is heartwarming. I'm going to say it any way. It just seems to be the only word that fits. It is obvious the author is from Minnesota. He manages to weave Minnesota's small town charm into every page. I found this book comforting. It felt like home. As someone who has spent her entire life in one Minnesota small town or another, I felt like I could easily name people in my own life who mirrored characters in the book.
This book is easily one of the best books I have read all year. I would recommend it to anyone, anywhere in the world.
All year my goal has been to purge my physical bookshelves. I have all of these books I have never read. I'm continually telling myself, I can't get any new books until I work my way through some of the ones I already own. There's also some honky out there about how 10 books is the proper number of books required to spark joy in your life. Clearly the person who came up with that number doesn't read.
Today I went to the library. My oldest has blitzed through her pile of books. Next week she is slated to spend a few hours on the bus for various school activities. She needed a refill. While she was checking her books out, the librarian informed me two of the books I ordered are in. Those two books were added to the two I already found on the new release shelf. When I got them home and added them to my library book shelf, the total number of library books came to 11. I never have that many books checked out from the library at one time.
So the real questions is, what am I avoiding? If I can't get new books until I read the old books, isn't it in my best interest to read what I already own? Why am I getting all of these books from the library if I already have plenty at home? Is there some small part of me that just doesn't want to achieve my goals? My mother would say, yes. She's probably not wrong but I think that's an entirely different rant.
This leads me back to my original thought. Can you call it procrastinating if it involves books? Would referring to it as shifting my focus be the same thing with a less negative spin?
The problem with finishing these books so quickly is that I have to wait so long for the next installment. My husband informs me that it is much like how he feels every day I tell him we don't have time to go see Endgame.
Tiny rant incoming.
1.) Thursday night is a school night. I can't be out that late on a school night and neither can our babysitter. 2.) On Friday night I had to help host a party for a friend 3.) I had a vendor/craft event all day yesterday. 4.) Today we have to go to his nephew's Eagle Scout ceremony. 4.) The idea of being in a small space with that many people terrifies me and gives me horrible anxiety. For now, my husband just needs to stay off the internet until next weekend when we have time.
Books are much easier to spend time with. They fit in my purse. I can read in the car while someone else drives.
Tiny rant over.
This is the best book I have read all year. There was just so much to love about it. The only think that didn't really work for me was the cheesy last page but otherwise, I loved every word.
Stoker is dangerously close to overthrowing my current literary boyfriend, Uhtred. He's just so damn dreamy. If these books had been written 10-ish years ago and adapted for any sort of screen, Clive Owen is my pick for Stoker. Feel free to put forward your own suggestions. Not only, is he dreamy but we have a few things in common. Stoker can provide a Keats reference for any situation he finds himself in. My Keats is terribly rusty. However, I can make a Friends reference for anything. Ask all of my co-workers. We both spend time with a female who likes to plunge headfirst into situations without assessing the danger. Granted my seven year old usually finds herself in different situations than Veronica but he ability to assess danger is non existent. Ask the doctor who has seen her twice this year for head injuries. Unlike Stoker, I've never sailed. My ability to swim is questionable. My brothers are all bigger than me and hitting them wouldn't end well. I also have huge issues with blood.
Veronica is much less Veronica in this novel. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like it. By the end of the book, it worked. This Veronica is a little more subtle. She still speaks when she shouldn't. She still makes rash decisions. There's just less of it. The Veronica spends so much time with her own personal conflicts that she forgets to jump to conclusions about the people and mysteries around her. I realize the entire series has been about whatever is developing between Veronica and Stoker. I felt this book spent much less time on the mystery at hand and more time really fleshing out the Veronica/Stoker relationship. Based on the way this novel ended, I get the impression, the reverse will be true in the next novel.
I took a sip and nearly chocked. "This is not cider," I protested as I wheezed.
"Of course it is," she told me, taking a great swallow of the stuff and smacking her lips appreciatively. "With a bit of rum in it."
"How much rum, Mother Nance?"
"No more'n half a teacup in each," she promised.
Mother Nance and I make apple cider using very similar methods.
I feel like I need to start this review by saying sci-fi is not my genre of choice. The vast majority of what I read is historical fiction with the occasional fantasy novel thrown in for something different.
I read the first novel, Sleeping Giants, last August. For anyone interested in this series, I would recommend reading the two books a little closer together than I did. I ended up going to the library to check out Sleeping Giants because I had forgotten a few things. Keeping in mind that sci-fi is not my wheelhouse, I was surprised at the lack of sci-fi in the first one. Sure there was a giant robot and some big science-y words I didn't understand. Honestly, the giant robots aren't really that unbelievable and me not understanding science-y words is a fairly common occurrence.
The second novel amped up the sci-fi. The novel follows the format of the previous one. The writer uses a series of transcripts and diary entries to take the reader through the series of events that follow the appearance of a second robot. If that style of writing/reading doesn't appeal to you, I would skip this series.
Once the action started, I was a little concerned the writing style would take a little bit away from the plot. I was wrong. Once the action started, I didn't even notice. That second robot appeared in London (not a spoiler since it happens about two paragraphs into the book) and the book continues non-stop.
Does this series have me convinced I should make sci-fi a regular part of my reading rotation? Not quite. Am I going to read the third book? Yup. I already have it on order from the library. However, I might end up owning the series before the library can get them from me. An internet search from my husband shows the writer has been involved in some Star Wars works. Naturally his interest is peaked and I will run the risk of never actually getting my copy when it comes from the library.
The purchase of this book was the product of a perfect storm (or a genius idea). Thor had just hit theaters. Amazon put this book on its daily deals list for under $1. I had to buy it. Fast forward nine years to where I have finally read it.
It is hard for me to see this book as a novel. It read more like a collection of short stories narrated by the infamous Loki. Every one of those stories ending with "But I'll get back to that". Loki never gets back to it.
The way the story was put together never gave me a real sense of Loki. Sure he was the Loki that we've all heard about but he was never anything more. I was hoping for a book that's about Loki, we'd get a little depth and personality. Loki is one dimensional.
That being said, I'm intrigued enough to pick up the second book. The way this novel has ended sparks hope that I may get a more fleshed out Loki.
I feel it's important to note, that I have yet to absolutely love an e-book. There is just something about an e-book that doesn't make the connection for me. I've even tried reading my beloved Harry Potter books in e-book format and I just don't feel the same way I do when I'm holding a physical book in my hand. Am I weird? Yes. That's not the point. But honestly, I can't be the only one who feels this way about e-books. Can I?
There is just something about older historical fiction. Whether it's Barnes, Plaidy, or Seton, there is just something about the writing style that most modern historical fiction misses. I just can't imagine any of my grandchildren reading anything by Philippa Gregory and commenting on the serenely, lyrical way Gregory sets a scene. Because she doesn't. That's a story for a different time folks.
One of the things I enjoy most about books set during this time period is seeing how the authors deal with some of the more controversial happenings of the day. In this instance, the characterization of Richard III and the mystery surrounding to what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Barnes deals with both in a believable manner. Richard III isn't some hunchbacked, snarling, fork-bearded bad guy bent on ruling with an iron fist. He's not an overly romanticized nice guy by any means. Does Barnes believe Richard III to be responsible for the death of Edward V and his younger brother Richard? Absolutely. She uses the Tyrell argument which some might find weak. However, it's important to take into account when this book was written. That was the primary theory at the time. Barnes doesn't try to argue anything from left field. She works with the evidence as presented at the time. She's not trying to re-invent the wheel. It works for this story.
One of the other things I enjoyed about Barnes' storytelling was the manner in which she portrayed Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Personally, I think Margaret tends to be over vilified. She was a product of her raising and the times. She held to her faith in God and her son. Do I think she was a little overbearing as a mother-in-law? As someone who knows a thing or two about an overbearing mother-in-law, yes. Margaret probably was a bit much to handle. Do I think she was as easy going and loving as Barnes wants us to believe? Not quite. I don't think you get to where Margaret got in life by being full of sunshine and daisies. I also wasn't a huge fan of how Barnes continued to try to convince me that Beaufort was head over heels in love with her first husband and Henry's father, Edmund Tudor. Margaret knew the man for all of five minutes before he made her pregnant and then died after being captured in battle. She was 12 when they were married. Trying to convince me she was head over heels in love with the man is going to take a lot of work.
If I'm going to compare Elizabeth of York stories, I will say I like Plaidy's interpretation just a tad better. Barnes' Elizabeth comes off a little weak and at times flighty. However, her love for England and her family can never be doubted. Overall, it's a pleasant story and makes for an enjoyable, light read.
A list of things I am suppose to be doing instead of this:
1.) Laundry- Always laundry
2.) Potentially paying attention to my children- They have Legos and Play-Doh. They don't need me
3.) Finishing invoices and taking inventory after being at sales events all weekend
4.) Figuring out how badly all of these new f'n tax laws are going to screw me over- My accountant is probably going to kill me
Other things I will probably do instead of any of the above things:
1.) Make another pot of coffee- How am I suppose to do any of the other things without more coffee?
2.) Update all of my reading challenges
3.) Schedule Facebook posts for my business
4.) Take a look the spirit schedule for the week and figure out how to wear yoga pants to work for the next four days
Let me start by saying this book is not anything I would normally pick for myself. It has all of the characteristics of a books I avoid. Some of those things include over-promotion on sites like Amazon and Goodreads (which makes sense because they are the same) or books classified as romance. I'm not a huge romance reader. I'm just not.
So then why did I read this book? It was gifted to me two years ago in a secret Santa book swap. One of my reading goals this year is to read more of my unread books on my physical bookshelves. I'm plotting a trip to my favorite used bookstore in the near future. Worst case scenario, I don't like the book and I can trade it for something else on my trip.
This wasn't a bad book. I have definitely read worse and I have most definitely read better. However, I made the mistake of reading reviews at about the halfway mark. I try really hard not to read too many reviews about a book I am currently reading. Occasionally when I am on the fence about if I want to finish a book, I will see if any friends have read the book and read their reviews. In this case a lot of friends have read this particular book. Most of them mentioned how this novel was a re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story. After digesting this nugget of information, the story telling became predictable. I was hoping for at least one plot twist but it never came. I was hoping that with this book being part of a larger series, the end would not be one of those happy endings wrapped with a big bow. This bow was big and it glittered.
Maybe at this point you are asking yourself "How did you give a book three and a half stars when it doesn't sound like you really liked it?"
That's an excellent question. Here's my answer- The writing wasn't terrible. Once I was through the first 100 pages, things took off. The plot moved along quick enough to keep my interest. The heroine wasn't overly whiny but at the same time she wasn't really anything special. Although I found myself confused about why she would find herself attracted to Tam in the first place. In my defense, I wonder that every time my children watch Beauty and the Beast. Don't get me wrong, gifting me a library would probably get you something but not a life long-head over heels-leave my family- kind of commitment. At the end of the novel, I found myself wondering why this book hasn't been created in to a cheesy movie franchise. It certainly has all of the necessary requirements along with the potential for Hollywood to get it all wrong.
At the end of the day what does all of this mean? Not much. Will I pick up the next book in the series? Maybe when the day comes that my oldest daughter wants to pick up this series. It seems like it could be an entertaining mother/daughter buddy read. For now, I'm returning to my regularly scheduled mystery and historical fiction reading channel.
I'm guessing this will pick up at some point.
Honestly, I don't have very high hopes going into this book. It's everything I tend to stay away from. However, it was a gift and I'm trying really hard to clear my physical bookshelves. The high school student who babysits my children has already claimed it if I don't like it.
Sarah Perry is an author who has been recommended to me by more than a few like minded readers. This book and her most recent release Melmoth were featured on a shelf at my local library. If we are being honest, I only picked The Essex Serpent because I need a book featuring a plant on the cover for a reading challenge task.
The blurbs on the book (which I never really take too seriously) suggest this to be a gothic style novel. I have not actually read a lot of gothic novels so I can't speak to whether or not this fits the genre. Was it a little dark and foreboding? A little. It was dramatic but not the intense, mysterious kind of drama promised when one reads the premise of the book. It was more high school drama in Victorian dress. I don't mean that to be a negative thing. At least not in this instance.
I was drawn to the author's writing style even if I didn't think much of the story. Something about her way with words made me want to sit down and devour the book whole. I had to pace myself while at the same time making sure I was going to have enough to time to sit down and read more than a few pages without interrupting. The way the book was broken up into parts and then by months made pacing easier.
At the end of things, I would have liked to see fewer characters. There was potential for some amazing characters but the constantly alternative povs and the sheer number of people involved made it difficult to really flesh anyone particular person out. The constantly diverted attention really did a disservice to Cora and William. I came away finding both of them a tad on the shallow side. I think if the author had taken the time to give the more attention and development, they could have been memorable characters.
I will be picking up Melmoth in the near future to see if the author's style evolves.