The Reading Machine [11]: January 4, 2015

reading machine

For my Stacking the Shelves/Sunday Post, which I’m calling The Reading Machine, I list the books I’ve bought recently, books I might hope to read in the upcoming week, a short life/blog update, and anything else of note.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here. Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and you can find out all about it here.

The Reading Machine: stacking the shelvesThese are the last books/movie sets I bought in 2014. Well, I did buy some at BookOutlet’s Boxing Day sale, but they haven’t even shipped yet :| . I also ordered some paperback releases from Amazon, but they’re all pre-orders so they won’t show up for a while.

I’m not a huge fan of pre-ordering — I hate waiting on stuff to show up, but sometimes I need more items for free shipping, so yeah… And I guess there is one other plus: random book arrivals!

So! Here’s what I do have in the house right now that’s new:
UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder
SHADOW ON THE CROWN by Patricia Bracewell
NECESSARY EVIL by Ian Tregillis

A weird mix, right? I’ve wanted a copy of UNTEACHABLE since Leah’s book was republished by Atria. NECESSARY EVIL — now I own the entire Milkweed Triptych, which is a fantastic series I hope to re-read and review this year. SHADOW ON THE CROWN was one of my favorite books of 2013, so I needed a copy of that. And lastly, I own every World of Warcraft book, so I had to snap up DAWN OF THE ASPECTS when BookOutlet dangled it in front of my face.

As for what I plan on reading this week… I have no idea! I’m reading one non-fiction book on life in Ancient Egypt, but I haven’t planned my review reading yet for January.

On the Blog:

Nothing really! I dislike the holidays, so I kinda buried my head in the sand for most of December. Oh, I did do a short post thanking ya’ll for sticking around my blog, so feel free to comment here or there and tell me your site/Goodreads/Twitter whatever, so I can stop by and say hi!

After being off and on with this post the last year, I have decided to try and do it every week. So I’m sure I’ll meet a lot of you that way, too. :)

What Up, Life?

In addition to books, I’ve also bought a couple of DVD sets, as I’m working on a huge knitting project and that’s about the only time I watch a lot of TV or movies.

Game of Thrones, season 1
Lost Girl, season 4
Penny Dreadful, season 1
Orphan Black, season 1

I just started Penny Dreadful yesterday. Super creepy but great if you liked DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN or the like. I’m also watching Reign on Netflix, which I’m liking a lot more than I thought I would. Does anyone else see Catherine de’ Medici as Narcissa Malfoy?

– leeanna

Goodbye, 2014! Hi, 2015 :|

leeannadotme instagram2014 was a very difficult year for me, which partly resulted in less blogging than I would have liked. To put it in the words of the Queen, 2014 was my annus horribilis. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be about as bad. Hey, I’m a pessimist! A very, very, very big pessimist. If it’s any good, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Anywho, I’ll admit, for a while I thought about throwing in the towel on my blog. I quit visiting other blogs and interacting with peeps. Once you stop, it’s surprisingly difficult to get back into it! Or maybe I just feel like I don’t have much to say, as I have bookmarked posts from months ago that I’ve been meaning to comment on. Apparently, I’m a content hoarder. I do miss talking with other bloggers and readers, so I’m going to try hard to get back into it. I mean, that’s a big part of why I blog — because I have so few people in real life that I can squee about books with.

I’m not making this post for sympathy… sometimes life sucks, but you have to carry on anyway. What I want to say is thank you for sticking around! This blog is heading into its third year, which is hard to believe. I’m not making any blogging resolutions, because I’m rubbish at keeping them, but I do have one goal. To be social again.

So please, if you read this, leave a comment with your blog address or Twitter or Instagram or Goodreads so I can come by and say hi! I need friends :D

– leeanna

2014 Favorite Books of the Year

In 2014, I read 180 books. I picked my top 21, or ~11% of what I read to make this list. Quite a few I didn’t review but just read for me. I’ll probably blog about them in the future, because I need to talk more about my favorites! As with last year’s list, I picked books that jumped out at me from my list of books read. So not all are 5 stars, but I liked them enough to remember them at the end of the year.

(in no particular order)

CRESS by Marissa Meyer
I’ve loved every volume of The Lunar Chronicles, so it’s no surprise CRESS makes my list this year. I didn’t review it because I read for enjoyment, but it’s a 5 star read! I’m just happy I read it at the end of the year so I don’t have such a long wait for WINTER.
HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie
HALF A KING is my first Joe Abercrombie book, but it won’t be my last. This fantasy was dark, gritty, and I never knew what was going to happen next. I read this so fast I was sad when I hit the last page.
This book made the list because I was still thinking about it a month after I finished. A great book that tackles racism, women’s rights, and LGBT issues in the late 1950s. Robin Talley is one of my new favorite authors. Review.
MEMORY OF WATER by Emmi Itäranta
MEMORY OF WATER has such evocative, gorgeous writing, just like the flow of water. Review.
MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers
Ohhhh man. The end to one of my favorite trilogies, MORTAL HEART is a book I want to read again, and I just finished it in November! Annith’s story is a great conclusion to an amazing fantasy series.
NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis
Another book I want to reread. I love post-apocalyptic books, and I thought this one was quite creative, harsh and bleak, but just a tiny bit uplifting. Seriously. Lynn is my spirit animal.
RITES OF PASSAGE by Joy N. Hensley
I stayed up reading RITES OF PASSAGE until my eyes burned. I loved how strong the main character is, and how she doesn’t let anyone get in her way.
RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo
I was terrified to read RUIN AND RISING because The Grisha Trilogy is a series I fucking love. I read quite a few series enders that disappointed me this year, but not this one. I love the worldbuilding, characters, mythology, story… everything about this series.
The only nonfiction book to make my list, this is a really educational biography of Hatshepsut. Reading this book made me want to take the author’s classes because I enjoyed her thoughts on women in power. Review.
THORN JACK by Katherine Harbour
THORN JACK is a favorite this year because I loved the dark faeries and the lush world the author created. It was like reading a dream. Review.
RED RISING by Pierce Brown
I actually read RED RISING at the end of 2013, but I put it on this year’s list since it’s a 2014 release. I couldn’t get enough of Darrow and the dark, violent world the author came up with. Review.
STOLEN SONGBIRD by Danielle L. Jensen
I love trolls. This book has trolls. I loved every bit of it, especially the trolls. ‘Nuff said. Review.
DIAMONDS & DECEIT by Leila Rasheed
This book is practically Downton Abbey in written form. There’s something about this series (At Somerton) that just grabs me. Review.
BITTER SEEDS by Ian Tregillis
I have a friend who tried to get me to read this book for years. I don’t know why I took so long, because BITTER SEEDS is one of the best and most creative alternate histories I’ve ever read. Ian Tregillis pretty much punched me over the head with dark and depressing, wheeeeee!
KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey
This is one of my favorite fantasy novels ever. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. This year I read all of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel/Naamah novels, to the count of 7,171 pages. Rerereading KUSHIEL’S DART helped me through some hard times this year.
TRAITOR’S BLADE by Sebastien de Castell
TRAITOR’S BLADE is a fantasy book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I loved it enough to read it twice in a month. Review.
IRON & VELVET by Alexis Hall
Basically, the f/f paranormal book I’ve been waiting years for. Vampires, werewolves, faeries, and a snarky P.I. Review.
A DAY OF FIRE by Ben Kane, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
An engrossing historical fiction of Pompeii’s last days, through the lens of six different characters. It’s virtually impossible to tell it’s written by six authors. Might have made me tear up a bit! Review.
PASSION BLUE and COLOR SONG by Victoria Strauss
Great historical fiction about a young girl that wants to make it as a painter at a time when women were basically property. I really liked how the author described colors and the process of painting. PASSION BLUE review | COLOR SONG review.

2014 favorites

– leeanna

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
5 Stars
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Book Review:

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES is a book that touched me deeply, and one I want everyone to read. This is a book that deserves all the readers.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES tackles a lot of things: racism, women’s rights, and even LGBT issues in 1959. But it doesn’t read like an “issue book.” Everything comes together in a well-told story, one that kept me reading until 5am.

The first part of the book is from Sarah’s view. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend a white school, and we see every horrible, cruel moment of integration from her eyes. The author doesn’t shy away from history or try to paint it in a better light. The second part of the book is from Linda’s view. Daughter of the vehemently racist editor of the town’s paper, Linda is also against integration. In her eyes, the black students are ruining everything. The last part of the book is told from both of their perspectives.

I liked how LIES WE TELL OURSELVES was set up; the differing perspectives let you get into both character’s minds and see how they both feel about everything. Each chapter is also titled with a lie, such as “There’s no need to be afraid (Sarah)” or “None of this has anything to do with me (Linda).”

I read this book a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I’ve sat on this review for a while, trying to figure out just what to say about LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. In the end, I think that’s the best praise I can give. This book is still in my head, and I’m sure it’s going to stay there. It’s a rare book that does that, because I read upwards of 100 books a year and most are forgettable.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES ripped at my heart, made me feel for both Sarah and Linda and the other characters, and then left me feeling just a bit hopeful at the end.

Socialize with the author:

Robin Talley:

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig

waiting on wednesday

atlanta burns by chuck wendigAtlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
Release Date: January 27, 2015

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault.

You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

I’ve wanted to read something of Chuck Wendig’s for a while. His blog is awesome and I’ve heard his books are fantastic. So ATLANTA BURNS is coming along at a perfect time. This sentence in the summary is the one that did it for me: Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. That’s all I need to know!

Socialize with the author:

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little

forbidden blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for FORBIDDEN by Kimberley Griffiths Little. The tour is hosted by I Am A Reader Book Blasts and Blog Tours and you can visit the rest of the stops here.

forbidden by kimberley griffiths littleInfo:
Title: Forbidden
Author: Kimberley Griffiths Little
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: Forbidden #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, YA
Page Count: 397


In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.

Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.

With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.

Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.



“. . . At its core, this is a romance, with all the push and pull that goes along with impossible love, and Little elevates the story by creating a perilous landscape, both outward and inward, as Jayden must deal with the hardship of desert life as well as her own desires.”


“This is a fast-paced, entertaining choice which will appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance.”

“Lush, lyrical, romantic. Forbidden transports readers into a vividly imagined place and time.”
–Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author

“The harsh beauty of the deserts of ancient Mesopotamia come to life in Forbidden, with beautiful descriptions that will make you crave water and check for sand in your clothes. Your heart will break as you root for Jayden to triumph over the many struggles that threaten to tear her world apart, and the ending will leave you thirsting for more!”
–Sara B. Larson, author of Defy


forbidden by kimbereley griffiths little

The night was starkly beautiful under a canopy of jeweled stars. I savored my moments of freedom, which were marred by the realization that it was dripping away day by day.

The sizzle of coffee beans roasting in the skillet floated across the still air. Cups clinked on a tray as my father passed them around the circle. The aroma of roasted brew spiced with cardamom seeped into the night.

As I tried to slip past, Horeb’s eyes caught mine. Firelight flickered over his face, outlining his jaw and wind-tangled black hair. He was devastatingly handsome just as all the girls said, but his lips curled into a smile that sent shudders down my spine.

Horeb’s glance lingered on my body, settling not on my face, but lower, as if he was undressing me right there on the dirt path.

His eyes locking onto mine, Horeb rose from the circle of men. I jerked around, breaking off his stare. Walking faster, I turned the corner of the tent just as his arm reached out to stop me.

“So, little cousin,” Horeb said. “Have you been enjoying the betrothal ceremony? Tell me, are the women telling stories of marital relations?”

My breath caught like a thorn in my throat. The women’s ceremonies were not discussed with any male—only inside the privacy of a marriage bed.

“You shouldn’t be saying these things to me,” I said.

Running his fingers down my arm, Horeb continued to study me. “There are many things I’d like to say to you, Jayden. Do to you.”

There used to be a time when my throat pounded every time Horeb turned my direction. A time when he was growing into those big, dark eyes and that hard, muscular body. Moments when I wanted to touch his thick, black hair, or run my finger along his jaw to discover what a boy’s skin felt like with a newly growing beard. But now that I was sixteen, and he twenty, his stares made me uneasy. My heart still pounded, but not from love. And I wasn’t sure what it was or what to call it.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author kimberley griffiths littleAward-winning author Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico on the banks of the Rio Grande with her husband and their three sons. Her middle-grade novels, When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, have been praised as “fast-paced and dramatic,” with “beautifully realized settings.” Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell. She’s stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria.
Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. ExleyNero's Fiddle by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #3
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on October 9, 2014
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 254
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
4 Stars
One... death by spontaneous human combustion is a rare act of God

Two... is surely a freakish coincidence

Three... well, that’s starting to look deliberate.

Cara has a new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunter, she’s adapting to married life and living in a country manor that more closely resembles a mausoleum.

In London, Inspector Fraser investigates a series of strange deaths by divine fire - except he doesn't believe in coincidences. Despite himself, he enlists Cara's help to identify what artifact could cause such a hideous death while his desire to bring her husband to justice burns unabated.

Someone's intent on making sure a decades old secret stays hidden and Cara must figure out who is responsible before this case consumes her family and rocks the entire realm to its foundations.

nero's fiddle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for NERO’S FIDDLE by A.W. Exley. This is the third book in her Artifact Hunters series, a series I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m excited to be on the tour. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

NERO’S FIDDLE is the third book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described this series as quirky and unique, and that holds true with the newest installment. These books are a great blend of steampunk, action, romance, historical fiction, and mythology.

If you’re new to this series, I’d recommend you go back and start with book one, NEFERTITI’S HEART. Otherwise, you won’t know who the characters are and what they’ve gone through. NERO’S FIDDLE doesn’t give much recap of previous events. Since it’s been a while since I read the other books, I was a bit lost at the start, but after a couple of chapters I was good.

In their new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Cara and Nate must track down an object suspected for several fiery deaths. NERO’S FIDDLE has a bit less action than previous books in the series, but there’s a lot of mystery and character development. I had absolutely no idea how this book would wrap up, and I always enjoy when an author can keep me guessing.

When I reviewed NEFERTITI’S HEART, I made note of Cara’s grandmother, Nan, and Nan’s friend, Nessy. They were freaking hilarious and stole every scene they were in, and in NERO’S FIDDLE, they play a big role. I was happy to learn more about them, as well as Cara’s grandfather. Gideon is only in flashbacks, but dang. What a guy!

I read NERO’S FIDDLE from start to finish, enjoyed every page, and now I’m looking forward to MOSEH’S STAFF, the fourth and last book in the Artifact Hunters series.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.

– leeanna

Book Review: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios

Book Review: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather DemetriosExquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
2 Stars
Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Book Review:

I came very close to not finishing EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. More than once, actually. The first half of the book took me days to read, which is unusual for me. EXQUISITE CAPTIVE just didn’t draw me in or make me want to keep reading.

While reading, I felt like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE was the second book in a trilogy, and I would have preferred it to be a second book. So much interesting stuff — Nalia’s capture, the jinni war — take place in flashbacks or conversations, and if the series had started there, I think I would have been a lot more interested and not as lost trying to make sense of all the jinni stuff.

The best part of EXQUISITE CAPTIVE? The jinni. Really, that’s the only reason I kept reading. I liked the glimpses the author gave of the jinni homeworld, jinni customs, jinni magic, etc. I just wish that information hadn’t come in flashbacks awkwardly inserted into the current story.

Otherwise … meh. I really wanted to like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. The idea is so cool, but the execution just wasn’t there for me.

Take Nalia, for instance. The main character. She’s a jinni enslaved to a horrible man, but okay. Whatever, Nalia. I didn’t feel sorry for her. The author didn’t make me feel sorry for her. Malek, Nalia’s master, was more interesting to me than Nalia. I did appreciate that the author tried to do something darker with their relationship — in my opinion, there are hints of Stockholm Syndrome — but then Nalia meets Raif. And then they fall in love, leading to a weird love tangle. There’s a lack of action, too. So much of the book felt like it was Nalia whining about her situation rather than trying to do something about it.

Socialize with the author:

Heather Demetrios:

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

waiting on wednesday

golden son by pierce brownGolden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
Release Date: January 13, 2015

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation. Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

AHHHH! I am SO bloody damn excited that I was approved for an ARC of GOLDEN SON. I absolutely loved RED RISING, and having to wait a year for the sequel was harder than usual. I’ve been in a reading slump, but I’m thinking GOLDEN SON might shatter it.

I cannot wait to dive back into Pierce Brown’s work and see what he’s come up with this time. If you haven’t heard of RED RISING yet, now’s the time to check it out if you like any of the books mentioned in the summary, or if you’re looking for some crazy cool fantasy/science fiction.

Socialize with the author:

Pierce Brown:

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara CooneyThe Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney
Published by Crown Publishing on October 14, 2014
Genres: Biography
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging For Books
5 Stars
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

Book Review:

Lately I’ve been on an ancient Egypt reading kick. It’s so bad I’ve been rereading a couple of historical fiction novels over and over. So Kara Cooney’s biography of Hatshepsut, THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, came along at an excellent time for me.

Actually, I would have enjoyed it anytime, because I found THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING to be an enjoyable read. It’s quite informative, covering from before Hatshepsut’s birth to after her death. This gives as complete a picture as possible about the world she lived in, the customs of the 18th dynasty, religious practices, etc. I find that kind of thing fascinating.

In the Author’s Note, Kara Cooney explains that any biography of Hatshepsut will have little certainty, because of the time that has passed and because so much of Hatshepsut’s reign was erased. So there’s a fair amount of conjecture and speculation in THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, but with Cooney’s background, I think she’s qualified to do so, and she’s careful to mention when she’s venturing into the realm of guessing, and to back up those guesses with reasons.

This book is very readable and easy to understand. I’d recommend it for readers new to Hatshepsut, or others who want a deeper look into her kingship and how she forged it. I was only vaguely familiar with Hatshepsut before, but now I feel like I know a lot more. Such as how religion and ruling power were connected, and how Hatshepsut used her understanding of the gods and their mysteries to pave her way to being pharaoh, not just a regent.

THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING includes a section of photographs of statues, Hatshepsut’s obelisk, temples, and temple reliefs that helped me visualize Hatshepsut’s many building projects. The footnotes at the end are also interesting reading, all 30+ pages. Lastly, the author includes a long list of books to turn to for further reading.

When I finished THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, I wished I could take Cooney’s course on women and power at UCLA. I’m really into the idea that one of the reasons Hatshepsut was forgotten is because she did everything right: no scandals to mar her reign, successful military and trade campaigns instead of disasters, and a peaceful death.

Socialize with the author:

Kara Cooney:

– leeanna