Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria Strauss

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria StraussPassion Blue by Victoria Strauss
Series: Passion Blue #1
Published by Skyscape on November 6, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Goodreads
5 Stars
"Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

Book Review:

I’m not big on art. Famous paintings and sculptures and the like are nice in a historical way, but that’s about it. I prefer words over pictures, always have. Once in a while I’ll read a good biography or historical fiction about a famous painter, but that’s the extent of my interest.

So, if I don’t like art, you might ask why I enjoyed PASSION BLUE so much. The answer is easy: Victoria Strauss made paintings, the process of painting, and color theory come alive in words. Thanks to her vivid and clear descriptions, I could see Giulia’s drawings, see the paintings the nuns created, and see their enjoyment in their work. I could also see the gorgeous uniqueness of Passion blue, the secret blue color the convent’s painting mistress is famous for discovering.

PASSION BLUE is historical fiction with a little supernatural mixed in. When Giulia is sent to the convent of Santa Marta against her will, she asks an astrologer to make a talisman for her. She wants her dream of marriage and children to come true, not to be sentenced to a lonely, barren life behind convent walls. But in the convent, Giulia’s artistic abilities are discovered, and she’s taken under the wing of Maestra Humilità. Giulia is surprised to discover that women have more options inside the convent than outside. Inside, she could be a painter. Outside, she would just be a servant, maybe a wife if she’s lucky.

Anasurymboriel, the spirit inside Giulia’s talisman, will help her achieve her heart’s desire. She just has to figure out what it is.

PASSION BLUE is a book I’ve read twice since its release in 2012. I’m sure I’ll read it again in the future. It’s one of those books about art that makes me see why so many people enjoy artwork. It makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and play with colors, even though I can’t draw a stick figure. That’s how well the author described painting and color and composition. I also found convent life interesting: the differences between common-born and noble-born nuns, and how women sometimes had more freedom locked away from the world.

PASSION BLUE is an engaging historical fiction novel of painting life in Renaissance Italy, one girl’s pursuit to find her true heart’s desire in the place where she might never have expected it.

Upcoming:

Make sure you check back tomorrow, September 19, for my review of PASSION BLUE‘s sequel, COLOR SONG!

Socialize with the author:

Victoria Strauss:
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– leeanna

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 346
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.

Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

Book Review:

In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.

I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.

If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.

At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.

The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.

Socialize with the author:

Paddy Eger:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

Book Review: The Bone Church by Victoria DoughertyThe Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty
Published by Pier's Court Press on April 15, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Thriller
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

bone church blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE BONE CHURCH by Victoria Dougherty. It’s a historical thriller set during the Cold War and WWII.

The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

THE BONE CHURCH is my kind of historical fiction. Beautifully written with compelling characters, an intriguing, twisty plotline, and full of historical details. I love it when a book interests me enough in the subject matter to make me want to learn alllllll about what I’m reading. For example — Google “the Bone Church.” I bet the pictures you see will make you want to read this book, especially once I tell you there’s a very important part of the book set in the Bone Church.

THE BONE CHURCH seamlessly melds two timelines together, 1956 and 1943-1944. In both times, Felix and Magdalena are trying to escape Czechoslovakia, from the Germans and then from the Soviets. In 1943, Felix accidentally gets caught up in an attempt to assassinate Josef Goebbels. In 1956, he’s a Jesuit working with a corrupt cardinal to smuggle people out of Soviet controlled countries. In both times, Felix’s goal is to rescue Magdalena.

The whole time I was reading THE BONE CHURCH, I had no idea what was going to happen next. I always enjoy that, because it’s no fun to predict the end before you finish the book. The author continually surprised me with every twist and turn. She also made me feel like I was right there, hiding behind Felix’s shoulder, waiting for the next spat of gunfire. The author didn’t shy away from describing the worst of humanity and living conditions, but in a way that left you with a tiny bit of hope. Aside from feeling like I was in war torn Czechoslovakia, I also felt the paranoia of everyone involved, not knowing who to trust, and of having no choice but to trust, to put your life in someone else’s hands.

The book is gritty and dark, maybe even hard to read at times because Felix and Magdalena face overwhelming odds and incredibly dangerous situations. But along with the spark of hope that runs through the book, Felix has some angelic help. While some of the religious aspects probably went over my head, I thought everything tied together really well. I do wish the ending had more on what Felix and Magdalena face in the future, but looking back, I can’t really imagine a different ending.

About the author:

author victoria doughertyVictoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Buy links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | Book Depository | IndieBound

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– leeanna

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay SmithSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Book Review:

On the surface, I should have loved SEKRET. Historical fiction + science fiction? Check. Teenagers with supernatural powers? Check. A real life dystopia? Check. But something about SEKRET just didn’t work for me.

Yulia is able to sense thoughts and memories through touch. It’s a secret ability that’s helped her survive as a fugitive in Communist Russia. But that ability draws the interest of the KGB, and at the start of the book, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the KGB as a psychic spy. If she doesn’t cooperate, her mother and brother will pay the price.

She’s not the only one with special abilities. After the KGB takes her, she lives with a group of other teens who have abilities such as remote viewing and seeing the future. They are supposed to thwart the CIA’s attempts to steal plans for the Soviet Union’s attempt (Veter I) at orbiting the moon.

SEKRET just didn’t hold my interest. At the halfway point, I thought about restarting the book, because I was sure I’d missed something important. I hadn’t, but I felt that way because of how slowly the story progressed. I also spent some of that time confused, as the use of powers didn’t always make sense/was inconsistent. For example, Yulia works through touch, but somehow she’s able to tap into another character’s remote viewing of a room, and read an object she’s not physically touching. Another example: Yulia and Valentin are somehow able to communicate telepathically, without Yulia touching Valentin. But she couldn’t speak telepathically with anyone else.

I did appreciate that the author gave some background on the Cold War and the Soviet Union Yulia lives in. I read another YA book that was set during the Cold War, but it didn’t set the scene at all. So I did like that part of SEKRET. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of Yulia’s life before the KGB took her, but I’ll take what I can get.

The training and missions were interesting, but Yulia and her comrades didn’t spend a lot of time on that. The book just kind of floats around, going from the Veter I thing to the CIA hunting down the psychics to Yulia trying to escape. Yeah, in a house full of mind readers, she tries to plan an escape. *headdesk* SEKRET was very convoluted for me.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Smith:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by Sandra GullandThe Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland
Published by Doubleday on April 8, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she's socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed.

Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King's favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

Book Review:

I could write an extremely long review on why I loved THE SHADOW QUEEN. But no one wants to read a novel about a novel, so here’s what’s really important: I connected with this book. I read it twice, because the first time I flew through it so quickly I couldn’t write a review other than “read this!” The second time, I enjoyed the book even more. It’s one I’m sure to read another couple of times in the future.

I had never heard of Claudette des Œillets before reading THE SHADOW QUEEN, and from what I gather, she doesn’t have the greatest historical reputation. Claudette is known for being involved with the Affair of the Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV. Claudette is also known for being the companion of Athénaïs de Montespan, the “Shadow Queen” of the king, aka the real power behind the throne.

However, Sandra Gulland presents a different side of Claudette. It’s a side that worked very well for me, because I empathized so with Claudette. Claudette’s father dies when she’s young, and he puts the responsibility for her high-strung mother and handicapped brother on her shoulders. The majority of the rest of her life is spent making sure they’re provided for, whether she has to clean chamber pots or find a wet nurse for Athénaïs’s offspring by the king. Whatever it takes to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

France in the middle to late 1600s was a pretty miserable place for poor people, so I understood why Claudette was so entranced whenever she had a chance meeting with Athénaïs. The encounters start when both girls are children, and even then, Claudette’s easily able to see the difference between their lives. She’s living in a cave, begging to perform for the king while Athénaïs and her pony are dripping in ribbons and silver. So I could see why Claudette would give up one life she loved (theatre) for Athénaïs and the court.

THE SHADOW QUEEN had just the right amount of historical detail to for me to perfectly imagine Claudette’s world, from the theatre to court. I’ve never had an interest in French plays or the history of them, but now I do, thanks to reading this book. Claudette’s parents are both actors, and so the beginning “acts” of the book take place in the theatre world. It was pretty cool to find out how plays were staged back then. Also, when Claudette moves to court, to be Athénaïs’ maid and companion, it was easy to draw allusions between both false worlds.

In between my readings of THE SHADOW QUEEN, I read its companion novel, MISTRESS OF THE SUN. That book is about Louis XIV’s other mistress, Louise de la Vallière. For a complete reading experience, I recommend reading both (the order doesn’t matter in my opinion). I did prefer THE SHADOW QUEEN, mostly because of Claudette.

The only criticism I have for this book is I think “THE SHADOW QUEEN” is a misleading title. The book is about Claudette’s entire life, not just her time at court with Athénaïs. At first I thought the book would be all about the real shadow queen, but it’s not. So if you’re expecting a book entirely about Athénaïs, this is not it. But Claudette’s story is just as good.

I don’t know, guys. I just had a love affair with this book. Both times I read it, I couldn’t put it down. The smooth writing, the historical detail, the interesting story — everything together submerged me so completely into Claudette’s world. My eyes hated me, because I’d just keep flipping page after page.

Socialize with the author:

Sandra Gulland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-HollandBracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Series: Viking Sagas #1
Published by Quercus Books on March 11, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Book Review:

From the summary, BRACELET OF BONES sounds awesome. After being left behind by her father, fourteen-year-old Solveig travels from Norway to Miklagard (Constantinople) by herself. For a girl who has never gone to the local market by herself, the prospect of such a journey is overwhelming, but Solveig loves her father and wants to be with him.

The author takes something that should be super exciting — Solveig’s journey — and makes it super boring. BRACELET OF BONES is for grades 5 and up, but I can’t see younger readers sticking with this book because there’s just not a lot happening! My younger self might have finished it, but that’s only because I’ve always had a thing about finishing books.

This book is the start of a series, which wasn’t something I realized until I finished it and saw the preview for book two. So BRACELET OF BONES is the story of Solveig’s journey from Norway to Miklagard, and only that journey. It’s somewhat repetitive, and I just feel like nothing happened. Solveig took a boat ride. Solveig took another boat ride. Solveig took a third boat ride.

I think some of my apathy for the book was due to the writing style and Solveig herself. The writing is pretty simple, which is okay because it’s a middle grade book and aimed towards younger readers. But I lost count of the “Solveig thought this” or “Solveig thought that” type of sentences, or the times she exclaimed or whispered or cried … she never just said anything. Call me overly picky, but that sort of writing pulls me out of a story. And Solveig … I never connected with her. I felt like I was watching the events of the book rather than being with her on her journey.

I wanted to like BRACELET OF BONES. I mean, Vikings? A Viking girl going on a grand adventure? That should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

Socialize with the author:

Kevin Crossley-Holland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima Jean

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima JeanKnight Assassin by Rima Jean
Published by Entangled Teen on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 242
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
2 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Zayn has special powers she cannot control—powers that others fear and covet. Powers that cause the Templar Knights to burn Zayn’s mother at the stake for witchcraft. When a mysterious stranger tempts Zayn to become the first female member of the heretical Assassins, the chance to seek her revenge lures her in. She trains to harness her supernatural strength and agility, and then enters the King of Jerusalem's court in disguise with the assignment to assassinate Guy de Molay, her mother’s condemner. But once there, she discovers Earic Goodwin, the childhood friend who still holds her heart, among the knights—and his ocean-blue eyes don’t miss a thing. Will vengeance be worth the life of the one love she has left?

Book Review:

Featuring a female assassin with magical powers, KNIGHT ASSASSIN has a lot of elements that I normally like. But for some reason, I wasn’t able to get into the book. It just didn’t click for me.

Zayn has mysterious powers she can’t control, powers that make her faster and stronger than others. She and her mother are not welcome in their village, and keep to themselves. When she rejects the marriage proposal of an important man in the village, her mother is burned at the stake, accused of being a witch. Zayn herself is raped by Guy de Molay, son of the lord of the land.

Emotionally and physically abused, and without her beloved mother, Zayn doesn’t know what to do. She just wants to die. But before she can do anything, she’s rescued by Junaid, an Assassin of a heretical Islamic sect. Because of her rumored abilities, Zayn is given the opportunity to train as an Assassin. Thirsting for revenge against Guy, she goes for it, becoming the first female Assassin.

Although both Christianity and Islam play a role in the book, the author doesn’t shove religion down anyone’s throats. In fact, Zayn is not religious at all. Take the Dome of the Rock — both religions find it important, and fought over it. Zayn can’t understand why anyone would kill over a rubble-filled spot. In a time (~1180) where people were extremely religious, it was refreshing to see a main character who wasn’t. Zayn really only joins the Nizari Isma’ili so she can gain the skills she’ll need to kill Guy.

The romance wasn’t a big portion of the book, which I liked. Zayn has no use for men after her rape, and she didn’t really care for them before, either. She wanted to be independent, not shackled to any man in marriage. But she runs into Earic Goodwin, a Saxon Knight Templar, while trying to accomplish her assassination of Guy. She vaguely knew Earic when they were children, and almost the minute she sees him again, she starts thinking she loves him. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between them. I wish they had stayed friends, and let the romance come along in the next book.

At 242 pages, KNIGHT ASSASSIN isn’t too long, but it read like a longer book for me. I think this was because of flashbacks, which the author would use whenever an important event from the past came up, such as Zayn and Earic’s first meeting.

I did like that the book was set in Syria and Jerusalem. It’s good to have a fantasy/historical romance that isn’t set in medieval England. However, I didn’t get a good sense of the world, other than the types of food they ate. I also wanted to know more about Zayn’s powers. I’m still confused on what they actually are. I’m guessing that will be explained more in the next book.

Overall, KNIGHT ASSASSIN was missing something for me. It was okay, but flawed.

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Rima Jean:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on March 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 355
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Book Review:

“Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married.”

That sentence in the summary for THE WINNER’S CURSE is what caught my attention. Immediately I wanted to know what sort of world Kestrel lived in, that those would be her only choices. And I wanted to know what she would do, because I was sure it wasn’t going to be either one of those things. That wouldn’t have made for a very exciting book.

THE WINNER’S CURSE is a book with a lot of hype behind it. A lot of other readers have LOVED it. For me, it was a so-so book, mainly because I never got behind the romantic relationship. And as that relationship is pretty important to several of the events in the book, I had an okay reading experience. Not a great one, but I probably will continue this trilogy, because I do want to see what will happen next.

Kestrel is a Valorian. Her people have conquered the the Herrani, turning them into slaves in their own land. The Valorians are great warriors, especially Kestrel’s father, who was responsible for the victory over the Herrani. General Trajan expects his daughter to follow in his footsteps by joining the military, and while Kestrel is a brilliant tactician, she can’t fight very well and doesn’t want to kill anyone. But she doesn’t really want to marry, either. She wants to play the piano, but playing music isn’t something the Valorians regard highly.

When a slave goes up for sale, one who supposedly sings, but is defiant on the block, Kestrel impulsively buys him. You know what happens next: forbidden love develops between Kestrel and Arin. At least their relationship wasn’t insta-love, but I just didn’t feel any chemistry between them. They spend time getting to know each other, Kestrel asking Arin to always be honest with her, but … I don’t know. I’m not going to spoil the story, but as I said above, their feelings for each other turn out to be quite important, and because I didn’t feel the relationship, I was meh on a lot of the events.

I also wanted more worldbuilding in the book. In the Author’s Note, the author says she was inspired by the Greco-Roman period after Rome conquered Greece. Little bits of the world are revealed, such as all Valorians wearing weapons, or the wall color in a Herrani room signifying its usage. But I had a lot of unanswered questions, from where Valoria was located in comparison to Herran, to why Kestrel had to have an escort for going out in public.

THE WINNER’S CURSE does unfurl slowly, the story building layer upon layer. I did enjoy that aspect, as well as the writer’s style. Marie Rutkoski has a way of describing things in this book that I found poetic but readable. Here’s an example from Arin’s auction: “The bidding spiraled higher, each voice spurring the next until it seemed that a roped arrow was shooting through the members of the crowd, binding them together, drawing them tight with excitement (p. 14, ARC).”

While THE WINNER’S CURSE didn’t quite hit the mark for me, it wasn’t bad, and if you’re a fan of forbidden relationships, you might enjoy it more than I did.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Rutkoski:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy

Book Review: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy PurdyThe Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy
Published by Kensington on February 25, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own. . .

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne—while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne. . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances—and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one—and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning. . .

Book Review:

I was drawn to THE BOLEYN BRIDE because while I have read many Tudor books, both fiction and non-fiction, I haven’t read anything about Elizabeth Boleyn, mother to Mary, George, and Anne. So I went into this book hoping to learn about her, as well as gain an understand of who Elizabeth was.

Purdy’s version of Elizabeth is not a sympathetic one. Elizabeth could aptly be described as a mean girl — she’s gorgeous, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the land, and thinks everyone is beneath her. She expects her father will make her a good marriage, to someone with power, money, and looks. So imagine her shock when she’s married off to a merchant and expected to be his broodmare. She flies into a rage, breaking her maid’s nose.

Elizabeth never gets over her anger at being married to Thomas Boleyn. Granted, Purdy’s view of him is not so nice either, and so I did feel sympathy for Elizabeth being forced to marry him and be used for nothing more than bearing his children. I also didn’t mind that Elizabeth wasn’t a nice woman — she had numerous affairs and barely cared about her children until they were older and “interesting.” It was refreshing to see an outspoken woman who did what she wanted, using her position and husband’s absences to please herself.

My big problem with THE BOLEYN BRIDE was the author’s style. I felt like I was a spectator, as Elizabeth recounted events as if she were writing a memoir. Also, when sentences are twenty plus words long, my eyes tend to glaze over. A few longer sentences are fine, but there were so many of them in this book. I ended up feeling that the book was double the length it actually was. Lastly … whenever Elizabeth described her long-time lover, Remi Jouet, she called him “doughy,” like newly baked bread. Um, that doesn’t equate as sexy in my head.

THE BOLEYN BRIDE didn’t work for me because of the author’s writing style, and because after finishing, I don’t feel like I really know Elizabeth at all. Once Anne comes into the picture, and Henry starts chasing after her, the book switches to their story, with a little input from Elizabeth on how she felt about her daughter marrying the king and then Anne’s downfall. Basically, a standard Tudor historical fiction book.

Socialize with the author:

Brandy Purdy:
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– leeanna