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A Soupçon of Poison: Kat Holloway Victorian Mysteries
A Soupçon of Poison: Kat Holloway Victorian Mysteries
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great start to a new series, April 7, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I absolutely love Gardner's other historical mystery series about Captain Lacey, but this new series with fresh characters is very promising. I don't even love novellas all that much, nor am I a big fan of when protagonists are set up and falsely accused of murder, but this really wet my appetite for more and I can't wait for the first full length novel in the series coming out sometime this year. As ever, Gardner's excellent characterization and clever plots peppered with history are what make this short tale shine. I'm dying to know more about Daniel McAdam! I predict this is going to quickly be added to my list of favorite series.


The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Book 1)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Book 1)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In keeping with traditional Holmes tale, April 7, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's very well written, a little slow paced at first but I enjoyed reading about Mary's "training" as Holmes' apprentice. Excellent characterization, clever plot. I liked the different take on the time period setting, by moving it forward into the 20th century, it set it apart from Conan Doyle's work. However, overall, I thought it was very in keeping with a traditional Holmes tale.


The Dutch Girl: Renegades of the American Revolution
The Dutch Girl: Renegades of the American Revolution
by Donna Thorland
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.37
64 used & new from $1.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Yet, April 7, 2016
Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Donna Thorland just keeps getting better and better. While each of her novels involves new main characters and can be read independently, there are some common elements which link them all, and this one takes place soon after Turncoat ended. Kate Grey, the protagonist of Turncoat, has a minor role in The Dutch Girl as she takes up the Widow's work and recruits the reluctant Anna Winters into her network of spies.

One of the main themes of Thorland's stories which has always prevented me from giving them five stars, is the "love at first sight" element. The instant attraction I can understand, but the instant love was hard to get on board with. The Dutch Girl finally makes a change from this as the two main characters share a history, but society's class-ism and subsequent events kept them apart. Now, political events and Anna's role as a spy for the Rebels within the Dutch community will divide them.

Thorland's novels are so much fun, because there's always so much going on in them. It's hard to go wrong with clever characters, witty dialogue, and a multi-dimensional plot. One of the things I love about them is that Thorland always picks a different setting for each book. I don't just mean geographical locations, but also the cultural setting. Philadelphia Quakers, Boston pirates, Manhattan theater and Native Americans, and now, Dutch New York. You can be sure that the historical setting does not get neglected in the fast-paced story line. Whatever setting she goes with next, I can't wait to read it.


Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones (20151021)
Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones (20151021)
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very enlightening, April 7, 2016
Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

I love A Song of Ice and Fire and I love comparing and contrasting the parallels of fantasy to real history and historical folklore, so this book was right up my alley and it did not disappoint.

I'm not as into fantasy as some people, I mostly read the popular titles, but there's no question A Song of Ice and Fire has always been a series that interested historical fiction readers even if they are not heavy fantasy readers. This books really covers all the reasons why this is the case, exploring all the influences from and parallels to medieval history and folklore. It's well known that the series is loosely based on the Wars of the Roses, that the Lannisters are often compared to the House of Lancaster, the wall to Hadrian's Wall, etc. But this books delves much deeper than that, drawing on the authors extensive knowledge of medieval history, culture, and myths.

I was a little surprised to see the author made no connection between Cersei's walk of shame and Lady Godiva's naked ride. Granted, Godiva was not being punished like Cersei was, but it's believed the legend of her ride was based on the medieval custom for people to make public processions in nothing but a shift, or underwear, in penance for their crimes or sins. While the book does make connections of Cercei's walk of shame with other medieval examples of the same or similar custom, namely that of Jane Shore's, I really would have thought Lady Godiva deserved a mention too. I guess the mention of the medieval practice itself was the most important thing.

It should be noted that it makes comparisons not only to the books but also the TV show, especially where they differ. This gives it a fully rounded and comprehensive feel, and I found it very enlightening.


The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America
The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Two unrelated but very good books, April 7, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This non-fiction book about the Chicago World Fair of 1893 and how it was marred by the killing spree of H.H. Holmes really does read more like a novel. It's extremely well researched, well written, and highly readable, which is why it is understandably so popular.

However, it did feel like two books were thrown together. It's as though Larson either wanted to write a book about the Chicago World Fair, but he or his editors thought it would be too boring on its own so they threw in the Holmes murders; or he wanted to write about the Holmes killings, but there wasn't enough information about them to fill up a whole book so he filled it out with background on the Fair and it's creators.

It still works really well though, because it's so well written. It may feel like two unrelated books but two very good unrelated books.

The information about the building of the Fair dragged on at times, but it picked up in the second half once the Fair had opened. It was fascinating to read about Holmes and his murders, and how he avoided suspicion for so long.

Creative non-fiction is definitely an art that Larson has flawlessly mastered.


A Year of Ravens: a novel of Boudica's Rebellion
A Year of Ravens: a novel of Boudica's Rebellion
by Ruth Downie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.99
22 used & new from $13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The H Team, April 7, 2016
ARC from publisher, my opinions are my own.

The dream team are back! Okay, it's not exactly the same team of authors that produced A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii, but some of the same authors are involved and it's the same concept. They are calling themselves The H Team on Facebook.

Just like A Day of Fire, each author tells an individual story with different yet overlapping characters which are woven together to tell a greater story, that of a monumentally tragic event in history. In this case, A Year of Ravens is about the Celtic rebellion against the Romans, lead by Queen of the Iceni, Boudica.

Told from all different view points on both the Celtic and Roman sides, it gives the reader a rounded perspective of the series of events and the people involved in, from the lowliest of slaves to the highest of leaders. The characters are so well fleshed out despite there being so many of them, and despite each chapter focusing on new points of view.

I have to say though, if you're looking for a book about Boudica herself, this is not it. As the title suggests, it is really about the rebellion, and not necessarily Boudica herself. She is featured in several chapters to varying degrees, but in others, she is barely even mentioned. It is an excellent novel, regardless, and will pull you in from the very beginning.

Stephanie Dray and Ruth Downie's chapters were my favorite. I think that Russell Whitfield's chapter was the weakest of the bunch, because I felt it took too long to get going and show just how it would move the story forward (this is the chapter were Boudica is hardly even mentioned), but once it did it was clear how it fit into the novel.

I don't know how so many established authors are able to work together to form such a cohesive novel for a second time, in addition to their individual work, but I hope they continue to do so.


The Conqueror's Wife
The Conqueror's Wife
by Stephanie Thornton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.37
67 used & new from $2.89

4.0 out of 5 stars True Greek Tragedy, April 7, 2016
This review is from: The Conqueror's Wife (Paperback)
ARC from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Mass murder, betrayal, brutal and tragic deaths, scheming, love, comic relief, warrior women... a true Greek tragedy.

The title is a little misleading, as Alexander the Great had three wives, all featured in this novel, and also because the tale is told from several points of view. However, the only wife whose point of view we get to read about is Roxana's, so I suppose she is the wife of the book's title, and yet in many ways she is an antagonist in the story. There's lots of complex characters and it's less about Alexander than it is about all of the people in his life, their relationships with each other, and how that influences the future of his empire. In fact, Alexander himself is not a likable character and at times seemed almost like a sociopath, but since it's not really about him anyway, that wasn't a big deal.

With so many characters, it's not surprising that the multiple plots move along steadily. The first half focuses more on character development, so it is slower paced compared to the second half when all hell breaks loose. In some ways I actually felt like the second half was a little too rushed, as the focus turns to the series of events rather than on the characters. But there's no denying that this Greek tragedy is very well told with strong characters and a compelling plot that will keep you saying, "just one more chapter..."


Scarleton 3 Front Zipper Washed Shoulder Bag H129224 - Ash
Scarleton 3 Front Zipper Washed Shoulder Bag H129224 - Ash
Offered by Scarleton
Price: $29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good bag for the price, December 10, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Larger than I imagined, but that's not a bad thing. Otherwise, just as I expected. Lots of pockets and sections, which I love. My only complaint is the materials used are not very stiff, which means the sides and dividers are very "floppy", and that can make it difficult to see inside it and get your hand in it. Overall good bag for the price though.


Coal River
Coal River
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.39
128 used & new from $0.62

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Should have been moving but wasn't, November 26, 2015
This review is from: Coal River (Paperback)
Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Emma Malloy loved growing up in New York City, but after a fire breaks out at the theater where her artist parents worked as set designers, she is left orphaned at age nineteen. She has no choice but to return to the small coal mining town of Coal River, Pennsylvania (a fictional town somewhere near Wilkes-Barre) to live with her self-righteous aunt and uncle. It's a place where the wealthy are corrupt and the miners are on the brink of a strike in protest of the unfair wages and working conditions they are forced to live with.

Despite the historically interesting and moving subject matter, there was too much of this which felt unrealistic.

The dialogue felt forced at times, with there being way too much "telling" and not enough "showing" through both the dialogue and narrative. It's frustrating to watch Emma says things which will only make her situation worse, and doesn't benefit anyone or change anything. She asks stupid questions like, "don't you worry about your child working in the breaker?" Of course they do! It's like everything needs to be spelled out for Emma, because the author thinks the reader needs it spelled out.

The saint-like Emma could be a little hypocritical by criticizing her aunt for trying to avoid thinking about the horrors the coal miners and their families faced, but then Emma herself would sometimes look away from the destitute on the streets as she went passed, or ask why someone was "torturing" her by telling her all the gory details of the accidents that happened in the mines. Why is it okay for Emma to not want to hear about it, but her aunt is a bad person for not wanting to hear about it?

Then there was the usage of the old, "That's impossible! There was a little girl who lived here, but she died like 30 years ago" trope. Okay, it wasn't exactly that (kudos to those who got the Friends reference though), which is why this isn't a spoiler, but there is a very similar scene with the same cliche concept, which unlike in Friends was supposed to be real, not a prank. It just felt hokey and unoriginal.

It was a quick and easy read, so despite all this, it wasn't a chore to read. However, given the subject matter, this could have been a very powerful novel, and I felt it was let down by these fundamental flaws in the characterization and dialogue.


The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I
The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking plot/story, October 28, 2015
Advanced review copy from NetGalley, my opinions are my own.

In Weir's second biographical novel about Elizabeth I, it opens with Elizabeth attaining the crown and settling into her role as Queen Regnant. I admit I didn't read her first novel on Elizabeth's earlier life, but I am already familiar with Elizabeth's background and didn't feel like I needed to in order to read this sequel. I also admit this is my first novel by Weir, surprisingly. I don't know why it's taken me so long to give her fiction a go since I've read and enjoyed several of her non-fiction works.

It started of well, with Elizabeth exhilarated by the sudden freedom and security of being queen. But at times I felt like there was a lot more telling then showing. Weir's status as a biographer showed when sometimes the narrative slipped almost into a factual recital.

The story itself was also lacking. I realize the title makes it clear that it's primarily about all the prospective marriages Elizabeth considered or seemed to consider - and I realize that at the time, it was a very big issue. But that is literally what the novel is solely about. Will she marry Robert? Will she marry this foreign prince or that one? When we already know the answer, it's gets old fast. It could have easily been more multidimensional by adding other sub-plots, politics, and character development into the story but even when the issue wasn't of Elizabeth's marriage, it was about her cousin Mary's marriage! The constant cycling of Elizabeth's relationship with Robert, two characters who aren't even likable, got so repetitive that I was sick of it before I got even half way through.

There is so little going on in this book that it's a wonder it could fill a full length novel. And unless you love your main characters to be selfish, vain, spiteful, and resentful with little to no depth, I don't see how this novel can be enjoyable. I won't deny that the historical Elizabeth had many personality flaws, but she also had many strengths that weren't used in the novel, making her character flat and unlikable. And if you're going to take a wholly negative approach on the main character, you need to compliment it with another, more likable character. Cecil could have filled this role but we don't get to see enough of him to save the story. While it is written in third person from multiple points of view, it still manages to be very one dimensional and entirely focused on Elizabeth and Robert.

About the last quarter of the novel finally eases up on the obsession of Elizabeth's marriage and her relationship with Robert but it's too little too late. What a shame that my first Weir novel had to be so disappointing. It seems like her novels, not unlike her biographies, can be a little hit and miss so I haven't ruled out trying some of her other novels.


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