Second time around on this one...decided to reread it so I can jump into the sequels in time to finish the whole series.
My thoughts on round two? This is still a solid fantasy. Peter Brett's writing style is engaging, if a bit tedious at parts. I found the slow cycle between points of view (there are three in this book) to be jarring at first, but once I settled in to the story I enjoyed jumping between Arlen, Rojer, and Lesha. The magic system is interesting with demons rising from the Core every night to wreak havoc upon the people.
I will say this -- I found that I just could NOT stand Lesha for about 90% of this book. I did NOT like the way Brett wrote her character - I took quite a bit of issue with it. Up until the final chapters it seemed as though Lesha was there primarily for sex (fantasies or otherwise). Characters were always marveling at her beauty (in a sexual fashion) or talking about how they wanted to have sex with her or she was talking about having sex for the first time or characters were always looking at her chest...and the list goes on. Then we have something happen to Lesha...(no spoilers). Lesha's character is redeemed slightly toward the end as she finally is doing something not related to sex. I mean...I understand what Brett was trying to do with her character. In his world system, women are bound into very traditional roles and they do not escape them. I think there's a way to present that without making it sound like every woman is written by a twelve year old boy.
All that aside...I did enjoy this the second time around and I'm looking forward to continuing. Like last time I finished this book, though, I feel like I just need a few interim books before I pick up The Desert Spear. I've heard the series only gets better from here and I am looking forward to see the evolution of characters and introductions of new ones.
On a whim I decided to read Philippa Gregory's main series in chronological reading order. I figured that this would be a good way to a) catch up on her series as I've only read a book here and there and b) read about some of my husband's direct ancestors (yay genealogy research!).
I thought that this first novel (not Gregory's first but, rather, first in the timeline) was...just ok. I'd probably rate it about a 2.5 if I were being honest. At the end of the day there just isn't that much historically available about Jacquetta of Luxembourg. In fact, most of the novel seemed to just be a vehicle for glossing over the first part of the War of the Roses. And "glossing" is the best word for it. Gregory slams a WHOLE bunch of factoids into one paragraph...too much, really. There are sections of the book that just seem like info dumps (one of my pet peeves). Gregory stuck Jacquetta in the back of a room somewhere and...BAM...we've dropped a whole bunch of history-ish facts down that she's "observed" or "overheard".
The parts concerning Henry's illness were interesting...as were the interactions between Margaret d'Anjou and Jacquetta. I'm just not sure if the random interesting bits make up for the info dumps and the feeling that this was all just an extended introduction to her "real" books on this era in history -- The White Queen and The Red Queen and following. And, since The Lady of the Rivers was really just an introduction, I think Gregory stops the book prematurely (with Elizabeth going out to meet King Edward on the road...which is where, I believe, The White Queen picks up) as Jacquetta still has a few more documented things to experience. I am sure Gregory addresses these other things in the later book, however, I don't believe the later books are from Jacquetta's viewpoint as this one was.
This is a jumbled review...the TLDR of it is this: an "OK" book heavy on the info dumps that appears to exist only because her other books on the series sold well. It's missing that "spark" that are in some of her other works.
Have you ever had Marshmallow Fluff? It's REALLY good when you toast some bread and make a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich.
It's NOT that good when you think you're going to read a light history of royal women existing outside of the marry-prince-have-baby stereotype only to find this weird marshmallow fluffy stuff.
Now I will admit...with a title of "Princesses Behaving Badly", I was not expecting an academic piece of historical writing. I was in the mood for some light vignettes about historical women that I could listen to in the car during the drive to/from work. What I got was a weird amalgamation of some "okay" history (and myth), frequent use of odd/crass slang, and a passive aggressive (and condescending?) feminist bias.
The slang cheapened the book. Talking about a princess having balls (or not) or being a badass or pissed as hell might work in an informal blog. In a book that's presenting historical information? Um...not so much.
The feminist bias was fine I guess...we have a book showcasing women that history often overlooks so I expect it to be championing women. I don't think it had to be condescending or passive aggressive in its approach. It came off as defensive in a "see, look what women can do too even if we don't have balls!!" rather than an objective "women were valuable pieces in the historical puzzle" approach. It was off-putting.
The history. There was some...there was also a lot of myth. Granted, some of that is because women were not recorded in history like they ought to have been so we are relegated to discussing myth over fact in some instances. What historical analysis there was, I did enjoy. I wish there was more of it -- once the author stopped using crass slang and wrote about history, it was actually pretty good. Ultimately, short vignettes are too small to get an adequate historical context so I would propose all the shorts be taken with a grain of salt. Chances are there is more in-depth history/research about that particular woman that can provide some context beyond "she was a woman in a man's world" for the reader.
Let me add one more point - I listened to this on audio. I do believe that a book can live or die by its narrator and the woman who read this book wove attitude into her interpretation. For me, the attitude just amplified the slang/condescending approach. If I read a hard copy I may not have latched on to those aspects quite as much? I wasn't a fan of the audiobook.
Maybe this became better as it went along? I DNF'd at about 50%... If you want some very light and fluffy vignettes give this a whirl. If you want some meatier works on women of history, there are some good ones out there as well. Women of antiquity may have been overlooked, but there are some historical works trying to do them justice...
I'm off for a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich...
I picked this one up as it was on a list of time travel romance must-reads.
I wish they had placed an asterisk next to it that said: "Actually, this is book #4 so you might want to start at the beginning of the series which also has time travel and romance."
And then I wish they had placed a second asterisk next to it that said: "And the time travel is only for about a quarter of the book sandwiched in the middle...the rest of it takes place in modern times dealing with characters/family trees you learned about in the first three books."
Let's be honest...I really did not enjoy this that much. I think that's partly because I jumped into the series a few books in and it read like it. There was no attempt to really catch a new reader up on the world...which is totally fine. I should have researched the book a bit more before picking it up. I think even if I had been caught up on the series I would have not cared for this book much anyway.
One of my big issues with the book? The villains (Gilbert the father in law and the fiancé) were absolutely ridiculous. Madelyn's ex-fiancé is a stalker who perpetrates crimes left and right but supposedly gets away with it because he's a lawyer? Unbelievable. On the back cover blurb he's labeled as a "pesky fiancé"....um, it goes WAY beyond pesky. He was obnoxious. And a freaking CRIMINAL. And to top it all off, every time he perpetrated a crime or acted horribly (stealing her possessions? having her credit cards stopped and her credit score altered? stalking her? verbally abusing her every chance he got? etc ad nauseam), Madelyn or the supporting characters would just cower under the abuse or just wag their fingers at him and tell him to stop. It was ridiculous and I found it hard to believe that he was just able to behave in that manner for so long.
The romance fell flat for me too. I understand...98% of romance books are set up with the reader already knowing which two characters are going to end up together before he/she even starts reading. Just because we know who's going to fall in love with whom does not mean the romance has to be flat...or an afterthought. Madelyn and Patrick's romance just kind of happened...and then it was established with not enough development. I just didn't care about it which was disappointing because I wanted to read a romance book. I did not read any chemistry between these two...and, to be honest, I kind of doubted Madelyn's judgement after she was willing to marry Bentley Douglas Taylor III (...even his name reads "Obnoxiously Evil Villain"..good grief) after (I think it was only) six months. Madelyn and Patrick's romance read like it was a poor attempt at the it's-a-slow-burn-because-we-hate-each-other-but-then-find-out-we-are-each-other's-true-love-in-two-chapters trope.
Also disappointing? When you think you're going to read a time travel book...only to find that the time travel doesn't kick in for about 250 pages and then only lasts about 50 pages. Um...not what I signed up for. I was expecting the time travel to be more integral to the plot and more interlaced throughout. We spend more time watching Madelyn try to figure out why Patrick likes to wield a sword then we do actually in medieval Scotland.
I'm probably just grumpy because it wasn't a time travel book like I was expecting AND Madelyn's fiancé REALLY bugged me and it infused the whole story with a tinge of sourness. I plan to go back and read book number one in the series to see if that sets a better bedrock for the series.
In case you wanted to know how Jim Butcher writes descriptions of female characters:
I came across that image/meme/whatever about halfway through this book and it was pretty much the most accurate thing I've ever seen. I absolutely can't stand the way Butcher writes women. I'm curious if he matures somewhat in how he writes and characterizes women as the series continues to progress?
I'm still not sure I'm a Harry Dresden/Jim Butcher fan...BUT out of all of the books I've read (ok, it's only been three), this one has been the best one so far. The plot felt a little bit more cohesive and Harry didn't whine as much. Audiobook seems to be the way to go for me on this series...James Marsters does an excellent job portraying Dresden. Ok, I'll be honest -- I will probably only "read" these via audiobook because James Marsters reads it.
Sometimes I wish a historical and/or regency romance would be just that -- a historical and/or regency romance. I don't understand why authors insist on imposing modern day sensibilities on a historical era.
Suffice to say -- the anachronisms are strong with this one!
In fact...anachronisms might just be "a thing" with Maya Rodale. Sure, her books are entertaining and that's a good thing. But if it bothers you to read about modern women in historical eras then this book (and the other two of Rodale's books that I've read) may throw you out of the story.
And...I shudder to think of how many of her readers consume this book and others and think this is historical fact embedded within the historical fiction. I think this is one of the ways "alternate history" gets spread...be it intentional or unintentional.
Here's a VERY spoilery example (seriously -- super spoilery so don't read this next paragraph if you don't want to read about the big plot point):
[*steps up to soapbox* Our heroine, Lady Amelia, reveals that she is pregnant out of wedlock...to which EVERYONE in her family reacts calmly, without making a scene, and urging her to do what's best for her. Even the imposing dowager duchess who Rodale has set up as the "Etiquette Police" for this series...the dowager duchess who is so concerned about her charges making good matches with good ton...the dowager duchess who has spent the entire book trying to reform Lady Amelia...the dowager duchess who responds this way to the news of Amelia's pregnancy: "Sometimes, a family comes to you when it's time, not when you planned it. And it may seem like a disaster but it isn't. It's just...right." No scene...no disappointment...no panic...just calming reassurance that it's ok to have a child out of wedlock. Um...that SO would not have happened during this time period. Lady Amelia most likely wouldn't have been given a choice in the matter and would have been shuffled off to a country estate to "take the air" for an unnamed illness for 9 months and then return to society miraculously healed and to probably live her life as a spinster relation. The idea that the family calmly accepts her pregnancy is a mark of modern culture...not the mark of historical English aristocratic culture. *steps off soapbox*]
Did I enjoy the book? Yeah, I guess. I do like that Rodale puts an actual plot into her books as that element is sometimes hard to find It's always hard to find good regency romances that aren't full of "Insta-Lust" and this author is definitely is strong on the "Insta-Lust" (at least from what I've read so far). I am always on the search for authors that focus on the "love" rather than the "lust"...but that's getting fewer and farther between apparently.
On this day in 1993 (July 9th) the remains of 5 Romanov family members were identified. Next year, on July 17, 2018, it will be the centennial of their deaths. I find the day that their identities were restored to be a fitting and haunting day to finish such a poignant history.
The fate of the Romanov family is well known. It was popularized with my generation through the cartoon feature film Anastasia -- holding out the hope that one of the ill-fated Romanov daughters survived. While this has sadly proven to be a false hope, the remaining mystery of what happened to the Romanovs during their horrifying final minutes is an engrossing one.
That said (and maybe this is a bit of a spoiler so proceed accordingly), Helen Rappaport does not focus on how the Romanov daughters died. In fact, there is no detail pertaining to their deaths at all. Rappaport focuses on how they lived. It was wonderful to see how the Romanov girls interacted with their siblings and their parents as they functioned within what seemed to be a very healthy family life. It was sobering to realize that these were girls who had hopes and dreams and envisioned a future for themselves. And it was bittersweet to read about their joys, sorrows, and plans...all the while knowing what was in store for them.
On a technical aside, I "read" the audiobook narrated by Xe Sands -- she was fabulous.
What a fascinating glimpse into the life and mind of Jim Jones..the infamous cult leader behind the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. Jones is probably most remembered for forcing the suicide (so...murder?) of his cult in 1978. He can also be credited with adding the phrase "drink the Kool Aid" to the pop culture lexicon thanks to killing his Peoples Temple members with the addition of cyanide poison into vats of Flavor Aid (a Kool Aid knock off).
Jeff Guinn starts at the beginning -- with Jones's birth. It was so interesting to see the evolution of Jim Jones. We go from his childhood and eventual marriage to Marceline...to Jones's hopping around church denominations...to the establishment of the Peoples Temple...and then, ultimately, to Jonestown. One can easily find the horrific images of the aftermath at Jonestown...but HOW does it get to that point? Guinn sympathetically presents the information to where one feels sorrow at its culmination...as well as anger that it even happened.
I will note that the book, while continually moving forward, does seem to stall out about halfway through. One can only state so many times how Jones was a bona fide con man during Temple services. Guinn presented Jim Jones's cancer "healing" trick on several occasions...each time presenting it like he hadn't already addressed it before. It just became a bit repetitive to continually visit service after service in town after town of Jones conning the service attendees. Once I was through that bit, however, the book picked back up as we sped toward Jonestown.
Ultimately, this book documents a tragedy that is almost incomprehensible. How does one man control the minds of over 900 people to where they would kill themselves (some willingly, some not) just because he says so? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Or, was Jim Jones evil from the very beginning?
What an unusual read....I'm not even sure how to describe it. Unexpected? Atmospheric? Bizarre? Enthralling? Confusing? Jarring? Weird? Vague? Excellent?
I have not read anything else by John Darnielle and I'd be curious to know if this fits the same "theme" as his other writing(s). Universal Harvester is very well-written. The characters are fascinating and Darnielle allows us just small glimpses of them before he moves to another aspect of the story. I was kept guessing as to what was happening in the immediate portion of the story...and for the story at large.
I was expecting a thriller and a mystery, but I'm not sure that this is what that was. I do not want to give any spoilers as that would ruin the experience of the story...but this defied my expectations in many ways.
Because of the vagueness of the story I think this book may frustrate some readers. Go into the story for an atmospheric read and let it take you where it will...expectations about genre or typical plot progression may cause the reader to be irritated at the pacing and story. I wasn't sure what I was going to read when I opened up the book...and I think that's the perfect start to a wonderfully weird story.
This was a fantastic read! This reads more like a piece of scandalous historical fiction/mystery rather than history. The characters (who actually existed) are colorful...their actions (which they actually did) are unbelievable...the outcome (which actually happened) is crazy. I was enthralled with the saga of Rudolf and Mary Vetsera from start to finish. It seemed like there were more twists and turns in this story than your average soap opera.
I'm not that "up" on Hapsburg history so the Mayerling incident was completely new to me. I knew that the Hapsburgs had a sordid family tree full of intermarrying (and all the health ramifications that come with that), but Twilight provides a glimpse into just how twisted their family tree truly was.
This is a "must read" for armchair historians, historical fiction or mystery fans, and anyone in between. The adage "you can't make this stuff up" comes to mind -- a fascinating and unbelievable chapter in the history of the Hapsburg empire.