I’m a fan of
historical fiction and I LOVE the Stolen Empire series—I can’t get enough of
it. I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be another book in the
series, and again when I receive a copy of Sherry Ficklin’s latest novella in
The Winter Queen is a prequel to the Stolen Empire series and focuses on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and future Empress of Russia. This novella is a quick read, and thrusts us right into the upheaval of the Russian elite. We get to meet the Princess Elizabeth and her sister Petra, witness the death of the heir presumptive to the Romanov line, and then the death of Peter the Great.
mother in Russia, trying to maintain a hold on Russia and others trying to
secure the power for themselves, Elizabeth and Petra are suddenly in a very
tenuous position. They are sent to the “safety” of arranged marriages, but
Elizabeth was born a Romanov, and the throne is only just out of her grasp…for
I can’t wait
for the next installment of what’s sure to continue to be an exciting series
full of political maneuvering and intrigue.
*I received a copy of The Winter Queen
in exchange for an honest review
One of the stories from history that has
always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family,
particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes
of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In
Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers
her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya”
Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic
thrown into the mix.
The strongest part of the novel, in my
opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one
aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family
relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the
novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the
characters or action outside of that.
There were some historical inaccuracies
(perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some
things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing
out for a stronger storyline. The
inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a
Another thing that could have used more
details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and
All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an
entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.
*I received a copy of Romanov from
NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.
Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.
Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.
Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.
Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.
It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.
*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review
I love to share some of the great books I’ve read (and listened to!) every month. I’ve been doing this via my newsletter, but haven’t shared anything yet this year, so forgive this list, it may be a bit long!
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.
I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and
thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists
in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.
Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically
diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities
thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order
to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as
unique and varied in skill as well as personality.
This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural
mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first
several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally
drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.
I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the
storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout
this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded
Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has
developed it beautifully.
*I received a copy of
Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Policy of Truth is a little outside of my usual reading
trends, but (as a fan of Sons of Anarchy) I was interested in giving it a try.
Policy of Truth has one thing in abundance: strong, complex,
bad-ass female characters. The female characters in this book, including main
character Tamra “Durty” Simons, are well-developed, strong and face a number of
real-world issues that happen in every day life, even if we prefer to not talk
about them (ie- domestic violence). While they’re all affected by the things
they’ve seen & endured, all these chicks are strong and maintain their own
positions in a male-dominated world. Sometimes they even dominate.
In addition to the bad-ass women, there’s a ridiculously
spicy love story that develops between Durty and “Sting” who’s equal parts
mysterious, dangerous and endearing.
Policy of Truth is an easy, engaging, and steamy read with a
great cliffhanger that’ll have you eagerly anticipating book 2.
*I received a copy of
Policy of Truth in exchange for an honest review*
Enter for your chance to win the Policy of Truth giveaway:
Jenneke is a human who’s been living amongst the goblins in the Permafrost since they raided her village a hundred years ago. When a fight between two powerful goblins leads to the death of the Erlking, a hunt ensues: the goblin who fells the escaped white stag (the embodiment of the goblin king’s power) will become the next Erlking.
Jenneke accompanies her master Soren on the hunt. Though he is one of the most powerful of goblins, Soren has treated Jenneke as more of a friend than subservient. But Soren’s biggest rival is his uncle Lydian, an appallingly brutal sort who has inflicted tortures on Jenneke that continue to haunt her. Jenneke is torn between her hate for the goblins for the destruction they caused her family and the kindness she feels toward Soren, who has done nothing other than protect her. To make matters worse, Jenneke discovers she may be transitioning into one of the monsters she hates most—a goblin. But can she accept becoming that which she hates most, and must she give up her last shred of humanity to do so?
White Stag (Permafrost #1) is an epic, fantastical journey ensues, ripe with battles and creatures. But the one thing I found was that, while the concept is rich, the world-building was not. I wanted more details, more to anchor me into the world and make me feel as if I was right there alongside the characters. Some of the dialogue also felt a bit stilted and lacked a natural rhythm.
Kara Barbieri has a brilliant concept, but sadly I was hoping to love this book more than I actually did.
*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) courtesy of Wednesday Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
There’s been a 911 call, screaming, and an officer arrives at a house to find blood everywhere. Welcome to Meadowlark, Kansas and “The Day of the Killing”.
Beautiful Bad is told from multiple POV’s and throughout different points in history. Maddie and Ian meet overseas and fall in love. They are married and have a son. After a camping accident that leaves Maddie with no memory of the events, she begins journaling as therapy.
So many things come to light as we jump between time periods and POVs: Maddie’s ambitions, Ian’s PTSD and drinking, and Maddie’s broken friendship with Jo. Twenty years is a lot of time for people to build up fears and resentments, it’s a lot of time for things to simmer, and when they boil over (and you find out the how and the who), you’re left with nothing to say but, “DAMN!”
Maddie’s writing was my favorite, her voice chilled me and made me sad and scared all at once. But, as I finished, I found myself appreciating every POV for what it contributed to the final outcome.
I’m really afraid to say more because I could go on-and-on, which will inevitably lead to spoilers (and I hate spoilers!). Annie Ward has crafted a magnificently plotted psychological thriller and Beautiful Bad is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.
*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Beautiful Bad from Harlequin and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
In the Gilded Age you needed two things to get (or stay) ahead in society: money and an established family lineage. A person simply did get by with one or the other.
William Vanderbilt and his family are ripe with “new money” but find that the “respectable” social circles of New York City aren’t open to new money. Alva Smith has the necessary lineage to maintain a respectable position in society, but her father’s finances are running out and her family is desperate for salvation. In marrying, Alva and William provide each other with that which they most desperately need, and the result lives in infamy through tales of the Vanderbilts, and the wealthy impact they left behind.
Alva Smith Vanderbilt pushed the norms with regards to being a “well-behaved” wife of a wealthy man. Not content to sit back and hand out money, or to smile and nod at the ideas of men, she became actively involved in charities and issues that mattered to her, and contributed her own thoughts and ideas as to Vanderbilt activities.
While she was perhaps a bit of a radical in her opinions and activities, she was also a woman moored by the social norms of the times, and that can be a bit tough to read. At times I wanted to scream at Alva, “Who cares about that old hag Astor. Do your own thing, girl!” But ultimately, I appreciated the vivid detail of the writing and I think that my discomfort with the women’s behavior is a result of a genuine representation of what life was like for women during this time.
In A Well-Behaved Woman, author Therese Anne Fowler, provides an indulgent trip through the glitz and glamour of the Guilded Age. If you’re looking for a strong social statement about the accumulation of wealth to the detriment of the working class, or the psychological damage that accompanies ambition, this isn’t it. But, if you’re looking to be swept up in a tale about a strong female during the rise of one of America’s most infamous families, and to get lost in a vivid portrayal of this sparkling moment in history, then this is the perfect choice.