Book Review

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical Fiction / Magical Realism
Length: 336 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

A BIT DULL.

I did a buddy-read for this and I think that was more interesting and fun than this book was.

The writing was gorgeous and easy to follow. That was never my issue, I didn’t click with the story as a whole. Magical realism + historical fiction are a hard combination to mix. I usually don’t like them, and this was no different. I found it a unique premise and clearly saw the effort put into this. A lot of research into Mozart’s history was accomplished to make this book what it was. I would have loved a historical fiction based off of Mozart’s life without the fantasy aspects.

I mostly felt disconnected from the story. I did feel some depth with Nannerl and truly saddened by her inability to stand and do what she wanted just because she was a woman (with respect to the time period). She didn’t really ever do anything about this though, which I guess as I’m writing this, falls in line with the historical aspects (based off of the author’s note, not my own research).

It was a younger YA than I was thinking and honestly it needed some more flair for me to be into it. With the characters mostly very young the entire book it wasn’t like they could do much anyways (other than practice the claiver). I was underwhelmed and sped read to get through it. I struggled to even write more for this review because I don’t feel like I have anything to say about it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction / magical realism
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: general sickness (small pox, etc.)

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Book Review

Book Review: A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell #5) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Historical fiction / Mystery
Length: 308 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: March 10th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.

LET DOWN.

A big, unfortunate let down.

This wasn’t my favorite of the series by far. Lets go ahead and get into it.

First off, I have spent FOUR books waiting for Veronica and Stoker to admit some feelings. Finally got all of that at the end of the previous book, A Dangerous Collaboration. Super excited, wonderful, revelations. Then, in the last dang book of the series I was expecting a lot more fireworks and flair (and a tiny bit of steam) between them, and NOTHING. There is one good moment between them, at the literal end and I am needed more to love this. I kept waiting for them to just have a chance to kiss and chat, but no.

Instead, time was spent rehashing old plot from the first book. Yes, the same story (which I will omit in-case you’re reading this before reading the first book). Brought in most of the same characters, got stuck in the same situation, and got out of it with the usual flair. WHY. It was like this entire series had rolled through all it had, but still needed to conclude somehow. I was hoping this was going to focus more on Jack the Ripper (mentioned throughout because his murders are happening during this book). Nothing was as I expected.

Those two big paragraphs pretty much sign-off on why I had a hard time loving this and felt entirely let down about everything. I have loved these characters and time period setting. I’ll miss this series, and definitely feel bitter with how this wrapped up.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction / Mystery
  • Language: a little light
  • Romance: kiss; one scene at the end – very little detailed
  • Violence: guns, swords, kidnapping, physical, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1) by Francine Rivers

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Christian Historical fiction / Romance
Length: 544 pages
Author: Francine Rivers
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Release Date: March 1st, 1993
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The first book in the bestselling Mark of the Lion series, A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget—Hadassah. Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, this young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT ENDING.

I’ve read some cliffhanger books in my day (looking at you Shadowhunters). I’m generally used to it, can keep my cool. NOT THIS TIME. I sat there gasping and closing my eyes (listening to this as an audio book) with my spouse staring strangely at me wondering what my problem was. TRUST ME, there’s a big problem.

I digress, we’ll move on. Just know, there’s a big cliffhanger at the end.

Anywho, this book started off a bit slow for me. There’s a lot of world building and character structure that goes into setting the scene for the craziness that was Ancient Rome. I love that this Christian historical fiction was set in this time period because it did add to the uniqueness of the category. It’s not often to see so many gladiator battles in this genre.

As I settled into the book I became really involved with quite a few characters lives. Especially Marcus and Hadassah. How could you not?! Watching this doomed relationship even attempt to break soil was tearing at my heart. I felt a lot of the emotions right along side of the characters as they made their destructive choices. Speaking of destructive, I CANNOT EVEN with Julia. How I loathed her so much and it made me like the book more because of my strong emotions. Her awfulness would blow my mind and I think she needs to stay faaaar away. Going back to characters I enjoy, Atretes is now my favorite gladiator. I loved watching how his inner turmoil and struggles affected him. He is a strong and bold man looking for a light at the end of the tunnel that he can’t see, yet.

This story was filled with an intense amount of happenings. Occasionally, I did find it a bit preachy. At other times, I felt like it sang to my soul. There’s a good mix of biblical scriptures and the roughness that was Rome. The writing slowly pulls you in to where you can’t look away as the pages keep flying past. I’m anxiously awaiting reading the next book!

Overall audience notes:

  • Christian Historical fiction / Romance
  • Language: some derogatory and vulgar
  • Romance: kisses/make-outs; mentions of sleeping together and hints at knowing about many partners, etc. but no actual detailed scenes
  • Violence: gladiator battles, starvation, physical beatings, poison, murder, see Trigger warnings
  • Trigger warnings: slavery, extreme starvation, abortion (described in detail), domestic abuse, eating disorder, murder, abandoning a newborn

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Book Review

Book Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Historical fiction
Length: 400 pages
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You and The Peacock Emporium.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the WPA Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic—a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

WOMEN POWER.

After Me Before You, I went on a Moyes reading binge and went through a few more books of hers (and loved them all). But it’s been a few years, and wow, I’m so glad I remedied this situation because I loooooooved this book.

The strength of the women in this story was what captivated me most. I had no desire to put this book down because I was that invested in their stories. Alice and Margery, Izzy, Beth, Sophie, the strong bonds of friendship they had is one of a kind. Margery and Alice, especially, were my favorites. I adored their unconventional companionship and how they each had a time when they had to lean on another. Made me want to give everyone a hug too.

Time flew, and each ended the night full and happy, with the rare glow that comes from knowing your very being has been understood by somebody else, and that there might just be someone out there who will only ever see the best in you.

I thought the romances were perfectly woven in here. They didn’t overshadow the story at large but brought another level to this already amazing book. Alice and Fred were just precious and it was so sweet and tender watching what happened between them. And Sven and Margery? YES PLEASE. Sven was the best match with Margery and they played off of each other so well. These men (as side characters) were fantastic on their own.

If my memory serves me, this is one of the few times I’ve read a book about books. AND I LOVED IT. The power of the written word and the library system. It was amazing to think about when libraries really started to become a *thing* and how hard that must have been to convince others that it was worth their time. I think I’m going to have to go read some more Moyes books because her beautiful writing has yet again stunned me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction [Setting: Kentucky, 1937]
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, love scenes where you know what happened, but no details (essentially clean)
  • Violence: physical, flooding, guns
  • Trigger warnings: animal cruelty, domestic abuse, racism, incest

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