On my most recent trip to Germany I had the privilege to visit Dusseldorf and Schloss Burg, the home of Anna of Kleve. Before I visited my brother in law told me about this castle. I knew I had to see it for myself. It was a long hike through the woods and up the hill to this fortress but it was worth every step. It overlooks the town of Solingen, a picturesque town in Western Germany. Even though very little is mentioned about Anna at the castle it is where she spent much of her childhood leading up to her marriage to King Henry VIII.
First line: Anna peered through the window of the gatehouse, watching the chariot trundling through below, enjoying the rich sensuousness of the new silk gown she was wearing, and conscious of her parents’ expectations of her.
Anna of Kleve is the daughter of a German duke. She is raised to be the
wife of a powerful man. When Henry VIII is unexpectedly widowed, he is
in search of a fourth wife. His ministers look to Anna for this honor.
As Anna embarks on the journey to England she worries about what her
life will be like as the Queen of England. After her initial encounter
with her future husband her worries mount. Does he like her? He does not
appear to. However, as the first months of her marriage progress her
worries begin to vanish. Then she receives news that the king has grave
doubts about their union. What does this mean for Anna? Will he send her
to her death like one of her predecessors?
My Thoughts: Anna is probably one of the least talked about of Henry’s wives. I have read numerous books about the other five but she seems to be largely forgotten. This is rather sad because she was probably the luckiest of the six wives.
I really enjoyed learning more about her life before, during and after her marriage. She led such a sheltered life before coming to England. I cannot imagine the shock of life in Henry’s court compared to Kleve. And the fact that her husband is an obese man who had killed a previous wife. How terrifying! Her reign as queen was a very short lived one. However, she seemed to have made quite an impression on the people of England. I was very frustrated reading about the struggles she had to deal with after the death of the king. She was an important lady and was treated very badly by the men who ran the government of the new king, Edward VI.
Weir took a lot of liberties with the history by adding in a romance that has no basis in fact. Even though it deviates from the record it was fun to read and imagine that Anna had some love in her life.
This is not a book that can be read quickly. There is tons of information, characters and time to cover. I spent several weeks slowly working my way through the narrative but I found it fascinating. Weir does a great job bringing life to the wives. I am highly anticipating her books on Katheryn Howard and Katherine Parr.
FYI: This is book four in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir.
Rasmira has been training for years to be a warrior and gain her
father’s approval. On the day of her trial she is sabotaged and
sentenced to banishment in the wild until she completes a task set by
the council. No one ever returns from the wild. However, Rasmira is
determined to finish her mission and take revenge on the people who
caused her downfall. But how do you kill a god?
Tricia Levenseller can write a really fun novel! There is no big world
building or complicated story lines. It is straight to the point and
loads of fun to read. I immediately was hooked on Rasmira’s story. I
liked how tough she was. I truly felt sorry for her when she is sent
into the wild. Everything that she thought she knew was destroyed. I
enjoyed her interactions and friendship with Iric and Soren. They are
destined to be friends but it takes a lot for Rasmira to accept them due
to past prejudices.
This book really reminded me of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston. There was a lot of action and it was a quick read.
Hi blog readers! I’ll be writing a monthly blog post, which will be posted the first week of the month. As the title suggests, each post will be some random thoughts I have about reading. Hopefully, they’ll be thoughts that our readers will find interesting as well.
Today, my thoughts have been swirling about book series. I love reading a good series, but sometimes a wrench gets thrown into the works or something else comes up that makes me long for more standalone books. For instance, an author has several books out in a series, hasn’t completed it, but stops writing to pursue other writing adventures (I’m looking at you Jim Butcher and Chris Grabenstein!). Or, a series gets marketed and advertised and sold as a trilogy (yay! only three books!) and then turns into a series of way more books, but now I have to wait a whole year for each book in the series.
Or, along the same lines, you start a series with the first book, and now you have to wait a whole year for each new book. I find myself wondering why I didn’t just wait until the series was finished before I started reading. I’m so impatient to start the next book!
And that leads me back to what started me thinking about series in the first place. One of my book clubs read a fantastic book last month, the first in a series. I gobbled down the first three books in the series and immediately grabbed book four. Opened it, and realized that some really important stuff had happened that I had no record of! Lo and behold, the author interrupted the series and wrote a related trilogy based on one of the characters, and those three books have all the good stuff I missed. So, I’ll be reading those three books in anticipation of getting back to the original series.
I can’t decide if I’m annoyed with the author for doing that, or looking forward to getting more of the story from a different character’s perspective and seeing more of this fabulous world she’s built. What about you? How do you manage series? Do you wait until they’re finished or do you devour each book as they come out? Drop us a comment below and share what your favorite series is, as well as how you prefer to read them.
PS: The series that has every bit of my attention right now is the Soulfinder series by Maria V. Snyder, and the trilogy that tucks in the middle is her Glass series.
First line: Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.
Charlotte Smith is the daughter of a wealthy San Francisco business
man. She is engaged to a respectable man. Her manners and comportment
are perfect. However, her sister Phoebe has fits of depression or
energy. Her parents do not know what to do with her. Their only hope is
to send her to a respected asylum for women called Goldengrove.
Charlotte loves her sister and is determined to get her out of the
asylum. She devises a plan to be admitted to the asylum in order to find
and rescue her sister. When Charlotte arrives at Goldengrove she
realizes that her plan may not be as easy as she originally thought.
My Thoughts: The story took a little while to gather momentum. The first several chapters were devoted to giving a little backstory but once Charlotte enters the asylum everything picks up. Quoting one of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, “…the chick in this book is cray cray!!” Why do you think that walking an insane asylum is going to be easy. She figures that she can just waltz out with her sister once she finds her. Even though her main goal is to find her sister, she learns a lot about the struggles that women have to face out in the world. She was raised very sheltered and wealthy where these hardships are not shared. I loved seeing her growth.
Most of the story is told through Charlotte’s
thoughts rather than interactions and conversation. This style makes the
reading a little slower but as a reader you can tell that the author
did a lot of research in order to fill out her novel. Everything down to
the specific treatments to the activity at docks in San Francisco.
other women at the asylum though were hands down my favorite part. Each
of them had a story to tell even though we get it in bits and pieces.
Hearing how easily a wife, daughter or sister can be discarded is so
sad. If you wanted to do or be anything other than what was expected you
were clearly “insane”. It makes me want to scream at the injustice that
they faced. And the women that were truly disturbed did not get the
help they needed. Be ready for a look into a cruel world but it will
also give you the feels for how much Charlotte and Phoebe truly care for
each other. I hope that I would do something this crazy for my sister
if the time ever came around.
Recently Miss Hannah and I recorded a podcast where we gushed about how much we love the author Cassandra Clare and her work. If you love everything Shadowhunters then you should listen to our podcast episode and check out her newest book, The Red Scrolls of Magic.
First line: From the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, the city was spread at Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood’s feet like a gift.
Following the Mortal War against Valentine Morgenstern and his
followers, it is time for a much needed vacation. Alec Lightwood and his
warlock boyfriend, Magnus Bane, are on a romantic adventure through
Europe. However, everything does not go as planned. With the arrival of
an old friend, Magnus is warned that there is a demon worshipping cult
making trouble in Europe. And the rumored leader is none other than
Magnus Bane himself. In order to clear his name and bring down the cult
he and Alec travel across Europe fighting demons and attending some
rather exciting parties.
My Thoughts: I have been waiting
for this for years! I love Alec and Magnus. I have been a huge fan of
their relationship from the very beginning. And now they are traveling
across Europe. Yes please! One of the best things about Clare’s
characters, especially Magnus, is their wit. He always has perfect
The story started a little slow and the pacing
seemed a little off from Clare’s other works but that may be due to
having a co-writer on this novel. However, once I got into the story I
was hooked. I read the last 200 pages in one day. I could not put it
down. I loved their banter. I was happy to see some characters from
later timelines make an appearance. Even though this novel is much
shorter than her more recent ones it does not lack any of the pieces
that makes her other books so gripping. There is a lot of action,
romance and demons.
And this novel is her first adult novel in
the Shadowhunter universe. It is evident that this is written for a
little older audience because there is some more graphic scenes but it
does not go too far. At the end Cassie writes about how she wanted to
write this novel for a long time and left a gap in her timeline in case
she was able to get it written. I could tell that it was a project she
felt very passionate about.
FYI: This is the first in a new trilogy, The Elder Curses. It takes place after the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series.
First line: Those months, the months before she disappeared, were the best months.
Fifteen year old Ellie is the golden child. Then one day she disappears
without a trace. Ten years later her mother, Laurel meets a man in a
coffee shop. He is charming and appears to be the perfect man. As her
relationship with Floyd progresses she meets his daughter who bears a
striking resemblance to her missing daughter, Ellie. What happened to
Ellie? After all the years of wondering Laurel is determined to find
My Thoughts: Lisa Jewell is a new discovery for me. I recently read her latest book, Watching You, on the recommendation of Dawn (who writes our Lit Pairings blog posts). I was hooked immediately. Her novels are fast paced filled with lots of twists and turns. I was pretty sure I had everything figured out early on in the novel. However, I was wrong. Things continued to get more twisted as I read.
The book was divided into different parts
with different narrators. As the story progressed we got different looks
at the events of then and now. I was very shocked and little saddened
by the ending. If you read it you may understand. There were lots of
pieces that are very hard to read. But Jewell is an amazing writer. Even
if the story had been less intriguing her writing would have saved it. I
will definitely be on the hold list for any more of her upcoming
FYI: This is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.
*If you would like to listen to the audio book it is available on Libby.*
This book is an attempt to piece together a clear portrait of how the
renowned 1970s rock band Daisy Jones & The Six rose to fame—as
well as what led to their abrupt and infamous split while on tour in
Chicago on July 12, 1979.
Summary: Daisy Jones, a young
girl in the late 1960s who spends her time on Sunset Boulevard, sneaking
into clubs, drinking heavily and dreaming big of a life as a rock star.
Billy Dunne is the lead singer of an up and coming rock band called The
Six. They each have a unique sound but when their producer decides that
the way to make them superstars is to combine their talents.
through interviews with band members, family, friends and colleagues we
get the story of the legendary band known as Daisy Jones and The Six.
My Thoughts: If you loved the movieBohemian Rhapsody then you should definitely check this out! And listen to the audio book. I find that the style of the writing is very hard to read because it is an oral history. The book is composed of interviews which bounce back and forth between different members. But the audio has a full cast and it feels like a documentary. I kept having to remind myself that this was fiction not an actual band.
I did not grow up in the
seventies but I can imagine that Taylor Jenkins Reid does a great job of
portraying it. Life was wild at the time. I really loved hearing about
Daisy. She sounds like the typical female rock star of the time who
struggled with drugs and the crazy lifestyle. However, I kept rooting
for her to figure it out.
Each of the other characters has their
own demons but they are mainly supporting characters. But I did enjoy
hearing each ones perspective on the same events. It is crazy how
different each person views and remembers the same thing. The one
character that I really struggled with liking was Eddie. He drove me
crazy. He was constantly complaining about everything, even though most
of the stuff had nothing to do with him.
First line: The day I met Mr. Gellis, I had been walking in the rain.
Sarah Piper is a poor young woman working for a temp agency in London
when an unusual job becomes available. She is hired on as an assistant
for a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis, a WWI veteran and ghost enthusiast,
is determined to prove the existence of ghosts. He wants Sarah’s help
with the ghost of Maddy Clare. Maddy was a servant for the Clare family
until she took her own life in their barn. Now her spirit is wreaking
havoc on the occupants. With the help of Matthew Ryder, a former soldier
and friend of Alistair’s they search for a way to help Maddy move on
and solve the mystery behind her destructive behavior.
Absolutely chilling! Simone St. James is by far one of the best
writers, in my opinion, of the Gothic ghost story. She can weave the
historical fiction, romance and spookiness together seamlessly. I have
been meaning to read this for some time now. It took me just a few days
to read because it was that good!
I loved the mystery behind
Maddy. No one knew who she was or where she came from. She had no memory
and rarely spoke. Then one day she hangs herself in the barn of her
employer. That’s when the trouble really begins. Maddy’s vengeful spirit
is set to attack any man who sets foot on the Clare property. What
happened in her past? Sarah’s first interactions with Maddy were a
little terrifying. It literally gets your blood pumping as you read it.
When you pick this up be prepared to finish it. Maybe even the same day.
FYI: If you like this then try Wendy Webb and Amanda Stevens.
First line: Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century.
Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress to the railroad empire, is
marrying the future Duke of Marlborough. However, she is in love with
someone else and is being forced into the marriage by her strong willed
mother, Alva Smith Vanderbilt. The marriage is an unhappy one but
Consuelo hopes to use her influence as the Duchess of Marlborough to
help the lower classes living around Blenheim Palace.
My Thoughts: I have been a reader of Karen Harper for many years. I really enjoy her historical fiction even though she seems to elaborate her narratives a bit. Her most recent novel was a fast read about one of the American heiresses whose money helped sustain the British aristocracy. Having recently read, A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler, I was familiar with the Vanderbilt family at the turn of the nineteenth century.
was a force to be dealt with but it sounds like her daughter learned a
lot from her mother. I loved hearing about Consuelo’s life and the way
she tried to improve her circumstances and those of the poor. I cannot
imagine living her life though. She was forced into a marriage, had
unimaginable wealth and was very unhappy for many years. Harper does a
great job of breathing life into her characters. I loved “meeting”
Winston Churchill. As with most historical novels, I googled many of the
locations and people to see what they really looked like. This was a
fun romp through the Gilded Age and into the time of the world wars.
Nina dreamed of becoming a pilot. When the German army attacks her
native Russia, she enlists to help her country fight its invaders. As
one of the all-female bomber regiment called the Night Witches, she gets
her wish. Until one day when she goes down behind enemy lines and
encounters the evil villainous known as the Huntress.
spent the war years as a war correspondent. He everything from the
invasion of Omaha Beach to the Nuremburg Trials but he is determined to
find and bring to justice one person, the Huntress. With a personal
vendetta against the war criminal he joins an organization tasked with
finding members of the Nazi party that escaped punishment.
McBride is a young girl and aspiring photographer in 1946. Her father
recently married a mysterious Austrian widow but her story makes Jordan
suspicious. The more she learns the less she trusts her. She is
determined to find out who this woman is in order to protect her father.
Told in three narratives we piece together the story of the Huntress.
From the very first chapter I was hooked. I have been a longtime fan of
Kate Quinn and her newest novel does not disappoint. I think I can even
say with confidence that it is her best book to date. I loved the
different timelines and how each intertwine. This would be perfect for
fans of historical fiction and mysteries.
Nina was by far my
favorite character. She is strong woman but also has a deep seeded fear.
I enjoyed seeing her change and grow throughout the story. She starts
as a poor girl from eastern Russia who dreams of becoming a pilot. As
the war progresses she discovers more about herself and the country she
serves. I learned so much while reading her chapters. I had never heard
of female bomber teams during World War II. Even though Russia has a
history of being behind the times, this is a very progressive stance.
And for them to be highly decorated after the war for their courage.
Read the author’s notes at the end for more background on the story. You can tell that Quinn did a lot of research to build her narrative.
FYI: This reminded me a lot of the new release movie, Operation Finale, starring Oscar Isaac. It follows the search and capture of Adolph Eichmann, the mastermind behind the Holocaust.