First line: The ramshackle warehouse was on the wrong side of the river, the south side, where the buildings jostled for space and the little boats unloaded pocket-size cargos for scant profit.
Summary: Twenty-two years have passed since the events at Foulmire. Alinor and Alys have established themselves in a warehouse along the Thames with a decent income from sailors and merchants. But on the same day two people happen into their lives that will change it once again. Sir James who has spent years in exile is looking for his child. And Rob’s widow from Venice arrives with their young son. The women try to deal with these changes the best they can.
On the other side of the ocean, in New England, Ned has traveled in the hopes of starting a new life where he is free and far from the reaches of the King he hates. But even with an ocean between his old and new life he finds that things are still the same. He has befriended the native people and learned much from them but he is looked down upon for this from his fellow Englishman. He is stuck between two worlds and doesn’t know which side to choose.
My Thoughts: Once again Philippa Gregory writes a stunning book! I loved this just as much as the first one in the trilogy but for different reasons. The first part was very character driven and where the landscape plays an important role. This one is more plot driven but has strong characters and amazing locations. From the very beginning I was strongly invested in the story. At one point I had to put the book down because I was so frustrated with the characters.
I loved being back with Alinor even though she was not the main character anymore. This centered more on her brother, daughter and granddaughter. A new generation of the Reekie family in a new time. The picture of these poor women striving for a living along the Thames is perfectly done. And then we visit Venice in the second half of the story. I can picture the canals, gondolas, and beautiful buildings. I visited Venice years ago and loved the city on the water.
Ned’s life in New England reminded me so much of Gregory’s book, Virgin Earth, with her beautiful descriptions of the forests of America before the settlers cleared the lands. The plants, the people and wildness of the land comes alive in her telling. It is so hard to read about the past at times when you see all the injustices that were done. Settlers took advantage of the natives and treated them terribly.
First line: A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.
Summary: In 1580, in England, a young tutor named William Shakespeare meets the daughter of his employers. She is a strange girl who wanders the fields with her falcon on her arm. Against the wishes of their families they marry. Agnes has a reputation as a healer. People flock to her for cures. However, when their son, Hamnet, falls ill to the bubonic plague there is little she can do for the boy. With the heartache and loss Shakespeare writes one of his most epic plays.
My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written. It was almost poetic in its writing and style. I listened to most of this and the reader was so soothing. I think this would be a perfect book for book clubs, fans of historical fiction or literary fiction.
This brings to life a major part of Shakespeare’s life, his family. Very little is written or talked about since his most famous times were in London and on the stage. I loved learning about Agnes (or Anne) and their children. Life was so simple back then but also very tragic as well. I knew very little even though I have read several of his plays and watched many documentaries and movies of his life. The fact that we can still see some of the places he lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon is astounding since over 400 years have passed.
My favorite chapter, and the one that will most likely stick with me, was the one about the flea. O’Farrell spends a whole chapter on the flea that brought the plague to the home of William Shakespeare and eventually killed his only son. It is hard to imagine how something that started thousands of miles away could affect so many. The tale was fascinating. Who would ever consider writing about the flea?! It is genius.
First line: Kate sees the familiar nameplate on Dr. Williams’ office door and feels a knot in her stomach.
Kate and Lauren are sisters who recently lost their dad but each of
them has a different idea of who the man actually was. Kate idolized
him. Lauren’s relationship was more distant. Then one night at a family
dinner a woman shows up who claims to be their father’s daughter.
Everyone is shocked by the revelation but none more than Kate. She is
determined to prove that Jess is a liar. Lauren is more accepting of her
which leads to even more discord in the family. As Kate looks deeper
into Jess’s story she finds that not everything is as simple as Jess
My Thoughts: This book kept me reading! I kept
telling myself just one more chapter. One more chapter. I loved the
different viewpoints. I liked that each woman was completely different
from each other. It made the story more interesting because of the
conflict. Little clues and hints appeared throughout. Some were red
herrings. Others were not. I flew through this book with my heart
pounding waiting for the ending.
I do have to say though that
some of the stuff seemed a little farfetched. There were some
overreactions and wild theories from the characters. I rolled my eyes a
few times because it got a little dramatic but it did not stop me from
reading it. I was pleased with the ending. I would highly recommend this
for fans of thrillers and fast paced novels.
FYI: Great for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.
First line: After all the grand celebrations leading to my one
hundredth birthday, I had feared dreadfully that the calendar day itself
would be a disappointment.
Summary: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon,
also known as the Queen Mother, took on an important role during the
Second World War. Hitler even called her “the most dangerous woman in
Europe” because of her popularity and determination to stop the Nazi
threat. Using her position she helped Londoners get through the hard
years of bombings and rationing. Her support of her husband and Winston
Churchill made her a force to be reckoned with. She knew and
participated in the most important plans of the war. But even as she was
keeping the countries secrets she was hiding a few of her own.
I am not a 100% sure how I feel about this book. As a story it was a
nice easy read. I learned somethings about the time period and the role
of the royals during it. It was interesting to see what life was like
for them. Elizabeth sounds like a fascinating woman. She lived to be
over 100 years old. She saw the world change drastically. I really would
love to read a good biography on her someday.
But I had a hard
time believing some of the secrets she dealt with from her past. When
searching for any confirmation on them I only found one source which was
a tell-all book from a member of the aristocracy. I don’t know how
accurate it is but it made for an interesting story plot. And since the
queen mother is gone it will not be able to be truly known.
First line: One morning at the beginning of 2019, when I was in my London flat, the telephone rang.
Lady Anne Glenconner, lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, led a
spectacular life. She lived through the Second World War, carried the
train of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and married to an eccentric
aristocrat. In her memoir she takes us behind the scenes of important
events in the British monarchy and her life. She has many ups and downs
but stays strong through them all.
My Thoughts: After watching The Crown I have become fascinated by Princess Margaret. I knew very little about her but came to love her wild side and the way she stirred up the monarchy. When I saw Lady Glenconner’s book on Netgalley I immediately had to request it.
The writing is very simple. It is almost like
having a conversation with the woman herself. It flows so easily and is
a lot of fun to read. You can feel her emotions as you read along. I
loved hearing her memories about life with the royal princesses. I was
shocked as she discussed her marriage. Her husband sounds like a very
difficult man to be around but that she stuck it out shows her devotion
and will to commit to her promises.
I loved looking for pictures
as I was reading. And I found the pictures at the end delightful. It
was nice to put faces to the names. Mustique looks like paradise. I have
never visited the Caribbean but this definitely makes me want to take a
The one thing I was missing was more insights into the
lives of the Queen and Margaret. They appear and play important parts in
her story but I expected more from reading the blurb.
FYI: If you love The Crown then this is a good follow up read.
First line: There are two versions of the events of 1887. One is very well known, but the other is not.
Everyone has heard the story of Jack the Ripper. He haunted the streets
of Whitechapel preying on women. His victims known as the canonical
five are Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane. His story has
been researched and turned over hundreds of times but very little is
actually known about the women whose lives he took. Here are their
My Thoughts: I have recommended this book to
anyone and everyone! I was completely engrossed in it. It is thoroughly
researched and well written. It reads like fiction and is easy to get
caught up in these women’s lives. I found myself hoping for better
outcomes as I read even though I knew how each of their stories was a
going to end.
Rubenhold brings these women and the times that
they lived to the forefront. Everyone thinks that they know the victims.
They were prostitutes right? Wrong. Some were but not all five. Each
has a story to tell. I could not believe the detail put into their
narratives. Using housing records, census, interviews and newspaper
reports we get fuller picture of their lives.
romanticize the Victorian time period but it was anything but ideal.
People were barely able to care for their families. Housing was not
always safe or healthy. Disease, alcoholism and poverty were prevalent.
How people survived is astounding.
If you love history, true
crime or biographies than this is perfect for you. It is full of
information that will keep you reading until the very end.
FYI: There is very little mentioned about Jack the Ripper. This book focuses on the women only and the time that they lived.
First line: It is hot and airless on the 7.42 from Greenwich to Cannon Street.
Mudlarker Lara Maiklem spends hours walking miles along the riverbank
of the Thames in London. In her wanderings she finds little trinkets
that give us a look into the English past. She has found items ranging
from the Romans to modern day trash.
My Thoughts: I absolutely devoured this book. I first heard about it on a podcast, Talking Tudors, hosted by Natalie Grueninger. In one of her recent releases she talked with Lara about her upcoming book and the Tudor related finds she has discovered in the mud of the river. Immediately after listening to it I had to find a copy to read. Thank goodness Netgalley had it available.
I really enjoyed how the author laid
out the book. She started at one end of the Thames and worked her way
to the sea. As she described her finds she also delved into her past,
experiences on the foreshore and other mudlarks and their finds. I loved
learning about the items she found. I was constantly on the internet
looking for pictures of these items and reading more history behind
them. I am really jealous of the items she has in her curio cabinet. I
am seriously thinking about getting a day pass to mudlark the next time I
am in London. Or can I mudlark in Kansas?
FYI: Lara Maiklem is on Facebook and Instagram. If you want to see her finds and hear more about mudlarking then check them out.
First line: “Sophia, let’s go,” I call out from the hall.
Alice’s life is beginning to come back to normal. She has remarried
after the death of her first husband. She has two beautiful daughters
and a successful business. But when her husband, Nathan begins acting
strangely she turns to her best friend, Beth. As they talk about the
situation Alice begins to wonder who she can trust anymore.
My Thoughts: This by no means is anything groundbreaking or new to the genre but it was a lot of fun to read. It went by very fast and kept me interested the whole way. I liked how it was divided into sections for each of the women. We got a look into each of their lives and pasts which helps build up to the conclusion. I had so many theories flying through my head as I read. Each became more twisted with each passing page.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes a fun thriller. It is a perfect summer read!
Summary: When a young woman is found murdered on the steps of Westminster Abbey all the signs point to the young viscount, Sebastian St. Cyr. In order to prove himself innocent he uses his skills gained from his time in his majesty’s military as well as enlisting the help of his former mistress, Kat Boleyn.
Highlights: As a fan of historical fiction this has become one of my favorite mystery series. Sebastian is a smart and witty protagonist. The street urchin, Tom, is a great addition. He is fun and gives the reader a look into the darker underworld of the poor in London. I love that Sebastian is involved and cares about others unlike many of the people in the upper classes. I have read nearly all of this series so far and have even gotten my mother hooked on them as well.
The author does an amazing job of researching the time and drawing in historical figures. While reading this I can even connect it with the PBS show, Victoria, even though it happens about 25 years before her reign. In one of the most recent books we get introduced to Princess Charlotte who is the future wife of Uncle Leopold.
Lowlights: Sebastian may be a little too perfect. He knows a lot people and can handle about any situation. However, this can be said for most primary characters. It seems a little cheesy but it is easily overlooked because the story is so fun.
FYI: If you like this then try The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. It is a female centered spy novel series that takes place during this time period.
We have several new apps and services. My new favorite is RBDigital Unlimited. It has a wide selection of older audio books available to download onto your mobile device. I love to read the new releases but sometimes there is a book that I have been meaning to read but have not gotten around to it yet. Well this is a good way to get them off the TBR list! The best part of this is that there is no waiting for a title. Every title on the site is available immediately.
First line: It started on at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden.
Summary: Peter Grant, a probationary constable, has hopes of becoming a detective. When investigating a disturbance he gathers some information from a witness. However, this witness also happens to be dead. With the knowledge that Peter can communicate with ghosts brings him to the attention of Chief Investigator Thomas Nightingale. He heads a special department in the London PD who deal with magic and supernatural occurrences. As a string of murders overtakes the city, Peter is thrust into the world of magic and mystical beings.
Highlights: I found this to be a mixture of Sherlockand Harry Potter. This is a fun book. As a grownup who loves to read a mixture of YA, fantasy and mysteries, then this is the perfect combination. It was originally recommended to me by my German sister, Melanie. This sat on my to be read pile for a long time but when I saw that I could listen to the audiobook using RBDigital Unlimited, I immediately checked it out. It was gritty and dark but at the same time a little lighthearted. There was humor mixed in with the murder. One thing that I found to be new and interesting is that several of the characters are rivers in human form. This is the name of the series, Rivers of London, but I never actually considered that they would be actual characters. If you want something a little different than this may be it.
Lowlights: A lot of the story was building the world. Who is Peter Grant? What is the magical department and what do they do? As with all new series it takes a bit to get the ball rolling. I think this was my main issue but I will definitely pick up book 2, Moon Over Soho.