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Search tags: historical-but-not-too-much
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review 2018-10-19 15:46
The Bird King - G. Willow Wilson
The Bird King - G. Willow Wilson

I'd really enjoyed this author's previous book, Alif the Unseen, so was delighted to see she was back to writing novel-length work again, though I have to say I've also been loving her work with Ms Marvel... All of which meant I was more than delighted when my Netgalley request for an ARC of The Bird King was accepted and happily settled down this week to reading it. 

 

The basic premise of The Bird King is that it's set in the time when the Moors were losing their grip on Spain, initially taking place in the court of the emperor in Granada. Our main character, Fatima, is one of the emperor's concubines - she was born within the palace's confines and has never known the outside world, her best friend being Hassan the cartographer who she visits illicitly. Hassan has a special gift, in that he is able to use the maps he makes to connect places together and Fatima uses this to obtain a little insight into the world outside the one she knows. 

 

When the would-be Spanish monarchy come calling, with the Inquisition in tow, Hassan's life is threatened and Fatima decides that the best thing to do is for both of them to run away. Aided by a djinn that they discover has been living in the palace, they decide to head for the island occupied by the eponymous king of the birds, the subject of a story they had both grown up with. Neither Fatima or Hassan are particularly equipped for such a journey, in more ways than one, but they head out anyway since they have very few other options that don't involve Hassan being burnt alive for sorcery. 

 

This is such a beautifully-written book, striking just the right balance between getting the details precise and making a drama of how much research must have been required. Fatima, in particular, is a great character and stands out from the page - she doesn't always make the right decision but you believe the ones she does make. Hassan and the other characters are strong too, including the main antagonist and that's not always something writers manage to do well. Moustache-twirling evil is much easier than banal belief that you're doing the right thing and everyone else ought to fall in line. 

 

Anyway, in short: I hope The Bird King is the first of many more novels from this author and I can't wait to get my hands on a paper copy when it goes on sale next year. 

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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review 2018-10-19 03:42
Stalking Jack the Ripper
Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco

This just didn't work for me at all, and I'm so disappointed. The synopsis made it seem like it should be right in my wheelhouse, but it just wasn't.

 

I think my main issues were with the main characters, Audrey Rose (whose POV we read from) and Thomas, her love interest. I didn't like either of them. He came off as a pompous know-it-all, and she was insufferable and judgemental. She's also supposed to be a feminist character, but it falls a little false when she's judgemental about other women who like the more traditional feminine things of the era. That whole, "I'm not like the other girls" vibe that drives me crazy. She also had several TSTL moments in the book.

 

The romance fell flat. I felt the pair had zero chemistry.

 

The identity of "Jack" was obvious extremely early in the book, though the author tried to lay a false trail by dropping anvil sized hints that it was actually someone else.

 

I didn't hate the writing, and I did like the part where Audrey Rose stood up to her father, and the bonus chapters from Thomas' viewpoint at the end of the book were good, as well. I wish we'd been able to read from his POV sometimes during the novel. Maybe I'd have found him a bit more likeable, but by the time I got to the bonus chapters, it was too little, too late.

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review 2018-10-18 15:02
The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter
The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter - Hazel Gaynor

Grace Darling is the daughter of the Longstone Lighthouse keeper in the Farne Islands. She has dedicated her life to helping her father keep the light. Although, for a young women in the 1830's, this is not the life that is expected of her. Grace's life is put into the spotlight when she assists her father in rescuing the survivors of a shipwreck. One of the survivors of the shipwreck is Sarah Dawson, who has lost both of her children to the sea. Sarah is also the brother of George Emmerson, an artist who visited Longstone and formed a strong bond with Grace. Grace and Sarah become fast friends after their ordeal on the island and share a bond of courage and heartache.

One hundred years later, Sarah's great-great granddaughter, Matilda arrives in Rhode Island disgraced and pregnant, sent away from her hometown in Ireland to stay with her cousin and lighthouse keeper, Harriet. To keep herself busy Matilda sorts through an old chest, finding momentos of Grace Darling and George Emmerson. By learning the stories of Grace, Sarah and Harriet, Matilda finds strength within herself to what must be done.


The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter is a story of courage and bravery carried through time. The phrase "Even the brave were once afraid" is a theme throughout the book and something that each character realizes over time. I was pleased to learn the history of Grace Darling, I name I have heard of, but didn't know anything about. Much of what is written about Grace is fact-based and well researched. Through the writing I could perfectly picture Grace and her attention to her duties and well as her unease at becoming a heroine for simply performing the duty of a lighthouse keeper. Matilda and Harriet's story took a little bit longer to capture my attention; however, when all of the secrets throughout time are revealed, their bravery shines through and everything falls into place. As always, Hazel Gaynor's writing transports me easily through time periods with poise and captures multiple characters personalities perfectly. Overall, an amazing story of courage and love.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-18 15:00
DNF- So Much Wangst, So Little Action and Immersion

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

 

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I tried to get into this one and struggled for literally months to finish it, but I give up. This book doesn't hold my attention at all.

 

What intrigued me to pick it up forces me to put it down. Tying the Guy Fawkes legend into an urban fantasy Victorian/Gregorian English setting is an appealing idea, but the lack of urgency in the story, the endless inner monologues and piecemeal explanation for what Color Magic is all about and why there's such trouble between the differing factions will have you losing interest fast.

 

A big letdown for me was the characterization, especially Emma. While the whiny, emo protagonist Thomas was bad enough- granted he had a sense of urgency with his condition, but that only seemed to come whenever the author arbitrarily decided she needed to insert some drama- Emma almost felt like a betrayal. Maybe I missed something, but the sudden reveal of Emma as a black woman killed any further interest I had. It felt cheap & forced, especially when there was not even a hint to this beforehand, so why the deception? To make Thomas seem more sympathetic and juxtapose the rivals/bad guys as more eeeevil. When you club your readers upside the head with cheap tricks to try and make them feel for the characters, you've lost.

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review 2018-10-18 10:00
Treacherous is the Night (Verity Kent Mystery, #2)
Treacherous Is the Night - Anna Lee Huber

This series is driving me crazy; I love the author's writing, the characters, the settings, the mysteries.  But I hate one of the major plot points.  

 

Verity Kent's husband died during WWI - except, he didn't.  He was wounded but allowed himself to be listed as killed in action, hiding while he hunted out the traitor in his unit.  Well over a year later, after Verity has started moving on, and falling for another man - a man designed by the author to make readers fall for him - her dead husband decided to let her know he's in rude health for a corpse and not understanding why she's not happier to see him.

(spoiler show)

 

I'm not sure how to reconcile this, really.  I want to read them, but they piss me off at the same time.

 

With that disclosure, it's a good book, although a bit rambling.  I notice tis with a lot of Kensington books, so I think it's more an editorial style than a failing on the author's part.  A tighter editing would have resulted in a faster paced mystery and less exposition about the devastation of WWI.  Don't get me wrong: the exposition was interesting, but it was a tad repetitive.  My biggest complaint, and again, something that could have been avoided by a stricter editor, was Verity's constant, constant, mention of Her Big Secret and how she should tell her husband; it's revelation is inevitable; they can't move on unless she does; really, it would be best to come clean... but not now.  Never now.  Then, finally, the revelation.  And all I could think was omg, who cares?.  I realise people were a lot touchier about things in 1918, but give me a break; without spoiling things, her husband didn't have a leg to stand on and she really ought to have just told him to suck it up and deal with it.

 

I don't know if I'll read the third one when it comes out or not.  If I do, I'm pretty sure I'm stuck with that plot point and, well, I just don't know that I care enough about Verity as things stand.

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