Monday, May 25, 2015

REVIEW: Mistress of Mourning

Publisher: NAL
Page Count: 416
Format: Paperback
How Got Book: Physical copy given by friend
Why Read: liked author's previous work and time period interesting
From GoodReads: In a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance from the national bestselling author of The Queen's Governess, two women fight to defeat the enemies of the precarious Tudor monarchy by uncovering the secrets of the dead... 
London, 1501. In a time of political unrest, Varina Westcott, a young widow and candle maker for court and church, agrees to perform a clandestine service for Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII--carve wax figures of four dead children, two of her offspring lost in infancy and her two brothers, the Princes of the Tower, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved. Having lost a child herself, Varina feels a sympathetic bond with the queen. And as she works under the watchful eye of handsome Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious assistant to the royals, she develops feelings of quite a different nature... 
Then news comes from Wales of the unexpected death of newly married Prince Arthur, the queen’s eldest child and heir to the throne. Deeply grieving, Elizabeth suspects that Arthur did not die of a sudden illness, as reported, but was actually murdered by her husband’s enemies. This time her task for Varina and Nicholas is of vital importance--travel into the Welsh wilderness to investigate the prince’s death. But as the couple unearths one unsettling clue after another, they begin to fear that the conspiracy they’re confronting is far more ambitious and treacherous than even the queen imagined. And it aims to utterly destroy the Tudor dynasty.
My Thoughts:
Star Rating - 4 Stars
An engrossing read, this book contains a bit of everything. There’s a romance, mystery, historical tidbits, and suspense. The rousing tale of two women caught up in the strictures of grief overcoming it to solve the mystery of who’s gunning for the Tudor dynasty kept me on the edge of my seat. I liked that the author was able to balance the different elements into one streaming and smooth story.
I especially liked Varina. She’s got guts, courage, and a caring heart. Though a bit blind at times to the emotions of those surrounding her, she’s an intelligent woman who dedicates herself to serving her Queen and protecting her family and loved ones. I also liked that she was practical in her perceived expectations for her future, yet there was still a bit of the romantic in her to not immediately jump on the first marriage proposal to come her way.
There were a ton of neat historical tidbits throughout the story: details of the burial practices of early Tudor England, some of the magic still present in the rural folklore, the role of women in the time period, and the mechanics of running a business in bustling London. Those historical tidbits made for a fun read for any history lover.
Yet, there wasn’t much meaty stuff here. The details were fun, yet a lot of stuff seemed a bit far-fetched to me to have actually happened. Elizabeth’s wax effigies in hiding, the lightning fast speed of Nick’s and Varina’s romance, and the varying roles that Varina played all seem a bit out there to me. The hypothesis the author puts forward for why Arthur died and responsible party behind the Princes in the Tower were intriguing, though.
 A fun read, this book will definitely kill a weekend for you. It’s got some neat historical tidbits, a great lead, and a thrilling plot. And while it may not have a lot of meat on its bones when it comes to historical weight and story, I think this novel would still be very enjoyable for any historical fiction lover.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

REVIEW: Miriam's Way

Miriam's Way
by Cissy Lacks
Beanie Books
149 Pages
Read in Kindle format

How got book: Kindle Unlimited

Why read: author request and WWII related survival story, heck yeah!!


In September of 1941, German armies marched through eastern Poland into Russia, and Miriam, a thirteen-year-old Polish Jew, entered the dark forests of White Russia to hide from the invaders.

Miriam's Way is based upon true-life experiences of Miriam Kenisberg from 1941 through 1946 as told by author Cissy Lacks.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3 Stars

A fascinating story of survival against impossible odds, this story got better and better as the book went along. Miriam was so lucky to get the education she did from her father; without those words of wisdom on how to survive in the forest, she would have died unknown and been lost to history. As she encountered the various people on her journey and after the war, Miriam developed into a deeper and stronger individual that I was glad got her happy ending.

The author’s historical research shows for the most part throughout the book. Her careful attention to details in the plight of war torn WWII Europe and the situation of the displace persons trying to build a new life after the war rang true. There were a few items throughout the narrative that were questionable to me, but they were very minor.

There are times, however, where I wasn’t quite sure of the target audience for this book. The first half of the book reads very much as a YA novel with very brief descriptions and flat characterization. Yet, in the latter half of the book, there is some material that I would be shocked to find in a YA novel for the younger end of the YA spectrum. The world building was also more radiant in the latter half. So I was thrown by this discrepancy.

 And some of these secondary characters…. Holy carp!! Wlodek is the main culprit here. The way he talks and acts towards Miriam could be believable, I suppose, in the context that strange people I this timeframe and location could be suspected hiding Jews. Yet, his family takes Miriam in as a lost girl who needs help, NOT as a hiding Jewess. So what he does to her and right in front of his mother?! Really?! And not one peep out of Ma. I’d hate to be this guy’s future girlfriend; what a creep….
Engaging story and good research make this an enjoyable read. There are issues with secondary characterization and a vague target audience, but these problems in no way impede me in recommending this book. I’d definitely say a great book to give to an older YA, maybe 17-18, who’s interested in the Holocaust and the time period. Also a great book for adult readers overall.

 Note: Book read and reviewed at request of author.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First post!!

Welcome to the blog of Sarah G aka Sarah Lynne, book lover from the great west. This is my first attempt @ a book blog so buckle in and enjoy the ride with me. I'm not very tech savvy so probably won't be fiddling with abundant graphics, but we'll see what develops.

I started this blog as I started to find that I wanted to talk about things book related that go beyond just book reviews, though there will be plenty of those.  Talking about the progress on reading challenges, utilizing personal reading challenges, and just talking about how books are impacting my life in general wanted to come out of me. So here we are.

We are now launched!