Monday, January 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis

The Borgia Bride
by Jeanne Kalogridis

Publisher: St. Martins Griffin
Page Count: 509
Release Date: May 1, 2005
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: synopsis


From GoodReads:

Vivacious Sancha of Aragon arrives in Rome newly wed to a member of the notorious Borgia dynasty. Surrounded by the city's opulence and political corruption, she befriends her glamorous and deceitful sister-in-law, Lucrezia, whose jealousy is as legendary as her beauty. Some say Lucrezia has poisoned her rivals, particularly those to whom her handsome brother, Cesare, has given his heart. So when Sancha falls under Cesare's irresistible spell, she must hide her secret or lose her life. Caught in the Borgias' sinister web, she summons her courage and uses her cunning to outwit them at their own game. Vividly interweaving historical detail with fiction, The Borgia Bride is a richly compelling tale of conspiracy, sexual intrigue, loyalty, and drama.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

This book got me so into the Italian Renaissance and its politics that after finishing, I started watching the new Medici series on Netflix and from that I went into the Borgias. Let's just say, that watching that series after finishing this book was a real eye-opener and fun watch. LOL. This book was my first introduction to the author, and it was a beautiful one. The book draws you in with a lush setting and characters that never fall neatly into evil or good. I loved every aspect of it.

I don't read many works from the Italian Renaissance era; I think I need to rectify that ASAP after reading this one. I felt like I experienced every moment with the characters. From the sun-dappled shores of southern Italy to the hustle and bustle of massive Rome to the deadly intrigues of both, this book draws the reader into the past like a great historical fiction should. The author pays attention to the little detail along with the grand historical events.

I love Sacha! She's such a strong character with a great capacity to love and hate in equal measure. She'll go to incredible lengths to protect the ones she loves and revenge those betrayed. I love that she's as capable of murder as she is comfort; it's not often that we see one character with the capacity for both in equal measure. Her quick intelligence, bright political acumen, and survival instinct round out her brilliant personality.

All the other characters that round out this gang of misfits also shine bright. Cesare is one of those characters that you love to hate. He's just as likely to stab you in the back as he is to be devoted to you. In the end, he's only looking out for numero uno. All the other background characters are as three dimensional as Cesare and Sancha, giving us a cast of strong personalities to carry off this intrigue filled story.

While this is my first foray into the author’s works, it won't be my last. She has won me over with her lush historical setting and phenomenal characters. She knows how to tell a suspenseful story while giving character development as strong a footing. I would highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction, especially lovers of the Italian Renaissance. It got me more interested into the source material, and I can't find any better complement to a historical fiction than that.

Monday, January 9, 2017

BLOG ENTRY: 2016 Reading Challenge Review/2017 Reading Challenge Look Ahead

Well, this posting is a little late; yet, I always say better late than never! Figure I’d do an analysis posting for my reading challenges this year and a look ahead to next. Since I flubbed so bad this year on this topic, this coming one will be mighty interesting. :D

I started out 2016 with very good intentions. Three reading challenges started and by February or so, I had made good headway. Yet about March-May, I actually left reading books to concentrate on fanfiction. So let's just say that departure put a hole in my reading challenge boat. By the time I dove into books again, we were almost halfway through the year, and I just didn't feel like trying to cram in three reading challenges and feel the pressure. After all, reading is my hobby, not my job.

So about midway through the year, I decided to just concentrate on one reading challenge, and that was my favorite historical fiction challenge. My special challenge to myself for that one was to concentrate on historical fiction works about people, locations, or historical events that were new to me, as that's where my heart really lay that year. And I succeeded with that challenge, diving into some good titles and overshooting my number for that particular challenge.

So safe to say, 2017 I'll be taking a lot lighter. I'll only be concentrating on the historical fiction challenge again; I think I set myself about the prehistoric level at 25 books. I vaguely set myself a personal challenge to concentrate on books set in American history (as I don't tend to read that as much) and historical fantasy, a personal subgenre favorite of mine. But you know what? I'm just going to count every historical fiction book I read this year towards the overall goal and just use those personal challenges aspect for myself as vague guidelines and not an absolute challenge.

I plan on starting a second job this year so my time will be even more limited than in previous years. So the overall total I set for myself on GR of 50 will be hard enough. The prehistoric level of 25 for the historical fiction calendar will also be more of a challenge. Will have to see as the year plays out what happens and how successful I am with the historical fiction challenge and the overall book total on Goodreads this year.

So there you go, a little analysis on how not well I did on reading challenges for 2016 and maybe a glimmer of hope for 2017, depending on how much time Sarah actually has to read. We’ll see where my sanity lies in December. XD

Sunday, January 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

The Mark of the King 
by Jocelyn Green

Publisher: Bethany House
Page Count: 416
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Format: ARC Paperback

How got: ARC gotten via giveaway

First attention getter: setting


From GoodReads:

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent 

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720's French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict. 

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on? 

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

While more Christian-laden than expected, I still found that I enjoyed this work for its setting originality and engrossing story. The author explores a setting not often seen in historical fiction, making it live with vivid characters and a strong story. This is a book that will suck you in.

I’ve read works set in colonial New Orleans before, Christian ones in fact. Yet, I've never come across anything this early into the development of the colony. Seeing the harsh conditions and trials faced by the early colonists made for a gritty story. The author does a fantastic job in bringing this harsh world to life, giving our characters a horrifying backdrop to tell their story. Disease, famine, swamps, alligators, and betrayal all show their ugly faces.

I grew to appreciate Julianne and Marc-Paul as individuals; both are faced with possible scenarios that require grit and courage to overcome. I found myself especially drawn into Julianne’s story as it just goes to prove that being a woman in past eras was rarely a good thing. She has injustice after injustice heaped upon her; yet, she faces each challenge with courage and a calm dignity that I grew to admire. Marc-Paul was also as lovely. I admired his loyalty and his unwavering faith in her and God in a society that seems to discredit such. Both together are pure magic!

The one area of this book that fell down, for me personally anyway, was how heavy-handed the Christian elements could be used at times. Now, I know this is a Christian work, elements such as those are to be expected. However, there were a few times where I felt like I was being preached to; the Christian elements and themes weren't interwoven with the narrative and overall story as well as it could have been in some places. However, to another reader, especially a Christian one, this particular aspect of the book probably won't be as glaring. So take this part of the review with a grain of salt.

Despite the overarching Christian tones at times, I found this book to be an engrossing look at early colonial New Orleans and the harsh time its inhabitants had trying to settle such an inhospitable place. Marc-Paul and Julianne's journey made for engrossing reading; their evident chemistry was beautiful to behold against such harshness. I would definitely recommend this book to Christian readers, an audience that probably won't mind the overly Christian elements. Even non-Christian readers though, like myself, will find something to enjoy in this book, if only for our leads and their suspenseful story.

Note: Book received for free from the publisher via a Librarything giveaway in exchange for an honest review.