Book: The Lost Tudor Princess- The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas

*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

(I am SO late in writing up this review).

I requested The Lost Tudor Princess thinking I was requesting a historical fiction of Lady Margaret Douglas. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was non-fiction. I was surprised as I don’t have any non fiction in my categories, but I decided to read it. Honestly, I probably should read more non-fiction.

lost-tudor-princessThis is a true biography of the life of Margaret Douglas, niece to Henry VIII and cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. It describes Margaret’s life in detail, to the circumstances surrounding her birth, her long life, and to the lives of her children as well. Margaret was an interesting woman, and walked a very fine line between a tumultuous political time.

I’m fairly familiar with the history of Henry VIII and Elizabeth’s long road to power, through the brief reign of her brother and bloody reign of her sister. Despite my knowledge of the history and familiarity with some of the more famous figures of the time, I had never heard about Margaret Douglas. I was really intrigued by her life and impressed by her. She lived through a lot, including imprisonment (multiple times), the death of her parents and uncle, the death of her cousins (Edward and Mary), the death of her son, and then the death of her husband.

The problem I had with the book is how very dry it was. I understand it was non fiction and a biography. It almost read like an academic biography with how extremely detailed it was. But it’s extreme detail also made it very difficult for me to get through. It would give names of the various people involved in Margaret’s life, and then refer to them as their title rather than their name. This ended up being very confusing as titles were often changing. I wish there had been a guide to the key people mentioned in the book. Between all the political ties and servants, especially with all the people Margaret Douglas corresponded with through letters, it was difficult to keep track of everyone. I often had to refer to the family time line or the annotated notes in the back, but my ebook links were off and didn’t take me to the specific page. Halfway through I decided to give up reading the notes.

Despite Margaret being a fascinating person in history, I have to give this a 2 out of 5 stars. Between the cumbersome ebook format, lack of of who’s who section, and the incredibly dry writing, it was a difficult read for me.However, I felt like I learned a lot.

On another note, I learned something about myself. I always tend to romanticize the Elizabethan era time. I blame Shakespeare. But I think this book helped me realize how terrible of a Lady I would be. Margaret was incredibly cunning and very ambitious. I am not the least bit ambitious or competitive, so I probably would not have fared well. I would have ended up like poor Lady Jane and got myself beheaded.

 

 

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Book: In Search of Scandal

*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Romance novels are my guilty pleasure. I started sneaking them from my mother at 16 and have been obsessed ever since. As an English major, I love reading anything. But when I am stressed out or tired with what I’m reading, I have to get my romance novel “fix”. I think of it this way: A romance novel is a playing field and I am rooting for courtship. Courtship wins every single time. In Search of Scandal Book cover

I had the opportunity to review this ARC which is released on December 1st (today!). In Search of Scandal is about Will Repton, travel botanist, recently returned from India running into the beautiful, dazzling Charlotte Baker. She loves him from the start but can Will overcome his dark memories from Tibet to love her back?

Likable main characters can make or break a romance novel. I liked the characters of Will and Charlotte. They each had their own unique voice, which can be difficult to do when switching point of views. They both also had chemistry and I liked them together.

One of the things I couldn’t quite figure out was everyone’s social position. Charlotte’s older sister married an Earl, but the sister was a beard since the love affair was really between the Earl and Charlotte’s brother Wally.*  The Earl died and the sister married a Mr. Ben Paxton (and Wally is in disgrace for obvious reasons), so they are not part of the Ton. Charlotte was raised as a lady (since her sister was married to the Earl and had a proper education) and is a hot commodity in society. The complicated family connections was much more complex and convoluted than it needed to be. I have read a lot of historical romance and my understanding is that if one person in the family is in disgrace, they ALL are. It seemed odd to me that Charlotte was accepted into society but no one else was.

Despite that, the beginning of the novel was promising and fun. Charlotte is besotted with Will before even meeting him, and falls even more in love with him on meeting. Will just can’t even believe this gorgeous girl likes him, and tries his best to avoid her.

The key moment for me is the ‘ah-ha!’ moment when they realize they both love each other. It is a difficult and delicate moment to coordinate. Many authors bumble or outright fail at it. This one was not the best. The moment hinges on them both saying it to each other, even though both of their actions already demonstrated their feelings. One can argue that Will’s character is a little oblivious and Charlotte’s character is naive. But it left me as a reader just frustrated with the two of them. It wasn’t the worst ‘ah-ha!’ moment, but I have read better.

The ending was a little messy. A couple sub-plots became main plots and complicated things to an unnecessary degree.

Overall, it was still a delightful read with solid characters and some sizzling chemistry. I would rate it 3 out of 5.

Another win for courtship!

*I liked Wally’s character, but his sexuality had no bearing on the plot. It seemed as if the writer was trying too hard to be modern and edgy.

Book: The Secret Chord

secret chord book cover*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

I was very excited when I got access to this book. I have read Geraldine Brooks’ March, which is the story of Mr. March from Little Women while he is at the war. I really enjoyed her taking a character and giving a new voice to him. I knew most of the basics of King David’s story, so I was interested to see her take on it.

The book is from the perspective of the prophet Nathan and David is already King. Nathan is chronicling David’s past from speaking with others from his past, getting stories of his childhood, his defeat against Goliath, and becoming close with King Saul. Nathan is also recalling his past with King David, as he met David as a child who’s family had been killed and began prophesying. David spared him and brought him into his royal court. The current time of the story is right before David commits his grievous sin of adultery.

From the description, there are a lot of jumps in time. At times, this made the book very confusing. Sometimes it wasn’t clear if Nathan was speaking with someone or if he was recalling his own memories. Some of the interviews he had and his own memories overlapped. Once the story caught up with itself, it read a lot easier.

Overall, I thought Brooks’ did a great job depicting the story of David, the man. She paints David as passionate and fiery, but also deeply spiritual and poetic. I loved that she often brought up the music and songs David created. It fit very well with scripture as he is known to have created most of the book of Psalms. Although the timeline was confusing, I liked the story’s perspective told from Nathan. It allowed Brooks to give a more honest portrayal, as he foresaw what was to come.

One of the strengths of the book was Brooks’ portrayal of the female characters, such as David’s mother Nizevet, his first wife Michal, and Bathsheba. Each of them was mistreated in a way or cast out by their husbands, as wives were treated like property. They shared their story with Nathan, and he expressed sympathy for each of them. However, these three female character were not depicted as weak. They were still strong in the ways that they could be strong. I appreciated that they were all given such a strong voice where most Biblical women do not have one (not counting Esther and Ruth).

One of the downsides of the books was the violence and language. I expected most of the violence, since the Old Testament had a lot of war. David fought lots of battles to gain his kingdom, and they were very gruesome. I prepared myself for that. I did not prepare for the very violent incest/rape scene. I am usually not squeamish, but I had to set the book down for a second to keep reading. I didn’t think the scene was necessary in that detail and greatly impacted my feelings on the book.

I also did not expect the profane cursing. I understood what Brooks was trying to do. David’s men were soldiers and they probably had their languages’ equivalent of dirty slang and curses. But I couldn’t handle the use of ‘f***’ in the context of the book. That wasn’t a word that was even created until the 15th century. Using modern curses for a story set in David’s time just didn’t work for me. She should have been more creative then that.

Overall, I would rate the book 3 out of 5. The book had great moments and the writing was still very strong, although I don’t think it is Brooks’ best work.

Book: Noir

noir book*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

This review contains spoilers from the first book in the series, Lumiere.

After I requested Lumiere, I realized that Noir, the second book in the series, was available for review as well. I decided that I would read them both. I had not read Lumiere before I requested Noir. If I had,  I would never have requested Noir from NetGalley.

Although I struggled with the plot in Lumiere, there was parts I liked about it. I hoped that the second novel was an improvement from the first. Unfortunately, I think the second book was worse. I almost did not finish it (and I never, hardly ever not finish a book).

One of the biggest issues I have with this book is the movement through time. These characters are supposed to go through full days in their adventures, but they seem to be awake for all hours of the day. When do they sleep? When do they eat? Although the story seems to be jam-packed with action and constantly moving, the characters need to be able to sleep and eat to have their adventures. It makes the characters more believable. Another issue with timeline was the day of the week. The novel started on Thursday, then suddenly it’s Sunday, and then somehow Saturday again? For an adventurous novel, there needs to be a really strong timeline to be able to follow.

The first novel had only Eyelet’s and Urlick’s perspective, but Noir had 4 different perspectives. There was just too many. It also became obvious that one of the perspectives was a secondary character and only used because one of the main characters was captured. It was very jarring to add a 4th perspective in the middle of the story.

Speaking of secondary characters, they seemed to be the only character of any intellect in this novel. All of the main characters kept doing REALLY stupid things like walking in somewhere they shouldn’t be and then getting captured/almost captured/almost caught/almost killed, and EVERY time the secondary characters would tell them ‘NO, don’t do it/let’s leave/this is a bad idea/we should go” And EVERY time the main character was like ‘it will be fine’ and then it wasn’t. Urlick and Eyelet are supposed to be brilliant inventors, but they continued to get themselves in very terrible situations for stupid reasons. It became very frustrating. It was one of the big reasons I stopped caring about Urlick and Eyelet in the second book.

Overall, extremely poor world building, loosing the essence of these characters, and awkward movement in time resulted in a rating of 1 out of 5. It would have redeemed itself if the characters were stronger and the story was more compelling. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.

Book: Lumiere

lumiere cover*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

The world has plunged into darkness after the Night of the Great Illumination which has changed the landscape of the world. Eyelet is on the search for her father’s machine, the Illuminator, which is supposed to help cure her affliction. She discovers the machine only to find someone has stolen it, the mysterious Urlick.

I fell in love with the gorgeous cover of this book and it was easily available to review. It started off with a really great beginning in a steampunk world with a smart, strong heroine in Eyelet.

Then the rest of the book followed.

After Eyelet met Urlick, she suddenly seemed to become a needy, whiny idiot who couldn’t do anything for herself. She jumped to the craziest conclusions about the mysterious things happening around her, with no evidence what so ever. The mysterious events in the house were really mild but Eyelet’s imagination went crazy and resulted with her running out of house into poison fog. Where did the smart, strong heroine go?

I liked Urlick’s chapters and I wished they happened more often as I got more and more annoyed with Eyelet. Urlick initially has feelings for Eyelet right away, but Eyelet’s feelings seemed to come out of no where. At one point in the book, she even tried to jump his bones which seemed really out of character for her very protected upbringing.

The world building became very muddled as more and more different kinds of beings were created; ghosts that act like zombies, witchcraft, shapeshifters, and criminals that acted like cannibals. It was all very confusing. At first, none of them could be defeated and then somehow they were immune to certain things once the characters faced them.

That was a big problem with the plot. A lot of quick fixes that didn’t make sense. A talking raven can’t talk, and then suddenly is able to talk again when it was most convenient to help Eyelet. There is no proper explanation for this. Similar plot holes happened A LOT.  It was as if the writer couldn’t figure out how to fix her own issues, so magically made them go away.

I will admit there was some great moments when characters explained the steampunk machinery of their world. I also really liked Urlick and Eyelet together, as they had some cute moments.

Unfortunately, the world building was all over the place and the plot was a mess. It honestly read like a rough draft of a novel that needed more fine tuning. Not sure how I am going to get through the second book. What a disappointment. I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.