Tag: book reviews

Six Wives in the 921’s

July 26, 2012 Uncategorized 1

Title: Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
Author: David Starkey
Source: library
Fun Fact: The fates of Henry VIII’s wives were the following: divorced, beheaded, died in child birth, divorced, beheaded, and out-lived him (but probably would otherwise have been beheaded).
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Clear, well written, engaging without being overly dramatic, obviously well researched, and a lot of fun to read.

This book was really everything I look for in a non-fiction book about history. It was so engagingly written that it could have been non-fiction, but sources were all cited and deviations from accepted wisdom among Henry VIII scholars were mentioned. The story was presented chronologically, with a few, well integrated digressions to give us the history of each of Henry’s wives. Chapters were short and the introduction of new characters was kept to a minimum, creating a very lucid narrative. New characters were always given context, both in the writing and by some great family trees, and we were often reminded who recurring characters were. This made the massive amounts of information in this 880 page book fairly manageable. Read more »


Flight From Berlin

July 21, 2012 Uncategorized 6

Title: Flight From Berlin
Author: David John
Source: from publisher for a TLC Book Tour
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: An exciting story of escape from Nazi Germany, made more interesting and believable by the author’s inclusion of real people and events.

Starting during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and taking place just pre-WWII, Flight From Berlin is a fascinating look at a pivotal time period as the world decides how to react to Nazi Germany. Almost by chance, an English reporter and a beautiful American athlete-turned-reporter receive information which could effect the outcome of that decision. They also become personally involved with a Jewish family who they hope to help escape. Read more »


Monday Musings

July 16, 2012 Monday Musings 0

This week the Monday Musings question from Should Be Reading is the following: What are you currently reading? Is it any good? Would you recommend it?

Right now I’m reading Flight From Berlin for a TLC book tour I’m participating in this Saturday. I just started it last night and haven’t had a ton of time to read today, so I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. The initial thought and dialog seemed a little stilted and it took me a bit to get into the story. But now I’m starting to like the two main characters and the action is picking up, so I think my initial, more negative feelings were just me struggling to get into a new book. Now, I’m liking it a lot better and I suspect that once we get into the more action packed parts of the novel it’s going to turn into something I’ll enjoy a lot and which I would recommend.

Are you reading anything good these days? Does it often take you a little while to decide how you feel about a new book?


Bookends About Maisie Dobbs

July 15, 2012 Uncategorized 3

Title: Maisie Dobbs
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Well written mystery with an impressive female protagonist, convincingly set in the 1920’s but with too much focus on WWI’s leftovers and not enough urgency.

Maisie Dobbs, the lead character after whom the book is named, is an intelligent, independent woman and one of the first generation of women taking on traditionally male roles following WWI. She’s also a brilliant private investigator with a personal life affected by her experience as a nurse in the war.  The war also leaves it’s mark on her professional life, since many of her cases directly relate to the war’s aftermath. This includes the case which is the focus of this book which starts out as “an ordinary infidelity case” but which “soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets”. Read more »


Monday Musings

July 9, 2012 Monday Musings 4

This week the Monday Musings question from Should Be Reading is the following: Have you ever read a book that, at the time, you didn’t feel a strong connection towards, but as time goes by you find yourself thinking about it a lot?

This is one of those questions where the short answer is no, I haven’t.  But to elaborate, I’ve never had a book which I realized after the fact made a strong impression on  me.  I have, however, tried a few books multiple times in hopes they’d work for me the second time, including The Golden Compass and the Dune sequels – unsuccessfully in both cases.  I know they’re supposed to be good books, but they just don’t do it for me.

Have you ever had the experience of only feeling a connection to a book after you’ve finished reading? If so, do you have any idea why that was the case for you?


Bookends About Abandon

July 8, 2012 Uncategorized 4

Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Source: bought for book signing
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: In a lot of ways this is a fairly typical YA romance with a strong heroine, but it’s also well written, enjoyable, and made unique by its’ basis in mythology and the heroine’s unique voice.

Like Dead Beautiful, Meg Cabot’s Abandon trilogy is a re-telling of the Persephone myth, although in this case only the starting point of the story really comes from the myth. The Greek gods aren’t part of the story at all and while a lot of elements of the Greek underworld are used, even the basic explanation for the way the Underworld works is different. What is the same is that the lord of the underworld does fall in love with our heroine, Pierce. He does kidnap her, in a way, but in his defense she’s already dead in this version. She manages to escape and is resuscitated by her doctors; which of these events is the cause and which the effect is left for the reader to determine. Unfortunately for Pierce, escaping the underworld doesn’t resolve anything.  She now has trouble fitting back into her old life and still has to deal with the lord of the underworld appearing to “help” her, usually causing her some trouble himself as well. Read more »


Endless Forms Most Beautiful

July 5, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The Science of Evo Devo
Author: Sean B Carrol
Source: library
Fun Fact:  It has been estimated that the millions of animals alive today represent only 1 percent of the animals that have existed at various times in the past 500 million years.
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: An interesting topic discussed by an enthusiastic author, but kept from being really engaging by the author’s verbosity, excessive attention to detail, and inclusion of some very basic biology.

Evo Devo stands for Evolutionary Developmental Biology and is a field which looks at both the way a fertilized egg becomes a living creature and the way changes in that process drive evolution. In Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the author/scientist Sean Carrol describes exciting new developments in the field (as of 2005), starting with clear, illustrated explanations of some basic concepts necessary to understand the rest of the book. As someone who does at least know the basics, this made the book drag (even more) for me, but I think it would be really helpful to someone with little to no background in biology.  The second half of the book was by far my favorite part and focused on some pretty cool examples of the concepts explained in the first half of the book. Read more »


Monday Musings

July 2, 2012 Monday Musings 0

This week the Monday Musings question from Should Be Reading is the following: When you’re stuck for a book to read next, what do you do?

I have to say, this is not a problem I’ve been having lately.  Especially now that I’ve gotten to where I have more books out of the library than I can possibly read before I move! I think the reason I’ve been able to avoid this problem is that I’ve been checking out a ridiculously wide variety of books from the library, so I often have lots of different genres to choose from.  That makes it a lot easier to find what I’m in the mood for at any given time.

What do you do when you don’t know what to read next?  Or to avoid getting stuck without something you want to read next?


The True Catherine de Medici

June 27, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France
Author: Leonie Frieda
Source: library
Fun Fact:  During her life, three of Catherine de Medici’s sons were king of France.
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: I loved the characters and their stories, but the narration was a little dry.  It wasn’t overly scholarly or a difficult read, but the plot was sometimes hard to follow and I think this was because the author treated the book like a list of facts instead of a story.

After reading The Dark Queen, a historical fiction novel in which Catherine de Medici is portrayed as the titular dark queen and an evil witch, I was left wanting to know more about the historical basis for the story.  In The Dark Queen Catherine is accused of everything from poisoning her rivals to employing beautiful seductresses to control her courtiers to engineering a massacre.  This non-fiction account is largely intended to dispel such rumors and show what an impressive woman Catherine de Medici really was.  And after reading the book, I’m convinced.  She was a little ruthless protecting the throne for her sons, but she was also a very courageous, capable, and mostly well-intentioned woman.  Interestingly, many of the horrible things Catherine did in The Dark Queen are based on rumors the existed in Catherine’s time, although most are false or only very loosely based on actual events. Read more »


Monday Musings

June 25, 2012 Monday Musings 0

This week the Monday Musings question from Should Be Reading is the following: Do you set goals for yourself, while reading? For example, “I want to get this book finished this weekend“, or “I will read __ pages today“, etc. Why, or why not?

I do set reading goals, but only in a very informal way.  With book blogging, I think it would be very easy to become stressed out about trying to get books done instead of just enjoying reading them, so I’m careful not to beat myself up if I don’t meet my goals.  But I do always try to have at least one non-fiction review and one fiction review each week, which sometimes means finishing a book by a certain date.  I’ve also started doing a lot more online book clubs and book tours, so I might have to become a little more structured with my reading goals in the future.

What sort of reading goals do you set for your self?  How do you avoid letting blogging make reading a chore?