Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (audio)


This is the second novel I have read by Vanessa Diffenbaugh that I have read - the first one being 'The Language of Flowers' back in 2013.  I equally enjoyed this book as well.  I really like the author's use of language and ability to craft an intriguing and realistic novel.  

This book focuses on many deep issues that people today regularly face, particularly love, motherhood, and growing up and raising your children in a world that isn't always what it should be.  My favorite part of this book, besides the beautiful language, was the development that all of the main characters went through during the novel.  The choices that they made and the challenges that they faced were able to impact them in a positive and encouraging way. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

"Life is a risk.  Who knows this better than me.  Who knows more surely that babies die easily, that children fall ill from the least cause, that royal blood is fatally weak, that death walks behind my family like a faithful blood hound."

Cousins' War #1 - The Lady of the Rivers
Cousins' War #2 - The White Queen
Cousins' War #3 - The Red Queen
Cousins' War #4 - The Kingmaker's Daughter
Cousins' War #5 - The White Princess

I have been a huge fan of Philippa Gregory ever since I read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' back in 2008.  I read all of the Tutor novels, the Wideacre Trilogy and some of her other stand along books, and then dove into the Cousins' War series a few years later.  I somehow missed that she had two recent books out and finally had the time to go back and read this one before reading 'The Taming of the Queen.'

This is the sixth book in the Cousins' War series and tells the story of Margaret Pole - daughter of George, Duke of Clarence (brother to King Edward IV and King Richard III) and Isabel Neville.  She was also the cousin of Elizabeth of York (King Henry VIII's mother) and lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon.  She pretty much sat on the sideline of every major event of the time period and was constantly on guard for her family's safety after both her father and young brother were put to death for treason to the crown.  

I didn't always like Margaret, but this was a really interesting book to read.  She did whatever she could to remain in favor with whoever was king at the time (often at her own family's expense), but I suppose this is a direct result of constantly being in fear of being suspected of going against the King, particularly Henry VIII.  After having read all of Gregory's previous novels, it gave a whole different perspective on several of the characters she wrote about.  It took me awhile to get into the book, but by the time I got to the middle, I finished the rest in a few days.  It was a little annoyed at some aspects of writing - especially the focusing on key historical characters before they played a significant part in history and explaining every one's relationships in the dialog, but I was usually able to see past this and cough it up to Gregory using this to allow the reader to follow the complex history spanning several decades. 

One of my favorite aspects of this novel, was the unique connections to both the Cousins' War novels and the Tudor Court series.  The book was able to draw so many different connections between all of the main figures in Tudor history as well as many lesser known individuals - especially women - who played a major role in England's intriguing history.  It could just just as easily been written as a prequel to 'The Constant Princess' and made me want to reread all of the novels again - maybe someday!  

And now onto 'The Taming of the Queen'...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini (audio)

"Hope is never false.  One's hope may not be fulfilled, but that doesn't mean it was wrong to hope."

Set in the confederate civil war, this novel tells the story of Elizabeth Van Lew - known in the story of Lizzie.  Educated by Quakers in the north, Lizzie and her family are local to the union.  When the civil war breaks out they secretly work to aid the north by tending to prisoners.  At a great cost to their reputation, they eventually becoming involved in the Richmond Underground and in transferring information to the northern army.

I have been meaning to read something of Jennifer Chiaverini's for awhile.  It seemed interesting and I was excited to read this book, but it didn't live up to my expectations.  I enjoyed some parts, but it took me awhile to read and generally annoyed me.  Lizzie seemed super naive and whinny.  I must have missed her earlier connections to the north as a child, but it just didn't seem to add up that her and her family were so pro-union amongst so many southerners.  I have a feeling that this was true to historical fact, but the author was not able to convince me.  There also didn't seem to be much of a plot line.  I was bored by the climax (if you can even call it that) and I found myself not really caring what happened to the characters by the end of the book.

Chiaverini's books get checked out all the time at the library and a lot of people really seem to enjoy them so I'm not going to give up on her quite yet.  Maybe it was just the wrong book. Or the narrator.  I'd like to read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker at some point or maybe one of her Elm Creek Quilt novels.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (audio)

"The truth is what I make it.  I could set this world on fire and call it rain."

I was almost ready to give up on this one in the beginning.  I felt like this story had been done so many times already - the dystopian world, the unprivilaged youth, being chosen for something greater that doesn't have the 'fairy-tale' ending that it was suppose to, the love triangles.  After having just read The Selection, I didn't know it I would read the same story again.  But, I kept reading and it started to grow on me.  The characters seemed a lot more dynamic and I started to really enjoy the world that Aveyard had created.  It was... different somehow.  It wasn't perfect, but it definitely kept my interest and left me wanting to read more.  A lot of the plot twists also really surprised me - which is always a plus!