Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: "Promised to the Crown" by Aimie K. Runyan

Synopsis:  In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

 My Thoughts:  I love finding books about historical happenings that I am not aware of!  I had never heard of the 'King's Daughters' before reading this book and that fact made the story even more interesting.  This is also one of those books that I expected to like but ended up loving and I am so excited that it's the first in a series.

After reading my fill of Tudor era books, it makes me so happy to read about 'new to me' historical periods and events.  The idea of sending groups of women to the Canadian wilderness to help build a success colony is just fascinating.  I loved how the author took the concept of the "King's Daughters" and built a great story with really neat characters.

I normally don't like all the characters in a book but I can honestly say that I loved everyone in this book.  By the end of the book, I truly cared about each one and where they ended up. Each character had their own unique background and characteristics...there was not a single cookie cutter character in the whole book.  I will say that I especially loved Rose but I think that was because she had such a difficult past to overcome and I enjoyed watching her learn to love and trust again.

Overall, this was a great read!  I can't wait to read the next one! 4 stars.

I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Aimie K. Runyan, member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master’s thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

For more information please visit Aimie’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Quick Review: "The Midnight Watch" by David Dyer

From Goodreads:  As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

My Thoughts:  I've been really into Titanic related books this year but this one was completely different than I have read so far.  I actually had never heard of the judicial inquiry into the acts of the Californian on the night that the Titanic sank so this book gave me a whole new view of the Titanic disaster.

I will say that this story was a sad one but it was also poignant.  I admired Officer Stone's loyalty to his captain even if it meant lying about the events of April 14.  He seemed so lost and like someone who never could decide on the correct path to take.  I also really enjoyed the character of Steadman.  He was such a sleazy journalist but at the same time, he was a devoted father and he really did care about telling the victims' side of the story.  His 'story within the story' about a family in third class on the Titanic was heartbreaking but also beautiful.  It definitely made you think, 'if only the Californian had done something'.

I loved that the author included actual text from the British and American hearing transcripts.  This was very clearly a well-researched work and I really appreciated the extensive author's note at the end of the book.  I think this is one of my new favorite Titanic books and I would highly recommend it to anyone interest in the story of the Titanic.  4 stars.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 6, 2016

April 2016 Wrap Up

Thank goodness April is over!! What an awful month that was.  I had a major reading slump and dealt with a ridiculous amount of work stress and drama.  I am so glad that May is here and hopefully it will be a kind of fresh start. 

I hit a serious reading roadblock this month.  There was a whole week where I read nothing (except some stuff for school).  I just had no motivation to read. I somehow managed to get through 4 books  which I probably only got to because I participated in the read-a-thon.  I'm at 19 books out of 52 for the year and according to goodreads, I'm ahead so I guess it's not all bad.  The class I'm taking ends next week so I'm hoping for a better reading month in May.

I don't normally do this but I am setting monthly reading/non-reading goals for the month to help me focus a little bit.

1.) Read one non-fiction book
2.) Read a book I own
3.) Spend less money
4.) Exercise regularly
5.) Clean my house (!)

Here is what I read in April:

1.) The Virgin's Spy by Laura Andersen
2.) The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt
3.)  Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan
4.) The Virgin's War by Laura Andersen

My April stats were:

-4 books read
   -0 non-fiction
   -4 historical fiction
   -3 review books
   -1 library books
   -0 books I own
   -4 ebooks

I hope May is a wonderful month for you all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: "The Dark Lady's Mask" by Mary Sharratt

Synopsis:  Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.
London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

My Thoughts:  I loved this book!  There was just something about the opening pages of the story that  completely sucked me in to this book.  This is the second book I have read by Mary Sharratt and I must say, she is a fabulous writer.  Her prose is beautiful and her descriptions of Italy are just so vivid.  She created an amazing image of Aemilia's Italian villa so much so that you could almost feel the heat of the sun.

I had never heard of Aemilia Bassano prior to reading this book but I was completely in awe of her character in the book.  She dealt with such adversity but no matter what managed to use her wit and intelligence to find a way to survive.  She was definitely unconventional for the times but that is what I loved most about the character.  I want to read about women like her more often!  There were actually a lot of unique female characters in this story and I really like reading about them.  It was nice to see Tudor era women portrayed as more than just a pretty face. 

I'll be honest though, the character of Shakespeare didn't really do it for me; there was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way.  That being said, I did really enjoy reading about their collaboration on some of his most famous plays.  It made me want to go back and re-read many of Shakespeare's plays.

Overall, this was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it! 4 stars.

I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

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