Friday, March 23, 2012

A sad day for a book-lover...

I have made the executive decision to stop reading Abdication.  As any book-worm knows, it is almost shameful to leave a book unfinished.  I could not engage with the story (or should I say stories), and I could not engage with the characters.  I didn't particularly enjoy the author's writing style or the way the plot seemed to jump from character to character and place to place.  I think if the author had stuck to one story-line and focused just on that, using secondary characters to spice up the story, instead of giving each character his/her own storyline, it would have made the book much more readable.  I have too many books in my TBR pile to continue to read a book that bores me.
So, it is with regret and resignation, that at 60% finished, I am done with Abdication.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Progress on Abdication

This book has turned out to be not quite as I expected it, and though it is written in some what of a confusing current/flashback point of view, I am about halfway finished with it now and it seems to have picked up.  Look for my review in the next couple of days, then I will begin a self-published book called Beyond the Wood, set during the American Civil War.  Look for more to come!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Next Up for Me....

From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson comes a glorious debut novel set in 1936 London about secrecy, tumultuous love, and a king and his subjects torn between public duty and private desire.

The Second World War looms in a world that dreads another international conflict, and England is full of secrets, not least of which is the affair the newly proclaimed King is having with an American divorcĂ©e. But not every confidence involves royalty. The lovely young chauffeur May Thomas and the complex Oxford undergraduate Julian Richardson share an undeclared love, while the identity of May’s real father remains mysterious. Mrs. Cage, the housekeeper, desperately tries to keep her Nazi-sympathies hidden, and Evangeline Nettlefold’s ambivalent relationship with her school friend Wallis Simpson threatens to become explosive.

Secrecy, tensions between parent and child, the private tussles of life, and the dilemma of whether or not duty supersedes love, reverberate throughout Abdication, in matters of social conscience, politics, and romance.

A glorious story that brings to mind the film The King’s Speech, as well as the beloved English novels Brideshead Revisited and The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Gabrielle Kim's latest novel, The Courtesan's Lover, Francesca, the former lover of the deranged and violent Duke of Ferrara, has fled from him to Napoli where she has set herself up as one of the city's finest and most-sought after courtesans. She has it all-two beautiful homes, several wealthy clients, the best clothing, opulent furnishings, and most importantly, security for her twin daughters. All is well with Francesca, her manservant, Modesto, who has a past of his own, and their life-style until Francesca pretends to be a demure and widowed cousin of one of her regular clients in order to accompany him to a play and dinner. There, Francesca meets Luca, an unremarkable but sweet man by all accounts, and her world and point of view are turned upside-down. Not able to concentrate on a word of the play or a bite of her dinner, Francesca knows she must have this man, but legitimately, not as a whore. What other way can she accomplish this except to give it all up? And so she does, and so angers many of her former clients who swear to seek revenge for their rejection. Meanwhile she has kept up the pretense of widowhood in order to keep seeing Luca. Much to Francesca's dismay, at her first visit to Luca's she discovers that his beloved son is none other than the virgin she deflowered only weeks before, at his sardonic brother's expense.

With Luca's son agreeing to keep Francesca's secret, she continues her relationship with Luca only to feel more and more guilty, knowing for sure that Luca would never consider being with a former whore. After weeks of keeping up the pretense, Francesca and Luca return from an outing to find that someone has kid-napped Francesca's cherished daughters, so all set out in a frantic search of the city for the girls. Francesca returns to the house where she once worked, thinking the girls may have gone there. She arrives to find her devious and angry former client and his precious knife waiting for her to make her pay for declining his attentions. After a vicious attack, and a long search, the girls are found and Francesca is found lying in a pool of her own blood on the floor. Luca looks to Francesca for explanation, and he is given the truth at last. The girls are safe, Francesca will live, but will Luca stay? And will the men who kidnapped the girls and attacked Francesca pay?

Once again, this was a delicious story. The chapters alternate from Francesca's first person point of view, which seems very real and earthy, to the other character's third person points of view. Francesca is an amusing and matter-of-fact character, so it was very interesting to see her stumble her way through the pretense of widow hood, but the reader also cares for Francesca, and wants to see her succeed and be happy. There are a lot of secondary characters in this novel, all of whom are interesting and vital to the plot, though I have not mentioned them in this review. There is a lot of action in this story, a lot of soul-searching on all of the character's parts, but it blends in so well with the action that it never gets boring. This was a very readable and enjoyable book. I look forward to Gabrielle Kim's next book...

Friday, March 9, 2012

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kim

This book is not only the story of the twisted Duke of Ferrera, Alfonso and his wife Lucrezia de Medici, but also of a whole group of people who rely on the two for support, either financially or emotionally. When Lucrezia and the Duke marry, Lucrezia is looking forward to her new life as wife, mother, Duchess. On their wedding night, the sadistic Duke finds that he can't reconcile his perfect still-life image of what his Duchess should be with the real girl in front of him, and thus begins two frustrating years of impotence which he increasingly blames on Lucrezia. When the Vatican tells him that the Duchy will be forfeit if he does not produce an heir, he decides he must be rid of his imperfect Duchess...meanwhile Lucrezia has found happiness in the arms of a simple painter's apprentice who has been working in their castello. Will they be found out? And can the people who truly care for Lucrezia save her in time? The prologue suggests not, and I will say no more.
The book is based on a poem by Robert Browning, and it is pretty amazing that the author wrote an entire novel (and sequel which I look forward to reading!)based on such a short poem. This was well-researched and written and I enjoyed it.

I am currently reading the sequel, The Courtesan's Lover and quite enjoying it!  Look for my review soon!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Very First Post

So, in addition to reviewing for the wonderful Historical Novel Society, I regularly recieve ARCs from Goodreads and NetGalley.  I post all of my reviews to Goodreads, Amazon, NetGalley and now here!  I will soon post my reviews of books that I have read in the past, then will continue to update with soon-to-be published titles. 
I must stress that this is not a professional site.  This is mine and mine alone and it is a laid-back, casual way to get my opinions, thoughts and ideas "out there."   I welcome any feedback, as any discussion about any book is worth having!