Monday, November 26, 2012

Destinies (Karleene Morrow)

I will admit, that although I am an avid reader, I was a touch intimidated by the length and  (and mostly) the subject of this book. My feelings proved to be completely unvalidated.
This story sucked me in immediately. We meet Katherine as she is gloating over a corpse, and we meet Christian Kehler as he is listening to his father and his friends discuss their coming immigration to Russia.
The journey is long and dangerous for the German families, as they come to realise that Russia is nothing like Germany. Katherine also has a long journey in her temporal fight to free the serfs of Russia and bring Western enlightenment to her country.
I found myself gasping aloud many times at the shocking actions of the characters in this story. There was not a moment in this book when I was bored, I enjoyed every last word. This is a wonderful look into Katherine the Great's great weaknesses, and the coming of age story of a young German immigrant (and his family) trying to find his way in the world.
Every character has a purpose, as does every storyline.  There are so many events in this book that I would love to discuss, but I want the reader to read it new and fresh, just as I did.  No spoilers!
I very much recommend this book!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fair and Honest.

I must take a moment out from reading to voice an opinion.

I began reviewing books as a hobby about a year and half ago.  It is something that I genuinely enjoy, and have no intention of quitting.

Book reviews are very important to a reader.  No intelligent person judges a book by it's cover.  They go to sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, the Historical Novel Society and read reviews.  There are always good reviews, bad reviews, apathetic reviews-always.  No one likes every book every time.  I so admire a person who has the dream of writing and sits down and gets to work to do so.  I can imagine the time and effort, the blood, sweat and tears and love and passion that go into the creation of a writer's work.  And every other reader imagines it too.  Therefore  no one WANTS to dislike a book.  No one wants to sit down with novel and not engage with it.  Not only are writers passionate, but readers are as well. 

I have found as I further myself in reviewing, that there are countless kind, reachable authors who adore and appreciate their readers, and likewise their readers do the same.
I have also come across authors who resent readers who express disappoinment in their work.  I understand.  Their life's blood has been poured into this work, and this person didn't like it.  It is heartbreaking for the author, I am sure.
However, that does not make it acceptable to be rude or snide (especially in a public forum) to your readers.  You alienate your current and potential audience.

I will always give a fair and honest review.  I will try my best to enjoy a book.  I will read a book through 100 different eyes to gain a different perspective if I feel myself drifting to the "dislike" side of a book.  But the fact remains, if there was something I found to be disappointing in the book, I will say so in a professional manner.  I am not trying to hurt anyone's feelings;  I am not trying to lessen an author's income or do anything else harmful to for or beacuse of the author.  But as a lifelong reader, I appreciate honest reviews, and so does every other reader in this world.

We WANT to read your books.  Don't alienate us.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Honourable Estate (Elizabeth Ashworth)

This story of England, 1315-1322 (?), was really well written and well-researched. It is the story of Mabel and William Bradshaw, minor nobles during the time of Edward II's reign. With famine and taxes pushing his tenants to the breaking point, some having already died, William joins up with a rebellion against his overlord, the Earl of Lancaster, and fails miserably. He and several of his friends become outlaws, dependant upon the forest for survival. Meanwhile Mabel is left alone on their estate, having no choice but to believe that her husband has died. Years pass and both William and Mabel are forced to make decisions neither would have made under ordinary circumstances.
The imagery and dialogue were both very well-written and realistic. The characters were all relevant to the story, and Edward II was shown in a very unbiased light. The only complaint I had with this book is that the time frame was not very well laid out. By that I mean that the only way I knew a year has passed in the story was by the mention of a change of season. I was a little surprised to find out in the end exactly how much time has passed.
I did enjoy this book and I do recommend to those interested in a quick read about medieval England.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

She Wore Only White (Dorthe Binkert)

She Wore Only White Author: Dorthe Binkert

This book has been translated from it's original German.

It is said the journey is more important than the destination. That is true of She Wore Only White. From the moment the beautiful lady in the white evening gown steps foot on the ocean liner Kroonland, her mysterious appearance causes scandal. Quickly rumor gets around that the lady is a stowaway of unknown origins, friendless, penniless, and with only the white dress to her name. Those passengers kind or brave enough to speak to her in those first days express surprise at her vacant and melancholy demeanor. The sculptor Henri, on his way to the World’s Fair in St. Louis, decides she must be escaping a very sad past, and as it turns out, so is he.
As the days spent cramped inside the ship draw the passengers closer, they find comfort and maybe some clarity in their newfound and unexpected relationships with each other. As they unknowingly turn to one another for support over rough seas, literally and figuratively, revelations and life-changing decisions are made.
The character development in this novel is slow and steady and complete, and the prose elegantly expresses the yearning, oppression, and hope felt at the turn of the 20th century, a time when society was changing rapidly, to the pleasure and dismay of the passengers of the Kroonland. The story is just a priceless snapshot in so many peoples’ lives and will leave you wondering where their lives took them when they left the Kroonland and at last stepped onto solid land again

My review courtesy of the Historical Novel Society.

I, Jane (Diane Haeger)

Diane Haeger. I Jane

This book proves that even the most ordinary lives can become extraordinary. Growing up as the plain daughter of an embarrassingly ambitious mother, Jane Seymour learns to fade into the background of life, a defense mechanism learned early at the hands of bullies. But far from being a boring character, Jane has a full and rich range of emotions and ideas that come to fruition, growing and changing as she is forced into court life in order to support the hope of her family, her eldest brother, Edward.

Jane goes to France at a young age as a lady companion to King Henry's sister Mary as she marries the King of France, where she renews a friendship with her neighbor and once champion, William Dormer. Their friendship proves unforgettable to both of them, even throughout the years as Jane waits on the exiled Queen Katherine, comes to know the reviled Anne Boleyn, and is eventually sent back home with no prospects for the future. William and Jane want to marry but are denied the chance by William's parents. Jane has given up hope when King Henry, tiring of Anne, comes by chance to her home after a hunting accident. There he comments on Jane's sweetness, which does not go unnoticed by her ambitious family, and Jane realizes there may be more to life than loneliness and boredom. The rest, as they say, is history.

I really enjoyed this book. I would have liked the story to go a bit further; it ends rather abruptly, as I suppose Jane's life did. I recommend this book to anyone interested in this unassuming but most important historical figure.

My review courtesy of the Historical Novel Society.