Beyond Strange New Words

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Blood Rose Angel (The Bone Angel Series Book 3) - Liza Perrat

Blood Rose Angel is the third in the L’Auberge des Anges trilogy, but it can be read as a stand-alone, just like the other two books. 

 

Set in the already familiar Lucie-sur-Vionne, Blood Rose Angel takes us back to the mid-14th century, when the Black Death first appeared in Europe, and this terrible pestilence is what midwife Héloise, the ancestor mentioned in the previous two books, has to face. 

 

I loved reading about this specific time period from the viewpoint of common people, moreover, from the viewpoint of a heroine who is underprivileged even in commoners' terms, a woman frowned upon for her birth, often disregarded because of gender, and both valued and despised for her profession of a midwife and a healer.

 

Héloise is a brave, sometimes too reckless a woman in her beliefs and desire to help people, struggling between the profession she has pledged herself to and the dangers it brings for her and her family. Despite the troubles she finds herself in and that make her despair at times, she never gives up her call that drives her and ever revives her optimism, enabling her to take something good from the worst situations and despite everyone else. And so, her 'inferior' knowledge and methods, promoting such 'innovative' concepts as cleanliness and isolation of the sick, bring results and change her life and the lives of others forever. 

 

Through rich, well-nuanced language, Liza Perrat vividly brings to life the era full of superstition and prejudice, where the governing Church and nobility had all the power and common people had none. However, while she doesn't shy away from gritty details, she balances the toils and troubles of medieval common folk with just as lively images of joy and happiness.

 

The end result is an intriguing, suspenseful story, full of life-like characters and issues even a modern person can relate to. Hence, I very much recommend Blood Rose Angel to lovers of historical fiction.

 

Disclaimer: The author has kindly sent me a copy of Blood Rose Angel in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

The Follies of the King (Plantagenet Saga #8) by Jean Plaidy

Follies of the King (Plantagenet Saga) Paperback - February 1, 2008 - Jean Plaidy

The Follies of the King deals with the reign of Edward II, who inherited his father's looks, but is as unlike him as possible in any other way.

 

Preferring the company of men to that of women and the merry sides of life to the matters of the state from an early age, Edward II marries Isabella, a beautiful daughter of Philip IV of France, but neglects her in favour of his lovers Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser.

 

Utterly humiliated, Isabella bids her time, comforted only by the admiration of her people while she plots vengeance, counting on people's ever-growing dissatisfaction with their king and their hate for his male friends.  

 

Yet, when Isabella finally manages to enact her revenge, in the end I couldn't help but feel sorry for Edward. Deposed and imprisoned, he finally recognises the mistakes he made by turning a blind eye to the world around him, admitting he was an unworthy king not made for ruling, before he meets a horribly cruel tragic end.


The Follies of the King is a suspenseful story, full of twists and intrigue and has thus definitely kept my interest in reading the rest of the saga. I will take a break from it for a while, but I am already looking forward to reading the next instalment, dealing with the reign of Edward III.

The Hammer of the Scots (Plantagenet Saga #7) by Jean Plaidy

The Hammer of the Scots  - Jean Plaidy

The Hammer of the Scots depicts the rule of Edward I, who considers himself to be – and, for the most part, is – a stern, but just king, even if he brutally punishes his enemies in accordance with his belief in instilling respect through fear. 

 

Thus, Edward I proves himself to be a great king, who brings not only order to England, but also subdues Wales and brings it under the English rule, while he fails to do the same with Scotland. 

 

Taking after his father, he is a devoted husband to both of his Queens and a loving father. His children are his pride and joy, the exceptions being sometimes over-temperate Joanna and, above all, his heir, prince Edward. However, unlike his ancestors, he understands the needs of the people and brings the end to the over-the-top extravagance of the Court from the past, slipping perhaps only now and then when indulging his many beloved daughters.

 

As usually, in The Hammer of the Scots Jean Plaidy manages to give a fairly accurate historical account, while letting the reader get a stunning glimpse into the reasoning and sentiments of her characters, from Edward I to his children and his enemies, of which the most intriguing to me was that written from the point of view of William Wallace.

 

The Hammer of the Scots was a compelling book, even if it took me ages to read it, and I am looking forward to the next instalment in the series, dealing with the rule of a much different man than Edward I, his son Edward II.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia) - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

Yay! I've finished the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia

 

Actually, I own all the books in this giant beautifully illustrated volume, but since getting through all of it will take time, I decided to post my opinion after each book.

 

I have been planning to read The Chronicles of Narnia ever since the first film came out and I came across this volume for a ridiculously low price on Amazon at the same time, but I've been postponing reading it for the sheer weight and thickness of it being quite daunting.

 

Also, the only way to read it is for it to lie on a desk or a bed and I like to walk around the apartment while reading, stretching my legs during breaks between working on computer. Hence, I have started reading it a few times before but never got more than a few pages in. But now I have conquered it and read at least one book! 

 

Anyway, to the book. The Magician's Nephew is a compelling introduction to The Chronicles of Narnia, giving the reader the insight into how travelling between worlds was discovered and the foundation of Narnia.

 

As a Tolkien buff, knowing of the close friendship between Lewis and Tolkien, I was on a special lookout for the similarities that I know there exist between their works. And, look, Narnia was created by Aslan's song, just like Ea was created by the song of the Ainur. 

The characters of Polly and Diggory grew on me instantly, and I loved finding out the origin of the wardrobe and the reason for Narnia's affinity for being ruled by sons of Adam and daughters of Eve

 

I loved the story-telling feel of the book with the narrator talking to the reader, which is pleasant both for the intended young audience as well as for an adult reader.

 

Overall, the first book of The Chronicles makes for a great start, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of them.

Reblogged from Angels With Attitude Book Reviews:

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles #1) by Kresley Cole

Poison Princess - Kresley Cole

When Evie's visions of the apocalypse become true, she has to team up with the resident 'bad' boy to find the way across the continent to her grandmother, who may or may not be alive, in order to learn the truth about herself. 

 

However, it is the journey itself that helps Evie discover her strengths and weaknesses, while struggling not just with the new reality of the world in which the voices in her head are all too real, but also her conflicting feelings for Jackson.

 

Poison Princess was my second birthday gift from my friend who shares my love for Kresley Cole's IAD series and knew I wanted to try this one as well.

 

I read the first half of the book in one sitting, but then life got messy and I only managed to squeeze a chapter in now and then, so I am not entirely clear how I feel about Poison Princess. I think I will reread it at some point, if for nothing else to get a better grasp on the newly introduced mythology, and my thoughts may change on a reread, but for now I can say I really liked it.

 

Due to fractured reading, I can't really write an in-depth review, but I would like to point out a few things I loved that stayed with me:

 

  • A fantastic mythology that Cole is a master of,
  • Evie struggling with her powers and the world of magic and supernatural she has discovered: in most YA books the protagonist accepts the new reality with ease, finding little difficulty in embracing their abilities and manipulating them, which I find ridiculous. I love that Kresley Cole made Evie struggle with it all, both emotionally and physically.
  • And, related to the previous point, I loved that Evie does overcome her doubts and insecurities and embraces her new self in a new world and that she, ultimately, does it on her own.
  • All too many YA books have the classic 'boy helps the girl make it though', but in Poison Princess, while Jackson does help Evie with some things, she is a hero for herself and she doesn't need him to 'save' her after all. 

 

Of course, there is a necessary love-triangle (or at least hints of it), typical of YA literature, which is perhaps the only down-side of the book, if I can even call it a down-side, since I went in knowing about it and I also think Cole handles it very well.

 

Although I was sometimes annoyed with Evie's romantic struggles, I found them only as annoying as they are supposed to be, since this is a teenager discovering romance and love for the first (or the second time), and, hence, it wasn't really a bother for me.

 

All in all, Poison Princess is one of the better YA novels I read, and so far I am highly intrigued by the premise of this new series and am planning to continue reading it (unless I change my mind after rereading Poison Princess.) 

The Queen from Provence (Plantagenet Saga, #6) by Jean Plaidy

The Queen from Provence  - Jean Plaidy

The Queen from Provence deals with the reign of Henry III of England. Henry III, crowned as just a child, has a difficult task placed upon him: to overcome the heritage of his father, the hated King John, and reinstate the rule of law and order in England. 

 

Having good advisors, he is initially successful and, therefore, loved. However, as he grows up, his longing to be seen as his own man and not a mere puppet under the influence of his advisors combined with insecurity drive him to commit more and more mistakes in ruling his country. 

 

His marriage to a wilful and spoilt Eleanor of Provence only worsens the matters, for out of love for her and the desire to indulge her every wish to make her happy, the injustice and ill-thought of actions escalate to the point where he is almost just as hated as his predecessor, and the country rises against him, the unrest culminating in the formation of England's first true Parliament, unlike any others. 

 

In the book itself, Plaidy mentions the saying that a good man is not also a good king. Henry III was, mostly, a good man: a devoted, faithful husband, a loving father, and a religious man. But his love for his family was his undoing, for the care for their well-being and wealth blinded him to the greater good of his people, which he should have given more thought to.

 

I can't help myself to draw a parallel between Henry III, and even more so Queen Eleanor, and many of contemporary wealthy people with their attitude that they have some god-given right to their wealth and social status and that that right makes them indifferent to other people's lesser fortune. They may, subjectively, be 'good' people, but their 'goodness' does not reflect in their treatment of those less fortunate. 

 

As such, historical fiction serves as a great, but tragic warning; for it seems that throughout the centuries, little has changed for ordinary people, while the rich and the well-connected have always gotten their way. 

 

That makes me quite pessimistic. Yet, on the other hand, perhaps the more people look at the past and see its injustices reflected in the present, the greater chance there is that we might someday change the pattern at last. 

 

In that aspect, The Queen from Provence is a great read, not only for its amazing insight into history, but also for what it can teach us - humanity as a whole - not to do in the future. 

Shadow's Claim (The Dacians #1, IAD #13) by Kresley Cole

Shadow's Claim  - Kresley Cole

Note: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18.

 

So, this book was one of the two I got for my birthday, and, darn, this was a great birthday present. Even if it took me 2 months to get to it.

 

All the things I loved about it:

  • the main paring, of course, and the fact that for a change, they didn't get to the sex part until late into the story

  • many of the side characters; the phantom/sylph is one of my new favourites, together with Morgana, the Queen of the Sorceri (and I really wouldn't mind if Cole decides to dedicate any or both of these their own book(s))

  • appearances of some already familiar characters, including Lothaire, who isn't as mad as he appears to be, right ;)

  • learning more about the Dacians and the Sorceri, as well as getting to know a new setting in IAD universe, Abbadon

  • yet again, the way the story was connected to the past instalments and the allusions and set-up for the future ones

  • and lastly, the manner Bettina's anxiety was presented, which I could relate to very much, and I loved that Kresley incorporated such an everyday human thing many people have to live with into the story.

 

There was hardly anything I didn't like. I only took away half a star for slightly exaggerated sex parts, although this goes with the genre, and classic miscommunication issues causing relationship troubles, which is also typical of the genre. But since neither of those affected my overall enjoyment of the book, I can easily let them pass.

 

All in all, Shadow's Claim is yet another fantastic story of Cole's and I can never recommend it and the entire IAD series enough to those of you who happen to like paranormal romance.

"Laura could shift the blame any old way she liked, but the stiff wind of truth would send it back to her: She hadn't ruined Daniel's life by asking him to change. She had ruined her own."
The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

- Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle, p. 148

""Teenage girls want guys to be attracted to the, but no one's taught them how to deal with the emotions that come with that stuff.""
The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

- Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle, p. 111

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

In The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult deals with another universally topical issue - rape, focusing the story around 14-year-old Trixie Stone, whom her ex-boyfriend rapes at a party, and the Stones' struggle with the aftermath of it. 

 

Now, the book starts a little on the slow side, which prompted me to do what I do very rarely: I skipped a few chapters and read a little ahead, and what I read made me so angry I almost didn't finish the book. SPOILER ahead. 

 

At some point it seems as if Trixie lied about being raped and it made me furious that Picoult would perpetuate such an awful stereotype: that women lie about it out of spite or vengeance of shame of whatever, because this is the very thing why rape survivors are afraid of coming forward and reporting it and why, even when they do, so few rapist are actually convicted and/or spend time in jail.

(show spoiler)

END of SPOILER.

 

However, I refused to believe Picoult would go for such a low move, so I went back and read the whole thing and I am glad I did, for The Tenth Circle offers a great insight into working of rape culture we live with, where rape survivors' every word and action get questioned while the perpetrators are protected by the innocent-until-proved-guilty principle. 

 

In Trixie's case, the matter of consent is especially glaring, since she was raped while intoxicated and drugged, and it speaks volumes about male entitlement that her rapist and the majority of people who witnessed her behaviour prior to rape, never realise that impaired judgement means inability to give consent. Disgustingly, they argue just the opposite: that due to her impaired judgement she was unable to refuse consent. And that sort of attitude is very much prevalent in the world, which is truly horrifying.

 

Along Trixie's struggle with what happened, we also follow her father, a comic book artist, who is making every effort to help and protect her, while plagued by the memories of his origins, both beautifully interwoven with the making of his newest project, and her mother, a university professor, facing the repercussions of her infidelity and revealing the caused that led to it, mixed with her reflections upon Dante's Inferno.

 

Thus, The Tenth Circle tells a compelling and emotional story that gives the reader plenty of food for thought.

The Battle of the Queens (Plantagenet Saga, #5) by Jean Plaidy

The Battle of the Queens - Jean Plaidy

In The Battle of the Queens Plaidy offers yet another great insight into the turning of the wheels of that era, the eternal struggle between England and France, with the Church as an ever-present puppet master.

 

The two protagonists in the title, whom the book centres on, are Isabella, mother of Henry III of England, and Blanche, mother of Luis IX of France. The two women who despised each other, couldn't be more different: Isabella hot-tempered, promiscuous, self-centred and Blanche pious, level-headed, thoughtful of others. 

 

Alongside the lives of the great historical personages, Plaidy includes those of seemingly lesser importance, who had nonetheless a great impact on history, or even those who had none, but give her story colour and beat, from the siblings of Henry III to nursemaids. And at that she doesn't forget Eleanor of Aquitaine in the last years of her life, who remained a powerful historical player till her very end.

 

Thus, the one thing that always frustrates me in historical fiction, women being looked upon as nothing more than political bargaining chips, is upturned on its head in Plaidy's books. For, despite being reduced to objects for political games of men, women were most often the ones who actively decided the fate of nations and affected the world history at large. 

 

Isabella and Blanche were definitely one of those proverbial women behind successful men, the women who made their names, or – in Isabella's case – sometimes ruined them.

 

Eternally Dark by John Amory, Jenna Jones, TA Moore, BA Tortuga

Eternally Dark - B.A. Tortuga, Jenna  Jones, John Amory, TA Moore

Blind Eye of the Sun’ by TA Moore  

 

With well-built and intriguing characters, ‘Blind Eye of The Sun’ was my favourite of the four short stories in the anthology.

 

In few words, TA Moore manages to build a rich, albeit gritty world, depicting technological and medical advancements as well as setbacks, such as artificially grown food, and many more interesting details.

 

The characters, even minor ones, are fleshed out with unique traits and hints of backstories. I loved the protagonists – Shea, a hardened soldier, a resourceful, smart man, with an ability to bring people together, and Anatoly, the blind vampire, a noble monster with a code of honour – and the way they function together.

 

The semi-open ending fits the overall feel of the story and brings some sort of a closure while leaving the future unknown, but with a hopeful undertone.

 

Finally, the only shortcoming – which isn’t a shortcoming at all – I found was that I could read a lot more of this story, its world, and characters.

 

‘Aubade’ by Jenna Jones and ‘Spearmint Warning’ by John Amory 

 

Since the two short stories are pretty similar, I decided to combine the reviews into one.

Firstly, both so-called relationships are rushed (so-called because what they are really just hook-ups, although the authors call it ‘love’).

 

And secondly, the human characters are somewhat bland, since we don’t learn much about them. In addition, despite being given the vampires’ backstories, those are pretty much clichéd (for one thing, both vampires have possessive jealous makers) and didn’t make me invested in the characters, either.

 

All in all, ‘Aubade’ and ‘Spearmint Warning’ are readable stories to pass the time, but nothing more.

 

‘Those Who Cannot See’ by BA Tortuga

 

The last short story of the four is perhaps the most sensual one. A telepathic connection between the main protagonists makes the sensuality and the strong emotional bond that forms between them rather quickly actually plausible.

 

I liked the well-established western setting. The plot is well-rounded and the characters outlined well enough to provoke a reaction, whether positive or negative. Thus, the main protagonists, Edmund and Blaze are quite likeable, as well as two minor characters: Running Water, a Native American tracker, and Lwazi, Edmund’s African American butler.

 

Overall, ‘Those Who Cannot See’ makes up a good short story.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Whereas the last three short stories are good enough, Eternally Darkanthology is worth picking up for ‘Blind Eye of the Sun’ alone as it is an exceptionally well-written and fascinating short story.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult

As always, it is hardest to review the books one likes, and since it has been a while since I read this, I will do this the short way.

 

Things I liked about Vanishing Acts:

  • all five POVs – the combination worked perfectly together and made an amazing story;
  • the insight into prison system/life, however harsh it was – it felt much more realistic than in most books;
  • the parallels between Delia and her daughter Sophie and between Delia’s family and Sophie’s;
  • the subplots fit in very well;
  • and, finally, this is how you do love ‘triangles’, subtly in the background.
  • I cannot think of anything I didn’t like about this book.

 

All in all, Vanishing Acts was an absolutely heartfelt story not only about the kidnapping as its main focus, but also many other present everyday issues everyone could or might be facing already.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Jodi Picoult’s books are excellent for those interested in a thought-provoking material about contemporary issues and Vanishing Acts is no exception.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

Reblogged from Parajunkee:
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Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave, and Grave Secret (Harper Connelly #2–4) by Charlaine Harris

Grave Surprise  - Charlaine Harris An Ice Cold Grave - Charlaine Harris Grave Secret  - Charlaine Harris

It has been a long time since I finished the series, and I forgot many details, so I decided to simply review the final three books together. Besides, I would be only repeating the same things if I reviewed each book on its own.

 

What I enjoyed the most about this series were definitely Harper’s cases. From the strangely reappeared body of Tabitha Morgenstern in Grave Surprise, the serial killer in An Ice Cold Grave(which was both the creepiest and the one that made me empathise with Harper’s predicaments the most), and finally to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Harper’s sister Cameron in Grave Secret, they were full of suspense and their outcomes were unpredictable to the very end.

 

I liked Harper well enough throughout the series. However, I didn’t much care about Tolliver, who always seemed just as her extension. Even the language used suggests that, since Harper, the first person POV narrator, uses a lot of plural, not only with regard to actions (which makes sense, as they do most things together) but also when describing their emotions and even thoughts, thus “they” like this or that, “they” feel, etc.

 

Their relationship taking a not really unexpected turn does not do any favours to Tolliver’s character, as he remains uninteresting and personality lacking. If anything, he becomes annoying as he pouts because people only see him as Harper’s sidekick, which hurts his manly feelings.

 

Nevertheless, I liked the entire series. The books were fast and entertaining reads, and the stories were captivating so much so that I often couldn’t put the book down because I had to know what happened next.

 

RECOMMENDATION: If you like crime and mystery with a bit of a supernatural element, this series might be great for you.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

Currently reading

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia)
C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes
Progress: 75/528 pages