Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel

Mei, now a part of the Inner Court, watches as the Emperor Taizhong dies. With Pheasant by her side, Mei is looking forward to her future. But Mei is sent to an outpost monastary as the former emperor's concubine, where she lives in poverty. Once again summoned to the Inner Court, Mei is happy to be back at Pheasant's side. But life will be hard, as Phesant's first wife refuses to allow Mei any happiness. The two women fight for the future- of their children, their happiness and of China. 

The action in the second book of this duology really picks up. Mei really shines in this one as a powerful wife and mother. I really enjoyed her relationship with the Princess, but I wish that Pheasant could have been a stronger force. Some of the scenes in this book are tough to read; be prepared for heartbreak. I did like how Weina re-imagined the way history has portrayed Mei, especially in one poignant scene. This series was one of my favorite reads!  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

Mei's future begins with a prophecy that is followed by tragedies. Foretold to be a powerful woman, mother to emperors and an emperor herself, her father teaches her in many subjects. But his death leads her to the Court of Emperor Taizong. There, Mei struggles to become the Emperor's Most Adored Concubine to help her mother. But she struggles to be noticed in a world dominated by scheming women. Mei is noticed by one person, Pheasant, who turns out to be Emperor Taizong's son. Life is hard, but Mei must persevere.

The first part of this duology sets the the stage for an epic story. Mei is a wonderful narrarator, but young. She is trusting, selfless and brave. But she must learn to be cunning. As life gets harder as she gets older, the reader comes to love her. The politics of the Inner Court are thick, deep and maddening. There are multiple adversaries and really only one friendly lady, so the reader feels Mei's loneliness. The love affair with Pheasant turns out to be pleasant, but makes things fraught. The book is amazing and was nominated for multiple awards. It was one of my favorite books of 2016.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The court of the Sun King evolves after the death of much hated Madame de Pompdour. Adelaide, eldest unmarried daughter of the king is determined to become her father's companion. Louis has other ideas and is introduced to Jeanne, the Countess du Barry. Jeanne comes to court and becomes Louis' mistress. The women vie over control of the king, court and the newly welcomed dauphine. 

I really enjoyed this finale. This book focuses on the lives of the court women leading up to the French Revolution. The book is narrated by Louis' daughter and his mistress, Jeanne. I enjoyed Jeanne's voice much more, but she could be very frivolous. I also liked seeing the revolution from different views other than Marie Antoinette's. A very good book to end the series with.
Thank you to the publisher for a review copy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

In the name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

While Rodrigo Borgia founded a dynasty drenched in corruption, womanizing and excess, it is his children that tell the full story. Lucrezia, twice married, is reeling from the loss of her second husband. She is quickly married to Ferrara's Duke Elect. Her infamous brother is suffering from the scourge of the pox, but is determined to bring all of Italy under his heel. The Florentine ambassador Niccolo Machiavelli watches Cesare's reign of terror with fascination and admiration. But all things must end.
Dunant's books are amazing. Instantly, you are transported to the calm and serene Corpus Domini nunnery or the boisterous inner chamber of Pope Alexander VI. The scenes are studded with realism, both in scenery and actions. The characters, even the minor ones are thoroughly explored. I am surprised at how I connected with Machiavelli and even Micholetto. I loved this book, but that's no surprise as one of her early books, The Birth of Venus, made me fall in love with reading again. Dunant doesn't let the readers down. A phenomenal read. 
Thank you to the publishers for a review copy.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Risen by David Anthony Durham

Spartacus  is rebelling against Rome. But his rebellion is more than just a rebellion. Members of the rebellion are trying to rebuild their lives. This book follows the struggle for freedom and the stories that revolve around it. 

This book was really touching. The stories start with Spartacus, but branch out. The different characters are wonderful and each have their own wants and desires, but are working towards a group goal. The plot was nicely done, working history in with fiction. The book was really good. 

Thank you to the publisher for a review copy.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir

Young Catalina of Aragon is betrothed to Arthur, the Prince of Wales. Their young marriage quickly turns tragic after Arthur dies. Katherine, who also falls ill, is left without a future, a pawn between her father and father in law. Her pain becomes pleasure when she marries Henry, Arthur's young and affectionate brother. But their life together is not without pain. Soon Katherine is fighting for her husband, her crown and her future.

I have always enjoyed Alison Weir's books, but this one was of her best. Katherine is brought to life and the reader sees her as a young girl, instead of the queen she became. The love that develops between Katherine & Henry seems short lived, but is very well written. I think Weir captures the whole story in this book and I can't wait to see how the next books in this awesome series will turn out.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Confessions of a Young Nero by Margaret George

Tomorrow, Margaret George's newest book The Confessions of Young Nero is released.

The Confessions of Young Nero takes readers through the early life of Rome’s infamous Nero. Through the machinations of his mother, Agrippina the Younger, Nero became emperor at the age of sixteen, the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. But the road was a frightening one. The young boy, an intelligent, sensitive and watchful child, had a series of psychological shocks from an early age. His cruel uncle Caligula and his scheming cousin Messalina threatened his life, and his domineering and ambitious mother Agrippina married and poisoned two men en route to securing the throne for her son. Agrippina viewed Nero’s power as an extension of her own will. But once on the throne—like the teenage boy he was—Nero did not want to take orders from his mother. Soon the world was not big enough for the two of them. Thereafter he was remembered as a hedonist and tyrant who “fiddled” while his people burned. But the truth behind the caricature, revealed here, shows Nero to be instead a product of his mother’s relentless ambition, and the incest, violence, luxury, and intrigue that have gripped Rome’s seat of power for generations.

This book is wonderful. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it's my first Margaret George book, though I have plenty on my shelf. I loved diving the life of Nero, and all the details that the are included in this book. George wraps fiction, history and myth into a wonderful package. The book is very descriptive and I enjoyed feeling like I got to know the real Nero, not the Nero history remembers. I also was pleased that Margaret makes the complicated Roman "Royal" line easier to navigate and understand. The plot isn't action packed, but rather intrigue packed. The book is amazing and I can't wait to finish my other Margaret George books.


Margaret George is the author of the bestselling Autobiography of Henry VIII; Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles; The Memoirs of Cleopatra; and Mary, Called Magdalene.

Thank you to the publisher for a copy.