Tag Archives: England

Book Review: Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by th epublisher.
  • Published by:  Ballantine Books
  • Release Date:  12.03.2013

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Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.

Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.

As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.

Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.

I also recommend:

  • Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
My Review:

I have a fascination with King Richard III.  As many people know, his skeleton was recently found (near a parking garage) and, as a result, we are able to know more today about what this famous man looked like – in addition to knowing more about his deeds.  Richard III was the monarch connected with the two princes, if you have heard that story.  He’s also known as the “Evil Crouchback,” due to his having scoliosis, we have since learned.  Richard III was the last monarch before the uniting of the York and Lancaster Houses – two houses who had been at war for 100 years in the War of the Roses.  But Elizabeth of York is clearly not about Richard III – it’s about Elizabeth.  However, Weir understands that in order to fully understand Elizabeth we have to understand how she grew up, what influenced her, and most importantly, what the evidence has indicated about the person she was.

Elizabeth of York holds a place by proxy to some of the most famous figures in British history.  Her son was Henry VIII.  Her brothers were the famous princes who were murdered (allegedly) by Richard III.  Her mother was the famous Elizabeth Wydeville, the “Slandered Queen,” who supposedly “seduced” Edward IV.  Elizabeth I was also the grandmother to the beloved Queen Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.”  Add on top of that, Elizabeth’s part in uniting the houses of Lancaster and York, as well as having a powerhouse of a mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, and you have quite a group of people surrounding this queen.

But that’s all of the people around Elizabeth.  What about Elizabeth herself?  Her teenage years were fraught with fear, yet she ended up in a marriage that, for all accounts, was not only amiable, but also one of fondness, if not love.  She gave birth to a brood of children, as all good Queens were expected to do, and she managed to be a favorite of the people, placing a face of kindness on the monarchy in spite of her husband, who – while a good King – was also distrustful of most people due to his own upbringing.

Alison Weir does a fantastically thorough job of pulling together all of the research and arranging it in a way that not only makes sense, but lays out a great story in the process.  At times, Weir gets a little wordy and at times a little forward with her assumptions of how certain figures might have felt, but it never goes too far overboard for me and her assumptions make sense.

I loved reading Elizabeth of York and I loved seeing Elizabeth I finally pushed to the forefront.  As a Queen, she was the epitome of grace and beauty and she was able, even while submissive and dealt some really crappy cards in life, to pull off a life that is worth admiring.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Men’s Psychology | Caffeinated Life | S. Krishna’s Books


Book Review: The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Firebird/PenguinPutnam
  • Release Date:  04.04.2003

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The story of Medraut – strong, skilled, daring, and never to be king…

Medraut is the eldest son of Artos, high king of Britain; and, but for an accident of birth, would-be heir to the throne. Instead, his younger half-brother, Lleu, is chosen to be prince of Britain. Lleu is fragile, often ill, unskilled in weaponry and statesmanship, and childishly afraid of the dark. Even Lleu’s twin sister, Goewin, seems more suited to rule the kingdom.

Medraut cannot bear to be commanded and contradicted by this weakling brother who he feels has usurped his birthright and his father’s favor. Torn and bitter, haunted by jealousy, self-doubt, and thwarted ambition, he joins Morgause, the high king’s treacherous sister, in a plot to force Artos to forfeit his power and kingdom in exchange for Lleu’s life. But this plot soon proves to be much more – a battlefield on which Medraut is forced to decide, for good or evil, where his own allegiance truly lies…

I also recommend:

My Review:

I love King Arthur legends.  Love, love, love them.  I took a class the beginning of 2013 that completely revolved around the legend and where we read everything from The History of the Kings of Britain to more modern pieces like The Mists of Avalon.  Our range of topics touched on everything from the myth itself and its historical roots, to the treatment of women, to the use of symbolism to reinforce the story.  When I saw that The Winter Prince was being offered for review, I recognized Elizabeth Wein’s name from her more recent works and decided to give it a go.  I am glad I did, for while I didn’t enjoy her more recent books as much as I wanted to, my time spent in The Winter Prince was so very rewarding.

One of the things readers of Arthur legends have to get used to is the substitutions and strange spellings of random names.  Someone picking up this book and expecting an Arthur story will be surprised at the emergence of an Artos instead.  But Elizabeth Wein chose the names she did for a reason, and told an extremely interesting story crafted around Medraut, also known in other stories as Modred. While the story of Arthur and the betrayal of Guenevere is often told in stories and in movies, the story of the betrayal of Arthur’s oldest son is not as often focused on, other than as a sad ending to an otherwise glorious career.

Wein really makes Medraut a character who can be sympathized with.  I am always interested in the other story – the side that doesn’t get told.  In fact, we joked in class that it would be interesting to see the story of Arthur as told from the opposing (see: defeated) side.  But those stories don’t exist because, as history tells us, the writers of history are always the victors.  Thank goodness, in this day and age, we can often imagine the opposing sides viewpoint through the imagination of skilled writers.  And that is what you get in The Winter Prince.

If you are an Arthur myth junkie like I am, then The Winter Prince is a must-read.  Wein’s writing is extremely mature, and this book is not to dismissed as an easy read due to any marketing it may do as a young adult novel.  It’s a meaty, delicious story that is a must-have for any Arthur fan and it holds a proud place in my library.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Lack of Genius | The Book Geek | YA Books Central


Book Review: The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan

The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Washington Square Press
  • Release Date:  10.08.2013

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Twentieth Wife, a novel based on the tumultuous history of a legendary 186-carat diamond and the men and women who possessed it

As empires rose and fell and mighty kings jostled for power, its glittering radiance never dimmed. It is the Mountain of Light; the Kohinoor diamond and its facets reflect a sweeping story of love, adventure, conquest and betrayal. Its origins are the stuff of myth, but for centuries this spectacular gem changes hands from one ruler to another in India, Persia, and Afghanistan. In 1850, the ancient stone is sent halfway around the world where it will play a pivotal role in the intertwined destinies of a boy-king of India and a young queen of England;a queen who claims the Mountain of Light and India itself for her own burgeoning empire, the most brilliant jewels in her imperial crown.

The Mountain of Light is a magnificent story of loss and recovery, sweeping change and enduring truth, wrapped around the glowing heart of one of the world’s most famous diamonds.

I recommend:

My Review:

I picked up The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan because it boasted of a story of a large diamond: the Kohinoor.  When I read the summary I was intrigued.  I have not read a story centering around a gem in quite a long time and I kept thinking back to one of my favorite childhood movies, Romancing the Stone.  I was positive that not only would I get a taste of adventure while reading The Mountain of Light, but I’d also get to learn a bit more history about India and examine more closely the relationship between India and England during a pivotal point in both countries’ history.

What I ended up getting was something a bit different, however.  Let me take this morning to warn you, innocent reader who may be picking up this book next, that it is very, very important that you study the names at the beginning of the book and who they are connected to.  Especially if you pick this book up in an electronic format and, like me, really hate flipping back to constantly try to put two and two together.  I wish I had a physical copy of the book because I think my enjoyment would not have suffered as much.  But, I didn’t, and so I had to make do with what I had.

So that was me, reading through this story centering on a diamond, anxiously trying to figure out who was who and connected to whom.  The first 50-75 pages were spent with me flipping back through the electronic pages and then trying to find my bookmark (and I’ll be honest, I’m a horrible e-book bookmarker, so sometimes I’d actually forget to mark the spot when I put the book down and then I’d pick it up and have to go check again because, you know, time had passed).  I’m beginning to feel like this review is actually a review of me as a reader, but really – I read a lot and there were a lot of names thrown at you in The Mountain of Light and you really do need those pages of names.

Once I got a good handle on what was going on, it seemed like the story shifted and a new set of characters was introduced.  After about 75 pages in I started to give up on keeping track of who was who and decided that I would follow the story instead.  What I ended up with was a bit of a disappointment.  The story of the diamond itself was a weak thread and Sundaresan might have done better by focusing more on the relationship between the countries and a closer look at the dynamics between individuals (and there were a few that I still don’t know why they were present in the story, so those individuals could have been thinned out a bit more too).  Instead, I felt a bit anxious as I kept waiting for the story to wind back around to the diamond and give me what the summary had promised me: a story of love, adventure, conquest and betrayal.  Now, don’t get me wrong, some of those elements were there, but they were so hidden behind names and facts they were difficult to mine out.

I think Sundaresan should be admired for attempting to conquer this story in a way that attempted to make sense.  I do think that she is a masterful writer, but The Mountain of Light is such a large story and the history so rich that it was overwhelming for me, someone who is not really familiar with this time period and the history of India, to pick up on.  I was hoping I would walk away knowing more, but instead I came away feeling overwhelmed with so much history – I was exhausted.  So my recommendation is to prepare better than I did.  Expect beautiful writing; expect an author who knows her stuff; but also know that you will be expected to (if you don’t have a firm grasp on the history of India) pick up facts and names quickly in order to enjoy the story.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

S. Krishna’s Books| Celtic Lady’s Reviews | Paperblog


Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: Penguin
  • Release Date:  1/5/2013

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I really enjoyed Jojo Moyes’ last novel and so when I saw that Me Before You was available I snatched it up. I’ve gotten rather picky over the last few years on contemporary women’s literature and Moyes passed the test the last time around so I was hoping to enjoy this one. And guess what? I did!

Me Before You is the story of a young woman Lou who is the backbone of her family. With a father who is in danger of losing his job, a sister who dropped out of college to have a child, and all of her wages going to support her family, when Lou loses her job she is desperate for work. Enter Will – a quadriplegic who has a dark secret of his own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I sympathized with Lou as she struggled to find things to get Will back out into the world but I also sympathized with Will. Me Before You deals with a sensitive subject in a way that showed just how complicated it can be and I appreciated Jojo Moyes’ light touch when it came to telling the story.

I may or may not have shed a tear when it came to the end of the book (although I was a little bit with the rolling-eyes at one certain aspect) but ultimately I put the book down and felt satisfied with what I read which, in all honesty, is one of the things I look for when it comes to a good book.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Jenn’s Bookshelves | Linus’s Blanket | A Reader of Fictions

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: E.P. Dutton
  • Release Date:  1/8/2013

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.

I also recommend:


My Review:

I am trying to figure out today what made this book so unputdownable last night (I was up reading it until I finished at 3am) and the only thing I can come up with is the character of Honor Bright. She is such a sympathetic character and I wanted to know what happened to her.

The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman who leaves England to escape an unpleasant past that is not of her own doing, and her attempt to fit into the American society in a small town in Ohio. There are a cast of interesting characters in Donovan and Belle, Jack Haymaker, Adam and Abigail, and more and decisions that need to be made by Honor that foreshadow a deeper meaning behind her name.

There were familiar aspects to this novel, anyone who has read Uncle Tom’s Cabin will recognize similarities between the stories – but this is more dealing with the other side, what happens to those who disobey the Fugitive Slave Act. It’s a life filled with secrets and lies in the midst of a people who refuse to lie.

So this ended up being an unputdownable book for me. It moved quickly, had heart and characters that tugged at my heartstrings, and it was a story that was above and beyond interesting. There were little bits of flavor throughout it as well that helped with the story, making it more personable. The difference between English quilting and American, recipes, culture, and more.

This is a great book for fans of historical fiction who are interested in immigration, the underground railroad, Quakers, and the early pioneer midwest.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Nomadreader | Bookworm’s Dinner | The Secret Writer

Book Review: The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy via the publisher through NetGalley.
  • Published by: Simon and Schuster UK
  • Release Date: 8/16/2012

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping and ultimately tragic story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” the most powerful magnate in England through the Cousins’ Wars. In the absence of a son and heir, he uses the two girls as pawns in his political games, but they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child brought up in intimacy and friendship with the family of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Her will is tested when she is left widowed and fatherless, with her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Fortune’s wheel turns again when Richard rescues Anne from her sister’s house, with danger still following Anne, even as she eventually ascends to the throne as queen. Having lost those closest to her, she must protect herself and her precious only child, Prince Edward, from a court full of royal rivals.

Reason for Reading:
  • I love historical fiction and thoroughly enjoy Gregory’s writing.

I also recommend:

My Review:

In this fourth book of The Cousin’s War by Philippa Gregory, we’re introduced to the Neville sisters, Isabel and Anne. In The Lady of the River, Gregory gives us a taste of what it was like to live with, and love, the Woodville family – but sides are switched and now we’re on the opposite side, looking at that dratted large family with something very close to hatred.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter follows the story of Anne Neville and her tumultuous life as the daughter of the man who set aside the “sleeping king,” Henry VI, and put Edward IV on the throne instead. Edward, married to Jacquetta’s daughter, Lady Elizabeth Grey, was once influenced by Anne’s father, Richard Neville, but now has been drawn into the arms of the abundant Woodville family.

This is a story of struggle – struggle between kings and would-be kings, between two insanely strong Queens (both of whom share a common bond through Jacquetta), and a story of how difficult a life Anne Neville had, beginning at such a young age. It’s about blood feuds and witchcraft, murders and sickness, and life and death in the most base of forms. I really think the books contained in Gregory’s Cousin’s War series have been building up to this book – because this is where things really got interesting, it’s where history became so turbulent that there was never once a sense of ease within the court of England. And honestly, Henry VIII, no matter how fascinating he is with his ability to set aside wives like they are delicacies he has lost his taste for, is not nearly as interesting to me as this period of time is. Margaret of Anjou and Queen Elizabeth (Formerly Elizabeth Grey) were strong, independent women who knew exactly how to muster the men of their families to their aid and pitted against each other… that was some formidable stuff.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kingmaker’s Daughter and look forward to seeing what Gregory has up her sleeve next.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Confessions of a Book Addict| Michelle’s Book Review Blog| Musings of a Writer

Book Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

 The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: Simon and Schuster
  • Release Date: 9/15/2011

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she meets his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and recognizes her own power in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the “wheel of fortune” before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Married to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the Duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the Duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

Drawing on years of research, Philippa Gregory tells the story of the Woodvilles who achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty of the House of York.

Jacquetta fights for her King, her Queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, a young woman married to a neighbor for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

Reason for Reading:
  • I began to read Gregory’s books on The Cousin’s War a few years ago, and had this one on my shelf for a while.

I also recommend:

 My Review:

I’ve been a fan of Philippa Gregory since, years ago, I picked up The Other Boleyn Girl. I can’t help it – I love easy to read historical fiction, and Philippa Gregory provides enough meat in these books to make me feel like I’m learning and being entertained, all in one fell swoop.

I’ve had The Lady of the Rivers on my shelf for a year now – and I’m ashamed of myself that I’m just now getting to it. For some reason, I was thinking it would be a huge time investment, as historical novels tend to be, but then once I picked it up and started reading, I remembered how impossible stories like this were to put down.

So once again, I ended up reading into the night, turning page after page, devouring the life of Jacquetta like she was my BFF. This book follows her from her loveless marriage, through the death of that husband, and finally her love match with her final husband. It touches on Joan of Arc, on the trials of Henry IV and Margaret of Anjou, the war between the cousins, in all its bloody glory. But it never really gets deep into the descriptions of blood and gore, as Gregory decides, instead, to focus mainly on Jacquetta.

Jacquetta had a busy life, that’s for certain – I lost count toward the end but around 10-11 children? Plus traveling, plus placating a very, very headstrong woman in Queen Margaret. I was reminded, again, that no matter how we romanticize those times, things would not have been easy. And most of all, I was thoroughly entertained (although toward the end things seemed to really rush a bit, but I suspect that was due to Gregory’s excitement to move on to the next book, as she indicates in her afterward).

Recommended for fans of historical fiction – I liked this one a bit more than The Red Queen, and found it a fun romp through history.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

That’s What She Read | S. Krishna’s Books | Confessions of a Book Addict

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

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Reason for Reading:

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

England, 1911. The Reverend Albert Canning, a vicar with a passion for spiritualism, leads a happy existence with his naive wife Hester in a sleepy Berkshire village. As summer dawns, their quiet lives are changed for ever by two new arrivals. First comes Cat, the new maid: a free-spirited and disaffected young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law. Cat quickly finds a place for herself in the secret underbelly of local society as she plots her escape. Then comes Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby. A young man of magnetic charm and beauty, Robin soon becomes an object of fascination and desire. During a long spell of oppressive summer heat, the rectory at Cold Ash Holt becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy; a mixture of emotions so powerful that it leads, ultimately, to murder.

My Review:

Oh Katherine Webb, what are you doing to me? You take some of the most delicious, fantastic ideas and put them into a story that I cannot resist and then you mix it with the most frustrating, aggravating details. But I can’t stop reading and I struggle with myself because I want to give your story five stars, but then there are so many little nagging elements that drag it down for me!

Okay, now that the rant is out of the way, let me tell you what I loved and what I hated about The Unseen.

First of all – mystery in 1911/2011 England? Yes please. Throw in mildly supernatural elements, prim and prissy Victorian-style husband and wife, maid with a bad-girl vibe, and shyster and it’s the recipe for a delicious, dark, romantic English story.

What Katherine Webb does remarkably well is set her story up. I loved Cat and her addition to the household, I loved the dynamics between Hester and her husband, and the little scraps of letters which served as a catalyst to move the story forward. I loved the romance which flares up and the backbone Cat displays and the slowly unraveling story of what happened in Cat’s background. Everything about each one of these things was perfectly paced and beautifully described. I couldn’t ask for more.

Here’s what I hated though, and though these were BIG things for me during the reading, upon reflection they are just nagging, I really wish she would have done better because I believe she could have! I felt as if Webb was underestimating the intelligence of her reader a bit. The entire 2011 setting was boring, and frankly toward the end of the book I was actually tempted (although I didn’t) to skim or just skip it completely. I felt as if it’s sole purpose was to give us a reason to investigate the story and that the book would have been completely fine without it. There was no real resolution that made it absolutely necessary.

Also I was a bit confused about how detailed a 100 year old corpse could be when it was found. Maybe I just don’t know enough about corpses – so I’ll leave that one be.

I think a lot of the things that bothered me about this book also bothered me in The Legacy by Katherine Webb, so I’m wondering if it’s just her style of writing. If you like authors such as Kate Morton, I think it’s possible you will love Webb’s books as well, just don’t expect the same level of story-crafting that is available in Morton’s books.


Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Leeswammes | Peeking Between the Pages| S. Krishna’s Books

The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Saw it in Barnes and Noble and had to get it due to the quirky title and unusual cover.

I also recommend:

  1. Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith

Summary from GoodReads:

Balthazar Jones has lived in the Tower of London with his loving wife, Hebe, and his 120-year-old pet tortoise for the past eight years. That’s right, he is a Beefeater (they really do live there). It’s no easy job living and working in the tourist attraction in present-day London.

Among the eccentric characters who call the Tower’s maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Tower’s Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out she’s pregnant; portly Valerie Jennings, who is falling for ticket inspector Arthur Catnip; the lifelong bachelor Reverend Septimus Drew, who secretly pens a series of principled erot­ica; and the philandering Ravenmaster, aiming to avenge the death of one of his insufferable ravens.

When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen, life at the Tower gets all the more interest­ing. Penguins escape, giraffes are stolen, and the Komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives. Balthazar is in charge and things are not exactly running smoothly. Then Hebe decides to leave him and his beloved tortoise “runs” away.

Filled with the humor and heart that calls to mind the delight­ful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, and the charm and beauty of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a magical, wholly origi­nal novel whose irresistible characters will stay with you long after you turn the stunning last page.

My Review:

This book made me laugh out loud so many times that my sides began to hurt.

Normally I breeze through books quickly, but this one I savored, loving every minute of it.  I’d heard that it was slow, and was dreading the slowing down of it, but I found it thoroughly and utterly delightful and so very, very British.

There are so many scenes in this book that were perfect, and the characters – man, the characters were fantastic.  The scene with the urn arriving at Hebe’s workplace, the Erotic Fiction writing chaplain, the ravens, the turtle – but in spite of being so full of subtle humor, there was an underlying thread of thoughtfulness and kindness touching the story of Balthazar and his wife, Hebe.

I laughed my way through the book, and then I found myself blinking away tears as I finished it – both because of the story and because I didn’t want to say goodbye.  Julia Stuart is an author to watch for.

Check out these review(s):

Under My Apple Tree



The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This is my first Maisie Dobbs novel, but I’ve heard about these books and thought jumping into this tour would give me a good reason for finally trying one.
I also  recommend:

Summary from Goodreads:

In the latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling series, Maisie Dobbs must unravel a case of wartime love and death an investigation that leads her to a long-hidden affair between a young cartographer and a mysterious nurse.

August 1914. Michael Clifton is mapping the land he has just purchased in California’s beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, certain that oil lies beneath its surface. But as the young cartographer prepares to return home to Boston, war is declared in Europe. Michael the youngest son of an expatriate Englishman puts duty first and sails for his father’s native country to serve in the British army. Three years later, he is listed among those missing in action.

April 1932. London psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs is retained by Michael’s parents, who have recently learned that their son’s remains have been unearthed in France. They want Maisie to find the unnamed nurse whose love letters were among Michael’s belongings a quest that takes Maisie back to her own bittersweet wartime love. Her inquiries, and the stunning discovery that Michael Clifton was murdered in his trench, unleash a web of intrigue and violence that threatens to engulf the soldier’s family and even Maisie herself. Over the course of her investigation, Maisie must cope with the approaching loss of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and her growing awareness that she is once again falling in love.


My Review:

The Mapping of Love and Death was a fantastic look into the lifestyle of early 20th century folks in England.  Maisie Dobbs provided me with enough wit, strength of character and humor to make me a fan, even without knowing the back story of her character in the previous 6 books.

Mysteries tend to be hit and miss for me.  I don’t enjoy mindless thrillers anymore and usually like to have more of a story happening to get into a book.  This book has made a fan out of me and I intend to try to catch up by reading the previous books as soon as I can.

In this story, Maisie is attempting to solve the mystery involving the son of a prominent, American couple.  Little clues and tidbits are dropped throughout the unfolding of the story – but what struck me most of all was the introduction to the son at the beginning of the book.  It completely threw me off base, because I felt an initial attachment only to find it snatched away from me.

I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers and those who love to read stories of a time when things were more simple.  It’s nice to read about good, old-fashioned mystery solving without any of the technologyl devices we have today.

About the Author

Jacqueline Winspear’s website: http://jacquelinewinspear.com/.

For more reviews on The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear, please follow the book tour.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”