Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Victoria - Book Review

Victoria is just eighteen years old when her uncle king dies and leaves her the throne of England. She's young, naive and sheltered but with the guidance of her Prime Minister Melbourne and her headstrong determination, Queen Victoria will lead on her own. She will stumble and fall but pick herself up to become one of the most revered leaders of her kingdom's history.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is a fictionalized account, drawing on research and Victoria's own diaries, to bring the young monarch to life. The strength lies primarily in the characterization. Goodwin allows the reader's to see the insecurity and deeper feelings of the characters. They become real people placed in grand situations. There is intrigue and danger but it is an undercurrent to the main story of Victoria's rise. The novel is very chaste. Anyone looking for a Philippa Gregory telling will be disappointed.

I am overly fascinated by stories of the British crown. I like the books, the movies and the television series. I enjoyed Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. I am looking forward to the series that Goodwin has created for television. It will be a Masterpiece Presentation on PBS starting in January 2017. I will be watching it.

I did have a few issues with the novel. First, it focused mainly on Victoria being young, foolish and occasionally vindictive. We only briefly see glimpses of the strong and capable leader she will become. Second, the novel ends just as the new blossoming relationship between Victoria and Albert begins. This relationship is entirely secondary in the novel and I would have liked to see their future explored more.

I was entertained by the novel and when I was finished was left wanting to know more about Victoria. It ended so abruptly that I wondered if there were plans for additional volumes. Certainly, Queen Victoria did more worth writing about than pine after Prime Minister Melbourne. Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is not perfect but it is enchanting and a new look at the young queen.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is published by St. Martin's Press and released on November 22, 2016.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fractured - Book Review

After writing a best selling novel, Julie Prentice becomes the victim of stalking. Scared to death and wanting to find a peaceful place, Julie and her family move across the country to Cincinnati with the hopes of starting over. Their new house is in an adorable neighborhood filled with families who regularly get together at neighborhood parties and barbecues. But as hard as she tries, Julie is just not fitting in. She seems to get off on the wrong foot with everyone she meets. With the exception of John Dunbar from across the street. They make a connection the first time they meet and quickly become friends. Unfortunately, after several scary incidents, Julie is afraid that her stalker has discovered where she lives or someone in her new neighborhood has started to harass her. Either scenario, has Julie and her family frightened.

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie is compelling. She keeps the tension high and the plot moving along at a pace that I'd read a hundred pages before I even realizing it.  McKenzie accurately portrays the variety of personalities in a close-knit neighborhood and how if the self-proclaimed leader chooses not to accept you it can be nearly impossible to change the others' minds and ultimately "fit in". There are consequences and reactions even from the smallest choices and the slightest misunderstandings. McKenzie writes a fascinating psychological thriller.

The tension was building and I was anxious to finish Fractured last night. Unfortunately, the ending didn't quite match the level of intensity. It felt forced. McKenzie takes the reader on this incredible and thrilling ride with interesting characters, tension and swirling mystery that falls flat. The picture of the knocked over lawn chair is completely appropriate--the forecasters are predicting a huge destructive storm but we just get a little wind.

I really enjoyed reading Fractured and I hate to dismiss it because I was ultimately disappointed with the ending. McKenzie definitely kept my attention the entire time. The characters were very believable and fully developed. Every situation, every interaction felt uncomfortably real. There are twists and surprises and I suspected nearly every character which is of course what we're looking for in a psychological thriller.

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie is published by Lake Union Publishing and released in October 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of Fractured. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Slow Waltz of Turtles - Book Review

I wasn't aware that The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol is essentially a sequel to her earlier and popular novel The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles. I didn't read the first novel and while it probably would have been helpful especially in the early chapters, The Slow Waltz of Turtles can stand on it's own. Josephine and her daughters are trying to settle into their new lives after all the drama that I can only assume happens in the first novel. Josephine uses her new wealth from the success of her book to buy an apartment in Paris. Her daughter Hortense is in school in London. Josephine has strong feelings for the exact right person for her and yet she cannot pursue the forbidden relationship. Her sister Iris keeps Josephine entangled in her messy life. Then, people around Josephine are brutally stabbed to death. Josephine must keep it all together while the police start looking into her connection to the deceased.

The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol is filled with a cast of quirky, fun characters. I honestly wish I had read The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles first because while the plot line can stand alone, I think that much of that early characterization and events would have helped me appreciate their reactions and relationships. Even so, I adored Josephine. She just keeps trudging forward even with all the absolute chaos swirling around her, though she herself creates so little of it and shies away from drama.

There's a lot happening in this novel. So much, that it leaves my head spinning a bit. While the ending is certainly satisfactory, much is left unresolved which I suppose will allow Pancol to possibly revisit her characters in another novel. Which I will read because her style is amusing. Her characters are unforgettable and the mystery was perfectly plotted to build the surprise and suspense without being overly scary. The Slow Waltz of Turtles will make a delightful, cozy read this winter as soon as you read The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles first.

The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol was published in the US by Penguin and released on November 1, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Shores of Tripoli - Book Review

Following the Revolutionary War and in the independence of the United States, the Tripoli is one of the first to recognize the new sovereign nation. They recognize the the bribes paid by the British to protect their ships from the pirates no longer cover the merchant ships from the US. The Barbary Pirates are pillaging the US merchant ships and the newly built-up navy is sent to put an end to it.

Bliven Putnam is a very young man when he enlists and first sees action against the pirates, but his boldness, loyalty and his sharp intelligence impress his commanders and he soon finds himself rising in the ranks. The Shores of Tripoli by James L. Haley brings life to the exciting story of Lieutenant Putnam and his adventures at sea.

The novel covers an absolutely fascinating time period and I enjoyed learning more about the history. Liven Putnam turns out to be a great character to follow. He's young and sees the war as an adventure but is also wise enough to be fearful for his own life. He offers fresh, not yet jaded eyes. He's curious about the North African enemy but also wary. He employs cunning stratagem to win the battles and is frustrated by the backroom politics. Over the years, Putnam matures and earns more commissions and responsibilities.

The writing in The Shores of Tripoli is solid and Haley excels at bringing the at-sea battles to life. There are times during the political discussions and wrangling between officers and ambassadors that it gets a little long winded. Overall, it was thrilling to read about a US Navy war hero on the sea and through the desert. I will definitely pick up the next books in this exciting series.

The Shores of Tripoli : Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates by James L. Haley is published by Putnam and released on November 1, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Shores of Tripoli. No compensation was received. This review reflects my honest opinions.**