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The Empress (A Review)

From a bestselling author in Mexico comes her English-language debut–an enthralling historical novel about the tragic reign of Empress Carlota of Mexico.

It’s 1863. Napoleon III has installed a foreign monarch in Mexico to squash the current regime. Maximilian von Habsburg of Austria accepts the emperor’s crown. But it is his wife, the brilliant and ambitious Princess Charlotte, who throws herself passionately into the role. Known to the people as Empress Carlota, she rules deftly from behind the scenes while her husband contents himself with philandering and decorating the palace.

But Carlota bears a guilty secret. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she’s thrown herself into a reckless affair. Desire has blinded Carlota to its consequences, for it has left her vulnerable to her sole trusted confidante. Carlota’s devious lady-in-waiting has political beliefs of her own–and they are strong enough to cause her to betray the empress and join a plot to depose her from the throne. As Carlota grows increasingly, maddeningly defenseless, both her own fate and that of the empire are at stake.

A sweeping historical novel of forbidden love, dangerous secrets, courtly intrigue, and treachery, The Empress passionately reimagines the tragic romance and ill-fated reign of the most unforgettable royal couple of nineteenth-century Europe during the last throes of the Second Empire.

This is the first review I’m writing in ages and I admit, I feel like a novice. But I shall endeavor to do my best as I tell you why I did not enjoy this and why I eventually gave up. It caught my interest because I admit, the cover is intriguing. But this was proof that one should never judge a book by its cover. If you have Amazon Prime, they allow you to pick a new release every month through a program called First Reads. You get said book about a month ahead of release. It’s a fantastic program. I don’t always pick something, but if they have something eye-catching, I go for it.

I had never heard of Empress Carlotta, which was a delight for me. I love discovering new figures to read about and I love reading about things I’m unfamiliar with. As we begin in 1863, I thought it would be interesting to see other world events since we were in the midst of our own Civil War. (We tend to forget that the world has other goings on.)

Let’s just say the first scene was…peculiar. I’m not opposed to sex in books. I’m really not. If it’s tasteful and appropriate, I am entirely fine with it being there. But when it’s the first thing and the lady bits are compared to a ripe, juicy mango…(I kid you not.) We are not off to a good start. (I don’t know about you, but that was a touch strange and offputting to me. But I kept calm and carried on. Haha.)

After that, ah, eye-opening intro, we get introduced to Charlotte, who is known in Mexico as Carlotta. The daughter of Emperor Leopold I of Belgium. She was an idealistic young bride…who surprise, surprise, ends up in a marriage that isn’t very happy. Her husband…is forgettable, as are every other character mentioned. I do recall that her sister in law, the famed Sissi, and she did not get along.

I’m not one to give up on books. But I had to in this case. Every single character is a cliche and they’re each so stuff and one dimensional that cardboard seems to be more lively. I was hoping to get pulled in, but I never did, which was extremely disappointing to me. I know little about Mexico’s rich history and I still know little.

Also…the choppiness was atrocious. This book hopped around more than a jackrabbit that a hunter keeps shooting at. It wasn’t linear, which, if it was interesting wouldn’t have been so bad, but this just added to the confusion. Whilst I realize that this was a translation, and perhaps it would have been better in its original language (Spanish), I was disappointed. It’s definitely good that this was free, else I would request a refund.

If you’re interested in learning more, I daresay that Wikipedia might provide more beneficial information to you.

It was a 1 of 5 for me…and the one is because the cover was pretty.

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My Quarantine Reads.

This Quarantine life, am I right? I find reading about other time periods is somewhat of a balm to me, making me forget the stressful time we’re living in here. History always repeats itself, so if one looks in the past, there are moments we can learn from. Thus, historical fiction will always remain at the top of my list. I also just love reading them. Some of these have been released already, some are forthcoming–all are titles I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on, lol!

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Spanning nearly a century, from 1930s Siberia to contemporary Brighton Beach, a page-turning, epic family saga centering on three generations of women in one Russian Jewish family―each striving to break free of fate and history, each yearning for love and personal fulfillment―and how the consequences of their choices ripple through time.

Odessa, 1931. Marrying the handsome, wealthy Edward Gordon, Daria―born Dvora Kaganovitch―has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. But a woman’s plans are no match for the crushing power of Stalin’s repressive Soviet state. To survive, Daria is forced to rely on the kindness of a man who takes pride in his own coarseness.

Odessa, 1970. Brilliant young Natasha Crystal is determined to study mathematics. But the Soviets do not allow Jewish students―even those as brilliant as Natasha―to attend an institute as prestigious as Odessa University. With her hopes for the future dashed, Natasha must find a new purpose―one that leads her into the path of a dangerous young man.

Brighton Beach, 2019. Zoe Venakovsky, known to her family as Zoya, has worked hard to leave the suffocating streets and small minds of Brighton Beach behind her―only to find that what she’s tried to outrun might just hold her true happiness.

Moving from a Siberian gulag to the underground world of Soviet refuseniks to oceanside Brooklyn, The Nesting Dolls is a heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive story of circumstance, choice, and consequence―and three dynamic unforgettable women, all who will face hardships that force them to compromise their dreams as they fight to fulfill their destinies.

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Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

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A striking historical novel about an ordinary young British woman sent to uncover a network of spies and war criminals in post-war Germany that will appeal to fans of The Huntress and Transcription.

World War II has just ended, and Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees their zone of occupation. The Control Commission hires British civilians to work in Germany, rebuild the shattered nation, and prosecute war crimes. Somewhat aimless, bored with her job as a provincial schoolteacher, and unwilling to live with her overbearing mother any longer, thirtysomething Edith Graham applies for a job with the Commission—but she is also recruited by her cousin, Leo, who is in the Secret Service. To them, Edith is perfect spy material…single, ordinary-looking, with a college degree in German. Cousin Leo went to Oxford with one of their most hunted war criminals, Count Kurt von Stavenow, who Edith remembers all too well from before the war. He wants her to find him.

Intrigued by the challenge, Edith heads to Germany armed with a convincing cover story: she’s an unassuming Education Officer sent to help resurrect German schools. To send information back to her Secret Service handlers in London, Edith has crafted the perfect alter ego, cookbook author Stella Snelling, who writes a popular magazine cookery column. She embeds crucial intelligence within the recipes she collects. But occupied Germany is awash with other spies, collaborators, and opportunists, and as she’s pulled into their world, Edith soon discovers that no one is what they seem to be. The closer she gets to uncovering von Stavenow’s whereabouts–and the network of German civilians who still support him–the greater the danger.

With a unique, compelling premise, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.

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Is he a hero or a traitor? Based on astonishing true events set in the darkest days of World War II in Budapest, this is an enthralling story of heroism, vengeance, passion, and betrayal. It is also the story of three women linked by a secret that threatens to destroy their lives. For readers of The Tattooist of AuschwitzAll That I Am and Schindler’s Ark (List).

An act of heroism, the taint of collaboration, a doomed love affair, and an Australian woman who travels across the world to discover the truth…

It is 1944 in Budapest and the Germans have invaded. Jewish journalist Miklos Nagy risks his life and confronts the dreaded Adolf Eichmann in an attempt to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the death camps. But no one could have foreseen the consequences…

It is 2005 in Sydney, and Annika Barnett sets out on a journey that takes her to Budapest and Tel Aviv to discover the truth about the mysterious man who rescued her grandmother in 1944.

By the time her odyssey is over, history has been turned on its head, past and present collide, and the secret that has poisoned the lives of three generations is finally revealed in a shocking climax that holds the key to their redemption.

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Acclaimed author Elise Hooper explores the gripping, real-life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Perfect for readers who love untold stories of amazing women, such as The Only Woman in the Room, Hidden Figures, and The Lost Girls of Paris.

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything.

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team.

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life.

These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

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The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.

In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.

Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?

Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’ fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.

Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.

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For fans of The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See, a spellbinding story of an impossible love set against the backdrop of the Nazi regime.

She must choose between loyalty to her country or a love that could be her destruction…

As the dutiful daughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, Hetty Heinrich is keen to play her part in the glorious new Thousand Year Reich. But she never imagines that all she believes and knows about her world will come into stark conflict when she encounters Walter, a Jewish friend from the past, who stirs dangerous feelings in her. Confused and conflicted, Hetty doesn’t know whom she can trust and where she can turn to, especially when she discovers that someone has been watching her.

Realizing she is taking a huge risk—but unable to resist the intense attraction she has for Walter—she embarks on a secret love affair with him. Together, they dream about when the war will be over and plan for their future. But as the rising tide of anti-Semitism threatens to engulf them, Hetty and Walter will be forced to take extreme measures.

Will the steady march of dark forces destroy Hetty’s universe—or can love ultimately triumph…?

Propulsive, deeply affecting, and inspired by the author’s family history, Daughter of the Reich is a mesmerizing page-turner filled with vivid characters and a meticulously researched portrait of Nazi Germany. In this riveting story of passion, courage, and morality, Louise Fein introduces a bold young woman determined to tread the treacherous path of survival and freedom, showing readers the strength in the power of love and reminding us that the past must never be forgotten.

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For readers of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris, an immersive, heart-pounding debut about a German heiress on the run in post-World War II Germany.

Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives home to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other—if only they can stay ahead of the officer determined to make Clara answer for her actions during the war.

Propulsive, meticulously researched, and action-fueled, The German Heiress is a mesmerizing page-turner that questions the meaning of justice and morality, deftly shining the spotlight on the often-overlooked perspective of Germans who were caught in the crossfire of the Nazi regime and had nowhere to turn.

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If you love Jennifer Robson or The Crown you will love New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper’s novel about Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

1939. As the wife of King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

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I’ve got (2020) vision.

It’s 1.09 am and I’m wide awake.

My brain won’t shut off and as I look at my kindle, I’m struck by how many ARCs I have and how many I never actually got to. It is very disappointing but it also made me realize that this could be a factor in why I get “blogger burnout”, of which I am in the midst of now, thus explaining my lack of posts. I think the pressure of deadlines gets to me, as well as realizing that I have plenty of books that I haven’t even touched yet. There are many ‘old’ (but still very loved) books that I just never found time for because I was reading ARCs or I just didn’t feel like reading. I hate that I get to that point, where reading feels like a chore. It should never feel that way. I had made a promise to myself that the minute this wasn’t fun anymore, I’d walk away. I’m at that point and I have stepped away. (Not walked. Simply…stepped.)

The problem (it’s not a problem, per se) is that I love blogging. I do love reading and I love talking to you guys about things I’m excited about. It’s quite addicting, to say the least. Thus, I stepped away. I tried to post. But I didn’t post what I wrote because it is blatantly obvious that I was phoning it in, as they say. (Who is ‘they’? Anyone out there know?)  I’m a firm believer in giving all or nothing.

So, what is the point here?

The point is….I’m going to focus on whatever books I want. Some will be new. Some will be old. But they’ll be my choices. No deadlines, no bullshitting, no any of that. This is the year I take back my pleasure.

Will I still promote new books?

Absolutely! Spotlights, guest posts, by all means! But I may forego reading them right away because there’s a lot I want to catch up on.

At the moment, I’m reading the third book in The Dresden Files series. Pretty sure it came out in the early 2000’s but who cares? A good book is good whenever you get to it. I’m looking forward to sharing my review. As bloggers, we get so caught up in things that are new that I feel well do a disservice to ourselves and authors. I won’t do that anymore. It’s also why I chose to only pick 15 books on my Goodreads Challenge. Not aiming too high. That way if I reach my goal, anything else is an added bonus.

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I’m going to say that I have joined some book tours and I admit, I’ve been very choosey about them. Still, very excited about them and I hope you will be too. Also aiming to get more into audiobooks! As you can see, I’ve got plenty to choose from. Even though I’ve read Ribbons of Scarlet, I think I’ll probably start with that one because if you’re like me, you’ll pronounce something one way, and you’re about a thousand miles off. I love French words, but my pronunciation leaves much to be desired. After that, I think The Stuart Vampire (as read by Andrea Zuvich herself alongside her husband!) and then The Picture of Dorian Gray, as read by Ben Barnes. (Anyone who knows me knows that I love me some Ben. So yes, that was a lot of fun to grab up. He’s an excellent reader too. I listened to a sample and found myself being drawn off to another world, which was exactly what I hoped for. Also, speaking of Ben–can’t wait to see him in Shadow and Bone later this year. That’s another series I need to finish.) 

Another series I’d like to read this year is The Witcher. (Toss a coin to your witcher…) I had no idea there was a series of books! I knew there were games, of which I am playing on Xbox actually. Very fun thus far. (SpockSocks86, if anyone plays. <3) Big fan of Henry Cavill; I have been since he was in The Tudors. I am quite looking forward to reading the books. There’s something about fantasy that I love. Perhaps I’m looking for something to take the place of Game of Thrones…or even Harry Potter. Just something…gritty and full of action and fantastic beasts. Have any of you read the books? Or just watched the series and would like to talk about it? I enjoyed the series, hate waiting until 2021…but c’est la vie. Let’s hope the wait doesn’t disappoint. (Looking at you, season 8 of GOT.)

Speaking of someone who should read audiobooks…

And on this note, I leave you. Enjoy!

 

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#Bookstagram

Hey guys!

I took the plunge and I made an actual #Bookstagram account. I am quite excited about it. I just made it last night and I’ve gone on a following spree, but I’d love to get some new followers. So if you are on insta, please feel free to follow me. The link is below and I took a screengrab. Obviously, not a lot of posts, but I plan to get there. I hope you’ll take a look! ❤

My #Bookstagram!

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Versatile Blogger Award!

Thank you so much to Katie over at Never Not Reading for the nomination! I appreciate it so so much! ❤ 

ABOUT THE AWARD

The Versatile Blogger Award is a way of bringing recognition to bloggers who create versatile, inspirational, and enjoyable content. When nominating a blogger, you put into consideration the effort they put into the writing and the uniqueness of the subjects covered.

RULES OF THE AWARD

  • If you are nominated, you have been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.
  • Include a shout-out to the blogger who nominated you with a link to their blog.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 10-15 blogs/bloggers that you have recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger award.

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1. I love music. I love all types of it! I listen to a lot of Panic! At the Disco lately, but I have a pretty eclectic taste. My parents exposed me to all different music types when I was a kid and it stuck with me. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Selena Quintanilla Perez. (If you’re unfamiliar with her, check her out. She was, unfortunately, killed in 1995. But her music lives on. In 1997, Jennifer Lopez did a movie about her. A talent that was taken way too soon–she was only 24 when she died. But her story and her music is so good!)

I think the only genre of music I don’t really like is polka, haha! But I definitely listen to a lot of different things.

2. I love representation. I am biracial; I was adopted and I know my biological mother was white, but I know nothing of my father. However, it is blatantly obvious that I’m mixed. So for me to see other women who look like me succeeding in different fields, be it music or publishing; it inspires me.

3. I hate most Christmas movies. Cannot stand them. Hallmark movies have destroyed them for me, honestly. They start airing them in October, for heaven’s sake! And they air them for two weeks in July too. (I know this because my mother is watching them. -_-) The plots are all the same and I just loathe them. Ugh. At Christmas, I like the Peanuts special, the Rockefeller Tree lighting, the little specials from when I was a kid–Rudolph, Frosty, etc. Beyond that, miss me with Christmas movies.

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4. Sunflowers are my favorite flowers. I find it impossible to look at them and not feel some sense of joy. It’s my goal, actually, to get a poster of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for my wall. 🙂 I like to smile. If a poster can inspire one, why not? 🙂 I don’t remember precisely when I got into Van Gogh; I know I was young and in high school. My tastes always ran a bit left of center than that of my peers and friends. But it made my art teachers happy.

5. I adore art! I can’t draw, sculpt or any of that to save my life. I really can’t. But I can appreciate it and I do. As stated above, Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. There is a great deal of ugliness in the world and I find that art, along with books, is a saving grace from it all. This is a clip from Doctor Who, that always makes me cry. In a good way. Enjoy that. 🙂

Some of my other favorites are Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Frida Kahlo, Modigliani, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse-Lautrec…etc.

6. I am me! I’m quirky and I know it; I don’t care if people don’t like it. I’m 32…almost 33. I’m tired of trying to fit into lines that I will quite literally never fit into. I am who I am. The song ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman has become my theme song. I absolutely love it.

7. I think it’s rude… when people ask me when I’m going to have kids. Drives me nuts. I don’t even have a boyfriend. I know they mean well. But I don’t want children of my own. I like kids. I have no issue getting right down and playing with them. I had an absolute ball when I visited one of my long-time friends and got to spend time with her and her family. (Shoutout to my little pals A and C! ❤ Not posting their names cause they’re tender age kids.) I’m happy to be a presence in their lives, but as to having kids of my own, that’s always going to be a ‘no’.

Now….my nominees are….

Emma @ereadsandreviews

Eshana @noveltearabbit

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The Golden Hour: A Review

It seems like forever since I’ve written a review, hasn’t it? I am doing my best to get better with that. This year has been rough reading wise for me, which sucks. But I will get there. I’m doing my best for now. Anyway! Onto the good stuff. 🙂

The Bahamas, 1941: Newly-widowed Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the new Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that infamous couple posted to this colonial backwater during World War II after their marriage nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees. What more compelling setting for a magazine feature than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies a complex—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau roils with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of magnetic charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.

Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting cover-up reeks of royal privilege. Benedict disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London to unpick his complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a German mother, the baroness Elfriede von Kleist, from whom all joy is stolen.

Thread by thread, the stories of Lulu and Elfriede weave together in this remarkable tour de force of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and courage, set against a shocking true crime… and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.

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Beatriz Williams is one of those authors to whom I’m late to the party in reading. I’ve heard many good things, even own two of her other books, but I hadn’t yet read them, given that I found myself busy reading other things. But as I’ve been in the midst of this dreadful book rut, I picked this one up through Book of the Month club. What a delight! It’s so rare that when I’m in a book rut, that anything grabs my attention. Now, I admit…I found the beginning slow and I did find Lulu’s way of speaking a tad…frustrating. I just couldn’t click with it, if that makes sense. I found myself more drawn to Elfriede’s story rather than Lulu’s. Elfriede is in a sanitarium because she feels absolutely nothing towards her new baby. It’s what we know today as postpartum depression. Her timeline is WWI, whilst Lulu is in WWII. It was amusing to see a mention of Pearl Harbor–nowadays, everyone would know within a second. But as Lulu was in the Bahamas, the news took a bit to reach there.

I also enjoyed learning about the unsolved murder and reading about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. If you thought they were the main focus, I am sorry to disappoint. This isn’t to say they’re not part of it–they’re just more secondary figures. (And yet…still feel larger than life.) They’re amongst some of my favorite figures in history; so very maligned and so fascinating. They were controversial and remain so, but perhaps that is what makes them intriguing.

I’m not the biggest fan of split storylines, but Lulu and Elfriede’s stories came together quite nicely. I wasn’t entirely sure how that would work, but when it clicks, it clicks. I haven’t read Ms. Williams ‘Schyuler Sisters’ novels (no, not the ones from Hamilton), but apparently, there’s a surprise tie in? A fun tidbit for the hardcore followers. (Thanks to my pals for pointing that out to me! <3)

Regardless, I’d give this a solid three stars. I may reread it when I’m out of this rut, but for now, I am simply grateful it held my attention to get me back to doing what I love most.

PS: Isn’t that cover beautiful?

 

 

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Top Ten Tue–wait. It’s Thursday!

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s theme is “Auto-Buy Authors”. This was actually harder than it sounds because picking ten was a challenge. There are a few, whom I need little of no thought about. Others, you know the struggle–you eventually get them, but you have to ask, “Do I need this…or gas more?” LoL. You know what I mean. You’re also probably side-eyeing my posting because today is Thursday. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things…I should be on time next week. *Should*.

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C.W Gortner. You all know by now that C.W Gortner is, was, and always will be an author I adore and whose work I will always support. He’s a brilliant author and if you happen to have him on Facebook, you’ll get a glimpse of the man behind the books. He himself is as intriguing as any of his main characters., Check out his work; you won’t regret it, I swear it.

Stephanie Thornton. We stan Ms. Thornton up in this blog! It’s as I said, her profession is a teacher, which is excellent, given that she educates through her spectacular work. I could be biased, given my love of history, but I think if you give her a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

Stephanie Dray. I loved her Ancient World novels…but her last two books, written with Laura Kamoie, have been absolutely outstanding. I LOVE American history so to see books about Eliza Hamilton and Patsy Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter? My heart, man. It just about burst. Haha.

Diane Haeger/Anne Girard. I discovered Diane’s work when I was in High School still. One of those moments when I was hanging out in the school library and was looking for something to read during math class. I mean… >.> Well, I happened upon one of her books. I ended up reading through lunch, math class and on the bus on the way home. I’ve been a fan since.

Deborah Harkness. I fell in love with Discovery of Witches series. Now? If she puts anything more out? I will pre-order instantly. Diana and Matthew–Matthew in particular–just grabbed my attention and had this ‘warmblood’ dying for more. That I watched the series didn’t help! More, I say! Haha.

Sarah J. Maas. This seems surprising to most people. I confess I’m still working through her Throne of Glass series, but the ACOTAR series grabbed me and hasn’t let me go. Since then, I’ve been doing my best to make sure I always grab her work. And someday…I’ll get the five TOG books I need.

Ann Rinaldi. This isn’t a fair one, but for a while, she really was one of my auto-buys. I had to read her book ‘In My Father’s House’ for school and do a book report on it, and afterward, I was just in love with her work. I grabbed so many of her books. Sadly, I’ve lost a number of them through the years, but there are a few I still have and I don’t foresee myself ever getting rid of. Fun fact: It was Ms. Rinaldi’s book, ‘A Wolf By The Ears’ that brought Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s mistress/slave to my attention. I literally would save lunch money to buy her books. Especially during the Scholastic Book Fairs, heyyy. (Remember those?!)

Jean Plaidy. I love love love her Queens of England series. I’ve read them all, but I am trying to buy them because I simply love them. Sadly, Ms. Plaidy won’t be putting out any more books, as she passed away in 1993. Fortunately, she left quite the backlist for me! She wrote near 200 novels in her lifetime under several different nom de plumes.

J.K. Rowling. When it comes to Harry Potter, I’m a glutton. I have all seven novels, of course. I have ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ in the Gryffindor edition as well as Slytherin. (The Gryffindor one was sent by mistake; I just got to keep it.) I have the illustrated editions and History of Magic, which my dear Auntie Pat brought over for me from England! I, however, do not own and never will, ‘Cursed Child’. No, thank you.

Anne Rice. This is probably a cheat since I don’t feel this way about her anymore. I used to be so hardcore obsessed with The Vampire Chronicles. Lestat and Louis just..stole my heart. Louis in particular. The tall, dark, brooding bibliophile vampire spoke to me. I loved that despite his becoming a vampire, he managed to remain very human in certain ways. I wish Louis had been the narrator of more series, not to slight Lestat. But then, Ms. Rice said she was done writing the series…and when she came back; the spark that had made the series so fantastic originally was gone. I think I began to fall off the fanwagon when Blood Canticle came out. That first line..all these years later: ”I want to be a saint! I want to save souls by the million!” Gag me with a spork, Lestat. You’re a vampire.

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There were quite a few other authors I’d have included, but I think this list is good. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know who you guys picked/would pick.

 

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Anna of Kleve: A Spotlight.

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  • Series: Six Tudor Queens
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Publish Date: May 14, 2019

The surprising and dramatic life of the least known of King Henry VIII’s wives is illuminated in the fourth volume in the Six Tudor Queens series—for fans of Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, and The Crown.

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to ensure the royal succession. Forty-six, overweight, and suffering from gout, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses. Anna of Kleve, from a small German duchy, is twenty-four and has a secret she is desperate to keep hidden. Henry commissions her portrait from his court painter, who depicts her from the most flattering perspective. Entranced by the lovely image, Henry is bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. Some think her attractive, but Henry knows he can never love her.

What follows is the fascinating story of an awkward royal union that somehow had to be terminated. Even as Henry begins to warm to his new wife and share her bed, his attention is captivated by one of her maids-of-honor. Will he accuse Anna of adultery as he did Queen Anne Boleyn, and send her to the scaffold? Or will he divorce her and send her home in disgrace? Alison Weir takes a fresh and astonishing look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone and fearing for her life in a royal court that rejected her almost from the day she set foot on England’s shore.

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Katherine of Aragon || Anne Boleyn || Jane Seymour

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Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Books-a-Million || Indie Bound

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Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen; Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession; Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen; The Marriage Game; A Dangerous Inheritance; Captive Queen; The Lady Elizabeth; and Innocent Traitor, as well as numerous historical biographies, including Queens of the Conquest, The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.

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Park Avenue Summer: A Spotlight.

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  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Publish Date: April 30, 2019

Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada as Renée Rosen draws readers into the glamorous New York City of 1965 and Cosmopolitan magazine, where a brazen new editor-in-chief–Helen Gurley Brown–shocks America and saves a dying publication by daring to talk to women about all things off-limits…

New York City is filled with opportunities for single girls like Alice Weiss, who leaves her small midwestern town to chase her big-city dreams and unexpectedly lands the job of a lifetime working for the first female editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown.

Nothing could have prepared Alice for the world she enters as editors and writers resign on the spot, refusing to work for the woman who wrote the scandalous bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, and confidential memos, article ideas, and cover designs keep finding their way into the wrong hands. When someone tries to pull Alice into a scheme to sabotage her boss, she is more determined than ever to help Helen succeed.

While pressure mounts at the magazine, Alice struggles not to lose sight of her own dreams as she’s swept up into a glamorous world of five-star dinners, lavish parties, and men who are certainly no good.  Because if Helen Gurley Brown has taught her anything, it’s that a woman can demand to have it all.

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|| Amazon || Indie Bound || Barnes & Noble ||

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Renee Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her most recent novel is Park Avenue Summer (April 30, 2019 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).

Renee is a native of Akron, Ohio and a graduate of The American University in Washington DC.  She now lives in Chicago where she is at work on a new novel, The Social Graces, a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age. (Coming in 2020 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).

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Uncategorized

The Great Pretenders: A Spotlight.


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  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Publish Date: April 16, 2019

Hollywood, 1953: From the beach at Malibu to leafy Laurel Canyon, from the soundstages of Empire Pictures to jazz clubs on Central Avenue, Roxanne Granville’s sunlit world is shadowed by secrets.

Roxanne, the granddaughter of Julia and Leon Greene, founder of Empire Pictures, romped through a charmed, wealthy childhood until Leon’s passionate affair with a much younger actress destroyed his marriage. Leaving the Greenes’ fabulous mansion Roxanne moves to a Malibu bungalow and takes an entry-level job at a prestigious agency. When the boss attempts a sexual conquest, she quits, and moving forward, forges a career unique for a woman in the 1950s, becoming an agent for hungry, young screenwriters. Her clients work for low wages and long hours in B pictures, and the new voracious medium, television.

Her professional fortunes soar when one of her writers enjoys a stunning success. But this victory is based on a lie. The picture is actually the work of a disgraced writer from Empire’s glory days, a man who had refused to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and found himself blacklisted, unable to work under his own name. He is not alone; the blacklist destroyed sterling reputations, wrecked careers, smashed long friendships. One by one, blacklisted writers surreptitiously approach Roxanne asking her to find fronts for their work. Out of loyalty, affection, respect for these writers–and unresolved resentment against Leon–Roxanne agrees. She wades into a world murky with duplicity and deception.

Her life is further complicated when fate–and a police raid on a jazz club—introduce her to Terrence Dexter, a compelling African American journalist, unlike anyone she’s ever known. Roxanne again breaks rules, risks everything as she and Terrence are swept up in a dangerous, passionate love affair.

Roxanne Granville bravely defies the era she is born to. Enmeshed in a swirling cauldron of pretense, lies, and deceit, her many secrets make her, and those she loves, vulnerable to ruin.

The Great Pretenders is riveting, resonant fiction, a novel about aspiration and desperation, about sex and star billing, defiance, betrayals, forbidden love and unregretted folly.

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about
Laura Kalpakian has won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, the Anahid Award for an American writer of Armenian descent, the PEN West Award, and the Stand International Short Fiction Competition. She has had residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Montalvo Center for the Arts, and Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. She is the author of multiple novels and over a hundred stories published in collections, anthologies, literary journals and magazines in the U.S. and the U.K. A native of California, Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest.