Review: The Girl in the Tower

34050917The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Series: Winternight Trilogy
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction
Maturity Rating: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop. 


The Girl in the Tower was not quite as amazing as The Bear and the Nightingale, but was still an outstanding read.

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Review: The Song of Achilles

51erEvChGpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Rating: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. 

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.


The Song of Achilles was just so completely different from what I was expecting that I’m not even really sure how to review it. I wasn’t expecting a love story AT ALL, but that’s essentially what the book was. I suppose if I was better versed in Greek History I wouldn’t have been surprised, or if I was any good at reading a synopsis properly, lol.

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Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper

51nTreUEtgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 4-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.


While not the best-written book I have ever read, Stalking Jack the Ripper sure was a lot of fun! There’s not enough books out there about Jack the Ripper in my opinion, and I’m glad Maniscalco gave this one such a fun twist.

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Review: My Cousin Rachel

5604250My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Classics
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn …Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet …might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death? 


What a unique love story! Even though I felt like I kind of knew what to expect (curse you movie trailer!!!!!), it kept going in directions that took me by surprise. However, I didn’t find the atmosphere quite as brooding and mysterious as I expected to, which was a little disappointing.

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Review: The Essex Serpent

32075861The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 4+
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆


Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.


The Essex Serpent was one of those books that was obviously trying to be “literature” and attempting to win awards, but I’m not sure it succeeded. Instead of feeling like beautiful prose, to me it came off as pretentious and contrived. I mean, it’s all right there in the description, isn’t it? “Two extraordinary people”. What’s so extraordinary about them?

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Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

10161216Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Series: Maggie Hope Mystery
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3 maybe?
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.


While perhaps not the most well-written book of all time, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was a lot of fun. Maggie Hope was spunky and easy to relate to, and not too caught up in romance for a young woman. The plot was intriguing, moved quickly, and I often found I had a hard time putting the book down. However, I was often confused by the frequent point-of-view change, and the repeated period cliches in the dialogue were distracting. I was also distracted by the irrelevant references to British literature, as if Maggie somehow had to prove that she was living in War-Era Britain. But if you’re looking for a quick read and a little light entertainment, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is perfect.

Review: My Lady Jane

22840421My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Series: The Lady Janies
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.


I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not this.

In a good way.

My Lady Jane was the most outrageous, hilarious Tudor novel I have ever read. The synopsis says “only a passing resemblance to actual history” which is completely accurate. But that’s a big part of what made this book so enjoyable. As a Tudor England fanatic (or at least a former one) it was so refreshing to read a book that was, first of all, about JANE GREY of all people, and second of all, not so caught up in the scandal of who was sleeping with who in court. Instead this novel was about the major political issue of the day, Catholics vs. Protestants, but re-imagined with fantasy elements that make it more fun for the non-Tudor-obsessed reader.

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