The Sisters of Versailles

FINALLY! I broke my streak with war and nightmares. I really was not sure it was every going to end!

I have read dozens of books about Henry VIII and his scandalous court. Seemingly everyone has heard of his lustful boredom and endless pursuits. However, two centuries later, another king followed in his very sexed up shoes.

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King Louis XV of France–Louis the Beloved–ruled from 1710 to 1774. He was married to a Polish princess, but after seven years of marriage, he was becoming bored, and his advisers decided they needed to find a replacement close and quiet. According to Sally Christie in her new book The Sisters of Versailles, they found the perfect solution in Louise Nesle, serving as one of the Queen’s consorts.

However, because this is a scandal story, of course it doesn’t just stop there. There were five Nesle sisters. I’ll leave you to read what happens.

Christie’s historical fiction drips with so much sticky sweet scandal that you would think you were biting into a caramel apple (just keep it away from Diane, or she might snatch it from you). Every chapter holds a new drama–either a fight that is “not very sororal” according to the Nesle governess Zeilie, or littered with sexual innuendo so dirty even I couldn’t have come up with some of it. And that’s saying something. (I did make sure to take note of them…don’t you worry! clickFILEclick)

The Goodreads blurb states that these women have never before been written about in English, which devastates me, because I very much want to read more! Not that Sally Christie hasn’t done a fantastic job, because she has…but this is one of those sections of history I could get addicted to. It’s like a historical soap opera or reality show. Keeping Up with the Nesles. Now THAT is something I would watch! Oh man. Who do I talk to at HBO to do this?

Seriously though guys, if you like Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, or Hilary Mantel…really any of the great scandal writers from Henry VIII’s court…you’re going to love this one. Same idea, different king. History really does repeat itself, doesn’t it?

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased reviewReleases on September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

The Middle of Somewhere

Do you ever begin a book thinking it is one thing, and it ends up being even BETTER THAN THAT? I mean, this is why we read, right? We may come across some duds, but it’s the really wonderful stories that keep us going.

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On Monday, I talked about how I go into most books blind–I don’t really want to know much about them before I begin. And that’s true, but when I got the request for Sonja Yoerg’s second book The Middle of Somewhere, and saw the cover, I knew immediately that I was interested. I have a thing for backpacking stories–fiction or nonfiction. I think it is the idea that everyone has a journey to go through in life, something they are either walking away from or walking toward, and the hike is a very real illustration of that. So I was very much looking forward to reading this one.

And The Middle of Somewhere started out pretty much like most backpacking novels do. Liz is turning 30, and she is struggling with commitment with her boyfriend Dante. She’s been planning this walk on the John Muir Trail for years, and is finally determined to do it–but instead of the lone ranger trip she had planned, Dante has decided at the last minute to join her. Not only does that delay her trip into a not very prime part of the season, but she also has some skeletons in her closet that she knows will come out during their three week hike…and she is not sure she is ready for that.

Once they get out on the trail, however, they meet an unexpected danger–more than rocks and bears and storms. Yoerg has written more than just a backpacker novel–she has given us a mountain thriller. Hiking in the mountains would be hard and scary enough, but Yoerg puts her characters in a situation where there is a crescendo threat to their lives. It gets creepier and creepier until it escalates to violence.

This was such a page turner that I finished it in one afternoon. I was excited to just read it as a backpacking story, but add the thriller component and Yoerg has a bestseller on her hands…at least in my opinion. In an environment where Eat, Pray, Love and Wild are so popular, I think her book will do really well, and she has added a special edge to separate herself from the pack. Big time yes from me!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

Jade Dragon Mountain

When I looked at my TBR list the other day and realized that I am into my September ARCs already, I sat back onto my heels a bit. How are we already this late into the year? This weekend marked our one year anniversary in Dallas. We have been here for a WHOLE YEAR! What a ride it has been.

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I’ve had Jade Dragon Mountain in my queue for a long time…for some reason I received it way in advance. It felt strange to finally pick it up. This is Elsa Hart’s debut novel, and she has done a pretty decent job with it.

The story takes place in 1708 during the Qing Dynasty. Kangxi Emperor is passionate about astronomy and has calculated that an eclipse will be visible in Dayan. A festival is being prepared for his arrival. Li Du, an exile and imperial librarian, must visit his magistrate cousin on his way to Tibet, and arrives during the preparations. While he is there, a Jesuit priest is murdered, and Li Du sets out to find the killer before the emperor arrives.

Jade Dragon Mountain is part historical fiction, part Sherlockian mystery. I was fascinated by the Chinese lore and history–although most of the actual characters I think were made up, excepting the Emperor himself, the facts about the Jesuits and Kangxi’s fascination with astrology, all of that were real. A festival like this could have really happened. We are discussing this in my Coursera class–the art of historical fiction requires the author to stretch the truth just enough to convince the reader to believe the lie.

The mystery portion of the story was a bit of fun as well. It loops around and around, providing the bits of science and historical context, all while giving us a Sherlock/Watson kind of banter between Li Du and Hamza. Hamza is even a storyteller…which, hello, today he would TOTALLY be a blogger! *wink* Ok, maybe that part is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t help but make the jump. Fellow Johnlockers will understand.

Jade Dragon Mountain comes out September 1 and is bound to interest any fellow historical fiction lovers. It’s a great debut for Elsa Hart and I’ll be interesting to see what she comes up with next!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

The Deerslayer

Did you know that The Last of the Mohicans is actually a series? We see series all the time now, but we don’t think about them much back in the 1800s. Maybe they happened more than I realize. I’ve seen books with multiple volumes and one title, but this is the first I’ve seen in an actual series like this.

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James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Leatherstocking Tales about an adventurer called Natty Bumppo–a white man who was raised among the Delaware Indians in the what is now New York. Even though he was raised among the Native Americans, he loathes the idea of harming his own kind. He hunts (giving him the nickname of Deerslayer), but he does not like the idea of war. He crosses paths with two white men, Hurry Harry and Floating Tom who have taken up scalping for trade, and try to convince him to do it with them. He tries to convince them to stop, but they don’t listen and are trapped by the dangerous Huron tribe.

This book…I just…have really mixed feelings.

I liked Bumppo’s character. He’s a good man, and he just wants to be left alone in the woods. Also, he’s asexual. He has a chance to marry the beautiful girl, and he says, “Meh…no thanks, I think I’ll go back and head off back in the trees, but thanks. Let’s just be friends, k?” He joins the fight because he has to get the idiots out of danger, but I got the idea that it was really really complicated and was just messing things up for him. Towards the end, Judith asks him if he wanted to fight and he tells her that while he can now claim the title of Warrior, he hates it and fights only out of necessity.

Also, the descriptions of the land are beautiful. This is written by someone who has spent a great deal of time in upstate New York. My Coursera professor added this to our historical fiction syllabus–which is why I am reading it now–and he showed us a picture of the lake Cooper references. The details are perfect, down to the exact spherical boulder on the shoreline.

However, I struggled a great deal with the racial context. I think sometimes it is hard for me to remove myself culturally from what I know now about the struggles/pain white men have caused in this country. I’m not even sure if that sentence made any sense. But even though I know in my head that Cooper was using the terminology that his characters would have called “injins” and “red men,” it still just makes me cringe. Bumppo and Hurry Harry have a pretty heated debate about the differences between white men and red men–Bumppo is trying to convince Harry that all men are equal, even if culture and tradition is different–and it just gets really ugly. It hurts my heart to know that I could pick that conversation up, take out “red” put in “black” and drop that conversation pretty much anywhere in the US right now, and it would still fit exactly.

I don’t talk about that subject much, mostly because I don’t know what to say, and what I mean will never come out right. But that part of the book really got to me, and I couldn’t leave it out.

There isn’t much else–the book is a little hard to follow at times. It is pretty chaotic. People have multiple names and there isn’t a whole lot of setting buildup. This is one that I read Wiki before I reviewed to make sure I understood what I read. I’m not ashamed to admit it, people!

This isn’t really a book I’d recommend, unless you really like old adventure stories. But, I know I’m going to have to read The Last of the Mohicans at some point for the Boxall 1001, so I stuck it out.

Seriously though, I am going to make someone else write my TBR for September. Why did I do this to myself? WAR WAR WAR DEPRESSED WARWARWAR DARK WAR

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Movie Adaptation: The Maze Runner

We finally went to see The Maze Runner this afternoon. This is probably my favorite of the big dystopian action trilogies, so I was pumped when I found out they were making a movie out of it. It’s so much different than the others–violence is not the main component. It’s rough in the Glade, sure. But the guys work together as a team, not to save their own skin. And yes, Dashner did include some females, but romance really doesn’t take much of a role. The goals are teamwork and problem solving and thinking outside the box. All really good things to have in a series about a broken world.

The movie did not disappoint. The casting, first of all, was dead on. I’m not even talking about Dylan O’Brien. He made a great Thomas, yeah. But can we talk about Blake Cooper? A more perfect Chuck could not exist in this world. He was sweet and chubby, just like he was supposed to be. And he had the balls he needed to have to back up the rest of the crew. He was one of those best friends every guy needs. I loved him.

Will Pouter as Gally–Yep. If you’ve read the book before you watch this, you know exactly who he is as soon as the box opens. He’s the absolute hard ass he needs to be. Done. Those eyebrows are scary, man.

And Newt? Um. I feel really dirty about much I liked watching Sam from Love Actually run around with leather packs and spears. Who told him he was allowed to grow up and be this fantastic actor? Couldn’t he at least look a LITTLE different than he did as a kid? All jokes aside, Thomas Brodie-Sangster was a perfect fit for the role, and he did a great job.

The landscaping and set up was really interesting. The maze looked amazing–so complex and industrial. The grievers were so freaking scary, and they really nailed the sound effects to go with them. Everything was right on pointe with how I had imagined it, only better.

I had listened to the soundtrack before seeing the movie, so I already knew it was brilliant. It was hard not to be revved up about it though…James Dashner had been talking about it for weeks on Twitter. If you thought John Green was an author excited about his movie–you should follow Dashner. That guy doesn’t stop. He’s absolutely giddy about this series coming out, and for very good reasons.

Newest Purchase

I had a pretty great book haul in September. Some new books, some used ones. Even a free one, thanks to a Twitter contest! Here’s what I picked up:

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I’ve blogged about most of these already, so I’ll keep this short. But LOOK at that gorgeous purple Drop Caps from Penguin Books! Sorry if you follow me on Twitter and get annoyed by my constant retweets, but it was well worth it. Even the pages are purple on the outside!

The bottom green book I threw in to the picture because technically…I own it. But, that’s definitely a husband book. I may read it, eventually, when it makes it way into my TBR rotation. We’ll see if I even understand it. It’ll be awhile before that happens though.

And of course, I finally have a Sherlock book. I’ve read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but I haven’t yet read this one. I couldn’t resist it, when I saw it on the clearance rack!

Read This Month

I can’t believe tomorrow is already October. We’ve been in Dallas a month and a half, and things are finally starting to cool down. Or…at least as much as Texas cools. The State Fair just opened up, and my lucky husband gets to take a work trip over there today. I’m so jealous! Hopefully we can make it over there soon.

I read a ton of books great books this month. Now that I’ve set a schedule for myself, I’m getting quite a variety again. And I’m allowing myself to ditch books if they aren’t up to par, which I had stopped doing at one point. Gotta stop wasting time. Some books just aren’t blog-worthy.

(Which, on that point. Aaron’s Rod is on the list below, but I’m not going to do a post about it. I got about 65% through it before I had to give it up. Far enough to count it as “read” but I’m not going to bore you guys with a terrible post. Not DH Lawrence’s best work, let’s leave it at that.)

And now, the books!

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Read this month:

Throne of Glass by Sarah Mass

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Justine by Lawrence Durrell

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (which didn’t make it onto the list in the picture…oops!)

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Aaron’s Rod by DH Lawrence