Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Bone Flower Throne: Book One of the Bone Flower Trilogy by T. L. Morganfield: A Book Review

The Bone Flower Throne: Book One of the Bone Flower Trilogy
Author: T. L. Morganfield
Genre: Historical fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Panverse Publishing LLC
Release Date: October, 19th 2013
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: "I slid to a stop and gasped when I saw the black-robed monster hunched over Father's bed mat. Its long, matted hair glistened in the moonlight, and it sang in a harsh voice that sounded like bones snapping. I screamed, my heart thudding as if trying to break out of my chest."

     Tenth century Mexico is a world in great upheaval. Incursions from the north bring constant warfare as clashing politics and faiths battle for supremacy. At the fore stands Smoking Mirror, a bloodthirsty god bent on subjugating humanity with his hunger for human hearts. His high priest, Ihuitimal, has conquered Culhuacan, one of the Toltecs' most powerful kingdoms.

     When Smoking Mirror's archenemy, the Feathered Serpent, tasks Quetzalpetlatl, exiled princess of Culhuacan, to help his mortal son Topiltzin end human sacrifice, she eagerly embraces her new destiny. It means avenging her father's murder at the hand of her uncle Ihuitimal, but for Topiltzin--who's more than just a brother to her--she will do anything. Even sacrifice her own heart.
     My Review: The story is a retelling of the the legend of Topiltzin, who is a mythical hero in Mexican culture. The story is told from Topiltzin’s half-sister, Quetzalpetlatl, an exiled princess and strives to become high priestess of Quetzalcoatl. She is chosen by the god Quetzalcoatl to be Topiltzin’s guardian for the promise that Topiltzin will be the greatest and most benevolent king of all the Tolteca. She and Topiltzin both embark on a quest to regain Topiltzin’s stolen throne and to secure a future that is filled with peace and tranquility.

     The story begins as Quetzalpetlatl is a seven year-old princess of Culhuacan, who is about to get married to Ihuitimal’s son, Black Otter. On the night of the wedding, she finds jade stone, and later gives the stone to her mother. Quetzalcoatl comes to her mother in a dream and tells her to swallow the jade stone and she will give birth to Quetzalcoatl's son, who is destined to be the greatest king in Tolteca. Not soon after Quetzalpetlatl mother swallows the stone, then it is revealed that Ihuitimal is worshipping their Quetzalcoatl’s nemesis, the Smoking Mirror, and kills Quetzalpetlatl father and becomes king himself sending Quetzalpetlatl and her mother into exile in Xochicalco. Her mother dies in childbirth giving birth to Topiltzin. She is then chosen by Topiltzin to become Quetzalcoatl’s guardian. She and Topiltzin is then taken into the care of the High Priestess, where Quetzalpetlatl trains to become the next High Priestess of Quetzalcoatl.

     Quetzalpetlatl is a strong and likable heroine. She is devoted to the Quetzalcoatl, and Topiltzin’s glorifying destiny. She is willing to sacrifice herself to protect her half-brother and her god. She is intelligent and is never afraid to ask questions. She is also not afraid to call out the characters that usually make wrong decisions and actions. She is also fervently loving, loyal and never fails to protect those she loves. Indeed, it is Quetzalpetlatl, who is the driving force of the plot and the cause of most of the actions in the book.

     Overall, the story is about justice, sacrifice, and love. I did not know much about the Aztec culture, but from reading the book it is very violent and brutal. I did not like the many countless human sacrifices they made to their gods, and reading about this violence sickened me. However, the human sacrifices was a vital plot point in the book because the main goal for Topiltzin was to end human sacrifice. I found that this legend was similar in some ways to the King Arthur legend. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in mythology, the Aztec culture, and to fans of King Arthur.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lady Macbeth: A Novel By Susan Fraser King: A Book Review

Lady Macbeth: A Novel
Author: Susan Fraser King
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: 2008
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: I am granddaughter to a king and 
daughter to a prince, a wife twice over, a queen 
as well. I have fought with sword and bow, and 
struggled fierce to bear my babes into this world. 
I have loved deeply and hated deeply, too. 

     Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland’s most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband’s murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect the man she once despised–and then realizes that Macbeth’s complex ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite Scotland–and his wife’s royal blood is the key to his ultimate success.  

     Determined to protect her small son and a proud legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.

     From towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, Lady Macbeth transports readers to the heart of eleventh-century Scotland, painting a bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history. 
     My Review: I have always been a fan of Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. I love to read the play during thunderstorms at night, for it brings alive the danger, suspense, darkness, and horror of the play, particularly the witches scenes, which are my favorite in the play. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a story of how ambition changed an honorable man into a tyrant. However, while I knew and studied Shakespeare’s Macbeth, I knew very little about the real historical Macbeth. I also did not know anything at all about Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s faithful partner in the murder of the benevolent King Duncan. 

     In Susan Fraser King’s Lady Macbeth, Gruadh or Rue, as she is frequently known in the novel, is the most desirable woman in Scotland because she is the last female descendant of Scotland's royal line. She is forced into an arranged marriage to a powerful lord, the Earl of Moray, who is Macbeth’s cousin and is twice her age. She falls in love with him, but it is short-lived. Her husband goes off to war with Macbeth, and gets killed. Because of her lineage, Rue is forced to marry Macbeth, her husband's warrior. She despises him at first, but slowly grows to love him. Together both of them unite Scotland and eventually become king and queen.

     The historical retelling is very entertaining. It is so different from Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. This Lady Macbeth is strong, bold, and intelligent. I love how the author painted Lady Macbeth as a warrior. I did not expect it when I read it, and it was a pleasant surprise. Macbeth is ambitious, a skilled warrior, and he is kind to Rue. He is a king that wants nothing but the best for Scotland. In fact, unlike the Shakespeare's Macbeth, this Macbeth reigns for seventeen years until his downfall. 

     Overall, this novel is not like Shakespeare's Macbeth. The characters are well-developed. Rue is a strong and likable heroine, and you will find Macbeth sympathetic. The plot is fast-paced, and the story is well-told. It shows how Scotland was divided at the time, and it showed warring factions and the war victor’s customs. I recommend this book to people who want to learn more about Scottish history. I also recommend this to fans of Shakespeare and those interested in putting Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth aside and want to read a story about the real historical Lady Macbeth.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the author's official book trailer of Lady Macbeth:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ophelia by Lisa Klein: A Book Review

Author: Lisa Klein
Genre: YA, Historical fiction, Suspense,
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

    In this reimagining of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage and finally gets her due. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, and their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia will be forced to choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.

     My Review: Shakespeare has always been one of my favorite playwrights. I like to read his plays during my spare time. One of his best known plays is Hamlet because what seems like a benevolent king is actually hiding dark secrets. The one who knows his true nature is his step-son/nephew, who the court believes is mad but actually is not. Hamlet is a dark tale about murder, despotism, power, ambition, and tyranny. In Ophelia, it is a  faithful retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view. We think we know the story of Ophelia’s tragic fate, but it is only part of her story.

     The tale begins before there is something rotten in Denmark. The court is happy. Hamlet’s father is alive and happy with a beautiful queen at his side. Ophelia becomes a lady-in-waiting to Queen Gertrude and finds a slow-budding romance with Hamlet. However, her blissful romance falls apart when Hamlet's father is killed, and his uncle becomes king and marries the queen. When Ophelia eventually unravels the darkness and the treachery that surrounds the court, she begins to question her sanity.

     Ophelia is a strong and likable heroine. She is intelligent, loyal, and highly observant. She examines people’s nature and motives. She is the perfect narrator to maneuver her way through the labyrinth of deceptions, lies, and flattery at court in order to see the truth and the danger that hangs over the court and those she loves. She is also a match for Hamlet, for both of them like philosophy and have a thirst for knowledge and truth. She also has a great friendship with Horatio for they both love and care for Hamlet. Horatio protects Ophelia in a brotherly fashion and cares for her.

     Overall, this is a faithful lovely retelling of Shakespeare's play. The third part of the story is slow when Ophelia no longer plays an active part in Denmark’s court. I recommend this novel to anyone who is a Shakespeare fan and likes reading his plays. I also found that this book is a great introduction for people who are reading Hamlet for the first time. For people who are studying Shakespeare and are planning on reading Cliffsnotes instead of reading the play, I advise you to read this book instead of Cliffsnotes. This book helps readers understand the plot of the story, and it is a much more fun and pleasurable read than the boring summaries of the Cliffsnotes version. Ophelia will help you let Shakespeare’s Hamlet into your hearts, and you will want to re-read Hamlet again and see the play in a different light.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Improbable Women: Five Who Explored the Middle East by William Woods Cotterman: A Book Review

Improbable Women: Five Who Explored the Middle East
Author: William Woods Cotterman
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Release Date: October 16th, 2013
Pages: 312
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Zenobia was the third-century Syrian queen who rebelled against Roman rule. Before Emperor Aurelian prevailed against her forces, she had seized almost one-third of the Roman Empire. Today, her legend attracts thousands of visitors to her capital, Palmyra, one of the great ruined cities of the ancient world. 

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, during the time of Ottoman rule, travel to the Middle East was almost impossible for Westerners. That did not stop five daring women from abandoning their conventional lives and venturing into the heart of this inhospitable region. Improbable Women explores the lives of Hester Stanhope, Jane Digby, Isabel Burton, Gertrude Bell, and Freya Stark, narrating the story of each woman’s pilgrimage to Palmyra to pay homage to the warrior queen. Although the women lived in different time periods, ranging from the eighteenth century to the mid–twentieth century, they all came from middle to upper-class British backgrounds and overcame great societal pressures to pursue their independence. 

Cotterman situates their lives against a backdrop of the Middle Eastern history that was the setting for their adventures. Divided into six sections, one devoted to Zenobia and one focused on each of the five women, Improbable Women is a fascinating glimpse into the experiences and characters of these intelligent, open-minded, and free-spirited explorers.

     My Review: What do these five women - Hester Stanhope, Jane Digby, Isabel Burton, Gertrude Bell, and Freya Stark-have in common? According to Improbable Women, each of them were fascinated by Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. Each of them have braved the dangers of the Middle Eastern desert to visit and pay homage to Zenobia’s Palmyra, a once great city that was destroyed by the Romans. Therefore, this book is a chronicle of these five women’s pilgrimage to the ancient ruined city of Palmyra.

     Palmyra was once a city that prospered from trade around both Arabia, the Far East, and Rome. The good water supply and its strategic location helped make Palmyra an affluent city. The city was once built by the Arameans, but Alexander the Great conquered the city and named it Palmyra for date-palms. In late third century, the city was ruled by King Odenath. Zenobia was the daughter of a great Palmyrenes general, and she became King Odenath’s second wife. They later had a son. After the murder of her husband, Zenobia became regent for her son. She then went to Rome and demanded that they would give her more lands to control. When they refused, Zenobia declared war. She was eventually captured by the Romans and forced to surrender. Since then she was given a reputation of the warrior queen. A woman who these five women felt that they could relate to.

     These five women each had their own adventures journeying to Palmyra. While they were flawed women, each of their biographies seems as if they were heroes in romantic tales. Each of them, like Zenobia, made their mark of the Middle East and made many accomplishments. This book is not only a biography of these six women, rather it is also a geopolitical book that studies the Middle East.

     Overall, this book is about the accomplishments and contributions these six remarkable women made. This book is filled with adventure and romance. They have captured the imaginations to the people of their time. It is also an in-depth study of the geopolitics of the Middle East. This book is about how these British women have made contact with the Middle East. I recommend this book to anyone interested in British history, and how the British interacted with Middle Easterners.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 11, 2013

Before I Met You: A Novel By Lisa Jewell: A Book Review

Before I Met You: A Novel
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Mystery 
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Pages: 464
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Jazz Age London, a passionate and forbidden interracial romance, and the unbreakable bond between a bright young woman and her eccentric grandmother come together brilliantly in this gem of a novel, perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, Twenties Girl, and The Chaperone.

     Fresh out of university, Betty is ready to begin a new chapter of her life in London—one she hopes brings new friends, a big career break, and perhaps even true love. Following her dreams in bustling, grungy nineties Soho, she’s ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks…

     In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette—Betty’s grandmother—is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But two years after her arrival in London, tragedy strikes and she flees back to the country for the rest of her life.

     As Betty tries to manage the ups and downs of adulthood, she’s distracted by a mysterious letter she finds after Arlette’s death—a letter written to a man Betty has never heard of but who meant the world to her grandmother. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help Betty navigate her own path to happiness?

     A heartwarming detective story and a captivating look at London then and now, Before I Met You is an unforgettable story about two very different women, separated by seventy years, but linked by a shared determination to make their dreams come true.

     My Review: This novel has two different storylines but are both woven together. It tells the story of Betty Dean, a young woman, who takes care of her old step-grandmother, Arlette, who has Alzheimer’s disease. After Arlette’s death, Arlette decides to give fifteen thousand pounds to a mysterious woman named Clara Pickle, who Betty and her family have never heard of. Because Betty did not want to cut this mysterious woman out of her inheritance, she decides to move to Soho to track her down. The only clue that Betty has is the mysterious letter that Arlette has written to Clara Pickle inside a Pollyanna book.

     The two protagonists are both Arlette and Betty. From Arlette’s point of view, we are taken to visit the glitz and glamour of London’s Jazz Age in post WWI. Arlette is affected by WWI, for she lost her father. From Betty’s point of view, we see London in modern day. The readers get to compare Soho in both the 1920s and the 1990s. Both Arlette and Betty’s storylines compliment each other. Both of them want to leave the Island of Guernsey and experience the bustling of city life. Both of them want to have a career and find romance. Yet, both of their life experiences are very different. Both Betty and Arlette are at first naive, idealistic, and determined to succeed in Soho life, so they would not have to go back to Guernsey. However, over the course of the novel their personalities are different. The author also makes references to how different the historical eras are in music that become important to the novel. In Soho 1920’s, the biggest music was jazz, whereas in the 1990s, it was pop music.

     Overall, this book is filled with romance, mystery, and suspense. It is about loyalty, friendship, and family. The story is a light read, but the beginning is a little slow-paced. However, the two storylines are both fascinating and the protagonists are well-developed and relatable. The chapters switch from Betty to Arlette, and readers will be so immersed in their stories that when it switches point of views, we are left wanting more to find out what will happen to the character. The mystery itself will also keep readers on their toes anticipating if it will be solved. I think this book fits more as a great beach read. I recommend it to readers who are looking for a light, fun, read with two strong protagonists at its center. I also recommend this to college graduates or anyone who is transitioning on making their way out into the workforce on their own for I believe that this book will speak to them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hadassah: One Night With the King: A Novel By Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen

Hadassah: One Night With the King: A Novel
Author: Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen
Genre: Historical, Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: 2004
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Collection

     A gripping action-adventure story,
full of political intrigue and suspense,
with a brand-new perspective on a historical figure you may think you already know!

     BOTH A PALACE THRILLER AND A JEWISH WOMAN’S MEMOIR, Hadassah brings the age-old story of Esther to life. This historically accurate novel layered with fresh insights provides a fascinating twist on a pivotal time in religious history, and readers will find it bursting with page-turning drama.

      My Review: Queen Esther has always been one of my favorite old testament heroes in the Bible. She is a Jewish girl who married a Babylonian king, and ends up saving her Jewish people. The story of Esther was written after the dispersion of the Jews from Israel, and was written as an instruction to how the Jews should retain their identity as a Jewish people. This thrilling retelling of Queen Esther also keeps the message of the Book of Esther alive by helping allow Esther to speak to us by writing her memoirs to a Jewish candidate who is competing to be a bride to the next king. The message of the book is that through faith and trusting in God, we can overcome any adversaries, even ones that seem impossible.

    The beginning of the book starts out in present day Jerusalem with a Jewish girl about to be married named Hadassah who enters the Israel Museum with her father. Her father gives her a historical document, a letter from Queen Esther that is filled with her memoirs. The rest of the book is then narrated by Esther herself. Esther is originally named Hadassah, and she is an orphan who goes to live with her uncle Mordecai. She dreams to one day go to Israel, the land of her people. But her dreams are dashed when she becomes a candidate for a wife to King Xerxes. However, her life and her destiny changes when she has one night with the king.

     Esther is portrayed as a woman faithful to her faith. She is a young girl who is pressured to hide her identity in a pagan empire, all the while trying to stay true to her identity, religion, and her faith in God. Esther is well-educated, intelligent, and determined. She knows how to pick her allies well that would help her win the competition to be queen. Esther is a strong heroine. Through her trust in God, she is both courageous and willing to sacrifice herself to save her people.

     Overall, this book is about loyalty, friendship, family, sacrifice, and faith in God. Hadassah: One Night With the King is a fast-paced thriller that is filled with court intrigue, danger, suspense, courage, and romance. It is a novel about one girl’s journey to self-discovery. The story is well-executed, and the characters are both realistic and well-developed. I recommend this book not only to people who are interested in Biblical fiction, but also to those who are looking for a novel that features a strong female protagonist.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the official movie trailer of One Night With the King that is based off of this book:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt Edited by Richard H. Wilkinson: A Book Review

Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt
Author: edited by Richard H. Wilkinson
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 168
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: ONE OF ONLY A FEW WOMEN who ruled ancient Egypt as a king during its thousands of years of history, Tausret was the last pharaoh of the 19th dynasty (c. 1200 BCE), the last ruling descendent of Ramesses the Great, and one of only two female monarchs buried in Egypt's renowned Valley of the Kings. Though mentioned in Homer as the pharaoh of Egypt who interacted with Helen at the time of the Trojan War, she has long remained a figure shrouded in mystery, hardly even known to many Egyptologists. Nevertheless, recent archaeological discoveries have illuminated Tausret's importance, her accomplishments, and the extent of her influence. Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt  brings together new work by distinguished scholars whose research and excavations have increased our understanding of the life and reign of this great woman.This richly illustrated book uses recent discoveries to correctly position Tausret alongside famous ruling queens such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra, figures who have long dominated our view of the female monarchs of ancient Egypt. Tausret uses archaeological, historical, women's studies, and other approaches to provide a scholarly but accessible volume that will be an important contribution to the literature of Egyptology -- and one that with appeal to both scholars and anyone with an interest in ancient Egyptian culture.

      My Review: Homer mentions in The Odyssey, an Egyptian King named Polybus, who lived with his wife, Alcandra in Thebes during the Trojan War. Manetho changes Polybus’s name to Thuoris, and claims that he was a male king during his chronological list of the 19th dynasty pharaohs. What these two men did not realize was that King Polybus/Throuris was actually a female pharaoh named Tausret. Pharaoh Tausret has been forgotten over the years, and this book sheds some facts based on archeology to the reign of the fascinating and powerful pharaoh.

     Pharaoh Tausret was a descendant to Ramesses II, who because of his long reign outlived many of his children and grandchildren. His longevity created a crisis in Egypt because there were very few heirs left to succeed him. His thirteenth son, Merenptah succeeded him, and he reigned for thirteen years. After Merenptah’s death there was dissent  among the royal family regarding the succession, in which it involved to have an effect of Tausret. She was the queen consort of Sety II, the eldest son of Merenptah but Setty II was challenged by Amenmesse, whose origins are still unclear, that also claimed himself as Pharaoh. However Amenmesse died a few year later leaving Sety II as the sole ruler of Egypt.

     Like Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh who reigned Egypt before her, Queen Tausret was queen regent to Siptah after Sety II’s death. Siptah, was a child and the son of a Canaanite woman and possibly Amenmesse. There was also a man of obscure origins named Bay that rose to become the most powerful man at court. However, Bay ended up being executed by Pharaoh Siptah. However after Siptah’s sudden death there was no other legitimate ruler to succeed the Egyptian throne. In order to help preserve the succession of Egypt during this dynastic crisis, Tausret had to become pharaoh. Unlike the Hatshepsut, Tausret was sole ruler, and did not dress up like a man but instead kept her female image. Because there was no one to fulfill the queenly duties, she played both the roles of queen and king. The end of her reign is unknown, and the majority of her memory has been erased until the nineteenth century. The very few records of her in ancient history gives her identity as a male king.

     Overall, I found this book to be interesting and fascinating. The book not only recounts her reign, but it also analyzes the positions and roles of royal women in Egypt. It also undergoes a detailed study and examination of the archeology of Tausret’s monuments, tomb (Ramesses III usurped her tomb in honor of his father Sethnahkt, who was the successor and possible overthrower of Tausret), and temple. This book shows Tausret as an admirable and skilled ruler that is worthy of taking her place among powerful pharaohs of Egypt. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Egypt and others who are curious of learning about this little-known female pharaoh.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Confessions of Marie Antoinette: A Novel by Juliet Grey: A Book Review

Confessions of Marie Antoinette: A Novel
Author: Juliet Grey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: September 24th, 2013
Pages: 464
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A novel for fans of Philippa Gregory and Michelle Moran, Confessions of Marie Antoinette blends rich historical detail with searing drama, bringing to life the first years of the French Revolution and the final days of the legendary French queen.

     Versailles, 1789. As the burgeoning rebellion reaches the palace gates, Marie Antoinette finds her privileged and peaceful life swiftly upended by violence. Once her loyal subjects, the people of France now seek to overthrow the crown, placing the heirs of the Bourbon dynasty in mortal peril.

     Displaced to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the royal family is propelled into the heart of the Revolution. There, despite a few staunch allies, they are surrounded by cunning spies and vicious enemies. Yet despite the political and personal threats against her, Marie Antoinette remains, above all, a devoted wife and mother, standing steadfastly by her husband, Louis XVI, and protecting their young son and daughter. And though the queen secretly attempts to arrange her family’s rescue from the clutches of the rebels, she finds that they can neither outrun the dangers encircling them nor escape their shocking fate.

      My Review: This is the final novel in Juliet Grey’s Marie Antoinette trilogy. The novel chronicles the last years of Marie Antoinette, beginning with the market women's march and revolt in Versailles to her execution by Madame Guillotine. The story tells of how Marie Antoinette manages to keeps her dignity and courage as her enemies try to break her spirit by separating her from all she holds dear. Yet, the story not only tells a tragedy about the fate of Marie Antoinette, but by a nation  that is being torn and divided as the bloody Revolution begins to attack its own people.

     The story is mostly narrated by Marie Antoinette herself as she tells us her fears, her emotions, and dreams as she becomes imprisoned by her own people. The narration is also written in third person from Louis Chabry, a revolutionary. This character’s narration balances and is necessary to the story for the scenes that Marie Antoinette is not present in. We get to see what the French Revolution was like to an average woman living at that time.

     After the revolt at Versailles, Marie Antoinette and her husband are forced to go to Paris, where they are imprisoned at the Tuileries. They try to conform to being a constitutional monarchy until their French citizens threaten the royal family’s life. They decide that they must flee to the frontier for safety, but their plan fails. The people feel that their king has betrayed them. Eventually they lose their throne and are forced to live in a drastic prison so that no one can ever attempt a plot to save the royal family.

     During Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment, her physical appearance and her character change drastically. She has lost her beauty. And although she is in her thirties, her hair is white, and she looks like an old woman. She is no longer the carefree woman in the previous novels. Instead, she is serious and sad. In the previous novels, Marie Antoinette was not interested in politics, and she had no political influence in her husband’s reign. During her imprisonment, Marie Antoinette takes an interest in politics, and she becomes a strong interest in her husband’s affairs. She writes in crypt to other monarchs to ask for aid to save the royal family. Marie Antoinette becomes a strong, brave, and determined woman who fights for her family’s freedom. In this novel, Marie Antoinette is shown as a faithful wife and mother, who only wishes to be with her family. But the Revolutionaries want nothing than to see her suffer. They take away her friends, and kill her husband. But what really breaks her is that they take her son away from her, and there is nothing she can do as she is forced to listen to her son being tortured in the room directly below where she is imprisoned.

     Overall, this novel is about sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, and family. It is about one woman’s fight to protect her family when they are being attacked. Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a mother and a wife. This novel is an excellent conclusion to the Marie Antoinette trilogy. The story is powerful, and its message is thought-provoking. I would recommend it to people who are interested in historical fiction and Marie-Antoinette.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 4, 2013

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey: A Book Review

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow: A Novel of Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 448
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

     Paris 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deep fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

     From her early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attache Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles-- one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.
      My Review: This is the second book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy of Marie Antoinette. In this novel, Marie Antoinette has at last become Queen of France. She decides to live a lavish lifestyle of gambling, dancing, and hosting parties, donning elaborate dresses and having extravagant and sometimes silly hairstyles. However in the midst of the glitz and glamour of being queen, she arouses disapproval and hatred of her French subjects.

     In the beginning of the novel, the Parisian crowd greatly welcomes King Louis XVI’s reign with open arms. The king is young and kind-hearted and he has a beautiful, charming, young wife at his side. He seems to have a promising reign unlike his predecessor, Louis XV, whose reign caused hatred among his subjects. However, the king lacks one thing that would help secure France’s promising future-- an heir. When year after year goes by without an heir, they start to place their blame on the queen. They blame her for having an extravagant lifestyle for she is dancing and acting when she should be focusing on having a heir. This starts to damage her reputation and causes her to be hated and constantly mocked and criticized by her subjects.

     Marie Antoinette’s high-rolling lifestyle is the result of her unhappiness to not get a dauphin. She is pressured by both her mother and her brother to get an heir, and she feels like she has failed her mother, her brother, and her subjects. She decides to spend excessively to help ease her stress and disappointment. However, when she does get an heir many years later, her reputation has already been tarnished and once she becomes the scapegoat in the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace, she has already lost the love of her subjects, and there is nothing she could do to help recover her subjects’ love.

     Overall, this novel is about friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, and scandal. This novel shows an in-depth psyche of Marie Antoinette and the motives to her actions. Marie Antoinette is a complex woman, who is human and makes mistakes. She can sometimes be rash when she is emotional. This is a sympathetic novel to Marie Antoinette and is a good sequel to Becoming Marie Antoinette. I will recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and anyone interested in Marie Antoinette.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey: A Book Review

Becoming Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 466
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

     “Why must it be me?” I wondered. 

    When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?”

     Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

     Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. But does she possess the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen?

     My Review: This is the first book of Juliet Grey’s trilogy of Marie Antoinette. This novel tells the story of the early life of Marie Antoinette as an archduchess of Austria and the crown princess of France. In this novel, the Empress of Austria takes her youngest and conventional daughter and grooms her to become a beautiful, sophisticated, and political savvy queen to help strengthen Austria's alliance with France. The author shows that it was not easy for Marie Antoinette to marry the dauphin of France.

     In the beginning of the novel, Marie Antoinette is a ten-year old archduchess named Marie Antonia that doesn't like to do her lessons and would rather catch butterflies with her older sister, Charlotte. However, when the King of France takes an interest in Maria Antonia as a possible wife for the dauphin, the Empress of Austria is determined to do anything that will make her daughter a suitable dauphine of France. However, Maria Antonia has a high forehead, a prominent Hapsburg lip that sometimes gives her a haughty expression, and crooked teeth. Not only must she change her physical appearance by wearing a different hairstyle and having her teeth straightened, but she must also learn to speak French and adopt French customs and etiquette.

     When Marie Antoinette eventually becomes dauphine of France, she is portrayed as stubborn, naive, childish, and judgmental, pitting herself against her husband’s aunts, who dislike her because she is Austrian. Nothing brings them pleasure than to see her fall. She holds stern grudge for Madame Du Barry, the mistress of Louis XV. She ignores her mother’s wishes to speak to Madame Du Barry and continues to snub her, for example, refusing Madame Du Barry’s jewels. Eventually, she agrees to speak to Madame Du Barry, but only spoke a few words to her in her lifetime. Her life as dauphine shows her as naive and how easily she can be used and manipulated as a pawn by her enemies that wish her ill.

     Overall, this book reads like a soap opera. The book is filled with lies and deception, betrayal, scandal, and humor. It is about a young princess that tries to maneuver her way in a hostile court to people who pretend to be her friends but are, in actuality, her enemies. The only drawback from this book is that the French words seems unnecessary in this novel, and it slows the pace of the reading down. This novel is very sympathetic to Marie Antoinette. I recommend this book to fans of Philippa Gregory, and anyone interested in historical fiction.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the author's official book trailer of Becoming Marie Antoinette: