Friday, July 31, 2015

The Movement of Rings (The Movement of Crowns Series #2) by Nadine C. Keels: A Book Review

The Movement of Rings (The Movement of Crowns Series #2)
Author: Nadine C. Keels
Genre: Christian, Fantasy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 132
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Sequel to The Movement of Crowns

     A time to remember what lies deeper than one's fears…

     The Mundayne empire has seen years of prosperity under the rule of King Aud, a man of war known the world over for his ruthlessness. Naona, a high-spirited imperial servant who holds Aud's favor, occupies herself with pulling pranks on her peers around the king's estate, but the time for laughter spoils when the citizens of Munda begin to oppose increasing taxation. After meeting the princess of Diachona, Naona finds herself having to choose between maintaining loyalty to her king and becoming a personal ally of another nation. With the rise of unrest in Munda, can Naona's heart survive intact: intact enough, even, for an unforeseen chance at love with a foreign man?
     

     My review: This sequel to The Movement of Crowns takes place in the neighboring country of Mundayne with a new protagonist. Naona is a maidservant to King Aud, a ruthless king who over taxes his citizens. When his citizens rebel, he crushes the rebellion very brutally. When Princess Constance visits Mundayne, Naona soon finds her to be a good ally. Naona must choose to be loyal to King Aud or Princess Diachona. When King Aud strikes a war with Diachona, he entrusts her with his signet ring. Naona then has the fate of the kingdom in her hands.

     Naona is very spirited. She is a prankster and likes to play practical jokes in the palace. As a maidservant, she has very high influences with the royal family. The king trusts her, which is why he leaves her his signet ring. However, she constantly questions her future. She wonders if she will end up alone. Eventually she finds romance, but her past haunts her. In order for this romance to work, she must come to terms with herself and be honest with him. I found her to be a very strong protagonist. She is intelligent and observant. She is very bold and does not follow the customs of her country.

     I did find the author’s world-building to be more developed than in her first book. However, it was still very complex, and there was some that I did not really understand. The author is trying to show the two religions in the book, but it was not explained much in detail. While the government of Mundayne was not elaborated, I did like how one girl had the fate of the country in her hands. 

    Overall, this book is about love, friendship, family, and hope. The story was slow at times, and sometimes it overburdens us with the politics and religion that I really did not understand. While the book did not really have much tension, I did like the love story. It was honest, real, and sweet. I really did like the story because of the strong-heroine. The ending was also bittersweet. I also liked visiting some of my favorite characters from the first book. Overall, this is a great sequel that lived up to the first, and the series is very beautiful. I recommend this book to fans of Christian, fantasy, and romance genres, and anyone interested in strong heroines.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Jersey Women in World War II by Patricia Chappine: A Book Review

New Jersey Women in World War II
Author: Patricia Chappine
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Publisher: The History Press
Release Date: June 8, 2015
Pages: 144
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: During World War II, New Jersey’s Women Answered The Call.

     Real-life Rosie the Riveters worked the lines in New Jerseys factories, such as those of General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division, while women on the vulnerable coast enforced blackout orders. Others sold war bonds, planted victory gardens and conserved materials for the war effort. Thousands more served as nurses and in branches of the armed forces like the Women's Army Corps and the U.S. Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. African American women fought a double war, one against the nations enemies and another against discrimination. Historian Patricia Chappine explores the pivotal roles that New Jersey women played in World War II.

     My review: During the Declaration of World War II, the Congress passed the Selective Service and Training Act, which required all men from the ages twenty-one to twenty-six to join the service. This left many opportunities for young women to help participate in different roles of the war that were once denied to them. Many women not only worked in defense industries, but some also joined the army and navy. Some even became nurses to help soldiers both in the U.S and overseas. Also, there was an organization made up of women pilots. In this book, it discusses how the women from New Jersey showed their patriotism by becoming involved in the war.

     While World War II was a troubled time for all, it did give women more opportunities than they had before. Women were now in charge of the household, and some of them even had to be breadwinners. Women were also given the opportunity to join the army and navy, which was unheard of at the time. However, it was not easy for the women to join the military. Because they were met with skepticism from the men, these women had to prove to them that they could do the jobs just as well as them. Each time they accomplished it, the tasks became much harder as it got along. When they passed all of it, they were then treated with respect and were acknowledged with equality.

     I also liked the chapter about the African American women joining the homefront. The African American women were very patriotic to a country who at the time treated them as second-class citizens. These women were not only fighting for World War II, but they also had to experience discrimination during their time of service. While they were allowed to join the army, they still faced segregation. The navy did not accept them to join until later, and the pilot organization never accepted them. While they faced many rejections and discrimination, they never gave up in participating in the war effort.

     Overall, New Jersey Women in World War II gives us a glimpse of the tremendous effort these women contributed in war. These women were strong, capable, and determined. They loved their country, and wanted to help in any way they could. This was a very comprehensive read, and very well-written. This book is a great tribute to these women that participated in the war effort and their accomplishments.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea by Eunsun Kim and Sebastien Falletti: A Book Review

A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea
Author: Eunsun Kim and Sebastien Falletti
Genre: Nonfiction, Modern History, Autobiography and Memoir
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Pages: 240
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country...despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated.

      By the time she was eleven years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.

     Now, Eunsun is sharing her remarkable story to give voice to the tens of millions of North Koreans still suffering in silence. Told with grace and courage, her memoir is a riveting exposé of North Korea's totalitarian regime and, ultimately, a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

     My Review: At eleven years old, Eusun Kim, her mother, and sister flee North Korea. Their escape takes nine long years. Eventually they reach safety and refuge in South Korea. In this heart-wrenching tale, her story of survival also exposes the cruelties of life in North Korea, and living as an illegal alien in China.

     The family in the beginning was not opposed to the dictatorship in North Korea. In fact, they even cried when Kim-Il Sung died. They thought he was a living god and the world had shattered. But during the famine, they were on the verge of death and starvation. In order to survive so they would not die, they decide to flee to China so they could start a new life and not be hungry anymore. After several attempts at crossing the perilous journey into the Chinese borders, they found that freedom was not as it seemed to be. Because of China’s agreement with North Korea, any illegal immigrants had to be sent back immediately upon discovery. Eusun Kim and her family found that this freedom was an illusion and were forced to be in hiding. Because they believed that marriage to a Chinese man would solve the problem of being discovered as an illegal alien, they were tricked when her mother was forced to become a concubine to a mean abusive man. As Eusun’s sorrows grows deeper, soon she finds hatred for her country of North Korea.

     Overall, this story is about determination and hope. They never gave up searching for their freedom. The memoir is very well-written, and very inspiring. While the novel is very quick and an easy read, it is filled with rich details about life in North Korea and as an illegal alien in China. I encourage you to read it because it is a very important book. Not only is it relevant to the issues of our life today, but it also shows us that no matter how tough our life may seem, there is always hope.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman: A Book Review

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 608
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

     The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. 

     As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny? 

     My review: When Seraphina finds out that there are other people of her kind, she embarks on a mission to find them so they can help end the Dragon Civil War. At first, it starts out successful. Later, she realizes that Jannoula, her enemy and another of her kind, becomes a major obstacle in her path. With her immense power, she manages to lure them, and soon one by one they all fall under her spell. Seraphina must find a way to stop her, or else all will be lost.

     Because many of the characters are absent in this novel, it mostly focuses on Seraphina’s loneliness and suffering. At first, she is hopeful and it seems like there is a bright future ahead of her. However, eventually her hopes are dashed and she is broken. Throughout the novel, Seraphina is trying to recover from her hardships and is trying to cope with her loneliness. Throughout her obstacles, Seraphina grows stronger, more mature, and wiser. Unlike the first novel, Seraphina must solve the problems and find the solution herself.

     I also liked the villain, Jannoula. I found her to be a perfect match. I like her backstory, and I began to pity her, even though she made ruthless actions. She was very intelligent and was able to counterattack Seraphina’s attempts. She was a formidable nemesis and was really hard to defeat. One thing - I did wish the author would elaborate more fully on Jannoula’s power. She never fully described what it was or how she used it.

     Overall, the story is about friendship, choices, and redemption. The novel is about a woman trying to find her role in the world. Because I am a fan of Seraphina, and having  been anticipatedly waiting years to read this sequel, I did have a few disappointments. One of the disappointments was that all my favorite characters were largely absent in the story. I hoped to revisit some of my favorite characters and to see how they grow, but sadly there was no growth development in the story with them. This lead to my second disappointment, the love story between Prince Lucien and Seraphina did not grow because Prince Lucien was only in a quarter of the novel, and Seraphina rarely made any conversation with him. Third, I did not like the ending. The ending not only felt rushed, but it also was very unhappy. I felt that it was unhappy not because it was sad, but because there seemed to be no reason to make it unhappy. I believe that the ending could have been prevented if they were true to themselves. The author could have truly give them a happy ending. Despite my disappointments, the story still kept me captivated. Rachel Hartman’s writing seemed to breathe a life of her own, and I soon became more fascinated with her creative expansion of her world. There was also a strong protagonist and a strong antagonist, and I loved the battle of wits between Seraphina and Jannoula. While this sequel is not as good as Seraphina, it is still enjoyable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman: A Bok Review

Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 528
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Lyrical, imaginative, and wholly original, this New York Times bestseller with 8 starred reviews is not to be missed.  Rachel Hartman’s award-winning debut will have you looking at dragons as you’ve never imagined them before…

     In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer. 

     The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

       When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life. 

      My review: In this fantasy series, dragons can take human form and live alongside humans in the kingdom of Goredd. However, many humans fear the dragons and some have formed a secret brotherhood to get rid of them. With the murder of a prince, the peace treaty between dragons and human seems to break. Seraphina, a court musician, is caught in the middle of the feud because of her secret. Seraphina strives to find ways to keep the peace between the humans and dragons.

     As the narrator, Seraphina’s voice is filled with wisdom and maturity, even though she is only in her teens. She has a good grasp of the political intrigue that surrounds her. She is very timid and shy, but she eventually becomes friends with the royal family. I found Seraphina to be a strong heroine. She is not a damsel-in-distress and is capable of taking care of herself and the situation. I also liked her romance with Lucien Kiggs because it is very real. They do not love each other from the start, but rather it grows from friendship. Lucien Kiggs is every inch her equal. He is smart, practical, and observant. He is a gentleman, and he greatly respects Seraphina.

     I loved Rachel Hartman’s world-building. The world. while complex, is very fascinating. I loved how religion is portrayed in this world. It is a world that greatly symbolized the medieval Catholic setting, with saints that are both human and dragon. I also like the mythical creatures in the novel, such as the quigutl, a cousin species to a dragon that eats the city’s garbage.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, family, and romance. It is about a woman who is trying to find her identity. This novel is filled with political intrigue, mystery, and suspense. Rachel Hartman’s world is creative and the characters are definitely complex. While the story is slow-paced, it gradually gains speed. Seraphina is a fun read and a really good treat. Soon you will want to read the sequel, Shadow Scales.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the official book trailer of Seraphina:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Deep Within a Woman's Heart by Joanna Joslin: A Book Review

Deep Within a Woman’s Heart
Author: Joanna Joslin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Union Bridge Books
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 302
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: Emily Taylor, a young headmistress from Yorkshire, first sails aboard the RMS ‘Lusitania’ in 1910 whilst travelling to attend a family wedding on Long Island in America. During that first voyage, she makes a number of acquaintances, all with secrets in their pasts: Amelia Davenport, a flamboyant elderly widow with a salacious history, who is emigrating to America with her son and his family; Sam Jackson, a tough New York Police Inspector, driven by a personal vendetta; Christian Verholt, the heir to a wealthy banking dynasty whose double life includes a mysterious partner; and Niall Branigan, the charming Irish doctor whose twinkling emerald eyes mask hidden family secrets. But as the threat of the First World War looms, it is not only Emily’s life that changes dramatically as a consequence of these encounters, but also the lives of those close to her back in England.

      My review: The sinking of the Lusitania is one of the saddest moments in the history of WWI. This story chronicles the Lusitania’s sinking of the ship. It starts in 1910 with Emily, a schoolteacher, who aboards the Lusitania in 1910. Along the way, she finds love and soon she comes across a crime. Teaming up with Detective Jackson, she joins the investigation that spans two continents and the sinking of the Lusitania.

     I usually do not like to read disaster stories. I find it to be depressing because of the times we live in. However, this story captivated me. The story has romance, mystery, and suspense that kept me glued to my seat wanting to know more about what happened in this story. Because of the plot, I was able to read the disaster of the Lusitania. While it is still depressing, I was happy that the author spent little time writing that event, so that it did not go into overbearing details of this tragedy.

     The main character is Emily. At first, Emily seems to be serious, but she has a spontaneous side. She marries a doctor in secret. This is because as a headmistress of a school, she cannot marry. Instead, she must marry her profession. She is very intelligent, for she notices details about the mystery. She also is very bold; for she is not afraid to reprimand others if she feels like she is crossing the line. She is a good friend and has a compassionate side. She likes to help others.

     Overall, this book is about family, friendship, love, and choices and filled with adventure and suspense. What I did not like about it was an instant love in this plot, however; I did feel that their love begins to mature and grow. It starts out slow and then gradually picks up speed. With great characters, and a well-developed plot, this book will captivate you from the first page until the very end. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, mystery, and disaster stories. If you like reading books about the Titanic, then you will definitely enjoy this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Countess's Captive (Book #2 of The Fairytale Keeper Series) by Andrea Cefalo: A Book Review

The Countess’ Captive (Book #2 of The Fairytale Keeper Series)
Author: Andrea Cefalo
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scarlet Primrose Press
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 234
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: From the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper comes another masterful historically-set retelling of Grimm’s fairytales. The Countess’ Captive combines Grimm’s fairytale characters with real historical settings to create a tale that leaves readers wondering where facts ends and fiction begins.

     During March of 1248, Adelaide Schumacher‒affectionately called Snow White‒has lost so much: her mother, her possessions, and now her home. 

     Adelaide hates abandoning her home city, her family’s legacy, and her first love. More than anything, she hates her father growing closer to her mother’s cousin‒Galadriel. Adelaide plots to end their tryst before her fate is sealed, and she never sets foot in Cologne again. 

     But good and pious can only get Galadriel so far. Never again will she be destitute. Never again will she be known by the cruel moniker‒Cinderella. Never again will someone take what is rightfully hers. No matter what it takes. 

       My review: In this highly anticipated sequel to The Fairytale Keeper, the story picks up right where the previous book left off. Adelaide is leaving Cologne and is forced go to Bitsch, where Galadriel, her mother’s cousin, rules as Countess. Desperate to save her love, Ivo, Adelaide is forced to comply with Galadriel's demands. However, she soon realises that she may never return to Cologne, and that her father may marry Galadriel, whom she so despises. Adelaide vows to do whatever she can to prevent the wedding and to return back to Cologne.

     Adelaide has grown into a strong woman. She is smart and tries her best to live the life she wants. She loves stories and tries her best to become a great storyteller. However, she is still in grief. Her mother has barely been dead for a month, and her father is already looking for a new wife, one who is much younger, prettier, and richer. She feels that her father has betrayed her and sometimes she possesses deep anger for her father. She also feels hatred for her nemesis, Galadriel, for she believes that it is her fault that her father wants to have a new bride.  

     Galadriel is a great nemesis. She too is strong and wise. She is very manipulative, for she knows how to make Adelaide to be compliant to her. I found it very fascinating that she is the counterpart to the fairytale version of Cinderella. She rose up from an advantageous marriage to become countess. However, Galadriel is on the verge of losing her county of Bitsch, and with her marriage to a commoner she may lose it. Galadriel fights to keep the county under her rule.

     The setting of the book is very dark and grim. This book has a very dark outlook upon the nobility. For while Adelaide is in a castle and is given pretty jewels, she is still a prisoner. She feels that her freedom has been stripped from her. The nobility look at her with disdain because she comes from common blood. 

     Overall, this book is about a girl who is trying to find her identity in a cruel world. The characters are well-developed and the plot is fast-paced.  Even though this is a retelling of Snow White, I like how the fairy tales are interwoven in this story. Some of the fairytales are not very common, for example “The Army Surgeon”, and “The Girl with No Hands”. I also like how the villain in this story is Cinderella. This novel is not a standalone and I recommend you read The Fairytale Keeper first. This novel leaves one eagerly anticipating the next book of The Fairytale Keeper series. I recommend you to read this series, for it is a treat for anyone who loves fairy tales.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer in Fire by Kitty Pilgrim: A Book Review

Summer in Fire
Author: Kitty Pilgrim
Genre: Mystery, Adventure, Thriller
Publisher: River Grove Books
Release Date: May 7, 2015
Pages: 344
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: On the beautiful island of Capri, a royal princess begins a secret love affair, oblivious to the dangers that surround her. Internationally renowned novelist Kitty Pilgrim chronicles a modern thriller based in the historic volcanic region of Southern Italy. Her characters, archaeologist John Sinclair and oceanographer Cordelia Stapleton, team up once again for a tale of glamour and romance that spans every level of society-from the dangerous criminal underworld of Naples to the jet set of Europe.

     My review: Royalty, forbidden love, missing jewels, and volcanoes -  who could resist such a plot? This novel also takes the reader to great places as the characters travel to different locations; from the ancient island of Capri, to the ancient city of Herculaneum, to the top of the active Mt. Etna that is on the verge of eruption, to Paris, and London. In this plot, archaeologist John Sinclair and Cordelia Stapleton team up to find the missing necklace of Princess Victoria which leads them to the dangerous criminal organization of Naples. During their investigation, they find themselves facing a natural catastrophe, for the eruption of the volcanoes in Iceland could cause great devastation on a massive scale to Europe.

      The two main characters in this book are John Sinclair and Cordelia. Both of them are scholars and complement the other. John has a good knowledge of history and Cordelia has a good knowledge of science. Both of them make a great team. What I love about Cordelia is not only is she smart, but she is also tough. She does not answer to anyone, and she can fight. She is a strong heroine. John Sinclair is a no-nonsense type. Yet, he has compassion and he is a good friend. I also like the other characters in the novel. All the women in this story were very strong, and I could not help but admire them. They were willing to protect their loved ones, and they would do anything to assure their safety.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, family, and love.  The story has adventure, mystery, and romance. The story is deeply embedded with science and history. With a sizzling plot and a great cast of characters, this novel  will be sure to thrill you. This story captivated me from the first page, and I enjoyed it till the last page. I recommend this book to anyone who likes science, history, mystery, thrillers, and romance. This book is also perfect for those who is looking for a great beach read.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars


This is the official book trailer of Summer in Fire:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11) by Jacqueline Winspear: A Book Review

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11)
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystey
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 320
Source: TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Four years after she set sail from England, leaving everything she most loved behind, Maisie Dobbs at last returns, only to find herself in a dangerous place . . .  

     In Jacqueline Winspear‘s  powerful story of political intrigue and personal tragedy, a brutal murder in the British garrison town of Gibraltar leads Maisie into a web of lies, deceit, and peril.

     Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England; her aging father Frankie Dobbs is not getting any younger.

     But on a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

     Yet the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way.

     My review: Due to a personal tragedy, Maisie decides to leave India to come back home to England. However, because England gives her painful memories of what she had lost, she decides to disembark in Gibraltar to give her some time to heal before she goes back. One day while walking on the beach, she finds the dead body of a photographer. For the sake of the victim’s family, Maisie seeks to find the murderer. During her hunt, she finds herself amidst politics and with a war hanging near with danger everywhere around her.

     Maisie is emotionally distraught and grief-stricken. To get her mind off of her personal life, she decides to focus on the case. She is very observant and gives a thorough analyzation of the evidence that leaves her to believe that the police’s theory is not right. So, she decides to take the time and dedication to this case for the victim’s family because the police are more concerned with the war. Maisie is a likable heroine and the reader feels for her pain and sadness. She can be very bitter for she can hold grudges for people who did her wrong. She is also easy to read because every character she encounters seems to know what she is thinking.

      The writing is haunting and lyrical. It’s tone is very dark, sad, and depressing. One of the reasons why this is because the character is trying to recover from tragedy. Another reason is that World War II is around and there is danger everywhere. There is a sense of death all around. I also found the historical backdrop of politics to be very interesting, and I felt that she did a great job of making the story come alive.

     Overall, this book is filled with political intrigue, mystery, and suspense. The plot starts out slow, but then gradually gains speed with twists and turns everywhere. The book has a great cast of characters and an evocative setting of World War II. Although I have never read any books in the Maisie Dobbs Series, this book can be a standalone because of the murder case and it gives the reader a good background of the novels so the reader won’t be lost. This book has greatly increased my interest in the series. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and mystery, and also to anyone that is looking for a good read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisa DeCarlo: A Book Review

The Abortionist’s Daughter
Author: Elisa DeCarlo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Mad Fashionista Enterprises
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 337
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: It’s 1916 and Melanie Daniels, the prettiest girl in Mullers Corners, New York, and daughter of the town’s doctor, dreams of making a brilliant marriage. But scandal has doomed her dreams. Six years ago a woman died while receiving an abortion from Melanie’s father, and now that “the killer doc” is back from prison, Mullers Corners won’t forgive and won’t let Melanie forget her family’s disgrace. 

     Angry at both her father and the town, Melanie is easily swayed by a charming stranger who arouses mysterious new feelings in her and begs her to run away with him to New York City. Neither the stranger nor her life in the big city turn out to be what Melanie expects, and soon the twists of fate lead her into a new life in the less-than-respectable world of the theater--and a new understanding of her own womanhood and her father’s crime. Filled with vivid scenes of backstage life and fascinating vignettes of long-ago society, fashion, and mores, The Abortionist’s Daughter explores the challenges of being a woman in early 20th century America with drama, passion, and wit. 

     My review: Because of her father’s crime as an abortionist doctor, Melanie is the town outcast. Everyone shuns her and makes fun of her. However, when she meets an older man who comes into the town. Melanie is intrigued by him because he respects her and does not shun her for her father’s crime. She then runs away with him to New York City in hopes to elope with him. One day when he abandons her, she is forced to go back home where the town’s hatred of her deepens and she is treated even more harshly. In order to get rid of the stigma of her father’s crime and her own mistakes, Melanie vows to be a famous actress in New York City.

     Melanie is at first very naive. She has low self-esteem because everyone judges her for her father’s crime and bullies her. She wants to be seen as an equal, and wants a person to love her for who she is. Because of this desire, she easily falls in love with a stranger because he seems to respect her and not judge her. She is very intelligent and observant for she notices the lies that the stranger tells her. She is also very ambitious for she dreams to become a famous actress so she can finally start her life anew and people could finally admire and respect her. Her ambition drives her determination for she never gives up on her dream no matter her hardships.

     While the premise is interesting, I did not find it executed very well. I found the book to be very boring and the story very dragged out. I felt that the novel could have easily been condensed at least a hundred pages. Melanie’s relationship with the stranger covered half the book, and I lost interest by the time I reached the story of Melanie trying to be an actress. I read it till the end hoping that soon I would end up liking the book, but even the last third of the story could not redeem the story itself for me.

        Overall, this story is about a woman who is searching for her own identity. The message of the book is to not give up no matter how hard it seems. The story is not really well-executed. Melanie is the only character that is well-rounded. I did like her mother, for she is so tough that she is definitely not someone to get on her bad side. However, the rest of the characters are cardboard-cutouts. The characters are just there, there is very little character-development. I did find the setting to be well-developed and I feel that the author had done her research on the era of the topic. She did a great job of bringing to life twentieth century New York City. I recommend this story to anyone interested in theater history.

Rating: 2½ out of stars

This is the official book trailer of The Abortionist's Daughter:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson: A Book Review

The Swan Maiden
Author: Jules Watson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: 2009
Pages: 560
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: In this lush, romantic retelling of one of the most enduring Irish legends, acclaimed Celtic historical author Jules Watson reignites the tale of Deirdre—the Irish Helen of Troy—in a story that is at once magical, beautiful, and tragic.

     She was born with a blessing and a curse: that she would grow into a woman of extraordinary beauty—and bring ruin to the kingdom of Ulster and its ruler, the wily Conor. Ignoring the pleadings of his druid to expel the infant, King Conor secrets the girl child with a poor couple in his province, where no man can covet her. There, under the tutelage of a shamaness, Deirdre comes of age in nature and magic…. And in the season of her awakening, the king is inexorably drawn to her impossible beauty.

     But for Deirdre, her fate as a man’s possession is worse than death. And soon the green-eyed girl, at home in waterfall and woods, finds herself at the side of three rebellious young warriors. Among them is the handsome Naisi. His heart charged with bitterness toward the aging king, and growing in love for the defiant girl, Naisi will lead Deirdre far from Ulster—and into a war of wits, swords, and spirit that will take a lifetime to wage.

     Brimming with life and its lusts, here is a soaring tale of enchantment and eternal passions—and of a woman who became legend.


     My review: The Swan Maiden is a retelling of “Deirdre of the Sorrows”, an Irish Helen of Troy. In this story, Deirdre, who at birth was born with a curse that her beauty would be the downfall of the king. In order to change the fate of his doom, King Connor decides to give the girl over to a poor couple and hides them in the woods where no one knows of their whereabouts. He then makes her betrothed and wants her adopted parents to raise her to love the king. However when Deirdre becomes of marriageable age, she decides to reject the king because of his old age and soon falls into the hands of three warriors. She and the oldest of the three Naisi soon fall in love with each other. Soon, their star-crossed romance not only brings about the ruin of the king, but also the kingdom.

      At first, Deirdre is portrayed as a naive young girl. She does not know much about the world around her. However, she loves nature, and it is as if she and nature are of one being. She is also very spirited for she chose to defy the king. She is also very intelligent, which helps her to overcome her obstacles. Deirdre is also very lonely. She has no siblings to confide in, and yet when she meets Naisi and his two brothers, she feels kinship with them, and they become her family and her home. I also liked the slow-budding relationship between Deirdre and Naisi. It is begins as friendship then grows into a romance.

      Overall, this book is about friendship, family, and love. This book is filled with adventure, danger, and a forbidden romance. The writing is very lyrical, and the story is beautiful, haunting, and tragic. The characters are very complex and intriguing. I also liked how the Celtic world has come alive in her novel. When I first read the book in college, I was so immersed in the story that after I finished reading the last page, I went back and re-read it. I have read this novel many times, and it is still an emotional read every time. I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good mythological retelling, fantasy and romance. This novel is sure to stick with you even after you have read the last page, so much that you will be craving to read it again. I am looking forward to reading her companion novel, The Raven Queen.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales: A Book Review

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered
Author: Dianne Hales
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 336
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Everybody knows her smile, but no one knows her story: Meet the woman who became the most recognized artistic subject of all time--Mona Lisa.

     Florence’s Most Famous Daughter is virtually invisible in her own hometown. No plaques commemorate where she lived; no monuments or streets bear her name. Yet a genius immortalized her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Hers was the city that thrills us still, home to larger-than-legend figures such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. But all that remains of Lisa is her smile.

     Intrigued by new findings confirming the identity of Leonardo's model, Dianne Hales began a personal quest to unearth the story of Mona Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. She combed archives for fragile records, walked the squalid street where Lisa was born, explored her neighborhoods, met her descendants, and ventured into many of Florence’s oldest and most beautiful palazzi. The result is a fascinating blend of biography, history, and memoir--a tour of Florence like no other and a journey of discovery that re-creates Lisa’s daily life in a time poised between the medieval and the modern, in a vibrant city bursting into fullest bloom, and in a culture that redefined the possibilities of man--and of woman.

     My review: Mona Lisa’s smile has captured the imaginations of millions of people over the centuries. She is such a part of our everyday popular culture that the woman herself is often forgotten about. This biography is about the life of the model of Mona Lisa, Lisa Gherardini. Her life is just as mysterious as a painting because she is a face without a voice. However, the conclusion is that Mona Lisa is an everyday Renaissance woman who represents a woman of virtue.

     Because there are so very few facts about Lisa Gherardini, the author has taken great challenge to find out about her life. Through her meticulous research to uncover the woman behind the painting, we get a glimpse of who the real Mona Lisa might have been. She was an impoverished aristocrat who married a wealthy man and had six children. Her husband, Francesco del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to paint her portrait. Lisa is a woman who is virtuous and who raised her children. She is also portrayed as being devoutly religious for she sent her two daughters into a nunnery and chose to be buried in a convent. She is also portrayed as being a survivor of the turbulent times of Florence.

     The author does a great job of describing Florence Renaissance everyday life. She describes the dangerous times in Florence and the power struggle of the Medici family that ruled there. I also found the descriptions of Renaissance art very fascinating. I like Leonardo da Vinci’s rivalry with Michelangelo, for I liked how the two famous artists were jealous of the other. I also liked the part of Leonardo’s work on the Mona Lisa, for even though he procrastinated he was very dedicated to his painting.

      Overall, the Mona Lisa was a symbol of a Renaissance woman’s virtue.  While the author’s writing is very comprehensive, sometimes she tends to jump from subject to subject and is sometimes hard to follow, Many times I would have to go back a few pages and re-read it to understand. However, I think she has a good description of Renaissance Florence. I also like how she describes how Mona Lisa has become a popular icon over the centuries. I recommend this novel to not only anyone interested in the Mona Lisa, but also in travel, art, and the Renaissance. This book is a tribute not only to Lisa Gherardini herself, but also to the women who lived in Florence during the Renaissance.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is the author talking about her book, Mona Lisa. In this video there are five facts about the real Mona Lisa that you may not know: 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones: A Book Review

Four Sisters, All Queens
Author: Sherry Jones
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 434
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Rich in intrigue and scheming, love and lust, Sherry Jones’s vibrant historical novel follows four women destined to sway the fate of nations and the hearts of kings. . . 

     Amid the lush valleys and fragrant wildflowers of Provence, Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice have learned to charm, hunt, dance, and debate under the careful tutelage of their ambitious mother—and to abide by the countess’s motto: “Family comes first.” 

     With Provence under constant attack, their legacy and safety depend upon powerful alliances. Marguerite’s illustrious match with the young King Louis IX makes her Queen of France. Soon Eléonore—independent and daring—is betrothed to Henry III of England. In turn, shy, devout Sanchia and tempestuous Beatrice wed noblemen who will also make them queens. 

     Yet a crown is no guarantee of protection. Enemies are everywhere, from Marguerite’s duplicitous mother-in-law to vengeful lovers and land-hungry barons. Then there are the dangers that come from within, as loyalty succumbs to bitter sibling rivalry, and sister is pitted against sister for the prize each believes is rightfully hers—Provence itself. 

     From the treacherous courts of France and England, to the bloody tumult of the Crusades, Sherry Jones traces the extraordinary true story of four fascinating sisters whose passions, conquests, and progeny shaped the course of history.

     My review: In the area of Southern Provence, the countess has an illustrious dream of making all her daughters queens. This seems impossible because there are other more suitable candidates to be queens. Yet, the countess strives to make this dream possible by having her husband’s servant Romeo to convince the King of France to marry her eldest daughter, Marguerite. Through Romeo’s charm, the match is made, Marguerite becomes the Queen of France. Marguerite's marriage to France soon trickles down to where all her other sisters become queens too. Eleonore is married to the King of England, and soon Sanchia and Beatrice marry men who will eventually make them queens. However, the mother reminds her girls that family comes first. With their ambition, greed, and own personal struggles, they forget their mother’s advice about helping their sisters. 

     The author creates a cast of complex and dynamic characters. Each of the sisters are so different. yet, they are both human and flawed. The sisters’ lives are very fascinating and sometimes tragic that I could not help but  empathize with them. These sisters grew from naive women to become mature, intelligent, and strong from the trials that they faced. Because Marguerite and Eleonore suffered the neglect of their husbands in their marriage, they turned toward ambition and power as sources of consolation. Because Sanchia’s  husband was disappointed in her, Sanchia strove to be ambitious in order to gain her husband’s respect and love. Beatrice wanted to be queen so she could have respect from her sisters. Each of the queens were admirable because they faced their problems with unyielding courage head-on in the face of their adversaries.

     Overall, this novel is about family. It is about women striving to have power in a world that is dominated by men. The novel is about the meaning of power and the consequences and sacrifices they made because of it. This novel reads like a soap opera because there is a lot of drama and rivalry between the sisters. However, the novel is very enlightening and thought-provoking because it discusses Medieval issues and thought. This helps make the story become alive. The setting depicted the Middle Ages in a realistic setting. This novel is a great tribute not only to these four fascinating women, but also to women in the medieval period.

This is the author talking about her novel, The Four Queens:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Where Freedom Rings: A Tale of The Underground Railroad by Steven Donahue: A Book Review

Where Freedom Rings: A Tale of The Underground Railroad
Author: Steven Donahue
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 192
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: The thrilling story of four slaves who try to escape to the northern area of the United States along the Underground Railroad in 1853. Kelsa Colver leads her husband and two young sons on the dangerous trek after a fellow slave is murdered by a vindictive slave owner. Along the way, the Colvers are assisted by various abolitionists, including a neighboring farmer, a progressive priest, a sympathetic lawman, and notable figures Harriet Tubman and William Still. However, their efforts are impeded by a dark family secret, and the interventions of a corrupt clergyman, vicious outlaws and greedy slave hunters.

     My review: This story tells of a slave family as they try to escape the South to find freedom in the North. Kelsa is a slave on the plantation with her husband and two children, but they are treated cruelly and with hate. When a new slave on the plantation talks about running away, Kelsa begins to dream of finding freedom herself. She and her family soon escapes through the Underground Railroad, but as they flee they know that danger is everywhere, even if they reach their destination in the North. Soon she begins to realize that her dreams of freedom is an illusion as she begins to understand her reality.

     Kelsa is the main character in the story, and it is told from her point of view. She is very idealistic, but over time she becomes a realist. She dreams of having a farm with her husband and that her sons would be free of bondage. Her dream of freedom is what she wants most, and she is willing to risk everything, including the lives of her family to have it. She is very courageous and strong-willed. It is clear that she is the leader of the family because everyone follows her decisions. She is intelligent, for she is literate. She is a compassionate mother, and she educates her sons and teaches them to read. Kelsa is a tough character, and it is through her strength that is the foundation of their family and what keeps them together as they flee to the North.

     Overall, this book is about family and sacrifice. It also questions the meaning of freedom. This book was a very thrilling read. It has action and suspense at every corner that I couldn’t stop reading to find out what would happen next. I was rooting for Kelsa and her family that I wanted them to find their freedom in the North. The reading was also very emotional because the family went through a lot of hardships. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here is the official book trailer to the book, Where Freedom Rings:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured by Kathryn Harrison: A Book Review

Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured
Author: Kathryn Harrison
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 400
Source:Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: The profoundly inspiring and fully documented saga of Joan of Arc, the young peasant girl whose "voices" moved her to rally the French nation and a reluctant king against British invaders in 1428, has fascinated artistic figures as diverse as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Carl Dreyer, and Robert Bresson. Was she a divinely inspired saint? A schizophrenic? A demonically possessed heretic, as her persecutors and captors tried to prove?

     Every era must retell and reimagine the Maid of Orleans's extraordinary story in its own way, and in Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, the superb novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison gives us a Joan for our time—a shining exemplar of unshakable faith, extraordinary courage, and self-confidence during a brutally rigged ecclesiastical inquisition and in the face of her death by burning. Deftly weaving historical fact, myth, folklore, artistic representations, and centuries of scholarly and critical interpretation into a compelling narrative, she restores Joan of Arc to her rightful position as one of the greatest heroines in all of human history.

     My review: The story of Joan of Arc is a classic underdog tale. When France was on the verge of losing their nation and suffered under the English invasion, a peasant girl who claimed she heard the voices of the angels and saints to take up arms and help restore the nation by crowning Charles VII in Reims. Joan claims she is the fulfillment of the prophecy that a virgin would restore France. Interweaving folklore and facts, this biography recounts the life of Joan of Arc to show the reader Joan’s accomplishments and controversy.

      I have always been fascinated by Joan of Arc, a peasant who inspired many soldiers and dressed as a man, defying the conventions of women at that time. Her story and her tragic end seemed like a good fable that I wondered about what was fact and fiction. Did Joan really hear the voices of the angels and saints? While I was intrigued about Joan of Arc, I never really had the chance to get around to learn about her life. However, when this book was on Netgalley, I finally got the chance to learn about Joan of Arc. I immediately gobbled the book up within twenty-four hours. 

     I have always thought of Joan of Arc as a saintly person, whom the average person could not connect with. However, In this biography, Joan is portrayed as human and flawed girl. She was pious but was also vain and prideful. She was courageous, yet she had many fears. She was a woman who bravely faced many trials and who never wavered in her beliefs. She was very intelligent and had a good memory. This Joan was very relatable to the reader that we could not help but root for her and sympathize with her plight.

     Overall, this book is about Joan’s unwavering faith in God. While the book does not answer the question straightforwardly of if Joan was God’s agent, it is clear that the author admires her subject and believes that Joan is who she claims to be. I also liked how the author analyzes Joan through how she is portrayed in popular culture. This shows how her story has captured people’s imaginations of her throughout the centuries.Therefore, this book is a great introduction to Joan of Arc for anyone who is looking to depict the facts and the myths of Joan.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey: A Book Review

Isabella: The Warrior Queen
Author: Kirstin Downey
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 544
Source:Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history.

     Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, twenty-three-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and León. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a twenty-four-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus's trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain's reputation for centuries. Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella's influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.


     My review: Queen Isabella is one of the early pioneers of Spanish global dominance in the Americas. She helped strengthen the country’s political discord, and helped Spain to be viewed as a nation to be admired by her contemporaries. She is also the ancestor of many future descendants of the royal families in Europe. Thus, Isabella is one of the most important figures in Spanish history because of the contributions that she made in her reign.

     I've always been fascinated with Queen Isabella of Spain, and this book did not disappoint. The story of how she got to the Spanish throne was equally fascinating. She was the most unlikely inheritor, and her birth held no significance because she had two brothers. However, Queen Isabella was a political genius and she rose to the throne by herself, and not with her husband Ferdinand, who was mad at her because she took it without notifying him about it. To save her marriage, she agreed to let Ferdinand write his name first on all the political documents, which made her look insignificant to history. Therefore, all the recognition of Spain’s accomplishments were given to Ferdinand, when in fact, it was actually Isabella that deserved the credit.

     The author shows that Isabella was a loving mother. She tried to give her daughters an education that she herself lacked. And even though it was essential that daughters had to be  arranged marriages for the good of Spain, she at least found them prospective bridegrooms who were handsome and around their age so that the daughters could have a happy and successful marriage. Isabella also did not want her daughters to leave and wanted them to stay by her side, and tried everything she could to delay them from going. When they finally left, she missed them greatly.

     Overall, this biography shows that Isabella is a strong ruler, and was successful in a world that was dominated by men. The fact that she succeeded during her reign shocked many of her contemporaries that a woman could rule effectively. The author's writing was very engaging.The description of Isabella's religious views, and her reasoning with the Inquisition I found a little dry. However, I felt that it was important because it gives us an understanding of why Isabella made ruthless actions, for example her expulsion of the Moors in Granada, the Spanish Inquisition, and the treatment of the Native Americans in the American colonies. The book is not written in chronological order and focuses on the controversial topics of her reign, but this book is a very comprehensive read and is easy to understand for the general reader. This biography is very feminist, and I recommend this biography to anyone interested in seeing  Queen Isabella in a different light.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Spider and The Stone: A Novel of Scotland's Black Douglas by Glen Craney: A Book Review

The Spider and The Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas
Author: Glen Craney
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Brigid’s Fire Press
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 433
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: As the 14th century dawns, Scotland’s survival hangs by a spider’s thread. While the Scot clans scrap over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm.

     But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch’s path.

     The beleaguered Scots cherish him as their "Good Sir James." In England, his slashing raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such terror that he is branded the Black Douglas with a reward placed on his head.

     As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. But his world is upturned when he befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make fateful decisions that will draw the opposing armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.

     Isabelle will crown a king. James will carry a king's heart. Both now take their rightful places with Robert Bruce, Rob Roy, and William Wallace in the pantheon of Scot heroes.

     Here is the story of Scotland’s War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar, to the suppressed Culdee Church, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, the stirring oath document that inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later.

     The Spider and the Stone is the unforgettable saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, and heroic sacrifice that saved Scotland during its time of greatest peril.

     My review: Edward Longshanks, the king of England, has invaded Scotland. Scottish subjects had suffered severely from the English tyranny. With the death of William Wallace, also known as Braveheart, many had lost hope of Scotland ever being free. However, two people, James Douglas and Isabella MacDuff, fight to defy the English, and to place their own king, Robert the Bruce, on the  Scottish throne. This inspires the Scottish people to take up arms against the English, and to fight for their independence.

     The two main characters in this novel are James Douglas and Isabella MacDuff. James is furious against the English when they killed his father for treason because of fighting with William Wallace, and sacked his home. He decides to work under Bishop Lamberton because the bishop is a staunch fighter for Scotland’s independence, and chooses his best friend, Robert the Bruce, as his rightful king. He also holds a loyal and unwavering love for Isabella.

     Isabella is a MacDuff, and the Scottish contract states that a MacDuff chooses who is to be the King of Scotland. Because of her lineage, Isabella was born to be a pivotal pawn to those who covet the Scottish crown. However, Isabella takes matters into her own hands and decide the destiny of Scotland. She is strong-willed and very outspoken. She is not afraid to stand up against the English king. She is also very compassionate and selfless and would often sacrifice her own happiness for those of others. She has deep love for James because she is willing to leave her husband and family to be with James and his cause.

     The story is very well-written. The setting of Scotland is very lush, and their culture and history comes alive. James is a classic underdog, who the readers root for to save Scotland. His friendship with Robert the Bruce is very realistic and true. While their friendship was complicated with a few fallouts, they never stopped being friends. They trusted each other and believed in each other. I also loved the romance between James and Isabella. Their star-crossed romance was very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

     Overall, this book is filled with hope, friendship, forbidden love, and their patriotic love to their country. The message of the book is to never given up even if it seems impossible. I also like how the story showed it was the strength of the Scottish women that helped the men win their independence. The characters are very complicated, and the setting is beautiful. While there are some scenes that seem unnecessary and the plot is slow-paced and often drawn out, the story is worth reading because the story itself comes alive. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Scottish history, culture, or anyone who is interested in the after events of William Wallace. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars