Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

     I can't believe that in a few hours I will be looking at 2017! This has been a good year! Before I write my reviews for books that I will read in the new year, I am going to list my favorite books that I have read this year.



    The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe is a retelling of St. Augustine's Confessions but told from the perspective of St. Augustine's nameless concubine. This is a beautiful story of redemption and of finding one's identity and happiness.



     Platinum Doll by Anne Girard chronicles the early life of Jean Harlow. This novel shows us how Jean Harlow became a star and the sacrifices that she made along the way.  I really hope that Mrs. Girard will write a sequel that focuses on Jean Harlow's later years. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!



     Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly is about the love story between Bess and Harry Houdini. I have always been fascinated by Houdini, and I feel that this book gives us a compelling love story that transcends life and death.


    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min chronicles the early life of Empress Dowager Cixi, one of China's most powerful and controversial figures. She is China's last empress, and her rule ended the Chinese Imperial era. I thought that this book gives a good portrait of Cixi. While it is sympathetic of Cixi, I really like how the author did not try to cover her flaws. This book shows us the hard decisions and sacrifices that she made to become the Empress Dowager.


    America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was Thomas Jefferson's daughter and who undertook the role of First Lady when her father became president. She is often a forgotten woman in history. This book shows us that she is a woman who deserves to be recognized for her accomplishments.


   Sisi by Alison Pataki focuses on the later years of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. I really loved The Accidental Empress, and I was happy that this sequel surpassed it! This is a heart-breaking and tragic story about a vulnerable woman who spent her whole life searching for happiness that she was never truly able to find.


    I Am Livia is a biographical novel about Livia Drusilla, the wife of Emperor Augustus. I admired the relationship between Livia and Augustus. 



     The Moon in The Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel focuses on how Wu Zetian, China's only female emperor, becomes empress. I have always been fascinated by Wu Zetian, and The Empress of China starring Fan Bingbing, which is also about Wu Zetian, is one of my favorite tv series of all time. Because of this, I was more critical with this book than any other this year while reading this series. It is safe to say that this series did not disappoint, and I have re-read this duology three times this year, while re-watching my favorite series!



    The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard is a gothic, paranormal romance set in Victorian England and features a deaf protagonist. This was a very fun read with a beautiful love story. I look forward to reading more of the series!




     Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas is a biography of John Quincy Adams's wife. She is the only First Lady to have been born overseas. I really love this biography because she has been eclipsed by her mother-in-law, Abigail Adams. This book shows that Louisa Adams fought for women's rights. This biography reminds us that she should also deserve more recognition in history.




Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge tells the story of Hatshepsut, one of the few female Pharaohs of Egypt.


     The Last Heiress by Stephanie Liaci tells the story of Queen Ankhesenamun, King Tut's wife. This was a beautiful story. The ending was very tragic and shocking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1) by Cheryl Honigford: A Book Review

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1)
Author: Cheryl Honigford
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bright lights. Big city. Brutal murder.

     Chicago, 1938. Late one night before the ten o'clock show, the body of a prominent radio actress is found in the station's lounge. All the evidence points to murder—and one young, up-and-coming radio actress, Vivian Witchell, as the next victim. But Vivian isn't the type to leave her fate in the hands of others—she's used to stealing the show. Alongside charming private detective Charlie Haverman, Vivian is thrust into a world of clues and motives, suspects and secrets. And with so much on the line, Vivian finds her detective work doesn't end when the on-air light goes out...

     The gripping first novel in a new series from debut author Cheryl Honigford, The Darkness Knows is a thrilling mystery that evokes the drama and scandal of radio stardom in prewar Chicago.

     My Review: Vivian just landed her role as a sidekick on a mystery radio show. Everything seems to be going well for her until before her ten o'clock show where she stumbles across the body of a famous radio star at the station’s lounge. It soon becomes clear that she is the next intended target. However, Vivian doesn't want to sit still and wait to be murdered. She teams up with Charlie Haverman, a private detective, to find the killer before she gets her name crossed off the list.

     I really didn't like the two main characters. Vivian is ambitious. She dreams of becoming famous and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She makes many sacrifices to hang on to her role. While I did find her to be smart, inquisitive, determined, and observant, I didn't really think she was a strong heroine. She was very selfish, vain, and is more obsessed with men than solving the murder. Vivian didn't seem to have a heart or care about anyone. She was also judgmental and did not have anything nice to say to her co-workers. Therefore, it was really hard for me to like her as a protagonist. 

     Charlie was not much better. He seemed to be very one-dimensional. He is the same type of detective that never likes female characters to investigate murder cases because it is unladylike. Other than that cliche that has been done many times before, there wasn't much character development there. He didn't really do anything in this book except to tell the heroine over and over that she shouldn't get involved.

     Overall, this had unlikable characters in a predictable mystery. The romance felt forced. There was no reason except their looks as to why the two leads are attracted to each other. You could figure out the killer from the first page. I also did not think that there was much historical detail in this book because it seems as if it could take place in the modern day. The only thing I did like about this book is that it takes place at a radio station. As someone who for a radio station, I found the setting to be very fascinating. Even though this is the first book in the series, I'm still uncertain as to whether I should continue with the sequels since I didn't like the characters. I recommend this book to those who are looking for a light cozy mystery while snuggling up in front of the fireplace. However, I found this book had potential to be a starter in a new favorite historical mystery series. Sadly, it was just poorly executed.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars