The Stolen Kingdom is the story of two young people thrust into roles they never wanted, didn’t expect and are not quite prepared for. Mara is the daughter of a vintner and she loves tending to her father’s grapes but she has a secret, she can make them grow with magic. But to her knowledge, magic is bad and is only possessed by the King himself. That magic is passed from heir to heir on the throne, a throne which had been stolen generations earlier.
Alac is the King’s second son and uninterested in power and fearful of magic. When his father goes on progress through the kingdom just before his heir is due to be married, he entrusts Alac with a magical medallion to protect him while the king is away. This first taste of magic makes Alac equally intrigued and fearful.
When Mara is kidnapped and brought to the castle in a plot to assassinate the royal family and place her on the throne the plans are soon in jeopardy as she bonds with Alac. The two begin a quest to understand how to contain the magic. As the plot progresses they are torn apart by their loyalties to their side but can they overcome and find a way to peace for the kingdom?
This is definitely a slow moving plot for fantasy and is much more focused on character building than world building. That said we learn more and more about the magic and history of the kingdom as the novel unfolds. It’s fun to see Mara test the boundaries of her magic and gain confidence with it and who she is in the world. There were lots of parallels for me with the story of the Graceling, so my recommendation for today is to preorder this one if you are a fan of Graceling.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Do you prefer a stand-alone fantasy or an epic series?
“‘Perhaps you should think less and pray more.’ I shook my head and dropped back down on the bench. Was even this champion of the Holy Cross now adopting the church’s new attitude toward women? ‘What would you say if I suggested you think less and pray more.’ I asked. ‘But I’m a m-… poet.’ He was about to say ‘man’ but caught himself just in time.”
“You will find few clergy these days who would support this monastery’s continued independence. Especially since the councils have declared your sex and its weaknesses make you incapable of judgment in these matters.”
The Rebel Nun is the story of women in the 6th century. These women may be in a monastery but we learn quite quickly that many of these women did not willingly join the order because they were devoted to the Lord but due to their circumstances. Living as a nun was often a refuge from the life that may have been thrust upon them or that they may have had to result to, due to poverty or lack of options. In the case of our main character Clotild, she was the bastard daughter of a king and simply put, a threat to his legitimate children. So she joined an order where her aunt was the abbess, when her aunt dies, she expects to be elected in her place. When she surprisingly is not, she is hurt and jealous. Quickly the order begins to run in a way that focuses on suffering inordinately ‘for Jesus’ but the truth may be more sinister. As she begins to discover the truth about the abbess and the religious leaders in charge of the order, she realizes that it is simply about power and control. She begins to try to rally her fellow sisters and use her connections to set things to right and the story follows their suffering and their journey to re-set the monastery to its proper place.
The pace of the story is slow but thorough and you really see just how little women’s thoughts and opinions were valued. As a Catholic, I struggled with the point of view the church had during this period with a focus on suffering and fasting of those at the bottom while the top revel in riches (not sure that that much has actually changed there… but I digress…). I was also surprised at how many of the women still believed in their pagan gods and just thought of the Christian god “another one.” You’d have thought women in a monastery would be there to be so devoted to the Lord but that seemed to be quite the afterthought. I also found it quite frustrating how little the women supported each other and how often they jumped to jealousy and accusation of one another.
This was a well written piece of historical fiction about a time period I wasn’t familiar with before.
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Do you have a historical era you like reading about but find it hard at times?
Hi guys, I had a great reading month this month. I finished 23 books, 18 of which were ones where I had committed a review – I’m getting better at prioritizing these. I had my first DNF of the year, although I don’t think it was because the book was bad but more that it wasn’t for me. My absolute favorite of the month was Black Sun which is sitting at my favorite read of the year so far.
The Lost Apothecary is a dual timeline historical fiction / mystery story which brings you between modern times and 1790s London. When Caroline arrives in London on her first trip from the US she stumbles upon a group who are mudlarking, which is looking at tidal earth when the Thames has receded for historical artifacts. She joins and finds an unusual vial with an engraving on it. Her curiosity is heightened and she decides to investigate. What she stumbles upon is a story about an apothecary who had quite the unusual practice and group of customers.
The story expertly slips into the historical timeline and we meet the apothecary and see how her practice came to be. We see how she inherited her mother’s practice and is betrayed by a man which causes her to begin supporting other women who have had similar betrayals. This leads to a slippery slope where she begins offering poisons that lead to murders. We see her ethical struggle with this evolution of the practice. As Caroline reveals the historical details in modern time, we get a glimpse of the truth behind the historical artifacts. We also see how Caroline’s investigations get her in a little hot water.
This is historical fiction expertly done! Read this one if you enjoyed The Sin Eater or In the Shadow of the Sun. It publishes on Tuesday!
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Imagine the day you turn 25, a letter shows up saying that you’re due to inherit a mansion worth millions. Libby get such a letter one day, she finds out that her birth parents didn’t give her up for adoption willingly but had passed away, leaving their home to her upon her 25th birthday. When she sees the place, she is amazed. It’s gorgeous but haunting. An old home that has fallen into disrepair and around every turn lurks secrets of her family’s past. As she begins to dig, she finds an article about how her family died and tracks down the reporter to see if she can uncover more about them. The story follows her on her pursuit of a connection to her parents and the truth of what happened to them.
This was my first Lisa Jewell novel and I wish I had listened to everyone and tried her earlier! This is the type of mystery I like, with a measured pace, multiple POVs and timelines but all done well. The settings are atmospheric and the characters are all interesting in their motives and reactions. I liked that the ending wrapped up nicely but left you with a little bit to ponder. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Have you ever lived with anyone other than a family member? How did it go?
“Sometimes the things we believe in are the most dangerous things about us.”
“Dreams can be parasites we sacrifice ourselves to. Dreams can be monstrous, beautiful things incubated in misery and hatched by spite. Or dreams can be the artifacts we excavate to discover who we really are.”
Inexplicably, I struggled with this one. It had the most vivid scenes that were beautifully written but I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I’d hoped. I think part of it is because you are dropped right into a story where the main character, Kane, remembers nothing about who he is. So you’re on a journey with him through his pursuit of his truth. Turns out that truth is that he is a part of a small group of teens who are seemingly heroes saving the world from these vivid daydreams that seem to be ripping apart reality. The revelations of what’s really going on and why and how Kane fits in didn’t come as fast as I’d hoped and were revealed in the most confusing ways.
The story has great representation and lessons about tolerance and acceptance. I’d say it skews towards the younger side of YA. There is a lot going on but not as much tension building as I’d hoped. The emotions felt shallow and I think in the end I just didn’t care about the characters enough. Check this one out if you want to adventure through the depths of your imagination and get lost for a few hours. I’d say this one is the Wizard of Oz meets The Maze Runner. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Are you a big day dreamer? Where does your mind usually go in a day dream?
The Friar’s Lantern is a nostalgic adult throwback to a Choose Your Own Adventure books. It’s filled with great ethical dilemmas and some interesting psychological challenges. First you enter a trial where you have to make one choice and may win $1M and the next trial is a real one, in court where you must judge whether a man has committed murder. I really enjoyed the unique premise but at times the execution didn’t work for me.
I know with a Choose Your Own Adventure the idea is for you to be the main character but some sections were all too descriptive for my taste and I found myself skimming. Some descriptions were downright wacky: “… clipping along with the somber gumption of the champion sperm kicking down the homestretch to the egg as the befogged pod membrane opens to suck him in with a great vaginal slurp…” I mean that’s a heck of a visual but completely unnecessary way to say you were drawn to a place. So if you love over the top descriptions that make you smirk, this is the right book for you!
You could tell by the wording sometimes of the choices which way the author wanted you to go. Truthfully, because I’m a contrarian and always pick the path no one else chooses, it may frustrate you if you’re a person like me when the author is trying to nudge you onto a path. I read both endings (because yeah, I’m that person too) and was intrigued by the differences and similarities. Definitely try this one if you like being in charge of your own destiny, or if you’re looking for a unique read with an intriguing turn of events or if you just love thinking about ethical dilemmas. It was a fun read with lots of spots to make you think.
Thanks to the author for sharing this novel with me in exchange for my honest opinion. Are you someone who easily goes with the flow of what’s expected of you or do you swim against the tide?
This book has been on my TBR for a while, it’s by an NC author and set in NC and promises a little magic so I thought it’d be right up my alley. The Waverley girls have that special something and everyone in town knows it. Claire is a master gardener who knows exactly the right herbs, fruit and spices to evoke the perfect mood or reaction from a person. Her cousin, gets urges to bring a person a random item that they need at just the right time. When Sydney, Claire’s sister, shows up with her daughter after has been MIA for years it sets off a chain reaction that sends each of their lives and those of their fellow townspeople in new directions.
I’d say this one is Practical Magic meets Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls. The small town vibe means that everyone knows everyone’s business so making a sweeping change in your life is hard and easily scrutinized. There’s lots of whimsy and romance in this one but in the end it was just a bit too saccharine for me. There were a few directions I wanted the story to take but it just didn’t go to the tough places the way I hoped. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
This family has an apple tree where if you eat the apple it will show you the happiest moment in your life or the saddest. Either way it seems to leave people melancholy, either with anticipation or with trepidation. Which memory would you like to see if you had the choice?
“… his thoughts, when he shares them, are like little shoots of green grass on a dry prairie. The flowers on the prickly pears that grow among the rocks.”
I adore stories of the American Prairie and pioneer times. There is such beauty in the untamed land, passion in indigenous stories and strength in the desire of the pioneers for a better life. Where the Lost Wander provides all of that and more. The May family is complex and entertaining. While they are trying for a better life, they find themselves stuck between tradition and desire.
I, myself, got lost in the descriptions of the land and life within the wagon train. The idea of giving it all up and starting over to remake your life has always been romantic to me. The story is slow and descriptive as it builds toward conflict with the environment, amongst the settlers and with the native people. We see the brutality of life, of conflict between two peoples who don’t understand one another but we also see resilience and strength of spirit, healing and forgiveness, the bonds of love and kinship. John plays an important role as a man caught between two peoples, he shows the white men that an indigenous person is a human like any other, to be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. Naomi does as well, she first opens her heart to John regardless of his background and throughout shows compassion and understanding to the natives even though they have done her great injustices. There is a lot to be said for seeing both sides and seeing how misunderstandings can lead to violence but that is not what truly is in each side’s hearts.
I loved the author’s note at the end and the fact that she was reimagining her own family history, that made the book even more meaningful to me.
Thanks to Netgalley for an opportunity to read an ARC of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Do you know any interesting stories from previous centuries of your own family history?
Concrete Rose is exactly what you want from a prequel and that is hard to achieve with a book as stunning as The Hate U Give. In Concrete Rose we get the story of Starr’s father, who was a strong figure in her life and the story of The Hate U Give. We see how Maverick works to break the cycle of gang life that he was born into.
His father is in prison and when the story begins he is slinging drugs and starting out at the base of the King Lord gang. He has a long term girlfriend he adores but he had a slip up and finds out that he’s gotten another girl pregnant. When the mother thrusts the baby upon him, he is forced to leave behind the irresponsibility of boyhood and determine what type of man he wants to be.
At times you will be very frustrated with Maverick and his decisions but rest assured he begins to mature and become wise beyond his years as his circumstances change. In the end you will understand just how he became the strong ethical father who guided Starr through her own journey in The Hate U Give. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Epic Reads for providing me an ARC of this novel. All opinions above are my own.