The Captive Queen by Alison Weir

The Captive Queen by Alison Weir

It is the year 1152, and a beautiful woman rides through France, fleeing her crown, her two young daughters and a shattered marriage.

Her husband, Louis of France has been more monk than monarch, and certainly not a lover. Now Eleanor of Aquitaine has one sole purpose: to return to her duchy and marry the man she loves, Henry Plantagenet, destined for greatness as King of England. It will be a union founded on lust, renowned as one of the most vicious marriages in history, and it will go on to forge a great empire and a devilish brood.

This is a story of the making of nations, and of passionate conflicts: between Henry II and Thomas Becket; between Eleanor and Henry’s formidable mother Matilda; between father and sons, as Henry’s children take up arms against him – and finally between Henry and Eleanor herself. (Goodreads)

Eleanor of Aquitaine was first married to King Louis of France, but he was more interested spending his time in prayers than with his wife. She’s not happy and extremely bored and when it’s suggested that Louis finds a new wife to get much needed male heir she’s not resisting.
Then she meets young Henry FitzEmpress and it’s insta-lust from the start. After Eleanor gets her divorce from Louis she and Henry marries without permission.

I’m still wondering why I ever started this book and how I managed to finish it. I haven’t been huge fan of her fiction books but this sure was something.

The sex scenes weren’t so bad than I thought and not as graphic but I don’t need sex scenes from the start. At page 2 she’s remembering her hot night with her future husband’s father and it’s downhill from there. But then she sees Henry for the first time and forgets Geoffrey just like that and after just few hours after their first meeting Eleanor and Henry are having sex. She’s supposed to have had an affair with this troubadour guy too, and of course with her uncle. Because if there’s some ugly rumour ever spoken of Eleanor you can trust to find it in here. As I said the sex wasn’t that graphic but it also wasn’t good and got very repetitive very soon. And I’m wondering how she managed to do all this without her servants knowing?

At page 22 we get this wonderful peace of information

Henry was surprised to find his father’s muscles iron-hard – not bad for an old man of thirty-eight, he thought. He had glimpsed too Geoffrey’s impressive manhood, and wondered seriously for the first time if his father had indeed been speaking the truth about knowing Eleanor carnally, and if he had, whether he had satisfied her as well as he, Henry, had done.

Like any normal father-son day, right?

Somehow Weir manages to turn this strong and intelligent woman into weak, childish, sex-addicted woman. And her portrayal of Henry isn’t that better. Where is this powerful man who’s spectacular rages made men fear? Instead we get someone who spends most of his time drinking, swiving random women at closets and other random places and stamping his foot when everything won’t go as he planned. There’s some fighting between Eleanor and Henry but unfortunately it sounds like a 3 year old is having a tantrum.

And if this all wasn’t enough she had to make Beckett to be in love with Henry. Like seriously?

I wasn’t fan of the writing itself which was the biggest reason why I hated this. But towards the end something happens and the writing get better and the characters started coming to life. We actually get one moving scene between Eleanor and Henry regarding Rosamund.
Speaking of writing, at some point after she has given birth she’s thinking about how queen’s can’t raise their kids and breastfeed them by themselves and then few pages after she puts the baby to her breast. Ouch!

I think this is time to stop reading her fiction books and not even try her next book!

Published: Arrow (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Source: my own

Secrets of the Tudor Court:The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson

Secrets of the Tudor Court:The Pleasure Palace (Secrets of the Tudor Court 1) by Kate Emerson

Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters — the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon. Then a dashing French prisoner of war, cousin to the king of France, is brought to London, and Jane finds she cannot help giving some of her heart — and more — to a man she can never marry. But the Tudor court is filled with dangers as well as seductions, and there are mysteries surrounding Jane’s birth that have made her deadly enemies. Can she cultivate her beauty and her amorous wiles to guide her along a perilous path and bring her at last to happiness? (Goodreads)

After the king of France dies, Jane’s mother flees to England where her twin brother lives in the court of King Henry VII. Jane is taken as a ward by Henry VII and to be raised with the royal children. She is just settling down to the new life when her uncle tells her the news of her mother’s death.

As an adult Jane serves princess Mary when her life takes a turn when French prisoner comes to court with his bastard half-brother who happens to be Jane’s childhood friend. Now that her friend is in England Jane sees opportunity to search answers about what happened to her mother.

When I think about this book the first word come to mind are meh and boring. Not necessarily a good thing…
Author has clearly done lot of research and it shows in the book but it fails to make it any more interesting. I didn’t much care for the heroine and couldn’t understand many of her decisions. I was starting to nodd off until about half way through it got somewhat interesting. I have to admit taking a peek and reading some scenes between Jane and Guy and it’s the only thing that got me through the whole thing.

I didn’t understand the reason why Jane and her mother had to leave France or why would it be such a big deal. I mean that was kinda common thing at the time. And why would it make Margaret Beaufort hate her mother so much. Shouldn’t Elizabeth of York be more mad about it?

I just doesn’t seem to have much to say about this and in the end all I can say is that is was okay.

Published: Simon & Schuster (2009)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Source: my own

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway–a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love–a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per-formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. (Goodreads)

Celia and Marco are bound to a duel from childhood by their mentors, to a duel from which only one of them will survive. The venue is a circus that arrives without notice and opens only after sun goes down. But what their mentors did not take into account was that they might fall in love.

I’m so happy I finally decided to read this because I loved it! Before I started it I wasn’t sure about the whole circus thing but it worked here.

This isn’t action packed but it still managed to be not boring. The time changes were little confusing at first but I got used to them,

I loved Marco’s and Celia’s relationship but it could have felt more closer if they would haven spent more time together. There were years when they had no contact with each other which meant many chapters with no contact. I loved seeing them growing closer and learning more about their magic and what they’re capable doing with it. It was interesting to see Celia building some kind of relationship with her father and what kind of person it made her.

I have to say I never really got the meaning of this duel. I mean there was never any real confrontation between the players and it seemed like they never really did anything besides creating a new tent. Yes those were some special and cool tents but still. And how does that kind of duel really end? What makes the winner a winner? But that would be my biggest complain that the world would have been better explained.

But I really loved the book and it was a great debut. Can’t wait to read more of her books!

Published: Doubleday (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 387
Source: library

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels 3) by Ilona Andrews

When her werewolf friend Derek is discovered half dead, Kate Daniels knows that she cannot rest until she neutralizes his attackers. Her hunt for the culprits ultimately leads her to the Midnight Games, an invitation-only, no-holds-barred paranormal fighting tournament. Magically appealing. (Goodreads)

Kate gets a call from the shapechanger Saiman that he’s got Kate’s werewolf sidekick Derek after he tried to break into his home. In exchange to Derek’s freedom Kate agrees to go to Midnight Games, highly illegal tournament to death, as Saiman’s date. Derek won’t tell why he tried to steal Saiman’s tickets but makes her promise to deliver a message to a girl in the Games without reading it first. Kate does as she promised but it comes with a price as she comes too late to Derek’s rescue and finds him nearly beaten to death, unable to shapeshift nor heal himself.

At first I have to say that this was the book that made me love this serie for sure! I’ve liked the previous books but this is by far the best so far.

There’s lot of action and ass kicking and I loved it. Kate seems to have matured a bit and started to care for others more. I loved how she went to Julie’s rescue to the school. Relationship between Kate and Curran takes to another level and the bath scene *drools* I like that the relationship is building in stages and she’s not just jumping into his bed at first chance.

I laughed aloud many times and the book is great mix of humour and action.

I found myself to become more curious of Jim too. It’s not easy when there’s too many hot men there! And poor, poor Derek!

I admit that everyone was right, these books just gets better.

Published: Gollancz (2010)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 310
Source: my own

Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov

Shadow Blizzard (Chronicles of Siala 3) by Alexey Pehov

Shadow Harold, master thief, and his band of companions have reached the deep catacombs of Hrad Spein, where Harold must go in alone to face unknown horrors and retrieve the Horn that will save Siala. He is magically bound to the Key with which the dark elves sealed Hrad Spein, and the Master’s servant, the sorceress Lafresa, is close behind him.
Harold and his companions must face H’san’kors, evil magic and the agents of the Nameless One, but unless they find the long-lost Horn darkness will overrun the realm of Valiostr. Harold’s destiny is tied to the fate of the kingdom… (publisher)

Large part of the book is about Harold and his quest through Hrad Spein. It’s also called as Palaces of Bones and it’s very describing name… Creepy place!

I like Harold as the hero because he’s not your typical hero. Thieves are rarely called heroes but Harold is very likeable. And then there’s Kli-Kli, who wouldn’t like the jester? And speaking of jester, I totally didn’t see that coming! Even though I liked Harold my fav people were the elves. I wish there would have been more of them and I would have liked to learn more about their world and history.

As it is in war, we lose more characters and I understand that it belongs to war but how could you do that! And it was evil to do it so soon in the book! But we meet few people who I had totally forgotten about which was nice. I should have reread the first 2 books before this…

My only complaint is that the part in Hrad Spein could have been tiny bit shorter and the battle scenes in the end less jumpy. There were too many perspectives to the battle and from people we hadn’t meet before.

I enjoyed these books so much and I’m gonna miss this world. I hope more of his books gets translated because I’m reading those for sure!

Published: Simon & Schuster UK (2012)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 464
Source: my own

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels 2) by Ilona Andrews

Down in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.

When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive… (Goodreads)

Someone stole maps from the pack and Kate promised as a favour to retrieve them. Some mysterious guy just keeps getting into her way and tries to stop her. Kate meets young girl and helps Julie to find her missing mother. And sparks continue to fly between Kate and Curran.

I really like Kate and she’s a great heroine. She can seriously kick ass and she stands up to Curran, the Best Lord of Shapeshifters. They annoy the crap out of each other but you can see there’s something between them. I love that it’s not love/lust at first sight-kind of thing between them.

I can see myself becoming total Curran fangirl but I can’t help myself! I wish there was more Curran and I love the interaction between him and Kate.

“Not only will you sleep with me, but you will say ‘please.’”
I stared at him, shocked.
The smile widened. “You will say ‘please’ before and ‘thank you’ after.”
Pg. 184

More Curran for me, please!

I was happy to see Derek again. It will be interesting to see how far he will climb because he showed power growing.

And I hope we learn more about Kate and her powers. Things are hinted but never explained and I hope we get some answers at some point.

I liked the book and can’t wait to see what way the books will go. I’ve heard the books get only better so can’t wait!

Published: Gollanz (2010)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 260
Source: my own

Control Point by Myke Cole

 Control Point (Shadow Ops 1) by Myke Cole

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for. (Goodreads)

All over the world people are getting magical powers. Oscar Britton, military officer, and his unit are told to take part of an operation to take down two Selfers (who use magic unsupervised) at a local school. Britton is not happy when he discovers that they are hunting two teenagers and to his horror the girl is executed in front of his eyes. So when he manifested magical ability after the operation, he’s convinced that they will kill him on the spot and decides the best action is to run.

The book is very action packed from the start but it still moved little slow when Britton was on the run. It did pick up pace when he was in training and learned to control his powers.
At first I was bit overwhelmed with all the military terms and acronyms but I soon gave up trying to memorize them. It’s a very good thing there’s a glossary at the end of the book and I would have been totally lost without it. I just wish I had noticed it from the start because I was about half way through when I saw it.

I’m in two minds how I feel about Oscar Britton. At times I couldn’t follow he’s reasoning and he couldn’t make his mind if the SOC are bad guys or not going from one opinion to another. He seemed to make huge amount of collateral damage and seemed indifferent to it. But I did like seeing how he grew and changed when he tried to adapt to his new life and trying to learn to use the magic.

This was out of my comfort zone with all the army stuff but it’s still great debut from the author. My struggle with the terms and acronyms lessened my enjoyment little bit but I’m happy I got a chance to read this. It was definitely different from what I’ve ever read.

Published: Ace (2012)
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 389
Source: publisher

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Historical expertise marries page-turning fiction in Alison Weir’s enthralling debut novel, breathing new life into one of the most significant and tumultuous periods of the English monarchy. It is the story of Lady Jane Grey–“the Nine Days’ Queen”–a fifteen-year-old girl who unwittingly finds herself at the center of the religious and civil unrest that nearly toppled the fabled House of Tudor during the sixteenth century.

The child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she is merely a pawn in a dynastic game with the highest stakes, Jane Grey was born during the harrowingly turbulent period between Anne Boleyn’s beheading and the demise of Jane’s infamous great-uncle, King Henry VIII. With the premature passing of Jane’s adolescent cousin, and Henry’s successor, King Edward VI, comes a struggle for supremacy fueled by political machinations and lethal religious fervor.

Unabashedly honest and exceptionally intelligent, Jane possesses a sound strength of character beyond her years that equips her to weather the vicious storm. And though she has no ambitions to rule, preferring to immerse herself in books and religious studies, she is forced to accept the crown, and by so doing sets off a firestorm of intrigue, betrayal, and tragedy. (Goodreads)

Jane Grey’s parents desperately wanted a son and Jane was a disappointment from the start to her parents and her mother, Frances, was very strict to her. As Jane grows she goes to live with Queen Katherine Parr and finally finds some happiness in her life. But the queen’s death changes everything and once again Jane finds herself to be a pawn in her parents hands.

This was my second fiction book I’ve read from Weir and I remember liking the book about Elizabeth more. I found Jane to be extremely boring and too self-righteous. She spent lot of time just whining and judging other people.

One of the problems was that there was way too many POV’s. There was like 9 POV’s and the good thing was that it was clearly stated who’s chapter it was. I understand the need of shifting viewpoints but enough is enough. Some people like Jane Seymour had just one chapter and I didn’t see point of it.

Jane’s mother Frances was showed to be overly strict mother who punished Jane for even the smallest things. I’m sure there was other strict families so I don’t see the point of hammering this detail so thoroughly.

And who doesn’t love to learn new words like “zounds”. You know, the words you can use in everyday life? Especially when the book is written in so modern day style words like zounds just fits naturally there…

I’m thinking I should stick with her non-fiction books from now on. But I do have her book on Eleanor of Aquitaine in here somewhere…

Published: Hutchinson (2006)
Format: Hardback
Pages: 408
Source: my own

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Wolfsbane (Nightshade 2) by Andrea Cremer

This thrilling sequel to the much-talked-about Nightshade begins just where it ended.Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered.

But then the Searchers make her an offer,one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. (Goodreads)

The book starts right after the last one ended. Calla wakes up in the custody of the Searchers and they make her an offer; to help them to take down the Keepers. She’s still trying to choose between Shay and Ren and along the way she learns more about the history of the Guardians, Keepers, and Searchers.

I really loved Nightshade and I’ve wanted to get my hands on this one but I have to say I’m kinda disappointed. The first half was so boring with page after page telling the history of the war but it got better towards the end.

Calla goes through huge change in this book, and not all for the best. Gone is the confident leader and she’s turned to this unsure, easily-trusting-person who probably lost half her IQ along the way. I mean she grew up thinking The Searchers are the enemy and she spent a week in chains and when they unchain her explaining they need her help, she just agrees? Just like that. I’m not convinced it’s should be that easy. At all. There were few times that I just wanted to slap her really hard to get her to understand. There were so many hints dropped that even I figured that out and I’m not exactly rocket scientist…

There was way too much telling about the history with dialogs that went on and on and quite frankly I just skipped most of them. Maybe I missed something but I just don’t care.

I’m not sure if my biggest complain is that there’s hardly any Ren in the book. I started to think if I read the books just for him and I just might be right…

I still find Shay very annoying and for the life of me can’t understand why Calla would choose him! I wasn’t fan of him in the first book and I’m even less in this. He gets mad pretty much every time someone mentions Ren and can’t remember that’s its him that stole another’s intended mate in the first place?!

We get bunch of new characters who are Searchers and I liked Connor. I really hope he’s in the next book too! I wasn’t huge fan of Adne but I think she would be good with Shay. Especially if it means Shay won’t be with Calla… Then there is Ethan. Guardians killed his brother and he hates Calla from the start, and all the guardians. But when he sees Sabine he is awestruck from the first. Seriously?!

All in all it wasn’t bad but it could have been so much better and it did get better towards the end. I’m hoping the next one is better but I’m fearing for the worst. I read couple reviews of Bloodrose and I’m already having problems with it…

Published: Atom (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 390
Source: library

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

 Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch . . .

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

Lina hopes for her family. For her country. For her future. For love – first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose . . . Will hope keep Lina alive?

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors. (Goodreads)

In 1941 the Soviets are gathering people they think as anti-Soviets, mainly from university, army, teachers. When NKVD comes knocking on their door, 15 year old Lina’ life turns for the worse. She along with her mother and 11 year old brother gets deported from Lithuania to freezing Siberia with crowded train car that’s labelled as thieves and prostitutes. As in worthless people.

This was such a great and emotional book. There isn’t many books about Stalin’s regime and even fewer about the Baltic countries and it was great reading about those for change.

They were given very little food and water which resulted in people dying of hunger and disease. Under those circumstances people react differently. Some fights back and won’t give up, some are just desperate and some has given up. Lina’s mother is good example of someone who has courage and stays strong through it all. Even with small rations of wood, she always has food to give to those who needs it. She’s the one who keeps it all together.

The NKVD officers treated them worse than human beings. They were there to do their job and often saw it as a game. But it also made me thinking if there were some who had sympathies for the victims and who for their own good did nothing. I mean they would have gotten themselves killed otherwise most likely.

I would have liked to hear what happened to the other half after the camps were separated. And why they were separated in the first place. I also wondered what happened to that one guard and I found having more symphaty for him than I probably should have.

I’m not usually huge fan of historical YA but don’t let it fool you. This was amazing book and I’m glad I read it!

And it always makes me excited when Finland is mentioned in a book lol :)

Published: Puffin (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 344
Source: my own