If I had to pick a theme of the books I read in Q4 of 2019, I think it would have to be “badass women.” This wasn’t intentional, but it is undeniable when looking at the books I read and what I liked about them. For those of you who are new to this series, 4 times a year, I recap what I read in the previous 3 months. It’s a fun way for me to keep track of what I’ve read and to share it with my readers,
even though you guys don’t seem to care too much about what I’ve read.
Anyway. Something I have talked about a little is that I’ve been struggling reading paper copies of books recently. I don’t know what it is! So most of the books here were listened to on Audible. For some reason, that hasn’t been a problem for me!
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The Price of Blood – “Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, [Patricia] Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder. As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword” (x).
This book is the sequel to Shadow on the Crown, and the second on the trilogy about Emma of Normandy. In Shadow on the Crown, Emma marries the king of England and adjusts to her new life. In The Price of Blood, Emma comes into her own as a queen and mother to the heir. I absolutely loved this book! Obviously all historical fiction is fiction, and when someone is writing about a real woman from before the 17th century, it’s especially fiction because not a ton is known about women in general because the historians of the time didn’t care. This is especially true when reading about an 11th century woman because almost nothing is known about women from that time. I’d like to think that Emma was as badass as Bracewell writes her, but it’s important to keep in mind how little was known about women of that time.
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici – “The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children in a kingdom torn apart by the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons, unaware that if she is to save France, she may have to sacrifice her ideals, her reputation, and the secret of her embattled heart” (x).
I have always found Catherine de Medici fascinating because, you know, she was a fascinating woman. But when I read the Queens of Infamy editions on her (here is part 1 and part 2), I knew I needed to learn more. This fictional tale about her is written in first person as if she is confessing everything that happened in her life – hence the title – but not in diary form. She was the wife of one king and the mother of three. And, as described in the Queens of Infamy essays, she was very interested in the occult. In this book, she is described as basically having visions, which was an interesting twist on her occult history. I personally really enjoyed this book, but it’s definitely one for historical fiction fans. If someone who didn’t really read the genre asked me to recommend a historical fiction book to them, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
The Golden Compass – “Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want. But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other …” (x)
Like many, I read this trilogy when I was a kid, and while I remembered a fair amount, I decided to reread it before the TV series came out. I’m so glad I did! I remembered more from this book than I thought I did, but I barely remembered the other two. The Golden Compass (or The Northern Lights to you Brits) is incredible. I absolutely loved it.
The Subtle Knife – “Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels. Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, their destinies are bound together…until they are split apart” (x).
This, as you can probably tell, is the second in the trilogy. I remembered a lot less from this one than I did The Golden Compass, but I’m not surprised because this book isn’t as entertaining. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good book. But it’s my least favorite in the series. Now that I’m over half-way through The Amber Spyglass, I would have to say that The Subtle Knife is incredibly important for the series itself. The Golden Compass introduces us to Lyra, but it could also be a classic fantasy book all on its own. I don’t think The Subtle Knife would be a good stand-alone fantasy book. Something else to consider is the number of universes involved in the books: there’s only one in The Golden Compass, compared to two in The Subtle Knife and at least two in The Amber Spyglass, although one of them is different from one of the worlds in The Subtle Knife.
Lilac Girls – “New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power. The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten” (x).
I got this book for Christmas and read it in 3 days! It is so so SO good. There are so many triggers because, you know, it’s set during World War II and one of the main characters is interned in a concentration camp. It is obviously upsetting, especially because it’s about a real thing that happened, so please be aware of that before you start it. The worst of it is not described in detail – the scenes cut out right before the surgeries and some of the deaths. But if you’re okay reading about it, then I’d say go for it!
What books have you read recently?
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