You've probably read my reviews on the amazing Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens.  I adored each of these books, and each ranked a 5 star rating for me. They were just that good. It's rare to come across a series so well done, so I absolutely had to feature the first of the series, The Restorer as a  Feature Favourite.

Title: The Restorer
Series: The Graveyard Queen
Author: Amanda Stevens

The Novel: What was absolutely wonderful this novel for me was the writing. It was so well crafted that you are drawn into a world that is eerie, and vivid. The novel is both lyrical and haunting and the story is one that mesmerizes. I suppose what is so fascinating about this novel, and the series as a whole is the element of haunting. As in being haunted by ghosts. Ghosts and spirits are something in which many believe, and although many might laugh at the notion of spirits, there is always the question of what if ? And this is for me what is so captivating about the series, the element of possibility that makes this novel, and those that follow, chilling.

The Author: Born and raised in the rural south, it makes sense to me why Amanda Stevens chose to set her Graveyard Queen series in Charleston, South Carolina. She now resides in Houston, Texas. Ms. Stevens is an award winning author, including three Rita awards and has written over fifty books. She writes romance, mystery and young adult novels. I've read several other novels by the author and each has been riveting.

I cannot recommend this series enough. It's my all time fav. Not one book let me down, and they just kept getting better and better.

Happy Reading,
Jewels
This novel opens up more erotically than you'd expect of a historical fiction, but don't let that deter you. This is true historical fiction, and it is done quite well by Alison Weir. So for those of you that like a bit of romance, this is a nice change of pace though it is a denser read. It took me longer than I thought to get through this novel. 

My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Historical Fiction
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This novel opens up with a very unsatisfied Eleanor of Aquitiane. Her marriage to the French king is an unhappy one and she seeks an annulment, which is granted allowing her to marry the great love of her life, Henry. This novel is primarily about their marriage and what that might have looked like. I don't know a lot about this period in history, but it was interesting to imagine these characters, the parents of Richard the Lionheart, and to see how mad they were each other and then watch that marriage erode. It's about politics too, to a degree, and their roles as monarchs and parents. All of this is interconnected and makes for an interesting read.

I think what I most especially liked was the style. The characters were ones you could relate to, the pacing was steady and so much happens--affairs, wars, family strife, betrayals. I think what move me most was the way Henry and Eleanor parted and it was interesting to have a piece of history painted for me. The exploration of relationships and efforts to heal old rifts is both hopeful and yet sad because you know the past cannot be recaptured. The novel was poignant in places and kept me wondering as to what would happen next.

Captive Queen tells an interesting history of a period in history that isn't highlighted in the television world's period pieces, and makes me yearn for me novels set in medieval times.

Happy Reading, 
Jewels
I love historical fiction and romance and knowing a little about Marie Antoinette, I thought this novel would be a nice change of pace for me. It was the first in a series, and I think I would like to continue and see how the series evolves. This first novel focused on the arch duchess of Austria in her childhood and the early years of her marriage, and really shows how the Austrian girl turned into the French Queen.

Series: Marie Antoinette, #1 
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Historical Fiction
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By the time the novel ends, Marie Antoinette really is the queen of France, and not just the Dauphne, but we don't see any of her life as queen. The later books will focus on that, and that's why I'm so curious to read them. I've always been interested in Marie Antoinette and her famous words, "let them cake" although it's largely thought now she never said such a thing. But how does a woman become so hated?

This novel begins with Marie Antoinette as a small girl, and we see her as a silly, inattentive pupil who is perhaps too naive and artless for her own good. She doesn't have a mind for political shrewdness like her sister or mother, and instead wants only to please her mother by marrying the Dauphin of France, Louis who will one day be king. She even hopes that he will love her, something someone in her position at the time would not likely expect. Realizing that she is too Austrian and too uneducated to ever please the French, Marie Antoinette sets about doing everything her mother and the French ambassador advise, including getting eighteenth century braces to correct her teeth. She hopes she will please Louis and not fail her mother in the one task she must perform for Austria, to marry and bear an heir.

One has to wonder why her mother chose Marie Antoinette from her many children to marry the French Dauphin. It seems Marie Antoinette is utterly unsuited to the destiny her mother has designed for her, and even once she marries Louis and is adjusting to life at the French court, she hardly seems much different than the utterly uninformed girl she was at the opening of the novel. She is completing lacking in understanding of the machinations of the French Court, and eventually has to swallow her pride and acknowledge the king's mistress because she just can't see the political necessity of doing so. Nor can she get her husband to bed her. From what little I know of the couple, Louis did have trouble consummating the marriage, but I have to believe that after such a lengthy marriage Marie Antoinette herself might have been more bold in her efforts rather than patiently waiting and sweetly comforting Louis.

Just as the novel starts to get good--that is, Louis is king and we can't be far away from more interesting history, the novel ends leaving me hoping that the next novel will really sink its teeth into the life of this doomed royal couple. This first novel was interesting to read, but needed more omph and I hope the next novels in the series provide that.


Happy Reading,
Jewels
As you know, I love me a good highlander romance and Lynsay Sands delivers her highlander novels with sizzle and wit. They never fail to make me laugh. And I've yet to be disappointed with this series; they've all been really great reading and I look forward to reading more as they are released.

Series: Highlander, #4 
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Historical Romance
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So what was so great about this novel? Well, I always love a story where a hero recuses a damsel in distress. Our heroine has a weak willed, uncaring brother with huge debts who actually tries to sell her to our hero, Dougall, to pay for some horses! So naturally, Murinne decides it is high time she get away from her brother before he succeeds in selling her. She makes her escape on the most unusual of beasts and is runs into Dougall and his brothers along the way, who agree to escort her to their sister's home.

Dougall and Murinne are attracted to one another, and Dougall can't help but feel protective once Murinne starts fainting--a medicial condition of hers he is set on fixing by stuffing her full of food and by guarding her constantly. Which turns out to be a good thing as one too many accidents happen along the road to Murinne. Some of them are funny, but others start to questions and by the time they make it back to the keep, Dougall has made his mind to marry Murinne.

I honestly enjoyed this novel. It was a bit ridiculous in spots, but the kind that simply left you laughing and made this a lighter read, and it was always sweet. I liked that Murinne's sweetness captured the hearts of the brothers and that all of them found her likable because although she does tend to faint a lot, she isn't at all weak and really proves to be very brave during several dangerous scenes. I could easily connect with her because she seemed a bit insecure at times, and made for a heroine that was jolly good fun to read.

My only compliant against this novel is maybe it was too light hearted. While the smexy scenes were pretty steamy, I felt the novel as a whole was nmore humorous than romantic or adventurous. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I would like to see something a little more meaty in a lot of romance novels, especially in historicals if only because they are my favourite genre.

Great banter in this read, a fabulous hero and heroine, I had a lot of fun reading Falling for the Highlander.


Happy Reading,
Jewels
Dear readers, you might have noticed of late that I have not been blogging much. The spring was really hard on me. Lots of drama, lots of change. Just lots. I won't bore you with details, I'm sure that's enough said. However, things are looking up and I am looking forward to some R and R time.

I remember last summer I reminded myself that there is lots to do and enjoy--a walk in the park, a good book, time with friends, a relaxing bath. And there is still all of that to enjoy, and I fully intend to pamper myself. I've earned it. I'm sure you have too, so please don't forget to take care of yourself.

The trouble is, I think everyone these days is time poor. Everyone is running around trying to get stuff done. You work, then you run around to events with friends, appointments, errands like groceries, Wal-mart visits for household essentials, and then you take the kids to a birthday party, or perhaps if you don't have kids you're going out to play tennis or see a concert or whatever. Maybe like a friend of mine you are in a wedding party and somehow being someone's bridesmaid is taking up all of your spare time.

Time for you to simply be
Picture not my own work
My point is, our lives are busy. When do we ever sit back and soak up the sun? Or walk along the beach? Or just sleep in? I mean, I barely noticed that the trees were in bloom this year and the next thing I knew they all had green leaves! Why didn't I notice that happening? My mind was too busy so I know it's time to slow down, breathe deep and just relax. Read books. Watch the clouds and birds and just be for a little while.

Guess what? It's okay to just be. To do nothing. Or what seems like nothing. It's healthy to spend time alone. It's good to take a break from the rush of doing, going, and just be still for a little while. Be with yourself instead of being swept along by things that likely can wait, or that maybe you just say no to.

So, R and R. That's my plan because it's long past time I put me first. I think, as a result, you'll see more book reviews.

Happy Reading,
Jewels