I have long been fascinated by the Tudors and this new series by Alison Weir immediately caught my attention. Henry VIII famously had six wives, divorced two, beheaded two, kinda annulled his marriage to another, was widowed by one and survived by his last. Why so many wives...and what went wrong with his first marriage?


Series: Six Tudor Queens, #1
My Rating: 5❀'s
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Henry VIII married Katherine of Aragon at a young age and everything I have ever read has led me to believe he loved her. Notoriously, he put her aside even though the Pope declared their marriage good and valid, and married Anne Boylen. This novel tells Katherine story, and it is truly a sad and compelling one in my opinion. After a brief marriage to Henry's brother, which left Katherine a widow, she remained in an uncertain state as Henry's betrothed for several years in England. After the death of Henry VII, her long promised marriage to Henry VIII finally takes place and their marriage is a happy one. Henry genuinely loves Katherine, and seemingly did not enter into a marriage with her solely for political reasons, but also because he had long admired and loved Katherine. Sadly, their marriage is strained by the deaths or stillborn births of all of their children, six or seven, other than one daughter, later destined to become Mary I of England.

This is the true trouble at the heart of their marriage, this lack of a male heir. This is what went wrong with their marriage. When Katherine becomes too old to bear more children, Henry begins to question the validity of their marriage, and since Katherine is now older and Henry is younger and attractive, he begins to stray. I'd love to read the next novel (and plan to) and see exactly how Anne Boylen catches Henry's eye and draws him away from both his beloved wife and faith. This novel depicts Anne as ambitious, malicious and an upstart. We'll see what book two brings *wink, wink*

But back to Katherine. The first part of the novel showed the privations she suffered as she awaited a long promised marriage, and the second part depicted a happy marriage overshadowed by loss and in each of these parts, Katherine displayed great strength in bearing up under hardship and stress. I really admired her character for that, especially as she was not always given the best advice by those around her. I loved seeing her learn from those experiences and how they shaped her into the high minded, honest and strong woman she would need to be in her later years. The third part of the novel highlighted Katherine as a queen out of favour, striving to make her husband and the world understand that she was indeed Henry's wife and queen, even if he did send her away and marry another. Her staunch resistance and insistence that no one on earth save the Pope could say she was not Henry's wife made her a hero in my mind. It would have been easy to give into the pressure and threats, but Katherine stayed true to herself, knowing that she was Henry's wife. She did not sway through all the long years of the various hardships Henry visits on her, and I had to admire her for this strength.

I thought the writing poised and polished, artfully weaving fact and fiction together in a way that brought history beautifully to life. I don't think Weir departs too wildly from history, or interweaves too much supposition into her storytelling. This was one masterfully written historical fiction novel.

Happy Reading,
Jewels
Dear readers, I have loved this series, but The Fate of the Tearling let me down. There, I said it. I am disappointed. And it had been a while since I had run across a series that really drew me into a fantasy world in quite this way. But, c'est la reading life. This review contains spoilers, so continue forewarned.

Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Fantasy 
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Now, I will say, if you have come this far in the series, don't give up. I think you need to finish this series. It's worth seeing it through to the end because as a whole, the series is pretty solid. But, this book has serious flaws which causes the series to as a whole to have flaws. At least, in my opinion.

Now, in earlier books there was some hinting at the Crossing being not a crossing of seas to some new land mass but rather, a crossing through time. And I was fine with that as long as the story didn't become too dependent  on this plot point. To me, the Tearling world was new and fanatical, a story set in some "other" world connected to our own, but very different as well. A world that was changed. A mirror world of sorts. A world that Kelsea needed to improve because society demanded change. Justice demanded change. I really liked how so many of today's problems were brought to the forefront in this series; the divide between rich and poor, the sexism that still exists, the inequalities that plague society at large. It made for compelling reading because it asked us to consider what is right, and what is wrong, to look at social justice through a different lens, one not coloured by prejudices or personal emotion.

All of this is still of the series, however the ending provided easy answers and felt a bit deux ex machina. The sapphires Kelsea has worn have always had power. It was unclear whether Kelsea could use the magic because the sapphires were magical or if the sapphires simply worked for her. But in the end, when the Tearling was lost, when Kelsea and all her loved ones were lost, these sapphires saved the world by allowing Kelsea to go back and fix everything so that Tear's utopia could be realized. A new world was built up, one which seemingly had no divisions in class, or even crime but a world in which Kelsea was no way connected to those she loved, not really.

I really hated that. It was too easy. It gave no credit to the hard work of people fixing or improving a flawed or troubled society. It gave no credit to the goodness of people or our capacity to love and be fair and stand together. So it killed the series for me. I wanted to see the struggle come to a more imperfect end if you will, one in which things are better but in which people still have to work hard not to become complacent, not to overlook the suffering of others, to embrace others despite differences. Instead, it all happens off page because of some magical sapphires. All in the past. And while Kelsea can be hailed a hero, I wanted her to be the one to lead the people into this brave new world, to realize Tear's vision instead of merely becoming apart of it because of some magic that is never even explained or understood by the readers. At least, this reader. I'm not saying the author could have accomplished this all in one book, but at least the groundwork could have been laid. At least I could have closed the book thinking, Kelsea is a leader who can bring about great change and that people have the capacity to love enough to change. Instead, it was all down to the sapphires.

I had expected more. But still, this series is brilliant in forcing you to think about the human condition, so while this book and series did not end as I would have liked, or expected, it's still worth the read.

Happy Reading, 
Jewels
A gripping fantasy, I am just turning the pages as quick as I can when it comes to this series! I've no idea why I waited so long to read these books to be honest. I left the first book knowing that our heroine Kelsea was facing many obstacles, but I never expected the story to take the path it has taken. In fact, at first, I wasn't sure what to think.

Series: Queen of the Tearling, #2
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Fantasy 
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It's hard to know what to think when a character changes as significantly as Kelsea does. She was always fierce, passionate even, but I never thought of her as reckless in the first book. Or heartless. But I did in this novel. While she continues to seek ways to protect her people above all else, it's clear there's something changing inside her and it's more than her looks.

Kelsea is becoming beautiful. I don't know why exactly, but as she sees more and more of the past, she begins to become beautiful. It's some sort of magic I suppose, but why the change is happening, why she is seeing the past, is unclear. I'm hoping the third book answers some of these questions for me because it's obvious a larger story is being weaved here, and that Kelsea is very central to the fate of her land, not because she is queen but for some other reason. There is something about her. Yet, I wasn't sure I liked her in the book. She seemed more insecure somehow, and some of her actions smacked of pride and one time, of cruelty. I still admire her determination not to have her people sold as chattel to a foreign nation, but the changes in her were upsetting for me; I suppose I hadn't yet realized that she is flawed.

Again, I give props to this author for a masterfully told novel, and for addressing so many social issues that are so relevant in today's society. And for creating characters that have depth like Kelsea. Heroes and leaders aren't perfect, but it's important they are just and Kelsea continues to impress me in her strength and choices. For the most part, for even her mistakes are made with only justice and the good of her people foremost in her mind.

Happy Reading,
Jewels
The Queen of the Tearling was I book I really loved. And being one of my first reads of 2018, I can say that I'm off to a strong start. This novel masterfully blends fantasy and own history and I was quite impressed by how much this world drew me into the story.

Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #1
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Fantasy 
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I listened to this book on audio and it was absolutely gripping. I'd love to read it again so it's going on my to be read again list. It was really that good. Gripping from the very beginning, this is a novel full of action and political manoeuvrings featuring one of the strongest heroines I've run across in a while. Kelsea is full of fury for the injustices her mother, the late Queen of the Tearling has delivered onto her people, and Kelsea is determined to be a just ruler and one that defends her people from the tyranny of the Red Queen.  And she is totally kick ass. I love her fierce nature and I love her level headedness--at times the fire inside her erupts, but mostly Kelsea is a thoughtful, intelligent queen and I found her extremely well balanced.

Many of the other characters are equally compelling, and the problems of the day that face Kelsea are daunting enough (and horrible enough) that the entire novel has a sense of direness to it. Kelsea has drawn a line in the sand and now she must face war. The amazing thing about this novel is that is the problems Kelsea faces--many of which deal with both human rights and more specifically, women's rights--are vastly in line with many of the problems we face today on a global scale. It was a failing economy that brought about many the laws and traditions that now oppress the Tear people, and that Kelsea must change for the good of her people.

We don't know much about the Red Queen other than she is a sadistic sorceress who has the Tearling in a death grip. She, like many of the nobles of the Tearling, has no regard for human life, no empathy, no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I suspect the next book will give us a deeper understanding of her, but I cannot say I think I will ever empathize her. She is evil manifest.

Which makes this novel a simply devastating read. You have injustice on a scale so great that it stings too sharply to be ignored, a young and righteous queen who wants to put things to right in her kingdom, and enemies unknown as well as the powers of the Red Queen to contend with, and the vastly superior army she commands. You wonder when war will break out, if Kelsea can keep her position as Queen, and you just keeping turning those pages. By the end of this novel what you have is an epic tale unfolding with a strong female at its centre, and societal issues that will speak to the modern reader. All wrapped up in a fantasy novel, which I think is the perfect vehicle to touch on many of the issues that this novel addresses.

A gripping and compelling novel and I cannot wait to start book two.

Happy Reading,
Jewels

I just finished up my first read of 2018, and it was a new novel by Rachel Brimble. If I Want You is unlike other novels of this genre in my opinion. It focuses on the disappearance of a little girl, but the history of the heroine is at the genre of this abduction.

My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Romantic Suspense
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The novel opens with Tori witnessing the abduction of a little girl, which brings back her memories from her own abduction as a child. I loved how this character was portrayed. Rather than being weak, she is strong. Nor is she entirely closed off to others, though she does hold them at arm's length. She is determined to do everything in her power to bring back Abby Brady, and I admired her tenacity. She stood up to the police, followed her own leads and never let her past break her. She even let overprotective Mark Bolton into her investigation, and into her heart.

Mark was divine. He had a lot fear in him which is partly what made him so overprotective of everyone he loved, but I think his character was naturally irreproachable which made him all the more compelling. A strong, sweet and honest man with some overprotective instincts is very dreamy after all. Even when things were not always going well for him and Tori romantically, he was honest with both himself and her and never really wavered from either his feelings or intentions towards Tori. So, yeah, divine.

I was gripped from the opening pages by these characters and plot. How was Tori involved? Was it likely her abductor had returned? How could he be plotting against Abby and Tori? How did he know anything about what Tori was doing, who she was seeing? It gave me a lot of pause, knowing he might be around. And the letters left for Abby gave me serious creeps. The writing certainly kept me in a state of suspense, especially those last chapters where so much was happening. Rachel Brimble threw in quite a bit of twists and turns there! A fabulous romance with just enough steam and a very gripping crime story to be sure.

I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. 


Happy Reading,
Jewels