Review for Murder at Hatfield House

Murder at Hatfield House by Amanda Carmack

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery

Series – First book in the Elizabethan Mysteries

Rating – PG – for Mild language and violence

Synopsis –

Kate and her father are the musicians for princess Elizabeth who is quietly residing at Hatfield house after her sister’s ascension to the throne. Yet, trouble is brewing when a courier from the Queen suddenly appears with a dead servant. He demands to search the premise in search of banned religious materials. Kate’s life becomes difficult, but Elizabeth trusts Kate to find out who killed the servant. Will Kate be able to figure out what is going on before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

Hmm. What to say about this book??!! I cannot say that I really liked this book; however there were some good parts to it. I enjoyed the whole history behind princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey as it had been a while since I had read about this time period. So it was nice to step back in and learn a little bit about the political upheaval of this time. The author also does a decent job of characterizing Elizabeth and Anthony.

Nevertheless I do have a couple quibbles. First, the writing style. The majority of the language in the book is very modern, and didn’t feel right for England in 1558. I get that writing in older English can be tricky to write, but I feel like the author could have tried to add some phrases used back in that time period to make it less modern sounding.

Secondly, I do not like the main character. Maybe that is just me, but she felt like every other heroine in a cozy mystery. Nothing really stood her apart for me. I wanted to like Kate, but I just couldn’t.

There were several good things about Murder at Hatfield House. It held by attention enough that I cruised through this novel in a little over a day. The plot moved along at a decent pace, and there were some good themes like kindness and standing up for what is right. I enjoyed the descriptions of how Protestantism was changing England politically and how it varied from Catholicism. The mystery started out quite interesting, but began to wobble by the end. The conclusion confused me a bit, and overall the book was fairly clean which I appreciated.

Language – Infrequent mild language, with a couple exclamations of “God’s wounds” or other similar phrases.

Violence – Overall, pretty mild. Several characters are killed by arrows. A few mentions of blood either on clothes or the ground. A character gets shoved and left in a locked room.

Innuendo – Two kisses on the hand (pretty common for back then) and a bit about developing feelings for character.

Conclusion –

Carmack wrote about an interesting time in history, and there is lots to learn from it. There were a few characters that I liked, but most felt flat to me. This novel would make for a nice beach read when you want something light and breezy. Murder at Hatfield House is aimed more at YA age range as main character is 18. Give this a go if you enjoy the Elizabethan era, or are looking for a new cozy series.

Cannot wait to hear how you all are doing!! Do you enjoy cozy mysteries? How is your June going? What Have you been reading lately?

Anna

Review for The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Genre – Fantasy, Romance, Classic

Stand-alone novel

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

The story begins with a boy named Arthur or Wart as that is the nickname they gave him. Wart lives with Sir Ector and his his son Kay as no one knows who Wart’s parents were. When Wart’s tutor quits quite unexpectedly, he goes on a quest to find a new one. He encounters Merlyn, a wise wizard, in the forest and brings him back to the castle. Merlyn instructs both Kay and Arthur for many years. As part of Wart’s instruction, Merlyn transforms him into various animals in order to teach him valuable lessons. Many years pass before one day Wart pulls a sword out of a stone to give to Kay. This leads to his eventually becoming king. Once Arthur becomes king, he has many adventures in trying to bring unity to England. He brings together a group of knights to reform England. Will Arthur and his band of knights be able to bring unity before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

First off, The Once and Future King is composed of four separate books. They all kinda go together, but they each tell a separate section of Arthur’s life. For some reason it took me quite a while to read this. Not sure exactly why??! Just glad I finally finished!! Overall, it gave an interesting look at King Arthur that is different from the previous books I had read. This was more personal. We could hear what went on his head and his conversations with those around him. Unlike King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which focused more on telling a legend. I enjoyed this book more!

The characterization in this was great! You could see these characters and feel for them. They felt more human compared to some other tellings which make them out to be legends. I actually liked Lancelot’s character, which was weird for me because in the past I kinda hated how arrogant he was. White does a great job of making this flawed hero conflicted and torn about some his past decisions. Arthur also has some great development that occurs throughout the book. We spent the most time with Arthur and see him transform from boy to wizened king. The one character that was a thorn in my side was Guenever. Her character just didn’t sit well with me. Something about how she is portrayed, but I can’t put my finger on it. The four Orkney brothers while childish at times, were fine, it was just Guenever that didn’t belong.

The plot was slower as it kinda built up the characters from the ground up. We get introduced to many of them while they were still young. So there were a few sections that truly dragged on. One especially slow section was Wart being an ant!! It had no connection to the actual plot! Also, a few political sections that felt like they went on forever!

White has quite the sense of humor. Especially in the first two books he would break the third person narrative and jump to first person. He would then try to describe something using modern terms. I kinda liked this. There was one particularly humorous scene with the Questing Beast and King Pellinore where I truly laughed out loud! đŸ˜‰

I would not call this a Christian book, despite the fact that there are many Christian themes and several characters are considered Christians. The author makes a couple references to evolution and some hints that God might not exist. You can tell the author has a different view then some of the characters. It isn’t shoved in your face though, and oddly enough he does quote from the Bible.

Language – There is some mild language throughout the book. Mostly the same two words used over and over.

Violence – Honestly, there wasn’t much despite this being a book about knights. Yes, there a few battles or tournaments where knights get injured, but not described. Knights knock each other out with their sword. Maybe a mention or two of blood on the grass. There are a couple jousts to the death. Again not much description just a blurb that they died. There is a scene where a women is tied to a stake to be burnt to death for infidelity (She gets rescued).

Innuendo – First, I’ll mention that there are a couple times where the author describes a knight as being naked and then later mentions him having clothes on. So I believe it means that they didn’t have armor not that they were truly naked. Second, is Lancelot’s and Guenever’s relationship. In this story, Arthur is warned beforehand that he should watch out. He dismisses the warning and pays for it. Lancelot hates Guenever until an event occurs where he hurts Guenever’s feelings. This is what sparks him to fall in love with her. Lancelot’s uncle calls him out on it, but Lancelot doesn’t listen. They kiss several times and many characters try to tell the King that Lancelot is sleeping with his wife. Lancelot tries to end it on multiple occasions. Lastly, there are a couple mentions of other character’s infidelity, just brief mentions.

Conclusion –

This gives a good look at Arthur and how he truly wanted to change England for the better. We get to see what makes these classic character tick. There is also a brief history lesson thrown in which I enjoyed. If you want a book that focuses on a smaller cast of Arthurian characters, this is a good choice. While it has some content issues, overall a well done fantasy!

Cannot wait to hear what you all are reading!! Have you read any King Arthur stories? Any favorite retellings?

Review for The Jerusalem Assassin

The Jerusalem Assassin by Joel Rosenberg

Genre – Political Thriller, Christian Fiction, Suspense

Series – 3rd book in the Marcus Ryker Series

Rating – PG-13 for Suspense and violence

Synopsis –

Marcus Ryker is looking forward to some rest and recuperation after having just returned from a dangerous mission. After working many years in the Secret Service he is transferred to secretly work of the CIA. As he is learning the ropes, an unknown organization begins killing key members of the U.S. government. Marcus begins to suspect something big is a foot. Meanwhile the President is organizing a peace summit between Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Will Marcus be able to figure out who is behind the assassinations before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have been reading Joel Rosenberg’s books for years! So when I heard he was coming out with the next book in this series, I was thrilled. Rosenberg usually writes about 1 book a year. So my mom and I are always trying to remember what had occurred in the previous book. It had been such a long time since I had read The Persian Gamble that I had forgotten just about everything. For the most part Rosenberg does a great job juggling the political aspects with suspense and action.

Now I have to say that overall this series was one of my favorites. Most of his previous books take place in Israel or the Middle East like his J. B. Collins series which got a little repetitive. So I appreciated having this series focus more on Russia. It felt fresh and different. The Kremlin Conspiracy was probably my favorite of the three books in the Marcus Ryker series. It felt like something out of a Jason Bourne movie.

This newest installment was a wee bit of a let down. Not to say that it was bad, but it defiantly felt slower and more politically based then character based. Most of the book takes place in closed door meetings with either our bad guys or good guys. So not really any character development. Marcus has stayed the same throughout much of this series. I kept hoping that we would see a change in him or find out more about his past. I also wanted to see more of Peter Hwang or Oleg Kraskin, but these characters kinda got sidelined.

Oleg Kraskin is one of my favorite characters in this series. We got to know him so well during the previous two books and I was looking forward to seeing how he did, now that he was in America. There was one great scene between Marcus and Oleg that made me really happy. We get to hear Marcus be a little more open about his faith and ask Oleg about what his beliefs were.

Despite being labeled as Christian fiction, there is not much Christian content in this series. Honestly, it did not bug me too much as Marcus himself is kinda a quiet person. In The Jerusalem Assassin, we do see Marcus praying or reading his Bible.

I do want to mention that so many of the Middle Eastern characters have similar names. At first I struggled telling who was who. It got better later on. The end fell nicely together and I liked how Rosenberg paced the end.

Language – Two different uses of mild language.

Violence –

Honestly, compared to some of his other books, I felt that the violence was toned down a bit. There are several shootouts. One takes place at a church and a character dies. Several people are wounded and end up in the hospital. A character kills one of the intruders and incapacitates another. Later on we have a character who has surgery to place a bomb inside her. She is a suicide bomber and willingly goes to her dead. In the bombing she kills 23 people and injures many more. A couple mentions of blood and body parts exploding in the air. Lastly, we have another character who has a similar surgery to implant a bomb in his chest. Several characters are killed.

Innuendo – Really only a mention of a character liking another character. That it.

Conclusion –

I always love a good political or action thriller, so it was nice to step back into Rosenberg’s series. Although I cannot say it was my favorite, I had a hard time putting it down. My mom and I had to take turns, which was tough especially for the action sequences. Rosenberg gives us an interesting look at what could happen if there was peace in Israel. Overall an enjoyable read, but would highly recommend reading these books in order. đŸ˜‰

So over to you guys! What books have you been reading? Read any of Rosenberg’s books? Have a favorite?

Anna

Review for The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Series – Standalone novel

Rating – PG – Thematic elements

Synopsis –

Valancy Stirling is tired of being told what to do. She lives with her mother and her aunt who prefer nothing to change. They do not even allow Valancy to move things around her room. So on Valancy’s 29 birthday she decides to change things up a bit. She gives up pretending to enjoy things she hates, and do things in her own way. Which may lead to Valancy finding her own Blue Castle. Will her family be able to understand her?

My thoughts –

I really enjoyed this novel!! It felt different then the Anne series. I almost thought it was written by a different writer. The Blue Castle is aimed at adults and has more of a grown up feel to it. It also takes place after the Anne books as things are more modern. Several characters have cars and there are movies playing as well.

I really connected with Valancy’s character. She feels like she has done nothing productive and for her self in her life. Her family is overbearing and she is the women who is always in the shadows. Then she gets a letter that changes everything and gives Valancy a new look on life. I liked Valancy’s growth and change throughout the story. She takes a step and helps someone else who is suffering. She even makes quit a sacrifice for someone she loves. I could just relate to this story.

There are many descriptions of nature and scenery. It felt like you were outdoors, fishing and exploring with these characters.

There is quite a variety of interesting characters thrown into this story. I actually liked Roaring Abel, despite his drinking. He was one of the few honest characters and told it like it is. Cissy is such a sweet character. She has had such a hard life and I loved how Valancy befriends her. Barney was odd. It took a while to actually like him as a character. Towards the end though, he and Valancy had a strong relationship.

Although the plot was a little slow, there was some charm to it. There is not much action and mostly all character driven. It was nice to have a book that was about normal everyday events, but some sections were a wee bit boring. The end has a couple firecrackers that were surprising. Someone should make this into a TV series or movie.

Language – Mentions of people swearing, no actual words though. Maybe 2 uses of mild language.

Violence – None

Innuendo – Valancy attends a back woods party where there is drinking and dancing. A couple men try to force her to dance with them. Barney ends up coming in and saving Valancy. The town busybodies gossip about Valancy and Barney. Two characters kiss and get married.

Conclusion –

If you love the Anne series and are looking for something with a similar feel, I would recommend this book!! It has a different flavor to it, but it is a sweet story. Sometimes you need an uplifting book like this.