Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Book Review – His Majesty’s Hope

Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Back to writing book reviews!
I’m in the process of writing a blog dedicated to book SERIES….and mainly how much I love them. I don’t like saying good bye to characters in books. This pretty much sums it up:
With series-books, it’s different. You read a book and then get reunited with most of the characters in the next adventure. Now luckily, I’ve started reading a lot of series when the author was at least onto book nine. That way I don’t have to wait for the next book. It’s often waiting for me right there in the nearest bookstore/library.
Not so much with the Maggie Hope mysteries. I started reading this as soon as it came out. I was able to read an ARC of the second book and the good folks at Netgalley gave me the opportunity to read the third one that will be released this May.
What I’ve recently finished:
**His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal**
What is it about?
So Maggie broke codes in newspapers in book one and saved Princess Elizabeth from being kidnapped in book two. For book three, Maggie goes International!!
At first that might sound exciting however she’s heading to Nazi Germany undercover as part of the Special Operations Executive to plant bugs in offices of elite Nazis…some of whom make it difficult for Maggie to maintain her cover because the temptation to mix personal and professional runs quite high. I’ll leave it at that
Why did I read this?
Simple: I read book one a few months ago and I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT! (That’s literally what I said for the last Maggie Hope book I reviewed.)
What impressed me about this book?
Again, MacNeal writes of strong females from both sides of the war and coming from different points of view. Primarily, we see this in Maggie, obviously. Additionally we see it in the characters of Ms. Hess and her daughter, Elise Hess. The former is a higher up in the Nazi party and the latter is a young German woman who challenges the state by joining the Nazi Resistance.
There was a realness to this book that I really appreciated. I won’t include any spoilers but I will say that Maggie, at the end of the book, is not the strong head-fast woman we’ve loved in the previous books. Many of her personal skeletons come out of the closet in addition to seeing some pretty horrific things in Nazi Germany. To be blunt, at the end of the book, her shit is a mess, but in a very real way, which I appreciate! I have no doubt that she’ll get her situation settled… we all have those moments, right? But, by the end of the book, our girl Maggie is left confused about personal issues in her life, some of which she wants to deal with and others she’d just as soon sweep under a floor. She is also left with dealing with horrific acts she witnessed first-hand in Nazi Germany.
What disappointed me about this book?

I didn’t quite see a connection between how one of the elite Nazis was told of her daughter hiding captives the state wanted. (I’m purposely vague because I don’t want to give away too much, so, apologies if this leaves more questions than answers.

Historical Relevance:
KNITTING SAVES LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!! TRUE FACT!
So I’m friends with MacNeal on Facebook and she taunted—I mean jokingly told me that knitting plays a role in this book. While it might not have saved her life knitting did let Maggie get messages across to Britain. …which led me to this site that lists some historical events where knitting played a role. Or this gentleman who has a pair of size 13 needles to thank for helping him escape.
and, not for nothin’, my buddy Sidney told me that a size 1 DPN has helped her pick a lock when she misplaced her keys.
What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?
I just got some sad news about this series. It started with two books a year but now they’ll only come out once a year. The author now has no right to complain that we have to wait till January for season 4 of Downton. (Said with love, of course, Susan!! )
Overall Grade?.

Book Review – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal**

GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

OK I read this book in June because I received an “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Words cannot express how excited I was!

But…

Kermit can:

I’m not someone who is usually picked for something special but I received an ARC of the book and I was just so excited!!

What is it about?
Last time we left Maggie, she was training to be part of MI5 after spending some time being a secretary to Mr. Churchill. Unfortunately, while Ms. Hope is amazingly bright, she ran into some issues with physical training. Anyone who spends more time with her nose in a book as opposed to running must know that that can be a…humbling experience

She thinks her first mission is going to be on the front line of the war but unfortunately she is sent to be a tutor to young Princess Elizabeth in Windsor Castle.

She is asked to be an “‘undercover sponge.’” This does does not sit well with Ms. Hope. There was a particular time when she stands up to her handlers who are simply trying to give her her assignment and not allow her any context:

I’m through allowing myself to be confined to so-called ‘women’s work.’ I’m also through with patronizing men giving me half-truths and withholding information. This will end here and now.” [page 43]

Go Maggie!

One might think that this is a fluff assignment but they’re quickly proved wrong when they read of the murder of one of the ladies in waiting at court. The murder at court puts everyone one edge and Maggie realizes that not only is she to be a tutor to the Princesses but she’s instructed to be a body guard of sorts as well.

Why did I read this?
Simple: I read book one a few months ago and I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

What impressed me about this book?
The suspense. Like I’ve said, I haven’t read many suspense books but these stories continue to have a complex enough plot that it was intriguing but not too complex that it was a 900 page book you have to invest two months in.

Like always it was refreshing to see string females on both good and bad sides. That is always a plus in my book!

I also appreciated the upstairs/downstairs dynamic in this book. It’s the Downton Abbey fan in me coming out… Again… but it was interesting reading about the background of the British royalty during a war literally occurring in their back yard.

What disappointed me about this book?
Would you believe me if I say that I can’t think of anything? It was a wonderful ride! I remember having difficulty keeping people straight in the first book but it wasn’t much of an issue with this book.

Oh I’ve got a disappointment! There wasn’t a preview of book three at the end of the book because I was reading an ARC. 

Historical Relevance:
Marion Crawford was the Princess’ nanny wrote a book entitled The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by her Nanny, Marion Crawford. This book has sparked my interest because there has been so much written about the Queen’s reign as monarch that I can’t help but wonder about her childhood. Did she hate broccoli? Did she really need things she was working on while studying to be in a certain order like MacNeil alludes to in the book? This has sparked my curiosity!

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

 

 

Overall Grade?.

I’ve recently started a series after more than a dozen books have already been published. Unfortunately with Maggie Hope, this is not the case. So this is a good representation of my thoughts right now:

taken from Random House’s Pinterest Board “Book Humor”

 

 

 

Book Review – The Midwife of Venice

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich**

GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog


What is it about?
Hannah Levi is a young, recently married young woman living in the Jewish ghettos of Venice, Italy in the 1500s. She is known in her community as being a very skilled midwife because she constructed “birthing spoons” that help her with some of the most challenging of labors. Late one night, a Christian count appears at her doorstep and begs her to assist her in the labor of his wife who was delivering her fourth baby. His desperation came from the fact that if he did not produce an heir before his fiftieth birthday, from which he was months shy, his title as well as fortune would go to his rather selfish brother. The previous three children his wife had, unfortunately, died in childbirth or soon thereafter. It is very well known that if a Jew assisted in this procedure that it is punishable by torture or even death. Hannah takes this request, however, because she needs the funds to get her husband back as his ship was overtaken in Malta. This story centers on the ramifications of her actions in assisting with this birth as well as encouraging Hannah to reunite with her husband.

Why did I read this?
I honestly don’t know. Hmmm. I think I came across it in Jermaine’s store and thought it was interesting so why not?

What impressed me about this book?
The story’s simplicity! I know that can almost sound like a bad thing but I certainly don’t mean it as such. 2012 has been a year filled with wonderful mysteries that are often complicated with a handful of plot lines. This story was written from the point of view, mostly, of Hannah and her husband and, as a reader you’re cheering them on as they get closer and closer to a reunion. There is, of course, disturbing anti-semitism that existed during this time period. That was rather difficult to read. For example, Hannah’s husband is rescued from the life of slavery in Malta by a nun. She brings him to her house and offers him a life at a convent if, and only if, he converts. She, basically, is offering her Christian virtue so charity so long as he converts. That of course was hard to read but unfortunately that much of the thought back then–that it was Christ’s teaching to punish Jewish people.

But looking at this at its basic levels this story was about a wife doing something rather dangerous to get her closer to her husband and, as a reader, I really couldn’t help but cheer them on.

What disappointed me about this book?
I know this seems odd to say but nothing really. The story was not too complicated so it’s not like I felt that the author could have done a better job at explaining certain components.

I will say though…this should be taken as a compliment to the author…she describes horrible living conditions of the ghetto as well as the bubonic plague quite well. Sometimes too well if you get my meaning :-& amp;

Historical Relevance:
Alright I thought I was going to have make something up with this component but a two second google search had me reading a rather interesting article on the history of forceps! Milestones in the evolution of obstetric forceps Bryan Hibbard asserts that in the Middle Ages the Church was often the only source to discuss midwifery and forceps were often used as a “last resort” when the child was likely dead and they were trying to save to mother. This “procedure” was believed to assist mothers in challenging births in the 11th century. (upon reading this you’ll be thankful for modern medicine)

When there is a difficult labour with a dead child place the patient in a sheet held at the corners by four strong men, with her head somewhat elevated. Have them shake the sheet vigorously by pulling on the opposite corners, and with God’s will she will give birth.

 

Interestingly enough the Chamberlens family in England at this time were fashioning some of the first versions of forceps. The article I linked is quite interesting. Give it a read!


What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade? Rating: ★★★½☆

 

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