*I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway*
The Mongol Empire has many stories, but the secretive history of the proud Women of the Felt is not*I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway*
The Mongol Empire has many stories, but the secretive history of the proud Women of the Felt is not one widely told. This is something Stephanie Thornton uses to great effect as she weaves together the tales of some of the women around Genghis Khan - his Khatun and first wife Borte, his favorite daughter Alaqai, a captive of his expanding empire Fatima, and his daughter-in-law Sorkhokhtani the mother and architect of his legacy. The novel shifts perspective between these four, and I found myself always a little sad by the time I left one woman's part for the next. Even though the events surrounding them were sometimes repetitive, I was never bored by anyone's chapters. The ebb and flow of life on the steppe (even when the Horde is racing to its zenith) has a rhythm and all the women are connected to each other and a way of life that is stronger than the will of their strongest men. They are all strong characters, albeit in different ways, but their combined will has the power to move mountains. This was a fascinating glimpse into their world and left me wanted to read more about them....more
**spoiler alert** *I received this book from the publisher through Goodreads*
There might be some things in this review that might be considered spoile**spoiler alert** *I received this book from the publisher through Goodreads*
There might be some things in this review that might be considered spoilers, though a lot of it is pretty telegraphed by the author. But I suppose reader beware.
Though I probably don't need the disclaimer since the star rating does the work of telling you this an honest review. I was hesitant to even enter this giveaway because of one of the end lines of the cover blurb in the listing, something about the resistance being only part of the Citadel group's mission blah blah ancient powers dark forces. But I decided to go for it, hoping for more Assassin's Creed, less Dan Brown. At least I can say Kate Mosse is a better writer than Brown, though that's hardly oppressive praise.
I just feel this book wanted to be all things to all people. WWII saboteur thriller, check. Great Love Story with Perfectly Perfect Lovers, check. Supernatural fight with Evil, check. Mosse probably could have gotten away with some of these plots, but not all of them. Like other dissenting reviewers, if this was solely a story about the brave Citadel women, I think this would have been a much more intriguing book. The Codex plot was completely unnecessary, the Codex chapters a drag. Not every story needs a McGuffin, and the Citadel ladies could have just as easily fought their enemies with the powerful memories of their fallen loved ones (you know, like the real Resistance), rather than a literal army of deus ex machina.
There were so many points in this book where I found glimmers of another book I was interested in reading lurking inside this sprawling narrative. For example, there are some potentially great characters in this book, none of whom are named Sandrine Vidal. I just never found her particularly compelling; in fact, she pales in comparison to the all too skimming portraits of nearly every other female character in the book, except for Lucie, whose redemptive arc also fails to interest. I might be the only person interested in the book about Marianne and Suzanne fighting the good fight (as a much more realistic couple than Sandrine and Raoul), but I can't be the only one who thinks that this book's natural protagonist is Liesl Blum. She and Sandrine share a lot of trajectory as characters, and Mosse wastes so much time in the lead-up to them forming the network, that the story skips over that growth to where they've been at it for years. Even so, Liesl arguably has more to fight for, or at least more tangible reasons, none of which involve magic armies coming to the rescue. She even has the decency to meet her future husband organically, and not in that Destiny Love at First Sight (or is it First Unconscious Kiss?) way. She also has a useful pre-war skill in photography, as do most of the other women, except for Sandrine whose only skill seems to moxie. Heck, even resident airhead Lucie is better at getting through a checkpoint than she is after two years. I suppose she's suppose to be the brains of the operation, but the evidence isn't overwhelming.
Anyway, this is a long review for a surprisingly long book. I can see what other people enjoyed about it, it's just not my cup of tea. Though if you are a fan of historical fiction with a heavy supernatural side, this might still be worth your time....more
I like Virginia Woolf the novelist and love Virginia Woolf the literary critic, but I don't deny that like s*I received this as an ARC from Goodreads*
I like Virginia Woolf the novelist and love Virginia Woolf the literary critic, but I don't deny that like say, Sylvia Plath, she probably was often an emotional handful for the people in her life, especially her sister Vanessa Bell. This novel is part family drama and almost part post-collegiate friends drama, and Priya Parmar does a lovely job of balancing out those dynamics/tensions. I liked the journaling framework of the novel (admittedly, I often do), and the letters and telegrams helped augment the narrative, particularly to keep Leonard Woolf in the picture since the action of the book takes place largely outside of his physical presence at this point in the Bloomsbury Group's existence. Ultimately, the Group is a hyper-literary 'St. Elmo's Fire,' with friends trying to DO something of importance with theirs lives while trying to resist the changes that come between people when that starts to happen. This also Vanessa's trajectory - can she slip her bonds enough to become more than her siblings' sister, her husband's wife, the Bloomsburys' "steady center"? One might argue the results are mixed for everyone involved, but these were unconventional people in changing times so the glittering messiness is a natural byproduct. Parmar turns a kind eye to the mess, and writes a surprisingly sympathetic portrait in the end....more
*I received this as an ARC from the publisher through Goodreads.
There's a lot to like about The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: Jazz Age/'Boardwalk*I received this as an ARC from the publisher through Goodreads.
There's a lot to like about The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: Jazz Age/'Boardwalk Empire' excess, a real life unsolved whodunit, three very different women fighting their way up to their version of the American dream. Stella (the wife), Maria (the maid), and Ritzi (the mistress) are sympathetically written and I did feel drawn into their stories - even Stella, easily the most enigmatic and distant of the three. Lawhon gives us a lot of the novel from Stella's perspective which makes sense since it's her husband who's missing and yet I left the book not feeling I still hardly knew her - which does appears to be by design - but I can see why other reviewers felt less invested in her as a result. Maria's story was especially compelling because hearing about the experiences of Spanish-speaking immigrants from this far back in the 20th century is somewhat unusual and her motivations often spring from having the most to lose as being the member of this titular trio lowest on the social scale. Ritzi has the standard "country girl comes to the big city to see her name in lights" arc, and arguably she's the one who grows the most throughout the story. It's the kind of book where everyone probably has a favorite woman and I'll be interested to see if people think each got the ending they deserved.
The only qualm I really have is I felt like the book needed to be longer to flesh out the multitude of competing interests that every character had that led them to the decisions that they were making, especially in light of Lawhon's decision to move the narrative forwards and backwards in time throughout the novel. We would be shown an episode where Character A would threaten/do something negative to Character B, and B would make enormous choices based on the interaction, but the scene would be so brief that it was sometimes difficult to believe it would push someone over the edge. And when the truth behind Judge Crater's disappearance is finally revealed, so much of the work that the characters involved do to that end is left out of the narrative or is only very obliquely mentioned that it felt like I missed a few chapters. While this would work wonderfully in the flashback of a heist movie to show you how it was all done, it's less successful in print form. That said, this a fast-moving read with enough charm to be worth your time....more
Ugh, this kills me because Ahab's Wife is easily one of my favorite books ever, literally. But this just pales in comparison. The Elizabeth portions aUgh, this kills me because Ahab's Wife is easily one of my favorite books ever, literally. But this just pales in comparison. The Elizabeth portions are told with such a light touch by the character itself that I felt like all I did was skim over the waters of her life without truly feeling the depths. The Ryn portions arguably have more depth, but her story is arguably less interesting also. I appreciate the Mrs. Dalloway approach of her story, though I feel like Naslund should have just committed and made nothing spectacular happen with the day; the confrontation that wraps up her story felt tacked on and unnecessary. And I know it sounds incredibly pedantic, but there is a reference to Bernini's very famous sculpture of Apollo chasing the nymph Daphne that claims that the female subject is the goddess Diana. I'm sure it'll get fixed in a later printing, but for a novel so much about art, it's a rather surprising mistake that is all the more glaring since it is put in the mouth of Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun....more