Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres. There's something awesome about reading a book that puts you back in time so you can learn a thing or two about an era long since gone. I love the historical tidbits and felt that learning about Katherine de Valois, the mother of King Henry VI, would be a wonderful way to spend the weekend. Unfortunately, I had a very hard time getting into this book.
I would characterize this book as much more of a romance than a historical fiction novel. I would have loved to have more historical detail incorporated into the storyline but the book just seems to follow Katherine's love life (which I didn't find very romantic to begin with, truth be told). Add to the fact that the character development and plot were both weak and one-dimensional and I just didn't enjoy this book.
In the beginning Katherine was a likeable, innocent young girl who has had a hard childhood (I actually would have liked to get more detail into her childhood but that time in her life was glossed over quickly). As the story progresses Katherine continues to be this innocent, naïve, flighty girl and her lack of character development grated on me quickly. She was defeatist from the get go and overall just had an utterly bleak feel to her. It's one thing to be naïve because she was just a teenager when she was sent to England but she came off as whiny, weak and immature throughout the book. She seemed shocked when Henry didn't have time for her. He's the KING OF ENGLAND! He's got countries to conquer and England to run, for goodness sake! For a girl who grew up never imagining that she'd one day get the chance to be married, let alone a Queen, she sure did have a lot of preconceived notions.
And for a girl who was raised in a neglectful (albeit royal) home and then sent to a nunnery you'd think that she'd have a lot more trouble fitting into her new life as the Queen of England. But Katherine seems to worry more about whether Henry loves her than learning about her new role and helping to rule a country. This issue continues as she is widowed and essentially looking for love in all the wrong places time and again. There were many times when the story could have gone into further detail to help the reader get a better idea of life during this time but more often than not the details were glossed over to make room for Katherine's beaux.
I love strong female characters but Katherine came off as weak and silly. Her happiness is solely dependent on her romantic life. She was very self-absorbed in her own little world and felt very meek, immature, whiny and just generally not a character I could get behind. If she started out weak and immature but then we got to see some growth in her character that would be one thing but it never felt like her character went through any substantial emotional changes throughout the book.
Another issue I had with this book concerned the writing style. Throughout the book it felt like I was being told things instead of being shown by the characters actually doing something. We got glimpses into Katherine's life but never really got down into the details. For example, Katherine initially has issues with her 'damsels' (ladies in waiting) but other than the odd comment about her damsels not liking her it's not dealt with. I would also have loved to get a feeling for the political and social issues of the time but instead the storyline felt like it just went from one bad relationship of Katherine's to the next.
Finally, one of the main reasons I requested to review this book was the fact that it dealt with Owen Tudor. I was eager to get a peek at the early days of the Tudor dynasty but it was overshadowed by the 'will they won't they?' romantic banter between Katherine and Owen and that got old for me fast.
If there was more historical detail, intrigue and character development it would have made for a really good read. Unfortunately, this book came off as a romantic novel with a weak historical framework that focused more on Katherine's love life and less on the political intrigue and historical details of the time.
My Review: I picked up this book recently from my local library right before a job interview. Trying to distract my nerves I sat there reading the book jacket I was quietly chuckling to myself and it honestly helped to reduce my nerves. I like funny reads. I do. But I also feel that they're really hard to write well. What is deemed "funny" means different things to different people and while I think that Jenny has a great sense of humour I don't necessarily think it came through well in this book.
There were some great, hilarious gems in this book but the overall feeling of chaos in her writing stifled those funny bits. It felt very disjointed -- like you were talking to a overly caffeinated person who would shoot out random stories that didn't necessarily have anything to do with each other. It often felt like she was just babbling and not caring about what she was talking about and after awhile that got frustrating. And don't get me started about the overused and excessively annoying footnotes! Gah! Enough already! I know you're funny Jenny! Show me!
Don't get me wrong, there were certain parts of stories where I did actually laugh out loud because Jenny is funny. But then she'd take too long to get to the end of the story and start to lose me. Or the story seemed much too unrealistic to be true and ... she'd start to lose me. Overall, I guess I just felt really lost. I read over half of the book before I finally called it quits because I just couldn't take any more of the rambling bedlam that is her memoire.
I think Jenny excels at writing funny little snippets (like on her blog, The Bloggess) but this full-fledged book didn't showcase her best comedic assets. With better editing and a more polished feel I think this could have been amazing. Unfortunately her frantic way of storytelling just isn't for me, I guess. I'll stick to reading her blog.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Harlequin MIRA and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: Over a year ago I reviewed another book by Sophie Littlefield called Garden of Stones and was quite impressed with Littlefield's writing style and ability to pull the reader into her story. Needless to say, I was eager to request the chance to review Littlefield's House of Glass.
This was definitely a suspenseful read but starting out I was a little concerned that a book which took place mainly in one small location may get stagnant but Littlefield had me on the edge of my seat in quite a few situations and didn't let the pace lull in the least. I think that having the setting based in the family's home, the one place where you'd think you'd feel safe and protected, helped take the creepy factor up a notch too.
This isn't just a suspenseful read though. Littlefield has added a layer of family dysfunction into the mix. Each member of the Glass family has their own issues that they're trying to deal with and because of these issues Livvy, Jen and Ted each have their own idea of why they've been taken hostage in their own home. I liked being able to piece this mystery together alongside the protagonists and enjoyed seeing how assumingly small incidents can morph into something so much bigger and dangerous than anyone could imagine. I, of course, had my own thoughts as to why the perpetrators were in the Glass' home but I was proven wrong as Littlefield tauntingly pieced the story together for me.
The characters felt authentic which really helped round out the read for me so it was easy to get behind these characters as we witness their world falling apart. I also liked the fact that the characters aren't angels in their own rights. Each of them has their own baggage that is brought to the forefront when their family home is invaded and the reader slowly gets to see the fractures in the Glass family.
The only criticism that I have about this book is that I just didn't quite believe the point of view of four year old, Teddy. I have a four year old nephew and I just can't imagine him going through the thought processes that Teddy had during the invasion. Teddy's maturity level seemed older than his four years at certain times and then much younger in others. For awhile his viewpoint takes precedence and it was my least favourite part of the book and I think that's because I don't think Littlefield took his situation far enough.
This was definitely an edge of your seat read for me. With diverse characters, a creepy feel this was a book that I had a hard time putting down. The fact that this story was based on a real case that occurred in Cheshire, Connecticut in 2007 was the icing on the proverbial cake for this mystery/suspense lover.