Another month, another few books read. Excitingly, I’m still on track to read 70 books this year, and there were some hits and misses in March. I know that I won’t love everything I read, and I don’t know if I’m being too difficult, but I was a little “meh” last month overall. Here’s what I read:
A Burnable Book, Bruce Holsinger
Amazon: London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers–including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s artful mistress, Katherine Swynford–England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London–catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings–and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews–and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.
Elizabeth: This was one of those books recommended to me by Goodreads, I think, and I’m really happy I read it. It was a really interesting mystery – a combination of mystical, funny, and clever to me – and it accurately portrayed life in that period of England. It was a little…cruder…that I anticipated, though I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since Chaucer (a character here) is known for being bawdy. I found the plot twist itself fairly predictable, but I still was happy to keep reading — and to make sure that I was right.
Warlord, Ted Bell
Amazon: Thriller fiction of the highest order, Warlord by Ted Bell returns British-American MI6 counterterrorism operative Alex Hawke to the field, as he races to stop a plot to murder Great Britian’s royal family. This latest spellbinding installment in the New York Times bestselling series is filled with twists and turns, shocks and surprises, ever-escalating peril and ingenious spycraft.
Elizabeth: I may have mentioned this before, but one of my guilty reading pleasures is neoconservative political thrillers – like Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and others in that vein. It always surprises people when I say that, but the heart wants what the heart wants. This was one of those recommended to me by Amazon, in one of those creepy emails they send, detailing everything about your life. Anyways, I think this is book 8 in the series, and I think I would have liked it more had I started at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, the book was more than engaging, and I really loved the character of Alex Hawke. However, the author kept referencing back to activities that obviously took place in earlier books, and I found that a little distracting/confusing. I enjoyed the dual mysteries, and all of the characters were drawn well, so I can see myself picking this series up from the beginning.
Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell
Amazon:In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Elizabeth: OMG – Rainbow Rowell hits it out of the park. Again. I’m beginning to think this woman can do no wrong. (I’m hoping she proves me right with Landline, her book that comes out in July.) I started this on Sunday afternoon after Shamrock – on too little sleep, a 5K, a pure barre class, and a time change – and I literally didn’t put it down until I finished 5 hours later. I really connected with Cath; I often feel socially awkward and a little off, and it is so nice to have someone like that be the heroine of a book. I know I said this last time, but what I love so much about Rowell’s books is how real all the characters are. Within a few chapters, I felt like I knew them, and I knew I wanted them to succeed. Is it July yet?
No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin
Amazon: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, No Ordinary Time is a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines—Eleanor and Franklin’s marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, and FDR’s White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.
Elizabeth: I could have sworn that I got this recommendation from Cely’s latest book post, but apparently, that was another Doris Kearns Goodwin book (The Bully Pulpit, about Teddy R). However, however I found this book, reading it was a no-brainer: this is my favorite period of history,* and I’ve enjoyed other works by DKG (like a ton of people, I read Team of Rivals around the 2008 election). I’m a huge fan of Winston Churchill, and I am one of those who believed FDR took advantage of Churchill’s friendship, so I liked that this book wasn’t all “woo, Franklin is the best ever!” It was a measured portrait of their marriage, and if anything, it was sympathetic to Eleanor over Franklin. I didn’t know a ton about Eleanor Roosevelt before I read this — just the basics — and I want to read more about her. My “to-read” list just keeps getting longer and longer.
The Ludwig Conspiracy, Oliver Potsch
Amazon: Ludwig II, the Fairy-tale King of Bavaria, is today remembered for his beautiful castles—popular tourist destinations that inspired the Disney Castle, but whose origins were much more fantastical than anything Disney could dream up. Also known as the Mad King, Ludwig was deposed in 1886 after being declared insane by doctors who had never met him. He promptly died—mysteriously drowned in waist-deep water—his eccentric castles his only legacy.
Master of historical suspense Oliver Pötzsch brings the Mad King back to life in The Ludwig Conspiracy. An encoded diary by one of Ludwig’s confidants falls into the hands of modern-day rare book dealer Steven Lukas, who soon realizes that the diary may bring him more misery than money. Others want the diary as well—and they will kill to get it. Lukas teams up with a beautiful art detective, Sara Lengfeld, to investigate each of Ludwig’s three famous castles for clues to crack the diary’s code as mysterious thugs and Ludwig’s fanatical followers chase them at every step. Just what in the diary could be so explosive?
Elizabeth: I wanted something nice and somewhat mindless to read after I finished No Ordinary Time, and this book almost fit the bill. I do love mysteries, and I admit that there wasn’t anything I knew about Ludwig II, but this book was pretty disappointing. The characters were a little shallow, I figured out the “twist” about 100 pages before it happened, and the ending was so farfetched as to almost be nonsensical. Obviously not a fan.
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas
Amazon: Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case. Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.
Elizabeth: Again, I picked this up because I needed something light and airy following the Doris Kearns Goodwin book. I loved the Veronica Mars series, and I really enjoyed the movie, so I was interested to see how it would “continue.” SPOILERS for those of you that haven’t seen the movie: Veronica is back working as a PI in Neptune, and this is her first case. The mystery was sound, just like it was on the show, and I loved getting to see more of my favorite auxillary characters, like Mac and Weevil. I read that this will be a two-book series , and I fully anticipate picking up the second book. If you like Veronica Mars and wish that the movie was actually the start to a new TV show, wholeheartedly recommend the book. If not, I don’t really see why this would be of interest to you. There isn’t much exposition of who people are, etc, besides what you would get in the TV intro voiceover. This is a book for the fans, and I obviously count myself among them.
- Proof? My college honors thesis was entitled “Allies, Appeasement, and Accords: Churchill’s Influence on the Iron Curtain,” and it posited that Winston Churchill’s actions between May 10, 1940 and December 11, 1941 had the greatest influence on the Cold War relationship between the United States and Russia.