Monday, June 17, 2024

Review: Young Elizabeth: Elizabeth 1 and Her Perilous Path to the Crown by Nicola Tallis

by Nicola Tallis
Release Date: February 29, 2024
2024 Pegasus Books
Hardcover ARC; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1639365845
Genre: Non-Fiction / History / Biography / Tudor
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

The first definitive biography of the young Elizabeth I in over twenty years—drawing on a rich variety of primary sources—tracing her tumultuous path to the crown.

Queen Elizabeth I is renowned for her hugely successful reign that makes her, perhaps, the most celebrated monarch in English history. But what of the trials she faced in her challenging early life?
 Looking at Elizabeth as a human being rather than a political chess piece, her narrative explores the dangers and tragedies that plagued Elizabeth's early life, revealing the queen to be a young women who drew strength from her various plights as she navigated one of the most thrilling paths to the throne in the history of the monarchy.
My Thoughts
Young Elizabeth traces the life of Queen Elizabeth 1 from the time of her birth to the beginning of her reign as queen. And while I enjoyed this book quite a bit, it has to be quite something in order to stand out from the huge amount of work that already exists about her life. There is little question that the traumas of childhood will affect and shape your life and Elizabeth had survived quite a lot while growing up in the tumultuous reign of first Henry VIII, then through the shorter reigns of her brother and sister. Growing up motherless after the beheading of Anne Boleyn and dealing with the slurs that put on her birth and the questions of her legitimacy, enduring multiple stepmothers, having to deal with implications of plots against the crown and subsequent imprisonment and house arrests, mental health issues resulting from the political plotting, and the physical ailments from which she suffered, Elizabeth suffered through quite a bit while growing up, but managed to survive and achieve something very few people thought she would achieve, the crown. 

The book begins with a history of King Henry VIII and his courtship of Anne Boleyn, something that is necessary to include as it has a huge impact on what happens later in Elizabeth's life. While I don't feel that anything new was added, and have actually read more detailed accounts in other books, the author does draw a lot on academic facts and tries to keep an open mind with readers, to let them draw their own conclusions. While it was very readable, this type of writing continued into the next parts of the book as well. There was nothing wrong with the research or the writing style, but what it did was distance Elizabeth so that I didn't really feel a connection to her, her suffering, and what she was going through.  I enjoyed it on purely on an academic level, but not an emotional one. I did thoroughly enjoy the discussions around Thomas Seymour as well as the contrasting relationships with Edward and Mary. I thought the author did a tenable job portraying sources from people who did not see her in a favourable light as well as from those who spent the most time with her allowing the reader to form their own thoughts and opinions on the topics being discussed based on informed and valid sources. While I don't feel anything new was brought to the table, it was still interesting.  

What I did find fascinating were the author's thoughts on Elizabeth's health problems found in one of the appendices. Having consulted with professionals, she outlines her thoughts on the problems that Elizabeth suffered throughout her life. There were also her notes on the places mentioned in the book and what currently exists in today's modern world. I actually felt these were too short and would have liked to read a lot more on her thoughts. I also spent some times reading through the notes included within her primary and secondary sources, but that may just be the history geek in me. 

Young Elizabeth, while extremely readable, did not really add that much more to the bulk of work that currently exists on Elizabeth 1. If you are looking for a good recap of Elizabeth's life before she ascended the throne, of if you are new to the world of the Tudors and don't know where to start, this is a great book from which to do so as it doesn't overwhelm and the explanations are quite clear. I have always enjoyed this author's non-fiction work, and will continue to read future publications just because I find them so readable.


Thursday, June 6, 2024

Review: The Stolen Girls by Jez Pinfold

by Jez Pinfold
Release Date: April 30, 2024
2024 Joffe Books
Ebook ARC; 299 Pages
ISBN: 978-1835264867
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Eight years ago, three girls went missing. Only one was found. Dead. Her body dumped in the street. No drag marks, no blood.

It was Detective Bec Pope’s first case. And she has never given up hope of finding the others alive.

Now. A young woman stands in the doorway of the police station, silhouetted against the fierce sunlight.

‘Help me,’ she asks Bec. Her pale yellow dress is drenched in blood. But it isn’t hers.
My Thought
The Stolen Girls is the second book in the Detective Bec Pope mystery series and it was definitely an entertaining, quick read. The pacing was quite good, and there were enough twists and turns to keep you engaged and entertained. 
Bec Pope is the main character in the series and is the detective in charge of the case. And while I enjoyed the characters, I didn't feel there was much depth to them nor did I feel like there was much character development. In fact, Bec drove me somewhat crazy with some of the decisions she made and I kept waiting for someone to overrule her and tell her it wasn't safe, but everyone just went along with her decisions. Oh, some of he characters argued with her, but everyone eventually gave way, placing people in serious danger, hence the drop in my overall rating. I just couldn't fathom the Chief of Police agreeing to some of the things she wanted. She is haunted by an episode at the beginning of her career, something that is actually relevant to what is occurring in this book, but it doesn't excuse her actions. I did like how the author incorporates the difficulties her job has on her relationships as well as on her mental wellness though. 
The pacing is good in the story and I enjoyed the overall story, especially how the past can catch up to you and create problems in the present, a sort of karma, if you will.  There were some twists and turns, and even though I found them kind of predictable, it was still fun to see the characters' reactions as they discovered what was really going on. Because I found the character development lacking, I didn't really empathize with them too much; in fact, I grew annoyed with some of Bec's decisions and how she spoke to some of her co-workers, resulting in consequences that were tragic. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  Because this was the second book in the series, and events carried from the first book, there were quite a few things going on in this book, a lot of which were left hanging at the end of the book. I did feel there was some conclusion, but the author is definitely intending to continue some concepts in the future books.

The Stolen Girls was an entertaining and quick read, but I am not a fan of books where so many threads are going to continue in future books, especially in mystery books. I know it may just be a personal thing, but I feel like I should be able to pick up a book in a mystery series and be able to have some sense of what is happening, but in this one, while you could get away with it, having read the first book gives you a better understanding of what is happening here. The twists and turn were good, if predictable, and while I would like to see more character development, it was still a fun mystery. There were a lot of things that were left hanging however, things that will continue in future books, and I am not sure if I am crazy about that. However, I will definitely pick up the third book when it releases.


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Review: Kosa by John Durgin

by John Durgin
Release Date: May 17, 2024
2024 DarkLitPress
Ebook ARC; 333 Pages
ISBN: 978-1998851409
Audiobook: B0D4NKW6K7
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from author

3.5 / 5 Stars

In a secluded mansion hidden away from the outside world, young Kosa lives under the strict and overpowering rule of her enigmatic mother. For Kosa, the rules set by Mother are the guiding principles of her life, shaping her beliefs and actions. However, as Kosa grows older, she begins to question the reality she has been presented with. Doubts eat away at her, fueled by a deep-rooted curiosity and a burgeoning sense of independence.

But Kosa possesses a mysterious and powerful ability that Mother desperately needs to sustain her own existence. Mother, a figure shrouded in shadows and secrets, will stop at nothing to ensure that Kosa’s power remains potent and under her control. 
My Thoughts
Kosa was actually a pretty solid book full of twists and turns. While I enjoyed this twisted tale based on Rapuzel (although it also felt a lot of like Hanzel and Gretel), and was surprised at some of the events that occurred, I did feel the overall story lacked in both character and plot development relying mostly on attempted shock value to propel the story forward. And while the pacing was good, some of the dialogue actually pulled me out of the story and even had me rolling my eyes, at times.
I actually did enjoy the multiple characters as it gave the story a different perspective every time someone new was involved. Kosa's situation was the most interesting to me and I would have liked to have connected with her a bit more, to really understand her situation and her fears. I felt the author wrote her a bit superficially which made it hard to really empathize with her situation even though you got glimpses of how difficult her life must have been. Equally, Marta, the mother, was fascinating, and I think a bit more background would have made her character that much more sinister rather than just relying on her magic being the thing that was sinister. Only enough information was given to make me even more curious about her life and why she chose to do the things she did, but was never fully developed or fully explained satisfactorily. I think that foreboding element just wasn't there for me because of this lack of development. I wanted to sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation, but I didn't.;

While I actually didn't mind the pacing, there were parts that were a bit repetitive. However, while I do think parts could have been structured a bit better to enhance anticipation and fear, the author does write a compelling story nonetheless and I had trouble putting it down.  And although I enjoyed the cats as part of this story, I would have liked an explanation for them and their behaviour and how they came to be there. So, while the story was compelling, there were a few plot holes, things that weren't explained or hinted at, but were still quite interesting even if you knew they were there to add to the creepiness or eeriness of the setting.

Kosa was a fun read overall and I think I am more inclined to read twisted horror fairy tales than romance ones as I find them more interesting. I don't feel that horror necessarily has to have horrific things in it to be scary as hell, and this book would be great for someone who is looking to try the genre, but doesn't want anything too gory. This author is proof that you can write about something horrific without giving too many graphic details, but still maintain the horror element for a creepy story.