Top Ten Tuesday: 8/16

Tuesday

Top Ten Books Set In Historical Times

  1. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran | This is still one of my absolute favorites — I hate mummies, but I’m a little bit obsessed with historical fiction involving ancient Egypt.
  2. Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran | This was my first jaunt into the historical fiction realm, so it’s near and dear to me.
  3. The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan by Stephanie Thornton | I also love books about ancient China, and this one was exceptionally well written.
  4. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran | Also maybe I’m just obsessed with Michelle Moran.
  5. The Moon Palace by Weina Dai Randel | I just finished this one and really enjoyed it.

L

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

25577005A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive. – Goodreads

Political intrigue, prophecies, history, ruthless killings…this is like Game of Thrones, ancient China style.

I was immediately drawn into this book and had a hard time putting it down. I really enjoyed Mei as a main character — she was strong, determined and focused on her goal (even if that was winning over an old dude who was possibly crazy, enjoyed hurting people and couldn’t keep it up). She’s not the only determined one — plenty of other girls are also determined, and will stop at nothing to get ahead of the others. Backstabbing galore!

I loved the worldbuilding in this — it was easy to picture the characters, the palace, the attire. Randel’s writing flows well and I was definitely invested in the characters, who were also constructed well.

I really enjoyed the romance aspect of this book — it wasn’t the overarching theme, and it was subtle — however, it was heartbreaking to watch Mei pursue a violent, terrible man in order to rise through the ranks while being completely in love with Pheasant, a kind-hearted prince who stood no chance of becoming Emperor.

The book isn’t for the faint of heart — there is plenty of blood, gore and violence, including a maid being trampled by horses, a flutist being killed by his forbidden, someone getting kicked in the face by a horse, someone getting beaten to death, etc. Very vivid imagery on those passages.

Overall, I rated this a 4/5 — I wasn’t so in love with it that I will be picking up the second installment, but it was a very enjoyable and intriguing read.

L

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

22716447In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”) – Goodreads

Let me start by saying — I love Mindy Kaling. I wish we were friends. Hell, reading her books (and watching copious amounts of The Mindy Project) kind of makes me feel that we are.

This is Mindy’s second book, and though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, it was still a fun read. Rather than focusing on her biography as her first book did, it talks more about her current career and time in Hollywood. She does have a weird relationship with BJ Novak, America is incredibly fixated on women’s weight (her commentary is hilarious while tackling a serious issue) and other Hollywood drama.

I adore Mindy’s writing style — I read it in her voice and the humor reads just like the writing on her show. Her sense of humor is quirky and punchy, which I like.

Overall, I would rate this one a 3.5/5. It wasn’t super intriguing — I would read a chapter here or there when I had a moment or wanted a laugh, but I wasn’t driven to read it in one sitting. I still highly recommend her first one, though!

L

Eidolon by Grace Draven

29953452In a bid for more power, the Shadow Queen of Haradis, unleashes a malignant force into the world. Her son Brishen, younger prince of the Kai royal house, suddenly finds himself ruler of a kingdom blighted by darkness. His human wife Ildiko must decide if he will give up the man she loves in order to save his throne.

Three kingdoms on the verge of war must unite to save each other, and a one-eyed, reluctant king will raise an army of the dead to challenge an army of the damned.

A tale of alliance and sacrifice. – Goodreads

Gahhhh. I can’t even handle how much I enjoyed this book. I was in a major book slump and this busted me out of it, so I’m thankful for that. I finished this sucker in 48 hours.

I read Radiance last year and loved it — I probably should have read a refresher before jumping into this, but it didn’t take long for me to remember what happened.

First things first — love the love that Brishen and Ildiko have. I’m not a big fan of sap, but gahh. I just can’t. I love what they have. It helps that I was able to watch it blossom in the first book, but seeing it continue in this second installment was awesome. I’ll leave it at that.

This book moved so damn fast. That’s my main gripe. And it was a bit choppy in parts — the cadence was a little off. Some things took forever (IE, banquets) but important, cool things (IE, transforming into a Wraith King) went by in a few pages. It was a little bit jarring and the last quarter of the book felt very rushed, but I guess there is a third installment coming.

It’s difficult to get into much detail with a sequel. The worldbuilding was continued and fantastic, love the character development, loved the multiple points-of-view…pick up a Draven novel if you haven’t yet.

L

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

26192150In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, andThe One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. – Goodreads

So many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to check this out in exchange for an honest review. I literally squealed when I received my approval email.

Why? Because I’m irrational and felt that Emily Giffin herself saw how many Emily Giffin novels I’ve read and reviewed and approved me herself. I know this isn’t true, but it’s fun to think about!

First things first: I love how Giffin ties all of her characters from her various standalone novels together. It’s not in a big way, but you’ll recognize the name of a random friend or acquaintance and realize, hey! Wasn’t Ellen the MC of Love the One You’re With? And then your mind is blown and you feel like you understand so much about this side character. I digress.

This story focuses on two sisters (and is told in alternating points of view), Josie and Meredith. Josie is the younger sister, who is a little bit crazy and carefree. Meredith is the uptight, older one. The entire story focuses on their brother’s death (car accident) fifteen years prior and how it affected their family.

Throw in a little bit of sibling rivalry and some insane life choices and we’ve got a story, folks.

Josie is sick of dating — she’s in her thirties and wants a baby, stat. So she takes matters into her own hands. Much of the book is focused on this decision and how she will find a donor. I loved how Giffin tied in Pete and Gabe, though I wish Gabe had been less two-dimensional. As her best friend, it would have been nice to see a little more than his lady-loving self.

Meredith was my least favorite character — she had zero empathy and was incredibly hard on her younger sister, constantly calling her selfish and attacking her. Zero patience, this one. Though at times I could understand her difficulties (and I really didn’t mind reading from her point-of-view), her overall personality really irked me.

For the most part, all of the characters were really well built. The two characters that I wish had been more complex were definitely Gabe (Josie’s roommate/best friend) and Nolan (Meredith’s husband), but they did alright how they were.

In all, I enjoyed the story. There were plenty of emotions, lots of tension, and quite a bit of heartbreak and healing. If you’re in the mood for an emotional family read, pick this one up.

Remember how I kind of hated One & Only? This one was much more on point and I’m back to totally loving Giffin. Only chick lit (okay, okay — with the exception of Jennifer Weiner) that I’ll touch.

The Sea Queen by Jovee Winters

25739661Calypso, Queen of the Seas, is mad. Spitting mad. Ghosts of the dead are fouling her waters. She wants this problem fixed, and she wants it fixed now. Rushing off in search of Hades, Lord of the Underworld, to demand answers, she’s soon shocked to discover him bound and standing trial before a jury of his peers—for nothing less than murder.

Calypso normally despises the beastly gods, all of them, but there’s something about seeing Hades bound as he is that gives her an evilly clever idea. Tired of being a virgin queen, she wishes to shed that boring image once and for all, and no one seems quite as fit for the task as the gorgeous and brooding Hades. Of course, there is the minor problem of murder to deal with, but Calypso is bound and determined to have her way.

And when a dark queen gets an idea, nothing and no one can stand in her way… – Goodreads

Read on if you’re over 18. This review contains adult themes.

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The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

25021810His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander’s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia’s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy… – Goodreads

I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this one. I loved that it pulled me out of a reading slump, but I hate how long it took me to read it. I think the length was twofold — one, it was a very slow read. The description was beautiful and she really gets into the characters. It’s also almost 500 pages. Two, life has been a little crazy and I got distracted.

I love Thornton’s work, but multiple characters can be exhausting at times, though she does a pretty amazing job at making all of their voices come together and paint a vivid picture. I loved the concept of portraying Alexander the Great through the eyes of the important people in his life — his sister, his lover, his captive, his best friend.

I also love Thornton’s writing style and dialogue. It’s engaging, witty, and so much fun to read and visualize.

I think if I had read this at a different time in my life, I would have enjoyed it more. Overall, I would definitely recommend this to those who love historical fiction. I rated it a 4/5.

L