Addition: Audiobook
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?

Because she cannot refuse…

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent.

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy – the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…

From an author who has described all of Henry’s queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power and education at the court of a medieval killer.

This is number 4 in the Tudor Court series by Philippa Gregory, and the star of this novel is Kateryn Parr – Henry VIII’s six and final wife. Shortly after her second husband dies, she is summoned to court to marry the King. The problem is, he is a very dangerous man. He has killed two wives, watched one die in child birth and divorced two others. If he gets bored of you, he can get rid of you, no questions asked. Kateryn has to be very careful in all she does. However, she is ambitious. She wants to see reform to the church, she wants to study and she wants to write. Plus, she is in love with another man; but if this knowledge gets out she could die.

I think I have enjoyed all the novels by Philippa Gregory that I have read, and this one is no exception. It wasn’t my favourite though. There were times when I felt the storyline was a bit slow and I found myself losing a bit of interest. However, the ending made up for it. It was dramatic and tense. It is common knowledge that Parr survives the King, but I found myself desperate to know she does it, as he is not happy with her all the time. The drama and suspense was really good. There were elements of this story I didn’t like though. I didn’t find the sex scenes added anything to the story. They were a bit too descriptive for my liking, and too frequent.

As a Christian, I did find the church debate throughout the book really interesting. Henry VIII made the Church of England, and placed himself at the head of it, when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. As an old man though, he was still thinking of the changes he could make the church – does he make the country Catholic again, or does he go down the Lutheran way of thinking? Kateryn was a reformer, but not all of Henry’s advisors were, and she found herself walking a difficult and potentially dangerous path.

I wasn’t a massive fan of Kateryn. She was quite arrogant and proud. However, she was the only queen to unite the Tudor children, so she should be commended for that. I really didn’t like Henry. He was a mean, vindictive and untrusting man, who would kill you without any thought. Goodness, you wouldn’t want to be in Parr’s position – having to marry him because he is King, then spending all her time trying to stay alive. There were scenes in the book I didn’t like much either – particularly how Henry punished Kateryn.

I am rating this book 3 out of 5. As I have said, there were times in this book I lost interest, but overall, this was a good read. I didn’t know much about Parr, so it was an education for me. I also found the theology debates really interesting. The outcome of this book was obviously not a surprise, but it was a good read nevertheless; and I will be looking to read the other books in the Tudor Court series.

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.

This is book number four off my Mount TBR List. This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages, and when I discovered by husband’s Nan used to be a glassblower, I was even more eager to read it. However, this book wasn’t really what I expected.

The story is set in both the 1600s and the present day. Normally, I like novels which jump between time periods – novels written by the likes of Rachel Hore or Kate Morton. Yet, this story just didn’t grip me like the stories from those two authors do.

The story follows the Manin family – Leonora in the present day and Corradino in the 1600s. Both are glassblowers, and both are very talented. Yet Corradino sells his secrets to France to save his daughter, and Leonora, running away from a disappointing life in London, seeks to find out about her family history and to clear Corradino’s name.

As I write this, I find myself wondering what exactly about the book I didn’t really enjoy, and I’m not sure. I didn’t really like any of the characters, which isn’t always a problem for me if I find the story enjoyable. Yet I found the storyline a bit boring. There could have been more of a sense of danger in Corradino’s time, but there wasn’t. I knew The Ten were a force to not be messed with, but I didn’t feel fearful of them. As for Leonora, I found her a bit annoying. She seemed to be seeking validation – from her work, from her possible boyfriend and from her family legacy. I guess I didn’t really warm to her so her neediness annoyed me instead of making me root for her.

I’m rating this book 3 out of 5, which is a sign I didn’t hate it! I have been fairly negative about this novel so far, but I read it to the end and I did want to know what happened to Corradino. This novel is essentially a love story, which a historical mystery woven into it. This isn’t the worst book I have read this year. It didn’t take long to read, and I whatever I thought about the writing or the characters, I did want to know what was going to happen. This wasn’t what I expected, and it wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be; however, it was an alright read.

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Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: History, non-fiction
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

2014 will mark one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War. To mark the date, this beautiful anthology will collect favourite extracts, images and poems from some of the UK’s leading cultural, political and literary figures.
     Poems, short stories, personal letters, newspaper articles, scripts, photographs and paintings are just some of the elements of this astonishing collection, with cover and artwork by renowned illustrator, Ian Beck. Among the many contributors are: Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, Sir Andrew Motion, Miranda Hart, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, Antony Beevor, Emma Thompson, David Almond, Dr Rowan Williams, Richard Curtis, Joanna Lumley, Raymond Briggs, Shami Chakrabarti and Sir Tony Robinson.

I received this book from Netgalley to provide an honest review.

When I saw this book was available on Netgalley, I was excited and desperately wanted to read it. I have really enjoyed Michael Morpurgo books, and I love history books, so to put the two together did excite me! However, this book is not actually written by Morpurgo, it is edited by him, but it is a great read.

This book is aimed at children and it looks back at World War One. This is a collection of poems, stories, memories and pictures from the Great War. They are incidents and people who have influenced well known celebrities today. It is an intimate view of what was an awful time.

I thought this book was put together so well. It is engaging and honest, yet it wasn’t scary or horrific, as it could well have been. The book is sensitively produced and I think children will gain so much from it. I couldn’t put it down, I was drawn in to these stories, these moments in one person’s life.

My only complaint about this book is that it isn’t long enough! I know this is for children so needs to be short, but I think a longer novel for adults should be released too! This is a great read and an excellent glance into history. I am rating it 4 out of 5 because it is well edited, engaging, and a sensitive and different view of the Great War.

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I received this book from Netgalley to provide an honest review.

I like Michael Morpurgo and I like history, so when I saw the two combined, I was quite excited. However, this book isn’t written by Morpurgo, it is edited by him. This is a collection of memories and reflections from celebrities on World War One, as the Great War began 100 years ago. I did really enjoy this read. It was a fascinating look back at the war, and well worth reading.

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: History, non-fiction
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Book number 27 is Katharine McMahon’s The Crimson Rooms. This isn’t the first novel by McMahon that I have read. Back in 2008 I read The Rose of Sebastopol, which I remember enjoying.

I’ve had The Crimson Rooms on my shelf for a while. This wasn’t part of my TBR Challenge, but I thought I should read it anyway! To be honest, I was surprised at how long it took me. I did read other books alongside it, although I always do that, however I did find this a slow read. I did enjoy this book, but I did have to concentrate and set time aside for it. I did enjoy this glimpse into history though and have in fact given my Mum this book to read.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: 2009
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Addition: E-book
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Synopsis:

The new novel from bestselling author Rachel Hore, much loved for her stories in which past and present are grippingly entwined.When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of great English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton’s formidable widow, Jacqueline, who’s determined to protect his secrets, and the biographer, charming and ambitious Joel Richards. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton’s past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told…

One winter’s day in 1948, nineteen year old Isabel Barber arrives at her Aunt Penelope’s house in Earl’s Court having run away from home to follow her star. A chance meeting with an East European refugee poet leads to a job with his publisher, McKinnon & Holt, and a fascinating career beckons. But when she develops a close editorial relationship with charismatic young debut novelist Hugh Morton and the professional becomes passionately personal, not only are all her plans put to flight, but she finds herself in a struggle for her very survival.

Rachel Hore’s intriguing and suspenseful new novel magnificently evokes the milieux of London publishing past and present and connects the very different worlds of two young women, Emily and Isabel, who through their individual quests for truth, love and happiness become inextricably linked.

I loved this book. I have really enjoyed all of Rachel Hore‘s books; each of them has been highly rated. I lost my reading bug a few months ago as I have recently given birth and I was too tired and busy to read. This is the first book in a while that has captured my attention and made me long for a few minutes to myself so I can read a couple more pages.

The story follows Emily and Isabel, two women moving in the world of publishing, but many years apart. Emily is given the opportunity to oversee the publishing of a new biography of the famous author Hugh Morton. She is quickly sucked into his world, and the world of Isabel, as someone keeps leaving her extracts from Isabel’s diary. Emily is determined to see Isabel’s story told – the girl who ran away from home and entered publishing by chance. Here she fell in love with Hugh but marriage changed her. What ever became of her? And could Emily get past Hugh’s widow to let the story of Hugh’s first wife out?

I am a huge fan of Rachel Hore and get very excited every time a new novel is released. I like that she is an author who isn’t churning out more than one novel a year and that her books don’t seem samey after a while. She has a similar style to Kate Morton, another author I love reading. Hore’s books are not quite as long though! I find Hore’s novels draw me in and immediately I want to sit and read the whole thing in one go (and I would of done, if I didn’t have a baby and husband to look after!)

I instantly liked Emily and did find myself envying her job – she gets to read books all the time! I loved getting a glimpse into the world of publishing; hardcore but a lot of fun discovering now authors and talents. I found myself liking Isabel a lot too and really empathising with her throughout the novel. She had to face a lot – finding a job in a world that didn’t think women should be educated, falling in love with an older man and competing with a woman who was in love with her husband. Not only that, but she had to face post-natal depression; an illness not recognised back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I thought all of this was dealt with very well by Hore. She addressed the issue in a sensitive manner but didn’t hide how hard it must be to suffer so soon after giving birth.

This was a well told story. Hore moves between the present day and the past seamlessly and I always knew where in the story I was. She writes really well. I often find when I am reading that the grammar in many books is appealing – things such as sentence structure are simply shocking. However, I didn’t find that with Hore. The writing drew me in, it didn’t distract me and annoy me. I loved the fact this novel isn’t “chick-lit”. It is well written fiction, with a historical twist and a romance. There is much more to the book than the latest love affair. We see life in the 1950’s; we see what the publishing world might be like then and now and we see two strong, independent women striving through life and being a success.

I have rated this book 5 out of 5 because I loved it. I loved how well it was written; I loved the story lines and the characters; but most of all I loved that this is the first book I have wanted to read in a long time and it is the book that has returned my reading bug. For me, this is easily a top rated book.

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I haven’t blogged or read as much this year because in September 2010 I started a full time job so I haven’t had as much time to read and spend on the blog. In 2010 I read 126 books and in 2009 I read 145. A list of my past reading can be found here. This year, I have only read 57 – not at all bad, but not nearly as many as past years! Here are some of my favourites:

The Woods by Harlon Coben

Paul Copeland’s sister went missing twenty years ago. Now raising a daughter alone, Cope balances family life with a career as a prosecutor. But when a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the past are threatening everything. Is this body one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive…? Confronting his past, Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to light…

I really enjoyed this thriller – was happy to give it 5 out of 5.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling

My review of this book is to come, but this was a gripping historical novel. It was long but very enjoyable. It was easy to give it 5/5.

The Summer House by Mary Nichols

A secret love that will haunt a family for ever England 1918. Lady Helen believes her parents when they say she will never find a better husband than Richard, but when he returns to the Front, she begins to wonder just who it is she has married. His letters home are cold and distant – and Helen realises that she has made a terrible mistake. Then Oliver Donovan enters her life and they begin an affair that leaves Helen pregnant and alone – she is forced to surrender her precious baby. Over twenty years pass and a second war is ravaging Europe, but that is not the only echo of the past to haunt the present. Laura Drummond is caught in a tragic love affair of her own and when she is forced to leave London during the Blitz, she turns to the mother she never knew.

This is another historical fiction novel that I really enjoyed! Set during both World Wars it follows two women who get caught in love affairs and fall pregnant, both outside of marriage. What they don’t realise is they are mother and daughter! I haven’t written this review yet but it will be rated 5/5 as I really enjoyed it!

The Glass Painters Daughter by Rachel Hore

A wonderful novel set in a hidden part of Westminster, steeped in the Victorian past, full of gothic churches and secret garden squares…

I was surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. I really enjoy Rachel Hore novels but I’ve never rated any of them 5/5 until this one! The book is set in London, both in our time and in Victorian times, following the fortunes of one family and one shop. This is another historical novel and also a romance novel, and I loved it! Review is to come.

God Knows my Name by Beth Redman

In this powerful and deeply vulnerable book, Beth Redman writes to pass along a message that changed her life—that the God who made us also understands us intimately. He hears our cries and reaches out in love to help us and fight for us. He’s always at work shaping our character. And no matter what others do, He will never, ever leave or forget us. Drawing on Scripture and her own experience, Redman invites us to explore the revolutionary implications of being loved by a God who knows our name. And she invites us to call on His name as well—to respond to His heart and love Him as He has loved us from the beginning.

This book was given to me as a gift and I found it so helpful. I was facing something tough and this book was clear and helpful and let me see God and be comforted that He knows me and is looking out for me.I’m thankful for this present and can’t rate this book highly enough. The review is to come but I can easily rate this 5/5.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Ever dreamed of starting over?

Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own café. It should be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. As her friends point out, she has trouble remembering where she left her house keys, let alone trying to run her own business. But Issy is determined. Armed with recipes posted to her from Grampa, and with her local bank manager fighting her corner, Issy attempts to prove everyone wrong. Following your dreams is never easy and this is no exception. Can Issy do it?

This is the first Jenny Colgan novel I have read and I loved it! I was drawn by the cover and the title and very glad I took this out the library. The book had a great storyline and it had recipes – bonus! The review is to come but it will be glowing – I really enjoyed this book. Another 5/5!

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Addition: Review e-book from Book Lovin’ Bitches

Genre: Historical, fantasy romance

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Lady Kathryn’s father has sent her to court to find a husband, but being penniless and disinterested doesn’t bode well for her success. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, she finds her loneliness is eased when the king charges her with the care of his newest acquisition: an uncanny black wolf. What the king doesn’t realize is his remarkable pet was once Gabriel, his favorite knight, cursed into wolf form by an unfaithful wife.

The beast’s too-knowing eyes and the way he seems to understand her every utterance convinces Kathryn the wolf is more than what he seems. Resolving to restore him, she doesn’t count on the greatest obstacle being Gabriel himself. The longer he stays in wolf form as a captive of the court, the harder it becomes for him to remember his humanity. And to fight his wolfish urges to maim and kill.

As Gabriel and Kathryn grow to care for one another despite his horrific curse, rumors of an uncanny wolf reach the ears of Gabriel’s former wife and her unscrupulous new husband, Reynard. Together, they plan to dispose of the king’s pet, knowing if Gabriel ever regains his human form he could strip them of everything they have schemed so hard to gain.

Only Kathryn’s affection and determination stand between Gabriel the wolf and Gabriel the man. But when Reynard returns to court, will Kathryn’s love be enough to keep Gabriel from exacting a brutish revenge that will condemn the wolf to death?

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I read the blurb, but I really enjoyed it! I read it in a day and so glad I did 🙂 The story follows Gabriel, a knight – who is also a werewolf – who is trapped as a wolf due to his wife’s betrayal and Lady Kathryn, who is a in the Queen’s court. Kathryn is out with the court fox hunting when she comes across the wolf. She instantly recognises there is something special about the wolf and prevents the King from killing him. The wolf is put in Kathryn’s care and with the help of the court sorcerer they discover the wolf’s secret and work to try and restore him back to his human’s form.

This was well written and engaging. I found the story enjoyable and liked the characters. Of course, being a fantasy book there were some elements that are unrealistic – such as, the way Gabriel can act like a human even though he is a wolf. I liked Gabriel. Even though he did have a lot of anger issue, he is caring and can see the error in his ways. It did make me laugh how he could intimidate everyone. I loved how protective he was and the lengths he went for Kathryn. I liked her as well. Although only in the the Queen’s court, she was strong and knew her mind. She was intelligent, but she was also a woman, she fell in love and struggled with her feelings.

The story was great. There was action and mystery – there were times I laughed and I felt much empathy for the characters. This is a good book and I really enjoyed it. I liked how the story played out. I wasn’t surprised how the story ended but the fighting and the resolution made it worth while. I am happy to recommend this book and can easily rate it 4/5.

This e-book can be purchased at Amazon for £4.24

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of the Book Lovin’ Bitches Ebook Tours and a copy was provided to me by the author. although payment may have been received by Book Lovin’ Bitches Ebook Tours, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. all opinions expressed here are entirely mine and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book’s publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. this disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

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Amazon synopsis:

This title is suitable for children of ages 12 years & over. When Picky’s Mum forces her to look after Gran, who has dementia, Picky is accidentally transported back to the year 1685, where a man in a wig insists she is someone called Amelia and tries to kill her. Managing to get the dress off just in time, Picky returns to the present with the dress covered in blood. Who is Amelia? Is she dead? Will wearing the other dresses in the chest take Picky back in time too? And does she dare put herself in danger again?

When I agreed to review this book I did not know what to expect. This is a young adult book that features time travel and 18th century London. I actually quite enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all.

Picky is not a pretty, popular girl, who is told by her Mum that she has to spend her weekends looking after her Gran who suffers from demetia. On her first visit she finds Gran in the attic looking in an old box. She convinces her Gran to leave, but on her way down she locks Picky in the attic. For warmth Picky puts on one of the dresses from the box – and finds herself transported to 18th century London, where a man is trying to kill her – although this man thinks she is called Amelia. Picky, sensing danger and adventure starts to investigate this incident…

This is a good story. Picky is a girl who is easily likeable. She isn’t a popular girl but she is a nice girl who looks out for others. She could have used her brain a bit more – her lack of common sense and knowledge did irk me at times but overall she has a good heart. I imagine she was written as a girl who had better to things to worry about than school to appeal to the younger readers.

I think the issue of time travel is well dealt with. Fortunately for Picky there was always a reason to turn up in the dress maker’s attic and she was able to leave the 21st century due to her Gran’s condition. The history seemed decent enough but I’m not sure Picky would of had quite so many conversations with her footman Jones. The book was exciting and a quick-read. I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen – I was hooked and I really enjoyed this. It is aimed at teens but as an adult I enjoyed it. There is history, time-travel, suspense and bad dresses – what more could you ask for?!

4/5

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the piano teacher

Synopsis from Amazon:

Ambitious, exotic, and a classic book club read, ‘The Piano Teacher’ is a combination of ‘Tenko’ meets ‘The Remains of the Day’. Sometimes the end of a love affair is only the beginning! In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton lands in Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair!only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanour hides a devastating past. As the threads of this compelling and engrossing novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges — between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and above all, the past.

Claire is a newly wed who takes a job as a piano teacher for the infamous Chen family when she moves to Hong Kong from England with her husband. It is here she meets Will – the Chen’s English driver. He is mysterious, rude and intriguing. She is drawn to him and their love affair begins. But Will is caught up in the past, and his only love Trudy. Life was fine for him and her before the war came to Hong Kong bringing Japanese occupation of the island. It is here life changed for everyone and had a lasting affect on all who experienced the hard war years.

This is an excellent debut novel. Lee writes of life in Hong Kong during the Second World War and the aftermath of it. She explores how War can affect a civilisation and how people change and what they will do to survive. I think this was well written and sensitive. It seemed very realistic, with the horrors of war shown in this book – Lee does not hide the violence, death, fear and poverty. Yet that added to the wonder of this book – it made it more readable.

The book does jump between the decade, as Claire features in 1953 and Trudy in 1941, yet Lee links the story wonderfully and it is clear how the two women are linked and how the story is continued in the decade after WW2.

It is interesting that I was not particularly connected to the characters. Neither Claire nor Trudy appealed to me, and I found Will brooding and strange, yet the story gripped me and I wanted to know what would happen, how people would protect themselves. The story was good enough for me to not need to be empathetic with the characters.

I can’t think of anything particularly bad about this book; this is a good historical novel that I would recommend to anyone.

8/10

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