Review: THE KING'S MISTRESS by Emma Campion

This is the story of Alice Perrers, a 14th century merchant’s daughter who rises above her class to become King Edward III’s mistress. The author does a brilliant job of depicting politics and life at court. The clothes, food and food habits, room decorations, fabrics, colours, modes of travel – all of the things that make up lifestyle – are depicted in vivid detail during the course of the story. The merchant class is described as well, including their efforts to find favour with the upper classes. I found the descriptions of daily life and court intrigue fascinating and this is what mostly held my interest throughout this rather large book.

The parts of this book I didn’t care for as much were the characters. And given that I think the author did a great job describing the court’s machinations, I’m left with the impression that there weren’t many people in the king’s household which a reader could sympathize with. Even the main character, Alice Perrers, left me a bit cold. I think she was written as a sympathetic protagonist but she appeared less of a heroine than someone who complained (too often in my opinion) that she ended up where she did because she had no say in the matter. Perhaps this was so, but the repeated sentiment made the character seem self-pitying. In spite of that, however, for anyone who loves historical novels, I’d say The King’s Mistress is worth the read.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey is already out in hardcover but will be coming out in trade paperback on August 3rd. I love the sound of this one. From the Random House website:

In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman–a promising med student–has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Eager to close the case, the local police have arrested a poor, enamored teenage boy and charged him with murder. Needless to say, they are less than thrilled when an outside force arrives from the big city to lead an inquiry into the baffling case.

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, is the right man for the job, but he hates the idea of leaving his loving wife and young son, a plucky kid with a defective heart. Pressured by his cantankerous boss, Dawson agrees to travel to Ketanu, sort through the evidence, and tie up the loose ends as quickly and as efficiently as possible. But for Dawson, this sleepy corner of Ghana is rife with emotional land mines: an estranged relationship with the family he left behind twenty-five years earlier and the painful memory of his own mother’s sudden, inexplicable disappearance. Dawson is armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, but these gifts, sometimes overshadowed by his mercurial temper, may not be enough to solve this haunting mystery. In Ketanu, he finds that his cosmopolitan sensibilities clash with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered by their families to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods.

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

From page 43 of How to Make a Bird by Martine Murray:

'We went into a room with a policeman. I remember he was wearing a cap and I was watching him writing down our answers, thinking that he wasn't writing very well and feeling concerned that a man in such a position, a position of authority, wasn't a good speller.'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received two books last week:

The first book is One Day by David Nicholls.

From the Random House website:

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

I like the website for One Day. You have a choice of entering the US or UK page and both are entertaining.

The second book I received, Blind Man's Alley was written by Justin Peacock.

The description from Random House's website:

A concrete floor three hundred feet up in the Aurora Tower condo development in SoHo has collapsed, hurling three workers to their deaths. The developer, Roth Properties (owned by the famously abrasive Simon Roth), faces a vast tangle of legal problems, including allegations of mob connections. Roth’s longtime lawyers, the elite midtown law firm of Blake and Wolcott, is assigned the task of cleaning up the mess. Much of the work lands on the plate of smart, cynical, and sea­soned associate Duncan Riley; as a result, he falls into the pow­erful orbit of Leah Roth, the beautiful daughter of Simon Roth and the designated inheritor of his real estate empire.

Meanwhile, Riley pursues a seemingly small pro bono case in which he attempts to forestall the eviction of Rafael Nazario and his grandmother from public housing in the wake of a pot bust. One night Rafael is picked up and charged with the mur­der of the private security cop who caught him, a murder that took place in another controversial “mixed income” housing development being built by . . . Roth Properties. Duncan Riley is now walking the knife edge of legal ethics and personal morality.

I'm not sure which I want to read first!

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

From page 76 of Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook:

Now I knew why James Taylor wrote that song about going to Carolina in his mind. I was trying to stay calm by going to Hawaii in mine, while I sat cross-legged on the floor of my imaginary lanai overlooking the ocean.

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

Last week I received two books in the mail.

The first is Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. This book will be released August 31st. I'm looking forward to digging into this one. I met Cassandra Clare (along with Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld)at a book signing several months ago that I attended with my friends Cindy and Linda. All three authors were highly entertaining!

Simon and Schuster's description of Clockwork Angel reads:

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

The second book I received was from the Atria Books Galley Alley promotion. John Connolly's The Whisperers looks to be very exciting, and from the cover image, a bit spooky:

From the author's website:

Charlie Parker returns...

The border between Maine and Canada is porous. Anything can be smuggled across it: drugs, cash, weapons, people.

Now a group of disenchanted former soldiers has begun its own smuggling operation, and what is being moved is infinitely stranger and more terrifying than anyone can imagine. Anyone, that is, except private detective Charlie Parker, who has his own intimate knowledge of the darkness in men's hearts.

But the soldiers' actions have attracted the attention of the reclusive Herod, a man with a taste for the strange. And where Herod goes, so too does the shadowy figure that he calls the Captain. To defeat them, Parker must form an uneasy alliance with a man he fears more than any other, the killer known as the Collector . . .

Introducing a new blog....

About a bookstore owner who dispenses advice (whether it's asked for or not) to any poor soul who finds their way into his store. Click here to see Pierre's (owner of Beazley Books) perspectives about self-help books, stealth monks and eavesdropping on customers!

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received four books in the mail last week. That's a good week for me!

Think Of A Number by John Verdon. From the Random House website, the book description reads:
Arriving in the mail one day is a taunting letter that ends with a simple declaration "See how well I know your secrets-just think of a number." Eerily, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD's top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial-murder investigation. Brought in as an investigative "consultant," Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that have local police in awe. Yet, with each taunting move by his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney feels his tragedy-marred past rising up to haunt him, his marriage approaching a dangerous precipice, and, finally, a dark, cold fear building that he's met an adversary who can't be stopped.

I could not find the product description of The Fall by Guillermo del Toro, but it is the second book in a vampire trilogy. My husband was very excited when he saw this book - he loved the first one. He was only disappointed because it doesn't look to be a big book!

The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn was a win from the LibraryThing early reviewers programme. From Penguin's website the description reads:
Set in Birmingham, The News Where You Are tells the funny, touching story of Frank, a local TV news presenter. Beneath his awkwardly corny screen persona, Frank is haunted by disappearances: the mysterious hit and run that killed his predecessor Phil Smethway; the demolition of his father's post-war brutalist architecture; and the unmarked passing of those who die alone in the city. Frank struggles to make sense of these absences while having to report endless local news stories of holes opening up in people's gardens and trying to cope with his resolutely miserable mother.

The result is that rare thing: a page-turning novel which asks the big questions in an accessible way, and is laugh-out-loud funny, genuinely moving and ultimately uplifting.

The last book I received is Stash by David Klein. From the author's website, the book description reads:

It’s a typical Friday morning in late summer, and Gwen is anticipating a long-awaited weekend away at the lake with her overworked husband, Brian, and their two young children. After dropping off her daughter at swim class, Gwen drives across town to purchase a small bag of marijuana from Jude, an old boyfriend. On the way home, she gets into a car accident that leaves her bruised but the other driver dead. The local police can see the accident isn’t her fault, but when they find the pot in Gwen’s car, they throw the book at her. There have been problems with drugs in the schools, and the police are determined to crack down.

Meanwhile, Brian, a pharmaceutical company executive, is embroiled in an ethical dilemma over the marketing of a drug for "off-label" use. Jude has gotten in way over his head with his little side business. And Jude's daughter, Dana—a talented college athlete—collides head-on with a damaged ex-soldier addicted to painkillers.

Told from multiple perspectives and driven by psychological suspense and an escalating plot, this ambitious and deeply satisfying novel examines the moral complications that arise when one’s determination to do the right thing collides head-on with human fallibility and desire.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva is coming out in hardcover on July 20th. The description of this novel from the author's website reads:

Two families, one terrible secret, and a painting to die for ...

Determined to sever his ties with the Office, Gabriel Allon has retreated to the windswept cliffs of Cornwall with his beautiful Venetian-born wife Chiara. But once again his seclusion is interrupted by a visitor from his tangled past: the endearingly eccentric London art dealer, Julian Isherwood. As usual, Isherwood has a problem– one only Gabriel can solve.

In the ancient English city of Glastonbury, an art restorer has been brutally murdered and a long-lost portrait by Rembrandt mysteriously stolen. Despite his reluctance, Gabriel is persuaded to use his unique skills to search for the painting and those responsible for the crime. But as he painstakingly follows a trail of clues leading from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires and, finally, to a villa on the graceful shores of Lake Geneva, Gabriel discovers there are deadly secrets connected to the painting. And evil men behind them.

Before he is done, Gabriel will once again be drawn into a world he thought he had left behind forever, and will come face to face with a remarkable cast of characters: a glamorous London journalist who is determined to undo the worst mistake of her career, an elusive master art thief who is burdened by a conscience, and a powerful Swiss billionaire who is known for his good deeds but may just be behind one of the greatest threats facing the world.

Filled with remarkable twists and turns of plot, and told with seductive prose, The Rembrandt Affair is more than just summer entertainment of the highest order. It is a timely reminder that there are men in the world who will do anything for money.

I've checked around and the reviews for this book are quite good. I'm excited about this one!

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received one book in the mail last week. The King's Mistress by Emma Campion arrived at my door and I started reading it right away. So far I'm enjoying this historical book; it's proving to be a good summer-y read. The book description from Amazon reads:

When had I a choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her - at the cost of losing for ever the love of her mother and the family she holds dear. But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets - secrets which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa she must obediently embrace her fate once more - as a virtual prisoner at Court. And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt. Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king's favourites she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.

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