Review: The King’s Touch by Jude Morgan

For most of his childhood, Jemmy’s memories are filled with strange men frequenting his mother’s bedroom, destitution, hunger and the constant claim made by his mother that he is the son of the exiled King of England. His whole life changes when the exiled king himself, Charles II, claims him. Suddenly, Jemmy, “Master James Croft” is swept into the world of the English court and political intrigue. While the monarchy is once again established on a rocky throne, it is in no less danger from wars in neighboring realms, and internal mischief. And through it all, Jemmy tries to make sense of the King, the father whom he loved, but would never claim as his legitimate first born.

Personal Take: Jude Morgan is one writer to always look forward to whenever he releases historical fiction. His regency books are simply fantastic, and brings up the spirit of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen. His other books bring historical characters to life, truly delving deep into their times and lives. So I was excited to read The King’s Touch, as I was looking forward to a beautiful narrative. And it truly was beautiful.

It’s clear that Morgan balanced the line between historical accounts and the fictional, and he did it very well. The book chronicles events of the exiled royalty Charles II and his family, up to his restoration, and eventual death. While it’s interesting that the narrator was his illegitimate first born, it felt for most of the book that James, the son, was passive. And his passivity brought up the same conflicts over and over again, making it painfully repetitive throughout the book. It was also a little sad and frustrating that James’ own story was secondary to his father’s for most of the story up until just before the book ended.

Another thing was, while it was so beautifully written, it could have been condensed if the repetitive parts were removed. The book picked up for me towards the end as the story worked its way to concluding events, but before that, things just took too long.

It’s definitely an interesting, and beautifully written account of the Merry Monarch, but I don’t think it’s the best of Morgan’s books.

Audience: Adult language and situations.

Rating:

 

Other recommendations: One of my favorite novels by Jude Morgan is Symphony. I’ve already read and thoroughly enjoyed A Little Folly and The Taste of Sorrow. Check out Morgan’s other books!

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 

After enjoying quite a bit of publishing success, Juliet Ashton can’t think of what her next work should be about. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey, Dawson Adams, who’s acquired a book of hers by chance. Through their correspondence, Juliet discovers that he belongs to a unique society on the small island– the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Intrigued, Juliet carries on a wider correspondence with the residence of Guernsey, allowing her to discover slivers of their lives during the Nazi occupation.

Personal Take: I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed reading this book. Written in epistolary form, the characters came alive in their correspondence to each other. The description of the time after the war, the people’s lives, Juliet and her life– they all came alive for me. At first, I thought there were too many characters, but soon, it became easy to see how each stood out in their own way, each with their own stories to tell. Juliet herself was a lovable character, a young woman with a lofty sense of humor, who knows her mind, and who loves a good mystery. But really, what blew me away is the level of research that went into this, especially accounts during the war, and even after it. In such delicate details, both Shaffer and Barrows paint a horrific smear in humanity’s history, one that can’t ever be forgotten, but also how the survivors recovered from such a horror.

Easily, this book has become one of my favorites of all time.

Audience: Older teens, adults, especially those who enjoy periodic dramas like Downton Abbey.

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Other recommendations: For Mary Shaffer, this was the first and only novel to be published. For her niece Annie Barrows, she’s published a few children books.

Review: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

 

In Victorian England, a scientist reveals to his circle of intellectuals that he  discovered the secret of traveling through time. Though skeptical, his friends wait to see if his method would work. A week later, the unexpectedly scientist reveals his findings of the future after accidentally traveling there himself. The future, where he finds humanity at its darkest point in history.

Personal Take: I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book, other than it was obviously about time travel. What interested me was that it was one of early books on the fictional concept of time travel. The writing was absolutely exquisite in its details, though sometimes the descriptions can be a little long winded and tedious. It could also have been because for half the book, it was mostly narrated by one character. It became more interesting though, and I couldn’t put the book down. Cleverly, Wells subtly weaves in interesting human observations of the “present” and how it manifests itself in the “future”. The affect, though fantastical and sci-fi, is not unlike what George Orwell does with his 1984.

Though it started off densely, I do recommend this book, just to experience Wells’ insight on the evolution of society.

Audience: Older readers. Though the writing is beautiful, it takes a bit of will power to plow through.

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Other recommendations: H.G. Wells is prominent for his contribution to the genre of science fiction. Even though this is the first book that I read by him, I wouldn’t mind picking up any of his other works. You can check out his books on Goodreads.

 

Review: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The-Name-of-the-Rose

When the Christian monk William of Baskerville arrives at a thriving Italian abbey with his apprentice, what was supposed to be a mission from the Emperor turns into something more sinister. For William arrives just as the abbey uncovers its first of seven bizarre deaths. Following the abbot’s desperate request, William agrees to become a detective to unearth the killer in their midst. In the backdrop of fraught religious politics of 1327, William must use his full logic to collect evidence, decipher secrets and dig deeper into the labyrinth of the abbey, all the while keeping in mind his most important mission, which has the history of his brotherhood at stake.

Personal Take: This is one of those books I’ve had on my shelf for so long, and only by the recent death of its author that I was spurred to pick it up. And I wish I’d read it sooner.

The Name of the Rose was beautifully written, in the point of view of William’s young apprentice. This works well, as we’re just as innocent and clueless as he is, and we see through his eyes the treachery of the “wise” people around him. His innocence also adds a nice humor throughout the book. His role as a side-kick to William almost gave this book the feel of Sherlock Holmes in the 12th century, except William is more level-headed and grounded.

The amount of research done to bring this book to life was very evident (and no surprise, considering Umberto’s profession). The book’s events are interwoven with real historical encounters that were almost seamless (I didn’t do my own research until after I finished reading). The story is a beautiful and gripping post-modern classic, and in true fashion of all the amazing writers, Umberto leaves nothing to chance.

This book isn’t for everyone– if you’re patient enough to go through the detailed layers of a novel, then this is definitely the book for you– I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a taste of a well-crafted murder mystery that takes place in medieval times!

Audience: Older readers. There are some pretty hefty historic explanations in this book, and some sexual references (and some disturbing descriptions).

Rating:

5stars

Other recommendations: Though this is the first Umberto book I’ve read, it’s by no means the last, as he’s written about really interesting topics.