Wednesday, December 6, 2017

An apology & a recommendation

Hello, my dear followers and readers!

First of all, I would like to apologize for this so very long absence. The last part of the year is always the toughest, and I was overwhelmed by projects and exams in school, in addition to some health issues I’ve been dealing with, so I practically didn’t have time to read. I do miss it, of course, my to-read pile kept growing before my eyes, but I just couldn’t do it justice for a very long time. But now that I’m free, I’ll be heading on to the next fantasy world as soon as I can. I’m just taking a few days off after the last week of school to catch my breath, have some rest, and disconnect from the hurries and research, and everything that happens when you deliver two or three projects on the same week.

With that said, I would love to introduce you to someone today. As you know (or maybe not), I have a very active presence on Pinterest, and I’m constantly sharing new books and recommendations from all genres, as I would like everyone to be able to find characters, and worlds, and all this stories that speak to them, as it has happened to me so many times, and still does. I do this through my own boards, but mostly, I can get it even further thanks to my friend, the author Josephine Blake.

She let me in her group boards, Clean Romance and What’s EVERYONE reading?, and even when she knows that I never respect the pin limit, because I get a little bit too excited with all the new books I find every day, she still hasn’t kicked me out, which for me, it’s pretty amazing, and practically a hug. 

That is why today I want to introduce you to this wonderful person, through her beautiful work. Josephine Blake is an insanely talented historical fiction and romance writer from Portland, whose first novel, Dianna, appeared on the shelves in 2016, and since then she has written many sweet and clean books that have received an amazing response from the reading community. As a thank you for her generosity, her patience, her writing advice, and overall her great predisposition, I’d love to share with you some of her novels, so you can get to know her, meet her wonderful characters and love stories, and live a unique experience. Don’t forget to visit her as Josephine Blake in Pinterest, and of course, in her blog, A Word From Josephine Blake, where she shares all kind of content, from news about her work, to free samples of her writing, and, of course, you can find her novels, in paperback or Kindle format, available in Amazon, the Book Depository, AbeBooks and Kobo.

Don’t worry, I will list some of the links below, you will be able to access them directly by just clicking on the book title, and voilá! So you know, in the spirit of the next Christmas, a book is always the best present for someone you love (and if you don’t, a deodorant will be just fine – believe me, I know).

With that said, here we go. Great books from a great person!

A pull here. A tug there. Something is calling out to Dianna from a distance. 

While her younger sister begins planning her marriage to the son of a wealthy business man, Dianna discovers a yearning within her soul the likes of which she has never known. Having brushed aside the many suitors presented to her over the course of her adolescence, Dianna refuses to fall quietly into spinsterhood. 

Her cravings for adventure and change overpower her strong sense of logic and she journeys forth to marry a man she knows only from a handful of letters. 

This change is good.This is the life for her. Isn't it?

Charlotte Brittler is content. Unlike her elder sister, Dianna, who headed west in search of a life of adventure, Charlotte thrives in the bustling, overcrowded Manhattan streets. If she could only find a husband, her life would be complete.

When the son of a local oil baron captures Charlotte’s hard-won interest, her most basic instincts come into play, and Charlotte is swept away down a path full of secrets and intrigue, in a twisting game that threatens her very heart. 

Logan Drexel is the son of a professional con man. Nothing more and nothing less. His father has gambled away his grandfather’s company, wasting any funds they bring in on maintaining an appearance of exuberant wealth to the Manhattan society. 
Charlotte Brittler is his only chance. 

Logan knows that if he is to recover his dignity—and his family’s good name—he needs money, and a lot of it. So, he promises himself one more con. One last time, he will seek to deceive someone for monetary gain. If he can marry Charlotte, every debt collector can be safely swept under the rug, and he can escape the clutches of a father that has used him time and time again. 

But Charlotte is not a prize to be won. She’s a furious, flame-driven storm that will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and Logan quickly realizes that the tables have turned. When he set out to steal Charlotte Brittler’s heart, he never banked on losing his own. 

Noelle Brittler’s task is simple. Marry and marry well. 

And yet…. 

Emboldened by the successful marriages of her four elder sisters, Noelle is determined that she will have nothing but perfection in a suitor. She lives her day-to-day life, planning parties, organizing charity events and taking slow, wistful turns around the garden, burdened with dreams of a future that she feels is slipping away from her. 

Kenneth Black is anything but perfect. Destitute from a young age, Kenneth has managed to make a name for himself. His Bakery, La Petite Paradis, is frequented by adverse clientele. He feels that even the wealthiest of lives can be made a little richer with the taste of something sweet. 

When Kenneth rescues a young, attractive woman from a terrifying encounter, he never expects to find himself presented with an invitation to one of the most coveted events of the year— a 50th birthday celebration for the girl’s mother, one Samantha Brittler. 

The Brittlers are notorious amongst the lower class for their wealth and standing. While Thomas Brittler, the owner of Brittler Steel, is a self-made man, just as Kenneth is, Kenneth is under the impression that he would not be welcomed at this event as himself, the lowly town baker. 

Aided by the intoxicating Miss Noelle Brittler, he adopts the character of a well-known architect. Their plan seems to be working well, that is, until certain costly items begin disappearing beneath the noses of the many wealthy guests in attendance. There are cries of theft and everyone is looking for someone to blame… 

As tensions rise and passions come to fruition, the pressure is on to find the thief and clear his name. He can’t have Noelle, but he’d sooner be tossed out on his ear than let her think him a thief.

In 1888 London, Isabel Vanderton is facing down the society gossips with defiance and indifference. As the only child of Marcus Vanderton, she is the rightful heir to the Vanderton fortune, and whomever dares to marry her would inherit the lot, winner take all.

As rumors of her ill-health circulate, Isabel finds herself encountering suitor after suitor, no doubt hoping to win her hand—and her inheritance—before she passes to an early grave. 

An endless wave of greedy suitors is not the only thing Isabel has to contend with. Her legs are failing her, her body is weak, and she is being haunted by a man of such breath-taking beauty that he cannot possibly exist. 

But exist he does. Terrified of slipping into madness, Isabel tries to ignore the pull he has over her mind and her body as she suffers through encounter after encounter with a man no one but she can see.

Death is impatient. 

Since Isabel’s mother died thirteen years ago, he has watched her. He has haunted her for years, and now he has come to claim what is rightfully his. He will have Isabel at any cost.

Determined, Death sets out on a careful game of seduction that threatens Isabel’s very sanity. She will succumb to him, or she will suffer the consequences.

As Isabel bargains desperately for her soul, Jack the Ripper stalks the London streets, endangering everything and everyone Isabel holds dear. 

Clara Cartwright is not beautiful. She is small of stature and childlike in appearance. She is also nearly eighteen years of age. A fact that never fails to amaze the ladies of Firbranch, Montanna, the small town at the base of Mount Blackmore, where her family has lived for as long as Clara can remember. Resigned to the fact that her elder sister, Greta, can catch the eye of any boy she fancies, while Clara herself is often still mistaken as a schoolgirl, she hides from the people of the town. Rarely venturing out for social functions and finding solace in the pages of her many books. Each beautifully bound edition, a gift from her father. 

A tough and intelligent man, Clara’s father, Patrick Cartwright, works as a lapidary, collecting precious gems and selling them to the highest bidder. Although—in Clara’s mind—he is an adventurer. 

He excels at his chosen profession, traveling far and wide across the country, but always home for Christmas. 

Then comes the telegram. From far across the snow-covered Mount Blackmore, Clara’s father has sent word that the mountain pass has been snowed shut. He’s staying with a friend until the pass clears, but he will miss Christmas.  Heartbroken at the news, Clara resolves to do anything she can to help bring her father back home in time for the Holidays. Even if that means enlisting the help of the deplorable local fur-trapper, Charles Donahue.

Charles isn’t interested in guiding persistent little Clara over Mount Blackmore in the dead of winter, but when the stubborn young woman ventures out on her own, he is forced to follow. Reckless, irritating, and sarcastic, Charles can understand why Clara Cartwright has not yet found a husband. She has a spark of defiance and stubbornness that most men would find off-putting. Charles, however, sees it as a challenge. An attractive little challenge indeed.

This is just a sneak peek, I promise Josephine has a lot of ther titles, among novels and novellas, that I didn't feature here for a question of spoilers, and space. I really hope you like it, and  give her a chance. If historical fiction and romance are your thing, then Josephine Blake is your author! I promise you will love her! 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review - Dare to Be Kind

Original Title: Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World
Series: -
Author: Lizzie Velásquez
Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Hachette Books
Let me clarify something. I never read nonfiction. I know some people love it and prefer it over any type of novel, short story, or whatever writing form you can think of, but I’m not one of them. I just need a good plot to keep me engaged and passing one page after another wanting to find the answers to an amazingly concocted story. Or at least, that’s what I expect every time I pick a new book. However, I had to make an exception with this one. 

I’m a big fan of Lizzie Velasquez and I consider her one of the bravest, most beautiful women in the world. In case you don’t know who she is, Lizzie is an American author and motivational speaker who, at the age of 17, was labeled by Internet bullies as “The World’s Ugliest Woman”, due to a very rare and only recently diagnosed syndrome she was born with, that doesn’t allow her to gain weight and only a few other people in the world have. You can find her talks online, she has several in which she explains her syndrome and tells her story, and she also has her personal YouTube channel, here, if you want to take a look. But my favorite is her TEDx AustinWomen talk, that truly left me speechless and gave me a lot to think:

In this book, Lizzie tells us her story and her memories, not only on bullying, but also about the circumstances of her birth, how her syndrome affects her life, and how it doesn’t define who she is. She talks about her family and friends, and although I don’t know them, I can relate to the feelings and situations she went through, especially around finding friends who are truly worth keeping. And also, I could relate around chapter 8, when she talks about her dog, Ollie. I can truly understand what she means when she says that the puppy saved her life, as my own dog, a beautiful, loving black giant named Loki, came one day, and since then my home is a different place, for the better. I didn’t really know how dogs could be, as I never had one that lasted long, but now I see that they are little angels sent to teach us about unconditional love, loyalty and friendship. Everything she says about Ollie is true, and if you don’t have a dog, I sincerely encourage you to adopt one. You will have found your best friend.

The reason why I grabbed this book is because, recently, I’ve been hearing of a lot of bullying cases, in the news, and online, that, sadly, end with kids or teenagers attempting to take their own lives, due to their suffering at the hands of their peers. I myself, back when I was a kid, had to go through many years of non-stop bullying, and although I thank God that I never suffered physical violence, the truth is that words and attitudes can cut as deeply as the sharpest knife, and scars take an eternity to fade, if they ever do. So as Lizzie shared her story and her darkest moments in her book, I want to share some of mine, to all of you out there who think that there’s no case like yours, that this is never going to end. Your situation, if you are bullied, are a lot more relatable than you think, and let me tell you, it’s not an endless darkness. I know it, because I’ve been there, and I got out. Of course, I know that things were different back then. Every time I look back when I was 8, 9, 10 years-old, I feel grateful that we didn’t have social media back then, or things could have gone out of hand very easily. When I was a kid, bullying didn’t have a name. It was just something kids do in school, that it’s normal, because it’s just a part of it. But the truth is that it’s not that easy, and Lizzie explains adults’ attitude towards it in the clearest terms, that I saw with my own eyes:

Some people believe bullying is a normal part of childhood—so normal, in fact, that they might not even consider certain behaviors to be bullying at all.

Just as Lizzie, I have a few stories of my own. As a kid, in middle and high school, I did what all of us do: try to fit. Needless to say, it didn’t fully work. I had friends, yes, but not a best friend, not someone I could talk to, and share everything I loved. Since forever I’m a reader and a writer, I love fantasy and romance, but in school, I was just the “book swallower”, the nerdy, unremarkable girl that no one noticed, except when there was a test, or a book we had to read and they didn’t understand it. I was laughed at, and called names, on a daily basis, and more than once I heard insults towards my family. I got asked why I was that fat, when I really wasn’t. I once was called “uglier than a bat”, by this guy who said he would take me to the field trip we were going to, so I could scare bats away with just my face. Another time, I fell into a sewer, as I was so angry with my bullies I didn’t watch my step, and as I clung to the sidewalk to get out, they just laughed and pointed at me, instead of helping me. I spent one PE class after another, as teams were being formed, left sitting there, humiliated as the last one, as I watched the captains looking at each other to decide which team would take me, as none of them wanted me, and I came home crying my eyes out, and wondering why I just kept going to school.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the sake of brevity, and my own heart, I won’t delve deeper. So, what’s the point of that bunch of bad memories? Not to make you feel sorry for myself, because I don’t want that. Just to tell you that I get it. I know what bullying means, I know what it is not wanting to go back to school, and repress your anger as tears go down your cheeks. And I also know how it is to defend yourself, and having adults take the bullies’ side, when your life is a living hell. Even now, sitting here, a new memory comes to me, when a teacher yelled at me as I was standing in front of the entire class, for everyone to see, because I had failed an exam on verb conjugations. I was 12 years old. My heart still aches a little bit when I remember that, proving that teachers are as capable of being bullies as kids are, and in a worse kind of way, because they are supposed to be the mature adult in the situation. But I power through all these memories, because as Lizzie says, they are not going to win. They don’t define me.

Have you ever looked for a book’s genre? When you go to GoodReads you can see them listed in each book’s individual page, so you can know if it is fantasy, romance, mystery or whatever genre you can think of. But, did you notice that, when you read that book, that little word didn’t truly cover it, that the book was far more complex than just a fantasy, or a romance, that it had many subplots and a ton of characters, each deeper than the other? The same happens with us. When we are bullied, names are applied to us, and hurtful things are said about us. But the truth is that, just like those books, that doesn’t describe us. We are far, far, more complex than whatever name we are called by, and it is our responsibility to make our story shine. Now, I’m not saying that we are books, or intend to compare people to them. But I do like to say that we are all writers in some way. We, and no one else, is in charge of writing our own story, and NO ONE is allowed to stop us. I decided, a long time ago, even when things were really tough, that I am the only one in charge of my story. Lizzie even says this in her book:

Wherever you are right now, you’ve gotten there because of your own remarkable qualities and experiences. You are the person who led the way to where you are today. The good choices you’ve made and the bad ones, the positive experiences you’ve had and the negative ones—all of it is your story.

You, my friend, that you are reading this, and can relate to what I’ve told you, need to know that you are more than just the bullied boy or girl, and that everything is about choices. You choose to let the bullies win, or not. Please, don’t sink into silence. Speak up. Ask for help, and don’t be afraid. Just as Lizzie says, you decide if your path is going to be good or bad, and I believe that all of us were born for a reason, among the trillion possibilities of coming to this world being who we are, with the body type, the eye color, the personality and character we have. Even when we don’t notice at first, and the bullies’ voices and opinions fill our head and seem to be louder than a thunder, they are just that. Noise. An annoying cacophony that you can shut up with your personality and qualities, your talents, and the fulfilling of your goals. You can fight back by not letting them define you, just as Lizzie says in her TEDx talk, and remarks in her book:

I am here to tell you: It is fine to be who you are. It is a good thing not to be just like everybody else. What makes you unique is what makes you beautiful, because it’s what makes you you. And the world needs you, exactly as you are. That’s the truth, plain and simple.

I spent years of my life bullied by classmates and even college professors for what I liked, and especially because I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Stories are my passion, my best way to communicate with people, but some college professors literally laughed at my face and didn’t take me seriously when I said it, convinced that I was in the wrong place, that because they couldn’t teach me how to do that, it was a delusional thing, a fleeting dream in the head of a naïve teenager, and that I would eventually give up. But, just like Lizzie says and explains, the best revenge are your accomplishments, and a happy life. My work was never good for them, because it was too “literary” for their taste, and they gave me every reason not to try. But they never, and I mean, NEVER, could slap the pen out my hand, because that’s my decision, and they don’t have a say in the matter. It wasn’t until years later, when I chose a different course of studies, when I truly found a voice. The voice of the storyteller I never stopped being, and although at first I was overly shy, and scared of being laughed at again, I found people who truly saw me, the real me, and for the first time I was told, as I was close to tears, that “if they don’t or won’t listen, it’s their loss.” And now, I say the same thing to you. Your voice is worth to be heard. You were born unique. Your talents and virtues do not have a match out there, and no matter what, you are a full human being for who there’s no barriers if there’s determination enough. And I tell you what, the world is depending on whatever purpose you are meant to achieve. Get rid of all those thoughts that eat away your brain, because nothing, and I mean NOTHING they say or do, is worth your life. I don’t know your story, but I know mine, and I finally come to understand that I’m more than that bullied little girl, and that if I don’t move forward because of those jerks, they would be winning a match that only should be my victory. Have things hurt? Yes. There were dark times? Yes. But they didn’t, and won’t, define me. 

About this, I would love for you to listen to Andrea Pennington in her TEDxIUM talk, where she encourage us to become who we really are, to LOVE who we are, in direct connection to Lizzie's words. It left me speechless, they are twenty minutes of PURE GOLD.

The world would be a very different place if we just replace three of every five hurtful words with a kind one. Just as Lizzie wants to tell us in her book, something as simple as kindness can save us, and change the world around us. 

Also, what Lizzie tries to tell us with every word, is that true beauty comes from within, and that's what we all need to understand and remember every single day. This world is too demanding in terms of physical perfection, and the standards are unattainable, so I won't waste the only life I've got trying to fit them. The only people in our lives that are worth keeping around are those brave enough to look past all of our physical imperfections (because everyone has them), to the person we really are, because all of us are worthy of love, and love creates beauty. 

Finally, one more thing. Adults, especially teachers, DON’T IGNORE BULLYING. Don’t pretend it’s not there, just because you think you can’t handle it. Step forward, and take the bullied person’s side. Take action, because this is literally costing lives. Stop what you are doing, and listen. LISTEN. Pay attention. Do your job as a grown up and look for the roots of the problem to take it out. Use your place as an educator, as a mature person, to spread kindness and respect, from whatever position you are in. If we unite, and for once we do not respond with curt language, cuss words, insults, or even physical violence, this world would be one step closer to be a better place.

Please. Take the brave decision. Love and forgiveness are ALWAYS the right choice. For the sake of the world, Dare to Be Kind

Monday, September 18, 2017

Review - Threats of Sky and Sea

Original Title: Threats of Sky and Sea
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #1
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: May 16th, 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

What a pleasant surprise! I was looking forward to a good fantasy novel, and this one came out from my to-read jar. At first, I hesitated, but I decided to give it a shot, and, although this book was fantastic, it wasn’t perfect. However, it has a lot of potential in the world it features, and I will for sure read the rest of the saga. 

I love Elemental powers, even when they are somewhat overused in fantasy, and I’m pretty sure that, in any world I could live in where people could wield such powers, mine would definitely be water. In Egria, Torchers (fire) are the majority, although there’s some Riders (air) and Shakers (earth), but no Throwers (water), and everything around this people made me so curious! I want to know more about them, and why some things happen, like, how can anyone wield more than one, like Katerine? Is there someone able to control the four elements? Some deepening on those topics would be great, and I definitely want to know more about the Shakers, that barely appear in this book, and may be the most powerful of them all, as the Earth is at their command. 

I really liked the main character, Breena Rose Perdit. Even when a sixteen-year-old barmaid from a tiny village –in a forgotten corner of the realm–, embarking on an unexpected adventure, feels kind of trait, that didn’t deter me, as she is a very witty narrator. She has this frank attitude and curt responses, and from the first moment she makes it clear that she’s not to be toyed with. She has her own will and brain, she’s smart, and knows how to act sensibly, ready to defend the innocent and do what’s right. I loved that she doesn’t need anyone to make her decisions for her, nor she seeks other people’s validation before following her head or her heart. She’s throughout a great heroine, and I want to read more about her, especially after everything there’s still to uncover about her life and her family, that was left in suspense. As for the two big reveals around her, they are somewhat guessable; if you pay attention, you can totally see them coming, e.g., as she watches de ocean:

It crashes, roaring mightily and lashing its frothy waves against the cliffs. […] It wants me.” (Chapter 16).

This told me right away she was a Thrower, and when she was revealed to be the true princess of Nereidium, I, honestly, wasn’t entirely surprised, because it’s easy to get to that conclusion, especially with the hints about her family not being the one she thought it was, and her father’s lies. By the way, I liked her bond with him, their closeness, but their conversations, as he was imprisoned, made me lose patience, as he didn’t say anything useful. I understand that he did that in case Katerine was listening, but there was a point in which the mystery grew and grew and no one revealed anything, but kept dancing around the topic. And even with that, Bree’s father died before I could know more, and I really wanted to. I hope we get a deepening in his past, about how he managed to sneak Bree from the king’s grasp and raise her as his own daughter. It’s an interesting plot point, and I hope it gets further development.

Overall, I wish there was some more action, in the entire novel. There’s a bit too much explaining the everyday life in the castle, and Elementals, but not as much action as I would have liked. Some things take forever, like Breena and her father being taken as prisoners to the palace, as they walked for days, and spent one chapter after another on the road. In general, the characters are a bit two-dimensional, but I do hope for a deepening in their stories and motivations, especially with the bad guys. The king is a great, hateable villain, and it’s definitely well written, as he has no qualms on putting one or many lives on the line just to get what he wants. And Kat also made a great villain, but I would have loved to know more about her, and I didn’t want her dead (if she is, in fact, dead), because she had a lot of potential, and I’m really interested in her past at the Egrian king’s service. Even if she’s not around, I hope to know at least a little bit more, as she is the only one, so far, able to wield two Elements at the same time (air and fire). That raises some questions, don’t you think?

As for the other characters, I really liked Aleta. I wasn’t expecting her to be a Torcher (a Thrower, in any case), but it was a great twist. I loved her attitude, her defiance, in despite of her situation, and this was my favorite line,

They think I am glass,” […] “But I am not. I am not delicate. I am stone. If they want to break me, they will have a hard time of it. I am unbreakable.

She’s strong, and has the temper to be a queen. True, her legacy is a lie, but that just made me more interested in her story, because now I want to know who her parents are, if they are alive, if she’s ever going to find them, how she will react when she finds out Nereidium isn’t hers… I can’t wait to know. Honestly, I thought she and Bree would never be friends, that there would always be some rivalry between them, but I thank the author for saving us the trouble of reading a cat fight. I was glad to see how they managed to forge a bond, and be friends in despite of everything going on around them, with everyone pushing and pulling them in every possible direction, and trying to take control of their lives. It is great that they are both strong, independent women, capable of making their own decisions, and fighting their own battles, ready to take the reins of their lives no matter what. That’s a heroine for me.

Finally, we get to the love story, and once again, we face a poorly developed relationship in which the characters fall in love for absolutely no reason. I don’t deny that Prince Caden is a sweet, brave man, and overall an interesting character, but he and Bree didn’t have enough encounters and conversations for me to see their connection, their reason to fall for each other and be together. I need more to be able to root for them, to eagerly wait for that first kiss that shouldn’t happen, but will spark the fire… But it didn’t happen. Some lingering looks and brief conversations, meant to be intense, aren’t enough. I really hope to see more development between them, and find out the reason why they like each other, because, honestly, I couldn’t see why they should be together. Moreover, judging by the first part of the book, I honestly thought she would eventually fall in love with Tregle, as it makes so much more sense: he’s an Elemental like her, they are both prisoners in the castle, in one way or another they have to obey every order they receive, putting their powers at the service of the king, they are both in training around their element… It’s a lot more logical, if you ask me. But that’s just my opinion.

Oh, and I liked the names borrowed from Greek mythology, scattered here and there, mixed with regular names, it was a nice touch. I specially noticed the name Aleta for a princess from Nereidium. For those who don’t know, “aleta” is the Spanish word for “fin”, and she comes from a realm named entirely after the Greek water nymphs. Well played, Jennifer Ellision. 

So, long story short, I really liked this book, even with all those things I mentioned, and I will definitely read the next books in the saga, as they seem so promising, and Bree is a very funny, engaging narrator. I love to find new authors and get to know the ideas they turned into novels, and I really hope this saga gets better with each book!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review - The Queen's Handmaid

Original Title: The Queen's Handmaid
Series: -
Author: Tracy L. Higley
Published: March 18th, 2014

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Seriously, this could be the most boring book I’ve ever read. I rarely give one GoodReads star, normally reserving it for when I truly don’t have anything good to say about a book, and this, sadly, is one of those cases. Every time I put it down, it pained me to think that I had to go back to it, I literally did it grumbling. But I’m too stubborn to leave unfinished books, even when I truly wanted to drop this one every few pages, and never pick it up again. The Queen’s Handmaid has the merit of being the only book that ever kept me up at night in a bad way, because I just wanted to finish it to be over with it, or I would have to bear another day of trudging through this story. 

A quick disclaimer: in this review, I won’t be delving into this story's historical or biblical accuracy, because I simply don’t know enough about those topics as to make a valid point. With that said, let’s dive in.

This book wasn’t a nightmare, but a sedative. It is probably one of the slowest I’ve ever read, and after four hundred pages of absolute boredom, I have a few things to say. The Queen’s Handmaid feels more like a history book than a novel, and precisely, it should have the opposite effect. Simply put, if I wanted a history lesson, that’s what I would have read, but I grabbed a novel instead. As I passed the pages, I often had to re-read chunks of information and paragraphs because my mind wandered, and if your thoughts are clearly more interesting than the words you are reading, I think that speaks volumes. One of the first confusing things I found was the dialogue between royalty and servants, as it felt informal, and way too modern for the time period. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think that, in other stories, if a servant talked to a royal the way it happens in this book from time to time, they would probably be executed, or at least severely punished. And although, yes, Cleopatra executes this Andromeda girl on the spot for that, we don’t ever see something like that again (by the way, that scene was also the one that made me think this book would be different than it turned out to be after a few chapters).

The second thing that bothered me may sound very technical, and it has to do with show vs. tell. For those who don’t know, a quick explanation: showing means vivid, impactful moments to get the readers invested in the story, for them to remember the important things and connect with the characters and the plot, while telling basically means stating facts, and providing information**. In this book, there’s a telling abuse. Most of the worthwhile content is delivered as facts and historical data, like the battle in Masada. Perhaps it’s just me, that, as a fantasy reader, I’m used to be in the center of the fight and experience everything firsthand, but here, we see the entire battle from Lydia’s point of view, and although the telling isn’t wrong, I can’t feel anything, it’s like watching a very boring movie filled with dialogue in a moment in which I should only be seeing and hearing the clash of swords and shields, the screaming... It’s a siege, for God’s sake! Also, there’s too much telling on the time jumps. In a moment, we are here, and in the next, one or two years have passed. E. g., we get a very intense scene with Lydia in the temple as the battle rages on around her, and in the next page, it’s the same place, only a year later, and the author has skipped all the good stuff, like Herod and Mariamme’s wedding, for example, and I do like a royal wedding in historical fiction from time to time, I mean, imagine the picture that could be painted with the right words! But no, there’s nothing about it.

In this story, lots of things happen for no reason, and that’s especially noticeable after Lydia leaves Egypt. The author dedicates five whole chapters to their stay in Rome, and I felt that the whole thing could have been easily removed from the book, and absolutely nothing would have changed. Nothing comes from Lydia serving Octavia, nor from the insinuated attraction between her and Varius, the poet, so why making me read all these chapters to no point? Because there isn’t one, no matter how hard you try to find it. The whole Rome part got me completely lost with so many names and characters, and I ended up bored sick with the political negotiations between Herod and Marc Antony. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to show these things, but there’s a point in which enough is enough, you can’t rely on your readers’ patience forever. The only thing that happens during those chapters that is worth reading is Riva being attacked by the man we later find out had been sent by Salome to find the scrolls. But asides from that, nothing changes in the general plot, I could have just skipped the five chapters, and it would have been exactly the same.

If we are talking about pointless scenes, after the Rome part, the one that definitely made me want to flush the book down the nearest toilet was the childbirth scene. So, Mariamme has decided that she wants to escape her husband, so she, Lydia, and Simon get on a cart and secretly leave Jerusalem, but in the nearest inn, Mariamme goes into labor, and then finds out Herod is coming back alive to the city, so she has to go back too. And I was like, "why on Earth, why??" Why did I have to read that? The exact same thing could have been told without changing locations, and without exhausting the reader, perhaps saying that Mariamme was about to leave the palace, and then her water broke, and so on. But no. They left, but they had to return anyway, so why making them leave in the first place? Seriously, it made absolutely no difference to the story that she had her baby here, or there. But it did make me angry. What a waste of page time!

Can we talk about the “romance”? Because it really disappointed me. As I said before, at first it seemed the love story was going to be between Lydia and Lucius Varius Rufus, the Roman poet, but aside from letting us know that Lydia is attracted to passionate men, it’s just another piece of the novel that could have been cut from the book and nothing would have changed. After him, she meets Simon, who serves Herod as a soldier, and although we see that something grows between them, this book is so boring that even the supposed romance fell flat. They don’t have enough chemistry, there was nothing for me to root for their relationship, and their first kiss just left me with a puzzled expression on my face, over this:

And in the kiss something was unleashed within her that had little to do with the way of a man with a woman, and everything to do with the way of an Israelite passionate for her people and her land.” (Chapter 19)

Seriously? You kiss the man you are falling in love with, and that’s what you are thinking? If you ask me, I normally would say it’s the other way around. But, see what I mean? For things like this, their moments together are ripped from everything that could be remotely romantic between them. 

But the last point is the worst. First, Samuel dies before giving further explanations about what he wants Lydia to do, that is finding this Chakkiym people, but it bothered me that he was literally dying, and he kept talking and talking without giving any piece of real, useful information! He didn’t let Lydia interrupt him, but he talked non-stop without getting to the point! Man, you are dying, please say what you mean to say once and for all! *Deep breath* As I said, this book was a huge trial to my patience. After Samuel dies and Lydia leaves Egypt, she spends literally years of her life searching for the Chakkiym, never finding them where she was supposed to, doing what she was told, praying to reach her goal, etc., and we only find out who and where they are in the very last chapter! After that, there’s not even a resolution, because she still doesn’t find them! This seriously pissed me off. After year after year of searching and waiting for Lydia, and painfully boring chapters for me, I don’t even get a resolution? What kind of ending is that?

Finally, a quick word on the character building. Lydia is a cardboard character, and I didn’t fully like her. Everyone loves her, she doesn’t have any faults, and everyone who gets to know her can’t help but loving her *eye roll*. No one is like that, as far as I know, and although I was mildly surprised by Lydia’s parentage and royalty, I was too bored to care. At the point in which that’s revealed, I just wanted to be over with the book once and for all. My point is that she, and the rest of the good ones, are very good, nothing is ever their fault and they possess every virtue. That’s their essence, and they don’t feel even remotely human, because no human being is just a big pool of goodness and love. On the other hand, the villains, like Cleopatra, Herod and Salome, are bad, and only bad, they are never humanly vulnerable or show any concern in regards of those around them, their only worries are about their power and the things that could threaten it, and for me, that’s not enough. The worst of them was, definitely, Salome, she’s the witch in every fairytale, she’s nothing more than pure evil. Both her and Herod are not far from the stereotypical villain who creates suffering for no reason, and sometimes it felt like the only thing they had left was to twist a handlebar moustache and tie a woman to the train tracks to fully complete the villainy chart. 

Phew! That was long, and without covering the details (please don’t make me). I just want to add that this is definitely a no for this author. I tried, and I just couldn’t. If all of her books are like this one, I think I’ll pass. Sorry.

**For a deepening on show vs. tell, I recommend watching Jenna Moreci’s vlogs on the topic, here:
- Show.
- Tell.