Tags: books

Book Review: Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Mistress of RomeMistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It's ancient Rome, and a Jewish slave falls in love with a Gladiator from Britannia. This begins the story of Thea & Arius, and their savage existence under Emperor Domitian's rule.

Sounds intriguing, right? If you believe the reviews it should be, but unfortunately for me, I simply could not get into this story. One hundred pages from the finish and I had to stop: I just could not bring myself to continue reading, not even after I had subjected myself to 300+ pages.

I don't know how to categorise this novel: Is it hist-fic? Romance? Something else? Perhaps I have become too much of a history snob, but I did not feel the story centered around Domitian enough to be based upon his life, especially considering that most of the characters and events in the story are entirely fictional. For me, the story lacked historical substance, and that was the greatest disappointment.

Another major issue I had with this novel was that not one of the central characters was likeable, nor could I relate to or connect with any of them: I could not care less what happened to them in the end, hence the reason for my not bothering to find out.

The purpose of many of the minor characters I couldnt understand: There's nothing more annoying than to have a character appear seemingly out of nowhere, and have the author try and establish their background and purpose to the story in a single, random paragraph.

I also didn't like the repetitive use of full names: It was unnecessary and added nothing to the story. Also, too many characters were inter-connected in too many ways. For example, why did all the characters have to have had sex with one another to be known to each other? I just didn't get it.

All in all, a disappointing read and not what I expected at all.

BCID: 024-8113004 (Bookring)

View all my reviews

Teaser Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
5. Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's Teaser Tuesday comes from Kate Quinn's debut novel Mistress of Rome, a story about a Jewish slave, a Britannian gladiator, and their masters.

"He was the hero of the mob, the favourite of the slums, and the plebs of Rome poured their money uncomplainingly into Gallus's hand so they could pack into shaky stadiums and hang on his every move. They told their children he was a devil, they counted his scars and tabulated his kills; they howled and shivered and came back screaming for more." - p70

Book Review: Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

BCID: 954-8369112

Title: Lady of the Butterflies
Author: Fiona Mountain
Category: Historical Fiction


"What was the point of living if it was not to learn? There were things I wanted to know, that I couldn't live without knowing, couldn't die not knowing, or not at least without trying to find out."

Fiona Mountain's debut novel Lady of the Butterflies is based around the life of entomologist Eleanor Glanville.

Eleanor grew up on the marshlands in Somerset, and was made heiress of Tickenham Court at her Puritan father's death. Eleanor was educated by her father in a manner that was unconvential for the time, teaching his daughter about the developing sciences as much as religion, and with little focus on "female tasks". This upbringing encouraged Eleanor's fascination with the natural world, and with butterflies in particular.

After her marriage to her first husband, Edmund Ashfield, and with plans in the works to drain the marshes for prime grazing land doomed to fail, Eleanor's interest in butterflies wanes as she settles into domestic life and becomes a mother. However, at Edmund's sudden death she establishes a friendship with London apothecary James Petiver, whose interest and knowledge of butterflies re-sparks Eleanor's obsession.

Her second marriage to Richard Glanville proves disasterous, and so Eleanor distracts herself in the collection and recording of butterfly specimens. Through this process the connection between the condition of natural habitats and butterflies was made. It was also these collections that made her famous, some of which can now be seen in the British Natural History Museum, and which lead to the naming of the Glanville fritillary in recognition of her efforts.

However, Eleanor's family did not share this appreciation. They used her interest in butterflies to found claims that she was not of sound mind in order to turn over her will and claim her estate.

Whilst Eleanor's exact fate has not been established, Fiona Mountain provides one of the most inspriring and clever endings to Eleanor's story that truly reflects her passion and determination to be free, like the butterflies she dedicated her life to admiring. This is not just a novel about a woman with an interest in butterflies: It is a story about the amazing and inspiring life of a woman who refused to be dictated to and restricted by convention, and whose tireless work in the study of butterflies has provided us with the understanding necessary to ensure their survival.

A beautiful story, impeccably written, and highly recommended.

Teaser Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
5. Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser is from Fiona Mountain's debut novel, Lady of the Butterflies. It is a historical novel on the life of botanist Eleanor Glanville, a Puritan, set in the ancient marshlands of Somerset, England, after the Civil War.

"What was the point of living if it was not to learn? There were things I wanted to know, that I couldn't live without knowing, couldn't die not knowing, or not at least without trying to find out." - p152 

What are you reading?


Book Review: The Lady Elizabeth

 BookCrossing ID: 389-7314519 (Bookring)

Title: The Lady Elizabeth
Author: Alison Weir

Category: Historical-Fiction (Tudor)



The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir is a novel of the early life of Elizabeth Tudor, before she became Queen Elizabeth I.

As a historian, Weir always ensures to incorporate plenty of historical detail into her novels, bringing the story to life for the reader. It is not difficult to imagine Elizabeth's detached, confused childhood, her father (King Henry VIII) being its only constant; she admiring him endlessly despite his decision to bring her mother's life (Anne Boleyn) to a brutal end; her love-hate relationship with her half-sister, Queen Mary I; the utter choas that followed the death of her father and brother (Edward); her life becoming an endless fight for survival, and her unyieling determination to secure her place in the succession.

Weir's skills as a fiction writer improve dramatically with The Lady Elizabeth, her second novel, creating for the reader a truly compelling account of the events that culminated in Elizabeth Tudor's rise to the English throne.

Highly recommended.
4 out of 5 stars.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
5. Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser comes from The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, a novel on the early life of Elizabeth Tudor, before she became Elizabeth I. It's nice to be back reading my favourite genre (Tudor hist-fic).

"He took from his bosom a tiny circular box of white ivory, carved like a rose just coming into bloom, and lifted the lid to show the child what lay therein. It was the picture of a lady with delicately lidded eyes, a faint blush on her creamy cheeks and the hint of a smile on her red lips." - p 58

What are you reading?

Sanditon &c by Jane Austen

BookCrossing ID: 383-8223495

Title: Sanditon, The Watsons & Lady Susan
Author: Jane Austen
Category: Fiction

Sanditon, The Watsons & Lady Susan is a collection of Jane Austen's unfinished works.

Sanditon is the least complete of the three, and as such is rather difficult to form an opinion on. It is based around the seaside town of Sanditon and the locals' attempts to make it a popular attraction for those sickly folks seeking the healing remedies of the ocean.

The Watsons tells the story of widowed Mr Watson and his young daughters as they seek love and fortune. Mr Watson's youngest daughter, Emma, is sent back into her father's care at the age of 19 after having been raised and educated by a wealthy Aunt, and this is where the story begins. After she attends a local ball she becomes the talk of the town and earns the admiration of many wealthy local men.

Lady Susan is the most complete of the three stories and is an episotolary novel (in the form of letters) about the flirtatious escapades of a wealthy young widow as she hunts down a new husband and creates for herself a questionable reputation in the process. Self-absorbed, petty, cruel and vain, Lady Susan is not one of Jane Austen's more likeable characters, but the story is most enjoyable.

Overall an easy read: 3 out of 5 stars.

Belongs to my permanent collection, but is available for loan on the proviso that the book is returned within 2 months (unless other arrangements are made with me).

Catch Me! (aka BookCrossing and the elusive Wild Catch)

I've mentioned BookCrossing here on LJ a few times in the past, but never in great detail, so this will be my first BookCrossing-centred post. I know there are fellow BookCrossers on my F-List, so in future there may be further BookCrossing-inspired entries, but first, I want to tell you all about my experiences with the BookCrossing concept of the "Wild Release".

I've been a member of BookCrossing since 9 January 2007. In that time I have registered around 40 books. Granted, that does not seem like a lot compared to other BookCrossers, such as CountofMonte, who since September 2007 has registered over 36,000 books and released near-on the same into the Wild. I've released 7 books into the Wild in the past three years, which is nowhere near as impressive as CountofMonte and many other fellow BookCrossers, but it's not as if I havent tried.

For me, the Wild Release and resulting Catch is an elusive beast. Of the 7 books I've set free into the Wilderness, I am yet to have one caught. 

BookCrossing encourages that all registered books be released into the Wild: It is the cornerstone of the BookCrossing phenomena, whereby a BookCrosser leaves a registered book at a random location for a complete stranger to find. It's random and it's risky: There is no guarantee that the book you release will be found or journaled, and the liklihood of you ever knowing what happened to the book is pretty slim. But that's the nature of BookCrossing, and therein lies the fun and excitement.

The fact that I've only released 7 books into the Wild in the past 3 years probably doesnt give me great odds of having one caught, but by not having one caught I havent felt encouraged to leave more perfectly good books exposed to the elements in the hope of someone finding them and then letting me know that they've found them. In the past three years I have found the "Controlled Release" far more rewarding, whereby I simply find someone to give my books to: Friends, family, fellow BookCrossers.

The truth is, I dont want to have all my BookCrossing experiences "Controlled" in this way. I want people to find the books I leave in the wild, to journal them and then let them continue their journey. I want to have people join BookCrossing because they found a book I released. I want them to be as excited by the concept of the "Wild Release" as I am, but at the same time I'd like them to have a little more success than what I have had.

The first book I set free into the Wild was Stupid White Men by Michael Moore (BCID 625-4768212), which I slotted into the communal bookshelf on level one of the EDS building in Adelaide, South Australia, where I was working at the time. The date was 24 April 2007. I was sure it would be picked up, and it was: The same day it disappeared off the shelf, but there was no accompanying journal entry to let me know who had found it. The entire time I worked there I never once saw it returned to the shelf. I wondered if perhaps it had been taken by someone who didnt agree with its content. I guess I will never know, unless by some miracle it reappears at some point in the future.

The lack of success with my first Wild Release meant I didnt release another into the Wild until 7 October 2009: The Dog Walker by Leslie Schnur (BCID 179-4962715). I left it sitting on the park bench outside the Town Hall in Quorn, South Australia; I was walking the dog at the time and thought it a fitting release. It was early evening when I released it, and by 7.30am the next morning when I drove past on my way to work it was gone. As with my first Wild Release, it has never been journaled by the finder so I dont know what happened to it. 

This year I made a resolution to myself to Wild Release more BookCrossing books, so on 16 January I released two books in Saddleworth, South Australia: Cast But One Shadow / Winter Love by Han Suyin (BCID 776-7383973), and Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (BCID 037-3368731). It was the Tour Down Under and there were tourists everywhere: I was sure of a catch, but to date there is still no journal entry.

Over the same weekend I tried my luck with a third release, this time at the Mt Remarkable hiking trail gate in Melrose, South Australia, a popular tourist spot. It was From the Sheds by Matthew Johns (BCID 242-7096180). I left it on the pamphlet box where the maps of the hiking trail are kept. It hasnt been journaled yet either.

Two days later, I set another free in Port Augusta, at the Women's War Memorial in Gladstone Square. It was still school holidays, so I chose some YA Fiction: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty (BCID 378-5412556). Still no catch.

Very disillusioned I decided that I was not going to release another book into the Wild until one of the books I'd already released was successfully caught, however, seven months later I have caved in and this week released another two books into the Wild. I found a new Zone for releasing: the Port Augusta Wharf. When it's not windy or wet it's a beautiful place to take a walk, so I released Mixed Messages by Linda Lael Miller (BCID 279-3296190) there on Monday. The following day (yesterday) I tried my luck again with the Women's War Memorial in Gladstone Square, leaving Arrivals & Departures by Leslie Thomas (BCID 452-4132086) on one of the park benches. I was hoping that someone walking through the square on their way to work would see the book and pick it up. Neither books are sitting at their release locations, but they havent been journaled so far either.

I think the reason for my lack of success with the Wild Release is two-fold: First, I am the only BookCrosser in the town where I live, so the liklihood of a fellow BookCrosser monitoring books in the Wild and coming to collect mine is highly unlikely. There are 3 registered BookCrossers in the town where I work, but none of them appear to be active releasers or catchers. I've noticed from BookCrossing statistics that those BookCrossers with the most success in releasing books into the Wild are so due to the fact that other BookCrossers in the same area are monitoring their release zones. 

Second, I'm unsure if the places I'm choosing to release my books are particularly good "zones", yet I'm limited in my options: I dont live or work in large towns with lots of people so I try to choose those locations with the most foot-traffic, or where tourists are likely to be, but perhaps my choices are wrong? Perhaps I should try the cafes, fast-food restaurants, and medical centres (as others have done)? Or maybe I need to release in places with a greater population to give a boost to the number of potential finders? Surely I'm not the only small-town BookCrosser in the world?

I'm determined to get a Wild Release caught eventually. I will be endeavouring to release more books into the Wild in the very near future, I just have to peruse my bookshelf first and decide on which books to set free next, and I will share my success (or lack thereof) here on LJ.

What are your thoughts on the BookCrossing concept? Do you find it interesting, or feel it is a complete waste of time, energy and a perfectly good book?

Are you a BookCrosser, and if so do you Wild Release? I'd be most interested in hearing your experiences.

BookCrossing: It's like Geocaching but with books and without the GPS (unless you really need it). Okay, so it's not really like Geocaching at all, but that seems to be the "in thing" at the moment and I was just trying to draw a parallel.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
5. Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's Teaser Tuesday comes from Jane Austen's Sandition, The Watsons & Lady Susan (her unfinished works). You're all probably quite tired of hearing about Jane Austen by now, but this is the final Austenesque book on my TBR list for the Jane Austen Reading Challenge, and will be the last Austenesque book I read for awhile: I have so many others on Mt TBR that have been waiting far too long for me to read.

"I make no apologies for my heroine's vanity. If there are young ladies in the world at her time of life more dull of fancy and more careless of pleasing, I know them not and never wish to know them." - Sandition, p22

What are you reading?


Books, Books, Books.

1. Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Not really. I usually read after I've just finished a meal, so there's no need for snacking.

2. What is your favorite drink while reading?

Tea or coffee. Definitely.

3. Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I dont believe that marking passages or writing comments in books is a mortal sin. Rather, I think it adds to the general reading experience.

4. How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ear? Laying the book flat open?

I would normally use a bookmark, or a photograph to keep my place.

5. Fiction, Non-Fiction, or Both?

Definitely both, especially if it's history related (I'm such a history nerd).

6. Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I'd prefer to read to the end of a chapter or part, but since I dont get a lot of time to dedicate to reading I squeeze in whatever I can whenever I get a few spare minutes, so quite often I have to put the book down mid-paragraph.

7. Are you a person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

I've never thrown a book. Now that would be a mortal sin! Although, I've certainly felt like it with a few books I've read...

8. If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Depends. If it really, really annoys me not knowing what it means, and if I'm unable to work out its meaning from the rest of the sentence/paragraph, then I'll get out the dictionary.

9. What are you currently reading?

Jane Austen's Selected Letters.

10. What is the last book you bought?

The Cave by Kate Mosse, from the Book Depository, although I am still waiting for it to arrive in the post.

11. Are you a person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

Only one at a time. I think each story deserves my absolute attention.

12. Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

I love reading late afternoon at any time of the year, curled up in a comfy armchair with the sun shining in through the window. It doesnt happen very often these days, though!

13. Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

I'm honestly not fussed. I'll read either, but with series I like to try and read them in their correct order.

14. Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Anything by Jane Austen. Obviously.
Philippa Gregory & Alison Weir for people who like their history and hist-fic, especially Tudor England.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

15. How do you organize your books? By genre, title, author's last name, etc?

Size. Largest to smallest, left to right, on each row of the bookshelf. I'm a stiffler for this: If anyone takes a book out and puts it back in the wrong place it drives me nuts!

Stolen from [info]craving_vintage .

Mosiac particulars:
Les élans du coeur, 2. Your Routine Smells Stale, 3. Ode to Ordinary Friends: my books, 4. for molly, 5. Candy Apple Cafe, 6. Sakura last days here..., 7. Keep it under perspective..., 8. Day 108 - Cyberpunk librarian, 9. Camdyn's colorful bookshelf!, 10. A thousand worlds she keeps., 11. 18th century Bastille ~ filling time, 12. Memoirs of a student of literature, 13. Inside World, 14. 0518, 15. In Control, 16. Hf30He63Dg12²Ob276, 17. Untitled, 18. i'm your book of the month, read the fine print later., 19. day one hundred eighty nine, 20. Untitled, 21. Books & Flowers, 22. thirty nine | happy bench monday, books i love edition, 23. Reading of the rising sun! / Lecture du soleil levant!, 24. There's No Escaping It, 25. Treasured Books