Welcome to a newest series on the blog: Just Bookish Things. Basically, this is a series for everything book-related that I can think up… which is a lot. In January, I read five new books, and I’m excited to share mini-reviews on each one! These are my honest opinions on each book I’ve read this month, and I hope that it’ll begin a discussion between us. I geared more towards historical fiction this month, but, trust me, this is not all I read. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
“When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane, and soon she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must defy her family and take fate into her own hands.” – Amazon summary
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’ll own up to it: I am a slut for royal English history, okay? Tudor period? Victorian? Windsor? Sign me up. I’ll also own up to it: I watched the film before reading the novel. Ugh, I’m horrible, aren’t I? This was my first Philippa Gregory novel, as well, but I quite enjoyed her writing, although it wasn’t very historically accurate. If you can put aside amy qualms about accuracy and like very long reads, this is definitely a book for you.
I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhorn
“Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.” – Amazon Summary
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I wish I could have given this novel a higher rating- I’m a lush for historical fiction about royals (or in this case, potential royals). The first half of the novel is quite dull, and I don’t find the retelling of Anna Anderson as compelling as the retelling of Anastasia’s fate. I was constantly wishing that I could just skip through Anna’s bits, but I couldn’t allow myself to do so as a reader. Another reason this novel wasn’t rated as highly as I hoped- and this is probably a personal preference- was because the “backward” telling of the novel made it very hard for me to follow at first. I actually had to flip to the end of the story to figure out what the hell was going on.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
“Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations―a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….” – Amazon Summary
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
I had such high hopes for this novel and was so severely let down by it, I honestly wish I hadn’t wasted my time with it… yikes. I was so looking forward to the “big twist” it promised but halfway through the novel, I had it mostly figured out. I despised the protagonist from the start (ego-centric, much?) and the writing just seemed very… lazy. The only reason I gave this book any stars was because the “twist” had so much potential for being good, but the execution was just horrendous.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
“The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love. Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen. Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes – after years of searching and desperate poverty – the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.” – Amazon Summary
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Talk about starting my year off on a high note book-wise. This was my first read of January, despite having bought the book on sale at Target two years ago! It was always one of those novels I’d push aside and claim to “read it when I had more time” and I’m kicking myself in the ass for not having picked it up the day I bought it. This novel is impossibly magic while strikingly realistic; while reading this I’d find myself laughing while incredibly sad at the same time? The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a novel that is so alive you feel every emotion these complex characters feel; it manages to be whimsical and gritty at the same time. I’m honestly so blown away by this novel, I don’t have the words to describe it.
Mademoislle Chanel by C. W. Gorther
Pages: 432 pages
“Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood. Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny. Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.”
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I firmly stand by my 5 out of 5 rating for this novel. By no means can I label myself a fashion guru, nor do I own Chanel anything, but I picked up this book on one of my last visits to Barnes and Noble on a whim. Thank God I did! This was, perhaps, my favorite read of January, and I was torn between devouring it and taking my time to let the magic of this book draw out. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it harder to get completely drawn into a book and lose track of time- especially with so little time on my hands- but this book drew me in. I found myself constantly fact checking because some of what Chanel went through in the novel seemed so outlandish, but it always came up factual.
What were some of your favorite reads of January? Do you have different opinions on the books than I did? I’d love to hear from you, so pop a comment bellow!