February as I mentioned in my reading goals post some days ago has been about reading Historical Fiction. Besides of course being a genre I enjoy, I found that most of the books I had for review with me, as well as one I picked for a challenge which I was participating in on Goodreads fell within this category, so it became my February reading theme by default. Related to my theme, over the month, I read six books. (My two non-theme-related reads were children’s books, both of which I have reviewed here).
Two of the books that I read were by author Anuja Chandramouli, an Indian author who writes fiction centred around mythology, fantasy, and history (not all in one), and the ones I read were of course historical fiction, both of which I had received for review. The first, Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts was about King Prithviraj Chauhan who ruled over parts of north India around the late-twelfth century. I didn’t really know much about his life, except a famous legend which tells of a Princess Samyukta’s love for him (having heard of his valour but not having seen him). When her father refuses to invite him as a possible suitor for Samyukta’s hand, she garlands his statue to show that it is him alone that she would marry, and soon after, he arrives and takes her away with him. Chandramouli’s book has a somewhat different version of this story, but it is focussed more on Prithviraj’s life and reign and made for interesting reading. My review is on this page below: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/review-prithivaraj-chauhan/. The second book by Chandramouli was Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen which is the story of Padmavati, the beautiful queen of the kingdom of Chittor (part of modern-day Rajasthan) who chose to give up her life rather than fall into enemy hands once the kingdom fell. This story too is a different version that the popular one I’d heard. Padmavati is however, more the subject of legend than history, and some ways, the book reflected that, presenting her as near-perfect, almost not real. This was a fairly good read but the writing was not of the same quality as Chandramouli’s usual style, and the book didn’t feel like it had as much substance as Prithviraj, so it was the Prithviraj that I preferred of the two. My review of Padmavati is also on this page below: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/review-rani-padmavati-the-burning-queen/.
Then next I read The Light in the Labyrinth by Australian author Wendy Dunn, whom I have never read before. I got this book via NetGalley. This is a story of the last few months of Anne Boleyn’s life told through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Katherine Carey, her niece and Mary Boleyn’s daughter who arrives at court, a naïve young girl with no idea of what court life is really like, and also unware of the secret of her own identity. The book takes us through life in Henry VII’s court―the politics, conspiracies, betrayals, and dangers. This was a book I really enjoyed reading, as would any historical fiction fan. My review is again on this page below: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/book-review-the-light-in-the-labyrinth/.
One of the challenges I was part of with the Goodreads group A Book for All Seasons required me to read a book in a series but not a debut book. For this category I picked I’m Half Sick of Shadows, the fourth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. Eleven-year-old Flavia is a genius of sorts, budding chemist with an interest in poisons and her own lab, and also amateur sleuth, who ends up helping the local police in her village Bishop’s Lacey, solve a few twisted murders. I read my first Flavia book last year and enjoyed it very much. In this one, Flavia’s father has had to let their house, Buskshaw, out to a film company because of money troubles. It is around Christmas and the house is soon snowed in (a-la the Sittaford Mystery, which Bradley mentions), and one night after a performance of a scene from Romeo and Juliet, put on by the actors for charity, a murder takes place, and Flavia as usual ends up spotting the most crucial clues. The mystery in this one was perhaps not as complicated as the previous one I read (book 2: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag) but what I really enjoy about the books is Flavia herself, she’s got spunk and a ‘voice’ that I enjoy, and is always upto something interesting (in this one she’s setting up a trap from Santa Claus). My detailed review is on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2297915593?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1.
Next up was another mystery, book 7 in the Brother Cadfael Mysteries by Ellis Peters set in the 1100s, when there was civil war between King Stephen and Queen Maud, and which is another series which I enjoy reading. In this one, the Sanctuary Sparrow, a young boy, or rather a young man, Liliwin, literally bursts into the Abbey at Matins, pursued by a mob that is out to kill him. They accuse him (a performer and musician) of having done in one Walter Aurifaber, and stolen various treasures during a wedding celebration at the Aurifaber home. The abbot gives him sanctuary, and Brother Cadfael convinced of the boy’s innocence sets out to clear his name. While the mystery was a pretty good one (I didn’t really guess it and there was a twist of sorts at the end (though not in the mystery) which I didn’t expect), what I really enjoyed in this book was Peters’ portrayal of the Aurifaber household which is full of tensions, greed, jealously, and various other emotions, and where ‘power-games’ of sorts are playing out, particularly between two characters. The characters’ stories really drew me in and I was interested to see how things would turn out, finding myself even rooting for characters on both sides of one struggle, at any rate. Thinking back, I realise I probably should have rated it higher than I did. My full review is on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2302352555?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1.
Finally, I read Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett, another book I got from NetGalley, and which is the story of sixteen-year-old Mary Adams who comes to London to work as a scullery maid, but ends up living a double life of sorts, when she catches the eye of some pre-Raphaelite painters, and begins to model for their pictures. This was another enjoyable read which takes one into the world of art and artists (including real life artists Millais, Rossetti, and Lizzie Siddal, who was not only a model for the pre-Raphaelites but a poet and artist in her own right.) Since I only wrote this review yesterday, I’m not going into too much detail. My review is on this page below: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/review-following-ophelia/.
So that was my February reading―a pretty good reading month overall, with authors known and new, and a few good ‘discoveries’ thanks to NetGalley.
For March, the theme I’ve picked is Catching-up, as I mentioned also in my reading goals post. This is because there are a few books that I ended up setting aside half-way or part of the way in, and a challenge or two I need to catch-up with. So some of the books I will be reading this month are The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (this one to ‘catch up’ with my NetGalley reviews), books 12–15 of the Five Findouters books by Enid Blyton (to complete the Findouters Challenges that I started towards the end of last year), Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (started reading this with a Goodreads group but put it aside mid-way (not the book’s fault)), and Sophie World by Jostein Gaarder (started but set aside to catch up with other challenges). I will be reading at least one non-fiction, and doing a poetry/poem related post as I mentioned in my reading goals post. If there’s time after all that, I might just read a couple of ‘fresh’ books off my TBR pile to make some progress on my Mount TBR challenge (catching-up with that challenge). So let’s see how March turns out. As of now, I’m heading off to read Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray which I will be reading over March and April with the Victorians Group on Goodreads. Let’s see how things turn out. Hope everyone has a good reading month ahead!