Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham

Synopsis (from

A man other than my husband sits on England'' throne today. What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine? Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, cannot give up on her husband - even when he slips into insanity. And as mother to the House of Lancaster's last hope, she cannot give up on her son - even when England turns against them. This gripping tale of a queen forced to stand strong in the face of overwhelming odds is at its heart a tender tale of love. Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham will once again ask readers to question everything they know about right and wrong, compassion and hope, duty to one's country and the desire of one's own heart.

Avid Reader's Review:

3.5 Stars

In The Queen of Last Hopes, author Susan Higginbotham brings to life one of history's most maligned royals, Margeret of Anjou, wife of England's King Henry VI.   While I appreciated the historical aspects of this novel, it took me up until the halfway point to start to enjoy the story itself.   Most of the novel felt rather flat and rushed - imho  330+ pages is simply not sufficient to do justice to the immense amount of history that took place during the time frame covered by this novel.   As such, too much of this history was only glossed over, rather than described in the detail and depth I prefer.    As such, rather than be drawn into the story I felt as if I was simply an outside observer looking in and, as a result, I had little emotional attachment to the outcome.   The Wars of the Roses is such an interesting period of English history, and I admit that most of my reading of the era has a distinct Yorkist bias.   As a result, it was nice to read something from the Lancaster point of view.   Despite my criticisms I would still recommend this novel, especially to readers new to the Wars of the Roses period.


Book Review: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Synopsis (from

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle - a string of slaves - Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic "Book of Negroes". This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata's eventual return to Sierra Leone - passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America - is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.

Avid Reader's Review

5 Stars

A beautifully written novel, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes follows the life of Aminato Diallo, who was captured by slavers as a young girl and forced from her home and family.   The novel takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from a small African village to: the slave coast of Africa; the perils of life aboard a slave ship crossing the Atlantic; an indigo plantation in South Carolina; the streets of 18th century New York City; life in frontier Nova Scotia; back to Africa and the colony of Sierra Leone; and, finally, to England.

Hill has created a most memorable heroine in Aminato Diallo, and his prose evokes a very strong sense of time and place.   This is a novel that reminds me of why I love the historical fiction genre so much, and one I won't soon forget.  Highly recommended!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Back to Blogging...

It's been over two months since I last posted here on my blog, and I thought it was high time I checked back in!   I've immersed myself mainly in fantasy novels so far this year, and since I rarely review novels from this genre I haven't had all that much to say to warrant a blog posting.   My reading tastes, however, are drifting back into historical fiction these days, so my plan is to do some blog catch up and post some reviews in the days and weeks ahead.   In the meantime, here is a sample of some of the more memorable novels I've read lately:

  • Blackveil by Kristen Britain (fantasy) -  4 Stars
  • Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (fantasy) - 4.5 Stars
  • Mad Ship by Robin Hobb (fantasy) - 5 Stars
  • Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb (fantasy) - 4 Stars
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy) - 4.5 Stars
  • Juliet by Anne Fortier (modern-day thriller/historical) - 4 Stars
  • The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham (historical fiction) - 3.5 Stars
  • The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (Historical Fiction) - 5 Stars  Note: This book is called Someone Knows My Name in the United States.  
  • Blackout by Connie Willis (Sci Fi/Historical) - 4 Stars
I'm also struggling through Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.   I'm at the 400 page mark but am having a hard time bringing myself to finish the novel.   

Challenge Update:

Since I've been spending so much of my reading time on fantasy novels lately, I've been woefully neglecting the many reading challenges I've signed up for this year.    I had planned to read 3 to 5 Georgette Heyer books this year for the Georgette Heyer Challenge, but so far I've been in no mood to read any of her books.   I'm having the same issue with the Victorian Literature Reading Challenge I've signed-up for.   I'm aiming to read five works of Victorian Lit this year, but I haven't been able to bring myself to read any literature from the Victorian era yet this year.    Oh well, I still have lots of time left this year to catch up!