Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

25855582*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Rivals of Versailles

Author: Sally Christie

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 9781501102998

The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, #2)
Synopsis on Goodreads:
The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV’s most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favourite. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms. All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals – including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters – she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.
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I hadn’t realized that The Rivals of Versailles  was part of a series of books until I was part way through the novel. It easily stands on it’s own as a snapshot of 18th-Century France in King Louis XV’s court. This story is written from varying perspectives and tells the story of the mistresses of the king. Jeanne’s destiny is to become a great lover of the king. Her life becomes a training course to perfect her mannerisms and knowledge, preparing her for the king’s court. Jeanne rises through the ranks, soaring above her birth in the middle class. She is legitimized and rules the court from behind the scenes.
Jeanne is really the only character who’s perspective I cared to read about. I found her fascinating. She makes a permanent place for herself in King Louis’ life, defying the expectations of everyone in the upper class and asserting control even when she is no longer in a position of sexual prowess. The other women were not nearly as entertaining. They are all presented as a bit brainless, their primary function being sexual playthings for the king. I would have loved to see more of Jeanne’s inner monologue as she plots and explores politics with the king and the people of the court. Jeanne’s survival is incredibly interesting, especially as the other women are discarded along the way.
This novel is receiving great reviews on Goodreads. It seems to be enjoyed by many, especially those who have read the other books in the series. I can’t say I loved this book, but I did enjoy it, and it was nice to read about a king who I’d never read about previously.

Review: The Summer Before the War

25776122*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Summer Before the War

Author: Helen Simonson

Publisher: RandomHouse

Publication Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 9780812993103

The Summer Before the War

Synopsis from Goodreads:
East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking — and attractive — than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

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The Summer Before the War takes place in a time that I don’t often read–mid-1910s just before World War 1. It’s at the cusp of a time that had an incredible and profound impact on society. Societal norms are forgone in the face of tragedy and strict behaviour expectations begin to change as the war upends the life that these characters have know.

What stood out most to me in this book was the strong female lead of Beatrice Nash. She subverts expectations on every occasion, shunning marriage in favour of her career, fighting to gain respect and recognition in a male-dominated world through her work and her writing. Beatrice is a symbol of the working woman and represents a changing culture. In her small and limited, but still profound way, she is fighting against an oppressive society, drawing attention to injustices and discrepancies between men and women in her world. She risks her reputation on a daily basis, especially in her new town where company is limited but class and status is strictly enforced.

The war changes things. Characters are brought face to face with the end of their lives as they know them. They experience great personal and community loss. Characters use their positions to manipulate other people in their circles, whether it’s recruiting soldiers, enforcing gender norms, establishing and maintaining rank over others, etc.  The war creates a turbulent setting for this story of changing classes, and transforming societal roles.

I enjoyed Simonson’s story more than I anticipated. I was pleasantly enamoured  by Beatrice as many of the characters in the town are. It was the perfect book to read on a quiet Saturday morning in bed. I curled up under the blankets, listening to the rain against the window with a big mug of coffee and got sucked into this world.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

 

 

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The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

17378527Title: The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 9780545424981

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

Synopsis from Goodreads:
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him. Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.


No reviews here today, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t finished or started this thrilling finale to The Raven Cycle series. Just know you’re in for an exciting ride and wild ending. I can’t say any more without giving anything away.

This has been one of my favourite series as of late. It’s rare to find a series that’s captivating and thrilling, and so different than the general crowd of YA novels out there. This series has been refreshing, and the characters will touch your heart. We get to know every character intimately and they all play an integral role in the universe of Steifvater’s books. If you haven’t read The Raven Cycle, you can now read all for books in one go. And I hope you will. This series has really made me excited in a way that YA series haven’t in a long while. So please pick up these books for a breath of fresh air. I promise you wont be able to put them down!

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