The Viking Hostage by Tracey Warr

The Viking HostageI was initially drawn to The Viking Hostage by Tracey Warr because I’m really interested in Viking history. The stories of raiding and sailing around northern and central Europe are enchantingly wild and barbaric. I think this started when I began watching the show, Vikings, and I’ve been captivated ever since!

The story takes place in Wales and France during the 10th century. The book focuses on three woman and their intertwining stories. One is a Norwegian woman of Viking descent who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery, another is an heiress to a French fortress, and the last woman is in love with her father’s prisoner. How their stories unfold is what really pulled me in and I really liked each of the them.

Despite liking the plot of the story, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the details of the extensive families and the relationships between them. I kept mixing up characters and the book spans a long time range so it was difficult to keep up with what was going on. By the second half of the book though I felt familiar enough with the characters to follow along easily.

The Viking Hostage I liked The Viking Hostage and thought that the story idea was really strong, but I wish
there had been more engagement early on. This was a slower read for me, but once I was engaged (about halfway through) it was really good.

Happy reading!


Free Audiobooks on Spotify

Pride and Prejudice audiobookA few weeks ago I was delighted to discover that Spotify (a music streaming service) offers free audiobooks! The playlist I saved is filled with literary classics rather than new releases or current popular fiction, which is what I’ve been reading the most of lately. Which of these fantastic stories did I start with? None other than Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice yet… Shocking right?? It’s completely up my alley and I’m trying to find time to correct this grievous error. I was excited to find the story available (for FREE) on the playlist and I use Spotify all the time, so it’s been really easy to switch between music and audiobooks depending on my mood and what I’m working on.

I won’t go into detail about my opinions on Pride and Prejudice in this post other than to say that I absolutely loved the story and it has leaped to the top of my favorite books list. I’ll definitely share my thoughts later on, but I want to read a physical copy of the book first and Pride and Prejudice surely deserves its own post.

I definitely recommend checking out the Audiobooks playlist on Spotify! Along with Pride and Prejudice there are many other classics including, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Crime and Punishment, and The Secret Garden, just to name a few. Happy listening!

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

Vanessa and Her SisterIn Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar has brought the members of the famous Bloomsbury Group to life in this powerful novel. The group is filled with incredibly talented intellectuals, artists, and writers in the early 1900’s. Within the Bloomsbury Group are the sisters, Victoria Woolf and Vanessa Bell, and that is whom this story centers around.

The story is told from Vanessa’s perspective and revolves around the very strange and intriguing relationship between the sisters. Vanessa is the elder sister and while she is calm, grounded, and wise, Virginia is brilliant, unstable, and constantly seeking Vanessa’s full attention. Throughout the book we see how far Virginia will go to be closer to Vanessa…

I also loved the way that Parmar brought Lytton Strachey to life with an outrageous personality and charming dialogue. I adored his character.

Vanessa and Her Sister was filled with so many insightful and powerful quotes that I couldn’t pick just one! Here are a few of my top picks:

“…It is a narrow precipice with Virginia. Too much affection given to someone else and she can topple over, too little and she gloats.”

“I worry that life is always in the future and that I am always here, in the preamble straightening up the cushions so that life will go smoothly once it does begin.” 

“Affection is so much easier to give when it is not owed.” 

“In my deep bones, I have always known that Virginia is in love with me.” 

“…She basks in my protectiveness, but it only spurs her on to recklessness.”

“’Hope is an unbreakable habit.’”

Priya Parmar has done an incredible job bringing this time period and these people to life in a beautiful narrative.

I received a copy of Vanessa and Her Sister from Random House in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I'll See You in ParisWhen I started I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable I liked it, but when I finished the book, I loved it. A narrative that picks up as the story progresses, I felt truly engaged with the characters by the end. I also love the cover. A worn book on a café table in Paris? How dreamy! The story is filled with classic literary quotes from Hardy, Proust, Woolf, as well as many others, and each was a lovely addition to the story.

The story is based on the real life of Gladys Spencer-Churchill, also known as the infamous Duchess of Marlborough, although she denies the title vehemently throughout the book.

Annie, a young woman of 22 years, finds herself in Branbury, England with her mother. Annie has found an old tattered biography of the duchess and sets out to answer the question of the woman’s true identity. Annie may just fill in some of the gaps of her own family history as well during her search…

Between present day flashes of Annie’s search, we meet Gladys, Pru (her American caretaker), and Win (her self proclaimed biographer) back in the 1970’s. I must say that I LOVED the witty banter between Pru and Win. It was quick, sarcastic, and full of affection all at once. It was fantastic.

I also really liked Gladys, a gruff old woman over 90 years old who doesn’t filter her comments and speaks her outrageous thoughts. Despite her hard exterior and continuous desire to be the center of attention, we get to see a side of the woman that is quite endearing.

While I highly enjoyed Pru, Win, and Gladys, I didn’t especially enjoy Annie. A perfectly fine character, I thought that she acted quite immaturely during her search. It was interesting to compare Annie at 22 years old to Pru, who was 19 years old as a caretaker, and their differences in maturity.

My favorite quote – “You see, Miss Valentine, that’s the problem with getting old. Your body changes but your heart does not.”

I’ll See You in Paris is a great book that grows with you as the plot twists. Definitely add this one to your TBR list, especially if you enjoy historical fiction and wild characters!

I received a copy of I’ll See You in Paris from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Along the Infinite SeaBeatriz Williams is an author that makes me want to become a writer myself. Along the Infinite Sea, her most recent novel, is an incredible story told from the perspectives of two strong women. I haven’t been disappointed by any of William’s stories yet and I’m already eagerly waiting for her next release this summer!

This book picks up where Tiny Little Thing left off with Pepper Schuyler’s story in the 1960’s. While these books are not a traditional series, and don’t need to be read in order to be enjoyed, they focus on the Schuyler family and each of the three sisters in turn. Pepper is pregnant, unwed, and on the run from her baby’s father. She has just sold an old restored Mercedes and plans to use the large sum of money to raise her child on her own. The car’s buyer, Annabelle, introduces herself to Pepper and they take a liking to each other, if hesitantly at first on Pepper’s part. Pepper doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t trust anyone besides herself, but Annabelle’s story may just change her mind…

The book switches from Pepper’s perspective in the 1960’s to Annabelle’s in the 1930’s when she was in Europe between the two world wars. I love Annabelle’s spirit and poise, and I love her relationship with the mysterious and charming Stefan as well. The circumstances and misunderstandings that keep Annabelle and Stefan, a Jewish German man, apart are truly heartbreaking.

This is a delicious story, one that I devoured as quickly as I could. I love the trio of sisters that Williams has created because the Schuyler sisters are just so great.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the SunI really enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain so I was excited to get my hands on her latest book, Circling the Sun. I liked this book, but unfortunately I wasn’t as drawn into the story as I had hoped to be. It was good and I wanted to see how it turned out, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t put it down.

The book is based on the real life of Beryl Markham, a record-setting pilot. Beryl is a strong character, very alive and brave, and one who wants freedom more than anything else. As a young English girl growing up in colonial Kenya, she faced wild animals regularly, but she used fear to motivate her rather than hold her back. Beryl is a character that is easy to admire.

Along with Beryl’s character I was fascinated to read about life in Africa during the 1920’s. McLain did a great job of creating this wild colorful scenery filled with lions, horses, and other animals.

Throughout the story I had a hard time understanding how each character’s lives could change so often. From romantic partners to careers to houses, each character seemed to be bouncing all around with no sense of stability. As a person that doesn’t always welcome change, this was very strange to read about. Some sections were also a bit slow for me and at times I had a tough time keeping track of the many characters involved.

Circling the Sun is definitely an interesting and well-written story worth a read!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's EdgeThis is one of the books that helped build my love for Scotland, its green countryside, and the lively people. Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, has returned with another great book, At the Water’s Edge.

The story centers around Maddie, a young woman from high society Philadelphia. During World War II, she travels to Scotland with her husband and his best friend in an attempt to locate the Loch Ness monster, following a trail left by her father-in-law. After behaving poorly at a party, Maddie and her husband, Ellis, hope that finding the mystical monster will win back his favor.

Maddie has grown up in a very restrictive environment, bound by the rules of society and distant parents, but doesn’t realize how much so until she arrives in Scotland. The Scottish barmaids and inn owner open her eyes to an entirely different world and she finds herself drawn to it. In the Scottish countryside she also finds out that the man she married may not be who she thought he was. Her charming husband turns out to be a nasty brute while a new man in Scotland may win her heart instead.

At the Water’s Edge has a snowball effect, picking up speed as the story goes on. With an intense ending, I was gripping the book until the very last page. I really liked the story and found myself rooting for Maddie the whole time!