Friday, 27 May 2016

Review: Minette by Melanie Clegg

2013  242 pages (eBook)  Madame Guillotine 

Born in the heart of the English Civil War and smuggled out of England as an infant, Princess Henriette has lived most of her life as an exile in the French Court. The youngest daughter of the unfortunate Charles I, Henriette and the rest of her family wait in hope of their fortunes being restored as she is brought up in the decadent and treacherous court of Louis XIV. A rags-to-riches story, Minette follows Henriette’s early adolescence as she and her family fight to survive.

This was a nice little book – not a sweeping epic, but still very entertaining. Henriette (or Minette to her family) led a very turbulent life from a young age and anyone familiar with her story will know that things were never smooth sailing for her. During her refuge in France she lived pretty poorly due to her family's allowance being scarce, and what money they did have was shared with the other English aristocrats in exile or sent to England for the war effort. She didn’t exactly live the life of luxury accustomed to a seventeenth century princess but her character was charming; she’s sweet and attentive and I found her to be an interesting historical figure. I read this book already knowing about Henriette’s later life so it was fun to see how Clegg dealt with depicting her childhood.

Despite her seemingly hectic early years very little seems to happen to Henriette, at least until the final third of the book. Living in exile isn’t the most glamorous of positions to be in and there’s a lot of hearing about thing happening elsewhere - what her brother, the soon to be Charles II, is up to, the battles being fought away from the French court, and what occurred before Henriette was born. I’m not saying it isn’t interesting but there was a limit to what a seventeenth century princess could do and for Henriette it’s lots of parties and lots of waiting.

It’s not until Charles II is welcomed back to England that things really start to change for her. Her family finally have money and respect once more so that’s an up, and once that happens people start to take notice of her in a kind of she’s-the-sister-of-a-king-and-we-need-an-alliance sort of way. Henriette’s a pretty sad figure – her life was full of early family deaths and strained relationships so this isn’t the happiest read of your life but it’s still very good fictional portrayal of an unconventional historical princess.

Clegg is apparently working on a second novel about Henriette which will probably pick up where this story left off so I’ll be sure to check that out when it’s published. 

Overall rating: 3 stars

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review: The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

2016  320 pages  Simon and Schuster

Wolf Truly comes from a broken home. The tragic death of his mother and the incompetence of his father leave Wolf longing for escape. Seeking adventure, Wolf often hikes up the mountain near his home along with his friend, Byrd – but after Byrd’s untimely death Wolf decides to hike up the mountain one last time to jump to his own death. However, after meeting three fellow hikers – Bridget, Nola, and Vonn – he finds himself stranded in the desolate wilderness of the mountain, leaving the four of them to fight for survival. One of them will not make it back alive.

This is my first Lori Lansens novel and I’m glad to say that I was rather impressed by her writing. The Mountain Story is raw and gritty and as someone who enjoys hiking, I was able to appreciate just how frightening it would be to be lost in such an unforgiving wilderness. It was interesting to see how the teenage Wolf felt connected with the mountain and how he viewed its natural beauty as an opportunity to escape his neglectful home life. While he intends to climb up the mountain one last time in order to end his life peacefully, this final journey inspires Wolf to keep living as his life becomes intertwined with these three women who must now fight for survival with him.

Told from the adult Wolf’s perspective as he writes a letter to his teenage son explaining his mountain experience, the story gradually reveals secrets and neglected memories from Wolf’s past. After initially getting off to a slow start the story builds up considerable tension, leaving you trying to work out who won’t survive the ordeal and how the lives of these characters all connect. As I said, the story is gritty and at times I felt quite emotional as I read how Wolf, Bridget, Nola, and Vonn fought desperately for their lives. This is ultimately a novel about human survival – the desperate longing to keep living. Whilst Wolf is stranded with his fellow hikers he too begins to fight for his life despite his initial intentions, which makes for a very touching read.

The emotional and psychological turmoil of these characters are all different. It was interesting to see how I could guess how each of them would react to a situation and I mean this in the best way possible. Due to the character development I knew the strengths and weaknesses of each of them, which made the characters realistic and ultimately, believable. Its Wolf’s story but Bridget, Nola, and Vonn each have their own to tell and I liked how it focused on their struggles as well as Wolf’s.

This is an engaging and clever read that wonderfully explores the fierceness of human nature as it fights against the brutality of nature itself. The ending was especially rewarding and not one I was expecting which overall led to a charming result.

Overall rating:
3 stars
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