My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

Sorry for the brief review hiatus everyone. I’ve been a little under the weather lately, which means much more reading and tv watching than reviewing. Anyways, I first heard about My Lady Jane from a number of BookTubers that I follow, and decided to give it a go for a couple of reasons: 1. historical fiction is a genere that is not often discussed on BookTube and I was surprised to see this novel keep popping up, and 2. everyone kept talking about how funny it was and I can’t say no to a good laugh!

So, a brief synopsis. My Lady Jane presents a very loosely historic recount of the life of Jane Grey and her limited term (9 days) as the queen of England. It’s definitely loosely historical as there is a magical element that definitely makes this a fantasy read as well. But don’t worry; the authors warn readers with a disclaimer on the very first page. 

Don’t let the fantasy element discourage you from reading My Lady Jane. The authors do a wonderful job of creating a detailed and engaging setting which left me feeling as I was running for my life along with the characters. The adventure is fast paced, but the love story of Jane and G progressed at a wonderfully realistic pace. No insta-love here folks, which I’m sure we will all find refreshing. And I absolutely adored our heroine, Jane. She is complicated, stubborn, passionate, awkward, and driven by her love of books. She is unapologetically herself! 

Now, I’ll reiterate that My Lady Jane is not historically accurate, but you are made aware of this point through out the story thanks to hilarious interjections by the narrator/authors. This gives it a fireside story telling atmosphere that more serious readers may not appreciate. I do also have to point out that many of the secondary characters and aspects of the plot felt a little under developed. This was  definitely evident when looking at G’s hobbies and the whole last quarter of the book. I would like to provide specific details, but I know y’all don’t like spoilers.

I heard a number of reviews describing this novel as hilarious. Did I find it hilarious? Yeah, it was pretty darn funny and had a delightfully honest tone that embraced teenage sexual awkwardness without all the tedious angst that is typical of young adult literature. It is fun, and very different which is why I recommend it for readers, especially those in need of a break from serious topics and prose.

Have you read My Lady Jane? Let me know what you thought!

Lindsay

Murder on the Ballarat Train

Murder on the Ballarat Train

by Kerry Greenwood

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When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.

Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

I think it is safe to say that I am officially hooked on the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series! Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third novel in this mystery series (check out the reviews for Cocaine Blues and Flying too High) and the scene opens with Phryne and Dot on a train bound for the town of Ballarat. Phryne awakens to the overwhelming stench of chloroform filling the first class car and barely manages to flush the fumes before being overcome with by its effects. The spunky young detective is too insulted at the attack to let the culprit go unpunished and soon she is up to her neck investing the murder of a cruel woman, the identity of a lost little girl, and the truth behind a certain sex trade operation.

Honestly folks, Greenwood’s writing improves with each novel. I will admit that Murder on the Ballarat Train does start slow, but the pace picks up after the first few chapters. The plot flows together seamlessly, and we get a better glimpse of Phyrne’s ‘devil may care’ side. Her character development is progresses with each novel and it almost feels as if you are slowly getting to know a new friend. We get to see Dot excel in her quiet strength, and learn even more about Phyne’s go to street men, Burt and Cec. Plus, we are provided a couple of interesting mysteries that twist and flow together perfectly.

Like Cocaine Blues, Murder on the Ballarat Tran was turned in to an episode for the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries tv show (which can be found on Netflix). So fans of the tv show will know who-dunnit well before the reveal of the killer, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. Murder on the Ballarat Train was just a fun read, and the Phyrne Fisher Mystery Series has quickly become my go-to when I am in need a fun, historical murder mystery. Is anyone else a fan yet!?

Lindsay

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

by Robert Goldsborough

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To become part of the Nero Wolfe legend, Archie Goodwin must prove his worth

Archie Goodwin comes to New York City hoping for a bit of excitement. In his third week working as a night watchman, he stops two burglars in their tracks—with a pair of hot lead slugs. Dismissed from his job for being “trigger-happy,” he parlays his newfound notoriety into a job as a detective’s assistant, helping honest sleuth Del Bascom solve cases like the Morningside Piano Heist, the Rive Gauche Art Gallery Swindle, and the Sumner-Hayes Burglary. But it’s the kidnapping of Tommie Williamson, the son of a New York hotel magnate, that introduces Goodwin to the man who will change his life. Young Tommie has gone missing, and only one detective is built for the job: Nero Wolfe, the heavyset genius of West Thirty-Fifth Street. Together they will form one of the most unlikely crime fighting duos in history—but first Goodwin must find Tommie Williamson, and prove to Wolfe that he deserves a place by his side.

So, if you’ve read my blog in the past, you will know that I absolutely adore the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. I was first introduced to the characters through the A&E TV series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, starring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. The series was unique in that the same ensemble of guest actors were utilized to play characters in each episode, in a similar style to the traditional theatre troupe. This tv series led to me picking up the novels, and I have shared reviews for both The Black Orchids and Cordially Invited to Meet Death. It is safe to say that I am a Nero Wolfe fan! So, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Mysteries. I have read this novel a number of times, and as I consider it one of my favorites, I decided it was in desperate need of a reread. I still enjoy the story, but sadly I no longer consider it one of my favorites. So let’s get in to the review.

The story is about how Archie Goodwin meets Nero Wolfe, and his journey to becoming the famous detective’s right hand man. Archie has just moved to New York City, and doesn’t last a month at his first job because he’s too deadly with a gun. He takes up as an assistant for gum-shoe, Del Bascom, and discovers there is more to being a detective than what he reads in his favorite dime novels. But not surprisingly, Archie is a natural, and his success on small cases lands him on a crew of detectives working for Nero Wolfe and investigating the kidnapping of young Tommie Williamson.

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe is longer than the short novel style of the original Rex Stout stories, but stays true to the form in that it is told from Archie’s point of view. This style of narrative pulls the reader into the story and gives you an intimate understanding of both Archie and the investigation. The mystery is unique enough to keep the reader involved, with a good steady pacing that pulls you along as the clues unfold. Goldsborough does an excellent job capturing Archie’s charismatic yet headstrong personality, and he accurately presents favorite staple characters, such as Inspector Cramer, Fred Durkin, and Saul Panzer. I had no problem picturing each of them as they stalk through New York City on the trail of the kidnappers. It is a great mystery with a nice crew of quirky characters.

But, there are a couple of things that made me take Archie Meets Nero Wolfe off my ‘favorite books’ list. The first is the story is good if you are already a fan of the original series. Though I felt Goldsborough captured the essence of most of the characters, I would have been a little disappointed in the character development if I didn’t already know who these men were. The mystery is great, but the character development requires previous knowledge of the players. The second is I was disappointed in was the lack of banter between Archie and Wolfe. Sure, I understand that this is just the beginning of their association and the two haven’t had a chance to establish their snarky relationship, but it left Nero Wolfe feeling flat. We don’t see him get flustered. We don’t hear the snark behind his comments. We don’t get to hear one single ‘Phooey!’ Those are things that endear readers to Nero Wolfe, and I definitely noticed that something was missing.

I wouldn’t recommend Archie Meets Nero Wolfe as an intro to the eccentric detective. Read The Black Orchids, watch the tv show, and then come back to this story because you can appreciate it once you actually know the characters.

So, is anyone else a Nero Wolfe fan? Let me know which mystery is your favorite!

Lindsay