Book Reviews: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan and Caged

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Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan - Ruby Lal (July 3, 2018)

Most of what I know about Mughal Empress Nur Jahan comes from a childhood trip to India and the fabulous historical novel The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. Now, Ruby Lal has written an intriguing biography of this woman, whose historical deeds are shrouded in myth. The twentieth wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, Nur Jahan was the first Mughal woman to rule alongside her husband as co-sovereign. Much of her success and power has been attributed to Jahangir’s addiction to opium and alcohol, but there was more to it than that. Lal presents a fascinating portrait of this shrewd and capable woman, and provides a glimpse at the influence she had during her own time and the legacy she left behind that carries into ours. 

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Caged - Ellison Cooper (July 10, 2018)

It can be hard to find a good crime novel with a fresh perspective, which is why I enjoyed Caged so much. This twisted novel follows Sayer Altair, who is a neuroscientist with the FBI conducting research into the brains of serial killers. But she’s called away from her desk work when two officers are shot in a house where the dead body of a girl is found. It’s a fantastic, slightly gruesome read that fits in nicely with other police procedurals (this is *not* a psychological thriller). The main character is intriguing, to be sure, though I’m looking forward to getting to know her (and learning more about her research) in future novels. While this book didn’t blow me away, it’s a solid entry in the procedural genre and I will absolutely read the next installment.

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Book Reviews: The Ruin, Young & Damned & Fair, The Prince & The Dressmaker

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The Ruin - Dervla McTiernan

When people ask me to recommend books that are like Tana French's, I usually just stare at them blankly. French is one of a kind, after all. That is, until I read The Ruin. I don't want to oversell it, because I feel like comparing anything to Tana French is setting a book up for disappointment, but I absolutely loved this crime novel. It features DI Cormac Reilly, who is asked to reopen a case into a woman's suicide after her son also commits suicide 20 years later. It's provocative, unpredictable, and incredibly atmospheric. And best of all, it's the first in a series, which means we'll be hearing more from McTiernan soon. 

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Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII - Gareth Russell

I read every history I come across about the British monarchy, especially from the Wars of the Roses/Tudor eras, so I was eager to devour this new biography of Catherine Howard, who was beheaded by Henry VIII for infidelity. This book takes Catherine out of the context she's usually put in, a teenager who's thrust into the spotlight when she catches the eye of a king who is basically three times her age (she was 16ish when they married, he was 49) and takes a new, fresh look at the person she was. This is really a fascinating and well-researched book that focuses on a tale of a young girl trying (and sadly failing) to survive in a court that turned against her.

The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang

This graphic novel may be the most adorable thing I've ever read. It's set at the French royal court and features a young fashion designer, Frances, who catches the eye of Prince Sebastian. He has a secret: he loves to go out at night and wear fabulous dresses as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia, and Frances helps him make his dreams come true. It's such a sweet novel about accepting who we are -- and who the people we love are. Jen Wang's art is just amazing. I love her crisp gorgeous colors, and the dress designs are to die for. This is a little book I wish everyone would read and then pass on; it will make you smile, for sure.

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