Audiobook Review: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction / Regency Romance
Publication Sate: January 5th, 2000
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable. Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar. The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…” (Goodreads)

Ever since finishing up the first two seasons of Bridgerton it made me want to try reading regency romance. I know. Who am I? A subgenre I had sworn off, lol. I’ll be honest, it was hard to not compare it to the show. There were some things the show did better and others the book did. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it though.

The book is told from a third-person narrative which I think fits the book just fine. I liked being in Simon and Daphne’s head to understand how they were feeling towards one another from beginning to end. Sure, their romance is very fast paced and maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t watched the show but I still binged through the audiobook.

There isn’t a lot of drama in the book like there is in the show. I can understand why they added it, as well as more character development from the minor characters, because they definitely needed more in the book. Personally, I liked Anthony more in the book. He was very comical when it came to his sister and Simon. The start of their “romantic” intensions was much different and I think I liked how it played out in the book more. Colin was also another favorite. I do wish there was more from Eloise though.

Even though this was very simplistic, I still enjoyed what it had to offer. The narration was very nice and like I said above, I binged it in less than a days time. It was just what I needed after reading a lot of fantasy.

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Random Thoughts: Bridgerton Season 1 and 2

Hello Lovely Readers!

After telling myself I wouldn’t watch it because Historical Fiction isn’t for me, here I am. What a joke that was because from the first episode I was hooked! This made my sister quite happy since she has been telling me to watch it since it first came out. She had someone to finally talk about it with.

I will try to keep this review of both seasons spoiler-free. If I can’t for some reason then I will be sure to let you know that a spoiler is ahead!

I absolutely adored season one! There is nothing I didn’t like about it. It sets up the characters nicely and I enjoyed seeing where their story arcs went. The only character I probably disliked the most would be Lady Featherington for obvious reasons, ha. She did grow on me a little in season two when it came to protecting her family but she is still something else.

Simon and Daphne got a lot of screen time in season one compared to our couple in season two. I think that is why I liked the first more. You really understood them better and the struggles they faced was all the more real and heartfelt. I cried and laugh way too much! Although I won’t complain much about that because it shows that I did really enjoy it.

I know that many didn’t like love triangle that appeared in season 2 and I will say that it didn’t bother me too much as I kind of saw it from a different perspective. I know my sister wasn’t impressed with it because it veered far from the book. I haven’t read them so I just went in blind. It was probably for the best. I do want to read them eventually.

One thing that I loved was the music! How impressive is it to turn pop songs we already know into classical? It was such a nice touch and has had me listening to the songs since then, lol. It is a nice edition to the Encanto soundtrack.

The settings, costumes, and everything else was just glorious! I’ll take one of each please.

Each season ends on quite the cliffhanger from different plot points and I don’t know how I will survive until season three. I am very curious to see which of the siblings will get their romance, or maybe it will be Penelope. Only time will tell!

Book Review: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

Title: Year of the Reaper
Author: Makiia Lucier
Genre: YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

The past never forgets…

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret—one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.” (Goodreads)

So, yeah. I loved this one.

I was scared to start this one since I had seen lower rated reviews but was hoping that this would be a gem. And boy, was it! It was one of those where I became enamored by the story from the beginning because the way she writes is amazing.

The book is told from the third person narrative, which is my favorite. It is also a male protagonist that the reader follows and let me just say how wonderful that was. Most of the time in YA Fantasy it is a female protagonist and sometimes we get multiple point-of-views for a female and male, but to just have the male protagonist alone was great. By far one of my favorite characters to read about this year.

Cas has been through a lot since the plague began. He is on a journey home with a new skill and what he left behind isn’t the same anymore. It is easy to feel something for this character. Cas is broken and dealing with PTSD. The last three years of his life haven’t been sunshine and rainbows. It’s been brutally dark. Even though I can’t relate to what he has gone through, I can see how the plague correlates to our own world today and what we have been dealing with for the last couple of years. I wanted to see him rise above his struggles and have a better life. One that he deserved wholeheartedly.

You can use the word resilient when talking about many of the other characters in this book. They want a better world which includes peace between two warring kingdoms and they want to stop the spread of the plague. They accomplish this through many routes and sometimes what you think isn’t always the reality of that action. There is a mystery surrounding some of the plot and it had me hooked. The mystery was a nice touch to this already impressive plot. I got to 60% by bed time and then decided I didn’t need sleep so I kept on going. It was too good to put down.

Usually a book like this would be hard for me to like. Standalones can be iffy especially for the fantasy genre. It also isn’t overly complex when it comes to the plot. But the thing is is that the book didn’t need an overly complex plot. It was easy to follow along, had the right amount of suspense, and it’s filled with great characters that you can’t help but want to know more about. Besides, that ending was adorable and I can’t help but root for the bit of romance we got between two of the characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I’m going to talk about it forever so be warned! Now, go read it if you haven’t!

Arc Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Mythology
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: 3 stars

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review.

“In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.” (Goodreads)

Since I’ve liked books by both authors mentioned in the blurb on Goodreads (Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik) I decided I wanted to give this book a try. The blurb for it also sounded promising as well.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this book. The use of mythology was refreshing from others I have read as I can’t recall ever reading a book about Jewish Mythology. It was also interesting from a historical perspective as the author blended in Hungarian History. Both of these topics I know nothing of so I can’t comment on them besides from a readers perspective.

In the beginning of the book we are introduced to Évike who is 25 years-old and known as a wolf-girl. She is a pagan to those who don’t share the same beliefs as those in her village and ever year the Woodsmen who work for the king come and take one wolf-girl away. Her mother was taken ten years before and so Évike was raised by the village táltos. Not only has she struggled with that and not knowing her father, she also is barren when it comes to the magic of their gods. I can’t say that I connected with Évike but I did admire her determination and forgiveness. She also remained calm in a lot of situations I wouldn’t have been.

The plot is filled with religion, politics, and can be on the darker side at times. There is a hint of romance but it is very minor and it didn’t really add anything to the story for me. I felt that their progression was quick and then it just died off for angst and inner turmoil from the characters.

The pacing at times can be a bit off and this is probably why I lost interest at times to read.

Overall, this was good. I had my issues with it but I can see many readers liking this one especially if they are a fan of lyrical prose writing.

Mini Book reviews: Found Things #1 and #1 by Paula Brackston

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31450585Title: The Little Shop of Found Things (Found Things #1)
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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“A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.” (Goodreads)

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There were some interesting parts to this, one being the time travel. I thought that was really cool that she could go back and help people just by touching an item.

The romance was pretty underwhelming and I felt like the plot was lacking as well. There just wasn’t enough adventure in my opinion.

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43263457._SY475_Title: Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2)
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publication Date: October 22nd, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?” (Goodreads)

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This was definitely better than the first. There was a bit more going on in the romance department but I still think that it could have done with a bit more. The plot was better because there was actually a villain. In the first one it is more about them not being able to practice their religion openly but I liked the idea of this villain and how they have been there all this time. It ended with a bang because of it and now I am very interested in the third book. Overall, there was just more action, suspense, and it did grasp my attention a bit more.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

E-Arc Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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53152636._SX318_SY475_Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Gothic
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Publisher: Del Rey

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley for review. All opinions are my own.

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“From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico — and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.”(Goodreads)

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This cover is one of my favorites of the year. The blurb had me very curious and I was lucky enough to get my wish granted on NetGalley.

It’s hard to figure out what to expect when it comes to a book like this. The plot was nothing I would have ever imagined and the twists were ones I didn’t see coming at all. The author weaved so many different strings to create this intricate plot that had me utterly disturbed but also intrigued the further I got into the story. (The first 50% or so was slow going for me as I had a hard time really connecting with the characters or plot.)

Noemí is strong-willed and even though it’s not always the best trait to have, it really worked in her favor for this. I’m not sure how she coped with any of the things that were going on because I would have been in breakdown mode like her cousin.

The gothic house is filled with many people and all of them, besides Francis, are just strange. The more you get to know certain characters, the more you start loathing them. They each have a part to play and sometimes their part isn’t what it seems.

There is a tad bit of romance but it does not take up much of the plot. I did like the relationship between the two characters and thought that it molded nicely into the rest of the plot.

Overall, this was everything that a gothic novel should be. It may have taken me a bit to get into but the ending was worth the wait.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Mini Book Review: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

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5797Title: Vanity Fair
Author: William Makepeace Thackery
Genre: Classics/Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 1847

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“A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.”

(Goodreads)

 

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I’m not going to lie, this one wasn’t for me. Historical fiction, and even classics, are genres that are definitely more miss than hit. This one was just super long and a majority of the time I was getting bored.

The only character that really stuck out to me was the Captain because he was an oddball, haha. Other than that, they were just uninteresting to me. It might have been because I tried listening to this and maybe I just wasn’t understanding it all correctly, I don’t know.

Maybe one day I will go back to this one and actually read a physical copy but that won’t be for awhile.

Overall, it was just okay. I can’t really tell you much about it because it just wasn’t interesting, ha.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

 

E-Arc Review: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

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45046726Title: The Woman in the Mirror
Author: Rebecca James
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic
Publication Date: March 17th, 2020

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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“For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.

In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.

In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage.” (Goodreads)

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I like to enjoy a good gothic book every now and again. This one caught my eye because of the cover as I love anything near the sea. It makes for a perfect setting. The synopsis was also quite intriguing with the two different times brought into one plot. I did keep my expectations on the lower end for this one because I wasn’t sure how it would play out. For the most part it was decent but I did have a couple issues.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, there is two different timelines going on throughout the book. We are first introduced Alice Miller. She seems like a fine and put together young woman but as the plot progresses, there is a lot of things she starts to feel, see, and keep a secret. Her character reminded me a lot of the Governess from The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It was interesting to see her development into the madness but it still similar to what I have read before.

As for Rachel, she was drawn to the place because of her last living relative at the estate passing away. She is very quick to live her life in New York behind and unlock the truth of her past. As they say, curiosity kills the cat. She obviously doesn’t die but nothing does go the way she wants it to. I definitely would not have dwelled there like she did. No thank you!

The plot, was fine. It was a bit slow in the beginning and bits and pieces were like other things I have read before. It wasn’t creepy or spooky and I am a certified chicken. There was only one plot twist that really surprised me and seemed to fly out of nowhere. The ending was pretty much what I imagined, which was okay.

Overall, it was fine but not quite memorable.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

E-Arc Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

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46158562._SY475_Title: The Deep
Author: Alma Katsu
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .” (Goodreads)

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When I first came across this one, I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to the cover. It is just beautifully haunting. Although I am not a fan of horror, I still was memorized by the premise and I knew I needed to read it to find out for myself what happens. It definitely is a unique take on historical events and one that I think is done well. There were just a couple things that kept me from fully enjoying it.

This book has multiple parts to it. There are times the story is taking place in the past on the Titanic and other times it is the present on the Britannic. I thought that this worked well as the past events really shape the present and it also gives more insight to the plot and characters at play.

There are many characters and this book gives most a voice. Although Annie is the main character, there are other characters that are linked to her or share similar concerns. Through the different point-of-views the story comes together and lines are drawn as to how everyone is connected and how each holds secrets. Each character seems to be playing a game and honestly, it gave me a lot of Clue vibes.

As for the plot, I did like getting to know each character. The thing is, there just wasn’t a lot going for the plot. As something that is described as being spooky, I’m expecting to be scared for my life. The problem was, I wasn’t. There wasn’t enough of the creepy/horror vibes that was to be expected from the premise. Yes, I’m a chicken but at the same time I want what is promised! There are paranormal happenings but they are very minor. If it would have had more then I most certainly would have liked it more.

There, of course, were plot twists and although I didn’t see the ending coming it still didn’t shock me as much as I would have liked. There also wasn’t much closure for some of the characters that were introduced throughout but maybe that’s for the best since some didn’t have the greatest of outcomes.

This was not anywhere near what I was expecting when it came to what I had in mind for the plot before reading. I didn’t mind it but at the same time I wouldn’t say it is horror. It’s a historical fiction with a sprinkling of paranormal. Although the sprinkling was nice, I would have preferred a heaping helping of it. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t find myself fully enjoying it either.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

 

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

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30597Title: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Author: Victor Hugo
Genre: Classics/Historical Fiction
Publication Date: First Published March 16th, 1831

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“This extraordinary historical novel, set in Medieval Paris under the twin towers of its greatest structure and supreme symbol, the cathedral of Notre-Dame, is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by the specter of his own damnation. Shaped by a profound sense of tragic irony, it is a work that gives full play to Victor Hugo’s brilliant historical imagination and his remarkable powers of description.” (Goodreads)

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In case you were wondering, this is definitely not like the Disney film. I mean, obviously since Disney has to make a movie have a happy ending and this book’s is far from that.

This book was my classic pick for the month of February. I remember picking it up once but only got through 10% because of the slow beginning. This time I borrowed the audio book from my library otherwise I probably wouldn’t have got through it. The first 35% or so is pretty slow and many of the key characters don’t come into play until then.

One big difference from book to film is the characters. Quesimodo doesn’t actually have many scenes in the book. Although his ending is much happier than Esmeralda and Frollo. Esmeralda was very annoying and only cared about her dear Phebis who was kind of a dillweed. She does have her goat but other than that she is not the strong indepedent woman that Disney portrays her as. Her ending is also quite tragic. Frollo is still horny guy who only has eyes for Esmeralda. He wants her and he doesn’t want anyone else to have her. I would say that Disney made him more of a villain and really his only sees are lusting over someone.

Overall, it was a decent classic. I’m glad I listened to it as an audio book. I wouldn’t really say there is any exciting plot twists but I’d recommend this one if you like the movie and want to see what actually happened.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)