I live in New York City and I'm surrounded by books all day and when I go home I have more books waiting for me. Read my "About" page on top to see what I mean. I just want to share my book experiences and my love of all-things-books, with hopefully the occasional review thrown in. If you wish to contact me, the address is polishoutlanderATgmailDOTcom

The New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival

This has turned into a yearly tradition for me. I wrote about what my friend and I saw last year, so this is the third year I’ve gone to see some movies for this festival.

Due to some unseen circumstances, my friend was unable to come this year with me, after we had bought tickets already. So I went on my own, which felt kind of weird. Cause here I am, a grown 28-year-old, seeing kids movies, while the other adults around me had kids with them. Oh well. A kid at heart counts right?

Instead of spreading out the movies over the course of several weekends, this year, I did three in one day, to make it easier. So I went the first weekend, and saw two movies, and one segment called “Short Films One.” In between I read, and went shopping since the theater I was at was near Union Square.

OK, so the movies. The first one I saw was Dreams of Jinsha, which disappointed me terribly. Based off the description, it sounded like something I would really like, but instead the movie was trying hard to be something like Princess Mononoke and failing miserably, and some of the plot points were not explained. It didn’t help that the subtitles were in white and this was a very bright movie.  The trailer below gives you an idea of how the movie looked:

Xiao Long is a modern day middle-school student, who, after being transported 3,000 years back in time to the ancient kingdom of Jinsha, discovers his true destiny. Jinsha is a beautiful and magical place but plagued by a mysterious evil energy which its inhabitants fear they can’t hold off, much less defeat. After the school boy witnesses the beginnings of the destruction by the forces of darkness on this ancient land, he is overcome with sadness and pledges to help. Upon discovering a special connection with nature, Xiao Long gains the trust of the beautiful young Princess Hau’er and her loyal subjects and together they fight the wicked forces surrounding them to restore peace across the kingdom. Along the way, Xiao Long reforms himself into a courageous boy who forgoes his self-centered behavior to coexist harmoniously with others.

After that was a quick lunch break and some reading of Wither for me, and then I went to see Short Films One, which is essentially short films for kids. And some of them have won awards. Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing played in Short Films Two, which I didn’t see. One of the shorts was quite long, about 40 minutes, from the Netherlands, and it was quite charming about a girl realizing that she doesn’t need a “normal” family to have a family at all, when she has her tattoo-artists uncle for family already. Below are two of the shorts that I saw, and the first one (from Turkey) has me obsessed with the song Don’t Go by Yazoo, an 80s band (it’s the second song in the video):

There are some things that you can not see even with your eyes wide open. Often, these are a cat’s best friends.

A short film about man’s misunderstanding and mixed relationship with mother nature:

After that and some clothes shopping, and finding a bargain for a huge cookbook for Josh at Shakespeare & Co, I went to see A Cat in Paris, and it was done by the same people who did  Raining Cats and Frogs, which I had seen last year and thought was funny. The trailer below is in French, as it is a French movie, but here’s the summary anyway. When I saw it, it was dubbed and it was done very well I think. I have to say, it’s quite interesting seeing animated movies from other countries, since I am so used to Disney here. A Cat in Paris was a success for me!

Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day, he lives with Zoe, a little girl whose mother, Jeanne, is a police officer. By night, he works with Nico, a burglar with a big heart. Zoe has plunged herself into silence following her father’s murder at the hands of gangster Costa. One day, Dino the cat brings Zoe a very valuable bracelet. Lucas, Jeanne’s second-in-command, notices this bracelet is part of a jewelery collection that has been stolen. One night, Zoe decides to follow Dino. On the way, she overhears some gangsters and discovers that her nanny is part of the gangsters’ team.

So even though this wasn’t book-related, I just wanted to share the fun. You can actually see all the festival’s offerings here, in case anyone is interested to see what sort of international films are shown at this festival. This is the festival where I saw The Secret of Kells last year, and I have rewatched that movie multiple times since. Such a treat!

Grad School is…


Word is hard.

Doing them at the same time is even harder.

March has been the month where I’ve asked myself repeatedly: What the heck did I get myself into?

Now this begs the questions: Is it because I’m taking two classes, and not one (like last semester)? Is it the subject matter?

I think it’s a combination of both.

What classes am I taking? Saints, Monsters, and Animals in the Middle Ages and Intro to Critical Theory. The first class is with the same professor that I had last semester for the Canterbury Tales. So I was sort of expecting what type of workload I’d be getting with this new class.

The Critical Theory class on the other hand….Oy! Not only is a hard and dense subject matter, but the prof is not helping right now. Our first paper is supposed to later turn into our large 15-page final paper. It’s been almost 4 weeks since we handed in that first paper. Our final paper is due May 10. We are all freaking out cause we won’t be surprised if he hands that first paper back like a week or two before the final one is due. I’m sort of preparing myself for that. So I have no idea how well I’m doing in that class. The Animals class is quite interesting, but I haven’t decided on what my final paper will be on, but I have a feeling it will most likely be about werewolves, and how there are no female werewolf stories in the Middle Ages.

So that’s what has been eating up my time since the end of January. My weekends have centered around homework. And several Wednesday nights have been spent at the library doing research and making photocopies (it’s the only day of the week I’m fee and when the library is open late). So hence the online silence.

But I have still been reading! Not as much as I’ve been wanting to though.

The other day my mom asked me about the 4th of July weekend and I was like “Mom! I’m just trying to make it to the end of the week here!”

Work has been very demanding too. Which I guess is a good thing but at the same time, I find myself stepping back from it all, and trying to figure out what needs to be done first: stuff for a book that comes out in two months, or for an anniversary edition that is due out early 2012? Both equally important. Each day, my brain is focused on books for Spring 2011, Summer 2011, Fall 2011, and now Winter 2012. And in early May, the editors will be presenting their Spring/Summer 2012 lists. So…much…to…do! Online marketing for children’s books does not sleep!

For now, I am eagerly awaiting the end of May when I will be done with these two classes and have “summer vacation” from school.

And also, for now…. some more school-and-study-themed animals that sort of illustrate these last two months and what I’ve been going through:

Don’t You Ever Interrupt Me While I’m Reading a Book!

This has me in stitches today at work!

…via The New Yorker:

“Ever notice the invisible barrier that encompasses a reader locked in concentration? It kind of puts a shield of tranquility around that person, or, rather, a tacit “Do Not Disturb” sign. Julian Smith, a director and YouTuber extraordinaire, puts it more bluntly: “Don’t you eva interrupt me while I’m reading a book!” My favorite part of the video is when he steals a book “at a stupid birthday party for some stupid kid.” Consider this a warning to anyone who ever thought “What are you reading?” was a great pickup line.”

Waiting on Wednesday: The Raven Queen

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My pick for this week is:

Available February 2011 from Random House

In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.

With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate.

I haven’t had a chance to read the author’s previous work even though I’ve been wanting to for quite some time. This sounds like a good and different historical fiction.

Author Website

Raven Queen Excerpt

Black Hole by Charles Burns

Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the out-set that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.
As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.
And then the murders start.
As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying, Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it- back when it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird.
To say nothing of sprouting horns and molting your skin…

I had originally been wanting to read this for quite some time, so I was pretty excited to get a copy at New York Comic Con a few months ago. This book was highly praised when it first came out five years ago.

I don’t get it though. I feel like I’m missing something in the story. I wasn’t as awed by it as I think I should have been. The summary is pretty much explanatory: the run-of-the-mill teen angst with teens dividing into their respective cliques and whatnot. And to further the ostracization,  there’s a nasty bug going around that you can get if you have sex and the consequences range from sprouting a tail, to getting a cut on your throat that makes noises and talks, to facial disfigurement…. When I talk to people about this book all I can say is “I don’t get it.” I know I’m going to end up rereading this at some point to see if I do “get” it, and if I don’t, well then I’ll know that this just clearly wasn’t my cup of tea. I think I’ll ask Josh to read this too and see what he thinks about this story. Right now, I wouldn’t really recommend it but I would want someone else to read it and talk to me about it.

Also, when a book or something has been overhyped, it can either live up tot he hype, or completely flounder in my mind. With this one, I think it was trying too hard. Maybe that’s what the appeal was, with the Bug being this new sort of allegory to high school angst and teenager issues? I don’t know how else to talk or write about this book. So this not so much a review as it me going “????????”

Oh, and sometimes the art would confuse me. Because the two main guys would kinda look alike and I would have a hard time distinguishing one from the other. The fact that the main girl in the story was named Chris also threw me for loops.

And there you have it.

Some samples from the graphic novel, tails and all:

In My Mailbox (59)

So here it is: Another big IMM because it includes a month’s worth of stuff, including Christmas. So here it goes:

For Christmas, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend got me a bunch of exciting goodies from my Amazon wish list:

The Best American Comics showcases the work of both established and up-and-coming contributors. Editor Neil Gaiman—one of the top writers in modern comics and the award-winning author of novels and children’s bookshas culled the best stories from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Internet to create this cutting-edge collection. (I’ve been wanting to read the Comic books of this series for quite some time. I guess the price point always scared me. And interesting enough, the Comics books are fairly new. I interned at Houghton Mifflin in college for one semester, and these weren’t being done yet. And that was in 2004.)

Philosopher’s Chowder. Skinny Meatloaf. Fat Man’s Shrimp. Immediate Fudge Cake. These are just a few of the beloved recipes from Peg Bracken’s classic I HATE TO COOK BOOK. Written in a time when women were expected to have full, delicious meals on the table for their families every night, Peg Bracken offered women who didn’t revel in this obligation an alternative: quick, simple meals that took minimal effort but would still satisfy.  50 years later, times have certainly changed – but the appeal of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK hasn’t. This book is for everyone, men and women alike, who wants to get from cooking hour to cocktail hour in as little time as possible. (OK folks. I might have said this already but I’ll say it again. I don’t cook. Josh is the cook in the relationship. I’m just not comfortable in the kitchen. But I really want to change that. So we’ll see…)

Set in Forsyth’s signature world of Eileanan, a realm practically supersaturated with magic and myth, the novel chronicles the adventures of Rhiannon, a faerie half-breed who escapes her brutally abusive clan by means of a winged horse — and goes in search of her place in the world of humans. Rhiannon was born and raised in a herd of satyricorns, a race of ferocious horned faeries. Although her mother is a full-blooded satyricorn, her father was human, and as a half-breed — lacking hooves, a tail, and horns — she is looked upon as an outcast and frequently mistreated. The ill-tempered satyricorns are consummate hunters, and seeing no way to escape them on land, Rhiannon vows to do the impossible: to catch and ride a winged horse to freedom. But once free, where will the wild faerie go — and how will she survive? (Gulp! I have the Witches of Eileanan from PBS already. But do I need to read that series first to enjoy this series? Cat? I still really want to read this though!)

From my mother-in-law, I got this for Christmas:

Narnia fans, rejoice! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, here are all seven books in the magical Chronicles of Narnia series — in one gorgeous, deluxe boxed set. Featuring the original illustrations, newly painted in full color by award-winning illustrator Pauline Baynes, this incredible set is a must-have for anyone who wants to step into the unforgettable world of Narnia time and time again. (I have the anniversary edition of the Lord the Rings so I really wanted this too!)

So that’s it for Christmas. And now for some library books, even if it’s just two:

Last year, all of Belly’s dreams came true and the thought of missing a summer in Cousins Beach was inconceivable. But like the rise and fall of the ocean tide, things can change–just like that. Suddenly the time she’s always looked forward to most is something she dreads. And when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad has disappeared, Belly must decide how she will spend this summer: chasing after the boy she loves, or finally letting him go. (I read the first one for book club and was so surprised by how much I liked it! I realized over the past few months that I’ve become very cynical when it comes to romance in YA, but the first book sort of gave me hope. I’ve been renewing this book for the past month so now I really need to finally read because it’s due back in a week and a half!)

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited? (So I have been reading about this book on the blogs and maybe, maybe, I will like it too!)

So weeks ago, I found out that Terry Moore will be going to Boston Comic Con in the Spring and I told Josh that we’re going, purely based on that fact alone. So I was looking around on the site to see what other artists and writers were attending, and I came across this name and series title below. So I bought the first volume, and then this week, I got the second volume. This is just what I need: Another very long series to read. :) Oy! But it’s about a Rabbit Samurai! And so far, I’m really liking it:

The setting is 17th century Japan, when the age of civil wars has barely ended and the Shogun has established power. The samurai is the ruling class throughout the land, following a warrior’s code of honor known as Bushido. Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 1 chronicles this time of settling unrest and political intrigue, told through the story of a wandering and masterless samurai named Miyamoto Usagi, aka Usagi Yojimbo!

“Usagi is no Bugs Bunny. He’s a rabbit samurai who wanders 17th century Japan, a land ravaged by civil war and populated with anthropomorphic animals that are fighting to survive. Classic storytelling, flawlessly designed art and lovingly researched period touches. . .a true all-ages comics treat.” -Publishers Weekly

I used the last of a B&N gift card to also purchase the new Newbery award book. I placed my order right away on Monday the 1oth, right after watching the webcast of the awards, because I didn’t want the sticker on it. And I’ll admit, the pick came out of nowhere. I work in children’s publishing but there are just so many books out there that I can’t keep track of them all. I never heard of it before. I’m reading it right now, but I still am not sure how I feel about it.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was. Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.” Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

And now for stuff that actually came in the mail via PaperBackSwap:

Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists… Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.  But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.  And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to? (Guess who the cover artist is? Jason Chan! Awesome!)

France 1789: a time of terror; a charismatic boy, Yann, who must find out who he is; the daring rescue of Sido, an aristocrat’s daughter – these are the elements in this tremendous adventure by a consummate storyteller, a marvellous tale of the first days of the French Revolution. (After reading Revolution, I kind of want to read more about the French Revolution.)

Epic in its sweep and peopled by the remarkable women who have always inhabited Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword of Avalon expands the legendary saga that has enchanted millions of readers over the years and is sure to please Bradley’s loyal readership and anyone who loves wonderfully told stories of history, myth, and fantasy. A boy raised in secret after traitors kill his parents will return to Avalon-and when he does, he’ll be faced with a formidable task: to prove his worth as a son of the kings and priestesses of his land and lead his followers to victory, wielding the newly-forged sword Excalibur. (Oh man, I hope this is the last prequel! I still haven’t read the prequel that came out before this, Ravens of Avalon, but I like knowing that I have the whole set!)

So that’s it for me! I realized the other day that I’ve really been holding back when it comes to book purchases lately. I haven’t done much really. Heck, the last time I even went to the Strand was in July! And I’ve been wanting to go back because apparently they have old-timey candy by the registers. And I really want to see what kind! :)

*In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. Thanks Kristi!*

My Canterbury Tales Class…

…through my random notes.

So I never got to write about the Canterbury Tales class I took in the Fall semester. First off, during the first two or three sessions, I felt like a deer in the headlights. Here I am, working in children’s book publishing by day, and I have to switch mental gears for the evening to talk about the Middle Ages and Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales. And read scholarly articles. And write a huge final paper. Well, eight pages might not be huge for some, but for me it was pretty darn hard. I graduated college in 2006, and I am much more comfortable talking about books and literature these days than writing and even analyzing it!

But in the end, I really enjoyed the class. The professor was amazing. I liked him so much that I’m taking another course with him called Animals in Medieval Literature, which is starting in about a week and a half. I’m taking another course, a required Critical Theory course, so between those two, plus working full-time, I feel like I’m signing my weekend-free time away. But I’m still excited.

Moving on…to some interesting notes from the class then. Maybe someone out there will find this stuff interesting too….

The Middle Ages were invented in the Renaissance

Middle English 1066-1450    (French vocabulary comes into the language)

Modern English 1450-present

Chaucer treated English as a language of power


Tragedy is any story of when people go from good to bad; a tragic outlook when everyone and everything is against you; different from a Greek tragedy (tragic flaw)

Romance—people travel and have adventures

Hagiography—stories about saints; holy people usually ending up dead/tortured

According to the rules set in the General Prologue, there should have been 120 tales. We only have 24

In regards to the The Knight’s Tale, from the 14th century to 1939, it was considered a glorious and virtuous tale: the two men are driven by love, Theseus has the best interests of everyone at heart—but this has changed in the last 60 years. Now we know better and we are suspicious of the tale and its qualities now

Wife of Bath—sociopath, vice figure (allegorical), proto-feminist, heretic, or sexual entrepreneur?

Chaucer writes about women who do not want to be a part of the story: Virginia, Emily, Constance, Wife of Bath

Most popular literature in the middle ages were like “how to” manuals—not much different from modern times

Animal literature is equally consumed in the middle ages, just not in the modern times—fables increasingly become read by children

Reasons nuns need a priest—need someone to say a mass

Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, is a Chaucer scholar and actually wrote about the possibility that Chaucer might have been murdered

Widows were thought to be dangerous—they were sexually experienced and they had money

Raptus—rape or kidnapping? Chaucer was actually fined for this, but was it rape or kidnapping?

The Franklin’s Tale creates a type of marriage that maybe the Wife of Bath was aiming for when she married for love—it has a happy ending but critics forget that this tale is set in a mythological place

Other notes were regarding specific things to the Tales and that would just require a lot more explanation. But good news! My final paper on how Theseus from The Knight’s Tale is a misogynistic tyrant apparently rocked. I got a better grade than I was expecting because I wasn’t 100% happy with what I turned in. Nonetheless…quite happy about that.

· Genres

o Tragedy is any story of when people go from good to bad; a tragic outlook when everyone and everything is against you; different from a Greek tragedy (tragic flaw)

o Romance—people travel and have adventures

o Hagiography—stories about saints; holy people usually ending up dead/tortured

Some Video Goodness

So I came upon some of these videos and just wanted to share them. So enjoy the literary/muppet goodness.

Interestingly enough, the translation for the title of this video is wrong. It’s not “Bombing of Poems over Warsaw.” The actual translation is “Rain of Poems–Warsaw.”

Announcing the “90-Second Newbery” Video Contest! The challenge: make a video that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book into 90 seconds or less. Anyone can enter. Here is the first video: Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Newbery winner, A Wrinkle in Time! We’re planning a star-studded 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library in Fall of 2011. For more details, go to http://www.90secondnewbery.com

OK Go have a run in with Animal from the Muppets at the Webby awards.

First we had the computer beating Kasparov at Chess. Now we have Watson, playing against the two best Jeopardy players. I am super-excited for this, but sadly it airs right when I have class. The showdown is on February 14-16th.

I posted this ages ago, but it started to make the rounds again especially with the phenomenal sales of e-readers and e-books….Long live the printed page! Huzzah!

For all you steampunk lovers out there, one of my authors posted this on her Facebook yesterday. I immediately sent the link to Josh with the words “I want!” Since my birthday is coming up….hint hint. ::drool::

Waiting on Wednesday: Land of Painted Caves

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My pick for this week is:

Available March 29, 2011

The Land of Painted Caves continues the story of Ayla, her mate Jondalar, and their little daughter, Jonayla, taking readers on a journey of discovery and adventure as Ayla struggles to find a balance between her duties as a new mother and her training to become a Zelandoni — one of the Ninth Cave community’s spiritual leaders and healers. Once again, Jean Auel combines her brilliant narrative skills and appealing characters with a remarkable re-creation of the way life was lived thousands of years ago, rendering the terrain, dwelling places, longings, beliefs, creativity and daily lives of Ice Age Europeans as real to the reader as today’s news.

When I found out at last year’s BEA that this was going to be published and that it had an actual pub date, I was ecstatic! It’s been eight years since the last book and I know a lot of people have been wondering if another book was even going to come out. And it is! I first read the series in middle school and high school. I actually watched the movie on TV first before I picked up Clan of the Cave Bear. I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed in the last book because not a lot happened and I feel like it was all building up to this book; it almost felt like filler. But that will definitely not deter me away from buying my copy on release day.

Author Website

Download and Read a Chapter Excerpt

Book Trailer:

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart. As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.

I will admit that when I first started to read this, I was kinda-sorta thinking I wouldn’t end up liking it. Mostly because of the relationship between Arius and Thea–I just didn’t buy into it for some reason. Thea and Arius were just a bit two-dimensional for me. Thea kept cutting herself because she felt guilty for being a survivor of a mass suicide in Masada. (Which incidentally, I know about because my parents went there this summer on their trip to Israel.) So I’m not trying to make it seem like I’m belittling Thea’s grief at surviving such a tragic event, but somehow I wish it was conveyed in different way. Arius was all grunts and no words, and just killing and hacking away at everyone; there wasn’t enough backstory for me with his character. Granted, Thea had a good and calming effect on him, but he was just all brawn for me.

But I managed to get past that and ended up really enjoying how Arius’, Thea’s, and Lepida’s lives all intersected with each other over the course of so many years. And I have to hand it to the author for writing in such great detail that did not weigh the book down.

Oh and Lepida! What a character! No redeeming quality about her. She really got what was coming to her and I like where she ended up at the end. That’s all I’ll say about that. She might have been ambitious in a very spoiled-brat and ambitious way, but I think her character developed interestingly…in the annoying way of course. But good. Does that make sense? She was smart and she knew what she wanted, but her biggest flaw was that she had no patience.

I loved learning about this part of history of Rome and how corrupt and deranged the Roman emperors were. Domitian might not have been as sick as Caligula, but he still had very disturbing qualities. Thea had the bruises and cuts to show for it.

I think it’s time for me to finally watch the Rome tv series!

Read a chapter excerpt of Mistress of Rome