Here a few highlights, and one low-light, of books I read last month.

DragonKnight — Donita K. Paul

This is the third book in a series of Christian fantasy novels. Even though I’ve read all three, this isn’t my favorite series. The previous two books focused on Kale, a young servant girl who has an uncanny ability to find dragon eggs. This book, however, focuses on Bardon, a young man trying to decide if he wants to join Paladin, the spiritual leader of his country, in service to Wulder as a knight. Surprisingly, I didn’t really miss the focus on Kale. I found Bardon to be a more mature, relatable character for me, and really enjoyed seeing things from his point of view. As a result, this is my favorite of the three books I’ve read so far. While I do enjoy seeing how Paul brings Christian themes into a fantasy setting, this just isn’t my favorite series, and I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to read the fourth book.

The Last Queen — C.W. Gortner

This historical fiction focuses on the life of Juana La Loca (Juana the Mad) of Spain, in the 1490’s and early 1500’s. I had mixed feelings about reading this before I started, but by page 25, I was hooked. I loved Juana’s strong character, and how Gortner developed her as a character. Just about every single character in this novel makes a choice that seems pretty horrible, heartless or cold. Yet, Gortner has the ability to make these characters seem sympathetic, particularly Juana. I think a large reason I was able to see Juana as a sympathetic character was how Gortner allowed us to see her grown from a headstrong teenager into an adult, but also how he slowly revealed how ill-prepared she was for life she was eventually expected to lead. I really didn’t know anything about Juana la Loca before reading this novel, but I had heard of, and knew a few things about, many of the peripheral characters, which only served to make this novel richer. Of all the books I read last month, this was my favorite, and one I would definitely recommend!

The Chess Machine — Robert Lohr

I purchased this novel at a book fair almost two years ago, and just got around to reading it! This novel is the story of an ambitious courtier is Hungry, eager to impress his Empress with his ability to make an automaton who can play chess. And not just play, but win every game. Yet his mechanical wonder holds a secret — it is operated by a chess-genius dwarf, Tibor. While I don’t know the first thing about chess, I still throughly enjoyed this one. Lohr really doesn’t make any effort to cast the character’s actions in a sympathetic light, and yet I still found myself wanting everything to work out for each of the characters. The prose in this book is wonderful, and most of the scenes of chess games are described as analogies, so even if you have no chess background, you won’t wonder what happened during them. The one thing I found difficult in reading this novel is that, especially in the begining, the timeline jumps around quite a bit. Also, one of the characters goes by two different names in the two different times the novel focuses on, which made following the first four or five chapters more difficult for me. Overall, this was another one of the novels I really enjoyed this month, but I didn’t love it.

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Thanks for all your comments on yesterday’s post! I’ve decided to try to contain all pregnancy related things to a post on Friday, so if you’re interested in how things are going, check back then. If you aren’t interested, just skip Fridays!

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