Review of Marlene: A Novel by C W Gortner


First, apologies for not having a good summary of this book available at the moment. Most that I’ve encountered all have what’s written in the back of the novel and it’s extremely **long** and would take up more than half of my post. (lol). So that being said, in a nutshell, this book covers several aspects of Marlene Dietrich’s life. From her childhood days in Post WWI Germany, to the decadence of Weimar Berlin, to her illustrious career in Hollywood, and her efforts to help the Allied War effort in WWII.


The first moment I got this book in the mail (Thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks!) I got excited and at the same time had to settle down (I was sick with an awful flu that knocked me down and got the entire household sick). It could not have come at a better time. I say that not only in the sense that I needed a book to get me out of a reading rut and also to distract me from this flu, but considering what’s going on in the world now, it’s perfect timing.


I loved this book. Everything about it was all that I had imagined Marlene Dietrich would be. The book captured who she was; strong willed, free spirited, glamourous yet determined to make her name out there known in the world. What I loved best was how her attitude during this particular time period. She participated in just about every deadly sin listed but did it with grace and poise. I loved how this book captured that essence and that was what made her shine even through the War. I absolutely loved her bravery and willingness to stand up against the Nazis even though she loved her country dearly and it tore her apart to see it ruined by the end of WWII.


The writing in the book is well done. It was enough to engage the reader and to keep the pages turning. Now, I do notice in some other reviews I’ve read, some readers didn’t like the fact that the book stops at a certain time period (after WWII). Fair enough, perhaps they wanted more out of Marlene. I was satisfied with it, because if you really think about it, the absolute highlight and prime moments of her life was during this time period. This book was meant to capture those particular occasions. So try not to feel jilted or robbed! It’s still a great read and it goes by rather quick!


I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite parts in the book was her experiences in Weimar Berlin. It was beautifully written and you could just feel the cigarette smoke, the music, and you can almost picture the decadence that permeated throughout the cabarets. It was perfect!.
Another part that I loved, and that I had waited throughout the book to read and was getting worried that it wasn’t going to be mentioned, was Lili Marleen. Such an iconic song it had to be in the book! And it was. It tugged at my heart and I welled up with emotion reading it:


Beautifully written and an excellent novel I greatly recommend this book to historical fiction lovers or lovers of Marlene Dietrich. Her actions during the WWII is crucial and something to emulate. Especially for what we are going through right now in the world.

I give it a 10 out of 10.


Review of The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner

The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret

I got this book as part of The Tudor Secret blog tour by Pump Up Your Book. Thanks! it’s greatly appreciated! I’ve read another one of his books previously; The Last Queen. I do have The Confessions of Catherine de Medici on the TBR pile (waiting to be read soon!)

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies. Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past. A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. (From

I have a thing where I love any historical fiction that has a lot of intrigue and mystery. I also love the politics behind the court. I’m fascinated by it. This book has everything you want. Intrigue, mystery, twists and turns, some action, a bit of romance, it’s a mixture of everything! however it’s so well written and well done that it doesn’t feel like it’s been put together sloppily.

The plot flows and the pace is even. What I liked the most is the point of view of the character. Most historical fiction novels take place in the viewpoint of someone who’s Royalty, and almost always it’s a female character. So, seeing the story from Brendan’s eyes is definitely something different and I would say, refreshing. It’s about time we see it from a guy’s point of view! and a ‘nobody’ at that!. I’d have to say I liked him from the start. He’s easily likable and his development throughout the novel was from a young man with an almost childlike naivete to someone who’s well versed in how to behave and act in court, and who’s about to become a double agent (so to speak). I thought the change was very well done. Brendan matured throughout the novel and the transition was smooth.

I’m a huge fan of political intrigue, and this book has a lot of it. I loved the double crossing, the secrets revealed, and the deeds done in the past that are coming back to haunt certain individuals in the book. The Dudleys are as scheming and ruthlessly ambitious as ever (and I still have a strong dislike for Robert Dudley. Always have. Always will). Frances Brandon follows close behind on my hate list. It’s amazing how ambition and greed takes precedence over everything else and brings out the worst in people. It might be a challenge to keep track of all the intrigue however once you get all the characters straightened out, everything does fall into place.

Besides Brendan, I’ve taken a liking to Cecil. Although he’s also a sneaky sly character who uses Brendan, and others to his own purposes and agenda, I like how he underhandedly talks himself out of a tense situation and manages to turn it around. He remains unharmed and still in a powerful position as Elizabeth’s advisor. He’s a very ‘quiet’ character, yet his behind the scenes actions make the plot interesting and makes it move forward with Brendan’s help.

I think it might have helped to have a little family tree chart handy, or at least a list of characters for those that might not be familiar with Tudor history it does get slightly confusing towards the end it takes a bit to straighten out Brendan’s connections and ties with other families. However, those well versed in the history, will have no problem. Other than that, there is no other issue I can think of with this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and as this is the first book in the Spymaster Chronicles, I am waiting for the next one! I loved the intrigue. Absolutely loved it. I definitely recommend this for historical fiction lovers of Tudor history.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Sunday Salon: Review of The Last Queen

The Last Queen

The Last Queen

Thank you to Mr Gortner for sending me a review copy of The Last Queen. I very much appreciate it. When I was a little girl, my mom would tell me stories of Juana la Loca. Being of half Spanish descent myself, I was enchanted with stories of the Spanish Queens and Kings. My mom was also a lover of history and would always tell me a story or two about the Spanish monarchy. I loved it when she told me about Juana la Loca and although I never really studied about her officially, she was always a curiosity to me.

The Last Queen features the story of Juana (or, more commonly known as Juana La Loca, or in English, Joanna the mad) who becomes the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit the throne. It first starts off from Juana’s betrothal to Philip of the Habsburg Empire (Philip the Handsome) where their marriage starts off wonderfully. However as Philip starts to show his true colors things start to sour and when Juana suddenly becomes heir to the throne of Spain Juana’s life turns into a political, mental, and emotional struggle.

I had to say I loved this book. A lot. I liked how Juana stood out from the rest of her sisters and it was nice to see Catalina (afterwards becoming Catherine of Aragon) have a “cameo” appearance in the story. Juana is very headstrong, and despite what she goes through, she manages to be steadfast and it was as if nothing could break her. I admired Juana a lot in this book. I liked how the relationship between Juana and Philip started. It was lovely and reminded me a lot of the love between Catalina and Arthur in The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. It was so sad to see it so short lived. When Philip shows his colors the reader realizes he’s not such a great loving person after all. Perhaps because he did not have the right influences and not the most greatest of advisors, however it was sad to see his ambition get to his head. It was so surprising to see Juana so steady and steadfast and even stands up against Philip (although she’s beaten back down to submission). I admire her bravery and courage to stand up to a court ruled by men, it seemed as if she was by herself the majority of the time.

The story flowed flawlessly and there were no bumps or stops to inturrupt the fluidity of this book. If you want something with lots of court intrigue and plotting this is something for you. There is a lot of plotting behind every character’s back in this book and when it’s realized, there’s explosive confrontations filled with emotion and sometimes violence. I really liked the little tidbits of Spanish in this book (small phrases) it added more realism to the story and it enhanced the reader’s ability to actually feel like they were right there in Medieval Spain.

I felt a lot of sympathy towards Juana. Although she’s very strong, I knew she had her limits and she could only take so much. I realized then, it’s not really that she’s “crazy” moreso, because of the emotional, mental and sometimes physical abuse it’s no wonder she went through a mental breakdown. Juana herself is a very emotional character. She’s explosive and has a temper, she’s filled with different feelings and is a very passionate person in this book. It’s indeed a very sad story. Juana goes through one tragic event after another and she really has no one to trust. Amidst the large court with very few people on her side, Juana is a very lonely character.

Overall a wonderful book for those always curious or interested in Juana la Loca. The author’s note at the end also provides very good information as to what happens afterwards to Juana. It’s a very sad tragic tale, and paints Juana in a very different light It’s actually a refreshing look on Juana and sheds off the myth of a “madwoman” who was probably not really that crazy after all.

I give it a 10 out of 10.

Sunday Salon: Finishing up and starting

For the Sunday Salon today I’ll be finishing up The Last Queen by C W Gortner (which is supremely good by the way) and then after that these will be vying for my attention:

Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane

Intertwined – Gena Showalter

The Kommedant’s Girl – Pam Jenoff

The White Queen – Philippa Gregory (this one more likely is going to be read today, as I need some Philippa Gregory in my system) 🙂

what’s everybody reading today?