Book Reviews: Empress Of The Night, London's Strangest Tales: Historic Royal Palaces, & Clash of The Financial Pundits

Hello everyone,

it's review day again. Here are today's books:

Empress Of The Night by Eva Stachniak
Empress Of The Night is one of those books that you will either love or hate. What's so divisive about it? It's writing style. The idea of the book is simple and poignant. Catherine II, Empress of All the Russias, is dying. In her last moments, she reminisces about her life and the decisions she's made. If you're expecting a regular, structured plot, with its own beginning, events in chronological order, and end, with the occasional flashback thrown in, you're gonna be very disappointed. Although the book follows some sort of chronological order - the first section describes a young Catherine arriving at the Russian court and her rise to the throne; the second her love for Potemkin; and the third her relationship with her grandchildren, especially her designated heir Alexander - the narrative is very disjointed and incoherent. There's a reason for that. In your last moments, you remember all sorts of things. Dreams. Mistakes. Ambitions. Aspirations. Regrets. Hopes. Loved ones long gone. Loved one you'll leave behind. Your life will pass you by, but will it do so in a clear way, and in a chronological order, or as hazy memories that chase one another? I believe the latter is true, which is why I think Stachniak made the right choice in writing the book the way she did. It wasn't easy to get into it, though. At first, the incoherence annoyed me a lot, but 1/3 through the book, I started to really enjoy it. I finally started relating to Catherine, understanding her choices and what made her act the way she did. By the time I reached the end, I couldn't put the book down. And when it was over, I wished Catherine had shared more memories with us, so the book would have lasted even longer.
However, I also wish Stachniak had put more emphasis on her political machinations and polices. Instead, the focus is more on her love and family life. Other people may actually appreciate this insightful view into Catherine's feelings rather than her political affairs. After all, so many books focus on the latter. The job of a novelist instead is to make her characters come to life with all their flaws and merits. Oh, and although Empress Of The Night is a sequel to Stachniak's previous work about Catherine II, The Winter Palace, you don't need to read that as well to follow this new story. But if, like me, you loved this book, you will want to pick that one up too. I already did. :)
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

London's Strangest Tales: Historic Royal Palaces by Iain Spragg
Being both a Londophile and a history geek, I obviously couldn't pass up the chance to read this little volume, chock full of strange and fascinating tales about the five historic royal palaces in the British capital: The Tower of London, The Banqueting House, Hampton Court, Kensigton Palace, and Kew Palace. In its page you'll encounter spiders and kangaroos infestations, a disappearing mosque, a misplaced sceptre, bold escapes from the Tower, ingenious thefts and much more. Each story takes up only one or two pages, so if it's the minute details about every occurrence that you're interested in, you won't find them here. But that's not what this book is about. Instead, this is simply a collection of trivia, written in a very engaging and witty way, that will allow you to spend a pleasant afternoon and show off your knowledge to your friends next time you visit one of these palaces together. Because of the colloquial and funny writing style, which will make you laugh out loud a few times, the book will attract both history nerds and causal readers who are into unusual, but real, stories. A must read for any London and history fan.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Clash Of The Financial Pundits by Joshua M. Brown and Jeff Macke
If you're thinking of investing your saving, or already are, then this book is a must read. Investing always carries with it an element of risk but, with the right knowledge, you can mitigate it and reap the maximum benefits. But in this day and age, in which we are bombarded with all kinds of contradicting information at every hour of the day and night, how do we figure out what information is useful, and which one misleading or false? Enter financial experts Brown and Macke. In this small book, the authors explain the history of punditry, how pundits operate, how to distinguish the ones who are really knowledgeable and dedicated to give you the best financial advice they can from those who are just interested in making a quick buck at your expense, and how to evaluate the information you come across every day. The book also features several interviews with financial experts such as Jim Cramer, founder of theStreet.com and Henry Blodget, editor and CEO of The Business Insider, who share their own experiences and stories about being a pundit. Their answers shed an interesting light on the financial world and how oundits deal with the challenges they face and the mistakes they make. After all they're people, just like us. Overall, this book does a great job at educating the average Joes and Janes about the finance world and, particularly, finance media, so that they can make the best decisions about how to invest their savings and reach financial independence. Highly recommended.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Which one of these books would you like to read?

Disclaimer: I received these books in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.