Tag Archive | history

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

Genre: History, Non-fiction (adult)

I’ve read many books set in the Tudor period, set from the perspective of the Kings or Queens of the time. I’ve always wondered what drives the men ( and women) behind the scenes, the ones who have real power but need to keep on the right side of the Royals. Its a dangerous place to be.
Thomas Howard is one such man, well known in the context of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard but not really for himself. This book takes us from his childhood to his death in his eighties.
In an age where kings changed, loyalties changed, even religion changed that’s an incredible thing for a senior courtier to successfully wade through for so long. Many innocent people lost their lives on little more than the king’s whim, paranoia, gossips and hearsay. That Thomas managed to not only survive that but thrive in it, settling his family down, expanding his personal and family wealth and position is amazing to me. He was clearly a very clever man, but one able to walk that thin line between respect and honesty to his king, and telling him what he needed to know, doing what needed to be done for king and country.
I liked that the author explained where he’d sourced material, where it made it clear what was fact, backed up by primary evidence and what was speculation.

I found it an interesting read but….very much like a text book to read. Very date, people and places heavy, where I prefer a little more of the personal side, to really feel as if I know the main character.
Its just a different style of reading to that which I normally choose, and there is so much going on, so many people, so many changes, alliances, marriages and deaths, and remarriages, that I found it difficult to keep up. That’s all a personal issue though, nothing to do with the book. It never pretends to be anything other than an account of Thomas Howard’s life, but more an issue of my expectation.

Stars: Three, an excellent account of Thomas Howard’s life, very detailed but just a little too heavy for me personally to enjoy more.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Ancient Egyptian Myths, Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife. Catherine Chambers

Ancient Egyptian Myths, Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife. Catherine Chambers

Genre: Non fiction (Adult), History

The pyramids….who hasn’t been fascinated in their creation, the how and why Egyptians came to create them. They were incredibly elaborate decoratively, but the construction uses mathematical calculations we thought were discovered in the 1600s. Clearly the Egyptians were centuries ahead of modern day man in that way.
The Gods and Goddesses, the myths and legends that grew up around them fascinated me as a child and reading this wonderful book brought back much of that magic. Its a very dense read, Catherine fully explores all elements surrounding the Gods, the changing names, how they came about and why. It’s illustrated too with wonderful photos of surviving artifacts. It amazes me that we can still have things thousands of years old, I like to imagine someone carving one of these little objects, putting their heart and beliefs into it, and that carries through to today even though the creator is long gone.

Its a wonderful read but I have it on PC as an epub read, and for me that’s hard going, and the reason its taken so long to read. Its very full of information that can’t jst be skimmed but needs time to absorb and appreciate, so I’ve been reading a little every now and then, mulling over the content when not reading. My youngest grandson has just being learning about Egyptian history and we’d recently talked over some of the things I found in this book. It was good to have a wider and more complete source than an 8 yr old primary school text 🙂
I think that as with most non-fiction books it would be better in physical form. I love my kindle but undoubtedly some books need to be “old school” print to get the best from them. If I had this book as a physical one I’m sure I’d be dipping in and out of it constantly.
Even though this society is thousands of years past its still a fascination for so many of us, and this book really fleshes out so many of the myths I know on the periphery, and goes into detailed information as to how and why they may have originated.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, but would be best on physical book form.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Burning Chambers, Kate Mosse

The Burning Chambers,  Kate Mosse

The Burning Chambers by [Mosse, Kate]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical fiction

I remember reading Kate’s Labyrinth years ago, but haven’t read any of her books since then but I enjoy historical fiction and was keen to read this.

I don’t know much about the religious divides of this time in France, I know more about UK history for this time and thought I’d enjoy reading about it. As in UK when there were religious controversies and changes, its a particularly gruesome time, where people were taken for spurious reasons and tortured at will. Its weird isn’t it how we think torturing someone for a confession will bring out the truth….
Sadly though I found the book incredibly slow starting, and though the pace did pick up I never got really engrossed in the story. I felt kind of bogged down by detail at times and had to put the book aside. That’s unusual for me, I love details, I love the little nitty-gritty intricacies of people’s lives, but in this book I felt that it just didn’t work for me.

If you’ve an interest in french/religious history this may appeal to you, I certainly expected I’d love it but…It’s well written and has all the elements for a good read for me but was one of those where the story and I just didn’t gel. I’m not really sure why, just that I found it a struggle to keep reading and eventually I was just pleased to have finished.
I won’t be reading further books in this series but would happily pick up another of Kate’s stories, even when you usually adore an authors work there’s always the chance some won’t suit.

Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed parts but overall it wasn’t a hit with me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Last Hours, Minette Walters

The Last Hours, Minette Walters

The Last Hours by [Walters, Minette]

Genre: General fiction (adult), Historical fiction

I’ve read a few of Minette’s books, some I loved, some not so much, but i do love a Good historical novel and she writes settings and characters, that whether I enjoyed the story or not, feel so very real.
This one was just perfect, a real escape into the past, at times horribly sad, graphically real, and reminding me of just how unfair life was for the largest section of the population.

I’ve read a few books set in the Era of the Plague, the Black Death, a terrible time that decimated the population.
At that time disease was rife anyway, subject to poor nutrition people succumbed to what would be minor illnesses now, as they had so little resistance . Hygiene was poor too, making it easy for viruses and diseases to spread.

Lady Anne has turned around life on her husband’s estate, with measures such introducing dug out latrines rather than throwing excrement into the moat and urinating wherever they wanted. She introduced practices such as washing too, bodies and clothes, and slowly she introduced education. As they learned the villagers began to understand what she was practising, saw results in less sickness, better health.
Of course all her husband cared about was yields and taxes, and as the population became healthier those increased. Had he bothered to take note of her actions he would have fiercely disapproved and stopped them, but luckily he was typical in that he didn’t take not of how serfs lived, felt they were beneath his notice.

Sir Richard is a sorry reflection of how so many Lords were then (sadly how many would be now if they could get away with it!) Self important, cared for nothing and no-one beyond himself, and felt he was above reproach so long as his pet priest gave him absolution. He was paying him, the guy’s living depended on his goodwill so why wouldn’t he?
Its one of those things that’s always amazed me, that absolution wipes away all sins, leaving the perpetrator free to do them all over again, knowing the priest will remove them. That buying of “indulgences ” too is something that always made me cross.
People were so focused on God, and yet made his words fit the lives they wanted to live rather than vice versa. There have been some real atrocities perpetrated because of, and in the name of God.

Then along came the plague. Was it cast by God onto those who had sinned? For a largely ignorant populace its easier to believe that than to think they have nothing to fight it.

Lady Anne feels differently though, when it comes her husband is away, and she refused him entrance back to the place on his return. She had walled it off and brought the villagers inside the castle grounds to keep everyone safe.
He’s been to a demesne where the Plague is rife, many of the men who went with him are dead, and the few who have returned are ill. She knows if he’s allowed in the plague will spread fast. She asks tells him they have left stores for the men, and after a period without illness they can come in.
I’ve read real life accounts where villages closed themselves off like this, some because they wanted to keep the plague out, some because they wanted to keep the infection contained, knowing it was too late to save themselves, they either were going to get it or survive regardless.

There are some incredible characters here, from the courageous and intelligent Lady Anne, her horrible daughter Eleanor, the sly french steward Hugh, and some of the key characters among the villagers. Thaddeus is one of those, born a bastard, he has managed to stay free by way of some tacit advice from lady Anne. He’s wise enough to keep that quiet, and Sir Richard hasn’t yet noticed he has not sworn allegiance as the others all have to.

I enjoyed reading the day to day life, how they dealt with the threat from outside, managed the food, and later, how they had to decide what to do about the future, how long stores would last, whether it was safe to go outside and search for more, and of course what would happen to a country ravaged by plague, or whether it was just their corner of England that was infected.
Given only the top people ever traveled, with perhaps a steward and a few guards, most had no knowledge of the world outside their village. One five miles away could have easily been five hundred for most of them, they never left the estate of Devilish.

Its a story that shows characters in their true light, who is lazy, who is opportunist, who had the foresight to plan ahead. It also has some pretty graphic cruelty that was sadly so very real. The villagers were regarded as property, disposable to their Lords, they would be beaten and whipped at whim, the young girls subject to abuse and there was nothing they could do.

As the novel continues there are secrets to be revealed that put a different light on some things from the past, and of course affect the possible future.
Its a fabulous read, made me feel i was there with the characters. I liked too Lady Anne’s journal, her dilemma of just how much she could include, whether it would help others in the future if they did all die, or if it would put them in danger if they survived. After all with Sir Richard dead and no sons from their marriage, she was once more a Lady with no power, no say in her life, and likely to be married off elsewhere, with Devilish turned over to someone new.

The only thing I didn’t like was the end, its very, very abrupt, and until I reached the end I hadn’t realised there was another book to come. And not til next autumn….oh, I so hate waiting when I’ve got so engrossed in these peoples lives.

Stars: five,  a very worthy five star read, but i so wish the next book was here now…

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Courtesan, Alexandra Curry


The Courtesan,  Alexandra Curry

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre:  Literature/Fiction Adult.

I’ve read some fabulous historical books about life for girls in Japan and China. Initially this reminded me a few of them and I really enjoyed the first half. Its a fictional account of the life of a real person, based loosely around events that did happen to her. Once Jinhua married though it lost some of the attraction for me, odd as I thought the travel part would be an area I’d enjoy, but the book just lost much of the magic it had, the have to keep reading even though events are grim and shocking.
The early part is tough, harsh, cruel and at times very emotional. I felt for poor Jinhua, traded off to a brothel at just seven years old, to endure years of harsh training, and the horrors of foot binding even though she’s past the age it’s usually done. Its something that always shocks me, how parents put their girls through such pain, supposedly loving them and yet allowing their bones to be broken so the foot could be “reshaped,” and the growth stunted to produce tiny three inch long feet,( four inches in western measurement) revered by Chinese men of the time and a sign of a Lady, someone who couldn’t do any manual work of course because of her feet. Horrifically cruel and yet if they didn’t do it then the girls would grow up shunned for ugly feet, not make good marriages and end up in a life of poverty. Weird how we humans are sometimes…it didn’t really die out until the early 1900’s.
Anyway, there’s poor Jinhua. gone from having a father who adored her, who is killed on a moments whim by order of a child emperor, and that changes her whole life. We see how she gets sold, trained as a “money tree”, how tough her life became and how her only friend was the maid Suyin. Suyin also had her feet bound when she was older, and in her case it went wrong and left her with permanent deformities and a limp, so she’s only fit for life as a maid, someone to be beaten when Lao Mama, the house owner, loses her temper and can’t hit one of the girls in case she marks them. The friendship that developed between Suyin and Jinhua was very real, when both the girls had no-one else. Again it reminded me of scenes in other books. They were living in an intense situation, and neither had anyone else, and I could feel just how close they were. This early part was my favourite, despite how horrific some of it was, how causal life was treated – it echoes reality of those times ( and probably now too in some places) I felt very close to Jinhua and her situation, but as she grew older and that changed the story just lost its magic for me.
Stars: three, that early part felt very real but somehow as it went on I felt detached from the story and became less and less interested in Jinhua’s predicaments.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers.
If you enjoyed my review I’d love it if you would please click “Like” and if you didn’t I’d love to know why, in case I’ve inadvertently added a spoiler and need to edit.

A Heart’s Disguise, A Heart’s Obsession, Colleen Coble

 

A Heart’s Disguise, Colleen Coble
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews.

Genre: Romance, Historical

I liked the sound of this one but…it didn’t really work as well for me as I’d hoped. Its a story in three parts, and each is quite short at only 788 locations on kindle. I’m guessing that’s about 80 pages so there just wasn’t space enough to really get to know the characters or the story. It felt very surface based, where almost as soon as a plotline was introduced things happened and we moved on to next one. I really like to get lost in a story, and I just didn’t feel deep enough here to do that. I need to feel I’m back there in the West, facing the hardships they do and empathising with poor Sarah. It was a tough time in history and I need to really Feel it, live all the hardships and problems with them. Its an interesting premise though, and I’m looking forward to maybe a bit more depth, and that lovely potential nasty person/jealousy storyline in the next episode given we’ve met most of the major characters. That sort of plot is just what I love, so fingers crossed…
This was a good beginning in introducing everything, but due to the brevity everything felt a bit rushed. Still – though I love long books, there are those who like one of my good friends, want a book they can finish in a couple of weeks. She only reads a few pages each night so 100,00 words – books I love – are her worst nightmare. Its another insight into how were all different in what we want, and though this didn’t work for me it will for others.
Stars: Two and a half, lots of potential but so far for me its not quite getting there.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

 
A Heart’s Obsession, Colleen Coble
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews.

Genre: Historical Romance.

Well, this instalment went better for me, I began to get to know the characters. Sarah is in a hard place, and if she stays now her father has died her brother is going to force her to marry Ben. She still loves Rand though, and now that she’s seen a side of Ben she never knew, he’s the last person she wants to marry. She escapes by going to the Fort with her best friend and her husband, Rand’s brother, taking her younger brother with them. What a shock though when after a terrible journey they get to the fort to find Rand engaged. I really felt for her, could feel just how shocked and upset she was. His fiancée is a great character (great in that I love a “good” bad person, instead of just all sweet, kind ones), a real nasty, jealous woman, though she only shows the sweet side in public. Sarah stays, she tells Rand she only wants him to be happy, but when she sees what Jessica is really like she wonders if there’s still hope for them to be together, and if she can win him back.

Its a good read, packed with emotion and drama and full of life as it was back then, tough, limited choices and the dangerous and strange relationship between Soldiers and Indians. Sarah is making a place for herself there. as a single lady looking after her younger brother but its all very edgy, and I could feel the tension, that things could change any moment. Bad Ben turns up again too – still after Sarah and that adds to the feel of stress and strain. My only problem with this book is like the last one – its so short at just under 800 kindle locations again. If this was three full sized novels I’d love it, but as it is for me it just doesn’t do justice to the story it could be – but remember as ever we all want different things, and there are millions of readers that want shorter reads of course.
Stars: Four, a fun read, with emotion and drama and if it was longer for me this would probably be a five.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher.

My Life Untold. S.S. Gee Buro. Free on Sat 21st Dec, on amazon

I’ve had an email from the author to say this fabulous book will be free on amazon this saturday, so its well worth getting for a free christmas read, an escape into history from the madness and mayhem that often surrounds Xmas. Treat yourself to some time to read this fantastic novel 🙂

 My Life Untold

My Life Untold. S.S. Gee Buro.

Review from Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews.

Sometimes I like a dip into history. This particular book reads like an autobiography, as its told from the viewpoint of Magda, as a narrative to her descendent Winifred. Its a beautifully written story, easy to read and not bogged down in weighty, dull descriptions but has scenes that are vivid, and made me feel as if I was there. It starts with Magda as a young child, goes on to the familys journey to a new start on Stone Farm and her childhood time there. They have a farmhand Lars who is only a few years older than Magda and they fall in love. The Civil war intervenes though, and Lars is taken prisoner. We read about Magda’s life back at the farm at this time, how the village coped, what life was really like then on a day to day basis.
When her parents have died and she finds out Lars is a prisoner, she determines she’ll travel the 800 miles to where he is, dressed as a soldier for some safety, and try to buy him free. She undertakes a perilous journey, and its fascinating to read about it and feel as though we’re there with her. Its full of minutiae that makes it come alive. Magda learns a lot about herself on this journey, and she and Lars come through the war whole but not unscathed. Though still deeply in love, they’re not the same people they started. Life shapes us all and they were certainly well tried.
I loved this story as something with historical accuracy, and yet penned for the reader of fiction who wants small details of daily life, and not weighty explanations of battle tactics 🙂 I felt for Magda – she faced so much for love of Lars, and they both grew up suddenly faced with the atrocities of war. Life wasn’t easy anyway for people like them at that time, but throw in a war and they were really tested, and yet in the way of the best true love stories they came though shining. Its a beautiful, heartfelt tale and the addition of the linking up Magda and Lars to the current family was a great way to finish. Fabulous escape into history.
Stars: five, great read.

ARC supplied via Authors

My Life Untold. S.S. Gee Buro.

My Life Untold

 

My Life Untold. S.S. Gee Buro.

Review from Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews.

Sometimes I like a dip into history. This particular book reads like an autobiography, as its told from the viewpoint of Magda, as a narrative to her descendent Winifred. Its a beautifully written story, easy to read and not bogged down in weighty, dull descriptions but has scenes that are vivid, and made me feel as if I was there. It starts with Magda as a young child, goes on to the familys journey to a new start on Stone Farm and her childhood time there. They have a farmhand Lars who is only a few years older than Magda and they fall in love. The Civil war intervenes though, and Lars is taken prisoner. We read about Magda’s life back at the farm at this time, how the village coped, what life was really like then on a day to day basis.
When her parents have died and she finds out Lars is a prisoner, she determines she’ll travel the 800 miles to where he is, dressed as a soldier for some safety, and try to buy him free. She undertakes a perilous journey, and its fascinating to read about it and feel as though we’re there with her. Its full of minutiae that makes it come alive. Magda learns a lot about herself on this journey, and she and Lars come through the war whole but not unscathed. Though still deeply in love, they’re not the same people they started. Life shapes us all and they were certainly well tried.
I loved this story as something with historical accuracy, and yet penned for the reader of fiction who wants small details of daily life, and not weighty explanations of battle tactics 🙂 I felt for Magda – she faced so much for love of Lars, and they both grew up suddenly faced with the atrocities of war. Life wasn’t easy anyway for people like them at that time, but throw in a war and they were really tested, and yet in the way of the best true love stories they came though shining. Its a beautiful, heartfelt tale and the addition of the linking up Magda and Lars to the current family was a great way to finish. Fabulous escape into history.
Stars: five, great read.

ARC supplied via Authors

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