Tag: British history

Shelf Control #58 – 16/12/2022

Happy Friday and welcome to this week’s Shelf Control post! This week, I’m featuring yet another historical non-fiction novel. This one, however, is a lot closer to home than my previous feature. Before we jump into the details of that, here is a recap of what Shelf Control is all about.

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Now, let’s dive into today’s featured book!

 

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England – Ian Mortimer

 

 

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 319

Audience: Adult

Publisher: The Bodley Head

Publication Date: 02 Oct 2008

 

Goodreads – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

Imagine you could travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see, and hear, and smell? Where would you stay? What are you going to eat? And how are you going to test to see if you are going down with the plague?

In The Time Traveller’s Guide Ian Mortimer’s radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. History is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived, whether that’s the life of a peasant or a lord. The result is perhaps the most astonishing history book you are ever likely to read; as revolutionary as it is informative, as entertaining as it is startling.

 

My Thoughts

The main reason I want to pick this book up is that my knowledge of British history is shockingly lacking. Considering this is something I should have learned throughout school, I know very little about British history in general. My school curriculum focused on far more world history, rather than local. 

From my understanding, life in Britain back in the 14th century was vastly different compared to today. Whereas it is more common in modern society for couples to marry and start families from the age of 30, most people wouldn’t even make it to the age of 30 in the 14th century. This is just one example of how stark the differences between life then and now are. Clearly, the difference 700 years can make is a massive one!

This is a time period of history that I’m not familiar with. The British history I have studied and read about in my own time generally picks up from the 1500s (the Tudors) onwards. I’m looking forward to stepping back even further and seeing the world from a different and more primitive point of view.

Do you read a lot of books about British history? Does this book appeal to you? If so, why?

 

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Blog Tour Review: Warrior of Mercia – MJ Porter

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s blog tour review of Warrior of Mercia by M. J. Porter. This is the third book of the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles, and I have had the pleasure I’ve taken part in blog tours for the first two books of the series. If you want to catch up on those before jumping into my review of Warrior of Mercia, you can find links to Son of Mercia and Wolf of Mercia here.

Before I begin my review in earnest, I would like to say thank you to the author, Boldwood Books and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. It is the last day of the tour, and there are a number of fabulous bloggers who have contributed as well. I’ll share more details on those below.

Now, let’s find out more about the book!

 

Warrior of Mercia – M. J. Porter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 316

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 09 Nov 2022

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – Warrior of Mercia

Icel is a lone wolf no more.

Oath sworn to Wiglaf, King of Mercia and acknowledged as a member of Ealdorman Ælfstan’s warrior band, Icel continues to forge his own destiny on the path to becoming the Warrior of Mercia.

With King Ecgberht of Wessex defeated and Londonium back under Mercian control, the Wessex invasion of Mercia is over.

But the Wessex king was never Mercia’s only enemy. An unknown danger lurks in the form of merciless Viking raiders, who set their sights on infiltrating the waterways of the traitorous breakaway kingdom of the East Angles, within touching distance of Mercia’s eastern borders.

Icel must journey to the kingdom of the East Angles and unite against a common enemy to ensure Mercia’s hard-won freedom prevails.

 

Purchase Link – Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy historical fiction novels so full of action that they keep you on the edge of your seat, Warrior of Mercia is for you! With each new chapter, the detailed narrative and political landscape Icel lives in deepens.

Icel has come a long way from the first book in the series, Son of Mercia. By and large, he has kept to his roots and has far more affinity for healing people as opposed to causing harm. However, his character development throughout the series allows him to expand into a more traditional role expected in ninth-century historical fiction novels. England is divided, and invaders from the Norse lands threaten their every way of life. Icel has transitioned from a boy who quails at the idea of harming someone to a young man who will raise his seax willingly to defend his people.

That isn’t the typical plot development you would expect from these kinds of novels. However, it is for this reason that this series really works for me. It offers something different and unique. Icel’s perspective is, at least for me, unseen so far in this historical setting. Whilst comparable to the likes of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom, the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles has a tale of its own, and from a fresh pair of eyes.

Warrior of Mercia is a fast-paced read. At just 327 pages, it is very easy to pick up and makes for a quick read. The chapters are also nicely broken out so none are too long. It is a small thing but makes a difference to the reading experience. It makes it easier and more enjoyable. You have the option to pick it up and put it down relatively easily – although, you won’t want to! Even though the page count isn’t too onerous, the quality and quantity of the narrative isn’t compromised. On the contrary, the narrative is full of in-depth battle scenes and political machinations. If these are elements you enjoy in your books, just as I do, then you will be just as thrilled with the book as I am.

I am glad I opted to take part in this blog tour. I had high expectations for the book based on the prior books in the series. Needless to say, Warrior of Mercia did not disappoint! It picks up nicely from events in the previous book. Events from the previous books are nicely summarised and spotted in quite naturally to refresh us as readers. Then, the narrative throws us back in to the tumultuous setting I have come to enjoy.

I hope I have inspired you to take a look at this book based on my review. If you are still unsure, I would like to find out more, there are a number of bloggers who have also taken part in the tour. David kicked off the blog tour with a smashing review. I agree with his view that the descriptions within the book are so immersive that you could be right there with Icel in the thick of it. I also enjoyed Amy‘s review. She correctly points out how well the narrative interweaves historical fact with elements of fiction for an all-round, entertaining read! These are but a couple of examples of contributors to the tour, and I hope you can take some time to check out their posts as well! 

I hope between us we can convince you to pick up Warrior of Murcia, or even the series as a whole if that’s your cup of tea! This book could be read perfectly well as a stand-alone, but I would personally recommend the whole series!

Author Bio

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood Son of Mercia was published in February 2022.

Social Media Links

Twitter https://twitter.com/coloursofunison

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/m_j_porter/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/MJPorterNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mj-porter

Shelf Control #55 – 21/10/2022

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing; it’s time for my Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Today’s book is a historical fiction novel set in one of my favourite periods of history. It is tumultuous and full of strife, but it is a part of history that fascinates many. Myself included. I have already read books on the topic (including The Lady of the Rivers and Songbird), but it is one that I will never get sick of!

Shall we jump into today’s feature?

 

Anne Boleyn: A Novel – Evelyn Anthony

Genre: Historical-fiction

Pages: 320

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Open Road Media Romance

Publication Date: 17 Nov 2015

 

 

Goodreads – Anne Boleyn: A Novel

Set against the intrigue and pageantry of the sixteenth-century English court, Evelyn Anthony’s novel tells the love story of Henry Tudor and Anne Boleyn, who would become his wife, his queen, and the mother of one of Britain’s greatest monarchs.

On a lovely midsummer afternoon, Henry Tudor rides to Hever Castle. There, he feasts his eyes on Anne Boleyn, who caught his roving attention at court a few months earlier. Anne is in no mood to receive her king. He has torn from her the one man she loved: Harry Percy, who was forced to marry another. But King Henry VIII is not a man who gives up—the thrill of the chase only excites him more. Yet the woman he desires so passionately is no fool. Educated at the French court, Anne vows that she will not share the fate of her naïve younger sister, Mary, who after bearing Henry a bastard son was cast away and married off to a country squire. No, Anne will settle for nothing less than the crown of England, even if Henry has to break with Rome in order to marry her.

History comes thrillingly alive in a novel that features a teeming canvas of iconic real-life characters: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the enemy Anne vows to destroy; Henry’s first wife, the proud and pious Queen Catherine of Aragon; and Thomas Cromwell, who engineers Anne’s downfall. From the halcyon early days of courtship to her imprisonment in the palace tower for treason, this is a tale of love, ambition, and the tragic destiny of Anne of the Thousand Days.

 

My Thoughts…

Described as the love story of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor, this book is set during one of my favourite periods of history.

The infamous Henry VIII and his multitude of wives (and their various fates) leaves plenty for readers to pore through. I enjoy reading about this complex period of history, and I can’t wait to learn more about Anne Boleyn specifically from this book.  From the early days to her tragic end, Anne is a centrepiece in English history. In order to become Henry the eighth’s Queen and second wife, vast political and religious shifts must occur.

Anne Boleyn is often conveyed as an ambitious and conniving individual. She is often demonised as the reason for a lot of the reforms in England during the period, as well as being unable to provide the King with a son. Eventually, this led to her downfall just a few short years after she married Henry.

I’m interested to see if this particular book heralds the same tone, or if we get to see a different take on who she was as a political figure, but also a woman. The synopsis of this book suggests it is more of a romance. Whether this is just a different take on their story, or whether the whole saga is romanticised remains to be seen. 

That is all from me in today’s Shelf Control post! Have you read this book… or any other books on the Tudor period that you would recommend?

 

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First Lines Friday – 16/09/2022

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post!

I’m really excited to share today’s book, as it is written by an author I am already familiar with. However, it is a bit different from another series of his that I have been reading. I also read something similar earlier this year (set in the same time period and featuring the same famous character of the period). I for one I’m really excited to see how I enjoy this book.

Without further preamble, shall we dive into today’s First Lines Friday intro: –

 

I died just after the clock in the passageway struck nine.

There are those who claim that her Majesty, Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and of Ireland, will not allow clocks to strike the hour in her palaces. Time is not allowed to pass for her. She has defeated time. But that clock struck. I remember it.

I counted the bells. Nine. Then my killer struck.

And I died.

 

 

 

Fools and Mortals – Bernard Cornwell

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 416

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 19 Oct 2017

 

 

Goodreads – Fools and Mortals

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

 

My Thoughts…

Earlier this year I read Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham. This book, as you can probably guess by the title, is influenced by William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare is a key character in Twelve Nights, and he is also prominent in Fools and Mortals.

The main character is Richard, William’s brother. Richard is an actor and therefore we find ourselves in a very similar setting to Twelve Nights. I really enjoyed that particular book, so I’m interested to see how Bernard Cornwell Write this kind of narrative in comparison.

It is very different from the series of his I am also reading at the moment – the Saxon stories (aka The Last Kingdom). That is a set of books I am really enjoying, and the character development is strong in those. I’m hoping for much the same in Fools and Mortals. As a standalone book, this will be a great way to try out a narrative in a different time period from Bernard Cornwell. If I go on to enjoy it as much as I expect I will, then it is only natural that I will go on to read the rest of his books… different time periods or not.

From the introduction, we have no idea who the character is. It is a very interesting introduction because straight away, a significant event happens to draw the reader in.

This introduction really captured my attention, and I hope it has captured yours too! Have you read Fools and Mortals? Would you like to based on today’s First Lines Friday post? As always, I would love it if you could let me know in the comments!

 

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First Lines Friday – 24/09/2021

Welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post!

I’ve gotten back into the habit of sharing one of these posts every couple of weeks, but what makes today’s post a slight exception is that I have set myself a challenge. In today’s post, my challenge is to feature the opening paragraph of a non-fiction novel. I don’t feature non-fiction very often, however that is something I am looking to change very soon. With that in mind I decided to start here and feature a non-fiction novel as part of this series.

 

Sometimes, even when you are a case-hardened professional, you see history differently. I had one such moment when I first visited the Great Hall of the National Archives in Washington. I was faintly shocked by the way in which the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were displayed, like Arks of the Covenant, on a dimly lit altar and between American flags and impossibly upright American marines.

But what really struck me was the presence of a copy of Magna Carta. It was, as it were, in a side chapel. Nevertheless, here it was, this archetypically English document, in the American archival holy of holies.

It was placed there out of the conviction that it was the ancestor, however remote, of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And its presence set me thinking. Was this assumption correct? Does it help explain current concerns – like Britain’s, or England’s, reluctance to be absorbed in the European Union? Does it mean that there is an Anglo-Saxon way and European way, as the French undoubtedly think? Does the difference derive from the contrast between Roman law and English Common Law? Is it, finally, England versus Rome?

 

Crown and Country – A History of England Through the Monarchy – David Starkey

Goodreads – Crown and Country

An exploration of the British monarchy from the retreat of the Romans up until the modern day. This compendium volume of two earlier books is fully revised and updated.

The monarchy is one of Britain’s longest surviving institutions – as well as one of its most tumultuous and revered. In this masterful book, David Starkey looks at the monarchy as a whole, charting its history from Roman times, to the Wars of the Roses, the chaos of the Civil War, the fall of Charles I and Cromwell’s emergence as Lord Protector – all the way up until the Victorian era when Britain’s monarchs came face-to-face with modernity.

This collection of biographies of Britain’s kings and queens provides an in-depth examination of what the British monarchy has meant, what it means now and what it will continue to mean.

 

My Thoughts…

I will be the first person to hold my hands up and say that my knowledge of the British monarchy is terrible. I could name a few, but could I tell you which order they came in or what order they reigned in? Not really. Aside from the infamous Henry the eighth, I couldn’t even give you an estimate timeline.

British history was rather lacking at school. Yes, we learned vaguely about certain topics, but my later years in the subject, which were studied more seriously, was focused on the world wars, the Cold War and the economic boom and bust of the 1920s and 30s. When I added this book to my TBR it was to rectify this lack of knowledge on my part.

Not only does this fulfil the desire to learn more in general about British history and monarchy, but I also like that this book features biographies from reigning Monarchs. If there was a better book to gain insight of how Britain used to be, then I haven’t met it yet. I’m really excited to pick this one up and give myself the opportunity to learn more about more local history!

I hope you have enjoyed today’s First Lines Friday post! Did you learn about British monarchy at school? How does your knowledge compare?

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Shelf Control #17 – 03/04/2020

Hi everyone and welcome back to another Shelf Control post! Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Shelf Control posts allow me to look in more depth at the books I have added to my TBR. It’s a great chance to talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I have actually deleted a few books doing this sweep. I don’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them. I’ve also gone on to read a couple of the earliest books on the list, so this mini-series is proving useful!

In today’s post, I am featuring a historical fiction novel with what appears to be a strong female lead character in a male-dominated world. When I first started reading historical fiction, I was sticking to our more modern history. However, I find myself reading novels set in increasingly “older” time periods. It’s completely different from the courts and political history I am used to!

Shall we check out today’s featured book?

 

Hild – Nicola Griffith

Goodreads – Hild

Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.

Purchase Links – Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

My Thoughts…

Hild will be the first book that I read in this particular time period. The only historical fiction novels I have read that are based in England and pre-date this are Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour novels. These are based around 71AD onwards. On the other side of the timeline, I have been reading Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series, better known as The Last Kingdom. These are set quite a bit later in the 9th and 10th century.

I always like to try something new. Reading the same or similar things can get boring over time. This is especially true for historical fiction. By nature, they are based on fixed events that happened already. It must be difficult to write about certain subjects already covered as there is a lot less flexibility in putting your own stamp on it. That said, I have read several stories set in the Tudor period and not gotten bored yet. I don’t read them all the time though – so that’s probably why!

I am hoping and imagining that Hild will be more like The Last Kingdom in vibe… minus the invading Vikings of course! From the sounds of the synopsis, the conflict around religion is there and there is an element of supernatural and superstition too. These are things that I really love about Bernard Cornwell’s series, so I am optimistic that Hild will be a hit for me too!

Have you read Hild, or any other books by Nicola Griffith? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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