Tag: historical fiction

Sunday Summary

Sundays come around far too quickly and today is no exception! The only bonus is that tomorrow is a bank holiday here (yay!)
The Sunday Summary is a post I am going to be submitting weekly from now on to let you guys know how I am getting on, what I have been reading throughout the week, tell you about books I have discovered and added to the never ending TBR pile and lastly,  what to expect coming up in the following week.
 

Books I have Read

Following on from last Sunday I finished Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory on Monday night; the review for this book I posted on Friday and can be found here. If anyone is interested in historical fiction I would highly recommend reading this book, as it gives background to the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses without too much nitty gritty detail.
On Tuesday I began reading Extracted by R R Haywood, a science fiction book based on the concept of time travel. I haven’t read any science fiction for a while so this made a refreshing change! I am yet to post the review for this book, but it will be coming your way on Tuesday so keep your eyes out for that if you would like to hear my thoughts.
As well as finishing Extracted on Friday night I also started reading the eagerly anticipated Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I can happily hold my hands up and say I have never read anything in the realms of the horror genre before and so far, being approximately half way through the book I am not disappointed. With Stephen King as the author I didn’t think I would be, but you can never be sure until you try. The review for this book will also be published in the near future and I hope you can check it out.
 

Discovered Books

I have added a lot of books to the TBR pile this week. It’s no wonder I don’t stand a chance of ever seeing the pile in a manageable state (and preferably less than 100 books – next joke!).
This week is quite rare in that I have acquired a number of physical books. The majority of books I purchase are on kindle due to cost and convenience of being able to carry them everywhere I go, but this week I have three books added to the bookshelf in my hallway. They are:-

  1. Eagles in the Storm – Ban Kane
  2. Kill the Father – Sandrone Dazieri
  3. The Good Life – Martina Cole


I always love a book bargain when I can get one. Eagles in the Storm and Kill the Father were purchased in my local supermarket at two for £7 – which is a really good offer bearing in mind you could easily spend this on one book alone!
The best bargain of the week has to be Martina Cole’s The Good Life. My sister is a customer of a UK mobile network that allows customers to buy the book they have on offer every week for £1… yes you read that right! She lets me know what the book is every week and if I’m interested she will get it for me. As it happens, she is visiting this weekend so I managed to get this book quickly.
I have also downloaded two books for my kindle this week, including:-

  1. Mayflowers for November: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn – Malyn Bromfield
  2. The Elizabethan World – Lacey Baldwin Smith


 
You can tell I’m being a bit of a history geek lately but I’m excited all the same!
 

Coming Up…

I figured as well as telling you what I have been doing, it would be nice for you all to know what will be coming up on my blog next week.
As mentioned above, Tuesday’s post will be a review of Extracted by R R Haywood. I always try to avoid spoilers, so if anyone is concerned about that please be assured I try my hardest not to give anything away.
Friday brings to us the start of a new month so I will be publishing my reading list. This month I was too ambitious in adding six books to the list, but as it happens I had to add one to the DNF pile (hopefully only temporarily). Next month I have only added five books to the list to read but if I get ahead of myself and manage to squeeze in another, I’ll keep you posted.
Lastly I will be posting again next Sunday with another weekly update! Until then, I hope to see you around
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Source: Giphy

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Review: Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory

Good afternoon folks!! Here’s wishing you all a happy Friday!!!
Today I will be giving you my thoughts on the latest read I finished on Monday night (at a time verging on being socially unacceptable given I have to get up at 6:45am the next day) – Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.
I am loving historical fiction at the moment; not only have I read some amazing books of the genre recently… turns out I have been buying quite a few this month too! To name a few, these include The Elizabethan World by Lacey Baldwin Smith, Mayflowers for November by Malyn Bromfield and just last night I treated myself to Eagles in the Storm by Ben Kane.
I tell myself repeatedly to chill the f**k out and buy fewer books, but most of the time I see them on offer, and who can refuse a bargain? It’s not like I am buying books I won’t read… so it isn’t a waste of money. That’s what I tell myself anyway!
GoodReads – Lady of the Rivers
Lady of the Rivers
So now I know why Philippa Gregory is a popular historical fiction writer. For me the biggest factor in whether I am going to be able to see a book from one cover to the other is writing style. If I can’t hack the style (Shakespeare and Dickens please accept my sincerest apologies), it’s unlikely I will finish it. Not impossible, but not likely either. I like to read books, not study and analyse them to death.
It goes without saying modern books are easier to read in terms of the language and grammar the author uses to tell the story. To take Shakespeare as an example, I do not get iambic pentameter. I can hear it when spoken (David Tennant is amazing at this I might add) but I cannot read it. Shakespearean plays are fantastic theatre – yet somehow I cannot translate the archaic terms into something meaningful unless I can see the emotions unfolding before my eyes, or read the text about six times over with the help of the wonderful internet to tell me what has happened.
I far prefer simpler writing styles for reading – especially with books that are taking you into a new timezone, society and culture. Both of my recent reads, River God by Wilbur Smith and Lady of the Rivers achieved this very well. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a book, investing yourself in the characters and hoping for the best for them throughout the conflicts and uncertainties they have to navigate. If the language the book uses is too different from my own, there is a resistance there and I can’t get into it.
Equally, some modern language I despise too. If a character was going on about their “feels” for their boyfriend or “spending time with the fam” – I want to punch them for being a lazy s**t for not pronouncing that one extra and evidently taxing syllable. I’m qualified to say this – sadly it is my peers that are using this language.
I have digressed. I apologise, but my point is this; this book is neither of these extremes. Lady of the Rivers is narrated from the perspective of Jacquetta, a young woman who navigates through the English court during the conflicts in the Hundred Years war. She is initially married to the Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King, and the marriage is in many ways political. Jacquetta’s heritage is believed to be descendant from a Goddess and the Duke of Bedford wishes to keep her pure and use her powers to foresee the outcome of the war with France.
After the Duke of Bedford’s death, Jacquetta longs to be loved and for the closeness of an intimate partner. She falls into the arms of the Duke’s squire, Richard Woodville and marries him in secret, without the King’s permission. They are as good as made destitute having to pay a fine and live purely off the land left to them, but their family thrives. The Woodville’s fortune changes when Jacquetta’s cousin marries King Henry VI. Richard proves himself to be an able soldier and commander; he is sent to France to hold Calais  after the loss of Normandy.
Henry VI proves to be an overly pious yet inadequate King, unable to make up his own mind about matters of state. As a result, there is much in-fighting between the members of his council who try to persuade him to their way of thinking.
A note of personal interest to me was when the Duke of Gloucester and his wife were tried for treason and sorcery against the King. The Duke was executed, the “witch” accused alongside them burnt and the Duke’s wife, having aided these two was imprisoned in Peel Castle on the Isle of Man until her death fourteen years later.
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Sunsets at Peel Castle are gorgeous to watch – as you can see.
Matters at court go from bad to worse as rebellions weaken the position of the King and ultimately the King’s health takes a turn for the worst. Queen Margaret has to take over and there is much resentment at a French woman ruling in Britain. The Duke of York, heir to the throne until the birth of a royal heir is excluded from court and events unravel in such a way that sparks the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses.
I read the book to give myself background to start the series spanning the period of the Wars of the Roses and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. The book is written in a remarkably approachable way. It is history – but you don’t get bogged down with facts. Having looked into it, the book is written very well in terms of being historically accurate, but the most important thing is that it is able to be enjoyed and entertaining. I never got the opportunity to learn British history like this at school, which to my mind is utterly stupid. It’s my country’s history. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to learn in other ways than through formal education and I hope there are other people out there of the same opinion as me. Every day is a school day, they say.
I would be inclined to agree.

Review: River God – Wilbur Smith

Hi everybody!!

It’s finally the weekend and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that another week is done. Today I am bringing to you a review of Wilbur Smith’s River God, the first in the series set in Egypt and narrated by Taita, a slave.

I was first introduced to Wilbur Smith as I stumbled across “Pharaoh” in one of my local bookshops with mum and dad. My grandad used to read Wilbur Smith, I was told as I pored over the book for the synopsis on the back cover. I knew at that point I wanted to read his books – and this series in particular.

To tell you a little of me, only one of my grandparents saw me grow to adulthood and even then only just. Just over three months past my eighteenth birthday my last surviving grandparent died suddenly.

I have known and loved all my grandparents equally, but in hindsight, I wish I had gotten to know some of them better. I had never contemplated that one day sooner than we would all like, they wouldn’t be here anymore. That being said, now I make the effort to do little things that they enjoyed and I use that time to remember them, whether it be completing the puzzles they taught me the rules of, listening to music they liked or even reading the books they enjoyed. It is the little things that count. They may not be with us here and now, but they are with me in spirit. I am a firm believer that whilst a person or their deeds are remembered by the living, they are never truly gone from the world.

River God

GoodReads – River God

For Tanus, the fair-haired young lion of a warrior, the gods have decreed that he will lead Egypt’s army in a bold attempt to reunite the Kingdom’s shared halves. But Tanus will have to defy the same gods to attain the reward they have forbidden him, an object more prized than battle’s glory: possession of the Lady Lostris, a rare beauty with skin the color of oiled ceder–destined for the adoration of a nation, and the love of one extraordinary man.

 

My Thoughts…

I love historical fiction and am reading a number of books in this genre at the moment. This particular book is set in Ancient Egypt and is set in a period much before all other historical fiction that I have read before. I found the culture and technological advancement fascinating as much of the things Taita creates or modifies are things that we take for granted everyday.

Taita is a slave. He is also a eunuch, a confidante, an architect, a military tactician, an artist, a doctor, a holy man and a seer into the future. He is skilled with carpentry, he can sing, write, direct theatre productions, learn a new language in days and teach his charges all subjects. In short, the only thing he is not very good at is being humble about what he can do and at times this royally got on my nerves. Nobody is this perfect, not even a slave to some of the most powerful men and women of nobility in Egypt.

Taita has been a slave almost all his life and considers himself born to serve. His master is the Lord Intef, the Pharaoh’s right hand man. War against the Pretender cripples Egypt of its wealth. At the festival of Osiris the Lord hosts his Pharaoh, a weak man compared to his ancestors. To better secure his position, Intef arranges the marriage of his fourteen year old daughter to the Pharaoh with the promise that she will become the principal wife if she gives him the male heir he needs to continue his line. Lostris despairs as she has eyes for another, Tanus, an officer in the Pharaoh’s army. At her request Taita works the mazes of Ammon-Ra and foretells that in five years the Pharaoh will be dead. In this secret knowledge, Lostris lives on in the hope that after his death she may join Tanus.

Five years later Pharaoh has his son and heir; war continues to ravage the land and a new threat comes to Egypt. An enemy far beyond the technological advancement of the Egyptians sweeps over the lands and conquers cities. Events unfold as Taita has predicted, and the Queen Regent Lostris is forced into exile with her son and her remaining people in order to survive. Twenty years they spend away from Egypt, relying on the Nile and the goddess Isis for safe passage.

Lostris inters the late Pharaoh safely as promised to him on his deathbed. Her people meet new civilisations, learn from the horrific losses of their previous battles and Prince Memnon grows into manhood. Finally they return to Egypt under their new Pharaoh to overthrow the Tyrant that turned them out.

Aside from my occasional dislikes of Taita when he brags about how much he is God’s gift to the planet, I think there is a lot to love about this book. For me reading is a form of escapism and the great thing about historical fiction is that you can learn in a fun way without getting bogged down in dates and particulars. I wish I had studied history more at school… I think there is a lot we can learn from previous mistakes.

This book comes third in my rankings of historical themed books. The first is the series known as “The Last Kingdom” and in second falls a non-fiction recount of events of the state visit by Khrushchev to the US during the Cold War. This is called K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson. The book is aptly named after Khrushchev loses his temper at not being allowed to visit Disneyland on his state visit, and many other hilarious antics unfold during his stay in the US.

I am currently starting another historical fiction series by Philippa Gregory, covering the period of the Wars of the Roses. At this point I also have a confession to make. After River God I was supposed to be reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. A few nights ago I tried in earnest to get started on this book and I just couldn’t get into it. I find the writing style not to my taste. After each chapter I was having to stop and think about what I had just read, to understand what was going on. I don’t mind doing this, but I feel reading this book now would be a hindrance to the progress I have made in my reading challenge.

I am not saying that I won’t read this book, but I am postponing it for now. Dicken’s lovers, please don’t hate me.